Till Death Us Do Part – Cristina Slough GET IT TODAY!

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TILL DEATH US DO PART
Cristina Slough
Releasing Dec 29th, 2015
Limitless Publishing

 

The fateful day Mimi Marcus has
dreaded begins with a phone call…
The wife of a U.S. Marine, Mimi spent countless nights worried that her husband Joel would fall in the line of duty. He had fought valiantly and served his country with honor. That’s exactly what they tell her when they deliver the news—Joel was taken by the enemy in Afghanistan. Her husband is dead.
In desperate need of closure, Mimi travels to the one place Joel still has ties—The Marcus Ranch in Texas, inherited by his handsome younger brother Austin.
New beginnings are only an illusion…
The closer Mimi grows to the Marcus family, the more she considers it home. But when suspicions of Joel’s past surface, Austin refuses to disclose family secrets—even to his brother’s widow. It’s only by accident she uncovers evidence of Joel’s tainted past. Devastated
by his lies and betrayal, she slowly opens up to Austin, and together they unfold layers of pain and grief.
Mimi is sure she’ll never love again, but is Austin the man to prove her wrong? Then the unthinkable happens…
Just as Mimi finds new hope in a future with Austin, Joel returns home from war. Enraged, traumatized, and teetering on the edge of insanity, Joel confesses to a history of deception, revealing yet another secret—this one too terrible to forgive.
In an awful twist of fate, Joel proves marriage vows are made to be honored. No matter what.
 
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EXCERPT

She took the palm of her hand and wiped her face. “You don’t mean that.” She paused and looked at him. “Do you?”

“Yes, this is so fucked up Mimi. You don’t belong to me. You belong to him.”

“But…God, Austin, I don’t know what the hell I’m thinking or feeling.”

“I don’t care. The truth is, I got caught up in everything with you. I felt sorry for you; I pitied you.”

“Austin stop,” she cried “You don’t mean that.”

“Mimi, I do. The truth is. You were my final up-yours to my dear brother.”

“You’re lying.”

He took his hands out of his jean pockets and placed them on her sunken shoulders and looked firmly into her eyes. “Yes I do. Everything I told you about loving you was a lie. And this, what we had was nothing but revenge. Joel played it well, the son of a bitch. He even cheated death. Now get your goddam bags packed and get the hell out of my life.”

She jolted back, falling out of his grip.

Austin stood in silence after the hard slap connected across his left check; it caught his lip, making it bleed. She turned on her heel and ran away, her long hair flowing in the breeze behind her.

He stood there for a second, but it seemed like an hour. He walked a little, and then for the first time in his adult life, he cried.

The digital clock read 2 am. He gazed out of the window. The sky was tar-black, the large clouds gathered fast and furiously. Soon, the gentle specs of rain flicked against the window. As it grew heavier, the tarmac on the car-park soon turned into a black river. He saw a man quicken his pace and slip into a beaten old truck. He opened the door, letting the rain fall on him, drenching through his clothes. He moved out into the stormy weather, needing to wash away the hurt that lay inside him.

He remembered having this feeling once before, after the death of his father. It was then that the divide between him and his brother had become even greater. It had torn them apart, ripping them at the seams. Austin had stolen Joel’s father, and now he was taking his wife. He had no control over the first time, but he swore that he wouldn’t let Austin win this time.

Blood pounded in his ears; he was still at war, but this time with himself.

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Novelist, movie addict, and animal lover, Cristina Slough is the author of Till Death Us Do Part, her debut novel.

Cristina has always been a bookworm, rarely seen without a pen and paper in her hand, she loves delving into a literacy fictional world of her own.

At the age of 11, her junior school teacher told her mother that she would be wasting her life if she didn’t become an author. Throughout her teenage years and beyond, her parents spurred her on to keep writing. She later began a career in commercial real estate, working in London’s West End, a corporate bubble where she was unable to fuel her passion to write.

It was on her Californian honeymoon in 2012 that the bug to write was becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. After visiting Yosemite National Park she was inspired by the natural beauty of the land that surrounded her. Holding a special place in her heart, Yosemite would later be written into her debut novel.

She finally gave up the ‘big smoke’ when her son, Lucas, was born in October 2013.

When Lucas was a newborn, Cristina was told to sleep when the baby sleeps. She never could. There was a calling inside her to write. After getting to grips with her new role as a mother, she began working a psychological thriller, but she couldn’t fully connect to the characters she created. She ditched the manuscript and started Till Death Us Do Part (Limitless Publishing, 2015).

