NOW AVAILABLE!! Fix My Fall by Carey Heywood ~ Sarah A’s Review

Abby Thompson’s love life is a disaster. Everyone around her is blissfully falling in love, while she’s busy binge watching anime. The last thing she needs is a walking temptation, in the form of ex-nerd turned dreamy astrophysics professor, Spencer Hill, aka her new client.

It’s her job to find Spencer his dream home, NOT fantasize about a ride on his space rocket. But the sparks between them are impossible to ignore, and soon, Abby is wondering if her losing streak in love could be turning around.

Can she get over her anxiety he’s got her out-brained, and can he let go of the past and the fear that the girl he crushed on in high school is still out of his league?

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My quite fond of the Thompson family, they’re a good, fun break from my usual dense, heartrending reads.  I know when I start one of these books I’m going to get a few hours of sweet, enjoyable romance.  It’s like going home after a particularly arduous work week or even heading off for a day of pampering when you’ve been momming it 24/7 for months on end.  Carey Heywood’s Fix series is a safe, comforting place to return to.

Fix My Fall is the third book in Carey Heywood’s Fix series.  These books are interconnected stand-alones and can be read without any knowledge of the other books in the series.  However, the series revolves around a set of siblings, so you do see a lot of the characters from the previous books in Fix My Fall.  This book is written in dual first-person perspective, narrated by Abby & Spencer.

Abby was tough; she had to be with four brothers and her slightly overbearing – in the best way possible – parents. If she had been any weaker, she couldn’t have held her own with all those giant personalities and the Thompson family legacy.  I’d questioned her reticence to date in the other books, and the blurb of Fix My Fall made me think she had gone through something major, but it may have been the experience of my typical reads informing my expectations.  I do wish we would have found out more about why she was so reluctant to date, however.

Spencer was the sweetest.  I loved how gentle he was with Abby, even when she was more than capable than taking care of herself.  And the boy had a brain, which he actually used to navigate his relationship rather than just relying on instincts and poor advice from his friends.  I thought it was adorable – I know, no man likes to be called adorable under ANY circumstance – that he didn’t try to start anything with Abby until he was 100% sure she was ready for it.  He was really quite perfect in every way.

Fix My Fall covered quite an extended period, though there was big time jumps so it didn’t feel like we had to wait too long for things to happen.  I appreciated that Carey Heywood gave them that time to get to know one another well and build their relationship on something more than attraction and physical chemistry.  Their relationship and the way they dealt with the few snags they encountered felt real and solid.

Carey Heywood is my go-to for this kind of quick, sweet romance.  Her characters always feel like old friends and visiting them is comforting.  Her stories are heartwarming and relatable.  Her books aren’t difficult, thought-provoking, exposes, but they will always find a place on my reading line-up because they’re so enjoyable and humble.

Fix Her Up (The Fix Series #1)
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Fix Me Not (The Fix Series #2)
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New York Times and USA Today bestselling romance author. She was born and raised in Alexandria, Virginia. Supporting her all the way are her husband, three sometimes-adorable children, a mischievous black cat, and their nine-pound attack Yorkie.

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NOW AVAILABLE!! The Smallest Part by Amy Harmon ~ Sarah A’s Review

“In the end, only three things matter. How much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.” – Unknown

It was a big lie. The biggest lie she’d ever told. It reverberated through her head as she said it, ringing eerily, and the girl behind her eyes—the girl who knew the truth—screamed, and her scream echoed along with the lie.

“Are you in love with Noah, Mercedes?” Cora asked. “I mean . . . I know you love him. You’ve been friends forever. We all have. But are you in love with him?”

If it had been anyone else—anyone—Mercedes would have stuck out her chest, folded her skinny arms, and let her feelings be known. She would have claimed him. But it was Cora. Brave, beautiful, broken Cora, and Cora loved Noah too.

So Mercedes lied.

And with that lie, she lost him. With that lie, she sealed her fate.
She was the best friend, the bridesmaid, the godmother, the glue. She was there for the good times and the bad, the ups and downs, the biggest moments and the smallest parts. And she was there when it all came crashing down.

This is the tale of the girl who didn’t get the guy.

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Wow. Just WOW, seriously, that’s all you really need to know. This book was AMAZING. It was gut-wrenching and heartbreaking, while also having some wonderfully funny and light moments. The way the story was woven together, with the moments from the past informing the present situation, was, it was just, it was everything. EVERYTHING.

The Smallest Part is a stand-alone novel, though it does have some cross-over with Moses from The Law of Moses. While his page time is not significant, his role in this story is vitally important in more than one way. It’s written in third person semi-omniscient perspective, primarily following Mercedes, with the occasional look into Noah’s life as well.

I honestly have no idea how to convey how phenomenal this book is. It just took all of my feelings, ripped them out, distilled them into their unique reactions, then wove them back together in a way I’d never experienced. It made me uncomfortable in the best way, and aware of the possibility of a world I never really thought about. This is a book that is going to stick with me for some time.

Cora may have looked like the sun, but her soul was painted only in the darkest shades of grey. Cora, beautiful, broken Cora, was a difficult character to like, but she was even harder to dislike because she was so damaged. She was frustrating in the way she treated the people she cared most about, but then she’d turn around and be the most protective and wonderful person she could be. She’s not given a diagnosis in this book, but she reminded me so much of my baby sister it’s hard for me not to wonder if she suffered from bipolar disorder, with her horrific lows and fleeting highs.

Mercedes was the light to Cora’s dark, in every way beyond appearance. She was selfless and solid and soulful. She was literally everything Cora wasn’t but wanted to be. She was the heart of their trio, the living, beating embodiment of all the good she, Cora, and Noah needed. She gave when she had nothing; she loved when she was devastated, she forgave when no one else could. All of that and she was still a pillar of strength and refused to let others run roughshod over her, except Cora, whom she was unable to refuse in any way.

If Cora and Mercedes were darkness and light, Noah was the earth basking in their alternating days and nights. He needed both to survive, to discover his own strength and they each needed him in their own way. Cora needed him to keep her from disappearing into the shadows, and Mercedes needed him to remind her that even the sun has days when it hides behind the clouds. He balanced their extremes and offered them each an outlet for the parts of themselves they weren’t good at dealing with alone.

