REVIEW w/ EXCERPT & GIVEAWAY: Most of All You by Mia Sheridan

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A broken woman . . .

Crystal learned long ago that love brings only pain. Feeling nothing at all is far better than being hurt again. She guards her wounded heart behind a hard exterior and carries within her a deep mistrust of men, who, in her experience, have only ever used and taken.

A man in need of help . . .

Then Gabriel Dalton walks into her life. Despite the terrible darkness of his past, there’s an undeniable goodness in him. And even though she knows the cost, Crystal finds herself drawn to Gabriel. His quiet strength is wearing down her defenses and his gentle patience is causing her to question everything she thought she knew.

Only love can mend a shattered heart . . .

Crystal and Gabriel never imagined that the world, which had stolen everything from them, would bring them a deep love like this. Except fate will only take them so far, and now the choice is theirs: Harden their hearts once again or find the courage to shed their painful pasts.

 

♦4-STAR REVIEW♦

Tender and poignant, Most of All You told a painstakingly heartbreaking journey of two people with very complicated histories. With vibrant characters, both stark and complex, Sheridan delved into their pasts and brought forth their second chances of happily-ever-afters and of finding some sort of peace within themselves. Crystal and Gabriel weren’t cookie cutter characters, but instead riddled with flaws or aversions that prevented the moving forward of their lives for many years. Sheridan’s skill at evoking that struggle, that deeply-rooted pain that had built up over time, shone through here in ways that demanded a deeply felt reader response.

What was most pleasant was that Sheridan wrote a soft hero, a redemptive one, that loved deeply, but soothed and grew that seed of self-confidence in others with his mere presence. His charm and outlook on life were captivating and he truly embodied the kind of man that can speak from experience about acceptance of past traumas and the healing process of moving forward. His strong capable hands led the way for Crystal to shine–and that was awe-inspiring.

This one took me awhile to get into; the beginning was slow-moving and difficult to gain interest in. It took me a few tries, about half of the novel, to really dig my teeth into it and feel like I was into the flow of things. After that halfway point, it picked up and felt like a natural Sheridan book with a deep dive into the healing and connecting process between these characters as they found love. That issue is what detracted this novel from being a true 5-star read, but in every other aspect it was a truly wonderful novel.

Most of All You was a beautiful love story that carried a reader delicately in its hands and brought them to a place of pure magic. Upon reading the last page, this story insisted upon reflection–of where it had begun and how it had gotten there; deeper meanings suddenly discovered as answers presented themselves in sneakily smart ways. It was a novel that kept on giving, and one wouldn’t really know just how much until the end.

 

♦EXCERPT♦

I swallowed heavily, my mouth going dry as I took in the masculine beauty of his practically naked body. He was…divine. That was the word that immediately came to mind. Divine. Angelic. Godly.

My gaze soaked in his strong, broad shoulders, the tight, lean muscles of his chest, the taut ripples of his stomach. As if my eyes were drawn to him like a magnet, they moved down his chest to his muscled thighs, his well-formed calves and then back up to his boxers, where the outline of his male anatomy was just barely visible against the thin material.

My core clenched, wetness pooling between my thighs. I blinked, completely unaccustomed to this kind of reaction when it came to a man’s body. I wanted to simultaneously run away and step toward him, to reach out and trail a finger down his chest the way I’d just run a finger over the tiny stone bird.

“My father made that.”

“W-what?” God, my voice sounded too breathy, too stunned.

“The sparrow.”

He crossed his arms over his chest, obviously self-conscious about his state of undress. He gave a quick nod downward. “Sorry, I didn’t know you’d be up.”

Again, my eyes moved to his bare chest. There was a sparse trail of hair under his belly button leading into the waistband of his boxers. My eyes leapt back up to his, and I practically gulped, sure he had heard it when his eyebrows twitched slightly.

I turned my head, my heart beating so loudly in my own ears I was sure he could hear that, too, even from where he stood. “It’s only fair, I suppose,” I murmured.

“What’s that?”

“Now we’ve both seen each other half-naked.”

Gabriel tilted his head, assessing me in some mysterious way. He suddenly turned and walked back toward his room. I stood rooted to the spot, confused, when he returned just as quickly as he’d left, pulling a T-shirt over his head. He walked toward me, coming to stand directly in front of where I stood. His expression was slightly shy, slightly teasing. “I hope…that if we see each other naked again, it won’t be a job, or an accident. It will be because we both want it, and because it means something.”

