Category: Features

Sunday Spotlight: So True by Serena Bell

Posted August 9, 2020 by Holly in Features, Giveaways | 1 Comment

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

Sunday Spotlight: So True by Serena BellSo True by Serena Bell
Series: Tiernet Bay #2
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: August 18, 2020
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 304
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books

A passionate first love. A deep betrayal. One last chance to make it right.

Jax Walker left Chiara Campbell behind without a word, but he’s never forgotten how it felt to love that fiercely. Not that it matters—he can never go back to Tierney Bay, because the secret he’s keeping would tear them both apart.

Chiara has written Jax out of her life and her memory—until he shows up at the shop where she works. All the hurt she thought she’d buried is still there, and so is her fiery attraction to him. The more Chiara and Jax work together to save the shop, the more she wants things she can’t have.

She knows she’s going to get her heart broken again. She knows it’s going to hurt like hell.

And she’s pretty sure that when he kisses her, she’ll kiss him right back.

Excerpt

Excerpt from So True by Serena Bell:

Jax Walker took the Tierney Bay exit off U.S. 101 a little too sharply, testament to how damn long it had been since he’d been here. The ramp curled around and deposited him at the head of town. He passed several hotels and a few restaurants that had definitely not been here ten years ago. There were plenty of new shop fronts, and many of the old ones had been spruced up. It looked like Tierney Bay had come into some good luck recently.

Which was more than he could say for himself.

If he did this right, he could be in and out of town in a few hours and there was zero chance he would run into anyone he didn’t want to see. Which included any member of the Campbell family.

He shouldn’t be here at all—his plans had not called for ever coming back, or not, at least, as long as he knew Chiara Campbell was still here. But his plans had been upended.

Two days ago, he’d driven up the west coast to visit his little brother Evan at his Portland-based community college.

Only, surprise! Evan was not actually enrolled.

At first Jax thought he’d made a really dumbass mistake, and texted Evan to confirm. Not sure why I don’t know this for sure, but it’s Portland Community College Yamhill, right?

Yup! Evan texted back.

He’d turned back to the young woman perched behind the reception desk and asked her to check one more time to confirm that there was no one enrolled there by the name of Evan Walker. And there was, indeed, not.

That was when Jax got it. He’d been had. Lied to.

The woman gave him a long look that was equal parts pity and curiosity, with maybe a tiny bit of I’ll soothe your sorrows thrown in for good measure.

Well, fuck. His brother had taken the tuition money Jax had given him and done a runner.

Regretfully, he ignored the woman’s interest. She definitely wasn’t more than a year out of college herself, and smoking hot, but he had an asshole brother to chase down.

He could have had it out with his brother by text or phone right then and there, but now he was pissed. His brother had taken thousands of dollars of his hard-earned money and done what-the-fuck with it, and Jax wanted to ask him to his face. So he holed up in his truck and made a bunch of phone calls, sent a bunch of texts. He finally tracked down a friend of Evan’s who knew what was going on and was willing to spill the beans. And it turned out that Evan was, of all places, in Tierney Fucking Bay.

Of course. Because it wasn’t enough that Evan had stolen Jax’s money and ditched his own education—no, he’d gone back to the one place that you couldn’t have paid Jax to set foot in.

Maybe it was punishment. Because the last time Jax had been in Tierney Bay, he’d done the thing he regretted most in his life. And maybe he’d always known he’d have to face up to it at some point. You could only keep the piper at bay for so long before you had to pay.

He put the truck in drive and drove from Portland out to Tierney Bay in under an hour and half, keeping an eye out for speed traps. And here he was, pulling into town, still raging hot under the collar at his brother. Because Jax had done everything he could to make sure Evan got a good life and didn’t end up like their parents. Including at least one thing he’d still redo if he could. Unfortunately, it was the kind of thing you couldn’t redo.

And what had Evan done? He’d taken his tuition money and opened a board game shop.

