Posted in Blog Tour

The Orphan of cemetery Hill by Hester Fox **Book Review** @harlequinbooks @harperaudio

Happy Monday all!

Are you looking for the perfect book to kick off your fall reading? Then look no further this is the perfect autumn read with all the haunting vibes.👻

My Thoughts

Haunting and atmospheric. Chilling and magical. Beautiful and dark. Hester Fox is a master when it comes to telling gothic historical stories with a touch of the paranormal. Her books are the perfect way to kick off your fall reading, her tales are the perfect blend of all things spooky. Mid 1800s Boston, tabby and her sister Alice escape to the city, away from their aunt and uncle. Unfortunately the sisters are quickly separated and tabby finds herself in a cemetery where she is taken in by the caretaker Eli. The story then jumps forward 12 years and Tabby is still living in the cemetery. Helping Eli with his caretaking duties. This is where she runs into the handsome Caleb, there is a connection the problem is Caleb is engaged. But he cannot seem to stay away especially after his fathers body has been stolen from the cemetery. A string of grave robberies bring Caleb and Tabby even closer together. Strange I know, but what I failed to mention is tabby can speak to the dead.

What I love about Hester Fox’s stories is the paranormal element is very understated. Tabby was a great character I admired her strength and intelligence. I admired her desire to help whenever she could, both the living and the dead. Caleb was a true gentleman perhaps a bit too chivalrous by today’s standards. The mystery to the story was fascinating. What these grave robbers wanted from these bodies was interesting. The audiobook was narrated by lauren Ezzo. Lauren narrates all of Hester’s books and they are the perfect Gothic partnership. Lauren’s voice lends perfectly to the haunting vibe of the story.

This book in emojis. 👻 🌫 ⚰️ 🧿

*** Big thank you to Harlequin & Harper Audio for my gifted copy of this book. All opinions are my own. ***

About the Book

The dead won’t bother you if you don’t give them permission. 

Boston, 1844. 

Tabby has a peculiar gift: She can communicate with the recently departed. It makes her special, but it also makes her dangerous. 

As an orphaned child, she fled with her sister, Alice, from their charlatan aunt Bellefonte, who wanted only to exploit Tabby’s gift so she could profit from the recent craze for seances. 

Now a young woman and tragically separated from Alice, Tabby works with her adopted father, Eli, the kind caretaker of a large Boston cemetery. When a series of macabre grave robberies begins to plague the city, Tabby is ensnared in a deadly plot by the perpetrators, known only as the “Resurrection Men”.

In the end, Tabby’s gift will either save both her and the cemetery – or bring about her own destruction.

Excerpt

1

IN WHICH WE MEET OUR YOUNG HEROINE.

Boston, 1844

Tabby’s legs ached and the wind had long since snatched her flimsy bonnet away, but she kept running through the night, her thin leather shoes pounding the cobbled Boston streets. She didn’t know where she was going, only that she had to get somewhere safe, somewhere away from the bustling theaters and crowds of the city. Every time someone shouted at her to watch where she was going, or ask if she was lost, she was sure that they were one of her aunt and uncle’s friends. Would they drag her kicking and screaming back to Amherst? Tabby shuddered. She wouldn’t go back. She couldn’t. 

Her weary feet carried her up a hill lined with narrow houses, and gradually she left behind the streets choked with theatergoers and artificially brightened with gas lamps. After cresting the hill, she paused just long enough to catch her breath and survey her unfamiliar surroundings. 

It was quieter here, the only sounds the groaning of ships in the harbor and the distant call of a fruit hawker trying to sell off the last of the day’s soft apples. Going back down into the heart of the city wasn’t an option, yet a wrought-iron gate blocked her way any farther, forbidding pikes piercing the night sky. Pale headstones glowed faintly in the moonlight beyond the gate. A cemetery. 

Tabby stood teetering, her heart still pounding. Dry weeds rustled in the thin night breeze, whispering what might have been a welcome, or a warning. Behind her was the land of the living with house windows glowing smugly yellow, the promise of families tucked safe inside. In front of her lay the land of the dead. One of those worlds was as familiar to her as the back of her hand, the other was only a distant fairy tale. Taking a deep breath, she shimmied through the gap in the gate. 

She waded through the overgrown grass and weeds, thorny branches snagging at her thin dimity dress and scratching her. Panic gripped her as she heard the hem tear clean away; what would Aunt Bellefonte say if she found that Tabby had ruined her only frock? Would she smack her across her cheek? Would Uncle lock her in the little cupboard in the eaves? Aunt Bellefonte isn’t here. You’re safe, she reminded herself. As she pulled away to free herself, her foot caught in a tangle of roots in a sunken grave bed and she went sprawling into the dirt. Her lip wobbled and tears threatened to overflow. She was almost twelve years old, yet she felt as small and adrift as the day she’d learned that her parents had perished in a carriage accident and would never step through the front door again.

 This wasn’t how her first day of freedom was supposed to be. Her sister, Alice, had planned their escape from Amherst last week, promising Tabby that they would get a little room in a boarding house in the city. Alice would get a job at a laundry and Tabby would take in mending to contribute to their room and board. They would be their own little family, and they would put behind them the trauma that their aunt and uncle had wrought, making a new life for themselves. That had been the plan, anyway. 

When she and Alice had arrived in the city earlier that day, her older sister had sat her down on the steps of a church and told her to wait while she went and inquired about lodgings. Tabby had dutifully waited for what had felt like hours, but Alice never returned. The September evening had turned dark and cold, and Tabby had resolved to simply wrap her shawl tighter and wait. But then a man with red-rimmed eyes and a foul-smelling old coat had stumbled up the steps, heading right toward her. Tabby had taken one look at him and bolted, sure that he had dark designs on her. She had soon become lost and, in a city jumbled with old churches, hadn’t been able to find the right one again. 

Another thorn snagged her, pricking her finger and drawing blood. She should have taken shelter in the church; at least then she would have a roof over her head. At least then Alice would know where to find her when she came back. If she came back. 