Cristina is married to Adam, who runs a successful business; together they share their Bedfordshire home with their son, crazy white German Shepherd and three spoiled cats. They can be found trekking through woodlands, or around the many shops Cristina loves to explore. As a family, they love to travel frequently, the United States being a firm favorite.

 

A Whole Barrel of Monkeys – The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward REVIEW

The Bourbon Kings was a surprisingly satisfying read, though at times I felt like it descended into Bar Rescue territory and sadly that is not a compliment. I found myself wishing that John Taffer would show up smack the bourbon glass out of whichever sad sack’s hand who happened to be holding it and read them the riot act in his signature manner, which I would warn you isn’t for the faint of heart.

I wasn’t in a hurry to read this story as I have read a few of J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood books and for the most part was largely underwhelmed by the incredibly popular series, however that might be simply because I couldn’t understand why the author had a marked propensity to take perfectly good biker names and add an “h” for effect, for example “Rhage”. I would be overstating if I called it idiocy, but it irked me greatly considering it was such a trifling thing, but it really did get on my last nerve and compromised my enjoyment of an otherwise capable writer’s work. I did manage to absolutely love Zsadist’s story (Lover Awakened) despite the addition of superfluous consonants but that is beside the point. Objections regarding former crimes against spelling aside when the audiobook for The Bourbon Kings came available through my local library I figured “Why not?” and it was worth it, in it’s deliciously soapy overblown glory.

Not his circus, not his monkeys,”
J.R. Ward, The Bourbon Kings

TBK

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SYNOPSIS (From Goodreads) – For generations, the Bradford family has worn the mantle of kings of the bourbon capital of the world. Their sustained wealth has afforded them prestige and privilege—as well as a hard-won division of class on their sprawling estate, Easterly. Upstairs, a dynasty that by all appearances plays by the rules of good fortune and good taste. Downstairs, the staff who work tirelessly to maintain the impeccable Bradford facade. And never the twain shall meet.

For Lizzie King, Easterly’s head gardener, crossing that divide nearly ruined her life. Falling in love with Tulane, the prodigal son of the bourbon dynasty, was nothing that she intended or wanted—and their bitter breakup only served to prove her instincts were right. Now, after two years of staying away, Tulane is finally coming home again, and he is bringing the past with him. No one will be left unmarked: not Tulane’s beautiful and ruthless wife; not his older brother, whose bitterness and bad blood know no bounds; and especially not the ironfisted Bradford patriarch, a man with few morals, fewer scruples, and many, many terrible secrets.

As family tensions—professional and intimately private—ignite, Easterly and all its inhabitants are thrown into the grips of an irrevocable transformation, and only the cunning will survive.


The Bourbon Kings in question are the Bradford Baldwines and have been distilling bourbon for the past two hundred years. They are richer than Croesus and live like royalty. Like you would imagine behind the veil of money and power is a seething pit of deception, corruption and other words that mean bad things ending in “ion”. Of the Bradford-Baldwine children, not a one participates in the running of the family empire, the youngest son Lane has been nursing his broken heart far away from their Kentucky home in NYC drinking and playing high stakes poker – see comment above regarding John Taffer. Edward, the once stalwart heir apparent has completely divorced himself from the family, only Gin (short for Virginia) still lives at home living a debauched meaningless existence, the highlight of which seems to be tormenting her erstwhile love Samuel T.  Max is referred to but his whereabouts are unknown.

My formative media preference years were during the height of the 80s, think Dallas, Dynasty, Knots Landing and Falcon Crest poured over the rocks and reading The Bourbon Kings was like one long throwback Thursday to these shoulder-padded days of excess. That being said J.R. Ward’s family saga winds its way into your affections and you find yourself talking back to your car radio as you drive down the highway while listening to the audiobook… or at least I did.

SabrinaLizzie, the breaker of Lane’s drunken heart is the head gardener at the Bradford estate and dreads the return of the prodigal son at the novel’s opening. Two years prior the two had a torrid affair that ended badly when one of his former flames fell pregnant and he determined that the way to remedy the situation was to marry the over-bred trollop. Lizzie summarily dumped Lane on his ass and justifiably cut all contact with him. In a move straight out of the nursery rhyme Lane retreated to NYC “to eat worms” in peace. Annoyingly there were a number of references to the classic 1954 film Sabrina, even one from one of the male characters if memory serves, it feels nitpicky to mention it but I would defy the majority of the female population to remember the movie let alone a man. Then again I could be wrong my husband loves Casablanca – same Humphrey Bogart, different pile – and there was a feeble remake in 1995 starring Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond. The film and remake featured the competition between two wealthy brothers for the heart of the chauffeur’s daughter. If you have time over the holidays a couple of hours spent with Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart wouldn’t be a waste.

