Break by Cassia Leo ~ CHAPTER REVEAL

A humorous and heartbreaking second-chance stand-alone romance from the New York Times bestselling author of the Shattered Hearts Series.

For six years, she was the only one. My best friend. My kitten. My world. Then, I broke us by getting caught in a web of lies.

Hard to believe, after everything we’d been through, I could do what I did to her… in front of 600,000 people.  I doubt she’ll ever believe I did it because I love her.

Three years later, my music career is booming. I have a movie deal in the next comic book reboot. And now the only parent I have left has been given a death sentence. I have to go home, but going home means facing what I did to her.

***   BREAK is available for preorder on all retailers. It will be available for purchase on all retailers for ONE DAY ONLY, July 26, 2018. After July 26th, it will only be available on Amazon. You do not need to have a Kindle Unlimited subscription to purchase BREAK on Amazon.   ***
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Prologue

Charlie

Then

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I would say a picture is worth a lifetime of words, since a single photograph can change your entire life.

When I was fourteen, a chubby girl in my freshman Spanish class attempted suicide after her former boyfriend posted a naked photo of her on MySpace. It was the scandal of the school year. I publicly expressed my disappointment with the way my fellow classmates were body-shaming her. Privately, though, I judged that girl. I couldn’t help but wonder… Who would be foolish enough to trust a teenage boy with nudes?

 

* * *

 

Just ten more minutes. Don’t pass out yet. Just hold on for ten more minutes.

I repeat the words over and over in my mind, like a mantra. Just ten more minutes and I can go home, drink a gallon of NyQuil, and sleep away this dreadful flu.

The art gallery just off the Sonoma State campus is small, but not quaint. Situated in the middle of 4th Street in Santa Rosa, among an eclectic mix of upscale and fair trade shops, the gallery has a wall of windows facing south. This wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t eighty-two degrees outside and the gallery’s air conditioning wasn’t working.

I loosen my black scarf and swallow the saliva pooling in my mouth as the urge to vomit begins to overtake me again. Closing my eyes, I take a few deep breaths as I attempt to quell the sensation.

“I’m sorry. I just need a minute,” I say to my professor as we move onto the next photograph in the exhibit.

If I knew, when I chose to be an art major, that I’d have to do my final exam — a solo show using selected pieces from my photography portfolio to tell a story — in an overheated art gallery, while secretly popping Tylenol every time my professor turns his back on me, I might have seriously reconsidered my dream of being the next Annie Leibovitz. Or I might have chosen a major where I could take my final exam in an air-conditioned lecture hall. At the very least, I’d rethink my brilliant idea to wear a scarf today.

My attempt to look like an artsy-fartsy ballerina — in my lucky black scarf, baby-pink bateau-neck top, black skinny jeans, and pink ballerina flats — and my refusal to request a postponement of the solo show the moment I came down with the flu, will be my downfall. No matter how hot it gets in this gallery, I can’t take off my lucky scarf. Therefore, I predict, if I don’t get high marks on this final, I’m going to drop dead on the high-gloss marble floor.

I trail behind Professor Healy like a baby duckling, answering his questions about lenses, exposures, and filters while trying not to stare at the Florida-shaped birthmark in the center of his bald spot. The show is supposed to tell a story, and the only story that matters in my world is the story of Ben and me. The exhibit begins with images of the beach, where Ben and I first met, then moves through a collection of places we’ve visited together. With Ben’s fame becoming such an issue these past few years, most of the pictures depict secluded landscapes: sparkling lakes, rocky coves, and misty forests.

As I discreetly wipe the sweat trickling down the back of my ear, my phone vibrates in my hand. I quickly slide it into my back pocket as we approach the picture I took of the Sky-house.

The Sky-house is a hollowed out Redwood tree near the forested campsites of the Bodega sand dunes, just steps away from where my boyfriend Ben Hayes and I grew up next door to each other in Bodega Bay, California. The Sky-house was Ben’s hideout before it became ours, and we promised we would never reveal the location to anyone. He approves of my use of the photo for my final, but I’m supposed to destroy the evidence after my solo show. We named our tree the Sky-house because you can look straight up through the hollow trunk and see the sky.

Also, because it was fun to play “house” in there.

I wish Ben was here. He would kiss my forehead and tell me everything was going to be okay. Afterward, he’d take me home and make me some instant ramen — because he couldn’t make chicken soup if his life depended on it. Then, we’d cuddle on the couch to watch Futurama until falling asleep.

Oddly enough, I didn’t get my usual good morning text from Ben today. He must have been up late and decided to sleep in. But he knows today is my show. It’s not like him to forget to wish me well before a big test.

As Professor Healy examines the photograph of our hideout from various angles, my phone begins vibrating in my back pocket — nonstop. One pulse of vibration after another, like a phone call that keeps ringing or when one of my Instagram pics goes viral and my notifications are blowing up. But I haven’t posted any pics on social media in a few days. I’ve been too busy preparing for the show.

Bzzz. Bzzz. Bzzz. Bzzz. Bzzz.

Maybe my voicemail isn’t working. Or maybe the mailbox is full. I’m notoriously guilty of letting unchecked voicemails pile up.

Bzzz. Bzzz. Bzzz. Bzzz. Bzzz.

The vibrating continues for what feels like at least five minutes straight, but is probably only a couple minutes. I finally pull the phone out of my pocket and apologize to Healy for the interruption. Glancing at the screen as I reach for the power button, I see a long list of Instagram mention notifications on my lock screen, and my heart drops along with my jaw.

 

2 min ago: @charleywinters have you seen this, girl?

2 min ago: lmao. @charleywinters just got dumped in front of 600K people. #sorrycharley

2 min ago: @charleywinters More like millions of people! This is gonna be news.

1 min ago: @charleywinters Don’t pay attention to these assholes. You didn’t deserve this. #sorrycharley

1 min ago: so fucked up. can’t believe @officialbenhayes would do something like this to @charleywinters #sorrycharley

1 min ago: @charleywinters don’t pretend you haven’t seen this post. @officialbenhayes is too good for you. #byefelicia #sorrycharley #actuallynotsorry

1 min ago: haha! so true! Why doesn’t @charleywinters get that bump on her nose fixed? #sorrycharley

 

“Charlotte, are you listening?”