The Smallest Part reminds me of the line from John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars: “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, then all at once.” It took some time to build, but I was completely wrapped up in Cora, Mercedes, and Noah before I even realized what was happening. They each won separate pieces of my heart – in different ways – until I was so deeply invested in their story it almost felt like I wouldn’t be whole if they weren’t. It was a heady experience and one I wish I could live through again, for the first time.

Amy Harmon writes amazingly powerful stories. She is extraordinarily skilled at arranging words into a beautifully devastating tapestry, then finishing it off with such flourish the devastation falls away and all that’s left is the gorgeous finished product that leaves your heart beating with renewed fervor. With each book she writes she delves into demanding subject matter with such grace it makes me want to see the world through her eyes, and I’m glad she allows her readers the opportunity to experience the beauty she sees in the most tragic things.

Amy Harmon is a Wall Street JournalUSA Today, and New York Times Bestselling author. Amy knew at an early age that writing was something she wanted to do, and she divided her time between writing songs and stories as she grew. Having grown up in the middle of wheat fields without a television, with only her books and her siblings to entertain her, she developed a strong sense of what made a good story. Her books are now being published in eighteen different languages, truly a dream come true for a little country girl from Levan, Utah.

Amy Harmon has written eleven novels — the USA Today Bestsellers, The Bird and The Sword, Making Faces and Running Barefoot, as well as The Queen and The Cure, From Sand and Ash, The Law of Moses, The Song of David, Infinity + One, Slow Dance in Purgatory, Prom Night in Purgatory, and the New York Times Bestseller, A Different Blue. Her next novel, The Smallest Part, will be released February 13, 2018.

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Irish Kiss by Sienna Blake ~ Sarah A’s Review

Saoirse

I wanted him since the day I met him. Long haired, tattooed and tall as an Irish giant. He was more than just handsome, he was drop dead gorgeous. And the only one who ever truly cared. It didn’t matter to him that my father was a criminal and my mother a whore. He saw me, understood me.

I could be anything I wanted, he said.
Except his.
Because I was too young and he was my Juvenile Liaison Officer.

Diarmuid

It’s been years since I last saw her. No longer a girl, she has a body of a woman. When our eyes met again, I saw the only one who ever broke through my asshole mask. She never judged me. She saw me, accepted me.

She could be anything she wanted.
Except mine.
Cause she’s only seventeen and I’m trying my hardest not to fall for her.

If I give in, she will ruin me.

*This is a slow-burn, angsty love story spanning across a seven-year time period with sexual situations and drug-use involving characters under the age of eighteen.
Irish Kiss is a complete standalone novel with a Happily Ever After, but damn, it is going to hurt along the way.*

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If you read and loved All the Ugly and Wonderful things and loved it, this book is for you. If you hated it or never wanted to read it, then this book may not be one to add to your TBR. It’s not quite as dark or morally questionable as that book was, but it’s darn close, and I loved it for exactly that reason. I love when a book pushes limits without quite crossing the line into something irredeemable.

Irish Kiss is the first book in Sienna Blake’s Irish Kiss series. There was a little glimpse into the lives of the next two heroes in this book, and I’ll tell you, I can’t wait to see what Ms. Blake has in store for us. Irish Kiss is written in dual first-person perspective, narrated by Saoirse and Diarmuid.

Irish Kiss was an interesting take on a mentor/mentee relationship and how having a person who genuinely cares with no strings attached can lead to a deeper connection than either person was looking for. Both Saoirse and Diarmuid sorely lacked in the kind of devotion a person needs from their family, especially in their formative years. Diarmuid eventually found something akin to that type of love but was still in need of acceptance he hadn’t found elsewhere. Saoirse had never experienced love that didn’t come with expectations, even into adulthood, so when she found the kind of unwavering support and faith Diarmuid offered her, it was inevitable that she’d depend on his steadiness.

I can not properly express how much my heart hurt for these two, both for the things they’d lived through and for the love they both held but couldn’t explore. It was painful to watch them each struggle with the lives they had and the decisions they felt forced to make. The love they had for one another felt so real, so pure, it was hard not to root for them to be together even while it was morally repugnant. The connection between the two of them was visceral, and I ached for them to explore it, regardless of the consequences.

I only have a couple of wishes for this book. The first would have been to see more of Diarmuid’s past. We got small glimpses of it, and know the broad strokes, but he just seemed so interesting. I would have loved to know more about what made him who he was. I also didn’t understand Ava’s motives from the beginning, she didn’t even seem to like Diarmuid, so I had no idea why she was so intent on keeping him. Having her motivations regarding him – from the beginning – would have helped clarify that entire storyline.

I first discovered Sienna Blake when she published Paper Dolls, and I have loved everything she’s written since then. She has a unique voice and writes books about people from all different walks of life. She’s one of few authors who can write about a jaded billionaire with the same accuracy and passion she can write about a destitute child. Her books all have an underlying darkness that I find fascinating. I also love how she uses the locale of her books to help tell her characters’ stories. Honestly, I’m just enamored with her work and can’t wait for whatever she’s working on next.

Diarmuid let out a sigh. “I don’t want to fight.”

“Who’s fighting?” I said through gritted teeth.

“Fine. See you next Friday.”

Inside, I fought the growing swell of inevitability. Diarmuid and I could never be anything. The longer I tried, the harder I tried, the harder my heart would smash when he finally broke it again.

I didn’t think my heart could take being shattered twice.

“I can’t do this anymore,” I said, fighting back tears. “I can’t be around you when everything screams at me that we are meant to be something. And you…you with your fucking cool logic and detached emotion. You’re like a zombie. You don’t feel anything.”

“I feel.” He grabbed my arm, causing my gaze to snap to his. “God dammit, Saoirse, I feel. Too much.”

“Then why don’t you—”

“Feeling something and choosing not to act on it for the greater good, that’s what being an adult is about. Being an adult is not about age, it’s about how you act.”

“Are you’re saying I’m not an adult?”

“No, I’m saying what we want and what we should do are two different things.”

“That’s shit.”

“That’s life.”

I shoved his hand off me, all the old cracks in my heart reappearing. “Leave me alone. You hurt me too much, Diarmuid. You hurt too fucking much.”

I shoved open his door and tumbled out onto the sidewalk. Running for the house, fumbling for my keys, I tried to get some distance from him. I heard him behind me, calling for me to stop.