Tabby stopped short. Toward the back of the cemetery, amongst the crooked graves of Revolutionary heroes, stood a row of crypts built into the earth. Most of them were sealed up with iron doors and bolts, but one had a gate that stood just enough ajar for a small, malnourished girl to wriggle through. 

Holding her breath against the damp musk, Tabby plunged inside. Without any sort of light, she had to painstakingly feel her way down the crude stone steps. Lower into the earth she descended until she reached the burial chamber.

 Don’t invite them in. As she groped around in the dark for a resting place, Tabby tried to remember what her mother had always told her. Memories of her mother were few and far between, but her words concerning Tabby’s ability remained as sharp in her mind as words etched with a diamond upon glass. The dead won’t bother you if you don’t give them permission, if you don’t make yourself a willing receptacle for their messages. At least, that was how it was supposed to work. 

The only other thing she had learned regarding her gift was that she should never, ever tell anyone of it, and the lesson had been a hard one. She couldn’t have been more than six, because her parents had still been alive and had sent her out to the orchard to collect the fallen apples for cider. Their neighbor, little Beth Bunn, had been there, picking wild asters, but she hadn’t been alone; there was a little boy Tabby had never seen before, watching the girls with serious eyes from a branch in an apple tree. Tabby had asked Beth who he was, but Beth insisted she didn’t know what Tabby was talking about. Certain that Beth was playing some sort of trick on her, Tabby grew upset and nearly started crying as she described the little boy with blond hair and big green eyes. “Oh,” Beth said, looking at her askance. “Do you mean to say you see Ollie Pickett? He used to live here, but he’s been dead for three years.” That was how Tabby learned that not everyone saw the people she saw around her. A week later she had been playing in the churchyard and noticed that all the other children were clustered at the far end, whispering and pointing at her. “Curious Tabby,” they had called her. And that was how Tabby learned that she could never tell a soul about her strange and frightening ability. 

But even in a place so filled with death, the dead did not bother Tabby that night. With a dirt floor for her bed and the skittering of insects for her lullaby, Tabby pulled her knees up to her chest and allowed the tears she’d held in all day to finally pour out. She was lost, scared, and without her sister, utterly alone in the world.

Excerpted from The Orphan of Cemetery Hill by Hester Fox Copyright © Tess Fedore. Published by Graydon House Books.

Posted in Blog Tour

THESE VENGEFUL HEARTS by Katherine Laurin **Book Review** @inkyardpress @harlequinbooks

Happy Wednesday all!

If you liked the movie MEAN GIRLS, then you will like this book!♥️

My Thoughts

A fun quick read. An entertaining story with a Mean Girls vibe. Ember is a smart, successful, well rounded, sophomore on a mission. She is determined to become part of the Red Court, A secret society of girls at her high school who pulled the strings and rule the school. Want to insure your girlfriend is going to be homecoming queen? Or that cute boy you have a crush on finally breaks up with his girlfriend? The Red Court can make it happen. BUT be careful once they help you out you owe them. Ember’s hope is to infiltrate the court and bring it down, this is all about revenge. Several years ago when her older sister April was at the school she was involved in an accident caused by the mysterious and powerful RED COURT.

This was an engaging story, however I would not classify it as a thriller. Ember was a very likable character and even though she got a little caught up in the power she never got too crazy. I also really liked her BFF Gideon and her crush Chase. The story was slightly predictable and I wasn’t riveted, but it was an enjoyable read. I think this would be the perfect story for someone in middle school or just about to start high school. The story gives you a lot to think about and it’s pretty rated G. Ember is a good person who gets caught up in a bad situation, and the use of the playing cards in the story was fun.

This book in emojis ♥️ 📸 🗳 🎨 🏃🏻‍♀️ ☕️

*** Big thank you to Ink Yard Press/Harlequin for my gifted copy of this book. All opinions are my own. ***

About the Book

A thrilling novel about a secret society and the dangers that lie in wait for anyone brave enough to join – perfect for fans of Karen M. McManus, Kara Thomas, and Maureen Johnson.

Whenever something scandalous happens at Heller High, the Red Court is the name on everyone’s lips. Its members deal out social ruin and favors in equal measure, their true identities known only by their leader: the Queen of Hearts.

Ember Williams has seen firsthand the damage the Red Court can do. Now, she’s determined to hold the organization accountable by taking it down from the inside. But will the cost of revenge be more than she’s willing to sacrifice?


Posted in Blog Tour

The Friendship List by Susan Mallery **book Review** @harlequinbooks @harperaudio

Happy Sunday all!

This was such a fun uplifting heartwarming book with the perfect dose of friendship and romance!💕

My Thoughts

An engaging story with the perfect balance of friendship and romance, whimsy and charm, Smiles and sobs. Susan Mallery is a masterful storyteller who always manages to brighten my day. Ellen and Unity have been best friends since they were very young. Ellen is a single mom to a teenage son and has not been out on a date since she got pregnant at 17. Unity lost her husband three years ago and still has not been able to remove his clothing from the closet. When Ellen overhears her son telling a friend he’s not sure he can go off to college because his mom needs him, she knows it’s time to make a change. Unity is on board to help her friend, but of course she doesn’t need to change it’s perfectly normal to spend most of her time socializing with people over twice her age, right? The friends create a list of things to do that will prove that they are more than happy that includes things like: wear a bikini on the beach, get a tattoo, skydive, rock climb, have sex, wear clothes that fit, join the local swim club… At first Ellen and unity are hesitant, only willing to change for others. BUT as they start to venture out of their comfort zones they begin to realize the change is more about them than anyone else.

This book surprised me a bit *in a good way* I wasn’t expecting it to be so romance heavy and steamy. Loved both love stories and the men involved. I also really appreciated that we got the perspectives of not only Ellen and Unity but also Keith and Thaddeus, their love interestss. I do have to admit I enjoyed Ellen and Keith’s story a little bit more. As a single mom I found it more relatable. I also really liked their kids Cooper and Lisa, and the college tour road trip. Unity was harder to connect with, but I really like how her story unfolded. The audiobook was narrated by Tanya Eby Who is one of the absolute best. She did a remarkable job with giving each of these characters their own unique voice and personality. A lovely feel good story!

