REVIEW: A Little Too Late by Staci Hart

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♦BLURB♦

I wasn’t supposed to fall in love with the nanny.

When my wife left, she took the illusion of happiness with her, and I’ve been caught in a free fall ever since. For nine long months, I’ve been fighting to figure out how to be a single dad, how to be alone.

For nine long months, I’ve been failing.

When Hannah walked through the door, I took my first breath since I’d found myself on my own. She slipped into our lives effortlessly, showing me what I’ve been missing all these years. Because Hannah made me smile when I thought I’d packed the notion of happiness away with my wedding album.

She was only supposed to be the nanny, but she’s so much more.

The day my wife left should have been the worst day of my life, but it wasn’t. It was when Hannah walked away, taking my heart with her.

 

♦4-STAR REVIEW♦

A Little Too Late was a sweetly decorated love story between a man trapped in his insecurities and the worldly au pair he hires to take care of his children. Hart’s poetically romanticized language brought an additional layer to the story, evoking equal levels of helplessness and growth throughout. As the story progressed, her presence in the household was less about the kids and more about the family as a whole entity bringing with it a wonderful charm.

If you’ve read A Thousand Letters, it might hit you that Charlie and his then-wife had a small part in that story–you certainly don’t need to read it to understand this story as it’s casually explained within it, but it was a nice surprise to have that prior connection. With Charlie’s situation involving his kids, Hart very adeptly and non-judgmentally handled the topic of a father having very little knowledge of how to care for his kids on his own. His level of naivete was very clear, but mixed in with it was this strong epiphanous moment of clarity in realizing how very far out he had traveled emotionally from his family–and his desire to do something about it. Hannah’s calming patience and big heart in showing him the way, both with his kids and in opening his heart again, was very much enjoyable to experience as a reader. Oftentimes male characters don’t have this level of vulnerability and an openness about it, and Hart’s way of tackling that was unabashed and moving.

A Little Too Late was a beautiful addition to Hart’s versed list of novels. She eases the reader into the story very organically and her characters, crisp and original, become larger than the pages. With low angst and a wonderful build to a fresh-feeling romance, this was easily the kind of story that anyone can escape into and get lost with.

 

♦EXCERPT♦

 

CHARLIE

The next morning, I was up and in my office before anyone was awake, attacking my work with newfound enthusiasm and a plan in mind. Because I wanted to feel like I’d felt the night before in the kitchen again, and there was only one way to get that back.

Today, I would take a few breaks and be present. Today, I would change, work be damned. Today would mark the first real attempt. Because change wouldn’t happen on its own. I had to make it happen. And to make it happen, I would have to put boundaries in place, starting with my weekends.

I checked the clock around eleven that morning and closed my laptop, pushing away from my desk and heading up the stairs in search of my children.

When I rounded the corner into the kitchen, I found them sitting at the table with their lunches. And when they saw me, their smiles validated my grand plans with unwavering certainty.

“Hey, guys,” I said, smiling back as I walked over to them, ruffling Sammy’s hair when I passed him.

“Hi, Daddy,” he said.

Maven’s mouth was full, so she just waved, and Hannah smiled at me from the island where she was setting up a spread for sandwiches.

I snagged a grape off Maven’s plate and popped it into my mouth. She handed me another, which I accepted.

“Thanks, pumpkin.”

“Are you done working?” Sammy asked hopefully.

“’Fraid not, bud. But I thought I’d come have lunch with you. Is that okay?”

“Yeah! Want a Nilla Wafer?”

“Psh, obviously. And I thought we could play for a little bit before I have to get back to work. What do you say?”

He nodded, grinning. “We can play trucks! You be the bulldozer and I’ll be the tractor and Maven can be the monster truck and Hannah can be the ambulance because she helps people.”

“Perfect,” I said on a chuckle.

A burst of color caught my eye. A vase on the windowsill behind the table held a spray of red and orange tulips.

“Those are beautiful,” I said, gesturing to them. “Where did they come from?”

“Oh, I picked them up this morning,” Hannah said with that ever-present smile.

“Feeling homesick?”

“Always a little. But I love having fresh flowers in the house, something bright and delicate and alive. Well, maybe not alive anymore, but it feels alive, doesn’t it?”

“It does,” I said as I moved to her side.

“Can I make you a sandwich?” Hannah asked.

“Nah, I think I can manage, thanks. How’s it going this morning?”

