Wednesday, February 20, 2019

REVIEW: The Risk by Elle Kennedy


OUR REVIEW:

It's been a while since we've read an Elle Kennedy novel so when we had a chance to read it, I thought what the heck, let's do this. I'll be honest and admit that it took me a few chapters to remember how these characters were all connected but once I connected the dots, I settled in for a fun read. The characters were young, sassy, smart, and entertaining--all of them, the complete ensemble. The friends were hilarious and caring and the two main characters, Jake and Brenna, were wonderfully sarcastic, snarky, and even sweet. 

I enjoyed the forbidden aspect of this love story--the constant wondering when they were going to get caught, and how had me flipping pages in anticipation for that moment.  The hockey aspect had me definitely wanting to watch more hockey than I've ever watched, and I absolutely loved Brenna's drive and ambition and her internal clapbacks at her perspective douchebag boss. 

This couple was such a nice blend of humor and sexiness and pure romance--throw in their fun friends, secrecy, and the intensity of some hockey finals and you have the makings of a weekend of fun reading.

SYNOPSIS:
A sexy standalone novel from New York Times and international bestselling author Elle Kennedy.

Everyone says I’m a bad girl. They’re only partly right—I don’t let fear rule me, and I certainly don’t care what people think. But I draw the line at sleeping with the enemy. As the daughter of Briar’s head hockey coach, I’d be vilified if I hooked up with a player from a rival team. 

And that’s who Jake Connelly is. Harvard’s star forward is arrogant, annoying, and too attractive for his own good. But fate is cruel—I require his help to secure a much-coveted internship, and the sexy jerk isn’t making it easy for me.

I need Connelly to be my fake boyfriend. 

For every fake date…he wants a real one.

Which means this bad girl is in big trouble. Nothing good can come from sneaking around with Jake Connelly. My father would kill me, my friends will revolt, and my post-college career is on the line. But while it’s getting harder and harder to resist Jake’s oozing sex appeal and cocky grin, I refuse to fall for him.

That’s the one risk I’m not willing to take.

BUY IT on AMAZON.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

REVIEW + GIVEAWAY + EXCERPT: Motion by Penny Reid


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Motion, the first in the all-new Laws of Physics Trilogy from Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestselling author Penny Reid, is available now!

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I am absolutely helpless against Penny Reid’s books. I always, stupidly believe I can start one and juggle all of my other work and that never happens. I start one of her books and no work happens. Reading happens. Compulsive, eyes on the page, kindle in hands at all times reading. 

Motion got me good too.

Mona, quirky, interesting Mona and her strong moral compass (unless it came to covering for her sister) had me hooked. I liked her so much and I’m so very curious about her, her dynamic with her siblings, and some of the breadcrumbs Penny Reid left for me to follow into the next book. 

And then there’s Abram. He’s also got my attention—I like him so much and I have so many questions and I’m also anticipating some major MAJOR conflict when every thing comes out...in the next book?!

In case you didn’t realize—this is book 1 of 3 and the end is definitely a cliffhanger and it’s awesome and I cannot wait to have the next two book! Can.not.wait.


Also, I want to kick myself for having not read all of Penny Reid’s books because I feel like I would know so much more if I’d only read them allllll. I need more time and more money so that I can catch up! There so good and gahhhh. I need more. 


One week.
Home alone.
Girl genius.
Unrepentant slacker.
What’s the worst that could happen?
Mona is a smart girl and had everything figured out a long time ago. She had to. She didn’t have a choice. When your parents are uber-celebrities and you graduate from high school at thirteen, finish college at seventeen, and start your PhD program at eighteen, you don’t have time for distractions outside of your foci. Even fun is scheduled.
Which is why Abram, her brother’s best friend, is such an irritant.
Abram is a talented guy, a supremely gifted musician, and has absolutely nothing figured out, nor does he seem to care. He does what he feels, when he feels, and—in Mona’s opinion—he makes her feel entirely too much.
Laws of Physics is the second trilogy in the Hypothesis series; Laws of Physics parts 1 (MOTION) & 2 (SPACE) end with a cliffhanger.
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Download your copy today!
Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/Motion
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2DoH8pv
Amazon Paperback: https://amzn.to/2T4ebo9
Add to GoodReads: http://bit.ly/2U1pnSv
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Enter the Giveaway:

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Excerpt:

My stomach rumbled, long and loud, and I pressed my hand against it. Grunting into the darkness, I tossed off the covers and stood from Lisa’s bed. Food on my mind, I slipped out of the room and down the stairs. The kitchen was dark, but instead of flipping on a light—which might’ve alerted Abram as to my whereabouts . . . which he probably didn’t care about so long as “Lisa wasn’t doing anything crazy”—I crept on quiet feet to the fridge and opened it. Momentarily dazzled by the bright light within, it took several seconds of squinting and blinking before the scant contents became visible. I frowned. In addition to the pizza box, two suspicious-looking containers of Chinese takeout, and various condiments, I found: shredded cheddar/jack cheese blend, a zucchini, a half a pint of mushrooms, and hot salsa. Opening the hot salsa, I smelled it, and then I dipped my pinkie inside and tasted it while examining the lid. It looked, smelled, and tasted fine. Placing my finds on the island counter, I shut the fridge. The sudden extinguishing of the bright light meant that the kitchen was now pitch black. Shrugging off my lack of sight, I extended my arms and blindly felt my way over to the pantry until my hands connected with the torso of a person. A person. A PERSON! I jumped back on instinct, my leg hitting one of the stools at the island counter and sending it crashing to the ground. My heart in my throat, I screamed, turned, and darted forward, but my feet tangled with the felled stool and I pitched, bracing myself for a gravitational collision with unseen wooden bars and a granite stool top. But then strong arms caught me, deftly spinning and lifting me into the air. Cold dread rushed through my body, tensing every muscle. I couldn’t think. I didn’t think. Instinctively, my legs and fists pumped, fighting against my captor. Rocks in my throat as I readied another scream, a hand covered my mouth just as I belted it out. “Whoa! Calm down. It’s me.” Abram’s voice at my ear soothed, his bulky arm a tight band around my torso, my back to his front, my feet not touching the ground. “Calm down. Shhh. Calm down.” Hot breath teased my hair and neck, and I stilled, relief at discovering it was Abram didn’t quite chase away the viral panic still attached to my hemoglobin, coursing through my veins. I shook. I was shaking. And I was gasping through my nose, greedy for air. Perhaps he heard or felt my strained breathing because his arm loosened, lowering my feet to the ground, and his hand covering my mouth slid away. “Are you okay? Are you hurt?” “I’m fine,” I said, not sounding convincing. Truth was, I felt like throwing up. “Can you, uh, let me go?” His arms immediately fell away and I stupidly rushed forward, once more crashing into the stool. I heard Abram mutter a curse under his breath just as he caught me again, lifting me off the ground again, and saving me—again—from another gravitational collision. This time he turned us away from the stool and carried me across the room. I didn’t fight him this time. In fact, I relaxed into him. Wired and exhausted, but mostly embarrassed, I allowed myself to be transported without protest. We left the kitchen and I was finally able to see dim outlines of furniture and walls, courtesy of the streetlamp illumination spilling through the windows of the living room. Abram carried me to my mother’s favorite piece of furniture in our house, a gold velvet chaise lounge said to have once belonged to Napoleon’s sister, Pauline Bonaparte. Depositing me on the soft surface, Abram crossed to one of the Tiffany lamps and pulled the chain, bathing the room in soft blue and yellow, colored light filtering through the stained glass. He then returned, knelt in front of me, one hand on my leg, the other cupping my cheek. “Are you okay?” “Yes,” I said, cleared my throat, unable to lift my eyes higher than his black T-shirt, and said again, “Yes.” He blew out a breath, pushing his fingers through my hair. By doing so, he forced my chin up and caught my gaze. That wrinkle of worry appeared between his eyebrows, and his very pretty eyes—which glowed and sparkled like polished amber cabochons—moved between mine. “You really freaked out.” I stiffened, gritting my teeth and yanking my head back, out of his reach. “I didn’t know you were there.” Watching me with watchful watchfulness, he let his hand drop slowly until it rested on my left leg, next to his other hand which covered my right knee. “I said your name—twice—when I walked in.” “I didn’t hear you.” I glanced from his eyes to where his palms were hot on my skin. “And I couldn’t see. I’d just shut the fridge, my eyes hadn’t adjusted.” “Did you think I was a robber?” His left eyebrow lifted as did the side of his mouth, just a hint. Clearly, he was trying to lighten the mood. Unfortunately, I still felt shaky. And embarrassed. “I- I didn’t think,” I admitted, releasing an unsteady breath. “I wasn’t thinking. Sorry I fell.” “No need to apologize. It wasn’t like you could help it.” “Yeah. Gravity can be such a downer.” He made a light, laughing sound. “What?” “Uh, nothing. Whatever.” No physics jokes! His frown returned, his fingers flexing slightly on my legs. “Are you sure you’re okay?” Reaching for his hands, I removed them from my knees, setting them away. “I’m really fine. I just don’t like—” He glanced at my knees. “Being touched?” “When it’s unexpected.” I crossed my arms. “That makes sense. But your reaction, even after you knew it was me—” He paused and sat back on his heels, as though debating how to continue and finally settling on, “It was a big reaction.” Abram continued to study me with his big, pretty, knowing brown eyes. “Hey, I would never hurt you.” I winced, just a little, my gaze falling to my knees where his hands had been. I wanted to huff a laugh and roll my eyes, maybe say something like, I know, don’t be ridiculous. But the word “Okay,” small and fragile sounding, slipped out instead. I immediately wished it back, because I didn’t understand it. I didn’t know why I’d said it, and I hated not knowing. Get ahold of yourself, Mona. Pull it together. You are fine. Nothing happened. Meanwhile, he continued his examination of me, I felt his stare, assessing my downturned face. “Out of curiosity, and no big deal if you don’t want to say, but did something happen to you this last year?” My back straightened and I sucked in a slow, deep breath before asking calmly, “Like what?” “You’re very . . . different than you were before.” “Because I don’t want you touching me?” I tried to infuse my words with challenge, strength—wanting to shake off any earlier impression of weakness—and mostly succeeded. Peeking at him, I gauged his reaction from behind a hastily built wall of dispassion. But then Abram dropped his chin to his chest, a massive grin lighting his features, and the fragrance of him hit me. My lashes fluttered as though he’d blown dust in my eyes, penetrating my wobbly wall of dispassion and sending it crumbling to the ground. God, he smelled so good, and—unlike visual stimuli—I couldn’t stop whatever cascade of relaxing, soothing, melting awareness smelling his scent set off. Unthinkingly, I leaned forward an inch, chasing and inhaling the smell of him while he cleared his throat, like he was trying not to laugh. Why he was fighting a laugh, I didn’t know, but the apparent genuineness of Abram’s struggle to subdue his grin only served to increase his attractiveness. A moment later, he lifted his eyes and they connected with mine. He’d conceded to a shy smile. It was quite a smile. “Yes,” he said. “Yes?” I parroted dumbly. What were we talking about? And would it be weird if I buried my nose in his neck? “Yes. You not wanting me to touch you means that you are very different now than you were before,” he explained. I appreciated the completeness and thoroughness of his sentence. My cheeks were hot. I pressed my hands against them while I examined him with suspicion. What was he doing to me? “How so?” I asked, hoping to keep him talking so I could hunt down the splintered pieces of my concentration. His eyebrows pulled together as his shy smile became a smirk. “You’re telling me you don’t remember?” “Tell me your version of events,” I demanded, side-stepping a lie and still holding my cheeks. “Uhh . . .” He scratched the back of his neck, peering at me like I both confused and amused him. I was used to confusing people, but not amusing them. My cheeks burned hotter. “Do you even remember?” I pushed, knowing my tone was belligerent. He made a sound like he was choking on a laugh. “Yes. It’s hard to forget waking up to a naked girl in my bed.” Jaw dropping, my eyes grew to their maximum diameter. Naked. Girl. In . . . bed? “Are you serious?” I whispered, my mind darting in all directions, attempting to form a reasonable hypothesis for Lisa’s behavior and coming up completely empty. Suddenly, I couldn’t catch my breath. He shook his head, giving me an astonished once-over. “You honestly don’t remember?” My mouth opened and closed as I struggled to speak, but it was no use. I was too . . . I was too many things. Shocked. Confused. Incredulous. ANGRY. LISA! What had she been thinking? She’d been eighteen! How would she have liked waking up to find a strange, naked, eighteen-year-old boy in her bed? I was beyond shocked. I was horrified. I was electrocuted by the reality of my sister’s brazen-slash-creepy quotient, because I couldn’t imagine doing anything in the same sphere of possibility. I was beginning to believe that if my twin and I were represented by a Venn diagram, our only areas of overlap would be physical. A minor sliver of shared corporal characteristics, and that was absolutely it. “Lisa?” Blinking at Abram, and promptly becoming tangled in his searching gaze, I realized he was still there. And I was still here. And my hands were still pressed against my cheeks as I warred with what I now identified as hot mortification. What else could I do? I shot to my feet and marched out of the living room, dropping my hands and running up the main staircase.
Pre-order the rest of the series today!
Space
Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/SpacePR
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2RRny94
Amazon Paperback: https://amzn.to/2tfBT5C
Time
Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/TimePR
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2Sm1Zmu
Amazon Paperback: https://amzn.to/2WSQbXe
Meet Penny Reid:
Penny Reid is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today Best Selling Author of the Winston Brothers, Knitting in the City, Rugby, and Hypothesis series. She used to spend her days writing federal grant proposals as a biomedical researcher, but now she just writes books. She’s also a full time mom to three diminutive adults, wife, daughter, knitter, crocheter, sewer, general crafter, and thought ninja.
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Connect with Penny:

Stay up to day with Penny by joining her mailing list: http://bit.ly/2szN34G

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

COVER REVEAL: The Girl in the Painting by Max Monroe

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Love is blind, but fate sees everything

The Girl in the Painting, an all-new standalone romance from New York Times bestselling author Max Monroe, is coming February 28th and we have the brand new cover for you!

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Ansel Bray, an artist known around the world for his tragic hiatus from the canvas.
Ansel Bray, a broody, handsome man not known by me, at all.
Long dark hair, blue eyes, and dimpled cheeks. I’ve never met her, but her image is imprinted in my mind. An angel muse who inspires me to paint again.
There is something about him. Something that spurs a need to be as close to him as possible. A need to find out why.
There is something about her. Something that draws me in. Something that urges me to find out what her presence means.
Why does the girl in his painting look so much like me?
Who is this girl, and why can I see her so vividly?
I shouldn’t fall in love with him.
I shouldn’t fall in love at all.
But fate plays her hand.
But fate has other plans.
The lines of my life will blur.
The needs of my heart will change.
What a beautiful mess we’ve made.
Add to GoodReads: http://bit.ly/2HSvZS8
Cover Designer: Peter Alderweireld
About Max Monroe:
A secret duo of romance authors team up under the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling pseudonym Max Monroe to bring you sexy, laugh-out-loud reads. Max Monroe is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of more than ten contemporary romance titles. Favorite writing partners and long time friends, Max and Monroe strive to live and write all the fun, sexy swoon so often missing from their Facebook newsfeed. Sarcastic by nature, their two writing souls feel like they’ve found their other half. This is their most favorite adventure thus far.
Connect with Max Monroe:
Stay up to date with Max Monroe by joining their mailing list today: https://www.authormaxmonroe.com/newsletter

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

NEW: Things We Never Said by Samantha Young


THINGS WE NEVER SAID (A HART’S BOARDWALK NOVEL)
By Samantha Young
Cover Design by Hang Le (http://www.byhangle.com/)
US Release Date: May 7th 2019 in ebook & paperback
This book can be read as a standalone.