Jax turned onto the street that Evan’s friend had directed him to and pulled into a parking space in front of the park. Like the town, the park had gotten quite a facelift, but its bones were the same, as were the distinctive smells of cool, green grass and dirty metal. He remembered walking across the woodchips, Chiara’s warm hand in his, her voice drifting to him as she told him about her day—

He shut down the memories; replaced them with his anger at Evan.

He turned and walked toward the shop. There was a sign, hung at a slight angle, just a cheap printed fabric banner. Oh, Evan, he thought. You pissed away your college education and you couldn’t even make it look classy.

He pulled open the front door of the shop, mouth already open to tell Evan what a dumbass he was. But it wasn’t Evan behind the desk. It was someone smaller, slimmer, dark-haired.

Beautiful.

She looked up, and God, it was like having someone slide a knife between two of his ribs. That deep and that sharp. How pretty she was, those blue eyes, and the way they made him feel like she could see into him. After what he’d done, it wasn’t fair that she still made him feel anything.

She, on the other hand, looked pretty much like he’d just punched her. Which he deserved. He’d never had to look her in the face, tell her he was leaving, see the hurt. So this was as close as he’d get. And it sucked.

He opened his mouth to say something that made sense, but the only thing that came out was, “Evan.”

She shook her head. “He’s not here.”

“Where—?”

She hesitated. “If he wanted you to know that, don’t you think he would’ve told you?”

“Look. I didn’t come here to fight with you. I didn’t even know you’d be here.”

“If you had, you wouldn’t have come,” she challenged.

It was true, and he deserved it. He deserved whatever she wanted to dish out. It felt good in a way, like finally letting out a breath. He almost hoped she would yell at him. Maybe then he could set down the guilt.

“Did you know he was supposed to be at college?”

He could tell from the way her big blue eyes got bigger that she hadn’t known.

“Yeah,” he said. “Portland Community Yamhill. Summer session. I showed up today for a surprise visit. Thought I’d, you know, take him out to dinner, see his place. He’d sent me photos of his place. In fucking Portland. And photos of the campus.” He pulled out his phone, pushed it across the counter to her.

She took it, looked. “That’s his apartment here. I don’t know where he got the campus photos, but anyone could pull them from online.”

“So I tracked him here. His friend Asher told me where to find him.”

Chiara nodded at that. She apparently knew Asher.

“Where is he?”

She shook her head. “I can’t—”

“Where is he?”

“It’s not my place to tell you that.”

“He’s my brother.”

Against his better judgment, his voice had risen, and her eyes narrowed. “You can’t just show up here and talk to me like that—after what you did—” She stopped. “Did it occur to you that maybe he doesn’t want to see you?”

The anger in her voice cut through the thickness of his own frustration, shut him right down. He took a deep breath. There were freckles across the bridge of her nose that he didn’t remember. A smattering on her cheeks, the fair skin underneath bright pink with the heat of her emotion. Her eyes flashed with it.

And suddenly he was so ashamed of himself that he could barely stand it. She was right, of course. After what he’d done to her, he had no right to speak to her at all, let alone demand anything of her.

“He doesn’t want to see me?” he asked. “Or you don’t?”

She stood very still. Only her fingers moved, fidgeting with something on the counter. A game piece, he thought. She turned it over in her hand, moved it between her fingers, set it down again.

“Both,” she said. The heat had gone out of her voice. Which made him feel worse. She said it calmly, like it was something she’d had ten years to get used to the idea of. Like she didn’t much care anymore. Which he deserved, but still.

He almost told her right that second, just blurted it all out. He’d always been a little bit afraid that the first time he laid eyes on her it would all come spilling out. The whole story—why he’d left, why he’d never gotten in touch. Right after he’d left, he’d fantasized that he’d be able to tell her someday. He’d pictured her listening—angry at first, but then, somehow, willing to forgive.

That had been ten years ago, and he still couldn’t tell her.

Tiernet Bay

Giveaway Alert

We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

Sunday Spotlight: August 2020

Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!