Ultimately it is the other characters in The Bourbon Kings that save the book from being an utter waste of time. While Lane was a nice enough if unmotivated guy Lizzie got on my last nerve and by the end I think it would have been a better book if they just called it a day and moved on to greener pastures. By contrast the utterly wrecked both physically and emotionally character of Edward and the tragically self destructive Gin were pitch perfect through this novel. The threads left trailing of both of these sibling’s respective stories are more than enough to keep me captivated and frankly waiting with bated breath for The Angel’s Share, the sequel scheduled for release next summer. I can’t help but think that like bourbon this story will improve with each installment.

Midnight Sun (Blood on Snow #2) – Jo Nesbø GUEST POST REVIEW

GUEST POST – Surly Joe

MS

SYNOPSIS (From Goodreads) – Jon is on the run. He has betrayed Oslo’s biggest crime lord: The Fisherman.

Fleeing to an isolated corner of Norway, to a mountain town so far north that the sun never sets, Jon hopes to find sanctuary amongst a local religious sect.

Hiding out in a shepherd’s cabin in the wilderness, all that stands between him and his fate are Lea, a bereaved mother and her young son, Knut.

But while Lea provides him with a rifle and Knut brings essential supplies, the midnight sun is slowly driving Jon to insanity.

And then he discovers that The Fisherman’s men are getting closer…


REVIEW

Outside the cafe where I write, it’s gray. It’s cold, damp, dreary. The sun is a faint yellow bead. It’s trying to shine through the cloud, but it’s not being successful. Nothing about the day is particularly pleasing. It’s not ominous, only unsettling. Not comfortable.

Inside the pages of Midnight Sun, the new crime novel by Norwegian writer Jo Nesbo, the atmosphere is the same. Not comfortable. Short, stark, choppy sentences describe the bleak and cynical existence of Jon Hansen, a mid-level criminal and hit-man who has deceived his boss and is now running for his life, hiding out in a tiny hunting cabin in the “desolate, monotonous, rolling landscape” of Northern Norway. Isolation and paranoia eat at him, fueling his fatalism. He hopes to live. He expects to die.

This is the genre of Nordic Noir, and Jo Nesbo is a leader in the field. His writing is blunt, his plot is simple and, while not overly original, it is always engaging. His characters are not overly likable. But the mood is all-important and all-encompassing. It is reminiscent of the detective novels and films of the 1940s, only the shadow and grit of the city has been replaced by Norway’s barren sub-Arctic landscape. In Midnight Sun, Jon Hansen is, at best, an existential anti-hero who is tough to like. The locals that he meets while on the run don’t seem too trustworthy but he begrudgingly tries to trust them anyway, despite the fact that he is “more inclined to believe in a junkie’s love of drugs than in people’s love for one another”.

With solitude and the perception of approaching doom, Jon’s thoughts turn to religion and philosophy. He is bitter at life, bitter at God. “Even the very sharpest minds”, he says, “are prepared to believe in the stuff and nonsense of Christianity if they think it offers a chance to escape death”. And yet, “God. Salvation. Paradise. Eternal life. It was an appealing thought”. But existential musings won’t help him survive. His only hope is the assistance he is receiving from Lea, a young single mother, and her son Knut, both bearing scars from their own difficult lives.

In the final chapters, as Jon’s pursuers approach and the tension increases, the lightening and thunder strike and reflect the drama in an overly melodramatic and almost soap-opera way. And as I read, a new sensation starts to develop, a fear manifests. I don’t want to admit it but I can’t ignore the direction that this narrative is going. The “Noir” of Jo Nesbo’s Nordic Noir is disappearing and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, faint but recognizable. After almost two hundred pages of glorious cynicism, the darkness and somberness that I’ve loved, there’s going to be an optimistic ending.

I am disappointed.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

NesboJo Nesbo played football for Norway’s premier league team Molde, but his dream of playing professionally was dashed when he tore ligaments in his knee at the age of eighteen. After three years military service he attended business school and formed the band Di derre (‘Them There’). Their second album topped the charts in Norway, but he continued working as a financial analyst, crunching numbers during the day and gigging at night.