What?

Visions swirled through my mind, unbidden: tangled limbs and twisted sheets. Heat filled my veins, blood pumping between my legs. It was too much. It was…out of my control and it scared me. I didn’t want to think of Gabriel that way, couldn’t think of Gabriel that way. In truth, had never thought of any man that way. “Mean something?” My voice was a mere whisper.

He nodded, his expression going serious, his eyes filled with sudden gravity. His hand slowly moved up to my hair, and he brushed a piece back from my face. His hand lingered, his knuckle brushing gently down my cheekbone. My breath hitched at the subtle touch. His full lips parted slightly, those angel eyes moving over my features as if he was memorizing me, memorizing the moment. I was spellbound, caught once again in his gaze. No one had ever looked at me the way Gabriel was right then, not in all my life.

“Yes.” It was all he said, leaving me to try to comprehend his meaning. But of course getting naked always meant something. A bribe, a paycheck, a coercion, a means to an end…only I knew very well Gabriel didn’t mean any of those things, and it was impossible to convince myself he could. I already knew better. And I didn’t want to think about what getting naked would mean to Gabriel because the very idea filled me with terror and an aching, needy want. But mostly terror.

 

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

Mia Sheridan is a New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestselling author. Her passion is weaving true love stories about people destined to be together. Mia lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband. They have four children here on earth and one in heaven.

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♦GIVEAWAY♦

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REVIEW: Never Let Go by Cynthia Eden

Lazarus Rising Book One; Interconnected Standalone

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He was more than just a man…

Dr. Elizabeth Parker didn’t like wild, dangerous men…yet she still found herself falling for sexy Navy SEAL Sawyer Cage. He was her exact opposite–a man she should definitely stay away from, a man who lived for the thrill of danger…but he was also the man she found herself wanting more than any other.

But their secret relationship ended in heartbreak when Sawyer was killed on a mission. Grieving for him, the last thing Elizabeth ever expected was to find Sawyer listed as a test subject for the top secret government project she was heading–a project called Lazarus.

For years, Elizabeth had worked feverishly to unlock the secrets of life and death, and with her Lazarus formula, she finally thought she’d made a breakthrough. Only she never expected to use Lazarus on her lover.

But the choice is taken out of Elizabeth’s hands…

Sawyer is given the Lazarus formula, and he’s transported to a remote government facility. At that facility, Sawyer wakes once more, only he’s not the same man. He’s stronger, he’s faster, his reflexes and his senses are ten times better than an average man’s. The government calls Sawyer a super soldier… Elizabeth still calls him…hers.

Unfortunately, Sawyer has no memory of his life before Lazarus. All he knows is that something about the sexy doctor awakes a primal response in him. He wants her, and he’ll do anything to possess her. Soul-deep, he feels that she was meant to be his.

Death waits in the darkness.

But something is wrong inside the Lazarus facility. The test subjects are holding back secrets, and danger seems to lurk in the air. The Lazarus subjects are super-human now, and some of those subjects have a very, very dark side. Twisted cravings drive them to the very edge of sanity. Can Sawyer keep Elizabeth safe from the madness around them…or will the growing darkness consume them both?

 

♦4.5-STAR REVIEW♦

I fall hard for Cynthia Eden’s particular brand of Romantic Suspense and Never Let Me Go had everything I adore about her storytelling. With an added layer of a sci-fi/paranormal element, Eden wove a complicated love story between the scientist who created the formula and the super soldier created from it; one that was mired in the twisted nature of powerful men in government who abused their allowances. Consumed in one complete sitting, it grabbed me and never let me go (pun intended).

Eden consistently writes evocative stories that pull deep into your gut. The devastating position of being the only one who remembered the love they once shared and that she created what put him in his current position was entirely painful, but what made it more so was that their soul-deep connection still held a flicker of light thus tying them together instinctually. I don’t want to say more and give away the story, but it was a perfectly captivating story that evoked a wonderfully suspenseful response along with tingles every time they were around one another. Elizabeth, while completely book smart, was wildly smart–a strong badass in her own right, no serum needed. She complemented Sawyer beautifully and brought forth his humanity.

