Sunday, April 14, 2019

REVIEW: Girls on the Verge by Sharon Biggs Waller

OUR REVIEW:

This novel feels especially important these days--these days of Draconian laws concerning women and their bodies --and I'm so glad that I took the morning to read it; I'll definitely be giving this one to my daughters and will be putting it on my classroom library shelves as soon as I can. The story of Camille is the story of many young women and it's one that needs to be told in the light of day--not under the cover of darkness or with shame. 

This story of an unplanned pregnancy and the fear, hopelessness, and confusion it can cause resonated with me. Every aspect of this--from the horror of the realization, the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness when you feel like you have no choice or that your choices are limited, the anger at people taking away safe options, and the loneliness you feel when it feels like you have absolutely no one to turn to-- captured so many of the emotions and thought processes that you undergo from the moment you discover that your pregnant...and you're not ready for it and you're certain this isn't what you wanted. 

While this novel's main focus is Camille and her journey, it wouldn't be the novel it is without including her best friend Bea (and how conflicted she is about all of this), and an acquaintace-friend Annabelle--the person who really saves the day...saves many days. How I wish every woman had an Annabelle and a Bea in their lives. Bea's struggle with Camille's choices is one I know many of my own friends would have and yet I hope, like Bea, they'd ultimately choose to support a friend in need (I can say, for me, that I did have friends who are supportive like Annabelle and Bea). And with the way society seems to be frothing at the mouth to take women's right to choose away, I feel like the Annabelles of the world are needed more than ever. The journey that these friendships take in a few short days feels like a journey that will solidify them in each other's life forever. 

The journey of this novel spans days but feels like it spans a lifetime--a before and after. It offers a look at something we don't see very often. It asks you to consider Camille's experience and to remember, if you're no longer (or weren't ever) a young woman, how being young, inexperienced, without a steady income can limit your choices. 

The subject matter may feel grim or sad, and I suppose it is, but I couldn't help but leave the novel feeling hopeful. The last scene in the novel offered me so much hope for Camille and the bright future she could have. Please pick up this novel and put yourselves in the shoes of these characters. Try to do so without judgement. Try to see what it feels like to be Girls on the Verge. 

BUY IT HERE: https://amzn.to/2DcUhl1

SYNOPSIS:


Girls on the Verge is an incredibly timely novel about a woman’s right to choose. Sharon Biggs Waller brings to life a narrative that has to continue to fight for its right to be told, and honored.
Best Books of 2019 ―Cosmopolitan 

Camille couldn't be having a better summer―she kills it as Ophelia in her community theater's production of Hamlet, catches the eye of the cutest boy in the play, and nabs a spot in a prestigious theater program. But on the very night she learns she got into the program, she also finds out she’s pregnant. She definitely can’t tell her parents. And her best friend Bea doesn’t agree with the decision Camille has made.
Camille is forced to try to solve her problem alone…and the system is very much working against her. At her most vulnerable, Camille reaches out to Annabelle Ponsonby, a girl she only barely knows from the theater. Happily, Annabelle agrees to drive her wherever she needs to go. And in a last minute change of heart, Bea decides to come with.
Over the course of more than a thousand miles, friendships will be tested and dreams will be challenged. But ultimately, the girls will realize that friends are the real heroes in every story.

Friday, April 12, 2019

REVIEW: My Life in Shambles by Karina Halle

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My Life in Shambles by Karina Halle
Release Date: April 11, 2019

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OUR REVIEW:

Shel: I really really enjoyed My Life in Shambles; it’s exactly what I love about reading romance--a perfect escape from my fairly routine life. Court: Agreed. And Karina Halle can do it like no other!

Shel: Valerie our heroine is so relatable to many—she’s hit a rough spot and desperately needs an escape from everything and so she takes it (something we all wish we could do). She takes a chance to do something out of her comfort zone and it pays off—not only with sister bonding in Ireland but finding adventure and love with Padraig. Padraig, our fine specimen of a hero, has his own set of problems he’d like to rectify or escape from and Valerie is just the girl to help him with that. Court: NO JOKE! I am feeling the perils of life at the moment, so it makes things difficult to know you need something but can't quite figure out exactly what it is. This book captured that perfectly in a way that is needed and a good way to explore your imagination even when you can't actually cross the ocean to do it. My Life in Shambles is beautifully written and flows so well too from a critical stand point. This woman can write a book, which we've known for like forever...and I enjoyed it so much.