“It’s good. We went to the park this morning.”

“I rode my bike!” Sammy crowed.

“Did you? No bumps or scrapes?”

“Nope!”

“I’m impressed. Maybe next time I can come too,” I said, hoping it was something I could deliver as I reached into the bread bag for a stack.

Hannah turned to the cupboard, returning with a plate for me.

“Thank you.”

She was still smiling, standing at my side, assembling her sandwich. It was so mundane, something completely and utterly boring, but like the weirdo that I was, I found myself watching her hands as she folded cold cuts. We worked around each other—not that it was complicated, but there was a sort of rhythm between us, a natural pace wherein I used what she wasn’t and finished just as she needed what I had. I wasn’t sure why I noticed it, but I did, and I appreciated the simple synchronicity of the moment, a breath where things were easy.

I passed her the mustard as she handed me the ham. “So, I was thinking …” I paused.

“Oh, were you?” She glanced over at me with a hint of mirth at the corners of her lips.

“I know. I almost sprained something.”

Hannah laughed gently.

“If it’s okay, I think I’d like to try to handle bedtime tonight.”

“Of course it’s okay; they’re your children.” That time, her laughter was sweet.

“Do you … would you … do you think you could maybe …”

She shifted to face me, her eyes full of encouragement.

“Would you mind … helping me?”

Hannah nodded, her smile opening up. “That’s what I’m here for. Just let me know what you’d like me to do.”

I smiled back. “I’m sorry. I know it sounds stupid. I just … I haven’t done this much on my own, but I’d like to start.”

Her eyes softened, caught by slanting light, lighting up with sunshine. “There’s nothing to be afraid of,” she said simply.

I didn’t speak.

“There’s no right or wrong, and they don’t care about anything other than you being there. It’s simple enough; you only have to try.”

“Is it really that easy?”

“It really is. You’ll see.” She reached for my arm and gave it a squeeze that wasn’t meant to be anything but friendly but held something more, something in the pressure in her fingertips and the depths of her eyes.

It was something I did my very best to ignore. But I felt the heat of those fingertips long after they were gone, even as we sat across the table from each other eating lunch, the tulips in the vase behind her bowing their long heads as the sunlight illuminated them, exposing what was hidden within their petals.

 

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

StaciHartAuthorPic

Staci has been a lot of things up to this point in her life — a graphic designer, an entrepreneur, a seamstress, a clothing and handbag designer, a waitress. Can’t forget that. She’s also been a mom, with three little girls who are sure to grow up to break a number of hearts. She’s been a wife, though she’s certainly not the cleanest, or the best cook. She’s also super, duper fun at a party, especially if she’s been drinking whiskey.

From roots in Houston to a seven year stint in Southern California, Staci and her family ended up settling somewhere in between and equally north, in Denver. They are new enough that snow is still magical. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, sleeping, gaming, or designing graphics.

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NEW RELEASE & REVIEW: Move the Stars by Jessica Hawkins

Something in the Way Book Three; Not a standalone

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♦BLURB♦

Lake
It was a hot summer day when I met him on the construction site next to my parents’ house. If I’d known then what I do now, would I have kept on walking? Manning was older, darker, experienced—and I’d trusted him when he said the story would only ever be about us. I’d held those words close and challenged fate, but I had lost.

A part of me is still that sixteen-year-old girl squinting up at Manning, but no matter how far I fall or high I soar, I’ll always be a bird without her bear and nothing without him.

Manning
When I close my eyes, I can no longer see her. The decisions I made were to push Lake in the right direction—away from me. But now that she’s gone, would I have made those same choices?

I’d walked away like I was supposed to. I’d kept my distance. I’d bent over backward to keep Lake pure, but she’s no longer that girl, and I don’t know if I can stay away anymore. I only know I don’t want to. She’s still everything I want and nothing I should ever have, but if anyone can move the stars, it’s her great bear in the sky.

 

♦4.5-STAR REVIEW♦

Both satisfying and fulfilling, Move the Stars was a just and beautiful ending to an angst-filled trilogy. What has always been great about this series is that Hawkins doesn’t make their path at all easy; instead vividly portraying how heartbreaking and debilitating a love between two people can be. Because I refuse to spoil any part of the final piece of their story, I won’t be commenting on much other than it as a whole.

