Ready to Run by Lauren Layne Excerpt Reveal with giveaway

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A reality TV producer falling for her would-be star: 

a Montana heartthrob who wants nothing to do with the show.

READY TO RUN

I Do, I Don’t #1

Lauren Layne

Releasing Aug 22, 2017

Loveswept

 

The Bachelor meets The Runaway Bride in this addictive romance novel about a reality TV producer falling for her would-be star: a Montana heartthrob who wants nothing to do with the show.

Jordan Carpenter thinks she’s finally found the perfect candidate for Jilted, a new dating show about runaway grooms: Luke Elliott, a playboy firefighter who’s left not one but three brides at the altar. The only problem? Luke refuses to answer Jordan’s emails or return her calls. Which is how she ends up on a flight to Montana to recruit him in person. It’s not Manhattan but at least the locals in Lucky Hollow seem friendly . . . except for Luke, who’s more intense—and way hotter—than the slick womanizer Jordan expected.

Eager to put the past behind him, Luke has zero intention of following this gorgeous, fast-talking city girl back to New York. But before he can send her packing, Jordan’s everywhere: at his favorite bar, the county fair, even his exes’ book club. Annoyingly, everyone in Lucky Hollow seems to like her—and deep down, she’s starting to grow on him too. But the more he fights her constant pestering, the more Luke finds himself wishing that Jordan would kick off her high heels and make herself comfortable in his arms.

 

 

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Damn. Charlie hadn’t been lying about the hot blonde.

The woman walking straight toward him was all tight jeans, high heels, and confi-dence. And hot. Very, very hot.

Charlie muttered something admiring under his breath, and Luke’s gaze flicked to the man beside the woman. Tried to place him. Couldn’t.

Not too many guys around here who wore light-purple shirts and white pants with the same easy comfort that Lucky Hollow residents wore jeans and flannel.

No doubt about it—neither was from around here. Not by a long shot.

The man was a half step behind the woman, and Luke assessed that the woman was calling the shots.

His eyes narrowed as he realized that she hadn’t once wavered in her approach.

She knew what she was after:

Him.

She got closer and Luke saw that the face matched the body. Wide blue eyes, full lips, sassy shoulder-length blond hair that was just tousled enough to make a man wonder how it had gotten that way—to want to be the one to muss it.

Her gaze flicked over him, and Charlie whistled and muttered under his breath. “She just checked you out, man.”

She had indeed, but Luke was far from flattered. It hadn’t been the assessment of a woman checking out a man so much as a predator evaluating its prey.

As though she was evaluating him for . . . something.

Blondie stopped in front of him, and the second her blue eyes locked on his, Luke felt a little jolt of awareness and was irrationally annoyed. It had been a long time since he’d been quite so aware of a woman.

Once, he’d enjoyed the feeling—sexual chemistry was almost the perfect combination of pain and pleasure. A subtle punch in the gut that you wanted to experience again and again.

These days, though, he was having a hard time getting past the pain part. The shitty parts had outweighed the good parts just one time too many. Now he mostly settled for casual hookups with a divorcée a few towns over who was even less interested in com-mitment than Luke was.

He had zero use for attraction to a pretty, bold woman in high heels.

Luke noticed that for a sheer moment she had a slightly off-balance look, as though she too had felt the annoying zip of arousal when their eyes met, but she recovered quick-ly.

Pasting a sunny, generic smile on her face, she stuck out her right hand. “Luke Elliott. I’m Jordan Carpenter. This is my colleague, Simon Nash.”

Good manners had him setting down his equipment and extending his own right hand toward hers even as his brain caught on her name. Familiar, and . . .

Shit. Shit!

He managed to stop from jerking his hand back, but just barely. Instead, he gritted his teeth, gave her hand a perfunctory shake, and then fixed her with a glare. “You’re wasting your time, Ms. Carpenter. And mine.”

Blue eyes narrowed. “Aha. So you did get my emails.”