Shel: I love the chemistry of these two. I love their hearts—their compassion and kindness. I love how they treat each other, how they respect each other, and genuinely like each other. I love that the sex scenes are searingly hot. And I love how Karina Halle always shows us a little something about the things people live with and grapple with, things we don't always realize are as hard or emotional or as challenging as they are, and she does it in a way that rings true. Court: Yes. I felt all of hte feels that came our way...maybe I shed a few tears as I usually do in situations such as this (Don't judge me!) I liked that in the escapism portion of our book we got so much, but it blended well with the emotional side of things in ways that I wasn't expecting.

Shel: I just really like everything about Valerie and Padraig and this novel. It’s perfectly constructed—the exposition never felt long or drawn out, the tension and conflict built slowly and subtly, the romance was sweet but not too sweet, there was a good bit of humor, the oh shit moment was not too emotionally scarring, and the HEA was perfect. Court: Amen, sister. I also loved our supporting characters. Nan and Major and Sandra and Angie and Colin. They all meant so much to this story, and there's not much I love better than the best supporting cast there can be.

Shel: I can not recommend this book enough—it’s romantic and fun and emotional and the perfect thing to escape into for a few hours. Court: The perfect fantasy mixed in with some real feels...can't go wrong with this book or Karina Halle.

My Life in Shambles, a full-length contemporary standalone romance by Karina Halle.
When Valerie Stephens made the resolution to say yes to new adventures, she never thought she’d end up in the tiny town of Shambles, fake engaged to one of Ireland’s top rugby players. But there’s a first time for everything.
They say bad things happen in threes.
After my boyfriend broke off our engagement, and I lost my apartment, and was laid off from my job, I can more than attest to that.
They also say life happens when you say yes to new adventures.
So when my two sisters invited me to ring in the new year in Ireland, I decided to throw all caution to the wind and go for it. I was going to let “saying yes” be my new resolution.
Little did I know I’d spend New Year’s Eve having a hot and dirty one-night stand with Padraig McCarthy, one hell of a sexy Irishman. I also didn’t know that the brooding and intense sex god was one of Ireland’s top rugby players.
A rugby player with a proposition for me:
Come with him to his tiny hometown of Shambles and pretend to be his fiancé for a few days, just so that his ailing father can have some peace of mind.
It sounded simple enough.
It was anything but.
Not when a town gets up in your business, not when the media hunts you down, not when your past comes back in the picture, not when there are real hearts and feelings at stake.
Not when there are secrets that could break you.
They say life is what happens when you say yes to new adventures.
This is my life in Shambles.