With a smart premise and strong characters, Never Let Me Go is an enjoyable read to lose yourself in. It’s the perfect cleanser between reads, or when you want to feel a racing heart and read a fast-paced story. Hot, and the kind of story to rev up your engine, you can’t go wrong with this one.

 

♦SERIES♦

Lazarus Rising Book Two; Interconnected Standalone

Release Date: October 24, 2017

PreOrder: Kindle

 

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

Cynthia Eden

Award-winning author Cynthia Eden writes dark tales of paranormal romance and romantic suspense. She is a New York Times, USA Today, Digital Book World, and IndieReader best-seller. Cynthia is also a two-time finalist for the RITA® award (she was a finalist both in the romantic suspense category and in the paranormal romance category). Since she began writing full-time in 2005, Cynthia has written over fifty novels and novellas.

Cynthia lives along the Alabama Gulf Coast. She loves romance novels, horror movies, and chocolate. Her favorite hobbies including hiking in the mountains (searching for waterfalls) and spelunking.

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REVIEW: From This Moment by Melanie Harlow

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It was like seeing a ghost.

When my late husband’s twin brother moves back to our small town, I want to avoid him. Everything about Wes reminds me of the man I lost and the life we’d planned together, and after eighteen long months struggling just to get out of bed, I’m finally doing okay. I have a new job, an amazing support group, and a beautiful five-year-old daughter to parent. I don’t want to go backward.

But I’m drawn to him, too. He understands my grief and anger and loneliness like no one else—and I understand his. Before long, that understanding becomes desire, and that desire becomes uncontrollable.

We make excuses. We blame our sorrow. We promise each other it will never happen again.

But it does.

And when our secret threatens to destroy his family and my reputation, we’ll have to decide what’s more important—loyalty or love?

 

♦4.5-STAR REVIEW♦

Tenderhearted and romantic, From This Moment captivates and enthralls from the first page. Harlow easily captured all of the little nuances of two people suffering from the different sides of grief–from the regret to the heartache and the guilt. The many issues at hand, one being a woman falling for the identical twin of her deceased husband, were handled with grace and aplomb, leaving the reader to simply follow along as the pages turned and the story unfolded.

With a plotline such as this, one that covers a very sensitive subject and the many hurdles that must be addressed, Harlow didn’t shy away from showing the characters battling with it and finding both strength and mistakes along the way. Hannah’s character had a mountainous obstacle to overcome, and it was refreshing to see her truly struggle with every different aspect of it. Her sensitivity, fears, and sexuality were very present and at the forefront of her character’s being–as they should be. The mutual connection between Hannah and Wes and what they both lost was a connecting factor, but what came out of it was uniquely very much its own thing.

From This Moment was a passionate and delicately-handled love story, one with a healing kind of love that easily encapsulated the reader in its arms. Wes was as dreamy as a hero can be, but the strength and perseverance of Hannah was the shining factor–a trait emboldened by his support and friendship. It’s a beautiful story with an even more beautiful message to tell.

 

♦EXCERPT♦

“Want to go out in the canoe?” he asked.

“Okay.” I ditched my flip-flops on the small, beach-level deck, and we set our wine glasses and the bottle on the deck’s little round table. Wes was already barefoot. Together we dragged the forest green canoe from the tall beach grasses on the side of the deck down to the water’s edge and tipped it over.

“Let me rinse it out a little,” Wes said, frowning at the dirt and spider webs inside. “Want to grab the paddles? They should be in the shed.”

“On it.” I went to the small shed on the embankment, opened it up and grabbed the oars, which stood in one corner. On the shelves were life jackets and sand toys and deflated rafts that probably had holes in them, and scratched into the wooden door among other graffiti was WP + CB. Huh. I’d never noticed that before. Who was CB? I glanced over my shoulder at Wes, who’d taken off his T-shirt and tossed it onto the sand.

My stomach full-out flipped.

Quickly, I shut the door to the shed and brought the oars down to the canoe.

Wes stood up straight and stuck his hands on his hips. He wore different sunglasses than Drew had worn, more of an aviator than a wayfarer. The body was similar, though Wes’s arms seemed more muscular, especially through the shoulder. Other things were the same and caused a rippling low in my body—the soft maroon color of his nipples, the trim waist, the trail of hair leading from his belly button to beneath the low-sling waistband of his red swim trunks. In my head I heard Tess’s voice. Arms. Chest. Shoulders. Skin. Stubble. Muscle. The smell of a man. The solidity of him.

