Monday, April 30, 2018

Monday Book Review: Arresting Mason, by Amber Daulton

Arresting Mason, by Amber Daulton
Published by The Wild Rose Press, April 2018

About the Book:
Once you’re in a prison gang, you’re in it for life. That’s what Mason Harding thought until the boss accepted his resignation. After the State releases him on parole, a sexy divorcĂ©e behind the wheel of a car almost ends his life quicker than a shank. His chance encounter with Mia Eddison results in a night of passion, but her brother—his parole officer—catches them together and doesn’t approve.
Mia falls hard for the cocky ex-con, but not because of his chiseled body. She vows to break through his walls and discover his secrets, but never expects those secrets to threaten her life. 
When members of an organized crime ring kidnap Mia to force Mason’s return to the gang, he goes up against an old friend to save the woman he loves. Will his sacrifice be enough or will everything fall apart in a blaze of gunfire?
My Take:

In Amber Daulton's latest novel, she gives us an unlikely hero, recently released from a long stint in prison and looking for redemption. In an even more unlikely cute-meet, the heroine hits him with her car on the very first page of the story. This is a blue-collar love story, with not a billionaire in sight. A second chance love story where both of the main characters want a do-over with their lives, and hope to find it with each other, no matter what twists are thrown their way.

Mason Harding isn't hurt when Mia Eddison's car nails him in the crosswalk. Actually, he ends up consoling her after her full-on panic attack when she flashes back to the car accident that killed both her parents a few years prior. The pair flirt and phone numbers are exchanged, but even through their first date, very little actual information is shared. Well, Mason shares very little - Mia actually puts it all out there about her divorce and her family, and then invites him to come home with her after their pizza dinner date. The ensuing make-out scenes are steamy, but before they get out the condoms, Mason decides he has to tell her he's out on parole after spending ten years in prison.

"Prison?" She stepped away from him. "For what?"

"Attempted murder."

The End.

No, not really. I mean, if that was me? Yeah, I'd have said goodbye pretty quickly and felt betrayed that things had gotten so far along without that kind of Big Secret being shared. I don't think I would've continued the evening with mind-blowing sex and multiple orgasms. Mia is a lot more forgiving than I would be in a similar situation, especially with all the complicated backstory that Mason shares.

But he doesn't tell her the whole story.

Because as the reader already knows from the blurb, Mason was in a gang while in prison. He tries to keep that part of his life a secret for as long as possible. With good reason, as it turns out.

The relationship has more twists and turns than Space Mountain at Disney World, with each revelation a shock to Mia that she needs to overcome or accommodate. The past gang affiliations keep coming back to haunt Mason in new and different ways, finally culminating with the kidnapping alluded to in the book blurb. Can an ex-gang member ever get all the way out and live a normal life? Can an ex-con ever catch a break from the system?

The point of view switches between Mason and Mia, and Mason's way of thinking and looking at the world is pretty crude, which makes sense after ten years in a state penitentiary, so be warned that there are a lot of curse words and degrading of women in general throughout this story. If you like your alphas with a hardcore rough edge, try Arresting Mason.

Buy a copy on AMAZON.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Friday Feature: EXCERPT from Breaking the Rules

About the Book:
Jake Campbell hates rules. Undercover to stop a drug ring at a posh Cape Cod resort, he can’t resist the fiery head chef, Abbie Duncan. She may be on the suspect list, but he can’t keep his hands to himself. With a rising body count, he must keep Abbie safe…but can he trust her with his jaded heart?


Jake’s hands rubbed up and down her arms but her shivering continued. He wrapped his arms around her, pressing his hands to her back, breathing in her scent, holding her while she trembled. Long minutes passed as the sun climbed higher, but Jake barely noticed. The fact that time stood still whenever he was near her had no relevance to anything. Yeah, he could keep telling himself that as long as he wanted, but a tiny little voice in his head kept up that persistent whispering, This one. Choose this one.

Finally, the trembling subsided and Abbie’s breathing slowed to match his own.

The awareness between them grew, an electricity passing between their bodies in every spot where they were connected. She tried to pull away, her wide eyes meeting his and displaying both confusion and an underlying need. A need that seemed to match his own. “I’m a mess this morning, sorry.”

“Hey.” He cupped her face, stroking the pads of his thumbs along her soft cheeks until she reluctantly met his stare. “It’s not your fault, Abbie. Stop blaming yourself.” More tears shimmered, making her eyes look impossibly large, like deep green pools. His gaze shifted lower, to where her bottom lip quivered. Unable to stop himself, he dipped his head and pressed his lips softly to hers, just to stop that last tremble, tasting the salt of her tears mingled with the coffee on her breath. Soft and sweet, her mouth yielded to his eagerly.