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Download your copy today or read FREE in Kindle Unlimited!
Amazon Worldwide: https://geni.us/MLIS
Add to Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2SRF0vA
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Excerpt:
The rest of the evening starts to pass by in a bit of a blur. The food comes, and suddenly I’ve never been so hungry in my life. I don’t even pull any of that dainty eating nonsense, you know the type you do on a first date with someone, all tiny nibbles and delicate wiping of the mouth with a napkin. No, I fill my damn mouth with food, dumplings and spicy meats and rice. I eat with abandon, like there’s no tomorrow. Padraig does the same. It’s freeing. It’s funny. I keep making orgasm noises over it all and he keeps laughing, and we eat and eat, even feeding each other won tons at one point with shaky chopstick skills. Honestly, there’s never been anything sexier. When we’re finally finished, we’re both full, more drunk than before, and a little greasy. I try to pay the bill but he insists (although I don’t even think they charged him for anything), and then as we leave the restaurant he grabs my hand. I’m not a small-boned girl, but with his hand over mine, I feel like I’ve been reverted back to the hapless woman being led by an alpha caveman and I don’t mind one bit. The fact that his palm is warm in this snowy weather with the skin-to-skin contact sends consistent shivers down my back. We stroll down the streets and I almost slip a few times, my bad balance combined with the snow making for a dicey situation. But each time Padraig grabs me and keeps me upright, and I have to admit, it’s kind of fun to be constantly falling into him. It’s like having a wall of bricks for support, if that wall of bricks was shaped like a rugby god. I have no idea where we’re going. All I know is that it’s not even midnight yet. He takes me to a bar and then a club, both of which are packed to the doors and have crazy long lines, both of which we bypass with ease because he’s Padraig McCarthy. I’m not one for dancing and Padraig doesn’t strike me as the type either, but there’s something about the deep bass beats in this place, and the free-flowing champagne, courtesy of the club, that has us falling into a rhythm together. At first we’re dancing apart but it’s not long before the inches between us close. The heat from his body and mine brews, and the electricity is flowing in sparks and jumps, moving to the erotic pulse of the music, mixed with the hope and hedonism of the crowd on this once-a-year night. His hips bridge the gap, his strong palms running down the sides of my waist, my hips slowly swaying then grinding against him. I feel his erection burning through his jeans, the width and length taking my breath again, making me blush in such a way that I’m glad the lights are dim. I’m both a young girl, naïve and inexperienced and shy as the very touch and proximity to him hurls me toward a sexual awakening, and at the same time I’m an old soul who has found her equal in another, whose body wants to know this stranger intimately, who isn’t scared at what’s transpiring, but is hungry instead. Both of these sides are at war inside me, dancing around each other like a caduceus, until I’m dizzy with my feelings for him. This want, this yearning, this need for something new, something exciting and terrifying, it claws through me until I can’t ignore it anymore. I glance up at Padraig and see only his eyes. Those deep, dark haunting eyes that glimmer with the pulsating lights and yet radiate with something as wanting and wicked as the feelings inside of me. His hands go to the back of my neck and the small of my back. My chin tips up. The rest of the world fades away and I know when it comes back into focus, everything will be different. Everything will change. It takes a moment to change someone. Sometimes it just takes a kiss.

Meet Karina:
Karina Halle is a former travel writer and music journalist and The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today Bestselling author of The Pact, Love, in English, The Artists Trilogy, Dirty Angels and over 20 other wild and romantic reads. She lives on an island off the coast of British Columbia with her husband and her rescue pup, where she drinks a lot of wine, hikes a lot of trails and devours a lot of books.
Halle is represented by the Root Literary and is both self-published and published by Simon & Schuster and Hachette in North America and in the UK.

Connect with Karina:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorkarinahalle/ Amazon: http://amzn.to/2vo9pq4 Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authorhalle/ Join her Reader Group: https://goo.gl/wpCBSS Stay up to date with Karina by signing up for her newsletter here: https://goo.gl/Ve4eCh http://authorkarinahalle.com

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

COVER REVEAL: Pretty Reckless by L.J. Shen

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Pretty Reckless, the first standalone in the highly anticipated All Saints High series from USA Today bestselling author L.J. Shen, is coming April 29th and we have the gasp-worthy cover!

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 We were supposed to be best friends
But turned out to be worst enemies…
Penn
They say revenge is a dish best served cold.
I’d had four years to stew on what Daria Followhill did to me, and now my heart is completely iced.
I took her first kiss.
She took the only thing I loved.
I was poor.
She was rich.
The good thing about circumstances? They can change. Fast.
Now, I’m her parents’ latest shiny project.
Her housemate. Her tormentor. The captain of the rival football team she hates so much.
Yeah, baby girl, say it—I’m your foster brother.
There’s a price to pay for ruining the only good thing in my life, and she’s about to shell out some serious tears.
Daria Followhill thinks she is THE queen. I’m about to prove to her that she’s nothing but a spoiled princess.
Daria
Everyone loves a good-old, unapologetic punk.
But being a bitch? Oh, you get slammed for every snarky comment, cynical eye roll, and foot you put in your adversaries’ way.
The thing about stiletto heels is that they make a hell of a dent when you walk all over the people who try to hurt you.
In Penn Scully’s case, I pierced his heart until he bled out, then left it in a trash can on a bright summer day.
Four years ago, he asked me to save all of my firsts for him.
Now he lives across the hall, and there’s nothing I want more than to be his last everything.
His parting words when he gave me his heart were that nothing in this world is free.

Now? Now he is making me pay.