“What’s the law on drinking and canoeing?” he asked.

What’s the law on staring at your brother-in-law’s nipples? I wondered, swallowing hard. What was wrong with me?

“I think we’re okay,” I said, handing the oars to him. Our hands touched in the exchange. “Let me grab our glasses.”

“Perfect. If you hold them, I’ll take us out.”

I retrieved the wine glasses from the table and walked carefully across the sand to the lake’s edge, taking deep, slow breaths. A sweat had broken out across my back. I was wearing a swimsuit beneath my cover up, a modest tankini, but I didn’t want to remove it. Wading ankle deep, I attempted to step into the canoe, but it wobbled beneath my foot.

“Whoa.” Wes took me by the elbow and didn’t let go until I was seated at one end, facing the other. “Okay?”

I nodded. Despite the heat, my arms had broken out in goose flesh.

“All right, here we go.” As he rowed us away from shore, the breeze picked up, cooling my face and chest and back.

“Drew and I used to have canoe-tipping contests.”

I snapped my chin down and skewered Wes with a look over the top of my sunglasses. “Don’t even think about it.”

He just grinned, the muscles in his arms and chest and stomach flexing with every stroke of the oars through the water. Momentarily mesmerized, I allowed myself the pleasure of watching him. It was okay if we were both thinking about Drew, wasn’t it?

In fact, it was only natural that I was intrigued by the sight of Wes’s body. He was my husband’s identical twin, for heaven’s sake, and I missed his physical presence in my life. I missed looking at him naked. I missed feeling the weight of him above me. I missed the feeling of being aroused by him, of my body’s responses to his touch, his kiss, his cock.

Deep in my body, the rusty mechanism of arousal creaked to life. My nipples peaked, my stomach hollowed, and something fluttered between my legs.

Oh, Jesus.

I sat up straighter, pressed my knees together, and closed my mouth, which I realized had fallen open. Hopefully I hadn’t moaned or anything. After another sip of wine, I turned my head and studied a freighter off in the distance. My heart was beating way too fast.

It’s only natural. It’s only natural.

Wes stopped paddling and set the oars in the bottom of the canoe, their handles resting against the seat in the middle. “We’ll have to bring Abby out here.”

“Definitely.” Did my voice sound normal? “She’ll love it. Here, want this?” I held his wine glass toward him and he reached out to take it. His fingers brushed mine, and I pulled my hand back as if the touch had burned me.

“Thanks.” He tipped the glass up then looked along the shore. “I’d like to find a place on the lake. Maybe not along this stretch of beach, though.”

I caught his meaning and smiled. “A little too close to home?”

“Yeah. But I don’t want to be too far away. I’d like to get a boat too.”

“What kind of boat? Drew always talked about it, but we never quite settled on one.”

“Not sure. Maybe just a little fishing boat, something to ski behind.”

“That sounds fun. Drew loved to ski.”

“We’ll have to teach Abby.”

I laughed. “You, not we. I managed to get up and stay up a few times, but I am not the expert.”

“You can teach her to cook, I’ll teach her to water ski.”

“Deal.” Separate activities seemed like a good idea.

“Breakfast was incredible.”

“Thanks.” I tucked a strand of hair that had escaped my ponytail behind my ear, but the wind blew it right back into my face. “I really like working there. I’m so glad Georgia suggested it to me.”

“How long have you been there?”

“Since spring, when they got busy. I’m not sure what I’ll do this winter when it slows down. I’m dreading it, actually. Abby will be in school full time, and it will just be me at home alone.” This was something else I hadn’t talked about with anyone, how worried I was that the gray skies and cold weather and silent hours would set me spiraling into depression. “I always thought I’d have another baby to take care of, but life saw things differently.”

“You’re still young, Hannah.”

I shook my head. “I’m really not. And I feel even older than I am.” Please don’t go Grief Police on me and tell me I’m being ridiculous, I begged him silently. This isn’t the life I chose. It was handed to me and I’m doing the best I can.

But he didn’t say anything more, just sipped his wine and looked out at the horizon. I was grateful.

“What about you?” I asked. “Think maybe you’ll get married now that you’re back? Have a family? Abby won’t have any siblings so she needs some cousins.”

“That seems to be a popular topic of discussion around here,” Wes said, shaking his head, “but I really have no idea.”