Why did he have to keep chasing me? Why couldn’t he just leave me alone?

This time I couldn’t let him catch me. I would break if he did.

I tumbled in through the front door.

“Saoirse, stop.”

I did not. He followed me into the house, his footsteps crashing across the old wooden floors. If I could just get to my room, it had a lock inside the door. He grabbed me right as I turned the corner into the short corridor before the stairs.

His hands gripped me around my waist as he slammed me against the wall. His other hand gripped my chin, forcing me to look right into his tortured, burning eyes.

“You think I don’t feel? Dear God, Saoirse,” he sounded furious, “the things I want to do to you… It kills me that I’m not allowed to touch you the way I want. It fucking tears me apart to hold myself back from stripping you naked and worshipping every single fucking inch of you with my tongue. It’s like I’ve become a savage inside. A beast.”

I felt every single one of his words in every single one of my cells, ringing out like bells.

His fingers on my chin became soft, tracing my cheek, his eyes growing tender. “This is what you do to me. No one else. No one. Ever.”

I sucked in a breath and let out a moan. His words were like hands all over my body.

“Please,” I breathed,” touch me.”

Sienna Blake is a storyteller & ink slinger, word spinner of love stories with grit, and alter ego of a USA Today Bestselling Author.

She loves all things that make her heart race — roller coasters, thrillers and rowdy unrestrained sex. She likes to explore the darker side of human nature in her writing.

If she told you who she really was, she’d have to kill you. Because of her passion for crime and forensics, she’d totally get away with your murder.

Sign up for my newsletter and get Paper Dolls, a full-length romantic suspense as a thank you gift. You’ll also be the first to hear about new releases, sales and giveaways ► www.subscribepage.com/SiennaBlake

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Cracks duet by LH Cosway ~ Sarah A’s Review

Life used to be simple.

I was a city girl with humble dreams. Then Dylan O’Dea broke into my flat, held me against the wall and told me to stay quiet.

It was like in the movies, where the universe zeros in on a single scene. I looked into his eyes and knew he was going to change me.

For Dylan, the sky was always falling. He showed me how our world is a contradiction of beauty and ugliness. How we choose to ignore the awful and gloss over it with the palatable. How you need just a tiny drop of something unsavory to create every great scent.

Pretty deep for a pair of teenagers living in a block of council flats in inner city Dublin, right Probably. But we weren’t typical. We both had our obsessions. Mine was growing things, Dylan’s was scent. He taught me how to use my nose, and I introduced him to the magic of flowers.

I had no idea that one day he’d build an empire from what we started together. But before that, there was love and happiness, tragedy and epic heartbreak…

My name is Evelyn Flynn and I’m going to tell you about the crack in everything.

**A Crack in Everything is Book #1 in L.H. Cosway’s Cracks duet.**

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I almost don’t want to review this book before I have read the second.  It was a fairly difficult read, for me, mostly because Evelyn and Dylan’s story feels so unfinished.  It left me in a VERY uncomfortable place, I’ve read a lot of cliffhangers and generally don’t have an issue with them, but this one felt different to me.  Likely because of the other events going on in their lives.

A Crack in Everything is NOT a stand-alone at all, it is the first in her Cracks duet.  I would highly suggest reading them in quick succession because right now I am DYING to get the How the Light Gets In.  A Crack in Everything is told in first-perspective in Evelyn’s voice.

A Crack in Everything felt naïve, immature even (not the writing, but the tone of the book), which was perfect because Evelyn and Dylan are children – 17 & 18, respectively – and it was reflected in the novel.  It was interesting to get that feeling from a book, as I’ve read several YA novels that don’t have that same naïveté come across.  Even the gloom and doom of Dylan’s worldview felt like the lamentations of a teenager, rather than the world-hardened cynicism of an adult.

If I were to decide a theme for this book, it would be loss.  Though not all the losses were experienced within the timeline of this book, the losses Dylan and Evelyn experienced were profound.  They’d allowed the losses to affect them differently, especially at the end of the book, but there was never any doubt that each of their lives was filled with tragic circumstances.  I can’t wait to see how they cope with they continue to deal with their losses during their ‘in between.’

I won’t lie, I have several LH Cosway books on my kindle, but this is the first one I’ve read.  I’m impressed and will be moving those others up my TBR.  Right now, she has me so worked up to find out how Evelyn and Dylan’s ‘after’ plays out I can hardly stand it.  She did an exceptional job of building up tension and anticipation, and I NEED to know how it all works out.

He came back to me 16 minutes and 59 seconds into Beethoven’s Symphony no. 7.

We parted amid tragedy, so it seemed poetic. Dylan O’Dea, my childhood sweetheart, had once meant everything to me. Now we were strangers, and honestly, after eleven years I never thought I’d see him again.

I lived in the world of the average, of getting paid by the hour and budgeting to make ends meet. But Dylan, he lived in the world of wealth and success. He’d achieved the great things I always suspected he would. The dissatisfaction he’d felt as a teenager had obviously been an excellent motivator.

He started a business from scratch, pioneered a brand, and created perfumes adored by women across the globe. I was just one of the people who’d been there before. Now he was living his best life in the after.

And me, well, I’d been in a dark place for a while. Slowly but surely, I was letting the light back in, but there was something missing. I was an unfinished sentence with an ellipsis at the end. And maybe, if I was brave enough to take the chance, Dylan could be my happy ending.

How the Light Gets In is Book #2 and the concluding installment in L.H. Cosway’s Cracks duet.

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This was a far easier, far lighter book than its predecessor. How the Light Gets In was the beautiful butterfly to A Crack in Everything’s caterpillar, the eleven years in between the metamorphosis.  Evelyn and Dylan had both changed so much, grown into different, more mature versions of themselves.  One jaded by life, the other finally able to see the wonder in things where only darkness was present before.  It was fascinating to have the roots of the same people, while the foliage appeared so different.

How the Light Gets In is the second book in LH Cosway’s Cracks duet; you MUST read A Crack in Everything before reading How the Light Gets In or you will lose the integrity of the story and the foundation of Evelyn and Dylan’s story.  The story is written in first-person perspective, narrated by Evelyn.

First, I want to tell you how thankful I am the Ms. Cosway didn’t drag out the separation between Evelyn and Dylan in this book.  Too often second chance romance prolong the pain of the separation to build anticipation, I had quite enough tension built in the final pages of A Crack in Everything, so I didn’t need any more in this book.