Those. The voicemails. The letters.

“Sure,” he said with a nod, shoving his hands in his pockets. “Just like I suspect you got the message that I didn’t want to be a part of your show.”

Charlie looked from the woman to Luke and back again. “Show?”

Ryan ambled over, his shit-eating grin telling Luke that this damn woman had already spilled the beans on why she was here. “Luke’s gonna be a national heartthrob.”

“International,” said the blond guy in the purple shirt.

Jordan Carpenter didn’t look at her companion, but all three firefighters did.

The other man gave the sort of easy smile that probably had him making friends easily. Luke didn’t want a new friend.

Especially not one who wanted to use his shitty romantic past for the sake of TV ratings.

 

Lauren Layne is the New York Times bestselling author of romantic comedies.

She lives in New York City with her husband. A former e-commerce and web marketing

manager from Seattle, Lauren relocated to New YorkCity in 2011 to pursue a full-time

writing career. She signed with her agent in 2012, and her first book was published in

summer of 2013. Since then, she’s written over two dozen books, hitting the USA

TODAYNew York Times, iBooks, and Amazon bestseller lists.

 

 

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Northwoods Magic by Desiree Lafawn blitz with giveaway

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Northwoods Magic
Desiree Lafawn
Publication date: July 24th 2017
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Romance

Quinn Reynolds is desperate for answers. After a near fatal accident, Quinn’s life changes and she is suddenly plagued by dreams of ravens, magic, and a boy with copper-ringed eyes. Told by her doctors that she is delusional, Quinn travels to the Northwoods of Minnesota to find out the truth. But Quinn has another problem that she hasn’t shared. Not only does she dream of magic, she also possesses her own power as well and it scares the hell out of her.

Corbin Olsen has been battling his own demons for the last ten years. After sacrificing everything to save Quinn’s life, she forgot about him completely. He’s thought of her constantly in the years she’s been gone, but nothing prepared him for the woman she has become. Although angry at her for leaving him, Corbin isn’t able to dismiss his need for her.

But Corbin and Quinn are running out of time for a meaningful reunion, the real evil is back and hunting the prey that escaped them all those years ago.

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Are you a book reviewer?

You can request a review copy here!

EXCERPT:

Quinn had a special book, a book that had been with her since she was a teenager. This was the notebook that she kept all of her dream drawings in. Sometimes she would add words to the sketches and sometimes she wouldn’t. There were hundreds of drawings in this book, some the size of a quarter, and some – after a particular bad night of dreaming – took up an entire page of hard angry charcoal strokes.

That book was private, and Quinn kept it to herself. That was just for her. For so long she hadn’t been able to tell what was real and what was fantasy, thinking maybe she herself was just a figment of someone else’s imagination. Her sketchbook was Quinn’s way of knowing she was real. Maybe she had imagined seeing the things she saw, or knowing the things that she had forgotten, but she hadn’t fabricated drawing the pictures or writing the words. The pictures and words would always be there, permanently tattooed into the book. If she opened the pages and saw those things then she would know that in that very moment, she was present. She existed. She was.


Author Bio:

Desiree lives in Northwest Ohio with her husband, two children, and two rowdy cats. She is a craft addicted, roller derby skating amateur foody who loves to enjoy a glass of chardonnay with a side of whatever snack the kids left untouched in the pantry, most likely goldfish crackers.

She writes contemporary and fantasy/paranormal romance because fairy tales are where it’s at. She loves the pull of magic, the light and the dark of it, as well as the effort the characters must go through to reach their happily ever after.

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The Union Series by T.H. Hernandez blitz with giveaway

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The Union
T.H. Hernandez
(The Union #1)
Publication date: November 18th 2014
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult

After global warming and a second civil war devastated the former United States, two different societies rose from the ashes – the Union, a towering high-tech utopia, hugging the perimeter of the continent, and the devastated, untamed midsection known as the Ruins.