About Serena Bell

Serena Bell headshot

USA Today bestselling author and RT Reviewers’ Choice Award nominee Serena Bell writes richly emotional stories about big-hearted characters with real troubles and the people who are strong and generous enough to love them.

A former journalist, Serena has always believed that everyone has an amazing story to tell if you listen carefully, and she adores hiding in her tiny garret office, mainlining chocolate and bringing to life the tales in her head.

When not writing, Serena loves to spend time with her college-sweetheart husband and two hilarious kiddos—all of whom are incredibly tolerant not just of Serena’s imaginary friends but also her enormous collection of constantly changing and passionately embraced hobbies, ranging from needlepoint to paddle boarding to meditation.


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WTF Cover Saturday (362)

Posted August 8, 2020 by Holly in Features | 3 Comments

I’m fairly certain we’ve seen this guy before.

The font, the..flames??…the way his head sits on his neck… I don’t see a lot here (or really anything) that I like.

Share your thoughts on this cringe-worthy cover in the comments below!


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Monthly Reads: July 2020

Posted August 3, 2020 by Holly in Features, Giveaways | 8 Comments

It’s a new month so we’re back with a list of our Monthly Reads to share with each of you. This is where you’ll see what each of us has read and what our favorite books and our least favorite books of the month are. Check it out.

Casee

My July started off really slow, but it picked up around the last two weeks of the month. I read 8 books.

Rock Chick Redemption by Kristen Ashley | 4 out of 5
Knight by Kristen Ashley | 4.25 out of 5
Creed by Kristen Ashley | 4 out of 5
Raid by Kristen Ashley | 4.5 out of 5
Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews | 4.75 out of 5
Deacon by Kristen Ashley | 3.5 out of 5
Archangel’s Sun by Nalini Singh | 3.75 out of 5
Looking Inside by Beth Kery | 3.75 out of 5

As you can see, I went on a Kristen Ashley bender. Which I’m still on. My favorite book of the month was Raid by Kristen Ashley, followed closely by Knight by Kristen Ashley.

Holly

My reading in July started off great, but it tapered off around the middle of the month. I ended up finishing 14 books.

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James (audio) | 4 out of 5
Archangel’s Sun by Nalini Singh | 3.75 out of 5
Repeat by Kylie Scott (Reread) | 5 out of 5
The Perfect Rake (The Merridew Sisters #1) by Anne Gracie | 4 out of 5
My Darling Duke (Sinful Wallflowers #1) by Stacy Reid | 3.75 out of 5
One Fell Sweep (Inkeeper Chronicles #3) by Ilona Andrews (audio) (reread) | 4.5 out of 5
Marry in Scarlet (Marriage of Convenience #4) by Anne Gracie | 4 out of 5
Blind Date with a Book Boyfriend by Lucy Eden | 4.5 out of 5
Wildfire (Hidden Legacy #3) by Ilona Andrews (reread) | 4.5 out of 5
Games of the Heart (The ‘Burg #4) by Kristen Ashley (reread) | 3.75 out of 5
Golden Trail (The ‘Burg #3) by Kristen Ashley (reread) | 3.25 out of 5
Wishing for a Highlander (Highland Wishes #1) by Jessi Gage (audio) | 2.5 out of 5
Rock Chick Reawakening (Rock Chick #0.5) by Kristen Ashley (reread) | 4.5 out of 5
The AI Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole (audio) | 4 out of 5
Song of Blood and Stone (Earthsinger Chronicles #1) by L. Penelope (audio) | DNF

My favorite read of the month was Blind Date with a Book Boyfriend by Lucy Eden. It was a quick, light read, but I smiled the entire way through it. My least favorite read was Wishing for a Highlander by Jessi Gage.

Giveaway Alert

Three lucky winners will choose their prize (one book) from any of the books we logged this month. If you want to be entered to win, leave a comment on this post telling us what your favorite – and least favorite – reads of the month were.