How the Light Gets In felt more grown-up than A Crack in Everything did.  The tone was far more mature, the characters more attuned to the world outside the corner they’d known their entire lives.  Evelyn and Dylan mellowed, neither held quite the extreme world-view they had in the first part of their story.  It was delightful to be able to feel how much they’d changed in this book.

This second book in the Cracks duet didn’t have a continuous theme like the first book did.  Instead, it focused more on Evelyn’s journey to accepting the part of herself that she’d lost while reconciling her old feelings for Dylan with the new pieces of themselves they’d found during their separation.  I loved watching them reconnect, recalibrate their relationship, and rediscover all the things they’d always loved about one another.

I hope this duet is indicative of what all of LH Cosway’s writing is like.  These books were intriguing and kept me invested in not only the main characters’ happiness but that of the secondary characters as well.  Her writing was intelligent and conveyed the perfect tone for her characters.  I was well impressed with how well she portrayed her narrator as both a teenager and an adult, it was fascinating and something I’d never even considered before reading these books.

L.H. Cosway lives in Dublin, Ireland. Her inspiration to write comes from music. Her favourite things in life include writing stories, vintage clothing, dark cabaret music, food, musical comedy, and of course, books. She thinks that imperfect people are the most interesting kind. They tell the best stories. L.H. is represented by Louise Fury at The Bent Agency.

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What the Valley Knows by Heather Christie ~ Sarah A’s Review

Millington Valley is a quintessential small Pennsylvania town: families go back generations. Football rules. Kids drink while adults look the other way. High school is a whirlwind of aspiration and rivalry, friendship and jealousy.

When smart and pretty Molly Hanover moves to town and attracts the attention of the football team’s hero, Wade Thornton—a nice guy with a bad drinking habit—longtime friendships are threatened and a popular cheerleader tries to turn the school against Molly.

The young couple’s future is shattered when Wade, drunk, wrecks his truck and Molly is thrown through the windshield. She wakes from a coma to find her beauty marred and her memory full of holes. As she struggles to heal, she becomes sure that something terrible happened before the accident. And there is somebody in the valley who doesn’t want her to remember.

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I nearly quit reading this book; if it weren’t for the prologue, I would have. I didn’t find the beginning of the book engaging at all. In fact, I started skimming at about 20% just to get to something more interesting. I’m glad I didn’t put it down completely, as it did get better, more compelling. Once the incident before the accident happened, I knew I needed to find out the rest of Molly’s story.

What the Valley Knows is the debut novel of author Heather Christie. It is a stand-alone, and while there could be other characters that could have their stories told, it would lose some of its poignancy in adding books to this world. What the Valley Knows is written in third-person limited, focusing on three characters: Molly, her mother Ann, and her boyfriend, Wade.

The first handful of chapters notwithstanding, I loved Molly and Wade’s character arcs. Wade, in particular, grew so much in the book because of the accident and he did it in a healthy way which made that storyline quite satisfying. I was also impressed with Molly’s strength, it may have taken her almost the entire novel to finally realize her own importance and power, but in the end, I was wholly impressed with how much she’d grown from the unsure girl we met in chapter one.

When I first began reading I wasn’t sure about the three perspectives, after the accident it was far clearer why we had the three perspectives. As a mother myself, having Ann’s perspective was a vitally important part of Molly’s story. We needed to be able to see what was going on with her from the outside to truly understand her.

My biggest wish for this book would be in the area of character development, especially in the beginning of the book. I didn’t find them particularly sympathetic or compelling and didn’t care much what happened to them. After the series of unfortunate events, I did have reasons to care about their futures, and their growth arcs were important; I just wish it hadn’t taken that kind of trauma for me to want to know more about them. I also wish we would have seen more of Molly’s healing post memory recovery, I’m glad she took the steps she had taken, but it would have been nice to see some real healing begin.

Heather Christie did a phenomenal job on her first novel. There was that little struggle to hit the ground running, but once her story found its footing, it was well paced and captivating. With some time and devotion to her craft, I can easily see Heather Christie rising through the ranks of YA authors, particularly those who focus on social issues. I’d love to see her continue writing books in the vein of What the Valley Knows.

Heather Christie grew up in rural Pennsylvania and, at age seventeen, took off for New York City in hopes of becoming a movie star. Flash forward several decades, a couple degrees, a bunch of cats, two kids and one husband later, she’s back in Pennsylvania writing her heart out and chasing dreams again. She loves to read, run, drink tea, and make Sunday dinner. Follow her blog at www.HeatherChristieBooks.com and say “hello” on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

NOW AVAILABLE!! Away From Me by Lexi Blake ~ Sarah A’s Review

Re-released in a second edition with updates.

Shattered by the loss of his wife, Callum Reed is a man surrounded by rules designed to protect him. He rebuilds his life with careful discipline, but can’t deny what he feels when he meets the lovely Gabrielle Sullivan. She’s everything he wants in a woman, but he views all relationships as contractual. Despite her misgivings, Gaby signs his contract and becomes his perfect partner. Until the night she breaks his cardinal rule.

After three years of perfect obedience, Gaby declares she wants love and she isn’t settling for less. Love isn’t in their contract, so Cal lets her go. But Gaby has a secret reason for leaving. When Cal discovers the truth, nothing will stop him from following her.

On a secluded island paradise, Callum will do anything to prove he’s the perfect husband for his defiant love.

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Away From Me was a sweet little novella that packed quite the emotional punch for such a short story. At this point in my Lexi Blake reading odyssey I know I’m going to get a little BDSM and it will be intense, this book was no different. Though, it did have fewer scenes as the story was primarily about rebuilding a destroyed relationship and only novella length.

Away From Me is a stand-alone novella, though there is a cameo from one of her Masters and Mercenaries series. It’s written in third person limited perspective, alternating between following Gabrielle and Callum.

Gabrielle and Callum’s book is not quite a second chance romance. Yes, they are coming back together after a period of separation, but instead of starting over and rebuilding something new it seemed like they only had to come to terms with the relationship they’d already established. Gabrielle and Callum had an intense connection, you could feel it even in the prologue while she was leaving him, and the time they spent apart did nothing to tame the flame that burned between them.