I suddenly understood why Ben didn’t text me this morning. I can literally feel my blood pressure dropping. My entire body feels cold and light as a feather, like I barely exist.

The room begins to spin as I look up from my phone screen. “What?” I murmur as Healy’s red, bulbous nose comes in and out of focus.

I unlock the phone as my professor’s voice murmurs in the background of my consciousness. Tapping the Instagram app, then a recent notification, I’m taken to a picture of Ben riding a motorcycle on the beach at sunset. Sitting on the back seat, with her head thrown back in gleeful laughter, is a blonde I recognize right away. A blonde the entire world could probably recognize.

The caption on the photo reads:

@officialbenhayes to new beginnings. #instalove #newlove

MAY 11

I blink as Professor Healy steps around me so he’s facing me straight on.

“I asked, ‘How long is the exposure on this picture?’” he glances at the label beneath the frame then turns back to me. “The one titled ‘Sky-house.’ You’ve achieved a stunning depth of field with this lens. How long is the exposure? Based on the softness, I’m guessing it’s at least a thirty-minute exposure, since it doesn’t appear to be motion-blurred or out of focus or over-exposed.”

I open my mouth to speak, but only word comes out. “Exposed.”

“Charlotte, your face is blood-red. Are you all right?” he says, grabbing my elbows.

I shake my head, still unable to speak as my phone continues to vibrate in my hand.

“Oh, dear. Let’s sit you down. This is not the first time I’ve seen this happen,” he says, placing a hand on the middle of my back to guide me toward a gold velvet tufted bench about ten feet away.

“Do you need some water?” the gallery curator, a middle-aged woman with dark hair as glossy as the marble floor, asks.

I shake my head again as I sit on the bench. “No,” I whisper, reaching up to pull off my lucky scarf.

“Are you sure? Do you mind if I feel your forehead?” the woman asks gently.

I nod this time, closing my eyes and flinching slightly at the sensation of her cold hand on my face.

“Oh, my God. You’re burning up. I’m calling an ambulance,” she says, setting off to find a phone.

“Wait,” I call out, holding up my still-vibrating iPhone. “I have a phone… Here. Take it. I don’t want it.”

As she walks toward me, I can’t help but think about that chubby girl in my Spanish class. We are kin now. Today will be known as the day a single photograph changed my life.

The curator is a couple feet away from me when I lose my grip, dropping the phone on the floor as I pass out.

 

 Chapter One

Charlie

Now

 

Social media is a blessing and a curse. It can be used to galvanize support for important issues, like shedding light on social injustice. It’s the best resource we have for sharing inspiring art and funny memes. On the other hand, social media has also become a means to pass judgment on people before they can defend themselves. The court of public opinion delivers its justice swiftly and without remorse.

I killed all my social media accounts about two and a half years ago. I’d rather be a nobody than a cog in that kind of machine. My friends, however, have started to question my commitment to this philosophy.

The yellow glow from the streetlight pours in through the glass storefront, illuminating Michelle’s cinnamon skin as she hits the switch on the wall to dim the lights inside The Dunk seafood restaurant. Her silky black hair is pulled up tightly in one of those high ponytails that always make me wonder if she’s secretly walking around all day with a massive headache.

Michelle works as the general manager at The Dunk, because her dad doesn’t trust anyone else to run their family business. After locking the entry doors, she slides her jangling gaggle of keys into the front pocket of her black waist-apron and begins wiping down the tabletops.

I stand up from the table nearest the register, to stretch my arms and legs. Every Tuesday through Sunday, from eight p.m. to eleven p.m., I sit at this table to keep my best friend company while she closes up the restaurant. Sometimes, I help her clean so we can get out of there faster. Mostly, I use the time to edit photos on my laptop while chatting with Michelle.

“Is there any chili left?” I ask, closing the lid on my MacBook.

Michelle makes a mean chicken and white bean chili. Her mom, Monica, started making it for me when we were kids, when she realized I couldn’t eat their original chili recipe because it contained pork sausage. It was one of the rare times my mother’s Jewish heritage resulted in the creation of a culinary masterpiece.

Michelle grabs a clean towel off the shelf under the counter and heads toward the dining area. “Julio! Pack me a quart of chili, please!” she shouts toward the kitchen.

“Okay, Mitch!” the cook shouts back.

“Want to hit the beach tomorrow?” I ask as I slide my laptop into the snug foam compartment of my waterproof travel case.

Michelle sprays lemon-scented cleaner on the table next to mine and nods. “Fuck yeah. I need a beach day,” she replies, then sinks down into the seat across from me. “Which one?”

“Portuguese?” I reply, closing my laptop case and taking a seat again.

Michelle slides her phone out of the pocket of her blue skinny jeans, her top lip curling in disapproval. “Portuguese Beach is so crowded in the end of June.”

“Not on Monday mornings. We can get there early to get a good spot, then book it when it starts getting too crowded in the afternoon.”

She shrugs. “That’s probably better. It’s not like I need a tan.”

Every time Michelle references her skin color, it makes me sad. It reminds me of the one time she let down her guard and admitted to me how she hated the way people treated her differently in the summer, when her cinnamon-brown skin became a rich coffee-brown. We all have things we hate about ourselves, physical features that feel more like betrayals than assets. For me, it’s the bump in my nose I inherited from my Jewish mother. For Michelle, it’s her skin color. For our other BFF, Allie Kim, it’s her slanted eyes. Maybe that common thread of self-hatred is why we’ve been best friends since elementary school.

I pull my phone out of my pocket and text Michelle a single, lonely poop emoji.

She looks up from her phone screen. “If you need to release the chili demon, just go. You know you don’t have to ask to use the restroom.”

I smile as I let out a fart. “Not necessary when I can let it out right here. I just wanted you to look up from your phone.”

She rolls her eyes as she understands this reference. “You have to dump him. Stat. That guy gives me the creeps.”

The “him” Michelle is referring to is Tyler Bradford, the son of Mayor Tom Bradford, whom I had started dating four months ago. Tyler has an annoying habit of texting me emojis to get me to look up from my phone when we’re hanging out. Michelle and Allie do not like Tyler. To be fair, I don’t know if I even like him. But in my opinion, being alone during the summer is worse than being alone during the holidays. If I do dump Tyler, it will be in September or October.