Monthly Reads: July 2020

So…what was your favorite read of the month? And your least favorite? Use the Gleam Widget to enter! Good luck!


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Sunday Spotlight: Say No More by Karen Rose

Posted August 2, 2020 by Casee in Features, Giveaways | 2 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

Say No More is the second book in KR’s Sacramento series. I really enjoyed the first book, so I’m looking forward to this one. Karen Rose is literally the master of romantic suspense. If you haven’t read her yet, I highly suggest that you do.

Sunday Spotlight: Say No More by Karen RoseSay No More by Karen Rose
Series: Sacramento #2
Also in this series: Say You're Sorry (Sacramento, #1)
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: August 11, 2020
Format: Hardcover
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 544
Length: 24 hours
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
Series Rating: five-stars

Mercy Callahan thought she'd escaped the cult decades ago, but its long fingers are reaching out for her again in this electrifying novel in the Sacramento series...
Seventeen years ago. That was the last time Mercy Callahan saw Ephraim Burton, the leader of the twisted Eden cult where she was raised. But even though she escaped the abuse and terror, they continue to haunt her.
When her brother Gideon discovers new evidence of the cult's—and their victims'—whereabouts, Mercy goes to Sacramento to reconnect with him. There, she meets Gideon's closest friend—homicide detective Rafe Sokolov. From Rafe, she receives an offer she never knew she needed: to track down Ephraim and make him pay for everything.
But Ephraim, who had thought Mercy long dead, discovers she is in fact alive and that she is digging around for the cult's secrets. And now he'll do anything to take her back to Eden—dead or alive.


 

Excerpt

Amos Terrill rubbed his thumb over the lines of the script he’d just carved into the lid of the hope chest. He was almost finished with it, this special project on which he’d been laboring for the past five months, mostly in secret. He’d made countless hope chests, coffee tables, kitchen cabinets, armoires, and jewelry boxes over the thirty years he’d lived in Eden. All of them had been gifts for the membership or items to be sold to bring money into the community coffers.

This was the first time he’d ever made something for himself. Something he didn’t intend to share with anyone.

No one except his Abigail. His heart.

A splinter caught at his thumb and he pulled it out, sucking at the small wound before returning to his task. He could sand the hope chest later. He didn’t have much more time to himself. Everyone knew he stopped working at suppertime, and then people would start dropping by.

Amos, can you fix this? Amos, a minute of your time? Amos, need a pair of strong hands to help with… It didn’t matter what. It was all the same after thirty years.

He picked up the detail blade, his favorite of all of his carving tools. He’d brought it with him to Eden, when he was young and full of hope, ready to change the world.

Now he knew the truth and every day had become a struggle, each harder than the day before.

He had to stay positive. Had to keep smiling. Had to stay patient. Had to nod and pleasantly reply that all was well when he was greeted in passing.

In other words, he had to lie.

He finished carving the last word and took a look at his work. It had become something of a trademark, a personal signature he’d added to all the larger pieces of cabinetry he created.

The words were carved in a scrolling, old‑fashioned script: Surely Goodness And Mercy Shall Follow Me All The Days Of My Life. Psalms 23:6. Anyone in the community would think it simply a beautiful Bible verse, one that matched the song that used to be in his heart.

But it wasn’t. It was a tribute. Penance, even. His way of trying to make it up to a beautiful little girl whom he’d failed. So utterly.

Mercy. He thought of her often, especially after the birth of his Abigail, whose name meant father’s joy. As with most things in his life, Abigail’s birth had been bittersweet, losing her mother just minutes after they’d held their baby for the first time.

He’d thought he’d lose them both. Like he’d lost his first family. Mercy. Gideon. Rhoda. Dammit, Rhoda, I’m so sorry. You tried to tell me, but I wouldn’t listen.

He hadn’t wanted to listen.

But now he knew the truth and he needed to get Abigail out. To safety. To freedom.

He wouldn’t fail her like he’d failed Mercy, Rhoda, and Gideon.