Blurb:
Local metalsmith and gift shop owner, Dahlia McGuire, likes her quiet life in Hartwell, Delaware. It's the perfect place to hide from her family and the tragic events that led to their estrangement. However, when her father, the person she loves most in the world, needs her Dahlia has no choice but to return to Boston to face her ghosts. One of those happens to be her ex-boyfriend's best friend, Michael Sullivan. The man she was never supposed to fall in love with.


Michael Sullivan has never forgotten Dahlia McGuire. Some might say he’s never gotten over her. For years he lived with the anger of her desertion, and now, newly-divorced, he’s finally ready to move on. That proves impossible when Dahlia returns to Boston and reawakens their explosive connection. Despite everything, Michael wants her back, but  Dahlia can’t seem to let go of the tangled emotions of the past. When she flees home to Hartwell, Michael follows, determined to do everything in his power to convince her they belong together.

However, when the unthinkable hits the quiet seaside town, Michael finds himself trying to unravel more than the mystery of Dahlia's broken heart. It's time for truths left unsaid to finally be spoken or Michael and Dahlia might find themselves torn apart forever…



US Preorder Links:


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iBooks


Kobo


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Follow Samantha Young




Instagram : @authorsamanthayoung





Tuesday, February 5, 2019

NEW + REVIEW: Gentleman Sinner by Jodi Ellen Malpas

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In the tradition of The Protector, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the This Man series delivers a steamy, suspenseful new standalone romance about a British alpha hero and the one woman who may be able to save him-as long as he can protect her from his dark past.
Gentleman Sinner, an all-new standalone contemporary romance by #1 New York Times bestselling author Jodi Ellen Malpas, is live!

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OUR REVIEW:


You know why I enjoy books by Jodi Ellen Malpas? It's because I know she's going to write best friends who make me laugh, broody alpha males and their strong female counterparts who have the best clashes, and the plot and pacing will keep everything moving. Gentleman Sinner contained all of these things in a way that didn't feel like anything she's written before. Theo, our broody alpha male, was an interesting mix of intensity and vulnerability while Izzy was fierce and fearless right from the start. And their first meeting? The sparks flew between them and never seemed to stop. As a matter of fact, this entire novel seemed to start with a fast pace and that pace never really seemed to slow. I never felt like I had to wait too long for the next twist or turn, nothing was drawn out--if anything, I'd love to have more of all of the characters (especially a certain pairing that I'm hoping will have their own story).

Gentleman Sinner is pure romance, an escape, with strong and interesting characters whose romance is sweet and sexy; you'll find yourself smiling and swooning and unable to put it down.

SYNOPSIS:

Izzy White knows of the darkness in this world. After all, she escaped it long ago. Determined not to let her past beat her, Izzy has a secure, stable life with a job she loves in nursing. But one act of kindness will completely upend everything she's so carefully built-putting her right back in the crosshairs of danger she's been so desperate to avoid.
When Theo Kane shows up like a knight in shining armor, Izzy can't help thinking she's been saved from one threat and exposed to another. His imposing physique, the harsh lines of his face, and the wariness of everyone who comes close are just a few clues to Theo Kane's notorious reputation. The man is positively terrifying. But with Izzy, he's tender and a complete gentleman, and her fascination with the mysterious beast of a man becomes too powerful for her to walk away.
As Theo's demons come to light, running becomes even more impossible. And yet staying together could doom them both.

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Download your copy today!
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2NmIIh6
Add to Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2CzwT3l

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About Jodi:
Jodi Ellen Malpas wrote her debut series, The This Man Trilogy, in secret, worried about what people might think if they knew what her imagination was capable of. She was shocked herself. But she finally found the courage to unleash her creative streak and self-published THIS MAN – the first book of the This Man Trilogy – in October 2012. She took a chance on the story with a hero who soon became one of modern day fictions most prolific alpha male characters. Jesse Ward – also affectionately known as The Lord of The Manor, sparked incredible reactions from women across the globe and catapulted Jodi into the world of romance.
She was soon signed by Grand Central Publishing, part of the Hachette Book Group, and the third book of the trilogy, This Man Confessed, took Jodi to the top of the bestsellers lists, earning her the proud title of #1 New York Times Bestselling Author. This Man has since been voted one of the top romance novels of all time. With so much love and enthusiasm for her words, Jodi suddenly wasn’t afraid of her imagination anymore and has since let it run riot. Writing powerful love stories and creating addictive characters has become her passion—a passion she now shares with her devoted readers.
Jodi was born and raised in the Midlands town of Northampton, England, where she lives with her real-life man, her boys, and a beagle. She is a self-professed daydreamer, a Converse and mojito addict, and has a terrible weak spot for alpha males. Her work is now published in more than twenty-five languages across the world.