Gabrielle’s story broke my heart, which was somewhat to be expected, but the real emotion sucker-punch, for me, was when Callum told the story about his wife. It was devastating and completely accounted for the choices he’d made after he lost her. By the time the book was over, I completely understood where each of them had come from and why they needed one another to help them heal from all the traumas of their pasts.

The only wish I have for this novella is that we would have got a more significant glimpse of their relationship before Gabrielle left Callum. I think experiencing a little more of what they had together before Gabrielle left would have made their reconnection feel more poignant.

I’m quickly becoming a Lexi Blake fanatic. While all of her books have certain facets I’ve come to count on, she continually surprises me with her storylines. Whether it’s her characters backstories or the conflicts they have to deal with in the novel, she’s inventive while still making me feel like I’m coming back to familiar.

“Hello, Cal,” she said evenly. “How are you?”

He looked her up and down, his dark blue eyes showing absolutely no expression. Those eyes assessed her, roaming every inch of her body in a decidedly clinical fashion. “I’ve been perfectly fine, Gabrielle. How have you been?”

His hand was suddenly on her elbow. Her skin tingled where he touched her. He didn’t pull at her, merely squeezed gently, and she let him lead her. Yes, that was a force of habit, too, but perhaps her Irish friend was right. If they had any hopes of being comfortable around each other, they had to talk. They began walking slowly away from the pool.

“I’m well.” That could have come out a little stronger. She sounded like a scared rabbit and that wasn’t at all the impression she wanted to make on Cal.

“That’s nice.” Naturally, his voice sounded perfectly even. He could be negotiating a deal rather than talking to an old lover. “From the evil glances I’m getting from some very old friends, I would think I had tried to kill you.”

“I’m sorry, what?” This wasn’t the way she’d expected their first meeting to go. She’d kind of avoided thinking about it.

His jaw went tight. “I’m talking about all my friends looking at me like I’m some kind of criminal. I’ll admit I haven’t exactly been social lately, but I didn’t expect to walk into a party and find myself completely unwelcome. The only thing that’s changed is the status of our relationship, so I’m wondering what’s been said about me.”

Damn Heather and her big mouth. It was supposed to be a secret. She smiled brightly and slipped her arm through Cal’s. Yes, she needed to handle this. She’d never intended to make anyone hate Cal. He simply hadn’t been able to love her.

She had no interest in the two of them becoming a focus of gossip. If she seemed comfortable with her ex-lover, perhaps the other guests wouldn’t talk about them. She tried to look nonchalant. “I have no idea why. I haven’t seen any of these people since I left town ten months ago. Maybe it’s me they’re wary of.”

“I doubt that, pet,” Cal said, all silky and smooth. His voice had a direct line to her soft parts. “Even my oldest friend seems to have turned on me. Greg barely spoke to me this evening. His friendliest words were to tell me to leave you alone. I swear, Gabrielle, if he didn’t need me to broker his deals, he might not talk to me at all. Now I wonder why that is.”

Gaby flushed, guilt flooding her system. She truly hadn’t meant to hurt him, but she didn’t want to rehash the end of their relationship. She’d kept the secret this long. There was no reason he should know about it now. “I don’t know. I have never spoken to Greg about us.”

“I’m sure Heather talks enough.”

Gaby felt her heels sink into the grass as they left the deck. The evening grew darker as the lights from the torches got further away. The gazebo in the distance seemed to be Cal’s destination. She followed willingly. If they were going to talk, it was best to do it in private.

“I can’t control Heather’s mouth. That’s supposed to be Greg’s job. He’s her husband, after all.”

Cal helped her up the gazebo’s steps. He was always solicitous. It was one of the first things to attract her. He was a Dom of the first order. Gaby had been looking for someone like Callum since the day she realized there was a whole world out there for people like her. She’d gone through a couple of men who claimed to be Doms but really just used it as an excuse to be selfish. A real Dominant was someone like Cal, who always took care of her, even if he didn’t love her.

“Well, as it was pointed out to me recently, a Dom only has as much control as his sub allows him.” His deep blue eyes were almost black in the moonlight and there were lines around them that hadn’t been there before. There was a weariness to his frame that called to her. She fought the urge to smooth down his tie and snuggle in his arms. He wasn’t hers to take care of anymore. He turned to her. “So what have you been up to since you left?”

Her hand unconsciously went to her breast, thinking of the pain that centered there. “This and that.”

He leaned back, staring at her as though trying to decide something. “I never could figure you out, Gabrielle. I didn’t know if you were simply content to be kept or if there was some ambition lurking under the placid surface.”

The darkness was a welcome ally as she felt herself flush. If they’d been under even the soft lights of the party, he would have known how much that hurt. “Well, you weren’t interested in my ambitions.”

He shrugged. “I just wondered what you did all day.”

Her laugh was bitter and without an ounce of humor. “I ate bonbons and watched soaps. I counted the hours until you got home.” She turned away from him and looked out over the yard. In the distance, her friends mingled and laughed. She still seemed so far away from them. Maybe she would always seem far away now.

Distance had given her some perspective, especially when it came to her old Dom. “You weren’t interested in who I was as a person, Callum. You were interested in who I was as a sub. My submissive self was docile and sweet. That was what mattered to you. I didn’t ask questions or make demands. It was a D/s relationship. It wasn’t a love affair.”

She knew the difference now.

His fingers ran across the exposed skin of her shoulders and she held on to the railing of the gazebo. The spaghetti straps that held her dress up offered little protection against his gentle assault. She shivered at the touch.

“And you don’t want that anymore, do you? You don’t want a man to dominate you? You don’t want a man to take charge?”

Oh, there were certainly parts of her that did. His hands ran down to her waist, settling on her hips. Push him away. Do it now or this is going to go poorly. You are not capable of handling this.

But she’d waited too long. When he pressed his groin against her backside, she could feel the hard ridge of his erection, and she knew she wasn’t going to walk away.

It was only sex. Sex with Callum had been mind-blowingly good. There wasn’t any reason she couldn’t enjoy it again as long as she held herself apart. It had been so long. And tomorrow morning, she would be on a flight back to her island, where she was surrounded by gorgeous men she couldn’t fuck because they were either an employee or a guest. She was starting over. Shouldn’t she honor her past with one last nice night?