When commissioned by a publisher to write a memoir about life on the road with his band, he instead came up with the plot for his first Harry Hole crime novel, The Bat. He is regarded as one of the world’s leading crime writers and his novels are published in over 50 languages.

WEBSITE


CKIn his own words – Surly Joe is a moderately nondescript Toronto-based white guy who spends too much time contemplating the nature of boredom.  His aspirations waver between wanting to be either a professional gambler or a Zen monk, with a touch of writing on the side.  After completing university with a degree in a subject that does not readily lead to any sort of viable employment, he wandered through Europe and Northern Africa for a while collecting stories and useless trivia, circumstance led to a career back in Toronto.  He now spends his money on food, friends, wine and annual trips to Las Vegas.

 

Harvest Moon (A Blue Moon Lake Romance #2) by Sharon Struth

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HARVEST MOON

A Blue Moon Lake Romance #2

Sharon Struth

Releasing Dec 22nd, 2015

Lyrical Shine

 

Getting past the librarian’s guard…

Trent Jamieson isn’t one for virtual romance, but there’s something about the intriguing woman he meets on the Internet he can’t resist. Then the small town bachelor discovers the mystery woman who shares her secrets with him online is the laced-up librarian in his self-defense class! Veronica Sussingham may just be his toughest student yet. Because how can he show the vulnerable beauty that some men are worth letting your guard down for?

Veronica returned to her hometown seeking shelter for her shattered spirit. The last thing she needs is a blue-eyed charmer who wants to show her how to live—and love—again. Then she discovers Trent is not just another admirer, but a man who knows her deepest secrets. Now Veronica must choose between running from her past—or finding future happiness with the kind of man she swore she’d never fall for….

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EXCERPT

This kiss. Oh, this heavenly kiss. Veronica patted herself on the back for pushing aside her first instinct to remove Jim’s hands from her waist in a public place. The way he’d whispered “sexy” drove a warm blast straight to the core of her belly.

This time when they kissed, his mouth molded perfectly to hers, not his usual awkward preamble. He was strong and demanding, yet not too pushy. His relaxed lips lulled her into a quick surrender, a surrender she strangely didn’t mind at all.

His hand slipped to the back of her head, and she sighed into his mouth, wishing this kiss would never end. Slowly and surely, however, he pulled away, but she kept her eyes closed, clinging to the sensation a few seconds longer as his breath landed near her ear.

“God, baby,” he said, low and husky. “I can’t wait to get out of here with you later.”

Not. Jim’s. Voice.

Her eyes flashed open. She slapped her palms to the stranger’s chest, pushed him away. “What the hell!”

He stumbled back a few steps, his mouth agape and brows furrowed. “You’re not Angie.”

“Well, you’re not Jim! How dare you touch—”

“Calm down. I thought you were my date.” He blinked a few times. “Hey, I know you. From—”

“The elevator.” Her head spun as she stared into his crystal blue eyes. His gaze swept her from head to toe, making his dark lashes flutter. “Thank God you kept your lips to yourself then.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” His smiled dropped. “I’d never do that to a stranger.” With a slight cock of his head, a grin creased his cheeks and he lowered his voice. “Although I’m pretty sure we both enjoyed what just happened.”

Her face burned, as if set on fire. “How dare you suggest that I—”

“Hey! You guys are early.” Sophie entered the bar area, Duncan in tow.

Veronica tried to speak but found herself more flabbergasted when Sophie walked right up to Hotlips and they hugged. “Hi, Trent.”

Veronica pinched herself in a bid to wake from this surreal dream. Before she could gather her bearings, Duncan surrounded her in one of his big bear hugs. “Ronnie, you look beautiful. New dress?”

She blinked, nodded.

Sophie came over and hugged Veronica. “You okay?” she whispered in Veronica’s ear.

“I’m fine. Happy birthday.” From over Sophie’s shoulder, Trent watched them. Veronica narrowed her gaze, but he only grinned, like the devil might if he learned your biggest secret.

Duncan slung an arm around Trent’s shoulders. “I see you’ve met my brother.”

“Yes. I have.” The heat of her cheeks still simmered.

Trent winked in her direction, and a sizzling blast assaulted every inch of her skin.

“Pearls made me feel right at home.”

“Pearl? That’s not my name.”

“Pearls,” he corrected, an extra emphasis on the s. “Like your necklace.”