Connect with Jodi:

Thursday, January 24, 2019

REVIEW: Work In Progress by Staci Hart




OUR REVIEW:

Shel: Let me tell you why I’ve been loving the girls in the RLC (Red Lipstick Coalition) and their stories. It’s been well established that I love a super strong female protagonist—and these women definitely have their strengths—but I also enjoy reading female protagonists who are relatable and every single one of these women, so far, have a struggle that is all too real for many of us. Whether it is an issue with confidence, shyness, or social anxiety—or a little of all of these—these characters show us that with a solid support network and a nudge or a shove out of our comfort zone that failures and mistakes are most certainly options but it’s what we learn and gain from those failures that is what helps us grow. Court: Staci does have a ridiculous ability to be able to give us strong characters yet also real and vulnerable ones as well. I love these characters because it is nice to see yourself in a book and when they're going through the same work, relationship and life issues as you...well...you enjoy a beautifully written story and maybe feel a little more whole in the process! 

Shel: Amelia has also been a quiet character in the earlier books in this series, from my memory, and it’s in Work In Progress  that we learn why. Her shyness and anxiety is both understandable and infuriating because it seems so preventable but it’s also the thing that many people will relate to. At the beginning of the novel, it’s only when she’s behind the safety of her blog and her books that she feels the most secure and where her opinions are boldly stated—so bold that they catch the attention of one Mr. Thomas Bane—a hot heated rogue whom we learn has a tender heart, a sexy smirk, a protective nature, and a sense of righteousness that tends to always get him in trouble—not a good luck for his publicist or the publisher of his novels. Pairing these two was genius, in my opinion, and I loved the accurate portrayal of life as a blogger and what feels like an accurate portrayal of the pressures of being a full time novelist. Court: It is brilliant. They do say, write what you know, and all that. Blending the ins and outs in the book world is a great way to suck us in (because, y'all...we know it is hard!) but also giving a fun story with love and heart and an emotional punch is never a bad thing either. And going back to a character who has some serious emotional stuff going on, it is beautiful to see some emotional growth as well. 

Shel: A plan to work together soon becomes more and lemme tell you it’s been a while since I’ve had the simultaneous desire to have the tension break RIGHT NOW and for it to take its time. Gahhh. Amelia kept holding back and I was dying and loving it. And Teddy's protective nature, her growing confidence, and their make out sessions?!?!?! OMG. Those make out sessions...*fans self* These two were giving some real #couplegoals vibes. And the true sign that I adored these two? All was going so well that I did not want the bad stuff to happen--I was prepared to be okay with a minor petty conflict so that they could have their HEA. But nooooo. Staci Hart wasn’t having that. Hearts had to be badly broken. Grrrr. All worth it though because it all ends up happy and good and then the end until...welllll, read the sneak peek and diiiiieeeee of wanting April to come! Court: Couldn't have said it better! Slow burn is good. But...expecting Staci to go easy on the heart...probably not going to happen! Honest, we don't want it too, but we feel a little bit like we're going to have a coronary in the process!!! 



SYNOPSIS:
I never thought my first kiss would be on my wedding day.
But here I stand, clutching a bouquet of pale pink roses behind the doors of a Las Vegas chapel, and at the end of the aisle is the absolute last man I imagined would be waiting for me.
Thomas Bane.
Bestselling author. Notorious bad boy. Savagely handsome, dark as sin, chiseled as stone. And somehow, my soon-to-be husband.
Marry him, and I’ll land my dream job. Save him, and I’ll walk away with everything I’ve ever wanted. All I have to do is remember it’s all for show. None of it is real, no matter how real it feels.
But first, I have to survive the kiss.
And with lips like his, I don’t stand a chance.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

CHAPTER REVEAL: Fool Me Once by Nicole Williams















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Second chances are for kids, diets, and shelter pets—not for relationships. Especially not one like Chase and Emma’s.


Before he was writing chart-topping hits and smashing record sales, Chase Lawson was Emma’s childhood friend and first love. They promised each other forever, but forever expired at eighteen, when he landed a major record deal and left Emma and their hometown behind.


Ten years later, he shows up at their high school reunion with a proposition she can’t refuse. Six months. Seven figures. He gets a chance to clean up his reputation, and she gets the means to restore the old family farmhouse. It’s only for show—hold hands in public, kiss for the cameras—but boundaries blur behind closed doors.


It isn't long before Emma feels her resolve slipping, crushed by the shadow of the boy she grew to love in the man selling out stadiums of present. Can Emma resist one of the most irresistible bachelors in the world? Or will she fall for the same man twice?