Yeah, her girl parts were super stupid and they were firmly in control.

Cal pressed his hard dick against her and her brain no longer mattered. That dick had been the best she’d ever had and her whole body reacted. It was like her body knew what it had been through in the last ten months and was demanding payment. That big, hard dick was payment for all the pain.

She could handle it. Hell, after what she’d been through, she could handle anything.

NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Lexi Blake lives in North Texas with her husband, three kids, and the laziest rescue dog int eh world. She began writing at a young age, concentrating on plays and journalism. It wasn’t until she started writing romance and urban fantasy that she found the stories of her heart. She likes to find humor in the strangest places and believes in happy endings no matter how odd the couple, threesome, or foursome may seem.

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NEW RELEASE!! Follow Me Back by AL Jackson ~ Sarah A’s Review

The next seductive, unforgettable stand-alone romance in the FIGHT FOR ME series from NYT & USA Today Bestselling Author A.L. Jackson . . .

Kale Bryant. Arrogant. Gorgeous. Commanding.

This ER doctor is married to his job. His only vice is one-night stands and short-lived flings. He learned a long time ago loving someone isn’t worth the risk.

Harley Hope Masterson. Beautiful. Brave. Sweet.

The owner of a small coffee shop knows what it’s like to struggle. Embroiled in a bitter divorce, she’s threatened with losing everything.

When Kale accepts a new position down the street from Hope’s shop, he begins to question every wall he’s built around his heart.

He wants her in a way he hasn’t wanted anyone.

One touch is fire.

One kiss, and he’s spinning out of control.

But taking her won’t come without consequences.

Hope is in for the fight of her life. One neither of them saw coming.

Now Kale must decide if loving her is worth risking it all.

She will fight with everything she has.

But sometimes even hope needs a hero . . .

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I’m going to be really honest right now and say I did NOT love Kale in Show Me the Way, I don’t know why, but he just seemed a little too aloof, too unaffected.  Something about the way he always felt completely chill about everything was concerning.  Now that I’ve read his book I understand so much more why his façade is built that way.  Once we got a peek behind the ice wall he’d constructed he was a fascinating creature.

Follow Me Back is the third book – 1 novella, two full-length novels – in AL Jackson’s Fight for Me series.  Each book in this series can be read as a stand-alone, though the characters are all friends and you see a lot of the previous couples throughout the subsequent novels.  Follow Me Back is written in dual first-person perspective, narrated by Hope and Kale.

Complicated was the theme of this book.  Both Hope and Kale were upfront about how complicated their lives were, but I don’t think the word fully explained precisely how insane the things they had been through and were still going through were.  It also didn’t touch the kinds of feelings they developed for one another and all the ways they’d go to the ends of the earth to keep the ones they loved safe and happy.  Kale and Hope were complex characters, and each new layer of their personas that was uncovered made me love them more.

Follow Me Back was an emotional read, not that it was horribly sad – some moments were, though – but it ran me through the gamut of emotions.  In a matter of paragraphs, things could go from deliriously happy, to heart-crushing desolation, to burn-the-world furious.  It was a beautiful ride, and those intense emotions made Hope and Kale’s story riveting and moving.

AL Jackson is a master of telling emotional stories, often with deep meaning.  Follow Me Back was a perfect example of that.  She crafts her words for maximum impact and continually pulls on her readers’ heartstrings.  I once again find myself in love with her prose and can’t wait to see what she has in store for her readers in Ollie’s story.

 

A.L. Jackson is the New York Times & USA Today Bestselling author of contemporary romance. She writes emotional, sexy, heart-filled stories about boys who usually like to be a little bit bad.

Her bestselling series include THE REGRET SERIES, CLOSER TO YOU, and BLEEDING STARS novels. Watch for A.L. Jackson’s upcoming novel, SHOW ME THE WAY, the first stand-alone novel in her brand-new FIGHT FOR ME SERIES.

If she’s not writing, you can find her hanging out by the pool with her family, sipping cocktails with her friends, or of course with her nose buried in a book.

Be sure not to miss new releases and sales from A.L. Jackson – Sign up to receive her newsletter http://smarturl.it/NewsFromALJackson or text “aljackson” to 24587 to receive short but sweet updates on all the important news.

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GIVEAWAY!! Free Fall by Emily Goodwin ~ Sarah A’s Review

I’ll never forget the first time I saw Nora Fisher. The way my heart sped up in my chest and blood rushed through every part of me. I was drawn to her the moment our eyes met.

She was beautiful.

Guarded.
Damaged.
Just like me.

I never meant to hurt the only woman I’ve ever loved. She was light, and I was dark, casting shadows on everything around me. Letting her go meant spiraling back into the darkness only Nora could pull me from. But I’d sacrifice myself a thousand times for her.

Four years later, she’s back, and the passion she ignites makes the fight for her stronger. But the more I try to make things right, the more I realize how complicated things have become.

And now I’m starting to see that maybe her light was never meant to be mine.

Free Fall is a standalone, contemporary romance.

** AVAILABLE IN KINDLE UNLIMITED **
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Free Fall was so good.  I wasn’t sure what to expect as Emily Goodwin is a new to me author, but I was highly impressed.  This book was an emotional rollercoaster, and once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down. It was completely engrossing, and Nora and Jack were wonderful characters.

Free Fall is a stand-alone novel.  It’s written in dual first-person perspective, narrated by Nora and Jack.

These two had each experienced more heartbreak in their short lives than most adults do.  Their pain was completely different, yet completely unimaginable.  The things Jack had been through, in particular, were catastrophic.  It was fascinating to see how Ms. Goodwin portrayed his experiences and the fallout from them.  Each and every time he remembered the day that changed his life I felt like my heart stopped.

Based on the cover copy, I had been expecting Free Fall to be completely a second-chance romance.  Instead, we got to witness their initial love story and their second chance.  It made their reunion that much more poignant since we’d went through their first love in real time.  Experiencing the type of connection they had, the way they were each the support system the other needed at the most desperate times in their lives, made it easier to understand the connection they still had years later.

I know this is an unpopular opinion, but the only wish I had for Free Fall is that the epilogue hadn’t been included.  I know people love them, especially the type this one was, but for me, it just didn’t add to the story and felt rushed, had it been a little longer or more substantial it may have worked better.  I think I would have really been the most satisfied with the book had it ended a chapter before the prologue, that would have been the most impactful ending to me.