“He’s not that bad,” I say, opening up my bank account app to check my balance for the tenth time today, a new and disgusting habit I acquired recently.

Michelle looks up from her phone again and cocks an eyebrow. “The guy nicknamed you his ‘little oyster.’ He’s a creep.”

The smile on my face vanishes when I see my account balance. “Ugh. I need some new clients ASAP.”

Michelle’s face softens. “Are you in trouble? Like, are you not going to be able to pay your phone bill, or something?”

“It’s not that bad… yet. But I definitely need to figure out a way to bring in more clients or it’s R.I.P. Winters’ Weddings.”

She turns her attention back to her phone, types something, then turns the screen toward me. “Maybe if you put your photos on Instagram, like this girl, you’d get more business.”

I stare at the Instagram profile for a girl named Elizabeth Messina, who Michelle follows on Instagram. “Yeah, and maybe if I hadn’t failed my final exam, I’d have a degree I could use to get a job.”

“You didn’t fail your final. You refused to retake it,” she replied as casually as if she were commenting on the weather.

“Really? This again?” I reply, my voice climbing an octave. “You’re saying I was supposed to fight my way past the sweaty paparazzos so I could give a solo show of pictures depicting the places where my boyfriend and I had sex? The boyfriend who dumped me on Instagram?”

Her eyebrows shot up as she looked up from the screen. “I’m just saying that maybe you could have chosen some different pictures and hired a bodyguard to get you past the paparazzi. If you really wanted the degree, that stuff shouldn’t have stopped you.”

I shook my head. “You know what happened the last time I tried to create another Instagram account.”

I narrowed my eyes at her, telepathically willing her to remember the time I created a new profile for Winters’ Weddings. A client named “Isla” messaged me on Instagram and booked me to do her engagement shoot at a nearby vineyard in Sonoma. She even paid the fifty-percent deposit. When I got to the vineyard, I parked my car and entered the barn, where we planned to meet. “Isla” and her friends were there with their cell phone cameras at the ready to record my reaction to a cardboard cutout of Ben down on one knee proposing to Becca Kingsley, the pop singer he dumped me for. I vomited on the straw-covered floor and ran to my car.

I shook my head when Michelle didn’t acknowledge this catastrophe. “Forget it. I’m not arguing about this again.”

“You’re the one who brought up your cash flow problems. I was just offering social media as a solution. A little self-promotion can’t hurt, you know? And yet you still shoot me down, as usual. Anyway, we both know that’s not what this is about.”

“What are you talking about?”

She purses her lips. “I’m talking about that gigantic chip on your shoulder. It’s been there since Hunter’s graduation last month.”

My eyes widen. “Are you kidding me right now? Are you accusing me of being jealous of my little brother?”

“There’s a difference between bitterness and strength. You’ve gotten more bitter with every year that passes since you and Ben broke up. If you’re not careful, you’re going to push away the people who helped you get through that shit-storm. Which is sad, because we’re the ones who actually love you.”

I lower my gaze and take a deep breath to tame the angry lion inside me. I also try not to think about Ben, but the tattoo on my wrist makes that impossible. Michelle is pretty strongly implying that what Ben did to me indicates he’s obviously not one of the people who actually loves me. But after three years, I still look at the tattoo on the inside of my left wrist and wonder if that’s true. Could Ben have been pretending to love me for all those years?

I lay my hand over my wrist to cover the words “I love us” written in Ben’s handwriting. He has a matching tattoo on the inside of his left wrist in my handwriting, if he hasn’t attempted to get it covered up. During the four years that Ben and I were officially together, and the few years before where we hid our relationship from our families, we only got into one huge fight that almost tore us apart. Almost.

I remember vividly how I told Ben I loved him, but I didn’t think I was secure enough to be with someone famous. He told me I had nothing to feel insecure about. “I don’t like myself without you. Actually, sometimes I think you’re the only thing I like about myself. I love you, Charley, and I’m not ashamed to say I love you more when you’re mine. I love us.” After that, “I love us” became our slogan. I cringe inside as I remember how we joked about trademarking the phrase.

“Let’s change the subject,” Michelle says, probably reading the signs in the painful expression on my face, the signs my mind has wandered into the dark corner where I hide my memories of Ben. “If you don’t want to do social media — which I totally understand — then, maybe all you need to do is figure out what’s worked in the past, you know, to generate business.”

I lean my head back and sigh. “I feel like this is the hundredth time we’ve had this conversation. I don’t know why you put up with me.”

“Because I love you,” she replied casually. “Okay, I remember when you were booking wedding shoots more than six months in advance because you were so busy. When was that? Two years ago? Maybe you were doing something back then that you might not be doing now.”

I shook my head. “That was pretty much right after the breakup, when I first started the business. When people were still googling ‘Charley Winters ugly cry’ a thousand times a day. Bookings have steadily decreased since then.”

Michelle winces at my reminder of the time a paparazzo published a video of me ugly-crying while talking to my mom in our backyard shortly after the breakup. The video went viral and, at its peak, the phrase “Charley Winters ugly cry” was Googled more than 800,000 times in one day. The video is still on every celebrity gossip channel on YouTube. I don’t have the emotional fortitude or the money to hire a lawyer to force Google to take it down.

Michelle stands up and rounds the table so she can wrap her arms around my shoulders. “The only good thing I can say about Benjamin Hayes is that he’s smart enough not to show his face around here anymore. I hope he gets antibiotic-resistant chlamydia and his dick falls off.”

I laugh a little too hard and another tiny toot comes out. “I don’t think that’s how chlamydia works.”

“I’m still holding out hope. And you really need to stop eating so much damn chili,” she says, giving my shoulders one more squeeze before she sets off toward the back of the restaurant. As she rounds the counter, she glances back at me and flashes me a beaming smile, which quickly disappears as her eyes become fixated on something outside.

I glance over my shoulder toward the storefront and a flicker of intense pain fires through every nerve in my body when I see Ben standing on the other side of the glass.

New York Times bestselling author Cassia Leo loves her coffee, chocolate, and margaritas with salt. When she’s not writing, she spends way too much time re-watching Game of Thrones and Sex and the City. When she’s not binge-watching, she’s usually enjoying the Oregon rain with a hot cup of coffee and a book.