Seventeen-year-old Evan Taylor has an easy, privileged life in the Union. What she doesn’t have is any idea what to do with the rest of her life. She only knows she wants to do something meaningful, to make a difference in the lives of others.

When she’s kidnapped and taken into the Ruins as a pawn in a dispute involving her boyfriend, Bryce, her ideal world is turned upside down. What she learns while in the Ruins shakes her faith in everything she’s ever known, from Bryce, to her family, and even the Union itself.

Now Evan must choose whether to stay with Cyrus, the sexy, resourceful survivor who believes she’s in the Ruins for a reason, or return to the only life she’s ever known. But when she stumbles upon a dangerous plot that threatens both worlds, her decision could tear her apart.

The Union is a futuristic young adult romantic adventure.

The complete series:

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The Union – book 1 – is only 99¢ for a limited time!

EXCERPT FROM THE UNION:

My eyes flutter open to complete darkness, my brain cloudy. My shoulders ache and my arms are numb from sleeping on them. When I try to sit up, the moments before I blacked out come rushing back, filling me with dread.

My hands are tied behind my back, so the best I can do is roll to my side. I strain into the darkness to make sense of my surroundings. I’m inside something that’s moving. It’s too dark to make out anything, so I rely on my ears. A train. But not the L-Train, nor a commuter train. Maybe a cargo. My pulse throbs behind my eyelids and I fight the urge to vomit.

Shit, shit, shit. Tears fill my eyes, but I can’t afford to cry. I need to figure a way out of this mess. Lisa and Colin must have looked for me when I didn’t come back. That only provides small comfort though, since I have no idea where I am or how they’d find me.

None of this makes any sense. The only kidnappings in the Union are due to custody disputes. Maybe Eddie had me kidnapped. Except that’s completely crazy. If he was going to do that, why wait until I’m almost an adult and already on my way to see him?

This must be about money. A ransom or something. That seems so fantastic though, like straight out of a movie. There was that one kid who disappeared a couple of years ago, but it turned out he’d just run away.

Maybe it’s got something to do with my Uncle David. As one of only seven governors, he has an incredible amount of power. Only the Prime Minister has more. Unfortunately, it’s the only thing that makes sense. If I have any hope of surviving, he might have to give them what they want.


Author Bio:

T.H. Hernandez is the author of young adult books. The Union, a futuristic dystopian adventure, was a finalist in the 2015 San Diego book awards in the Young Adult Fiction category.

She loves pumpkin spice lattes, Game of Thrones, Comic-Con, Star Wars, Doctor Who marathons, Bad Lip Reading videos, and all things young adult, especially the three young adults who share her home.

When not visiting the imaginary worlds inside her head, T.H. Hernandez lives in usually sunny San Diego, California with her husband and three children, a couple of cats, and a dog who thinks he’s a cat, affectionately referred to as “the puppycat.”

You can find her online at http://thhernandez.com

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Bad Girl Gone by Temple Mathews

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Bad Girl GoneBad Girl Gone by Temple Mathews
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Sixteen year old Eileen “Echo” Stone awakens in an unknown dark room with no memory of how she got there. Trying to find out what is going on Echo finds herself surrounded by other strange kids and a surly woman that seems to run the place. Echo is told she is at Middle House, an orphanage for troubled kids and immediately argues that her parents are alive and that there has to be some kind of mistake.

With the help of a fellow resident of Middle House Echo makes her way out and to her home which is surrounded by crime scene tape and finds a gruesome bloody scene. Fearing that something has happened to her parents Echo is devastated until she see their familiar car and chases after them only to have the car pass right through her leading Echo to find that she is the actual ghost and Middle House is the in between place she will stay until she finds out who murdered her.

I have been noticing some really low reviews on Bad Girl Gone which had me a bit worried but also extremely curious picking this one up. What I found though was a pretty fun ride with Echo and company that while it’s not great literature it’s what I think it’s meant to be, a cutesy afterlife young adult mystery. I even found Echo’s descriptions of her fellow ghosts a bit Beetlejuice like if anyone recalls that waiting room scene with how they died.