She reached up and touched the smooth, hard jewels near her collarbone. A few other guests arrived and snagged Sophie and Duncan’s attention. While she clutched the hard beads and tried to digest what just went down, she glanced at Trent. He watched her closely, but a playful twinkle in his eyes suggested the case-of-mistaken-identity kiss hadn’t upset him a bit.

 

“Heart-tugging small town romance with real emotion. Struth is an author to watch!”

—Laura Drake, author of RITA-award winning The Sweet Spot

Sharon Struth is an award-winning author who believes it’s never too late for a second chance in love or life. When she’s not writing, she and her husband happily sip their way through the scenic towns of the Connecticut Wine Trail. Sharon writes from the small town of Bethel, Connecticut, the friendliest place she’s ever lived. For more information, including where to find her other novels and published essays, please visit her website.

 

 

Hunter (The Caine Brothers #1) by Margaret Madigan

Hunter by Margaret Madigan

Series: The Caine Brothers #1

Genre: Contemporary erotic romance

Publication Date: October 19, 2015

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Series Blurb:

The Caine Brothers: a billionaire, a biker, a fighter, a SEAL, a rock star, and a shifter. Six sexy, in-control alphas who think they have women all figured out…until they each meet their match.

Hunter Blurb:

He had a billion reasons to be happy…until he met her. Then only one reason mattered.

When Hunter Caine takes over the CEO position at his father’s multi-billion dollar real estate development company, he also inherits his father’s sexy blonde personal assistant, Allison McDowell.

Allison doesn’t appreciate being passed around like property, but when she meets Hunter, sparks fly. Sure, he’s gorgeous, but if Hunter’s anything like his misogynistic father, Allison’s ready to resign.

Hunter’s considering the purchase of a resort in Costa Rica. It’s currently a couples-only resort, so he asks Allison to go undercover with him, posing as newlyweds. Allison’s skeptical, but it’s a free trip to Costa Rica, and Hunter’s easy on the eyes, so why not?

Those sparks turn into raging hot flames as Hunter and Allison explore the resort–and each other–and discover that what happens in Costa Rica may or

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EXCERPT

Hunter went right back into the bathroom to do whatever he intended to do to get that roaring erection under control. Allison pondered following him and helping him out, one way or another.

Two things stopped her; first, her legs were so weak from that flipping amazing orgasm that she didn’t think she could walk across the room, and secondly, the anticipation of owing him heated her all over again.

While he’d showered the first time, she’d moved all their luggage to the closet. Now, she went to find a dry pair of panties.

She changed them and sat on the bed, waiting for Hunter and remembering his fingers on her and in her. The ghost of his touch still lingered on her skin and in the receding pulse of her orgasm.

If that was just a sample of what they’d do to each other, she didn’t need to sleep on it. To hell with caution, she was ready for more.

But apparently he’d decided they’d stick to the agreement.

It didn’t take long for him to finish, and when he left the bathroom this time, he looked like he could barely contain his triumph. Like by making her come like that he’d proven some primal point. Like he’d achieved a coup, vanquished a rival, swept in and made a hostile takeover. He puffed his chest, threw his shoulders back, and pretty much strutted into the room.

“Kinda proud of yourself there, chief?” she asked.

“Maybe a little. Where’s my suitcase?”

She pointed at the closet. He went in and rummaged, coming out with charcoal slacks and a blue shirt. He laid everything out on the bed, then paused.

“There are four restaurants here. Any idea what you’re hungry for?” she asked.

“Seriously, you have to ask?”

She looked at him, saw the unfiltered lust in his eyes, and remembered he still hadn’t been properly taken care of. A little bit of waiting wouldn’t hurt Mr. I-get-everything-I-want-when-I-want-it CEO. Might build some character.

“Patience is a virtue, you know.”

“I don’t like to wait.”

“Waiting makes everything better.”

“Bullshit.”

“You’ll see.”

He rolled his eyes, and she smiled. This weekend could be a lot of fun.

“Are you going to sit there while I dress?” he asked.

“Do you want me to?”

“Yes. But if you do, we won’t be waiting for tomorrow. If I get naked with you now, you’d better be ready to skip dinner and forget about sleep for most of the night.”

“Well, then. I’ll step out and let you dress. Because I’m starving.”

“Coward.”

She slid off the bed, laughing at his fake insult. As she passed him on the way to the door, she grabbed the edge of his towel and yanked it off.