Throughout this journey, both Manning and Lake have been tormented by choices and consequences. Choices that forced distance and separation and unfulfilled desires. I was curious to how Hawkins would rightly bring it all together and I’m satisfied by how she carried it out. It still held all of the elements of angst that this story has always brought, but it leaned more on the helplessly heartbreaking side of it thus eliciting a different kind of reaction than the prior two books. The emotions were strong and hard and brutal, but very necessary. The gut punches and twisted heart responses were all too real.

The true beauty of Move the Stars was in how tough of a journey it was to get to this point, and how wonderfully it all came together to meet my expectations. Other than some slower moments in the first half, I honestly cannot complain about anything else. The poignancy of this book was spot-on–it easily written on the page and into these two characters. I’m sad to see these two go, but very happy to finally see what beauty Hawkins squeezed from their final stand.

 

♦SERIES♦

Something in the Way Ebook Cover

Something in the Way Book One; Not a standalone | My Review

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Something in the Way Book Two; Not a standalone | My Review

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♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

Jessica Hawkins grew up between the purple mountains and under the endless sun of Palm Springs, California. She studied international business at Arizona State University and has also lived in Costa Rica and New York City. To her, the most intriguing fiction is forbidden, and that’s what you’ll find in her stories. Currently, she resides wherever her head lands, which is often the unexpected (but warm) keyboard of her trusty MacBook.

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REVIEW: Burn For You by J.T. Geissinger

Slow Burn Book One

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♦BLURB♦

The marriage is fake. But for a sassy chef and an arrogant billionaire, the sparks are real…

Jackson “The Beast” Boudreaux is rich, gorgeous, and unbelievably rude to the staff at Chef Bianca Hardwick’s New Orleans restaurant. Bianca would sooner douse herself in hot sauce than cook for Jackson again, but when he asks her to cater his fund-raiser, Bianca can’t refuse, knowing the cash will help pay her mother’s medical bills. Then Jackson makes another outrageous request: Marry me. The unconventional offer includes an enormous sum—money Bianca desperately needs, even if it does come with a contract—and a stunning ring.

The heir to a family bourbon dynasty, Jackson knows the rumors swirling around him. The truth is even darker. Still, he needs a wife to secure his inheritance, and free-spirited, sassy Bianca would play the part beautifully. Soon, though, their simple business deal evolves into an emotional intimacy he’s built walls to avoid.

As the passion heats up between them, Bianca and Jackson struggle to define which feelings are real and which are for show. Is falling for your fake fiancé the best happy ending…or a recipe for disaster?

 

♦4-STAR REVIEW♦

Burn For You, embellished with the New Orleans flair and food, took a spin on the classic Beauty and the Beast love story. Filled with character and personality, it easily transports you into not just another city but into the lives of these two lively people–both so polarizing with their differences and yet on the same playing field when it comes to their passion for others. And a passionate distaste for one another is what they have in spades.

Having not read many novels with a vibrant heroine who epitomizes the culture of that particular area, she was a bit startling at first. Originally feeling she was overdone, it took a bit to get used to her and come to connect with her–outside of her metaphoric sayings–, but I absolutely adored her feisty nature underneath it. She was the take-charge kind of woman who wasn’t one to be blinded or walked over which became a great battle of contention with a man so used to throwing his weight around. Their dynamic was romantic and charming, filled with the lovely awkwardness of hidden attractions and a woman who wasn’t to be cowed. And underneath all of that bravado, Geissinger wrote another hero to absolutely fall for that has a heart bigger than his presence.

Burn For You is a slow-burn romance that perfectly and easily falls into its romance. There’s no hesitation that these two have great chemistry, and as the reader you’re carried on a satisfying journey to them fumbling around to find it. Geissinger presented two strong personalities and harmonized them into a beautiful song, and built a wonderful novel around them.

 

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

JT Geissinger

A former headhunter, J.T. Geissinger is the author of more than a dozen novels in contemporary romance, paranormal romance, and romantic suspense.

She is the recipient of the Prism Award for Best First Book, the Golden Quill Award for Best Paranormal/Urban Fantasy, and is a two-time finalist for the RITA® Award from the Romance Writers of America®. Her work has also finaled in the Booksellers’ Best, National Readers’ Choice, and Daphne du Maurier Awards.

Join her Facebook reader’s group, Geissinger’s Gang, to take part in weekly Wine Wednesday live chats and giveaways, find out more information about works in progress, have access to exclusive excerpts and contests, and get advance reader copies of her upcoming releases.

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

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♦BLURB♦

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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