Friday, May 16, 2014


A brand new novel in the New York Times bestselling Hard Feelings series—where nothing’s more dangerous than a bad boy with a broken heart…

First Sergeant Rafe Murano did everything to the extreme. He trained harder, he fought harder, and, unfortunately, he loved harder. And falling for the wrong woman nearly destroyed him.

Home from a deployment, and without his missions to consume him, Murano is ravaged by memories of his heartbreak. So he drinks until he’s numb and drowns himself in meaningless one-night stands. But they only take the edge off…

Until he meets Fallon.

Haunted by her past, Fallon Kelly knows all too well about the desperate desire for an escape. So when she sees the tatted-up bad boy who’s one punch away from a ride in the back of a squad car, she offers a distraction—one that quickly becomes an addiction.

Little does she know, this bad boy can love so hard, it can break her…

Paperback, 272 pages
Published May 6th 2014 by NAL Trade
Source: Received from publisher for review
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes and Noble


I remember the first book of Kelsie's that I read: The Valentine's Arrangement-- and I remember I loved that she wrote a strong female protagonist. She did that again in A Beautiful Distraction. And I was on board for this one immediately when she mentioned strong female protagonist. Love strong, determined women! 

Fallon is a very determined woman. She owns a burlesque club (and on the rare occasion dances at it), puts up with zero bullshit, takes lovers on her terms and really seems to know who she is. And one thing she is, is uncomfortable with feeling close with anyone. Don't get me wrong, she's friendly and warm and cares about people but she doesn't want to let anyone near her heart..for good reason. I held no judgement for her decision to close herself off, considering her past. I liked Fallon; I appreciated her strength and her pride and her honesty. Even when I didn't like her choices, I understood her need to make them.

Sure, we can understand it, and it definitely wouldn't make for a good story without her being the way she was...but that didn't mean that a few scenes didn't make me shed some tears. Because she did. Fallon has had a hard way to go, that resulted in the hardest of hearts...but whew, she was a badass character that I loved. She stood up for those who deserved it, and dished out her own brand of whoop ass for those who didn't...I think we could all stand to be more like Fallon. 

When we meet Rafe, he's not exactly in the best mental space. He's desperately trying to deal with a very wounded heart by drinking and screwing his troubles away. Only problem? It's not really working. He's determined not to get hurt again and sees no harm in the fun he's having...until he sees Fallon and feels drawn to her. Initially both he, and Fallon, think one night, or a few nights, will take care of the chemistry between them. Really, it just ignites their chemistry only to never see it diminish. And, I'll give Rafe bonus points because once he makes up his mind regarding Fallon, he owns it; I found this a great trait of his.

Rafe. I fell in love with Rafe from the get go. With even the littlest of scenes we see that he loves hard and fights hard. We get a glimpse of how he is with his family, and I for one couldn't wait to see more of them right away. He does drink and screw around a lot, but when he gets what he wants, or might want in his sights...holy shit. I would have swooned for days if it was me he had set his sights on. He is quite the package from the uniform, to the scar on his face, to the tattoos he bears...mmhmmm, our perfect brand of hero. Loved him. 

Just as I loved Fallon for her strength, I loved Rafe for his honesty and willingness to examine his choices. He's also patient with Fallon and tries to understand her mindset. He's definitely not perfect and he has these hotheaded moments, but I really liked him. Yeah. He was a genuine character in that even he is a douchebag sometimes! You'll'll wanna smack their heads together, but it made for some great storytelling. 

Obviously Fallon and Rafe's love story is the centerpiece of the novel, but I enjoyed their side stories and histories, too. Fallon's friends (aka, her family at the club) and Rafe's family provided great insights into their characters. And I loved Rafe's military service and how attentive he was to his soldiers. Yes. You can see that this means a lot to Kelsie Leverich, and I love that. Family, friends and military service are great story plots for us, but I think we can all agree that she does them a great service. Putting some of their issues out there is entirely necessary, and we all need to put forth our gratitude. It is the very least we can do. It's a huge part of this, especially with his friend Wright. More tears! 