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BLOG TOUR AND REVIEW – Only Him by Melanie Harlow

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MHOnlyHimBookCover5x8_MEDIUMOnly Him, an all-new sexy and emotional second chance romance from USA Today bestselling author Melanie Harlow is available NOW!

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Sometimes your first love deserves a second chance…

He was my first crush, my first kiss, my first everything.

But I’m not a lovesick teenager anymore, and I’d never let that cocky troublemaker break my heart again.

So when he shows up out of the blue asking me to have dinner with him “for old time’s sake,” I say I will. After all, it’s been twelve years, and I’m stronger and smarter than I was back then.

Except…he still does something to me. He’s got those eyes that make me weak, those hands that drive me wild, and a body I can’t resist—especially once I see the tattoos. It doesn’t take long for our trip down memory lane to go from sweet to sizzling.

We’re just as good together as we were back then—better, even—and I’m willing to give the only man I’ve ever loved another chance.

But he’s got to tell me the truth.

* * *

All I wanted was to see her again. Tell her I’m sorry. Make her smile.

Okay, that’s a lie. I wanted to do more than that—a lot more. But I know she’s better off without me, and I promised myself I’d behave.

Except I’ve never been much good at keeping promises…or my hands to myself when I’m around her.

I can make her laugh, I can make her cry, I can make her body surrender to mine in ways that neither of us could have imagined back then. I can—and I do—love her more than she’ll ever know.

But I can’t tell her the real reason why I’m here.

And I can’t stay.

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Excerpt

Maren glanced back at me, more puzzled than ever, but she started up the cement stairs. I couldn’t take my eyes off her legs in front of me. Her calf muscles were insane from all the ballet training. I remembered how flexible she’d been and felt my dick start perking up.

“In addition to all the history I just gave you,” Aiden said, his voice echoing off the walls, “this hotel was also the site of a certain prom a few years back.”

All of a sudden, Maren stopped moving and looked down over her shoulder at me. “No way.” The stunned, joyful expression on her face was worth every penny I had to pay to make this happen.

Goose bumps rippled down my arms inside my jacket. I smiled at her.

Her jaw dropped, and she continued up the stairs. At the top, Aiden moved ahead and opened the door to the rooftop. “Ballrooms were not available tonight, but when Dallas asked if you could have the roof to yourselves, I had to admit no one had booked it. In fact, no one has ever even asked to book it.” He laughed.

Maren stepped over the threshold onto the rooftop. “Dallas is definitely one of a kind.”

The three of us moved away from the door, and I saw the table that had been set for us, complete with white linens, flower centerpiece, and candlelight. Luckily, the air was warm, and the wind was soft. The sun was still setting beyond the skyline to the west, and to the east the Detroit River was visible; a little to the south was the Ambassador Bridge, and beyond the river, Canada. The view was breathtaking on all sides.

After turning around in a full circle, Maren looked at me with shining eyes. “Dallas. This is incredible.”

“You’ll have your own server for the night, and he should be up shortly,” Aiden said, checking his watch. “I should get back downstairs. Dallas, you have my cell if you need anything. Maren, good seeing you again, and I hope you enjoy your evening.” He gave us a smile before heading back to the stairwell door.

As soon as he was gone, Maren turned to me. “I cannot believe you did this.”

I shrugged. “I felt pretty bad when you said you’d missed the prom because of me. I figured I owed it to you.”

She laughed and rolled her eyes, which were filled with tears. “You didn’t, but whatever. I’ll take it.” Opening her purse, she hunted around in it for something. “God, I don’t even have tissues. I didn’t know you were going to make me cry.”

“No crying allowed at the prom. And I hope it’s okay I’m wearing jeans.”

“It’s fine.” She sniffed and closed her purse. “I’m not that dressed up either.”

“You’re perfect.” Our eyes met, and the air between us suddenly felt full of hope and possibility. In any other circumstance, I’d have kissed her.

But I couldn’t do that tonight.

“Oh, I almost forgot.” Reaching into the inside pocket of my jacket, I pulled out a wrist corsage. “Sorry if it’s a little smashed. I had to get rid of the plastic container to hide it from you.”

She giggled and held out her arm. “That’s okay. It’s beautiful.”

“Good.” I slid the elastic band with three deep red roses attached to it along with some other green stuff onto her wrist. “I told the lady at the florist to make it a prom corsage. Pretty sure she thought I was crazy. Or creepy.”

“You might be crazy. But I love it. Thank you for this.” Then she rose up on tiptoe and pecked my cheek. When she lowered her heels, she stood there for a moment, her hand on my arm, her mouth so close I could have simply tipped my head down and my lips would be resting on hers.

My heart stumbled over its next few beats. I wanted to do it so badly, but I’d promised her I’d behave. I’d promised myself I’d behave. There were so many reasons why I shouldn’t be here tonight, standing so close to the only girl I’d ever loved, tempted beyond reason by her legs and her lips and her laugh and her eyes and her ability to make me feel like I fucking mattered in the universe.

What was the right thing to do?

If only—

The door from the stairwell opened, and we moved apart.

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ONLY HIM SECOND CHANCE AN TEASER

Whitney’s Four Star Review

Only Him is a great second chance romance and although it’s part of a series, it can be read as a total stand alone.

The previous book featured Emme, and our heroine is one of Emme’s sisters, Maren. Maren was the kind of hippy, healthy, sister and I loved getting to know her. All of the sister scenes really stole the show for me. I don’t have sisters and I don’t know if the author does but it feels like she captured a real relationship here.

Dallas is Maren’s first love from high school who disappeared and returns to her life suddenly for what was supposed to be a very brief catch up. But of course, their off the charts sexual tension wins and the back and forth ensues. I won’t go into plot details but Dallas has issues and although some of his actions got on my nerves, he did win me over and successfully stole my heart by the end.

The end of the book makes all the angst worth it.  Watching these two fall in love again or rather realizing they are still in love was heart warming.  And the author ALWAYS has amazing side characters.  We get some appearances by old favorites and a few new ones as well.

As always, Melanie’s writing is witty, fast paced and intriguing. She sets the scene really well for all of her settings without being overly detailed and I always love her female characters.

I think I *might* be the most excited for the next book! Can’t wait to see Melanie work her magic again.