Some things weren’t meant to be. That’s what I told myself for the thousandth time when I caught sight of my ex with his newest flame.
“You’re too good for him.”
“Way too good for him.”
My childhood friends, Brooke and Sophia, assured me as they circled in tighter.
“I don’t know why I decided to come to this thing,” I muttered before finishing what was left in my champagne glass.
“Maybe because a ten-year high school reunion only happens once in a lifetime?” Brooke spun me around so the happy couple wasn’t in view, while Sophia dashed off to grab another glass of champagne.
“You know what? A hysterectomy is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing too, but I’m not going to sign myself up just because.” I checked the time, my shoulders falling when I did. Barely an hour in and I already felt like this experience had extinguished whatever patience was left in my person.
“Just be thankful you didn’t waste any more time on a guy like that. Chalk it up to experience and move on.”
“And look at the line of men I have to move on with?” I motioned at the area in front of me; it was empty. “I should have been smart like you and Sophia and gotten married young to some nice, hard-working local boy.”
“Would you stop? You’re twenty-eight. It’s not like you’re horizontal and decaying,” Brooke put her hand on her hip, leveling me with a serious look.
“No. I’m decaying vertically”—I tapped the corners of my eyes, where I’d detected the early stages of crow’s feet earlier this summer—“practicing for my future as a cranky old spinster.”
“You girls talking about me behind my back again?” Sophia reappeared with a fresh glass of champagne, practically ramming it into my hand.
“Please. We prefer to direct our insults to your face.” I winked at Sophia as we clinked our glasses.
“That’s a sign of true friendship,” Brooke toasted before we all took a drink.
“Hey, ladies, this isn’t homeroom. Break it up and dance already.” Rob, Brooke’s husband, popped up beside us, ringing his arm around his wife’s neck.
“I hate this song.” My nose curled as I stayed planted in place.
The three of them headed toward the dance floor as Sophia made a face at me and said, “It was eleven years ago. Time to let it go, girl.”
Brady, her husband, joined her for a dance.
“Not likely,” I said under my breath, taking in the party from my spectator seat on the sidelines.
Almost everyone had made their way to the dance floor, singing at the tops of their lungs. I didn’t know how anyone could stand to hear this song after it had been played nonstop on the radio the past four months.
Jesse, another of my good friends, settled beside me. “Do you think he’s going to show?”
“There aren’t any cameras or fancy awards, so unlikely,” I grumbled.
“Ever since the accident, it seems like he’s been keeping a low profile anyway.” Jesse waved the bird at my ex, who was too busy lodging his tongue down his dance partner’s throat to notice. “I still can’t believe Chase was that drunk. I mean, blowing a point two isn’t for the faint of heart, and I don’t remember him drinking at a party even once when the rest of us were being rebellious teenagers.”
I rolled my eyes at my friend, who had this concerned expression as though Chase was the victim. “There was also the bit about him plowing his truck into a parked car and getting arrested.”
“Fame and money really ruin people.” Jesse clucked her tongue. “That’s why I’m so grateful to live paycheck to paycheck and have good friends who babysit for free at the drop of a hat.” Jesse nudged me. “Thank you again for last night. Johnny and I had a really nice night. Adult conversation, dinner that wasn’t some variation of mac n’ cheese, and I got to wear earrings without fear of having them ripped out by grabby baby hands.”
“They were perfect angels for me, as always.” I smiled at her. “And you’re welcome. Any time.”
“How are you?” Before I could even attempt to give the bullshit answer, Jesse added, “For real?”
“I’m okay. Learning to accept I might be happier alone than the alternative.” My eyes had wandered to a certain couple moving in such a way that made clothes seem pointless.
“You haven’t met the right one.”
“Because the right one isn’t out there.” I wound my arm around hers, hoping that would be the end of the conversation.
My friends cared, and that’s why they felt the need to dissect my every relationship-gone-wrong, but the last thing I wanted to do was detail my failures in the romance department. Especially with three friends who were happily married and starting their own families.
“Of course he’s out there. You can’t give up hope.”
I lifted my glass. “In my fourteen years of dating, I’ve been cheated on, lied to, broken up with over a social media messenger, heartbroken, ditched for an eight-figure record deal, and proposed to by seven African princes.” My gaze dropped to my bare left ring finger. “I have just enough hope left to say yes to the next prince who asks for my hand.”
Jesse shook her head. “He’s out there. And when you agree to marry him, it better be me you call to be your maid of honor.”
“Deal.” I clinked my nearly empty glass to hers, which was already empty. “Whatcha drinking? My treat for the relationship counseling.”
“A screwdriver.” She handed me her glass. “Hold the alcohol.”
“Wait. What?” It took me two seconds of confusion before my eyes dropped to her stomach. “Number three?”
Jesse’s hand lowered to her stomach. “All four and a half months of him or her.”
My face lit up before I threw myself at her, winding my arms around her as much as I could with two glasses in my hands. “Congratulations! I’m so happy for you guys.”
“Thanks, friend. I don’t know what I’m going to do with three in diapers, but I guess I’ll figure it out.”
“Are you kidding? You’ll more than figure it out. You are, like, the best mom ever.” I planted a kiss on her cheek before backing toward the bar. “I’m going to get some drinks to celebrate. Virgin screwdrivers coming right up.”
Jesse flashed a rock and roll symbol, biting her tongue. I chuckled before turning around so I didn’t run into someone or something. With the three glasses of champagne I had in my all of five-foot-four frame, it was an Easter miracle I was still upright.
I’d just made it to the bar when a chorus of cheers reverberated through the room. Jason Gallagher had probably stripped to his skivvies and was doing the moonwalk like he used to do every last day of school from the time we hit middle school.
But then I heard a familiar name being called out, practically chanted.
