Publisher: Self-Published

Sunday Spotlight: Lies and Lullabies by Sarina Bowen

Posted September 13, 2020 by Casee in Features, Giveaways | 6 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. 🙂

Sunday Spotlight: Lies and Lullabies by Sarina BowenLies and Lullabies by Sarina Bowen
Series: Hush Note #1
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: September 22, 2020
Point-of-View: Alternating First
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 300
Add It: Goodreads
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Summer nights and star-crossed lovers! From USA Today bestselling author Sarina Bowen.
Once upon a time, he gave me a summer of friendship, followed by one perfect night. We shared a lot during our short time together. But he skipped a few crucial details.
I didn’t know he was a rock star.
I didn’t know his real name.
Neither of us knew I’d get pregnant.
And I sure never expected to see him again.
Five years later, his tour bus pulls up in Nest Lake, Maine. My little world is about to be shattered by loud music and the pounding of my own foolish heart.

Excerpt

The water lapped gently under the dock. If I turned around, he might not truly be standing there. I held my breath.
That’s when he began to whistle softly. The first four bars of “You Are My Sunshine.”
Goosebumps rose on my arms.
“You remember,” I gasped, whirling around. Five years later, and he still knew to warn me. He hadn’t forgotten that I used to startle if he—or anyone else—approached me from behind.
He walked towards me slowly, his hands spread wide, muscular arms on display. His hair was shorter now, but still the most beautiful shade of sandy blond. “Of course I remember, sweetness. Never sneak up on Kira.”
At that, my eyes filled with tears.
“Hey, now,” he said gently. He’d made it all the way out on the dock, so close I could almost touch him. His blue-green eyes regarded me warmly. “I’m sorry to take you by surprise. Don’t I get a hug?”
Lord, I needed to get a grip. I took a step towards him, and he folded me in. He smelled the same, like sunshine and soap.
It hurt so much to see him again. It was excruciating to be wrapped in his hug.
“God, I’ve missed you,” he said.
And I had absolutely no reply to that. My heart urged me to hold on tightly and never let go. To confess that I thought of him every single day.
But I didn’t do it. Because I was still so angry, too.
Drawing off that anger, I summoned a little willpower, stepping backward, freeing myself. “If I ask how you’ve been, which name should I use? Jonas or John?”
A look of dismay creased his handsome face, his eyes closing for a moment, before opening again to pin me with a turquoise gaze. “Kira, I’m so sorry about that. That summer I was just trying to get away from it all.”
I swallowed. “Really? But I told you all my secrets. You must have thought that was pretty funny.”
He blinked, his face as stunned as if I’d slapped him. “Jesus, Kira. Never.”
That wasn’t the reaction I’d been expecting. And it was suddenly very hard to hold his gaze. I’d spent the last few years shaping my idea of him to match the pictures I saw in Us Weekly. The problem was that the guy standing in front of me on the dock did not look like the frivolous celebrity in those articles. This was the same man I’d met all those years ago. His face was open and youthful, his voice rich and mellow. His gaze seemed to touch me everywhere at once, making me feel flushed and confused.
He stepped forward again and wrapped his arms around me. And I let him. I took a deep breath of him, and my heart began to gallop again. When I put my arms around his back, I felt his lips press against my hairline. It was a chaste kiss between old friends.
Or rather, it should have been. But the feel of his lips on my skin sent a charge through my body. Tipping my face to meet his wasn’t even a conscious act. It was more like the inevitable result of a five-year absence and Earth’s gravitational pull.
When I moved my chin, his lips slid softly down my cheekbone. Still, it might have ended there. He might have released me, but he didn’t. “Sweetness,” he whispered.
And then? His kiss slid to the corner of my mouth, pausing there, hovering. Torturing us both.
I couldn’t resist. I leaned forward an immeasurably small distance. At that, he made a low sound in the back of his throat. He melded his mouth onto mine, his hands curving around my lower back. With a sigh, he teased my lips apart until his warm tongue met mine.
The next moments were lost to me. I melted against his body, knowing nothing except the stroke of his tongue against my own and the feel of his breath against my face. His strong arms held me in their grasp. It was the sound of my own gasp that finally brought me back down to earth. And I became aware that someone was standing on the little beach nearby, watching us.
“Oh my God, your…” Horror stopped me from finishing the sentence.
He looked over his shoulder without releasing me from his grasp. “My drummer,” he said quickly. “We’re old friends.”
I pushed on his chest until he took a step backwards. I was hot and confused. I needed oxygen and time to think. “Look… we need to talk.” I couldn’t tell him my secret now. Not with an audience. And not without a little rehearsal. “Tomorrow,” I added.
“Okay,” he said, his voice low and even. “I’d like that.”
“Um, lunch?” I asked, my eyes on my shoes. I couldn’t quite catch my breath. There wasn’t enough oxygen in the atmosphere anymore. There might never be again.