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About Melanie

Melanie HarlowMelanie Harlow likes her martinis dry, her heels high, and her history with the naughty bits left in. When she’s not writing or reading, she gets her kicks from TV series like VEEP, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, and Homeland. She occasionally runs three miles, but only so she can have more gin and steak.

Melanie is the author of the AFTER WE FALL series, the HAPPY CRAZY LOVE series, the FRENCHED series, and the sexy historical SPEAK EASY duet, set in the 1920s. She lifts her glass to romance readers and writers from her home near Detroit, MI, where she lives with her husband, two daughters, and pet rabbit.

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One Small Thing by Erin Watt ~ Sarah A’s Review

Beth’s life hasn’t been the same since her sister died. Her parents try to lock her down, believing they can keep her safe by monitoring her every move. When Beth sneaks out to a party one night and meets the new guy in town, Chase, she’s thrilled to make a secret friend. It seems a small thing, just for her.

Only Beth doesn’t know how big her secret really is…

Fresh out of juvie and determined to start his life over, Chase has demons to face and much to atone for, including his part in the night Beth’s sister died. Beth, who has more reason than anyone to despise him, is willing to give him a second chance. A forbidden romance is the last thing either of them planned for senior year, but the more time they spend together, the deeper their feelings get.

Now Beth has a choice to make—follow the rules, or risk tearing everything apart…again.

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Up until the last maybe ten pages of One Small Thing I was prepared to write an amazing review on how redemptive and healing this book was.  I was completely involved in Beth and Chase’s story of love, forgiveness, and trust.  However, the end was so dissatisfying and abrupt; it ruined much of the joy I had while reading the rest of the story.

Beth won me over from the off; she seemed to be so alone despite being surrounded by people who cared for her.  She was angry and sad and had been so isolated by the way her loved ones were protecting her.  When she started acting out, I was 100% there for it.  I was pretty impressed by how she’s handled herself, as I’m not sure I’d be able to rein my anger in as well as she did in the same situation.  I also appreciated how much she grew and realized other people’s opinions weren’t as important as what she knew to be true.

I wanted to not like Chase, much for the same reasons as Beth wanted, but it was impossible.  He was so much more than his past, what the general public thought about him, and what he gave himself credit for.  Chase broke my heart with the way he continued to punish himself for something he’d never intended to happen.  Once he finally began to accept the connection he felt with Beth, I nearly sighed in relief because I could feel the weight of the world begin to shift slightly off his shoulders.

One Small Thing was a poignant story of those precarious years immediately before adulthood, that time when you need to be your own person yet are still firmly under the control of the adults in your life.  It’s a story of looking deeper than the surface, beyond the preconceived notions, to the heart of a person and believing in them because of the goodness found there.  It was a story about learning to compromise without sacrificing your needs and when to stand-up against the things you can not abide.  I was impressed with how much this story had to say about the human condition and how fallible even the most cautious and concerned people can be.

I do have one major wish for this book, and that would be the lackluster ending.  For the entirety of the novel we had a huge workup to a fabulous – if somewhat predictable – climax, then we had no real resolution to any of it.  There was an awkward aside in the final chapter I think was supposed to satisfy my need for healing and closure, but it just felt like an afterthought.  To me, it seemed like the authors weren’t sure how to balance the essential healing the characters deserved with the poignancy of the rest of the story and decided the synopsized ending was the best option.  I just know the greatness of the rest of the book was lost in those last few unsatisfying pages.

Erin Watt has been hit or miss for me.  Most of their earlier books are so beautiful, so consuming, I wasn’t able to refrain myself from absorbing every word at an alarming rate. However, their later pieces seem to be missing the magic they’d captured in those first several stories.  I had really thought One Small Thing had recaptured that enchantment, but it didn’t quite make it there.  I only hope to see them return to their roots and deliver more of those captivating stories that won me over, to begin with.

Erin Watt is the brainchild of two bestselling authors linked together through their love of great books and an addiction to writing. They share one creative imagination. Their greatest love (after their families and pets, of course)? Coming up with fun–and sometimes crazy–ideas. Their greatest fear? Breaking up.

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Break by Cassia Leo ~ COVER REVEAL

A humorous and heartbreaking second-chance stand-alone romance from the New York Times bestselling author of the Shattered Hearts Series.

For six years, she was the only one. My best friend. My kitten. My world. Then, I broke us by getting caught in a web of lies.

Hard to believe, after everything we’d been through, I could do what I did to her… in front of 600,000 people.  I doubt she’ll ever believe I did it because I love her.

Three years later, my music career is booming. I have a movie deal in the next comic book reboot. And now the only parent I have left has been given a death sentence. I have to go home, but going home means facing what I did to her.

***   BREAK is available for preorder on all retailers. It will be available for purchase on all retailers for ONE DAY ONLY, July 26, 2018. After July 26th, it will only be available on Amazon. You do not need to have a Kindle Unlimited subscription to purchase BREAK on Amazon.   ***
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New York Times bestselling author Cassia Leo loves her coffee, chocolate, and margaritas with salt. When she’s not writing, she spends way too much time re-watching Game of Thrones and Sex and the City. When she’s not binge-watching, she’s usually enjoying the Oregon rain with a hot cup of coffee and a book.

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The Wright One by KA Linde ~ Sarah A’s Review

A new sexy contemporary romance duet from USA Today bestselling author K.A. Linde…

Secrets swarm all around.
My world is crumbling under the strain.
I don’t know if we can survive this.
My heart is in the Wright place.
But is his?

The Wright One is the last book in the Wright Love Duet that began in The Wright Love. Find out if Sutton and David survive their world of secrets in the conclusion to the Wright Love duet! 

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My heart broke for David at the end of The Wright Love.  Yes, I knew he’d crossed some serious trust boundaries by withholding the bombshell dropped by Penn, but I could understand his reticence to tell anyone the truth of his past.  I loved getting to know more about him throughout the course of The Wright One.

As heartwrenching as Sutton’s story was in the Wright Love, David’s was just as traumatic for completely different reasons.  The light that was shed on his estrangement from his family, how truly alone he was in the world, was something I couldn’t begin to fathom.  He may have made some incredibly poor choices in keeping secrets, but it was all done in the name of protecting his heart.