This book in emojis 💫 👙 🛠 ✏️ 🚌 🏖 🧗‍♀️

*** Big thank you to HQN and Harper Audio for my gifted copy of this book. All opinions are my own. ***

About the Book

[ ] Dance till dawn
[ ] Go skydiving
[ ] Wear a bikini in public
[ ] Start livingTwo best friends jump-start their lives in a summer that will change them forever…
Single mom Ellen Fox couldn’t be more content—until she overhears her son saying he can’t go to his dream college because she needs him too much. If she wants him to live his best life, she has to convince him she’s living hers.So Unity Leandre, her best friend since forever, creates a list of challenges to push Ellen out of her comfort zone. Unity will complete the list, too, but not because she needs to change. What’s wrong with a thirtysomething widow still sleeping in her late husband’s childhood bed?The Friendship List begins as a way to make others believe they’re just fine. But somewhere between “wear three-inch heels” and “have sex with a gorgeous guy,” Ellen and Unity discover that life is meant to be lived with joy and abandon, in a story filled with humor, heartache and regrettable tattoos.

Author Q&A

Q&A with Susan Mallery

Q: Where did the inspiration for The Friendship List’s plot come from?

A: The inspiration for The Friendship List came from a reader—but I don’t think it’s exactly the story the reader was asking for. A couple years ago, a reader suggested I write a story about empty nesters, a couple whose children had grown up and were moving out. I considered the idea, but it didn’t immediately sing for me.

Then, while washing dishes—which is when I often get ideas—I thought to myself, “What if it isn’t a couple, but a single mom? And what if she had her baby really young, like in high school? She would be in her midthirties when her kid went to college. What would that be like?”

That’s the spark that led to Ellen, a single mom who had her son when she was a senior in high school. Since then, she has put his needs first, always, to the point where she hasn’t dated really at all in her adult life. When her son was little, she worked her butt off to raise him and go to college to become a math teacher.

The story starts as Ellen overhears her son telling a friend he can’t go away to college because his mom doesn’t have a life without him. They’re a team, and she needs him. Ellen is horrified that she’s holding him back, and she knows she has to do something drastic to convince him that it’s safe for him to follow his dreams.

Unity, Ellen’s best friend for as long as they both can remember, is a young widow, still mourning the death of her husband three years ago. She’s stuck in her grief, and reluctant to change that because getting over her grief might mean really letting go of the love of her life forever. But for Ellen’s sake, Unity comes up with the friendship list—a series of challenges designed to shake up their lives.

One way or another, this will be a summer that will change them forever. The Friendship List is a celebration of friendship. I know authors aren’t supposed to have favorite books, but I have to admit, this is one of my favorite things that I’ve ever written—certainly the funniest. Every day, I couldn’t wait to get to my desk, excited to write that day’s fun scene. It was pure joy from page 1 to The End, and I hope you’ll love it, too.

 

Q: Who is your favorite character in this novel and why?

A: I love both of the friends, but Ellen probably squeaks out a narrow win over Unity simply because her journey was so much fun. Think about it—she had her kid when she was seventeen years old, and from that moment on, her life revolved around him so she missed out on the things most people experience in their twenties. Dating, parties, bar-hopping. She was home studying and taking care of her kid.

And in fact, he’s the impetus for her to change, as well, because she  sees  that what’s best for him now is for her to let go, to get a life of her own. When she realizes all that she’s been missing, she dives in with her whole heart and body, with such enthusiasm that she had me laughing every day. Suddenly she wants to try everything all at once. Love, love, love, love her.

 

Q: Of the challenges in the book, which was the most fun to write about? Why?

A: Oh, that’s a tough one! I don’t know if I want to tell you my favorite-favorite because it might be too much of a spoiler. So instead, I’ll tell you one of my other favorites, which is more of a teaser than a spoiler. 😊 One of Ellen’s challenges is to wear clothes that fit, instead of her normal habit of wearing clothes that are at least three sizes too large for her. Baggy is her comfort zone. The first time she wears an outfit that shows the shape of her body, her pal Keith can’t help looking at her in a whole new way. Here’s a clip:

 

He stared at her in confusion. Something was different with Ellen, he thought, trying to figure out what it was.

 

He cataloged her appearance. Her long hair was pulled back in a ponytail, just like always. She had on makeup maybe, which was a surprise, but made her eyes looked bluer than usual. As for what she was wearing, it was just some shirt thing and pants that stopped just below her knee. Nothing out of the ordinary except—

 

He swore silently. The clothes fit. For once they weren’t swirling around her, the extra fabric concealing every part of her body. He could see the shape of her waist and her hips, the outline of her thighs. And breasts. Ellen had breasts!

 

He realized he was staring and forced his gaze away. Of course she had breasts. Women had breasts. Ellen’s were no big deal. Only he’d never noticed them before and he didn’t want to see them now.

 

Q: What is your idea of a good personal challenge for yourself?

A: The challenges in The Friendship List are meant to push the women out of their comfort zone and be a little intimidating for them, so my personal challenge will have to do the same. Hmm… Oh! How about a plunging V neckline? Cleavage makes me really self-conscious, but I admire women who can proudly show off their curves.

I’m nervous just thinking about it!

 

Q: Do your characters tell you their stories a bit at a time or all at once? Do they ever pull you in unexpected directions changing up the plot you originally planned?

A: Yes, yes, and yes. It depends on the story. Very rarely, a story will come to me fully formed. Daughters of the Bride was like that. A gift book. That almost never happens. Usually, I get a spark of an idea. I write up some notes, then set it aside. If I’m still thinking about it, I know it has potential. I get a lot of ideas that never go anywhere. They might make fine stories for someone else, but if they’re not tugging at me, I let them go.