Hush Note

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: September 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 Sarina Bowen

Sarina Bowen is the RITA® Award winning author of over two dozen contemporary and LGTB romance novels. She most recently hit the USA Today bestseller's list in February, with Brooklynaire. Formerly a derivatives trader on Wall Street, Sarina holds a BA in economics from Yale University.

Sarina Bowen is a New Englander whose Vermont ancestors cut timber and farmed the north country since the 1760s. Sarina is grateful for the invention of indoor plumbing and wi-fi during the intervening 250 years. On a few wooded acres, she lives with her husband, two boys, and an ungodly amount of ski and hockey gear.

Sarina's books are published in a dozen languages on four continents. In 2016, The Romance Writers of America honored HIM by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy with a RITA award for Best Contemporary Romance, Mid-Length.


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Review: Mist’s Edge by T.A. White

Posted September 11, 2020 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Mist’s Edge by T.A. WhiteReviewer: Holly
Mist's Edge by T.A. White
Series: The Broken Lands #2
Also in this series: Pathfinder's Way
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: November 28, 2017
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 330
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 Reading Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

The pathfinder, Shea, has chosen to make a place for herself among her former captors, leaving behind her people and the life she once knew. However, not all welcome this outsider in their midst. Shea will find that surviving alone in the wilderness is child’s play next to navigating the politics that come with her new position. Especially when it becomes evident that there are those out for her blood.

As a new danger looms on the horizon, Shea and her warlord will need all the allies they can find. Because something is stirring in the barren lands from which all beasts are born. Something old and not seen since the last cataclysm.

Can Shea protect her people from this new threat or will it be the dangers from within her own inner circle that destroy her?

Mist’s Edge, the second book in T.A. White‘s The Broken Lands series, picks up where Patherfinder’s Way left off. Shea and Fallon have committed to one another and she’s agreed to become his Telroi, but now she’s feeling displaced and unsure of herself or her place in the clan. It doesn’t help that Fallon is overbearing and expects all his orders to be followed without question. Especially since more often than not those orders include her sitting around doing nothing. But when the Mist comes into the lowlands for the first time in centuries, and unimaginable Beasts start targeting the clan, Shea knows they need answers. Convincing Fallon is another thing entirely…

I really struggled with the first half of this book. Shea and Fallon have a hard time communicating with each other, which resulted in a lot of them having arguments then ignoring each other for days on end. I understand their relationship is very new, and that means they’re still figuring each other out. I even like that things weren’t all sunshine and rainbows since they committed to one another so late in the previous book. But I still struggled with how immature the two of them acted. Shea’s need to pull away and shut down, along with Fallon’s go-to Neanderthal “you will do what I say” responses, mean nothing really felt resolved between them. They would argue about something, she would freeze him out after he tried to dictate to her, then they would just let it go. I really wish they had talked more, and worked out their problems like adults.

Having said that, I don’t dislike them as a couple. I think they work very well together. I just wish they would have mature conversations about things and try to find workable compromises instead of argue, ignore, brush aside, repeat.

The second half of the book is better. Fallon is still overprotective, but Shea was in her element leading them and that made for a more enjoyable reading experience. I really love this world and the secondary characters. The clan, the landscape and the interpersonal relationships are very well done. Everything comes to life so I feel like I’m there with them as I read.