Sutton, once again, amazed me with her strength.  Of course, she had her moments of weakness – after everything she’d been through she deserved to be allowed to be completely broken sometimes – but she always pulled herself back together and fought.  For herself. For her son. For her family. For David.

Despite many moments of insecurity, The Wright One was a sweet romance story.  Sutton and David had more than a few things to work through, and sometimes those pitfalls seemed like they were too deep to emerge from, but they battled for what they wanted, what they needed.  As they slowly but surely worked on themselves and their relationship, it was wonderful to see their broken pieces start to find a new way to fit together.

The Wright One is the second book in KA Linde’s Wright Love Duet.  These books are both about Sutton and David and can not be read independently of the other.  The Wright Love series is part of the Wright series world, though those books do not need to be read to understand The Wright Love Duet.  The Wright One is written in dual first-person perspective, narrated by Sutton and David.

KA Linde did a phenomenal job of wrapping up this duet.   There was enough conflict to keep it interesting, enough romance to keep me swooning, and enough healing to keep me invested in Sutton and David’s happiness.  I was also impressed with how well she set up stories for some secondary characters, and I can’t wait to see how they play out.


A sexy new contemporary romance duet from USA Today bestselling author K.A. Linde…

I have the perfect life.
Until the day my husband tragically dies.
Being a single mom and widow was never part of the plan.
When David Calloway enters my life, I have no room for love in my heart.
But he’s determined to do right by me.
Could he be the Wright love?

The Wright Love is the first book in the Wright Love Duet, and Sutton and David’s story will conclude in The Wright One—coming May 29th! Get ready for your newest binge read.

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K.A. Linde is the USA Today bestselling author of more than fifteen novels including the Avoiding series and the Record series. She has a Masters degree in political science from the University of Georgia, was the head campaign worker for the 2012 presidential campaign at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and served as the head coach of the Duke University dance team. She loves reading fantasy novels, geeking out over Star Wars, binge-watching Supernatural, and dancing in her spare time.

She currently lives in Lubbock, Texas, with her husband and two super adorable puppies.

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Perfect Love Story by Natasha Madison ~ RELEASE BOOST

When one man’s death exposes a complex web of lies, three couples discover the true meaning of love, loss, and redemption.

Hailey

What do you do when you find out your whole life was a lie?

That your husband really wasn’t your husband but someone else’s.

That the vows you made to each other were simply empty promises.

You pick up and move to the country to start fresh.

When life hands you limes, you make sure you have tequila because your life is about to get stirred up.

Jensen

Married to my high school sweetheart, the best thing she gave me was my baby girl.

But we weren’t enough for her. I wasn’t enough for her.

The last thing I expected on my birthday was a Dear John letter, but that’s what I got when she upped and left.

Now, it’s just me and my girl against the world till the new girl moves in next door.

Is there such a thing as a perfect love story?

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The Love Series is coming.

When one man’s death exposes a complex web of lies, three couples discover the true meaning of love, loss, and redemption.

Three couples, three different stories!

***  PREORDER NOW ~ RELEASES June 5,2018  ***
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 Broken Love Story ~ Cover Reveal June 29, 2018
***  PREORDER NOW ~ Releases July 10, 2018  ***
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When her nose isn’t buried in a book, or her fingers flying across a keyboard writing, she’s in the kitchen creating gourmet meals. You can find her, in four-inch heels no less, in the car chauffeuring kids, or possibly with her husband scheduling his business trips. It’s a good thing her characters do what she says because even her Labrador doesn’t listen to her…

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Crazy, Sexy Love by KL Grayson ~ RELEASE BOOST

Three-time world champion bull rider Rhett Allen has never been afraid to get his hands dirty. Hard work, sweat, and determination have gotten him where he is today—and that’s holed up in a hospital room, wondering how he let that damn bull buck him off. He’s also wondering why he thought it was a good idea to let his twin brother talk him into returning home to heal.

Rhett has a million reasons to come home to Heaven, Texas, and only one reason to stay away. That reason comes in the form of a sweet and feisty girl who stole his heart long before he ever thought to give it away. The only problem…that girl has turned into a stunning woman.

Monroe Gallagher is downright sexy with more curves than he has notches in his bed post. It’s been six years since he’s seen her, six years since he’s felt any form of peace, and six years since she gripped his heart in her delicate little hands and squeezed the life out of it. The longer he’s in Heaven, the more he starts to realize that the heart she took from him—the one she crushed into a million pieces—she also never gave back.

***  SPECIAL RELEASE PRICE: $2.99  ***
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“You getting on the bull?” Linc asks.
I look at Rhett, unsure who his buddy is talking to. I point to myself. “Me?”
“Yeah.” Linc laughs. “Cheryl is pretty easy. She won’t hurt you too bad.”
“Who is Cheryl?”
“The mechanical bull,” Linc answers, pointing to the opposite side of the bar.
Sure enough, there’s a large doorway, leading into another room.
“If you’re getting on, I suggest you do it before you eat your dinner.”
“She’s not getting on,” Rhett says, stealing a bite of my cake.
I had no intention of getting on Cheryl, but the way Rhett brushed it off makes me want to.
“You don’t think I can handle it?”
Rhett’s eyebrows lift. “I didn’t say that.”
“You were thinking it.”
“Uh-oh,” Linc mumbles.
“That’s not what I was thinking.”
“You dismissed the idea awful quickly.”
I smile as Rhett studies me, daring him to tell me I can’t do it.
“Fine.” Dropping his fork on the plate, he leans back in his seat. “Do it.”
“I will.” I take another bite of cheesecake and set Rhett’s fork on the opposite side of the table, where he can’t reach it.
“Hey, I want another bite.”
“Sorry, I don’t share my cake with people who don’t believe in my riding abilities.”
“Oh, I believe in your riding abilities, sweetheart,” he says, his voice dropping low.
My cheeks heat, and Linc shows Rhett a knowing smile.
“Move.” I scoot toward Rhett, shoving him out of the booth.
Linc tosses his napkin on the table. “This is going to be great.”
“Mo, come on,” Rhett chides. “You don’t have to do this. I don’t want you to get hurt, sweetheart.”
I whirl on him. “Well, now maybe you know how I feel. Only when you get on a bull, your life is in danger. Mine, not so much.”
His hand locks on my elbow as I try to walk away. “Okay, point made—although it’s entirely different. You shouldn’t risk getting hurt. You have your dad to take care of. He needs you to come home in one piece.”
“And I need you to come home in one piece. It isn’t just you anymore, Rhett. I’m your who, remember? We’re a we now, and one of these days you’re going to have to accept that. I feel like you’re waiting for me to walk away or do something to mess this up, but that’s not going to happen. I’m in this for the long haul, whether you get back on a bull or not.”
“Wait a minute, I’m lost. She’s your who?” Linc says.
“I’ll explain later,” Rhett mumbles.
I turn around and walk toward the back room. Sure as shit, there’s Cheryl, a big, black mechanical bull sitting in the middle of the room. She’s surround by ropes, and the floor beneath her is covered in mats. Several tables sit off to the side, a few of them occupied.
I march up to the man with the Broken Boot shirt on. “I want to ride Cheryl.”
“You do, huh?”
Rhett and Linc step up behind me, and Rhett reaches around me to shake the guy’s hand.
“Hey, Jimmy.”
“Hey, Rhett. How are ya? How’s the shoulder?”
“It’s good. I’ll be heading back to work soon. Just have to wrap up a few loose ends.”
I’m guessing those loose ends are me.
“This your girl?” Jimmy asks.
“Yeah.” Rhett smiles fondly at me.
“You okay with her getting on Cheryl?”
“Not at all, but I don’t have much of a say.”
“Do we ever? Damn stubborn women do whatever they want,” Jimmy says, nodding toward Cheryl.
“I could say the same about men.” I look up at Rhett, a hand on my jutted hip.
Jimmy lets out a laugh. “I like you, sugar. Follow me.”

