Wednesday, December 28, 2016

REVIEW + EXCERPT: Face-Off at the Alter by Toni Aleo

Shel: Face-Off at the Alter is our first Assassins novel in a while and WOW these guys have been busy--I can see that Court and I will have to revisit some of the books we've missed. In this particular novel, the focus is on Mekena and Markus and their shot at a second chance for their HEA. It wasn't an easy journey--they both live in their heads a lot, they both are worriers, and they both had to figure out how or even if they could work through a serious miscommunication. Toni Aleo put these two through the ringer--they both struggled with wave after wave of emotion and it ranged from desire, to hurt, to guilt, to anger, and lots of other ones too. Court: They do. They overthink...pretty much everything. But the more we find out about their past and dealings with their family, the more it makes sense. They're hard on other people because they've been wronged so much in the past...and Mekena has absolutely valid reasons not to trust Markus. You'll find though, that what first appears might not be as it seems, and there is definitely more to their story! 

Shel: Fortunately, Aleo knew that her readers (and characters) could only take so much  and she'd always throw some humor, or some of the other characters in the Assassin family, in as a distraction from what was worrying Mekena and Markus. I definitely think readers of this series will like how much the other characters are on the page with Mekena and Markus --to see how they're doing and what they're up too. I also love some of the choices Aleo made for these characters: I liked that she has a mixed race couple (why aren't we seeing more of this in the book world? or people of color? I love it!), I like that she promotes therapy and doesn't stigmatize it, and I liked how she created some realistic family drama. If I have any quibble at all, it's that there were a few times that some of the things Mekena and Markus fixated on felt repetitive in places, but it was something that I got past easily. Court: It'll be repetitive for sure for me to say the same things then!!! But yes, it is great that Markus is a diverse character with a diverse background getting to prove himself on the national stage in Hockey. I like that he a great man, even without the influence the Sinclair's had on him, and he is a really great character for our pages. I felt so bad for Mekena for what her sister did...and it was heart wrenching to see someone so young literally give up everything to move and find herself. Though, she did have a little trouble with that didn't she?!? The inclusion of the other assassins did melt my heart, and I am so excited to be back in this world for a while! 

Shel: Maybe I'm overly hopeful, but I can definitely see several more books in this series; I think readers will be plotting Brie and Vaughn's book in their heads by the time they finish (unless that's just me?!). Until then, though, readers will have Mekena and Markus to enjoy. Court: This was a great read to spend my Christmas enjoying, and thanks Toni for creating such a fun world to be in!!

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Markus Reeves is sucking. Big-time. Toiling away on a minor-league hockey team hundreds of miles away from home, he's watching his dreams of an NHL career fade away. Add in the lingering guilt he has over the dramatic demise of his relationship with college girlfriend, Mekena, and he's a mess on and off the ice.

But the family of his heart, the Sinclairs, won't let Markus suffer any longer. When he arrives himself back in Nashville for a trial run on the Assassins, it feels like his life may be making a turn for the better. If only he could get Mekena to forgive him...

Mekena Preston has been hurting since fleeing Nashville following the horror of Markus's betrayal with her sister. Now a professional photographer, Mekena finds herself in the same place at the same time with Markus to celebrate Lucy and Benji Paxton's wedding. Neither of them has been able to move on—and they're starting to wonder if they really want to.

They're headed for a face-off at the altar unless they can confront their past and unearth the truth about what really happened on that fateful night.

“You are, by far, the most patient man I know.”
Baylor grimaced as she took Dawson from Markus’s outstretched hands. He smiled as Dawson looked at him innocently. He knew the little guy didn’t mean to puke all over him and he wasn’t upset, but he was trying to figure out a way to get to the house and shower before he had to talk to Mekena. He highly doubted that baby puke would be an aphrodisiac. Maybe it would be? Huh.
He wasn’t going to try, though.  
As Baylor cuddled Dawson against her, Markus waved her off. “It’s no big deal. He’s a baby.”
She smiled shyly. “Yes, but Ashlyn pooped on you too.”
He grinned as he shrugged, trying not to laugh. It was a tough rehearsal for Dawson, Ashlyn, and Markus. Puke and poop were big-time stars during the hour of watching the Sinclairs and Grace Justice try to put together a wedding. He wasn’t sure what was funnier, Jace glaring as Jordie walked with Avery, or Ashlyn farting and then realizing she had just shit all over him. It was a toss-up, but then Dawson decided to puke down the front of his shirt, and he figured he was now a substitute for a baby rag. “I volunteered.”
“Still, we’re really sorry,” Avery said, holding Ashlyn close as she rocked her back and forth. “I understand if you don’t want to watch her ever again.”
“Nonsense,” he said, laughing as he tucked his hands into his pockets and looked around. He spotted Mekena at the front of the altar, taking pictures of random things. He wasn’t sure if she was done, but maybe he could slip away. “How much longer until y’all are done?”
“We’re done, but Lucy and Benji have some pre-wedding pictures they’re having done with Angie.”
“So Mekena isn’t done?”
Avery smiled. “Nope, she’s got a bit.”
“Can you pass a message for me?”
“Let her know that I went back to the cabin to shower and clean up?”
“Yeah, of course. I’ll tell Jace to tell her since I’m taking Ashlyn to bed.”
“Cool, thanks,” he said, kissing her cheek and then Baylor’s, before rubbing Dawson’s head. “I’ll see you guys in the morning.”
Before he could get far, though, Baylor smiled. “Thanks again.”
“Anytime. I mean that.”
Avery smiled. “Thanks.”
“Also, good luck,” Baylor added.
Flashing them both a big grin, he nodded. “I need it.”
Heading out the back, he made it back to the cabin quickly. When he entered, though, Mr. Right was sitting on the windowsill howling. “Whoa, man. What’s up?”
Meoooooowwwwwwww, he wailed, with his mouth wide open as his hair stood on end.
“Bro, I don’t know what to say. I don’t speak your language. Are you singing? Do you want me to sing too? Meoooowwwwww,” he said, and Mr. Right looked back at him, almost with a glare. “We should add some beat to that and make a remix,” Markus joked as the cat wailed. Deciding that was a good idea, he pulled out his phone and started to beatbox as the cat wailed, recording it on his SnapChat. The cat must have realized what he was doing because he looked back, scowling, and Markus hid his phone. He didn’t want to admit it, but Mr. Right kind of freaked him out.

My name is Toni Aleo and I’m a total dork.
I am a wife, mother of two and a bulldog, and also a hopeless romantic.
I am the biggest Shea Weber fan ever, and can be found during hockey season with my nose pressed against the Bridgestone Arena’s glass, watching my Nashville Predators play!
When my nose isn’t pressed against the glass, I enjoy going to my husband and son’s hockey games, my daughter’s dance competition, hanging with my best friends, taking pictures, scrapbooking, and reading the latest romance novel.
I have a slight Disney and Harry Potter obsession, I love things that sparkle, I love the color pink, I might have been a Disney Princess in a past life… probably Belle.
… and did I mention I love hockey?

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