Good god, no. My luck wasn’t that bad.
Oh, wait.
Setting the empty glasses on the counter, I slowly turned around, praying I was mishearing the name still ringing through the reception room.
I saw him right away, as though my eyes were trained to find him in a crowded room. I hated that they still followed that habit.
There he was, Chase Lawson, the legend himself, sauntering into a high school reunion in the same small town he’d waved farewell to eleven years ago.
My stomach knotted as I scanned the nearest exits.
“What can I get you?” The bartender interrupted my mini panic attack.
“Um . . .” I tried to remember a simple drink order. It was difficult with two ex flames in the same crowded room. “Two screwdrivers.” I fumbled with the bills inside my leather clutch. “Two virgin screwdrivers.” I remembered right as he was about to pour in the vodka.
“So two orange juices?” He gave me a look that suggested I was even more unhinged than I thought. He shook his head when I held out a twenty. “On the house.”
“Thanks.”
I grabbed my OJs and hugged the perimeter as I made my way back to where I’d left Jesse. Except she’d been pulled onto the dance floor by her husband and was way too close to Chase and his ever-present following of fawning females for my comfort. Making a last-minute decision, I ducked through the half-open door leading outside.
“I knew I shouldn’t have come,” I said to myself before taking a sip of one of the orange juices. It wasn’t like I’d had to travel or rent a hotel—Jericho High was a whole four miles from my family’s farm—but I doubted I’d feel more inconvenienced if they’d held it on some iceberg in the Arctic.
Following the walkway toward the small pond tucked behind the reception hall, I settled onto the first bench I came across. My feet were killing me thanks to the weapons of torture I’d selected for tonight. My feet were used to boots, not four-inch strappy heels. But according to Sophia, our town’s resident fashion maven, the royal blue heels were exactly what my scarlet cocktail dress was in need of. We’d all felt really high class rolling into Tulsa a couple weekends ago to hit the mall for our reunion digs, but some articles were better suited for hangers than bodies. Mine in particular. I’d never in my life had to work so hard to take a full breath.
Once I’d torn off the shoes I had plans to drop off at Goodwill tomorrow, I sat back, made my best attempt at relaxing, and stared at the sky. It was overcast, but a few stars were popping through the thick clouds. How many times had I stared at that sky as a young woman, spinning plans that would never come to fruition? Dreaming dreams that would never connect with reality?
Too damn many, that’s the closest I could get.
I’d had plans to travel, to visit every continent before I had kids, and I’d barely made it to a handful of bordering states since. The upside was that I wasn’t going to be a mother anytime soon, if ever, so I still had plenty of time to visit those continents.
“Is this where the Anti-Social Club meets?”
I flinched so hard, I wound up with the majority of two cups of juice on my lap. Add the dress to the Goodwill pile. “Turn around. Go away.”
A low-timbered chuckle. “You always had a way with words, Em.”
My head whipped over my shoulder. “Uh-oh. No. You do not get to call me Em.”
Chase flashed one of his infamous smiles, the one that had made him a hit with the ladies before his face had been plastered across billboards, magazines, and screensavers. It was the part-smirk, mostly-smolder grin. Right dimple set. Cobalt eyes flashing. What Celebrity Instagrammers had labeled the underwear-incinerator.
But not these underwear. Chase Lawson had no sway over the condition of my underwear anymore.
“Okay, Emma.” The sound of Chase’s boots connecting with the pavement made my teeth grind together. In a different life, I’d loved the sound of his boots as he moved closer. “Is this seat taken?”
“Yes.” I slammed the empty glasses on the bench, lifting my eyebrow at him.
“Sorry about the dress,” he said when his eyes dipped to the wet circles dotting my stomach.
“Of all the things to apologize for, my dress is not high on the list.”
His smile stretched. “I’ve missed having someone around whose primary language isn’t bullshit.”
“Is that meant as a compliment?”
“Obviously.”
Inhaling, I twisted in my seat so my back was angled toward him. No matter how many pieces of confetti Chase Lawson had diced my heart into when he left me, it wasn’t safe for any red-blooded woman to stare at him face-on at this close of a distance. Not unless she was in the market for a heartbreak.
“How have you been, Em—Emma?” He caught himself, but from his smirk, the slip had probably been intentional.
“Amazing.” I breathed through my mouth when a familiar scent hit my senses. I couldn’t believe he still wore the same cologne. It seemed like I should have had some kind of proprietary right over it since I was the one who got it for him on our first Christmas together.
“How amazing?”
“Amazingly amazing.” When I caught him glancing at my left hand, I tucked my hands beneath my legs.
“Good to hear.”
I bit my cheek, wondering if I could figure out a way to time travel to freshman year when I’d agreed to be Chase Lawson’s date to homecoming. Even the fourteen-year-old version of me had known getting involved with Chase was equivalent to playing a game of Russian Roulette. She hadn’t heeded the warning, but she’d at least acknowledged it.
“If you’re looking for your fans, you’ll find them back in there.” My thumb hitched over my shoulder. “I know you can’t go more than a few minutes without being worshipped or else you risk spontaneous combustion.”
“Please. I can go a good ten minutes without being worshipped now. I’ve matured.” I heard the smile in his voice, but damned if I was going to check for it. That was the one-hundred percent smirk one.
“What are you doing out here?” I asked. “We both know you’re the center-of-the-crowd type, not the wallflower who sneaks off to be alone.”
From the corner of my eyes, I saw him slip his hands into the pockets of his snug jeans. Another Chase Dawson trademark—close-fitting jeans to better emphasize an agreeable rear and an even more agreeable swell around front.
“A person can change,” he said, his shoulders lifting. “A person does change when all day, every day they’re surrounded by people and noise.”
My eyes lifted. “Must be difficult making all of that money from all of those adoring fans.”
“I’m not going to be able to say anything without you twisting it, am I?”