The biggest complaint I’m reading about this one is the love triangle involved in the story and possibly because of being warned ahead of time by a fellow blogger I didn’t find it that horrible to be included. Echo had a real life boyfriend she can’t let go, makes a connection with fellow dead kid hence the love triangle… she’s sixteen, sixteen year olds are fickle and in love too easily so I would just say if something like that will bother people then skip this one otherwise give it a fair shot.

As far as the rest of the story, the mystery of Echo’s death as she checked off her suspects was decent enough for a young adult read. The idea behind the whole story is a bit recycled as far as the dead looking for closure with this one being they need revenge on the murderers to move on… that in itself could be argued as being realistic since for instance some killers murder more than one so how would it work if one victim got their revenge and another didn’t?

In the end though if you don’t think too hard about what seems to be meant as simply a fun, light look into the young adult afterlife and simply take it with a few laughs here and there you might just enjoy this one. I’d personally rate this one at 3.5 stars… light entertainment but still enjoyable overall.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

Can’t Stop Lovin’ You by Lynnette Austin Release Blast with giveaway

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Brawley

must find a way to convince Maggie

that their one true home is with each other.

CAN’T STOP LOVIN’ YOU

Maverick Junction #3

Lynnette Austin

Forever

 

THERE’S

NO PLACE LIKE HOME

 

Maggie

Sullivan can’t wait to get out of Texas. Luckily, she just got the break she

needed to make her big-city dreams a reality. But then Brawley Odell swaggers

back into Maverick Junction, looking hotter than ever in his dusty cowboy boots

and well-worn jeans. He’s the guy she still dreams of at night. The guy who

broke her heart when he left her behind.

Fed up with

city life, Brawley jumps at the chance to return home and take over the local

vet’s practice—and get back to the smart, sassy woman he’s never been able

forget. He couldn’t be prouder of Maggie’s new wedding-dress business . . .

until he realizes it may mean losing her all over again. Determined to win her

back, Brawley must find a way to convince Maggie that their one true home is

with each other.

08097-tastytoursexcerpt

Brawley Odell figured his life wouldn’t be worth one plug-nickel the second he stepped foot inside Maggie’s shop. Too damn bad. He hadn’t driven the thirty miles from Maverick Junction to back out now. He was goin’ in.

After all this time, he’d come home…and she was leaving.

He grasped the brass knob and shoulder-butted the oak door. It flew open, the bell overhead jangling. Maggie Sullivan, all that gorgeous red hair scooped into a jumbled mass, stood dead-center in the room. Dressed in a skirt and top the color of a forest at twilight, she held a fuzzy sweater up in front of her like a shield. Those amazing green eyes widened as he stormed in.

“We need to talk.” He ignored the woman at the back of the store who flipped through a rack of tops.

“What the—?”

He held up a hand. “Don’t speak. Not yet.”

Her mouth opened, then closed.

Anger boiled in him, but he needed to find some modicum of control. Taking a deep breath, he held it for the count of ten, then slowly released it. “Did you plan on telling me?”

Her eyes narrowed, but she said nothing.

“You’re invited to New York City for a showing of your new line, and you don’t share that with me? I have to learn about it secondhand?”

“Last I heard this wasn’t about you, Brawley. In fact, my life, my business has absolutely nothing to do with you.”

His jaw clenched. “Anything that affects you is my business, Mags.”

She snorted. “Get real, Odell. You gave up any and all rights years ago.” Her head tilted. “Why are you even interested? You want to attend so you can show off your latest Dallas Cowboy cheerleader? Maybe order her trousseau?”

He shot her a deadly look, one that had made grown men back away.

Not Maggie. She actually took a couple steps toward him. The woman had no survival instincts. Another reason she had no business heading off to New York alone.