He growled and reached for her, but she squealed and ran for the living room. She flopped onto the couch, giggling like a little girl, but when she looked back to the bedroom Hunter stood in the doorway, naked as the day he was born, the single most glorious man she’d ever had the privilege to witness in the nude.

He’d reached up and hooked his fingers over the top of the door jamb, and lounged there casually displaying himself for her perusal. She had no doubt he meant for her to understand what she was missing. Her skin tingled, and her mouth watered in appreciation. She’d need to change her panties again.

Tall, tan, lean, and hung, Hunter made the perfect argument without even saying a word.

“Wow.” How she managed even one coherent word, she had no idea.

He grinned. “Damn right, wow.”

“Ego much?”

He shrugged and turned back to the bedroom, giving her a great view of his ass.

Waiting for tomorrow would be a serious challenge, but she didn’t like to lose any more than he did, so she’d wait. Until then, she’d have as much fun teasing him as possible.


REVIEW

There is just something about the billionaire trope that has polarized the whole romance novel community it seems. I am not immune to this phenomena as skeptical as I remain about the existence  of such a thing as a gorgeous single billionaire but that is likely sour grapes as none have come looking for me.

Allison is less than impressed with her former employer’s successor and like the intelligent character she is, and figures “what the heck” and takes the free trip to Costa Rica. I mean who wouldn’t, the only catch is that to make their guise believable they have to pose as a couple. Though his demeanor leaves something to be desired she does find him attractive so playing the part isn’t too much of a stretch.

Hunter was a lovely respite, with a refreshingly clever heroine. Again, it is so much more believable that a man with all the things that Hunter has going for him would be attracted to an intelligent, independent woman.  Reading the first entry in The Caine Brothers made me not only curious about what Ms Madigan has in store for Hunter’s many siblings but hankering for a trip to Costa Rica.

Margaret Madigan

Facebook | Website | Blog | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon

I write historical, paranormal, contemporary, and erotic romance, as well as science fiction.

I’m an Oregon Ducks fan.

I’m a donut and pastry addict (pretty much any carbs, really).

I like cats.

I’m terrified of balloons.

When I’m not writing you’ll find me in a college classroom teaching English, or working as a literary agent for an amazing agency…and of course, wrangling my family.

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Hot @nd Nerdy – Shannyn Schroeder

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HER BEST SHOT, HER PERFECT GAME, HER WINNING FORMULA

Shannyn Schroeder

Releasing in Print December 15th

Exclusively at Books-a-Million

Her Best Shot

With college graduation looming, three childhood friends vow to make spring break their last blast of pure fun. But at least one of them didn’t count on such incredible heat…

Layla Sharpe is definitely more math ninja than bikini babe, and her future has been calculated with razor precision. Convinced to let loose over spring break, Layla is finally ready to party—until her car breaks down halfway to her destination, leaving her stranded in Georgia with a mouthwateringly hot pool shark. She knows more than enough about angles to learn the game, but this week she wants him to appreciate her curves…

Phin Marks has never met a girl like Layla. She’s more Star Wars geek than seductress, and when he offers her a place to stay while her car is in the shop, he’s counting on the attraction between them to set the nights ablaze, no strings attached. But every moment he spends with Layla makes it harder to let her go. Can he persuade her to gamble in the most dangerous way possible…on forever?

EXCERPT

Her Best Shot Excerpt

So much for not knowing anxiety. Layla walked down the busy street in Atlanta looking for the nearest bar. She needed a drink.

After a leisurely drive through the mountains and taking time to enjoy the beauty of rural North Carolina, Layla had been feeling better. Then she had pulled into Atlanta and everything went to hell. Her car just stopped. She probably shouldn’t have ignored the clunking while she was in the mountains. She sat at the side of the road waiting for a tow truck for a couple of hours. Not that she didn’t have offers, from a variety of good old boys, to take her wherever she wanted to go.

Because it was Saturday afternoon, the mechanic had told her straight-out that nothing would be done on her car until Monday, but he’d promised to call her with a diagnosis before the end of the day. She had barely stopped herself from telling him to just fix it no matter what. Although she didn’t like being stranded in Georgia, she wasn’t going to pay an exorbitant amount of money for her hand-me-down car out of desperation.

Pulling her backpack higher on her shoulder, she stood still for a moment and allowed her eyes to adjust to the dim interior of the first bar she found. It was a dive, but there was a decent-sized crowd. Unfortunately, it wasn’t her kind of crowd. They were mostly men and mostly grubby-looking. Even the younger ones had a roughness about them.