K.L. Grayson resides in a small town outside of St. Louis, MO. She is entertained daily by her extraordinary husband, who will forever inspire every good quality she writes in a man. Her entire life rests in the palms of six dirty little hands, and when the day is over and those pint-sized cherubs have been washed and tucked into bed, you can find her typing away furiously on her computer. She has a love for alpha-males, brownies, reading, tattoos, sunglasses, and happy endings…and not particularly in that order.

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SEED by Cassia Leo ~ Blog Tour

The explosive continuation of the Evergreen Series from New York Times bestselling author Cassia Leo.

The seeds of doubt have been planted.

Two to six weeks. That’s how long it takes, on average, to get a divorce in Oregon.

With Jack convinced I betrayed him, I expect to be served divorce papers within hours of moving out. But weeks pass without word from Jack, and the papers never arrive. Though my heart isn’t ready to give up on him, I can’t shake the feeling that we may be better off apart. And Isaac is more than happy to help me move on.

But just as I begin to build some semblance of a life and career, a new and improved Jack arrives on my doorstep. Divorce papers are the furthest thing from his mind as he delivers news that both shatters me and restores my faith in the love we shared. But is it too late for us?

***  SEED is available for the release week special price of $2.99. After release week, it will resume regular price of $3.99.  ***
***  SEED is available in KINDLE UNLIMITED  ***
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A hard-hitting, emotional new series from New York Times bestselling author Cassia Leo.

Jack and I had everything. Then, in one brutal instant, the universe tilted on its side, discarding us into black nothingness.

Now, I have a cocky a**hole for a husband.

The only way we communicate anymore is when we’re fighting or f**king.

With nothing left to lose, I write Jack a goodbye letter and head for Portland, where I quickly meet a neighbor who helps me find a job.

My new neighbor—broody, tattooed ex-soldier Isaac Evans—is complicated. Nevertheless, we form a fast friendship, bonding over our mutual desire to create something beautiful from the wreckage of our lives.

But despite the distance between us, Jack and I are still trying to make things work—fighting and f**king dirtier than ever. And he doesn’t appreciate my new friendship with Isaac. Not one f**king bit.

***  DIRT is available in KINDLE UNLIMITED  ***
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New York Times bestselling author Cassia Leo loves her coffee, chocolate, and margaritas with salt. When she’s not writing, she spends way too much time re-watching Game of Thrones and Sex and the City. When she’s not binge-watching, she’s usually enjoying the Oregon rain with a hot cup of coffee and a book.

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NEW RELEASE ~ Law & Beard by Lani Lynn Vale

Today we have the cover reveal for LAW & BEARD by Lani Lynn Vale! Check it out and grab your copy today!

 

LAW & BEARD

Series: The Dixie Warden Rejects
Author: Lani Lynn Vale
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Day: March 8th

Synopsis

Winnie thinks she has the perfect life.

Two beautiful, healthy children. A police officer husband. A job that she loves. Oh, and let’s not forget that she’s a nationally ranked marathon runner.

Fast forward six months, and her perfect life has imploded.

Winnie finds herself in a completely new world, and this new world is a brutal bitch.

In this new life of hers, her husband is gone. He realizes, at the worst possible time, that he’s no longer in love with her. He’s in love with her best friend. So he leaves, and doesn’t look back.

Her sixteen-year-old daughter is in trouble with the law, and she’s barely making ends meet thanks to losing the job that was keeping her and her tiny family afloat.

Then, the last thing that could make it all bearable, her running, is ripped out from under her, too. Thanks to a spinal stroke that leaves her unable to walk, let alone run, she’s having to relearn how to do the simplest of tasks-such as putting on her own pants.

She’s at the lowest of lows, and the last thing she wants is a sexy, bearded, motorcycle riding alpha to tell her how to live her life.

But Steel Cross never asks her what she wants.

***

The moment Steel Cross sees Winnie’s daughter steal some shoes for her younger brother, he knows he’s in trouble.

He’s a sucker for misunderstood teens. After all, he was once one himself.

He knows he can’t just walk away, and the moment he sees that troubled teen’s mother, he doesn’t just know it, he feels it. Down to the very bottom of his soul.

With his share of hard knocks, he knows that he shouldn’t step in and make his move on a fellow police officer’s ex. There’s a code, after all, yet he just can’t seem to help himself.

He’s done being the good guy. Sometimes he just wants to be bad.

And Winnie makes him realize that being bad is still kind of good. As long as you’re with the right person.

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Excerpt

I’d never, not once, had the pleasure of giving a blow job.

Yet, I wanted to give one…to Steel.

Jesus Christ, did I want to give him one.