I’m on the extreme-plotter end of the plotter/pantser spectrum. (For those who don’t know, a plotter is a writer who plots the story in advance. A pantser is a writer who flies by the seat of her pants, without knowing where the story is going.) I generally work out story problems during my plotting process, which makes me feel free to relax and sink into the story while I’m writing.

When I get into the flow of a book, the characters do take over and sometimes they do surprise me. When they take me in a direction I didn’t expect, I have to step back to look at the big picture to adjust. I never try to force a character to do something that doesn’t feel right for him or her. Every decision must be motivated.

In The Friendship List, Unity threw me for a loop early on. I knew she was still in love with her late husband, but until I wrote a particular scene, I didn’t realize just how broken she still was. I did have to make some very serious adjustments to her road to a happy ending. And in the end, as I brought her out of that darkness, I cried. So satisfying!

 

Q: Do you have pets? How do the animals you have now or have had in the past influence writing animals into your stories?

A: Yes, I have three pets. Two ragdoll cats, siblings Alex and Lucy, and a miniature poodle named Kelli. I love animals of all kinds. I’m a big supporter of Seattle Humane and the amazing work they do for animals in and around Seattle.

Animals play a big role in my books. When they have a part in the story, they are genuine characters because I believe, like humans, each animal has its own unique quirks and personality traits. The book I’m working on right now will be the first book in my new series, Wishing Tree—Christmas romances—and there are two dogs in the book who I adore. Bella is a Great Dane who loves to play dress-up in cute canine ensembles, and who is intimidated by a dachshund named Burt. The first Wishing Tree romance will be out in 2021.

 

Q: Is there a genre of books that you have not written yet but might contemplate writing in the future? What might that be?

A: I recently toyed with the idea of writing a thriller. I even did quite a bit of research on Bitcoin, which was going to be a big subplot. I decided against the thriller, but research is never wasted—one of the characters in The Friendship List became a Bitcoin millionaire, and then a regular-money millionaire. Plus, I’m kind of proud of myself—it took me two weeks of research to be able to understand crypto-currency, but I’m now I’m at least cocktail-party level literate. 😊

 

Q: What was the first book you sold/published and how did you celebrate when you received the acceptance letter from the publisher?

A: The first book I sold was a historical romance called Frontier Flame. A few months after that, I sold a book to (then Silhouette) Special Edition. Both books came out the same month, so the first time I was published was with two books. It was very heady! Of course, before that and after that I had many story ideas rejected. Even now, although infrequently, one of my ideas can be rejected. It happened recently. Still stings, but not as badly.

I celebrated my first sale by calling all of my writer friends and squealing over the phone, and then by going out for a nice dinner with my husband.

 

Q: What do you love to do when not writing? 

A: I love hanging out with my friends—and I miss that right now because of the coronavirus. Friendship is one of the most fundamental relationships in a woman’s life. You might argue “in a man’s life, too,” but from what I’ve observed, most men don’t have the same visceral need for community that women do. My husband once told me, “You’re all I need.” Which is sweet and romantic and probably true. I love him dearly, more than any other human being on the planet, but I need friends, too. My friends are the family I chose, and I nurture those relationships in every way I can.

Posted in Blog Tour

Sister Dear by Hannah Mary McKinnon **Book Review** @harlequinbooks @harperaudio

Happy Thursday all!

Do you like women’s fiction and thrillers? This book does a good job of blending the two genres!

My Thoughts

Women’s fiction with a twisted thriller ending. Eleanor has never had a good relationship with her mother or her sister, thank goodness her father has always been there for her. But when she learns on her father’s deathbed that he is not her biological father she is devastated. When she reaches out to her biological father he also rejects her. Eleanor is now furious and ready to seek revenge. She masterminds a plan to befriend her half sister Victoria and ultimately destroy her. The thing is she likes Victoria and soon the girls form a strong friendship, but what will happen when Eleanor tells Victoria the truth? This part of the story was engaging and I liked that these girls had formed a friendship especially because technically they were half-sisters. Elinor also started a romance with her neighbor Louise who was such a good guy, but Elinor had a lot of insecurities that she still needed to work through that messed with the relationship. Sounds like a complicated domestic drama, doesn’t it? Well not so fast… at about 75% things start to hit the fan, and I started to second-guess everybody’s intentions. The end of this book was fraught with tension as everything started spinning out of control.

This was an entertaining story, but I think it would have been stronger had I been more sympathetic towards Eleanor. I did understand that she had suffered quite a bit from the way her mother had treated her. Her inner dialogues and self loathing were depressing. However she really thrived on playing the victim and didn’t necessarily want to take any responsibility for her own life. The audiobook is narrated by Lauren Ezzo Who did an incredible job. I do think I enjoyed this book even more because the narration was really well done as always by Lauren. This was a good book with a few issues just like its main character.

This book in emojis 👭 🧬 💍 👠 💻 💇🏻‍♀️ 🤳🏼

*** Big thank you to Harlequin and Harper Audio for my gifted copy of this book. All opinions are my own. ***

About the Book

Everything is slipping through Eleanor Hardwicke’s fingers. When her beloved father dies, her world is further shattered by a gut-wrenching secret: the man she’s grieving isn’t really her dad. Eleanor was the product of an affair and her biological father is still out there, living blissfully with the family he chose. With her personal life spiraling, a desperate Eleanor seeks him out, leading her to uncover another branch on her family tree—an infuriatingly enviable half sister.

Perfectly perfect Victoria has everything Eleanor could ever dream of. Loving childhood, luxury home, devoted husband. All of it stolen from Eleanor, who deserves it just as much. Now she plans to take it back. After all, good sisters are supposed to share. And quiet, docile little Eleanor has been waiting far too long for her turn to play. 

Have a lovely day! XOXO Berit🤍
Posted in Blog Tour

Family For Beginners by Sarah Morgan **Book Review** @HarlequinBooks

Happy Thursday all!

It’s getting hot it was almost 100° F today! I’m ready for summer but not for the heat! This was such a wonderful story about grief, new beginnings, and family dynamics.