Layla figured it was par for the course. All she wanted to do was drown her sorrows in some beer and then pass out until her car was fixed. Maybe she could salvage part of her break. She shot a text to Felicity to let her know about the car.

After ordering a light beer at the bar, Layla walked toward the back to drink alone. In the back, she found a few men playing pool at the two tables. She grabbed a chair and sat with her back to the wall so she could watch the players. No one seemed to take notice of her presence.

Within moments, one player easily stood out as the man to beat. He was tall, over six feet, with long dark hair pulled back into a ponytail. He wore a T-shirt that looked intentionally too tight, showing off defined muscles, as if to say, “Don’t fuck with me.” He didn’t chat with the other player. The only sounds he made were to call his shots. He was smooth and efficient, and fun to watch as he cleared the table.

Especially when he bent over in front of her. Maybe being stuck in Atlanta for the night wouldn’t be so bad if all the guys were this nice to look at. With the eight ball sunk, the man stood and collected the money sitting on the edge of the table. The loser walked away, and another guy took his place, putting his twenty on the edge.

This second player was better than the first, but Mr. Nice Ass stayed ahead. After a while, Layla began to wonder if he was just toying with his competition, like a cat playing with its prey. He let the other man sink a few balls and then returned to clear the table. Again, he sank the eight ball and swiped the cash.

The man was a pool hustler.

After the second loser left, the man looked around, his gaze landing on her. His eyes, a gray-green, weren’t pretty, but were mesmerizing. Something about the contrast against his olive skin.

He pointed his pool cue at her. “Are you going to sit there staring all night, or are you going to play?”

“Me? I’m not stupid enough to play pool with a hustler. My day’s been crappy enough. I don’t need to lose anything else.”

He stalked closer to her. “I’m not a hustler. Hustlers pretend to be bad and then show their true ability to win big. Make no mistake. I’m always good.”

“Thanks for the vocabulary lesson. I still have better things to do with twenty bucks than lose it to you, especially since I’ve only played pool a handful of times.”

He took another step closer. Close enough that she could touch him if she wanted, but he kept enough distance so she wasn’t crowded. “How about you buy me a beer, and I’ll give you a lesson?”

She had nothing else going on, and a game of pool with a sexy stranger might be fun. “You’re on. What’ll you have?”

He tilted his head toward her bottle. “Whatever you’re having is fine.”

She grabbed her backpack and went back to the bar to buy a couple more beers. When she returned, he had the balls racked and ready to go. She placed her backpack on her chair and grabbed a cue stick. Layla handed him a bottle and said, “I’m Layla.”

He took the bottle from her, allowing his thumb to brush over her fingers. “Thanks, Layla. I’m Phin.”

The simple touch sent a jolt of pleasure up her arm and down her center. He took a swig of beer, and she watched his throat work as he swallowed. She licked her lips, and when he reached past her to put his bottle on the table, her mouth went dry. This man was like a walking orgasm. He didn’t have to say anything, and she wanted to go for a test run.


 

Her Perfect Game

Spring break is supposed to be a week of fun in the sun for three childhood friends about to graduate from college. But one of them is ready to get her game on somewhere else…

Charlie Castle is an expert archer and a fierce warrior—in her favorite video game, anyway. But college life was a program she couldn’t quite master. To land a cybertech job without a degree, she’s entering a “hackfest” over spring break—where she also hopes to meet the sweet gamer who’s been flirting with her online. Instead, she runs into the hot guy who walked away years ago, and can’t fight the desire that comes rushing back.

Jonah Best has never gotten over Charlie, whose kisses were always as deliciously creative as her coding. But now that they’re face to face again, he doesn’t know how to admit that her online admirer is really him—or how to convince her that he’s offering her a job for her incredible skills, not her sex appeal. Can Jonah cut through their communication glitches and persuade Charlie that the next level up for them should be forever?

Her Winning Formula

Spring break was supposed to be a last blast of fun for three friends before the reality of adulthood set in. But for the trio’s science whiz, it’s an education in instant attraction…

Chemistry major Felicity Stone can tell you everything about the way chemicals interact, but when it comes to social interaction, she needs schooling. Abandoned by her friends, Felicity is faced with spending spring break alone—unless she accepts a gorgeous stranger’s invitation to pose as his girlfriend at a family wedding. Not one to turn down a research opportunity, Felicity never expected it to produce such breathtaking results…

Teacher and baseball coach Lucas Tanner is fascinated by Felicity’s potent mix of spirit and scientist, not to mention her delicious curves. When Felicity asks him to return the favor by teaching her how to pick up guys, he can’t refuse—but he’s not at all happy with the idea of her using a formula for flirting on anyone but him. Can he convince her that together they have the perfect chemistry?