The only hiccup I had was at the very beginning..mainly because I was a little confused..or maybe the wording was a little clunky for me... and then there was a flashback at the end that was informative, but the little stylistic shift threw me for a second.  These were very minor things, though, and I quickly got over them and thoroughly enjoyed the book. I cannot wait to see who she writes about next. Ditto. We're thrown right in there with a scene from Fallon, then go back to a few hours before and then see things again from an opposite point of view. That surprised me, but things smoothed out and I really, really enjoyed this story. I couldn't stop reading it, shed some tears, had a lot of laughs, and enjoyed some steam. The meat of it made up for the start for me. Check it out and see how it does for you guys! 

Shelley: 4 Stars
Courtney: 5 Stars

What was the hardest scene to write?

This was such as easy question for me to answer. I even remember while writing A BEAUTIFUL DISTRACTION, I posted in my fan group on how hard a particular scene was for me to write.
A BEAUTIFUL DISTRACTION is about a soldier home from deployment. While the premise of the story doesn’t focus on post-traumatic stress or the demons soldiers harbor from war, this scene touches on it.
In this scene, the hero, Rafe Murano, has just received a phone call about his friend who is having a flash back from war and he rushes over to help. There was no possible way for me to write this scene without tearing up. My husband served in the Army for eight years, and did two deployments to Iraq where he and the men he fought alongside saw more than their fair share of ugly.

One can’t possibly understand or comprehend what these men have gone through and the demons that haunt them unless you’ve experienced it yourself, so writing about this was not only incredibly difficult, but especially terrifying. I only hope I can give the darkness some light and portray realistic emotions for the soldiers in my story, as well as honor those who have gone through similar situations.