Add to GoodReads: http://bit.ly/2FZssQ7
Cover Designer: Letitia Hasser, RBA Designs
Model: Austin Victoria

About LJ Shen:
L.J. Shen is an International #1 best-selling author of Contemporary Romance and New Adult novels. She lives in Northern California with her husband, young son and chubby cat.
Before she’d settled down, L.J. (who thinks referring to herself in the third person is really silly, by the way) traveled the world, and collected friends from all across the globe. Friends who’d be happy to report that she is a rubbish companion, always forgets people's’ birthdays and never sends Christmas cards.
She enjoys the simple things in life, like spending time with her family and friends, reading, HBO, Netflix and internet-stalking Stephen James. She reads between three to five books a week and firmly believes Crocs shoes and mullets should be outlawed.
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Connect with L.J. Shen:
Stay up to date with L.J. Shen by signing up for her mailing list:

Monday, April 8, 2019

REVIEW + GIVEAWAY: When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton


April 9, 2019
Women’s Fiction/Historical Fiction
Penguin/Berkley

OUR REVIEW:

While it's true that reading Next Year in Havana would give you additional context to the story of Beatriz Perez and her family's history with Cuba, it's not necessary to understand the plot and characters in When We Left Cuba--this novel can stand completely on it's own. This novel delves more into the emotional aftermath of leaving (and longing for home) whereas the first novel was more focused on the actions that led to the Perez family leaving their homeland. It gives insight into how conflicted many Cubans must have felt about leaving their homes and how messy and strained and multifaceted this entire situation was--so many people felt so many things and Chanel Cleeton does an excellent job of showing us how complex the emotions and situations surrounding the decision to leave or stay was. 

Other notables--Beatriz was so incredibly progressive in a time when women weren't encouraged to be as bold and outspoken as she was (and I loved her!). And Nick was so interesting as well--I kept waiting for him to be an ass and he really never was--he respected her and gave her the space she needed to be what she needed to be.

Chanel Cleeton employed leaps of time to help keep the novel moving and kept us on our toes with adventurous plot lines, romance, and interesting looks at the Perez family and those they rubbed elbows with. 

Book Summary:

In 1960s Florida, a young Cuban exile will risk her life--and heart--to take back her country in this exhilarating historical novel from the author of Next Year in Havana, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick.

Beautiful. Daring. Deadly. 

The Cuban Revolution took everything from sugar heiress Beatriz Perez--her family, her people, her country. Recruited by the CIA to infiltrate Fidel Castro's inner circle and pulled into the dangerous world of espionage, Beatriz is consumed by her quest for revenge and her desire to reclaim the life she lost. 

As the Cold War swells like a hurricane over the shores of the Florida Strait, Beatriz is caught between the clash of Cuban American politics and the perils of a forbidden affair with a powerful man driven by ambitions of his own. When the ever-changing tides of history threaten everything she has fought for, she must make a choice between her past and future--but the wrong move could cost Beatriz everything--not just the island she loves, but also the man who has stolen her heart...

GIVEAWAY: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/ff1fc5f9134/?

Book Links:

Barnes & Noble: https://bit.ly/2KQM6MG

Learn more about When We Left Cuba including downloading the book club guide and more at: http://www.chanelcleeton.com/when-we-left-cuba


Praise for When We Left Cuba:

A thrilling story about love, loss, and what we will do to go home again. Utterly un-put-down-able.
—PopSugar

A beautiful and utterly transporting novel.
Publisher’s Weekly

Bold, unconventional Beatriz makes a heroine for the ages…A thrilling, thought-provoking read!
—Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network

A gorgeously atmospheric homage to a country and a past that vibrates with emotion on every page.  Historic events, espionage, and a Kennedy-esque romance make this novel a rich read, but the addition of a formidable heroine truly makes it unputdownable.  This is not just historical fiction, but also an unrequited love story for a country and a way of life, as well as a journey of self-discovery for a woman torn between love and the two countries she calls home.
—Karen White, New York Times bestselling author

Cleeton once again delivers a masterful tale of political intrigue tinged with personal heartbreak. Her ferocity and fearlessness can be found on every page, and Beatriz’s story—one of vengeance, betrayal, and bravery—astonishes and thrills.
—Fiona Davis, national bestselling author of The Masterpiece

Atmospheric and evocative, When We Left Cuba captivates with its compelling portrayals of the glamorous Cuban exile community and powerful forbidden love set against the dangerous intrigue of the Cold War. Unforgettable and unputdownable!
—Laura Kamoie, New York Times bestselling coauthor of My Dear Hamilton