My Thoughts

What a gem! Sarah Morgan always writes such beautiful stories that warm my heart. This is such a lovely story about grief, new beginnings, and family dynamics. Flora as always been a little lonely, felt a little like an outsider. Her mother died when she was eight years old and she was sent to live with her Aunt who was more interested in her career than raising Flora. Izzy is 17 and still grieving the death of her mother. When Flora shows up to dinner with her father Jack, Izzy is none too pleased. Hurt and confused, and annoyed that little sister Molly has taken to Flora. Izzy is determined not to allow this interloper into her family. So, what happens when Jack invites Flora onto the family’s summer vacation?

Loved the story! Told from the alternating perspectives of Flora and Izzy, I really got both sides of the story. I really connected to both of these characters and found their grief and desires palpable. Flora really just wanted to belong and Izzy just really wanted to be understood. The first half of the book takes place in New York City and the second-half takes place in the Lake District in the UK. The Lake District was so beautifully described, I really hope I can make it there one day. The second half of the book also brought a third perspective, Claire, Izzy’s mother’s best friend. I really loved Claire’s personality she was so down to earth and kind. There is romance in this book between Jack and Flora. It was a sweet slow burn romance, and I thought that worked perfectly in the story where the focus really was on family. A delightful story that just made me feel good!

This book in emojis 👨‍👧‍👧 🐶 💐 🐎 🛶

*** Big thank you to HQN for my gifted copy of this book. All opinions are my own. ***

About the Book

Book Summary:

USA TODAY bestselling author Sarah Morgan returns with a life-affirming exploration of love, loss, and how families come in all shapes and sizes…

New York florist Flora Donovan is living the dream, but her bubbly optimism hides a secret. She’s lonely. Orphaned as a child, she’s never felt like she’s belonged anywhere…until she meets Jack Parker. He’s the first man to ever really see her, and it’s life changing.

Teenager Izzy Parker is holding it together by her fingertips. Since her mother passed away a year ago, looking after her dad and little sister is the only thing that makes Izzy feel safe. Discovering her father has a new girlfriend is her worst nightmare—she is not in the market for a replacement mom. Then her father invites Flora on their summer vacation…

Flora’s heart aches for Izzy, but she badly wants her relationship with Jack to work. As the summer unfolds, Flora must push her own boundaries to discover parts of herself she never knew existed—and to find the family she’s always wanted.

FAMILY FOR BEGINNERS

Author: Sarah Morgan

ISBN: 9781335014931

Publication Date: 5/5/2020

Publisher: HQN Books

Buy Links: 

Harlequin 

Indiebound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble 

Books-A-Million

Google

iBooks

Kobo

Social Links:

Author Website

Twitter: @SarahMorgan_

Facebook: @AuthorSarahMorgan

Instagram: @SarahMorganWrites

Author Bio: USA Today bestselling author Sarah Morgan writes lively, sexy contemporary stories for Harlequin.

Romantic Times has described her as ‘a magician with words’ and nominated her books for their Reviewer’s Choice Awards and their ‘Top Pick’ slot. In 2012 Sarah received the prestigious RITA® Award from the Romance Writers of America. She lives near London with her family. Find out more at http://www.sararahmorgan.com.

Posted in Blog Tour

This is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf **Book Review** @harlequinbooks @harperaudio

Happy Thursday night all!

This was such a twisted tense thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat, especially the last 1/4 of the book!

My Thoughts

Gripping and disturbing. Heather Gudenkauf has crafted an addictive, dark and twisted who done it. 25 years ago Maggie’s best friend Eve was murdered. The case was never solved, but now there is a new lead and Maggie Who is now a police officer is on the case. Re-opening this cold case stirs up many secrets and old feelings,, not everyone is happy about it. A tense Mystery with plenty of suspects and secrets. So who killed Eve all those years ago? Was it the boyfriend? The sister? The creepy guy from the library? The older man? Or was it Maggie herself?

Told from three different perspectives and two different timelines we really are privy to the entire story. We get the present day perspective from Maggie and Eve’s sister Nola. We also get Eve’ss perspective leading up to the murder. Brittany Presley narrated the audiobook and did a spectacular job with all these character’s voices. Nola was one of the most creepy and unstable characters I have read in quite some time and the narration made her even more disturbing. Miss Presley masterfully gave this creepy character the perfect flat inflection to her voice. She also gave Maggie the perfect likable relatable voice. I really liked Maggie and felt bad for her waddling around eight months pregnant trying to solve this cold crime that had such a deep personal connection. There was a lot going on in the story including some triggers such as animal cruelty and abuse. I think it was handled well and it wasn’t gratuitous, but if those are triggers for you I do want you to know ahead of time. A very well told who done it with a very satisfying and tense ending.

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*** Big thank you to Harlequin for my gifted copy of this book. All opinions are my own. ***

About the Book

Publisher’s Summary

“Gudenkauf proves herself the master of the smart, suspenseful small-town thriller that gets right under your skin.” (Gilly Macmillan, New York Times best-selling author of The Nanny)

Everyone has a secret they’ll do anything to hide….

Twenty-five years ago, the body of 16-year-old Eve Knox was found in the caves near her home in small-town Grotto, Iowa – discovered by her best friend, Maggie, and her sister, Nola. There were a handful of suspects, including her boyfriend, Nick, but without sufficient evidence the case ultimately went cold.

For decades Maggie was haunted by Eve’s death and that horrible night. Now a detective in Grotto, and seven months pregnant, she is thrust back into the past when a new piece of evidence surfaces and the case is reopened. As Maggie investigates and reexamines the clues, secrets about what really happened begin to emerge. But someone in town knows more than they’re letting on, and they’ll stop at nothing to keep the truth buried deep.

Posted in Blog Tour

The Secrets of Love Story Bridge by Phaedra Patrick **Book Review** @harlequinbooks

Happy Thursday evening!