As I mentioned earlier, Emily Goodwin is a new to me author.  I don’t know how she hasn’t crossed my radar before, especially if her other books are anything like Free Fall, but I’m glad she’s on it now.  This book was powerfully written and covered sensitive topics without ever feeling exploitative of those themes.  Ms. Goodwin’s prose was powerful and engaging; she’s a talented artist, and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

 

Emily Goodwin is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of over a dozen of romantic titles. Emily writes the kind of books she likes to read, and is a sucker for a swoon-worthy bad boy and happily ever afters.

She lives in the midwest with her husband and two daughters. When she’s not writing, you can find her riding her horses, hiking, reading, or drinking wine with friends.

Emily is represented by Julie Gwinn of the Seymour Agency.

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Found by Claudia Burgoa ~ Sarah A’s Review

All I’ve ever wanted was for someone to choose me. My mother didn’t. My father didn’t. The beautiful boy next door, who grew up to marry me, didn’t. Neither did the next man with whom I thought my heart was safe.

Back in the Bay area, three thousand miles from New York City, I can start fresh. Become one with the sea again, rise or fall on the tide of my own choices. But on the first day of my bright new life, the darkest shadows of my past follow me through my office door. The two men whose names are definitely not on my five-year plan.

If I let it consume me—my need for one man, my love for the other—the darkness will swallow me whole. I can’t let that happen. Not again. This time, the waves of emotion crashing against my heart won’t drown me. This time, I get to choose my happy ending.

*** SPECIAL RELEASE PRICE 99¢ ***
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While I loved the story in Found, it was an editorial NIGHTMARE. I initially read a pre-published version and did my best to overlook the mistakes as I was reading, but when I bought it, and it was still fraught with errors, I was sorely disappointed. I see that the author has several editors listed, and I’m not sure if she’s not listening to them or if they aren’t qualified, but this book is in desperate need of a re-edit.

While Found is not listed as part of a series on Goodreads or Amazon, it is the third book in a series about the four Everhart brothers and two Beesley sisters. Each book can be read as standalone and is based on a different couple. Found is written in first person perspective from three characters: Hazel, Scott, and Elliot.

I was most excited about this book. I wanted to know more about Hazel, and Scott was such an enigma, I needed to know who he actually was. What I wasn’t excited about was Elliot, I didn’t want anything to come between that interesting magic that bound Scott and Hazel. What she’d already been through with Elliot was heartbreaking, and I didn’t want her to have to relive her past, either.

While most of this story was wonderful, I loved seeing Scott as more than just a shadowy stoic figure making sure his brothers were taken care of and thriving, a lot of it was very frustrating. In particular, one of Hazel’s suitors kept pushing the issue with her, even when she said she wanted to take things slow and figure out what she needed and how to get out of the hole she felt she’d fallen into. I felt like he kept belittling Hazel when she didn’t fit into the picture he’d painted for her. What was most irritating about that whole situation was she kept going back even when it was blatantly obvious he didn’t have her best interests in mind. Even in the end, it seemed like the author was trying to make him come across as a good guy, when he obviously wasn’t – at least not in regards to Hazel.

Hazel’s other love interest was obviously the better choice from the off. He knew her, what she wanted, what she needed, and how to make sure she was supported in the way she needed. He was also able to put her needs ahead of his own when it came to their relationship, and that is the true test of what love is. How Hazel had any doubt about which man was the one she couldn’t live without was shocking to me, and maybe that is the luxury of looking into a relationship from the outside looking in. I just didn’t see any real affection or chemistry between Hazel and the other man, even in the kisses he forced upon her.

My biggest wish for this book is what I mentioned earlier, the editing. There were times when the author used synonyms in places where replacing the original word completely changed the meaning of the sentence, several instances of continuity issues, incorrect word usage, and numerous typos. Also, I wish that some of the scenes with suitor number one had been either omitted or rewritten to make them feel less forced. There was one, in particular, where they are having dinner that felt completely out of character for Hazel and almost like it was added after the rest of the book was finished, as the tone of the scene didn’t seem to fit the rest of the book. I also would have loved for Ms. Burgoa to more fully address Hazel’s battle with depression, unlike Flawed were Hunter and Willow’s battles were wonderfully explored and addressed, it felt like Hazel’s battle with mental illness was only there when it was convenient to explain a specific plot point.

I fell in love with Claudia Burgoa’s storytelling in Flawed (previously titled All of You, All of Me), but the last two books haven’t stood up to the standard she set in that first novel. I’m not sure if that book was the outlier or if the two subsequent books in the series are not in keeping with her writing, but I’m starting to question if the magic of Flawed won’t be rediscovered by Ms. Burgoa. I will be looking out for Fitz’ story because I need to know how he finds his happy ending, but I doubt I’ll be reading anything else she writes.

Claudia is an award-winning, international bestselling author. She lives in Colorado working for a small IT company, managing her household filled with three confused dogs, two daughters wrought with fandoms and a son who thinks he’s the boss of the house. And a wonderful husband who shares her love for all things geek. To survive she works continually to find purpose for the voices flitting through her head, plus she consumes high quantities of chocolate to keep the last threads of sanity intact.

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Say You’ll Remember Me by Katie McGarry ~ Sarah A’s Review

From critically acclaimed author Katie McGarry, comes SAY YOU’LL REMEMBER ME—a story of two people from different worlds pushing themselves, and each other, to get what they deserve!

SAY YOU’LL REMEMBER ME is now available at all fine book retailers. Grab your copy today!

“Doesn’t matter who did it. Not anymore. I did the time. It’s over.”

When Drix was convicted of a crime–one he didn’t commit–he thought his life was over. But opportunity came with the Second Chance Program, the governor’s newest pet project to get delinquents off the streets, rehabilitated and back into society. Drix knows this is his chance to get his life back on track, even if it means being paraded in front of reporters for a while.

Elle knows she lives a life of privilege. As the governor’s daughter, she can open doors with her name alone. But the expectations and pressure to be someone she isn’t may be too much to handle. She wants to follow her own path, whatever that means.

When Drix and Elle meet, their connection is immediate, but so are their problems. Drix is not the type of boy Elle’s parents have in mind for her, and Elle is not the kind of girl who can understand Drix’s messy life.