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Shannyn Schroeder is the author of the O’Leary series, contemporary romances centered around a large Irish-American family in Chicago and the new Hot & Nerdy series about 3 nerdy friends and their last spring break. When she’s not wrangling her three kids or writing, she watches a ton of TV and loves to bake cookies.

Mistletoe & Murder in Las Vegas – Colleen Collins

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MISTLETOE AND MURDER IN LAS VEGAS

Affairs to Remember Book One

Colleen Collins

Releasing December 14th, 2015


All 31-year-old, Las Vegas criminal lawyer Joanne Galvin wants for Christmas is a few clients so she can make ends meet. Instead she’s roped into defending the notorious, alleged Timepiece Arsonist; tracked by a hunky special agent and his arson dog; and chased by a serial killer. Just when her life is starting to feel like the Nightmare Before Christmas, she receives an unexpected gift that offers hope for this Christmas to possibly be the most wonderful time of the year…maybe even for years to come.

A story about a down-on-her-luck lawyer, a jinxed special agent, and an arson dog named Maggie who join forces in this heartfelt, humorous romantic-mystery.

 

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EXCERPT

November 5, 2015

Eighth Judicial District Court, Courtroom 14A

Las Vegas, Nevada

Judge Darren Fields, his dark-frame eyeglasses in stark contrast to his mop of snow-white hair, peered down at public defender Joanne Galvin as if she were an alien with a law degree.  “You just told the jury that the DA plays fast and loose like a gunslinger.  Has defense lost her mind?”

Whispers rippled throughout the courtroom.  Someone stifled a laugh.

Locked in a stare-down with the judge, Joanne had the irrational urge to answer “yes.”  And she knew exactly when she’d lost it, too—at one o’clock this morning when she’d found in the DA’s discovery a buried reference to someone who had seen “Tater” drinking a beer “that night.”

She’d missed the significance of that reference the first time she reviewed those pages, but when she read it again at one this morning, her instincts went on orange alert.  This “someone” had to be the key witness who could finally prove her client, twenty-year-old Sebastian Vaughn, had been at a dive bar thirty miles away and not at the scene of the attempted murder the DA was trying to hang on him.  A quick call to Sebastian’s mother confirmed that years ago some of his buddies had called him “Tater,” slang for home run as he had been a star on the high-school baseball team.

By then it was nearly two a.m.  At nine o’clock sharp, she and the DA would begin presenting their closing arguments in the trial, during which neither were allowed to enter new evidence, such as this witness.  Despite the ungodly hour, Joanne called the judge and begged him to please re-open the trial based on what she read.  He grumpily agreed to meet her and Sam Burnette, the DA, in his chambers precisely at eight o’clock.

A meeting that had gone about as smoothly as a Three Stooges farce.

Judge Fields had alternated between swilling coffee and popping antacids while Sam Burnette furiously accused Joanne of obstructing justice by purposefully waiting until the night before closing arguments to read parts of discovery.

She countered that the DA had played dirty by doing a discovery dump on her—referring to the hundreds of pages of police reports, interviews and other documents that the DA’s office provided the defense during the pre-trial phase. Only Esmeralda—an elderly Vegas fortune

teller who regularly swindled tourists on the Strip—and Her Crystal Ball could have divined the hidden meaning of that purposefully vague reference on first read-through.

After that the judge quietly belched and cleaned his eyeglasses for several thoughtful moments.  Putting his glasses back on, he said the mere inference of evidence, obviously favorable to the defense, was insufficient reason to upset the orderly administration of justice in his court.  Therefore he ruled the trial would not be re-opened.

Donning his judicial robes, he griped about his lack of sleep and stated he was not in the mood to put up with any more tomfoolery.

 

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Colleen Collins is a private investigator and award-winning author who has written over thirty books for Harlequin and Dorchester, including two indie romantic-mysteries and four indie nonfiction books. Her recent romantic-mystery, THE UNGRATEFUL DEAD, won the 2015 Aspen Gold Readers’ Choice Award, short story category. Colleen is a member of Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, Private Eye Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime.

When not sleuthing or writing, Colleen loves spending time with her husband, two Rottweilers (named Jack Nicholson and Aretha Franklin), and three cats.