I wouldn’t call this a placeholder novel, exactly, but a lot of it did feel unnecessary and repetitive. The second half was better than the first, but I didn’t love this one as much as the first.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

The Broken Lands

three-half-stars


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Review: Pathfinder’s Way by T.A. White

Posted September 9, 2020 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Pathfinder’s Way by T.A. WhiteReviewer: Holly
Pathfinder's Way by T.A. White
Series: The Broken Lands #1
Also in this series: Mist's Edge
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: October 12, 2019
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 396
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 New to Me Challenge, Holly's 2020 Reading Challenge, New to Me Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

The Trateri are about to learn a vital lesson of the Broken Lands. Deep in the remote expanse where anything can happen, it pays to be on a pathfinder’s good side.

Nobody ventures beyond their village. Nobody sane that is. Monstrous creatures and deadly mysteries wait out here. Lucky for the people she serves, Shea’s not exactly sane. As a pathfinder, it’s her job to face what others fear and find the safest route through the wilderness. It’s not an easy job, but she’s the best at what she does.

When the people she serves betray her into servitude to the Trateri, a barbarian horde sweeping through the Lowlands intent on conquest, Shea relies on her wits and skill to escape, disguising herself as a boy to hide from the Warlord, a man as dangerous as he is compelling.

After being mistaken as a Trateri scout during her escape, Shea finds herself forced to choose between the life she led and the possibilities of a new one. Her decision might mean the difference between life or death. For danger looms on the horizon and a partnership with the Warlord may be the only thing preventing the destruction of everything she holds dear.

I asked for Fantasy/UF/PNR recs on Twitter a few months ago and Angela James suggested this author. I tried starting this back in June, but I wasn’t in the mood so I set it aside until this weekend. I had to push myself through the first few pages (my reading mood, not the book), but I ended up easily falling into the story.

The world-building is superb. Shea’s strength and ingenuity as she led a rescue party for some of the villagers really pulled me in. I loved how she brushed off criticisms and just did what needed to be done. I also liked the way her friendship developed with her traveling companions.

This is a sweeping tale that stretches across quite a bit of time and distance. I liked seeing the various landscapes and watching Shea overcome obstacles.

I was frustrated with the turn things took at about the 80% mark. Up until then, I really loved Shea. She was resourceful, independent and more than capable, if a little closed off to others. After that, she was kind of swept to the side because of her relationship with Fallon. I didn’t love how she seemed to fade as they grew closer. I’m hoping for a better resolution to that part of the story in later books.

Rating: 4 out of 5

The Broken Lands

four-stars


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Review: Creed by Kristen Ashley

Posted September 4, 2020 by Casee in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Creed by Kristen AshleyReviewer: Casee
Creed by Kristen Ashley
Series: Unfinished Hero #2
Also in this series: Knight
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: April 15, 2013
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating First
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 360
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Casee's 2020 Goodreads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Way too young, eleven year old Tucker Creed and his six year old neighbor, Sylvie Bissenette, find they have something awful in common. Creed then decides he’s going to do everything in his limited power to shield his Sylvie from her ordeal. So he does and Creed and Sylvie form a bond that grows and blossoms with their ages.
They plot to leave their lives behind, the town they live in that will hold them down and the histories they share that, unless they break free, will bury them. Sylvie goes to their special place, Creed never shows and she doesn’t see him again until it’s too late.
With Creed gone, Sylvie is forced to endure a nightmare and do the unspeakable to end it. To deal, she develops a hard shell with sharp edges that very few can break through. So when Creed again finds his Sylvie, he discovers the girl he loved is locked away and he has to find his way back into her heart without getting shredded in the process.

Creed is book two in Ashley’s Unfinished Hero series.

“Born to love you, baby… Die lovin’ you, my Sylvie.”

Tucker Creed never expected that Sylvie Bissenette would come back into his life. When he is reunited with her, Sylvie is not the girl that he remembers. He knows she’s changed and he also knows that it’s his fault. Creed and Sylvie have known each other since they were kids. Brought together by violence that touched both of their lives, they made a pact to leave their town behind as soon as Sylvie turns eighteen. Then something terrible happens and Creed is forced to leave Sylvie behind, never knowing that by trying to protect her, he was actually going to be responsible for one of the worst atrocities against her.