But sometimes love can breach all barriers.

Fighting against a society that can’t imagine them together, Drix and Elle must push themselves–Drix to confront the truth of the robbery, and Elle to assert her independence–and each other to finally get what they deserve.

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This book started out SLOW; I felt like I was moving backward at times during the first half of the book.  Fortunately, the second half completely redeemed the book.  After I finished the book and looked back at the beginning, I don’t think it could have moved any quicker or the poignancy of what happened throughout the rest of the book.

Say You’ll Remember Me is a standalone novel.  It is written in dual first-person perspective, narrated by Elle and Drix.

I loved the characters from the beginning.  I found them both to be surprisingly relatable, considering they were teenagers. The secondary characters – particularly Drix’ brother, Axle – were wonderful.  They were just as well-developed and sympathetic as Elle and Drix, and I would love to read more about all of them.

This book broke my heart a lot more than I expected.  From what Drix had been through, to Elle’s parents, the different types of neglect and ways they’d been used tore at my heart.  I didn’t expect to feel so deeply invested in them and the way people kept failing them, whether those failures were intentional or not.  Katie McGarry did a great job of juxtaposing Elle and Drix, on the surface they seemed diametrically opposed, but the more we learned about each of them, it was evident they were both struggling with the need to be more than what people saw on the surface.

Initially, I would have said I wished the beginning had not been as drawn out as it was.  After completing the book and reflecting on the book in its entirety, I know the book wouldn’t have been as impactful without it being exactly as it was.  There was one event I REALLY wish hadn’t happened, but that horrific heartbreak heightened the emotional fallout of the other events in the novel and pushed the book into being more than your typical young adult novel.

Katie McGarry won me over, as a reader, years ago with Pushing the Limits.  While Say You’ll Remember Me wasn’t quite the emotional powerhouse that book was, for me.  It still highlighted important issues and made me think of things I’d never considered before.  That is one of my favorite things about this author and YA books, that attention to social issues that aren’t always touched on in other genres.

~Ellison~

The two of us are different. Complete sliding scale different. The only thing we have in common, as far as I can tell, is that he appears about my age and that we are both wearing shoes. My sandals to his scuffed combat boots. His sagging jeans with rips and white T-shirt to my ironed khaki shorts and fitted blue top. My diamond earrings and gold bracelet with a heart charm to his black belt that has metal studs and silver chain that hangs from his belt loop to his wallet.

By looks, I should have more in common with the loser college boys, but it’s this guy I’m comfortable with. “What’s your name?”

He throws the ball, and he’s right, he sucks at it. While he has unbelievable power, his aim’s completely off. The ball hits the back curtain with a loud thud, then drops to the floor. “Drix.”

“Drix?” I repeat to make sure I heard him correctly.

“Drix. It’s short for Hendrix. Like Jimi Hendrix.”

“That’s cool.” Because it is.

I wait for him to ask for my name, but he doesn’t. Instead he says, “Are you here alone?”

He throws the second ball, and this time he hits the top of the three bottles, sending that one to the ground.

“No. My parents are here. I’m supposed to meet them at the convention center. What about you? What happened to the people you were with? Or are you here alone now?”

“Yes, but no.” Drix pulls his arm back, releases the ball, and when the ball hits the bottom bottles, my heart lifts with the idea that he won, but only one of the bottles goes flying. The other stays completely untouched.

He turns in my direction, but his gaze roams over my shoulder, then flickers to the left. Drix then glances behind him, and when he returns his attention to me he raises his eyebrows. “They appear to be gone.”

That’s awesome news, but I’m still stuck on his answer of “yes but no.” Honestly, I’m stuck on him. He’s a million questions without a single answer, and he makes me incredibly curious.

“My parents weren’t thrilled about me hanging out alone at the midway, but I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal. It’s just Whack-A-Mole, you know?”

“And a ball toss.”

“And a ball toss. None of it should have been complicated.”

“Shouldn’t have been.”

“Elle!” Part of me is relieved to see Andrew craning his neck over the crowd. Another part of me is majorly disappointed. There aren’t many times in my life I’m left alone. Not many times I’m able to explore new places and people without someone hovering and not many opportunities when I would meet someone like Drix.

“Elle,” Andrew calls again. I wave at him, hoping it will buy me a few seconds, and he waves back in a way that tells me he needs me to walk in his direction. That works well for me.

“Is that a friend of yours?” Drix asks.

“Yes, but no.” I borrow his answer because it’s apropos. Andrew’s a few years older. More friend of our family than a personal friend of mine, and I don’t like the idea of explaining that my parents think I need a babysitter.

Drix’s mouth twitches at my words, and my lips also edge upwards. “I just made you smile a third time. Is this a Guinness Book of World Records thing?”

“I liked your answer.”

“I’m just creative like that.”

Order your copy of SAY YOU’LL REMEMBER ME, register and you will receive AND THEY ALL LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER, a novella that features your favorite Pushing the Limits and Thunder Road characters!

From the Pushing the Limits series, Noah, Beth, Isaiah, West and Logan are all grown up. Catch up with your favorite characters as one of them finally says, I do.

Pigpen, Eli and Addison from the Thunder Road series: Three separate personalities who still needed to find love…and still had someone important to meet.

This is a limited time offer! So hurry! Registration ends on February 3, 2018! You must register your order to receive AND THEY ALL LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER.

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Katie McGarry was a teenager during the age of grunge and boy bands and remembers those years as the best and worst of her life. She is a lover of music, happy endings, reality television, and is a secret University of Kentucky basketball fan.

Katie is the author of full length YA novels, PUSHING THE LIMITS, DARE YOU TO, CRASH INTO YOU, TAKE ME ON,  BREAKING THE RULES, and NOWHERE BUT HERE and the e-novellas, CROSSING THE LINE and RED AT NIGHT. Her debut YA novel, PUSHING THE LIMITS was a 2012 Goodreads Choice Finalist for YA Fiction, a RT Magazine’s 2012 Reviewer’s Choice Awards Nominee for Young Adult Contemporary Novel, a double Rita Finalist, and a 2013 YALSA Top Ten Teen Pick. DARE YOU TO was also a Goodreads Choice Finalist for YA Fiction and won RT Magazine’s Reviewer’s Choice Best Book Award for Young Adult Contemporary fiction in 2013.

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