He picked up the hope chest and turned it over effortlessly, a lifetime of woodworking giving him more strength than most men. He began to carve his true signature into the base of the chest, no larger than a dime. A small olive tree with twelve branches. It was exacting, but, at the same time, something he could do with his eyes closed, he’d done it so many times.

“Papa!”

Amos startled, the knife in his hand skipping over the wood, and pain ripped into his finger. “Ugh!” he cried, unable to stifle the sound. “Papa?” Abigail bounded into his workshop, with the same energy with which she tackled everything else in her life. “Tackled” being the operative term. Abigail never walked when she could run, never sat when she could stand. Never whispered. Ever.
His lips curved up into a smile even as he grabbed a clean rag to press to his finger.

“Abi‑girl,” he said with genuine warmth. Abigail was the only one who could summon anything close to happiness for him. She was the only thing that was real and had been for the past six months. Ever since Amos had witnessed Brother Ephraim calmly breaking the necks of Sister Dorcas, her husband, and their sixteen‑year‑old son, three of the dearest people in the world. Amos’s throat burned every time he remembered Brother Ephraim so carelessly tossing their bodies into an unmarked grave.

After which Ephraim had returned to tell the membership that Dorcas and her family had chosen to return to the world after the untimely death of their dear Miriam.

Miriam, who’d walked around with shadows in her eyes. Who, the last time Amos had seen her, had been bruised and bloody and begging to die.

Sister Dorcas had begged Amos for his help. Please help us get her out of here. Please.

Amos had done his best, or he’d thought so at the time, working through the night to fashion a hope chest similar to the one he was now building for Abigail. It wasn’t ornate and hadn’t had a false bottom, but it had been large enough that Miriam had been able to hide inside. Her father and brother had hoisted the hope chest into the bed of Brother DJ’s truck when no one was around to see their muscles strain under the added weight. Miriam was supposed to have climbed from the back of the truck and run for freedom the moment that Brother DJ had slowed enough to make it possible.
But it had all been for naught. Miriam must have been attacked by an animal because her body had been returned to them, too damaged to be identified. And, as punishment for their part in her escape, Sister Dorcas, Brother Stephen, and their son, Ezra, had been murdered in cold blood.

I failed them, too.

But he would not fail again. He would not fail his Abigail.

Sacramento

Giveaway Alert

We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

Sunday Spotlight: August 2020

Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!

About Karen Rose

Internationally bestselling, RITA-award winning, author Karen Rose was born and raised in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC. She met her husband, Martin, on a blind date when they were seventeen and after they both graduated from the University of Maryland, (Karen with a degree in Chemical Engineering) they moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. Karen worked as an engineer for a large consumer goods company, earning two patents, but as Karen says, “scenes were roiling in my head and I couldn't concentrate on my job so I started writing them down. I started out writing for fun, and soon found I was hooked.”

Her debut suspense novel, DON'T TELL, was released in July, 2003. Since then, she has published more than fifteen novels and two novellas. Her twenty-second novel, SAY YOU'RE SORRY, will be released in 2019.

Karen's books have appeared on the bestseller lists of the New York Times, USA Today, London's Sunday Times, and Germany's der Spiegel (#1), and the Irish Times, as well as lists in South Africa(#1) and Australia!
​​
Her novels, I'M WATCHING YOU and SILENT SCREAM, received the Romance Writers of America's RITA award for Best Romantic Suspense for 2005 and 2011. Five of her other books have been RITA finalists. To date, her books have been translated into more than twenty languages.

A former high school teacher of chemistry and physics, Karen lives in Florida with her husband of more than twenty years, two dogs, and a cat.


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WTF Cover Saturday (361)

Posted August 1, 2020 by Holly in Features | 3 Comments

I feel like we could title the majority of these “Fun with Photoshop!”

What’s going on with his tattoos? And more importantly, is that a real girl on the cover or a plastic barbie?

Share your thoughts on this cringe-worthy cover in the comments below!


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