Chapter Eight – Flashback scene
Rafe made the hour-and-a-half drive from Denver back to Fort Carson in fifty minutes. Every second of every minute ticked away with a loud threat, his pulse joining rhythm with the silent, foreboding click of passing time.
He had relocated to Fort Carson only a few months before they’d deployed, but in that short amount of time Wright and his wife treated Rafe like part of their family. Bonds were formed quickly in this world, forged together by duty, strengthened by family, trusted with blood. But pasts were rarely shared.
Shadows consumed everyone, every soldier. They all had parts that cloaked the good. Soldiers didn’t come back from the hell they’d been through unscathed, without earning war-inflicted darkness. Fuck, Rafe had more than he’d like to admit. But Wright, he was supposed to be one of the rare ones, awarded with peace of mind, free from the shit that threatened to haunt him.
The front door threw open and Stella rushed outside as Rafe pulled into the drive. Eyes strained and swollen, worry creasing her mouth, she threw her arms around his neck as he stepped out of his Jeep. Tears flooded, dripping onto his shirt as he hugged her.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know who else to call. Graham is on his way here too.”
“Fuck, Stella, what’s goin’ on?”
Sniffling, she wrapped her short fingers around his hand and led him toward the house. “He just . . . hollowed.” She stopped inside the door, her breath catching in violent, jagged hiccups. “We . . . fed . . . the boys . . . dinner . . . and went to a . . . late movie . . . just to get out of the house . . . just the two of us,” she cried, her words broken by the sobs convulsing through her.
“Stella, what happened?”
Stella swallowed hard, fingers trembling as she wrapped her arms around herself. She tried to force the tears away, her face flashing with worry and pain. “He was driving . . . we were on our way home. The car in front of us swerved . . . on and off the shoulder, losing control . . . Then suddenly it had a blowout. We heard the tire pop. Tommy jerked, yanking the car into the other lane. We were so lucky there was no oncoming traffic.”
“Damn.” Rafe latched onto her elbow, pulling her into his arms. “You okay?” he soothed, smothering her in his embrace.
“Yes, I’m fine,” she whimpered. “But, Rafe, Tommy’s not. It’s like he just snapped. Gone. There’s nothing but emptiness in his eyes. Pain. I don’t know what to do, I’ve never—”
“Shhh.” His grip tightened as she shook against him. “It’ll be fine,” he whispered, shifting her away from his shoulder so he could look into her eyes. “I’ve got him.”
Leaving Stella inside, Rafe walked into the garage. Darkness swallowed the space, the only light coming from the narrow crack in the door that led back into the house. The outline of the SUV stood isolated in the middle of the cold concrete. Rafe’s eyes adjusted and he saw Wright’s silhouette sitting behind the steering wheel, motionless in the dark.
This wasn’t the Wright he’d grown to know. This was a shell of the man. Even through the black, he could see. Wright wasn’t here. He was no longer home, no longer sitting in his garage in his car. He was back there.
The trouble wasn’t bringing him back. Rafe had been down this road with some of his men before, walked this path of hell himself when he returned home from his first deployment in Iraq. Getting him back, that he could do. It was finding him there, finding him in the depths of his torment, his broken memory, that presented a challenge. Wright had been in the army for nearly as long as Rafe, found his way through the pits of hell more times than any one soldier should. Locating the room in purgatory that imprisoned his mind . . . Rafe didn’t even know where to start.
Opening the passenger-side door, Rafe slid across the leather, easing the door shut behind him. Wright’s face was devoid of emotion, staring blankly ahead of him.
Rafe sat still and quiet for a few heartbeats, watching his friend relive the unimaginable. “Where we at, Sergeant?” he asked carefully, unsure, trying to garner a response.
“Sergeant Wright, I’m going to need confirmation on your location.”
“Location, Sergeant. Now!” he barked, guilt choking him as the words sputtered from his mouth.
More countless moments passed, deafening, soundless minutes that only sent Wright further into the recesses of his memory. Then his fists unclenched and Rafe watched as his eyes closed. “En route to Ghazni, First Sergeant. Highway 1, twenty miles outside Kabul.”
Rafe sagged against the seat. Fuck. He was there. Rafe knew exactly where he was. Because they had been there only three months ago.
Light filtered into the vehicle, the door to the house opening up as Graham stepped into the garage. Shaking his head, Rafe raised his palm for Graham to stop. He nodded, backing into the house, leaving the door ajar.
“Wright,” Rafe said softly, trying to bring him back, away from the war taking place in his mind.
Wright’s shoulders hardened, jaw clenched, every muscle in his body tensing. Then he started shaking. “It’s an ambush.”
“I know.”
He knew because he’d been there too. Watched as an IED turned the armored vehicle in front of them into shambles, killing three of their guys, sending Rafe’s vehicle—Wright’s vehicle—headfirst into a blazing ambush, an ambush that would leave another two of their men dead.
“I can smell it, Murano.”
Relief sliced Rafe open. He was back . . .
“I can smell them burning. I can hear it, the fucking thunder of the bomb hitting their vehicle. The goddamn bullet popping through Moore’s Kevlar . . .” Pressing fingers to his forehead, he turned to Rafe. “This has never happened before, brother. Never. That car’s tire blew out in front of us and it just sent me back . . . Shit. Where’s Stella?”
“She’s in the house. She’s fine. Twins are asleep, Michael went home with the babysitter.”
The car door jerked open and Wright scrambled out. Rafe threw himself out of the SUV after him.
“Stella, baby?” Wright hollered as they stormed inside.
Rounding the corner from the kitchen, Stella lunged at her husband, collapsing against him as he wrapped her up in his arms. Another set of tears surged down her cheeks.
“I’m so sorry, Stella.”
“Shhh. Don’t. I’m just glad you’re back.”
Rafe followed Graham down the hallway to the front door—those two had a lot to talk about. Stella was a damn good woman. But Rafe knew Wright wouldn’t burden her with the hell of his past. Fuck, Rafe wouldn’t either if it was him. Some shit in your past just had to stay there.
But Wright needed to see someone about his flashback, and Rafe would make sure he did.
“Murano,” Wright called from behind him.
Turning back around, Rafe nodded, lack of sleep and the residual effect of the whiskey finally catching up to him.

Kelsie Leverich Bio:

Kelsie Leverich is the New York Times bestselling author of The Valentine’s Arrangement as well as other contemporary romance titles. Kelsie grew up in the small town of St. Joseph Illinois before getting married and following her husband from one Army post to another.  After eight years, they finally settled down in Avon, Indiana with two adorable knuckleheads that are better known as her kids.  Kelsie's life revolves around her family (to include three dogs and a cat) and most of the time, actually all of the time, it’s a crazy mess—but that’s the way she loves it!  When Kelsie’s not writing, you can usually find her snuggling on the couch with her kids and a good book or out on the lake with family and friends.  Kelsie is not a morning person, has a soft spot for animals, loves musicals, hates seafood, and thinks laundry is the source of all evil.
Represented by Jill Marsal of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.
You can find Kelsie on Twitter and Facebook, or visit her website at and Twitter - @KelsieLev 

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