The kiss was gentle, her cheeks cradled between his hands as he slowly laid claim. Her arms snaked around his waist as her hips pressed tighter against his, pulling him closer as the kiss deepened, her tongue swirling with his, the intensity spiraling. His hands slid up into her still-damp hair. An image of her in the shower jumped to the front of his mind like one of his erotic dreams in real time.

Abbie pulled her mouth from his, panting for breath, her face flushed. “Jake, we can’t do this.”

“Do what?” He recaptured her lips, not ready to stop, not ready to admit to himself that he shouldn’t be kissing her, shouldn’t be crossing this line for so many reasons he couldn’t even name them all. So sweet, so giving, as if she’d dreamed about this moment as much as he had. Her soft moan sent his heart racing, feeling like he’d gone over the edge of a waterfall with no way to escape the battering rocks below.

When she pulled away again, his lips found her earlobe, nipping, tracing the outer edge with his tongue and feeling her tremble in his arms as she spoke. “Jake, there are rules.” Her eyes were closed, her neck bent to give him better access to that spot on the edge of her jaw, just below her ear.
“I know all about rules,” he whispered, wound so tight he might explode. “Sometimes they’re meant
to be broken.” 

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ 
Grab a copy on AMAZON

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Writing Wednesday: The Not so Artful Cover Art Dilemma

Cover art.

You have to have it. It's not like you can publish a book without a cover, right?

When you sign with a publisher, you cede some of your creative control. You get a "say" in the cover, but not final say.

When you self-publish, you theoretically get final say, but how can you know if the cover you're paying for is unique or special... or merely "borrowed" from elsewhere. Yes, a lot of cover art websites charge extra for "unique" or one-off covers, but what's to stop them from selling it again? Or manipulating the art to resell as "unique" a second, or third, time. After all, many of these artists use clip art or buy photographs from online sources.

How do you know what you're getting?

Case in point. My original cover for my second mermaid book, which I thought was unique and which came from my (then) YA publisher:
The original cover art had no arms on the mermaid - and now I know why. Soon after signing with my new romance publisher, I saw this come out for a fellow author:
Not the same, but similar enough that the part I thought most unique - the dress dissolving into a wave - was identical.

Sometimes the similarities are a lot more in your face. More recently, I read this YA book, set in NYC:
...And earlier this month I saw this 2016 book (and cover) on Book Bub and purchased it...

I've also seen a cover with the same foreground and trees instead of buildings in the background.

Limited number of good photos out there? Or limited imagination?

What's your take?

In the meantime, Happy Writing to all!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Monday Book Review: The MacKinnon's Bride, by Tanya Anne Crosby

The MacKinnon's Bride (The Highland Brides, Book 1) by Tanya Anne Crosby
Published December 2017, 3rd edition, by Oliver-Heber Books

About the Book:

From a New York Times Bestselling Author, The MacKinnon's Bride brings us love, honor, suspense, passion--all the good things we love in a Highlander Romance.
When laird Iain MacKinnon's young son is captured by the English, the fierce Scottish chieftain retaliates in kind, capturing the daughter of his enemy to bargain for his boy's return. Fiercely loyal to kin, Iain never imagines a father can deny his child--or that he will become Page FitzSimon's savior. "Keep her, or kill her!" FitzSimon proclaims when Iain forces his hand. What can a good lad do, but take the lass home. Even as Page blames her reluctant champion for welching on a bargain with her father, she suspects the truth... the shadows hold secrets... and danger. Now only love can save MacKinnon's fiery new bride.
My Take:

It might be that I'm jonesing for the next season of Highlander to return to my television screen, but I thoroughly enjoyed this Scottish Highlands tale of romance and adventure, including the phonetic brogue and all.

The romance between Iain and Page starts as a kidnapping, the Scottish clan hoping to ransom Iain's small boy away from his English captors. Things don't work out the way they'd anticipated, as the English lord doesn't love his daughter like a father should. It may sound far fetched, but it works wonderfully in the context of the  story and the heat of the moment.

Okay, maybe that particular moment wasn't "heated" in the way romance readers prefer, but trust me. This story has plenty of heat.