She tapped a scarlet-tipped finger on her chin. “Oh, that’s right. There’d be no trousseau for your honey, would there? Maybe a weekend-fling outfit for your date du jour? A one-night-stand set of lacy lingerie.”

“Shut up, Maggie.”

“Make me.” Her eyes flashed.

This time the look in his eyes must have warned her she’d treaded too close to the edge. She stepped back.

“You challenging me, Maggie?”

When she wet her lips, his gaze dropped to her mouth, followed the tip of her pink tongue as it darted out.

“Only one way I could ever get you quiet,” he said.

Her hand shot up. “Don’t even think about it.”

“No thought required. Been wanting to do this a long time now.” He closed the distance between them and dropped his mouth to hers. Fire. Smoke. Hell, a full-out volcanic eruption.

 

NOW AVAILABLE IN PRINT!!

 

Lynnette

Austin, a

recovering middle school teacher, loves long rides with the top down and the

music cranked up, the Gulf of Mexico when a storm is brewing, chocolate frozen

custard, anything by Blake Shelton, Chris Young, and Thomas Rhett, and sitting

in her local coffee shop reading and enjoying an iced coffee. She and her

husband divide their time between Southwest Florida’s beaches and Georgia’s

Blue Ridge Mountains. Having grown up in a small town, that’s where her heart

takes her—to those quirky small towns where everybody knows everybody…and all

their business, for better or worse. Writing for Grand Central and Sourcebooks,

she’s published twelve novels and is at work on a new series.

 

 

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Cover Reveal: Ouroboros by Genevieve Iseult Eldredge with giveaway

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Ouroboros
Genevieve Iseult Eldredge
(Circuit Fae #2)
Published by: Monster House Books
Publication date: March 2018
Genres: LGBTQ+, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult

Syl’s a princess of the fair Fae.

Her girlfriend Rouen is a princess of the dark Fae.

Mortal enemies. Girlfriends.

Relationship status: It’s Complicated

All introverted geek girl Syl Skye wants is to get close to her girlfriend. But when you can kill with a simple touch, a normal date night’s not really in the cards. As it happens, Syl is also a sleeper-princess of the fair Fae. Last year after a freak accident, her power Awakened, granting her white flame to purify the darkness.

Rouen Rivoche is that darkness—a dark Fae princess whose power to bewitch mortals is as terrifying as the violet lightning she controls. Rouen is Syl’s total opposite. Her mortal enemy.

She’s also Syl’s beloved girlfriend.

And even though they joined forces to defeat the evil Circuit Fae who harnessed the killing magic in technology to take over the school…that was so last year.

Now, Syl’s touch could mean Rouen’s death. Her increasing power is spiraling out of control, threatening to burn down everything she and Rouen have built together.

Their lives, their love, their very world..

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Author Bio:

Raised by witches and dragons in the northern wilds, GIE writes angsty urban fantasy YA romance–where girls who are mortal enemies kick butt, take names, and fall in love against all odds.

She enjoys long hikes in the woods (where better to find the fair folk?), believing in fairies (in fact, she’s clapping right now), dancing with dark elves (always wear your best shoes), being a self-rescuing princess (hello, black belt!), and writing diverse books about teenage girls finding love, romance, and their own inner power.

She might be planning high tea at the Fae Court right now.

GIE is multi-published, and in her role as an editor has helped hundreds of authors make their dream of being published a reality.

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An Impossible World by S.P. Cervantes blitz with giveaway

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An Impossible World
S.P. Cervantes
Publication date: July 25th 2017
Genres: Adult, Dystopian, Romance

What would happen if terrorism spread and hate took over? What would the world become?

Isabella (Belle) Grey trained her entire adult life to protect those around her––training that would prove invaluable in her quest to make a new life. Forced to live in an impossible world, terror was not only outside the walls of her protected community but also raged behind the walls of her very own home.

No longer willing to put up with her husband’s drunken abuse, Belle made the desperate decision to run away from the safety of her community and escaped alone into the broken world beyond.