“Small town. We like to know everyone’s business.” I smiled. “Hey, what about CB? I saw your initials carved with hers on the door of the shed. Maybe she’s still around.”

He groaned. “Is that still there? Jesus. That had to be twenty years ago.”

Hugging my knees, I leaned forward. “First love?”

“Not even.” He hesitated, as if he were trying to decide whether to confess something.

“Come on,” I cajoled, carefully reaching out of the canoe, and splashing water toward him. “Tell me. I’ve been spilling my guts for an hour.”

“First kiss.”

I squealed. “And?”

He cringed. “It’s too embarrassing.”

“Wes, I had a completely humiliating breakdown in front of you last night. I got snot on my arm.”

“This is worse.”

“Get it out. You’ll feel better.”

“Let’s just say it was a very awkward, very fast experience.”

I gasped. “You lost your virginity to her?”

“No. Just my dignity.”

Laughing, I tilted my head back and felt the sun on my face, the wind in my hair, and something like joy in my heart.

It had been a long time.

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♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

Melanie Harlow likes her martinis dry, her heels high, and her history with the naughty bits left in. When she’s not writing or reading, she gets her kicks from TV series like VEEP, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, and Homeland. She occasionally runs three miles, but only so she can have more gin and steak.

Melanie is the author of the HAPPY CRAZY LOVE series, the FRENCHED series, and the sexy historical SPEAK EASY duet, set in the 1920s. She lifts her glass to romance readers and writers from her home near Detroit, MI, where she lives with her husband, two daughters, and pet rabbit.

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REVIEW: Played by Jen Frederick

Gridiron Book Four; Standalone

Purchase: Kindle #KU  (99 cents for release week only!)

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She’s been playing it close…

Ara Martin and college football star Ty Masters have been best friends since the first day of school when Ty literally ran her over. She fell for him immediately, but having lived under the shadow of her famous father, she knows a relationship with irresistible Ty would only end in heartbreak. For four years, she’s kept her feelings hidden. But one drunken encounter weeks before graduation is about to expose Ara’s biggest secret and destroy her most treasured relationship.

He’s been playing for keeps…

Ty is about to be drafted into the NFL, but his personal life is a mess. He’s got an agent he doesn’t like, a brother who can’t stop offering his opinion, and a beautiful woman he craves but can’t have. He can fire his agent and ignore his brother, but he’s not sure what to do about Ara. Ty’s been able to run down every quarterback he’s faced, but his sexy, stubborn best friend keeps slipping through his fingers.

Luckily, he’s not one for giving up, and once he gets his hands on her, he’s never letting go.

 

♦4-STAR REVIEW♦

Played had the best kind of friends-to-lovers romances out there. Frederick wove a tale of friendship with ease and skill, a technique that made their deep connection vibrant and their transition to lovers seamless. With a delicious slow burn that echoed in every scene, Ty and Ara’s story will keep you captivated the entire way through.

Both characters were starkly real–Ty’s struggle with image and the tricky path to being drafted along with Ara’s battle to be seen outside of her father’s shadow brought to life that identity crisis of a near college graduate and the pressures placed on those with a lot to lose (i.e. all young people entering the workforce). Their dynamic felt comfortable, a partnership of friends that melded with one another as if it were second nature. It furthered the build-up to a satisfyingly fiery romance, and gave it another wonderful layer to become captivated by.

Played was easy to fall into and addictive to keep reading, and because of that it’ll be a fast but enjoyable read. I loved both main characters and their path to recognizing the rewards of falling for your very best friend. Even if friends-to-lovers isn’t your thing, there’s a whole host of beauty to find in this story.

 

♦SERIES♦

All books in the series are just 99 cents for release week!

sacked

Gridiron Book One; Standalone

Purchase: Kindle #KU

jockblocked

Gridiron Book Two; Standalone

Purchase: Kindle #KU

downed

Gridiron Book Three; Standalone

Purchase: Kindle #KU | My Review

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

Jen Frederick is the USA Today bestselling author of Unspoken, part of the Woodlands series, and Sacked, part of the Gridiron series. She is also the author of the Charlotte Chronicles and has had several books on the Kindle Top 100 list. She lives in the Midwest with a husband who keeps track of life’s details while she’s writing, a daughter who understands when Mom disappears into her office for hours at a time, and a rambunctious dog who does neither.

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