Page FitzSimon is strong-willed and independent, as well as utterly rebellious, unusual traits for an English highborn maid of the  period. But it makes perfect sense in context, as her father has dissed her for her entire life and treated her as a servant rather than a daughter. She's a great character, and her inner journey is wonderful to follow as she learns to trust the men around her, and her own feelings. I'll admit that she had a lot more depth than the hero did, as he was a lot more of a stereotypical alpha male Highlander - which, okay, is pretty hot all by itself. But he was also kind and caring and great with his son, and very respectful of Page's feelings and situation. Trust me, it all works well and I flew through this book in way less than a day, albeit a rainy, windy day where I was pretty much housebound anyway, but the pages practically turned themselves.

Oh, and this is the first book of a 6 book series (!) if that helps you make up your mind....

Totally recommend. Grab a copy on AMAZON

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Please forgive my absence....

I know I've been missing in action for several posts now, with no explanation. I thought I'd post one, and then start moving on, back to my routine next week.

As per usual, life got in the way. (If you have to let things go to focus, blogging is usually at the top of the "ignore it" list, am I right?)   My mother-in-law underwent major surgery this week, and so far so good, she seems to be recovering well. My sister-in-law has been wonderful in the hands-on decision making as well as keeping everyone in the loop. My husband has been a bit of a wreck, but trying to hold it together. I'm focused on helping any way I can.

I'm taking a little time this morning to clean up my half-finished posts and reschedule them for next week and beyond. Thanks for your understanding.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Monday Book Review: Can't Stand the Heat, by Peggy Jaeger

Can't Stand the Heat (Will Cook for Love, Book 3) by Peggy Jaeger
Published April 2018 by Lyrical Shine, a division of Kensington Publishing

About the Book:
In Peggy Jaeger’s delectable series, delicious food is just an appetizer for life’s main course: the kind of love that feeds your soul.

With three successful TV series under her belt, including her cousin Kandy’s, executive producer Stacy Peters is ready to helm her own show. But to make that happen, she has to do her network boss one favor first—spend two months on a ranch in Montana wrangling the notoriously difficult director of Beef Battles. Apparently, he eats producers for breakfast. Yet all Stacy can think when she meets the lean, rugged man is how hungry he makes her . . .

Dominic Stamp—Nikko to his very few friends—has had enough interference from TV newbies. And when Stacy climbs out of the car in Montana, he’s not convinced she’s even old enough to drive, much less produce his show. But he can’t deny that the long-legged blonde with the stubborn will and the dazzling smile whets his appetite. And as Stacy proves her talent with the crew and the budget alike, Nikko vows to prove to her that love is on the menu for both of them . . .
My Take:

Peggy Jaeger delivers once again, with a captivating contemporary romance full of slow burn chemistry that sizzles off the page. If you haven't read one of Ms. Jaeger's books yet, you're in for a treat! If you're already a fan, Can't Stand the Heat will not disappoint.

First though, can I complain a little about the cover art?

I may be overly picky, but Kensington is a big name publisher, right? I'd like to think that the cover artists try to reflect the characters in the actual story. The blonde on this cover kind of resembles the Stacy in my imagination (except, of course, you can see her forearm, which she Always wears long sleeves, for reasons we discover halfway through the story, so bit of incongruity there.) But the guy? No way. He's not Nikko. First of all, he's supposed to tower over Stacy, not be the same height. And second? He's too young.

Okay, rant over. Back to the good stuff - the story. The characters. The lyrical way Ms. Jaeger writes, describing emotions and inner turmoil so precisely that the reader feels it swirling through themselves as well as the characters.

The story takes place in Montana during the hottest part of the summer, where a seasoned television crew has taken over a cattle ranch to film a reality television show titled Beef Battles. The director is a notoriously hotheaded perfectionist who's already fired two executive producers and is already overbudget. The network executives make a deal with Stacy Peters to rein it all in and make it work. She's a young but seasoned food network EP who's already made a name for herself as a miracle worker with fast-paced and/or troubled productions. If she can work her magic with Beef Battles, the network has promised creative control over a show of her own.

Nikko Stamp is an unrepentant perfectionist with control issues dialed to the max, and no time to waste with "babysitters" sent by the network to slow him down or question his vision. He and Stacy get off to quite the rocky start, but she surprises him at every turn by staying calm, cool, and professional, despite his angry outbursts, despite the diva judges, and despite the near constant 100 degree heat of a Montana July. On top of that, the woman pushes buttons he thought had long ago died, making him want things he thinks he doesn't deserve or have time for.

On top of the issues with the show, Nikko's troubled teenage daughter is staying with him on set. It's been two years since her mother died in a car accident where Nikko was driving and also badly injured. It was almost too late when Nikko realized she'd developed an eating disorder as a coping mechanism for the uncertainty and upheaval in her life, and now can't let her out of his sight.