Chased by death as bombs exploded in the distance, her next decision could not only save her life but could potentially bring light back into her darkened soul.

When faced with the impossible, Belle found strength in an unsuspecting stranger who set her path in a new direction––one she never considered.

Fear. Love. Revenge. Strength … all come together in this epic tale of fate and survival.

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Author Bio:

S.P. Cervantes is the author of the acclaimed contemporary romance A BROKEN FAIRY TALE series. The series allows you to connect with a group of friends and their triumphs over tragedy. “Dust to Dust” is a suspenseful stand-alone romance that introduces readers to this close knit group of loyal friends. “Wished Away” is an emotional romance that should be read before the Bad-Boy romance, “His Jar of Hearts”.

S.P. highly acclaimed romance called “The Wife” is now available.

S.P. is also the author of the highly rated Young Adult Romantic Fantasy trilogy Secrets of Shadow Hill. “Always and Forever”, “The Prophecy”, and “War of Wizards” that has been described as “Twilight Meets Harry Potter”. It’s not your typical romantic fantasy.

S.P Cervantes lives in Orange County, California with her husband and three children, where she is a teacher. She enjoys spending time with her family, writing, reading, and running, but is always thinking of an idea for her next novel.

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Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

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Emma in the NightEmma in the Night by Wendy Walker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Three years prior Cass and her older sister who she adored, Emma, had disappeared leaving investigators and the family clueless as to what happened to the girls. Was it a drowning? Kidnapping? Runaways? But now three years later Cass shows up on the doorstep of her mother and stepfather’s home safe but insisting that they must find and rescue Emma.

When investigators arrive including forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter Cass begins to tell a story of how she had followed Emma one night and the pair ended up on a mysterious islands as prisoners. Cass’ escape and her details lead to more questions leaving Abby with the feeling that things just aren’t adding up. As the holes begin to appear Abby is determined to find out just what happened to the girls all those years ago.

Emma in the Night is one of those thriller reads that had me hooked for the opening pages when we find out that one of the two girls has returned. Knowing she is back the book takes the reader back slowly but surely as we learn what had been happening over the course of the years. Told from the point of view of the victim and investigator you get both sides of where the investigation is leading.

I will admit for a while this one wasn’t looking as if it would be quite the five star read as the story unraveled. I had this sense of where the twists were taking us along the journey as we got to the answer of what had happened to Emma but then the author just kept going and adding on a few more twists and turns that ended me with completely loving the story. I’d definitely say check this one out to the thriller fans, it was a bit slow but even with my impatience I came away loving the book.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

Sparks of Light by Janet B. Taylor

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Sparks of LightSparks of Light by Janet B. Taylor
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Sparks of Light is the second book in the Into the Dim series by Janet B. Taylor. In the first book of the series we met Hope Walton as she was attending her mother’s memorial held about eight months after it was believed that her mother had been a victim in an earthquake while traveling overseas. After the service for her mother Hope received an invitation from her mother’s sister to come for a visit while her father travels. Not wanting to be left with her grandmother that had never accepted Hope into her family since Hope was adopted, she battled her anxiety and boarded a plane to meet her mother’s family.

When Hope arrived at her mysterious aunt’s home she is told that her aunt had to leave for a few days. Hope is full of questions, especially when it’s let slip that her mother had been there right before her supposed death but no one was answering Hope’s inquiries until she stumbles upon some strange artifacts and costumes beneath the manor. Only after Hope’s discovery did her newly acquired family let Hope in on their secrets. They are a group of time travelers and her mother had been trapped in twelfth century England, left by another group of time travelers who had been in somewhat of a feud with Hope’s family.

Sparks of Light picks up Hope’s story a couple of months after the end of the first book in the series. Hope and her family have returned to the present time and are trying to regroup and figure out what their next step needs to be. Meeting up with the person spying on their enemy they find out about plans in the making for the other time travelers to steal a dangerous device from the inventor Nikola Tesla. Another adventure awaits the group as they will need to also travel back to the same time and stop the device from being stolen or the future could be in danger.