Anyone else like me having a hard time keeping track of the days? This was such a sweet quirky sentimental story that made me smile!🔒

My Thoughts

Quirky and charming. Phaedra Patrick has written another heartwarming feel good story. Mitchell no longer believes in romance, not after the loss of his beloved wife. He spends his days happily removing padlocks from bridges that people have left to express their love. Mitchell keeps his young daughter’s and his life regimented and structured. Then one day A woman in a yellow dress falls from the bridge and Mitchell jumps in to rescue her. He feels a connection between himself and the woman, but fails to get her name. In a strange coincidence it turns out that the woman is the sister of his daughter Poppy’s music teacher Liza, and she has been missing for over a year. Intrigued Mitchell decides to help Liza find her sister and in doing so he finds a better version of himself.

Such a delightful story. Mitchell was such a great character even in the beginning when he was a bit of a grump. His daughter Poppy was simply darling and I loved every bit of the book that she was in. The friendship that formed between Mitchell and Liza was wonderful. These were definitely two people that complemented one another. There was also a little side story that was kind of fun. There was a contest where people sent in letters about the hero jumping off the bridge, those were enjoyable to read along with Mitchell. The perfect feel good story for these unsettling times.

This book in emojis 🌉 🔒 🎼 ✉️

*** Big thank you to Harlequin for my gifted copy of this book. All opinions are my own. ***

About the Book

It’s summer in the city, and passions are soaring along with the temperature – for everyone but Mitchell Fisher, who hates all things romance. He relishes his job cutting off the padlocks that couples fasten to the famous “love story” bridge. Only his young daughter, Poppy, knows that behind his prickly veneer, Mitchell still grieves the loss of her mother. 

Then one hot day, everything changes when Mitchell courageously rescues a woman who falls from the bridge into the river. He’s surprised to feel an unexpected connection to her, but she disappears before he can ask her name. Desperate to find out her identity, Mitchell is shocked to learn she’s been missing for almost a year. He teams up with her spirited sister, Liza, on a quest to find her again. However, she’s left only one clue behind – a message on the padlock she hung on the bridge. 

Brimming with Phaedra Patrick’s signature charm and a sparkling cast of characters, The Secrets of Love Story Bridgefollows one man’s journey to unlock his heart and discover new beginnings in the unlikeliest places.

Excerpt


The Lilac Envelope

The night before

As he did often, over the past three years, Mitchell Fisher wrote a letter he would never send.

He sat up in bed at midnight and kicked off his sheets. Even though all the internal doors in his apartment were open, the sticky July heat still felt like a shroud clinging to his body. His nine-year-old daughter Poppy thrashed restlessly in her sleep, in the bedroom opposite.

Mitchell turned on his bedside lamp, squinting against the yellow light, and took out a pad of Basildon Bond notepaper from underneath his bed. He always used a fountain pen to write—old-fashioned he supposed, but he was a man who valued things that were well-constructed and long-lasting.

Mitchell tapped the pen against his bottom lip. He knew what he wanted to say, but by the time his words of sorrow and regret travelled from his brain to his fingertips, they were only fragments of what he longed to express.

As he started to write, the sound of the metal nib scratching against paper helped him block out the city street noise that hummed below his apartment.

Dearest Anita

Another letter from me. Everything here is fine, ticking along. Poppy is doing well. The school holidays start soon and I thought she’d be more excited. It’s probably because you’re not here to enjoy them with us.

I’ve taken two weeks off work to spend with her, and have a full itinerary planned for us—badminton, tennis, library visits, cooking, walking, the park, swimming, museums, cooking, a tour of the city bridges, and more. It will keep us busy. Keep our minds off you.

You’ll be amazed how much she’s grown, must be almost your height by now. I tell her how proud I am of her, but it always means more coming from you.

Mitchell paused, resting his hand against the pad of paper. He had to tell her how he felt.

Every time I look at our daughter, I think of you. I wish I could hold you again, and tell you I’m truly sorry.

Yours, always

Mitchell x

He read his words, always dissatisfied with them, never able to convey the magnitude of grief and guilt he felt. After folding the piece of paper once, he sealed it into a crisp, cream envelope, then squeezed it into the almost-full drawer of his nightstand, amongst all the other letters he’d written. His eyes fell upon the slim lilac envelope he kept on top, the one addressed to him from Anita, that he’d not yet been able to bring himself to open.

Taking that envelope out, he held it under his nose and inhaled. There was still a slight scent of her on the paper, he thought, of violet soap. His finger followed the angle of the gummed flap and then stopped. He closed his eyes and willed himself to open the letter, but his fingernails dented crescents into the paper.

Once more, he placed it back into his drawer.

Mitchell lay down and hugged himself, imagining Anita’s arms were wrapped around him. But, when he closed his eyes, the words from all the letters weighed down upon him like a bulldozer. As he turned and tried to sleep, he pulled the pillow over his head to force them away.

A Locked Heart

The lovers who attached their padlocks to the bridges of Upchester might see it as a fun or romantic gesture but, to Mitchell, it was an act of vandalism.

It was the hottest year on record in the city and the morning sun was already beating down on the back of his neck. His biceps flexed as he methodically opened and squeezed his bolt cutters shut, cutting the padlocks off the cast-iron filigree panels of the old Victorian bridge, one by one.

Since local boyband Word Up filmed the video for their international smash hit “Lock Me Up with Your Love” on this bridge, thousands of people were flocking to the small city in the North West of England. They brought and attached locks marked with initials, names, messages, to demonstrate their love for the band and each other, on the city’s five bridges.

Large red and white signs that read no padlocks studded the pavement. But as far as Mitchell could see, the locks still hung on the railings like bees swarming across frames of honeycomb. The constant reminder of love surrounding him, other people’s, made him feel like he was fighting for breath.

As he cut off the locks, he wanted to yell, ‘Why can’t you just keep your feelings to yourselves?’

After several hours of hard work, Mitchell’s trail of broken locks glinted on the pavement like a metal snake. He stopped for a moment and narrowed his eyes as a young couple strolled toward him. The woman glided in a white floaty dress and tan cowboy boots. The man wore shorts and had the physique of an American football player. With his experience of carrying out maintenance across the city’s public areas, Mitchell instinctively knew they were up to something.