The story has many layers, each so interesting and woven together with the rest like a multi-hued tapestry. I could have happily read a longer version of this book, where more scenes were played out between the minor characters and other storylines pursued more fully. The behind-the-scenes views of the reality cooking show were so much fun, especially where my son and I watch so many of them on cable already. But this isn't just a "reality television" romance. I've read several of those in the past. This one is more.

The main focus of this story is the relationship between Stacy and Nikko. How two broken people with pain and secrets can learn to trust one another, both in a professional capacity as well as personal. How a people-pleaser and an angry hothead can come together to create chemistry that sizzles off the page. How love can heal, if you give it a chance.

Totally recommend this book and this entire series. Grab a copy now on AMAZON

Friday, April 6, 2018

Friday Feature: #Excerpt from CAN'T STAND THE HEAT, #new from Peggy Jaeger

In Peggy Jaeger’s delectable series, delicious food is just an appetizer for life’s main course: the kind of love that feeds your soul. 
With three successful TV series under her belt, including her cousin Kandy’s, executive producer Stacy Peters is ready to helm her own show. But to make that happen, she has to do her network boss one favor first—spend two months on a ranch in Montana wrangling the notoriously difficult director of Beef Battles. Apparently, he eats producers for breakfast. Yet all Stacy can think when she meets the lean, rugged man is how hungry he makes her . . .
Dominic Stamp—Nikko to his very few friends—has had enough interference from TV newbies. And when Stacy climbs out of the car in Montana, he’s not convinced she’s even old enough to drive, much less produce his show. But he can’t deny that the long-legged blonde with the stubborn will and the dazzling smile whets his appetite. And as Stacy proves her talent with the crew and the budget alike, Nikko vows to prove to her that love is on the menu for both of them . . .
Look for exclusive recipes in each book!  


When Dan Roth caught her eye and grinned widely behind his costar’s back, Stacy lowered her head and bit down on the inside of her lip. If she hadn’t been looking down she would have noticed Nikko stop. But she hadn’t been looking where she was going and, subsequently, barreled right into him.
She would have ricocheted back and fallen from connecting with the solid wall of his chest as she hit if he hadn’t thrust his hands forward and grabbed her upper arms to prevent it.
Like a blast from a stun gun—quick, sharp and penetrating—she felt the heat of his touch burn through her blouse and sear straight through her skin.
Numbed, she dropped her tablet, her hands incapable of holding onto it. They splayed, open palmed, and sought purchase by grasping his elbows and clutching.
“Steady,” he commanded.
Stacy felt anything but. Words wouldn’t form correctly in her mind. All logical, rational thought had flown the moment the warmth of his hands seeped through the fabric of her blouse. It was as if she’d walked into an oven, the temperature set to broil.
His long fingers squeezed once, twice, then tugged her in closer.
 Stacy couldn’t decide which was more intense: the heat in his eyes or the natural warmth radiating from his body.
“I’m—I’m sorry. I didn’t…I wasn’t…I—Sorry.” She tried to pull from his grasp, but he wouldn’t let go.
As earlier when she’d caught him staring at her, she once again felt the mesmerizing pull of his gaze and was powerless to look away.
And for some inexplicable reason found she didn’t want to.
The little shards of amber floating among the cognac color of his irises were lighter and brighter than she remembered. They looked like a wolf’s eyes, and, just like a wolf, their stare was predatory, alpha, and hypnotic.
 “Nikko? We’re all set to start up again,” Todd called from the doorway of the production trailer.
Without looking away from her, he called back, “Be right in.” He still hadn’t let go of her arms.
From deep down, as deep as she could reach, Stacy grappled for calm. She watched him watch her while she took a solid, full breath in, then relaxed it out.
“I’m sorry,” she said when she trusted her voice wouldn’t betray her again. “I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going.”
She shifted back, away from him, but he kept his hands around her.
This close she could read the exhaustion floating in his eyes and his determination to ignore it.
This close she could see the fine, subtle lines fanning out from the corners of his eyes as he narrowed them at her.
This close she could reach out and smooth the corrugations grooving down from his mouth to his rock solid jaw. That she wanted to do just that, to offer him any comfort she could, to soothe the pain he tried so valiantly to keep hidden, stunned her beyond all thought.
Nikko Stamp was not a man who would ever tolerate being comforted or coddled.
Why, then, did she think it was exactly what he needed?