This series is one that for me the more I read the more I love what the author has come up with as far as the world and characters as the story develops. Starting off the series I was a tad worried if I would like it or not but everything has just grown on me so much. Hope was a character that was plagued with a slew of anxieties and phobias and had been home schooled and protected but she has grown so much during the two books. The other characters are also a mix of strong and quirky and fun to follow.

For the history buffs the time traveling aspect of the books leads readers to explore different times and places and I’m certainly looking forward to seeing where the next book takes us. This time the book included one of my absolutely least favorite settings in the story when the group traveled back but after the first few cringes I ended up understanding where the author was taking us and found that it was done in a way that I still enjoyed the action this provided for the story.

When finished with this second installment I’d rate it at 4.5 stars and would recommend any fan of young adult sci-fi fantasy type of books to give this series a try although I do suggest starting at the beginning of the series.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

Monster Among the Roses by Linda Kage Release Blast with giveaway

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Will you dare to gaze upon the monster among the roses?

MONSTER AMONG THE ROSES

Fairy Tale Quartet #1

Linda Kage

Releasing July 24, 2017

 

“Do you know how to

get to the rose garden?”

“No, you can’t go

there. A monster lives there.”

 

Shaw

Hollander is desperate.

 

Broke,

unemployed, and determined to help his ailing mother, he falls on the good

graces of a wealthy benefactor who is willing to give Shaw a job at his mansion

in order to pay off his mother’s debts. Suddenly finding himself surrounded by

lavish riches, he has no idea what his duties truly entail until he’s sent to

the rose garden and meets the tragically mutilated Isobel.

This Beauty

and the Beast story holds true to the core of the fable while shaking off the

element of fantasy and dragging it into present day reality. Shaw and Isobel

are ready to let you climb into their four-wheel-drive pickup and take a ride

with them into their version of happily ever after, but only if you first dare

to gaze upon the monster among the roses.

c14be-tastytoursexcerpt

Great. I was lost. Shading my hand over my eyes, I decided the far right should take me in the general direction I wanted to go. So I went that way, only to end up at the edge of the house, but not where I’d started, and not close enough to the rose garden to get me inside.

Strangely enough, however, a boy played outside, using sidewalk chalk to color a picture of…what the hell was he drawing? Maybe some kind of dying animal with blood gushing from its side and an arrow sticking out of its back.

It didn’t look right, whatever it was.

I shook my head and jerked my gaze from the disturbingly morbid sketch. “Hey, kid.”

The boy jumped and looked up, hopping to his feet and backing away from me as I were the scary one.

No idea who he was; he looked too young to be Mr. Nash’s son from the photos I’d seen, plus he had white blond hair, the complete opposite shade of the young man in all the pictures in Mr. Nash’s office. But he was here, so he’d have to do.

Wanting to appear as non-threatening as possible, I smile and waved. “Hey. Sorry for bothering you, but do you know how to get to the rose garden?”

That must’ve been the wrong question to ask. His face drained of color. “No,” he said, shaking his head. “You can’t go there.”

What? “Why not?”

“A monster lives in there. Half her face is melted off. She eats the thorns from the roses so she can spit them at people, stabbing them in the neck to slice their throat open until they bleed out and die.”

O…kay.

Somehow, I’d stumbled across one of the children of the corn. Nice.

Lifting my eyebrows, I drew my own step in reverse. Time to retreat. “Dude, that’s gruesome.”

Please don’t kill me. Please don’t kill me. Please don’t kill me.

He gave a serious nod. “It’s true. My mom’ll tell you she’s real too.”

“Oh yeah?” Relieved he wasn’t claiming he’d sprouted from Satan’s cabbage patch but actually had a mother, I glanced around for this wise, all-knowing parent of his. Maybe she could tell me how to get to the conservatory. “Who’s your mom?”