A wave of exhaustion came over me as though twenty-eight years of life had decided to catch up to me all at once. “I don’t want to fight with you.”
“Could have fooled me.”
I chipped away at the fresh pale pink polish on my nails, a nervous habit. It was the first manicure I’d had in years, and it hadn’t survived twelve hours. “Why did you come back?”
His head tipped toward the reception hall. “It was the ten-year reunion.”
A huff escaped from my mouth. “Please, you left this place and haven’t so much as spared a second thought for anything or anyone here. And some lame reunion in the Best Western ballroom is the can’t miss event of the summer?”
He rubbed the back of his neck in a familiar way. Used as a stalling measure when he was trying to figure out what to say and how to say it, it was a display I was all too acquainted with.
“I came back from one reason.” He slowly angled in my direction. When he let out a breath, his gaze all-intentional, my chest seized.
“Me?” I screeched, at the same time choking on a laugh. “You’re out of your damn mind if you think I’ve been waiting here, on pins and needles, for you. Keep on strutting back to that fancy Nashville estate of yours, because the only part of you I still want is the cautionary tale.”
Chase’s hand rubbed his jaw, his smile unmistakable despite his efforts to erase it. “I didn’t come back for you,” he stated, promptly bringing a flush to my face.
Of course he wasn’t there for me. The seventeen-year-old version hadn’t expressed any qualms ditching me as an up-and-comer; the twenty-eight-year-old country icon certainly wasn’t back to rekindle anything.
“Sorry to burst your bubble, even though I can tell you’ll be all torn up knowing that,” he said.
“Good to hear you still have a knack for sarcasm.”
He crouched beside the bench, staring at the dark pond. I was more concerned with checking the shrubs and shadows for any signs of the paparazzi he seemed to attract wherever he went. Literally, everywhere. Some dude had managed to snap a picture of Chase through his Tennessee estate’s bathroom window, fresh from the shower and shaving. The thirst for Chase Lawson had gone from parched to panting in one intimate image.
“I’ve got a new album that just dropped,” he said. “A whirlwind tour kicking off next week. I’ve had a bit of a public image problem this past year, and my PR team assured me that getting back to my roots will help shift that.”
My fingers snapped. “I knew this had something to do with the media. By the way, where is the camera squad tonight?”
“Somewhere. They’re always around.”
“I’m sure you really hate all that attention,” I chided, wondering how much more I had to throw at him before he’d move on.
“I came back because I need to clean up my image and do some damage repair to my reputation.” He went back to rubbing the back of his neck. “Now that I’m here with you, and you sort of accused me of being here for you, a crazy idea popped to mind.”
“I’d like to recommend you keep this idea to yourself,” I suggested, but he was already talking.
“If I had my old high school girlfriend with me on tour—rekindling an old flame with a small-town country girl—how could that not clean up an image?” He motioned at me. “You’re exactly what I need to show fans I’m getting my life back on track. A wholesome, down-to-earth girl who gets up at five to water the horses instead of going to bed at that hour after drinking the town dry.”
My head whipped in his direction, finally looking at him to determine if he was being serious. My god, he was.
“Not a chance in hell,” I said, enunciating each word slowly.
Chase didn’t blink. “Even if that proposition was tied to a sum of money?” When I opened my mouth to argue, he added, “A large sum?”
“My principles aren’t for sale.”
He shuffled a little closer, still kneeling. Damn. He was just as attractive in person from three feet away as he was on the cover of Rolling Stone. My stomach knotted again, but this time for a different reason.
“I don’t want to buy your principles.” One brow lifted. “Just six months of your time.”
For a minute, I sat there silently, part hypnotized by his presence, part contemplating his ridiculous offer. There were few people I disliked more than Chase Lawson, but I also had big plans for my future. Plans that necessitated money.
“How much?”
My head shook when I heard my question out loud. What was I saying? What was I actually contemplating doing?
“One hundred thousand a month,” he replied.
My hand curled around the arm of the bench. “Six hundred thousand dollars?” I shrieked, giving him a look like he was crazy.
“Fine. Six months. One million dollars.” He exhaled. “Final offer.”
My hand was dangerously close to ripping the handle from the bench. “One million dollars.”
My mind raced with everything I could do with that money. Restoring the farmhouse the way I’d dreamed, turning it into a quaint B&B with an agrarian twist. Spoiling my parents with a fancy cruise and a new farm truck. Finally getting to travel to some of the places I’d only imagined through the pictures of a magazine.
All it would take was six months with Chase.
It wasn’t exactly an easy decision, but it wasn’t a hard one. I’d given two years of my life to him already, and it had cost me more than I’d been prepared to pay. This time, he’d be the one paying for it. One million dollars to be exact.
I couldn’t answer quickly enough. “Deal.”

   

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Nicole Williams is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of contemporary and young adult romance, including the Crash and Lost & Found series. Her books have been published by HarperTeen and Simon & Schuster in both domestic and foreign markets, while she continues to self-publish additional titles. She is working on a new YA series with Crown Books (a division of Random House) as well. She loves romance, from the sweet to the steamy, and writes stories about characters in search of their happily even after. She grew up surrounded by books and plans on writing until the day she dies, even if it’s just for her own personal enjoyment. She still buys paperbacks because she’s all nostalgic like that, but her kindle never goes neglected for too long. When not writing, she spends her time with her husband and daughter, and whatever time’s left over she’s forced to fit too many hobbies into too little time.



Nicole is represented by Jane Dystel, of Dystel and Goderich Literary Agency.






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