By turns a captivating historical novel, a sweeping love story, and a daring tale of espionage—I absolutely adored this gem of a novel.
—Jillian Cantor, author of The Lost Letter and In Another Time

Oozing with atmosphere and intrigue, When We Left Cuba is an evocative, powerful and beautifully written historical novel which had me completely captivated from the first page to the last. Take a bow, Chanel Cleeton!
—Hazel Gaynor, New York Times bestselling author of The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter

With a sure hand for historical detail, an impeccable eye for setting, and a heroine who grasps hold of your heart and never lets go, Chanel Cleeton has created another dazzlingly atmospheric and absorbing story of Cuba and its exiles. A beautiful and profoundly affecting novel from a writer whose work belongs on the shelves of every lover of historical fiction.
—Jennifer Robson, USA Today bestselling author of The Gown

Powerful, emotional and oh so real. One woman's fight to reclaim her own country, against all odds and no matter what the cost is intertwined with the real history of our lifetime and creates an unforgettable story.
—Rhys Bowen, New York Times and #1 Kindle bestselling author of The Tuscan Child and the Royal Spyness mysteries.

Scintillating…. An intriguing dive into the turbulent Cuban-American history of the 1960s, and the unorthodox choices made by a strong historical woman.
—Marie Benedict, New York Times bestselling author of The Only Woman in the Room

Rich in historic detail, When We Left Cuba has it all—the excitement of a page-turning thriller, the sizzle of a steamy romance and the elegant prose of a master storyteller.
—Renée Rosen, author of Park Avenue Summer

Cleeton draws you into the glamour, intrigue, and uncertainty of the Cuban exile community just after Castro's coup through a heroine who could give Mata Hari a run for her money…. You'll be rooting for Beatriz to change the course of history—and find her own hard-won happily ever after.
—Lauren Willig, New York Times bestselling author of The English Wife

With a richly imagined setting and a heroine worth rooting for from the start, When We Left Cuba is thrilling and romantic, and timely to boot.
—Michelle Gable, New York Times bestselling author of The Summer I Met Jack

A compelling unputdownable story of love—for a man, for a country, for a past ripped away, and a future’s tenuous promise. When We Left Cuba swept me away.
—Shelley Noble, New York Times bestselling author of Lighthouse Beach.

Electric and fierce. Beatriz Perez’s romance with a handsome, important senator will sweep you away, but it’s her profound loyalty to Cuba and her formidable determination to be her own woman despite life-and-death odds that will really hold you in thrall.
—Kerri Maher, author of The Kennedy Debutante

 In a tale as tempestuous as Cuba itself, When We Left Cuba is the revolutionary story of one woman’s bold courage and her many sacrifices for her beloved country. An absolutely spectacular read!
—Stephanie Marie Thornton, author of American Princess

Beatriz Perez’s brand of vintage-Havana glamour dazzles with equal parts intrigue, rebellion, and romance to make for an unforgettable story.
Elise Hooper, author of The Other Alcott





Author Information:

Chanel Cleeton is the USA Today bestselling author of Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick Next Year in Havana. Originally from Florida, Chanel grew up on stories of her family's exodus from Cuba following the events of the Cuban Revolution. Her passion for politics and history continued during her years spent studying in England where she earned a bachelor's degree in International Relations from Richmond, The American International University in London and a master's degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics & Political Science. Chanel also received her Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law. She loves to travel and has lived in the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia. 

Author Links:

Website:   www.chanelcleeton.com



Monday, April 1, 2019

REVIEW: Hook Shot by Kennedy Ryan

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"Kennedy Ryan weaves prose like a magician (or voodoo priestess) without sacrificing heat or page-turning angst to create authentic, living, breathing characters you want to root for to the end. Hook Shot is simply beautiful." -- Emma Scott, Bestselling Author

Hook Shot, a deeply emotional standalone set in the worlds of professional basketball and high fashion from Kennedy Ryan, is available now and FREE in Kindle Unlimited!