“The cook,” he said, puffing up his chest as if that were the most important title in the house. “She’s worked here for fifteen years. She knows everything about this place there is to know. So…don’t go into the roses. You won’t come out alive. Lewis, the groundskeeper, doesn’t even go in there.”

Aha! So this place did have a gardener. I knew it.

I took a second to ponder why I was being sent to garden then, when Mr. Nash already paid someone to maintain the place. But if Lewis refused to go into the roses, as the kid had said, maybe it was rumored to be haunted or something, and that was where I came in. Then again, why wouldn’t Mr. Nash just hire a new groundskeeper who wasn’t so scared and superstitious? Then I stopped pondering the whys. It wasn’t my place to question strange, rich people and their strange, oddball orders. I was just here to do what I was told and save my mom.

Nodding gravely to the boy, I said, “Thanks for the warning, kid. But I think I’ll take my chances. Which way?”

He looked at me as if he’d never see me again because I was headed forth to my death, then he lifted his hand and quietly pointed toward another opening in the path of bushes.

“Thanks.” I nodded and got out of there before some of his creepiness started rubbing off.

Fortunately, he’d steered me in the right direction. I landed right at the outdoor entrance into the glass gazebo. Propping the door open, I carted my supplies inside and then paused to breathe deeply.

But fuck me, it smelled good in here. You didn’t have to be a flower enthusiast for this garden to amaze you. It was like the holy shrine of roses. A hallowed kind of reverence filled my chest. Haunted or not, I liked it. It felt peaceful and yet revitalizing.

Suddenly intimidated because I didn’t want to mess anything up in such a perfect place, my hands shook as I flipped back to the pages about rose care. The more I skimmed, however, the more confused I became.

These roses didn’t need a lick of my attention. They were all in excellent condition as if someone already tended to them. Maybe creepy kid had been wrong, and Lewis the groundskeeper came in here hourly to care for them.

Still…What the hell?

I frowned and slid my finger along the silken petals of a blood red rose. Perfectly pruned, weeded, and watered. It was as flawless as a thing could get.

But I couldn’t go tell Mr. Nash they didn’t need anything, could I? What if he fired me for lack of work to do, or because he thought I was lazy and lying about the roses not needing care?

I looked around again, searching for anything to water, or clip, or re-soil. It was crazy how thriving every single flower looked.

Maybe this was some kind of test, and Mr. Nash wanted me to fail. What if he’d never intended for me to work for him and the contract I’d signed to save my mom was being burned in the fireplace in this office as I stood here like a dumbass with nothing to weed.

Confused and worried, and growing a little angry, I scowled at a wall full of pink vine roses growing to my right. But they were honestly too pretty to be glared at, so my mood settled.

I bet Mom would love them. She was a fan of pink. And flowers. Plus, these were the good-smelling kind. I’d be a good son if I brought home such a flower to her. And it seemed as if they grew in abundance, not as if they were one of the rare breeds Mr. Nash had spoken of. So I reached for a bloom to pluck it from the vine without even thinking beyond how much it’d make my mother smile.

Behind me, a voice growled, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Jumping half out of my skin because I’d been certain no one had been in here with me, I whirled around only to gasp, “Shit!”

The creepy cook’s son hadn’t been lying.

In front of me stood an irate woman with half her face melted off.

 

I grew up

on a dairy farm in the Midwest as the youngest of eight children. Now I live in

Kansas with my husband, two daughters, nine cuckoo clocks, and a cat named

Holly. My life’s been blessed with lots of people to learn from and love.

Writing’s always been a major part my world, and I’m so happy to finally share

some of my stories with other romance lovers.

I’m a member of Romance Writers of America, and I’ve been through a writing

correspondence class in children’s literature from The Institute of Children’s

Literarture, and then I continued my writing lessons by majoring in English

with an emphasis in creative fiction writing from Pittsburg State

University.

 

 

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