Sylvie is a survivor. She survived when Creed broke his promise to take her away from their town. She survived when her father sold her to the town pimp. She survived being pimped out. Then she survived by killing her pimp in self-defense. Now she works for Knight Sebring. Sylvie knows what Knight does and why he does it. Her job is to protect the girls. When someone roughs up one of Knight’s girls, Sylvie is the one that takes care of it.

Through Knight, Sylvie and Creed are thrown back into each others lives. Creed doesn’t recognize the woman that his Sylvie has become. Sylvie doesn’t give two craps about what Creed thinks. He broke his promise to her all those years ago and then disappeared from her life.

To be honest, I didn’t love this book at first. I felt that Sylvie was overbearing and trying too hard to be a man. The flashbacks were a nice touch. They really told of Sylvie’s journey from an innocent six year old girl to a brokenhearted eighteen year old girl to where she is now. That’s the Sylvie that I fell in love with. As with most Ashley books, there is a lot of filler here, but I really enjoyed it. The conflict in their relationship was resolved quite quickly so there were a lot of pages to fill. I devoured this book and ended up really liking it.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Unfinished Hero

four-stars


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Throwback Thursday Guest Review: The Strongest Shape by Tessa Cardenas

Posted September 3, 2020 by Tracy in Reviews | 10 Comments

Throwback Thursday Guest Review: The Strongest Shape by Tessa CardenasReviewer: Tracy
The Strongest Shape by Tessa Cárdenas
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: November 28, 2009
Genres: M/M
Pages: 232
Add It: Goodreads
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three-half-stars

After his boyfriend breaks up with him, fashion photographer Caleb Moss finds himself alone in Los Angeles looking for work and friends. He finds both in a group of aspiring musicians, who offer help through their connections. But while building a strong friendship with Scott and Chris, a startling sexual tension flares to life among the three men, and Caleb is afraid the new friendships will fall apart.

It won't be easy for Caleb, trying to find his way when Scott and Chris invite him into their relationship. They face criticism from their friends, but they'll struggle to stay together because they have discovered a three-fold love.

This review was originally posted on August 10, 2011.

This story centers around 3 men, Caleb, Scott and Chris. Caleb is a fashion photographer who followed his boyfriend out to California from New York and then got dumped. He meets Jason who introduces him to Scott. Scott is dating Chris but Chris is on tour (Scott and Chris are both singer/songwriters) and Caleb is warned to not get too chummy with Scott as Chris will be extremely jealous.

When Chris gets home, however, he’s not jealous and the trio become friends. Caleb finds himself liking both men but he doesn’t want to set Chris’s jealousy off so he avoids the couple for a couple of weeks. Chris and Scott go looking for him and bring him back into their fold. They want to be closer friends, in fact, they both like Caleb and want to be a trio instead of a pair. Caleb isn’t sure it will work but he decides to go for it. The trio have their work cut out for them but it’s the work that makes the book…work.

This story really has one main focus and that is the relationship between these 3 men and all of its quirks. Chris and his possessiveness, Caleb and his insecurities and Scott and his devil may care attitude. I really like that aspect of the book as we got to see in depth stuff about the men. How they dealt with letting their friends know about the relationship, as well as their parents, or not. I loved how the men stuck together through thick and thin. Yes, Caleb had to have his breathing time and his space at some points but it was good.

Were there things about the story that I would have liked to have seen? Of course. I would have loved to have known more about the men and their jobs. We know that Chris and Scott are singer/songwriters but not to what level. Near the end Caleb mentions something about what would happen if they were ever signed so I assumed they weren’t at that level. Yet, Chris was on tour at one point and recordings were mentioned. It was a bit confusing for me and I either wanted to know more…or less. lol

One of the things I wish for in most of the books I read is more communication! In this story the guys were horrible at it – especially Chris and Caleb – and didn’t want to be “girly” and share their feelings. If you can’t share them with the ones you love who can you share them with? Of course the non-communication fed into Caleb’s doubts about his place in the relationship but I very much liked how the men worked it out.

Overall it was a good book. I’m not usually a fan of m/m/m stories but this one definitely worked for me.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5.

three-half-stars


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