After breaking away from his girlfriend, the man walked to the side of the bridge while nonchalantly pulling out a large silver padlock from his pocket.

Mitchell tightened his grip on his cutters. He was once so easy and in love with Anita, but rules were rules. ‘Excuse me,’ he called out. ‘You can’t hang that lock.’

The man frowned and crossed his bulging arms. ‘Oh yeah? And who’s going to stop me?’

Mitchell had the sinewy physique of a sprinter. He was angular all over with dark hair and eyes, and a handsome dorsal hump on his nose. ‘I am,’ he said and put his cutters down on the pavement. He held out his hand for the lock. ‘It’s my job to clear the bridges. You could get a fine.’

Anger flashed across the blond man’s face and he batted Mitchell’s hand away, swiping off his work glove. Mitchell watched as it tumbled down into the river below. Sometimes the water flowed prettily, but today it gushed and gurgled, a bruise-grey hue. A young man had drowned here in a strong current last summer.

The man’s girlfriend wrapped her arms around her boyfriend’s waist and tugged him away. ‘Come on. Leave him alone.’ She cast Mitchell an apologetic smile. ‘Sorry, but we’re so in love. It took us two hours and three buses to get here. We’ll be working miles away from each other soon. Please let us do this.’

The man looked into her eyes and softened. ‘Yeah, um, sorry, mate,’ he said sheepishly. ‘The heat got the better of me. All we want to do is fasten our lock.’

Mitchell gestured at the sign again. ‘Just think about what you’re doing, guys,’ he said with a weary sigh. ‘Padlocks are just cheap chunks of metal and they’re weighing down the bridges. Can’t you get a nice ring or tattoo instead? Or write letters to each other? There are better ways to say I lov– Well, you know. . .’

The man and the woman shared an incredulous look.

‘Whatever,’ the man glowered, and he shoved his padlock back into the pocket of his shorts. ‘We’ll go to another bridge instead.’

‘I work on those too . . .’

The couple laughed at him and sauntered away.

Mitchell rubbed his nose. He knew his job wasn’t a glamorous one. It wasn’t the one in architecture he’d studied hard and trained for. However, it meant he could pay the rent on his apartment and buy Poppy hot lunch at school each day. Whatever daily hassle he put up with, he needed the work.

His workmate Barry had watched the incident from the other side of the road. Sweat circled under his arms and his forehead shone like a mirror as he crossed over. ‘The padlocks keep multiplying,’ he groaned.

‘We need to keep on going.’

‘But it’s too damn hot.’ Barry undid a button on his polo shirt, showing off unruly chest curls that matched the ones on his head. ‘It’s a violation of our human rights, and no one can tell if we cut off twenty or two hundred.’

Mitchell held his hand up against the glare of the sun. ‘We can tell, and Russ wants the bridges cleared in time for the city centenary celebrations.’

Barry rolled his eyes. ‘There’s only three weeks to go until then. Our boss should come down here and get his hands dirty, too. At least join me for a pint after work.’

Mitchell’s mouth felt parched, and he suddenly longed for an ice-cold beer. A vision of peeling off his polo-shirt and socks and relaxing in a beer garden appeared like a dreamy mirage in his head.

However, he had to pick Poppy up from the after-school club to take her for a guitar lesson, an additional one to her music class in school. Her headteacher, Miss Heathcliff, was a stickler for the school closing promptly at 5.30pm, and it was a rush to get there on time. He lowered his eyes and said, ‘I’d love to, but I have to dash.’

Then he selected his next padlock to attack.

Excerpted from The Secrets of Love Story Bridge by Phaedra Patrick, Copyright © 2020 by Phaedra Patrick. 

Published by Park Row Books

Posted in Blog Tour

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi **Book Review** @harlequinbooks @harperaudio

Happy Monday all!

What crazy times! This is the perfect book for you to read while you are practicing social distancing. A story that will allow you to travel from the comfort of your own couch.🛋

My Thoughts

Alka Joshi brings 1950s India to life with her lush and vivid writing. If you are someone like me who enjoys learning about other cultures and traveling to places you might never go, this is a can’t miss. The interesting well drawn characters and the captivating storytelling completely drew me into this clever tale. Sneha Mathan masterfully narrated this audiobook, really bringing a voice and an additional layer to this incredible story. With a book like this it is nice to have the audiobook because then you know how things are pronounced, however you don’t always know how things are spelled. There is a PDF that accompanies the audiobook that includes a list of the characters and a glossary. This made me a little nervous that there needed to be a character list, but I have to say I never needed to refer to it I never was confused.

1950s India 17-year-old Lakshmi escapes her abusive marriage and heads to Jaipur. In Jaipur Lakshmi establishes herself as a successful henna artist as well as a procurer of herbal remedies. She has even realize her dream of owning her own home, then her pass catches back up with her. Her estranged husband shows up with her 13-year-old sister Radha, A sister she did not even know she had. What ensues is a compelling tale of family, tradition, secrecy, revenge, and second chances.

Loved this book! Lakshmi was such an easy character to get behind. She was so strong, so smart, and so deserving. Her sister Radha on the other hand really frustrated me, I had to remind myself that she was just a teenager at times. There were many other extremely well drawn secondary characters some who I loved and some who I did not. I also found the herbal medicine in this book super fascinating and I liked how they combined it with traditional medicine in the story. This is one of those books that gives you a lot to think about. Filled with colorful characters and beautifully told this is a story that I will not soon forget.

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*** Big thank you to Harlequin & Harper Audio for my gifted copy of this book. All opinions are my own. ***

About the Book

Vivid and compelling in its portrait of one woman’s struggle for fulfillment in a society pivoting between the traditional and the modern, The Henna Artist opens a door into a world that is at once lush and fascinating, stark and cruel. 

Escaping from an abusive marriage, 17-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist – and confidante – to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own….