The man turned me on in ways that I had no clue I could be turned on by, yet here I was, wondering what it would feel like to give the man a blow job.

My curiosity got the better of me as I googled more tips-which they’d said they’d done as a comparison-and then I got lost in the World Wide Web.

My first stop had been Cosmopolitan!

My second had been some random Joe-Blow (literally, that was the name of the website) blog that gave the men’s top ten best blow job tips-according to men.

1. Maintain eye contact.

2. Tie your hair back, it shows your dedication.

3. Allow him to put his hand in your hair and control the movements.

That, I could do! In fact, the idea of Steel putting his hands in my hair and controlling all of the movement was downright arousing.

4. Use your hand as well as your mouth. Twist it side to side lightly as you pump and suck him.

Okay, pump, suck, and twist. Check!

5. Don’t use your teeth. Ever.

I shivered at the thought. That would suck, accidentally biting Steel’s dick. He’d probably never let me near him again and kick me straight the hell out of his bed. Though, I had to get in his bed first…

6. Drop down so he’s standing and you’re kneeling. There’s nothing more arousing than watching a woman get on her knees.

That thought made me shiver. Would Steel like me on my knees?

I sure the hell hoped so. I’d love to get on my knees for him.

Then again, I was doing good with my rehab…he still might have to help me back up.

I winced. Maybe I should just get on the bed between his splayed thighs…yes, that was how I’d do it.

7. Suck his balls.

Suck his balls? How the hell did I put those in my mouth? There wasn’t enough room!

8. Go slow. It’s not a race.

9. Swallow.

Well, that was self-explanatory. But I didn’t know if I could swallow. I’d try, but what if I gagged?

10. We like it when you gag.

Did they? What if I accidentally threw up? That would completely ruin the mood.

“What are you doing?”

I squeaked and jumped as Steel came out of the bathroom.

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About Lani Lynn Vale

Lani Lynn Vale is a USA Today Bestselling Author of over thirty titles. She is married with three children, two dogs, two cats, a donkey, and a couple (a couple also meaning over twenty) chickens.

When she’s not writing, you can find her curled up in her favorite chair reading.

Lani is married with three children, and lives in the Great State of Texas.

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BLOG TOUR AND REVIEW – City Under Siege by R.J. Prescott

We are thrilled to be sharing with you the release of USA Today bestselling author R.J. Prescott’s CITY UNDER SIEGE. This brand new standalone is perfect for fans of contemporary romance who love a little suspense and a hot British military hero. Be sure to grab your copy today!

 

About CITY UNDER SIEGE

London is a city in flames. Tensions are high and a critical situation is about to go from bad to worse. The Prime Minister wants to send a message, and the SAS will be the ones to deliver it.

Emotional detachment is my specialty. I’m ruthless and cut throat, but there is nobody better.

Sarah Tatem is an innocent. Caught up in a world in which she doesn’t belong, and trying desperately to do the right thing. My job is to keep her safe long enough to get what’s needed, and bring an end to this siege of terror.

But something has changed. I’ve learned that the only thing stronger than loyalty is love, and now she’s gone.

My name is Lieutenant Tom Harper, and I’m about to unleash hell.

Add CITY UNDER SIEGE to your Goodreads shelf here!

 

Grab your copy of CITY UNDER SIEGE today!

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Read an excerpt from CITY UNDER SIEGE

I was practically kneeling in front of the screen as I tried to understand what I was seeing. Men were shouting at one another, though their words were indecipherable.

The person filming darted out from behind a shipping container to take more shots. Everything was happening so fast, the camera moving wildly with the person it was attached to. Finally, I realised it was a body cam by the way it was flailing and jerking all over the place. I had no idea what shipyard they were in, but it made sense that the assault would be there rather than a boat. They would have wanted to take the terrorists after the handover happened, just to be sure.

A soldier came into shot across the way, crouched behind another container, and I guessed he was one of ours. Covered from head to toe, it was impossible to know who it was, but I held my breath anyway. The camera at least became steady as the gunfire slowly ebbed, though focused now on the last of the targets. In the periphery of the screen, the kneeling soldier leant further forward to take a shot when he was yanked sharply backwards in a move that literally saved his life. As the last shot rang out, sounding a death knell to the terrorists who’d been responsible for taking so many innocent civilian lives, the rest of the team seemed to realise what I already knew. The rescuer, the guardian angel who’d ripped his teammate away from the path of certain death, had exposed himself to make the ultimate sacrifice, saving his friend’s life at the expense of his own. Soldiers darted in front of the camera again, and a few more indistinguishable voices called out before the silence. The excruciating, insufferable, tormenting silence, broken only by the clear voice that cut through the darkness like a scythe, ripping a hole through my heart as it did.

“Man down.”

Whitney’s 4.5 Star Review

Sarah and Tom’s story sucked me in right away! Although this book is a departure for R.J. Prescott, it still feels very much like her previous books in terms of writing style. City Under Siege is just edgier, darker, more suspenseful.

With a storyline dealing with London terrorism, it’s nkt always easy to read. But Sarah and Tom’s love story is the focus of the book and these characters are written beautifully.

Sarah has a real spark to her, is emotionally tough and resilient. Tom has a dark side but would go to the ends of the earth for the short list of people he cares about. Their attraction to each other is instant but their relationship is a bit of a slow burn, especially physically. The tension is great and the story flows amazing well.

Fast paced and well balanced with dark and light, this book kept me turning the pages unlike any book I’ve read in quite a while.

I also loved that the author stayed true to her British roots and wrote this book using slang, humor and grammar that is not American. Since the book is set in and around London, it makes the story much more authentic.

If you’re leery of the subject matter, I can understand that but please give this book a chance when you think you can. The story has a lot of hope, beautiful love, and a more than satisfying ending. It also wouldn’t hurt my heart to see a spin-off or two about the side characters. There’s a whole cast of fun and sexy guys besides Tom.

 

About R.J. PRESCOTT

USA Today bestselling author R.J. Prescott was born in Cardiff, South Wales, and studied law at the University of Bristol, England. Four weeks before graduation she fell in love, and stayed. Ten years later, she convinced her crazy, wonderful firefighter husband to move back to Cardiff where they now live with their two equally crazy sons. Her debut novel The Hurricane was an international bestseller and finalist in the Goodreads Awards in the category of debut author.

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