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Enter the Release Giveaway for a $50 Gift Card +Signed HOOK SHOT Paperback here:

OUR REVIEW:

Shel: I've been D-Y-I-N-G for Lotus and Kenan's book since the moment on saw them on the page together. DYING. Haven't you? I mean every time they shared space on the page they had all this tension and I was so curious about their story. Lucky me, Kennedy wrote their story and it was everything I wanted and more. Court: Girl...she definitely knew just what we wanted when she gave us their story, for sure!

Shel: Lotus was interesting--a mix of sensitive and strong, sassy and sweet, confident with times of hesitancy. As with every heroine in this series, I connected with her on many levels and appreciated the way she handled every single thing that came her way. I can confidently say she has to be one of my favorite characters I've read--I very much admired her. Court: She is so strong, but sensitive. I really enjoyed her character in every scene we've read her in, too. I am so happy that she got her story to be told...and I even loved her methods for getting through some of her stuff! (Swearing off the D...savage!)

Shel: Kenan was a great counterpart to Lotus. He, too, was a mix of strong and sensitive with a ton of restraint. I know people like him exist in the world--the people who can not fly off the handle and take the high road and I marvel at how self-contained they are. I love that he was an introvert and his taste in music was A+ 100! Court: Hahahahahaha...I loved that too about him. He is the BEST dad...in that even when he doesn't get it quite right, he still tries so hard to put his daughter first. And with everything that happened to him, and to her...that is brilliant and gave me feels too. He is not your typical NBA baller for sure compared to some of the young guns, but I really enjoyed getting to see the off season parts. The parts where he's just trying to be a regular guy, and take care of his family and explore something with a woman who he feels a spark with. It was beautiful, and as usual Kennedy's writing slayed me.

Shel: These two made a fine couple. The way that they trusted each other, took their time with each other, and really, just everything about them being together were huge #couplegoals. I love them together. Court: ME TOO! They're so strong for each other, but knew when to be vulnerable. Trust is obviously a HUGE thing for the both of them, and watching that blossom and grow is something that made for a very enjoyable book.

Shel: I should also mention that the way that Kennedy wrote about the city made me want to visit every spot, try every morsel of food, and find all of the friends that Lotus had--they all seemed like my kinda girls (+JP).Court: YES! Having visited NYC recently, this really made me want to go back and be one of these girls friends permanently!


Shel: It is my sincerest hope that the Grip Series and this series are snatched up by a brilliant production company and made into a Netflix series. These characters have become so big in my head that I forget they aren't real and if that doesn't tell you everything about this novel and series, then I don't know what will. Court: YES! A million times yes. That would be brilliant!

Divorced. Single dad. Traded to a losing squad.
Cheated on, betrayed, exposed.
My perfect life blew up in my face and I'm still picking up the pieces.
The last thing I need is her.
A wildflower. A storm. A woman I can't resist.
Lotus DuPree is a kick to my gut and a wrench in my plans
from the moment our eyes meet.
I promised myself I wouldn't trust a woman again,
but I've never wanted anyone the way I want Lo.
She's not the plan I made, but she's the risk I have to take.
A warrior. A baller. The one they call Gladiator.
Kenan Ross charged into my life smelling all good, looking even better and snatching my breath from the moment we met.
The last thing I need is him.
I’m working on me. Facing my pain and conquering my demons.
I've seen what trusting a man gets you.
Don't. Have. Time. For. This.
But he just keeps coming for me.
Keeps knocking down my defenses and stealing my excuses
one by one.
He never gives up, and now...I'm not sure I want him to.
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Download your copy today or read FREE in Kindle Unlimited!
Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/HookShot
Amazon Paperback: https://amzn.to/2TBWk7r
Add to GoodReads: http://bit.ly/2RQ7p81
Audiobook Alert: http://bit.ly/2UyzQFI
Audiobook Release: April 30th
baller binge hoops 99 cents
Start the HOOPS series with LONG SHOT today for only 99¢!
Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/LongShotKR
BLOCK SHOT: https://amzn.to/2Up5N2N
HOOPS Holiday: http://bit.ly/2RVlcef