Known for her original designs and sage advice, Lakshmi must tread carefully to avoid the jealous gossips who could ruin her reputation and her livelihood. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is startled one day when she is confronted by her husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow – a younger sister Lakshmi never knew she had. Suddenly, the caution that she has carefully cultivated as protection is threatened. Still she perseveres, applying her talents and lifting up those that surround her as she does. 

“Eloquent and moving…Joshi masterfully balances a yearning for self-discovery with the need for familial love.” (Publishers Weekly

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Berit☀️✨

Posted in Blog Tour

The Grace Kelly Dress by Brenda Janowitz **Audiobook Review** @harlequinbooks @harperaudio

Happy Monday evening!

Have you adjusted to the time change yet? This was such a sweet sentimental story that I loved every minute of!👰🏼🤍

My Thoughts

A sweet, sentimental, multi generational tale. Brenda Janowitz’s storytelling completely swept me up in this enchanting story. Three generations of women connected buy this stunning wedding gown. Rose a Paris seamstress in the late 1950s, Joan a young proper college student in 1982, and her daughter Rocky A rebellious techie in 2020. Each woman had their own voice and their own story to tell. The story jumps around between these three women in short well crafted chapters. I was completely and equally invested in each of these women’s stories and found the pacing absolutely perfect. The gown meant something different to each of these women with the common thread of love.

The short chapters left me wanting more, but I was always happy to get back to the next woman’s story. I started this book with the intention of only listening to a few chapters and ended up finishing it pretty much without a break. The audio is narrated by Cassandra Campbell Who masterfully gave each woman her own unique voice and did a marvelous job with the French accent. I had recently read a book about Grace Kelly and that gave me a better appreciation of this gown and its meaning. Rose took pride in her work and did everything she could to emulate the princess’s wedding gown, while still adding her own touches. Joan added her own touches to the gown and learned that fairytales can have more than one happy ending. Rocky struggled with the gown it really wasn’t her, but it meant so much to her mom. Eventually even Rocky found a way to make the gown work for her. Such a beautiful story of love, family, tradition, expectations, choices, and mothers and daughters.

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*** Big thank you to Harlequin and Harper Audio for my gifted copy of this book. All opinions are my own. ***

About the Book

Two years after Grace Kelly’s royal wedding, her iconic dress is still all the rage in Paris – and one replica, and the secrets it carries, will inspire three generations of women to forge their own paths in life and in love.

Paris, 1958: Rose, a seamstress at a fashionable atelier, has been entrusted with sewing a Grace Kelly-look-alike gown for a wealthy bride-to-be. But when, against better judgment, she finds herself falling in love with the bride’s handsome brother, Rose must make an impossible choice, one that could put all she’s worked for at risk: love, security, and, of course, the dress.

Sixty years later, tech CEO Rachel, who goes by the childhood nickname “Rocky”, has inherited the dress for her upcoming wedding in New York City. But there’s just one problem: Rocky doesn’t want to wear it. A family heirloom dating back to the 1950s, the dress just isn’t her. Rocky knows this admission will break her mother Joan’s heart. But what she doesn’t know is why Joan insists on the dress – or the heartbreaking secret that changed her mother’s life decades before, as she herself prepared to wear it.

As the lives of these three women come together in surprising ways, the revelation of the dress’ history collides with long-buried family heartaches. And in the lead-up to Rocky’s wedding, they’ll have to confront the past before they can embrace the beautiful possibilities of the future. 


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Berit☀️✨

Posted in Blog Tour

Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith @harlequinbooks #bookreview

Happy Thursday everyone!

This was a fun unique story with a very positive message!🎮

My Thoughts

This was a fun cute story, but I am definitely not the target demographic. Some young adult books will resonate with people of all ages. I think this book will appeal more to actual young adults. And it has been a very long time since I’ve been classified as a young adult. Having said that I still really did enjoy the book and I thought the message was timeless. This was a story about Devya A gamer who became famous by streaming her gameplay. As a mother of a teenager it still baffles me that my son spends time watching other people play video games. My son tells me, “it’s just like watching sports, but better, because there’s personality to it“. With Devya’s Fame comes the haters and the trolls. She is determined for this not to bring her down and not to read the comments. Aaron is an aspiring video game creator, who games for fun. The two of them Meat on a video game and become fast friends. When the threats start to become personal and lead to physical threats Devya is truly tested and Aaron is there to support her.

This was a story about being yourself and not worrying about what other people say about you. Something that I think is even harder these days with social media. It never fails to surprise me what hateful things people will post about people they don’t even know. And the reasons given in this book for this group to go as far as they did were truly baffling, but sadly there is probably some truth to it. There was a tiny bit of romance in the story and what there was was sweet. This really however was a story about being yourself and not listening to what others have to say.

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*** Big thank you to Ink Yard Press for my gifted copy of this book. All opinions are my own. ***

About the Book

Divya Sharma is a queen. Or she is when she’s playing Reclaim the Sun, the year’s hottest online game. Divya – better known as popular streaming gamer D1V – regularly leads her #AngstArmada on quests through the game’s vast and gorgeous virtual universe. But for Divya, this is more than just a game. Out in the real world, she’s trading her rising-star status for sponsorships to help her struggling single mom pay the rent. 

Gaming is basically Aaron Jericho’s entire life. Much to his mother’s frustration, Aaron has zero interest in becoming a doctor like her, and spends his free time writing games for a local developer. At least he can escape into Reclaim the Sun – and with a trillion worlds to explore, disappearing should be easy. But to his surprise, he somehow ends up on the same remote planet as celebrity gamer D1V. 

At home, Divya and Aaron grapple with their problems alone, but in the game, they have each other to face infinite new worlds…and the growing legion of trolls populating them. Soon the virtual harassment seeps into reality when a group called the Vox Populi begin launching real-world doxxing campaigns, threatening Aaron’s dreams and Divya’s actual life. The online trolls think they can drive her out of the game, but everything and everyone Divya cares about is on the line….

And she isn’t going down without a fight.


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Berit☀️✨