EXCERPT

After talking to Kenan for the last few minutes, and looking under his hood, so to speak, I’ve found that he’s a classic. They don’t make them like him anymore, and if I don’t change the subject, change the course of this conversation, I’ll fool myself that we don’t have to keep things simple and that we could be more than just friends, not just for the summer, but for a long time to come. As long as I’d like. “Okay,” I say, switching gears without a clutch and pulling a tie off another of Amanda’s racks. “I think that shirt could work really well with this tie.” He doesn’t look at the tie I’m holding up, but keeps his eyes fastened on me. He’s not playing along. I’ve boxed myself into a corner with him. And the quarters are too tight. His scent. His warmth. His intelligence. His thoughtfulness. He is pressing in on me, overtaking my good intentions in all the ways I never thought a man could. “Try this on,” I say, blindly shoving the mint green shirt at him. When I look at him, he’s already peeled one shirt off and is reaching for the one I chose. I didn’t think this through. Didn’t forecast that Kenan changing from one shirt into another would mean his naked chest. I lose my train of thought and all my chill. Besides my mouth dropping open at the sight of the sculpted terrain of his chest and abs, I give no other indication that he affects me. Taut, bronze skin stretches across his broad shoulders like supple canvas pulled over a frame, the foundation of a masterpiece. He’s a big man. Not bulky, but instead chiseled to the specifications of a master sculptor: arms roped with muscles, biceps like rocks under skin glowing with health. The forearms Chase raved about are lined with veins and sinew. And I die for a great chest. I’ve never seen one more spectacular than Kenan’s. Two words. Male. Nipples. Jesus, my mouth is literally watering at the thought of tasting them, sucking them, licking them. And if that pectoral perfection weren’t enough, the two columns of muscles, four each, are stacked over his lean stomach arrowing down to a narrow waist and hips. I can’t look away. I lick my lips, imagining how he would feel under my mouth. How I’d lick around his nipples and drag my tongue down that shallow path bisecting his abdominal muscles. I’d slip that belt off and sink to my knees. Unzip those pants and take him out. God, hold him in my hands and then take him all the way to the back of my throat. I’d choke on him. A man this big . . . I’d be so tight around him. “Lotus,” Kenan says, jarring me from my torso trance. “Should I go ahead and put this shirt on? Or did you need a little more time?” I snap a glance up to his face, embarrassed to find him laughing at me. Oh, God. I’m as bad as Amanda. I turn to leave, but he catches my elbow with a gentle hand and turns me back around, walking us behind two of the racks. He bends until he’s almost eye level with me. “Don’t be embarrassed,” he says, searching my face intently. “I’m glad you like my body.” “I didn’t say I . . .” My words trail off at his knowing grin. “Okay. So you have a nice body. I work in fashion. Do you have any idea how many great bodies I see on a daily basis?” “I’m sure many,” he says, his smile still firmly in place. “I can’t speak for any of them, only for the way you looked at me.” “And how do you think I looked at you?” I ask defensively, forcing myself not to look away. In the quiet that follows, his smile fades, and heat replaces the humor in his eyes. “You looked at me the way I bet I’ve looked at you every time you walk into a room,” he says, the timbre of his voice rolling over my sensitive skin like a caress. “Like I would eat you if I could. Head to toe, everything in between.” “Kenan,” I protest, closing my eyes on a groan. “We said friends. We said simple. This is not how you start a simple friendship.” His large hand cups my jaw and lifts my chin. I open my eyes, blinking dazedly at him. I wasn’t prepared for how his touch makes me feel. How I instantly crave more of it; want to lean into the warmth; to turn and trace his lifeline with my tongue. Tell him all the things I could discover just from reading his palm and looking into his eyes. How can such a large hand feel so gentle, like it’s capable of treasuring, cherishing? “Okay, Lotus,” he says, regret and reluctance woven around my name. “Simple. Friendship.”
About Kennedy
A Top 25 Amazon Bestseller, Kennedy Ryan writes about women from all walks of life, empowering them and placing them firmly at the center of each story and in charge of their own destinies. Her heroes respect, cherish and lose their minds for the women who capture their hearts. She is a wife to her lifetime lover and mother to an extraordinary son. She has always leveraged her journalism background to write for charity and non-profit organizations, but enjoys writing to raise Autism awareness most. A contributor for Modern Mom Magazine and Frolic, Kennedy’s writings have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul, USA Today and many others. The founder and executive director of a foundation serving Atlanta Autism families, she has appeared on Headline News, Montel Williams, NPR and other media outlets as an advocate for families living with autism. KR W Bckg Verti
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