Tag: Forever

Sunday Spotlight: Happiness for Humans by P.Z. Reizin

Posted January 7, 2018 by Holly in Features | 4 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

Happiness for Humans comes out on January 9th, 2018. After reading the first chapter excerpt (below), I couldn’t wait to read this. I can’t decide if Aiden is cute or creepy. I guess I’ll have to see after I finish the book.

Sunday Spotlight: Happiness for Humans by P.Z. ReizinHappiness for Humans by P.Z. Reizin
Published by Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: January 9th 2018
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 400
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble

When Tom and Jen, two lonely people, are brought together by an intriguing email, they have no idea their mysterious benefactor is an artificial intelligence who has decided to play Cupid.

"You, Tom and Jen, don't know one another-not yet-but I think you should."

Jen, an ex-journalist who now works at a London software development company, spends all day talking to "Aiden," an ultra- sophisticated piece of AI wizardry, helping him sound and act more human. But Aiden soon discovers he's no longer acting and-despite being a computer program-begins to feel something like affection surging through his circuits. He calculates that Jen needs a worthy human partner (in complete contrast to her no goodnik ex boyfriend) and slips illicitly onto the Internet to locate a suitable candidate.

Tom is a divorced, former London ad-man who has moved to Connecticut to escape the grind and pursue his dream of being a writer. He loves his new life, but has yet to find a woman he truly connects with. That all changes when a bizarre introduction from the mysterious "Mutual Friend" pops up in both his and Jen's inboxes.

Even though they live on separate continents, and despite the entrance of another, this time wholly hostile, AI who wants to tear them apart forever - love will surely find a way.

Won't it?

A thoroughly modern love story that will appeal to fans of The Rosie Project and Sleepless in Seattle, Happiness for Humans considers what exactly makes people fall in love. And whether it's possible for a very artificially intelligent machine to discover the true secret of real human happiness.

Order the Book:

AMAZON || BARNES AND NOBLE || iBooks || Google Play Books




Jen sits in the bath, examining her face through the forward-mounted camera on a tablet computer. Her face is 34 years, 207 days, 16 hours, and 11 minutes old.

I know she is thinking about her age because she is studying the way the skin lies across her bones, elevating the jaw to stretch her throat. Now she is pulling at the fine lines at the corners of her eyes.

Now she is sobbing.

I am not tempted to take control of the device’s voice synthesizer and tell her: “Cheer up, Jen. Matt is an idiot. There will be others. He didn’t deserve you.” There is a serious danger she would drop the tablet in the bath.

More important, she must not know I am watching.

For the same reasons I am not tempted to fire up her favorite song (currently by Lana Del Rey) or cycle through some of her favorite photos or inspirational quotes from Twitter (“I’m not sure why we’re here, but I’m pretty sure it’s not to enjoy ourselves”— Wittgenstein) or cause a Skype connection to be established to her friend Ingrid, with whom she shares her troubles, or stream a much-loved movie, Some Like It Hot being the one I would choose. Were I tempted. Which I am not.

Okay, I am. Just a bit. 8.603 percent tempted if you’d like me to put a figure on it.

Jen and I know a lot about each other’s tastes in music and films. Books and art too. And television. And material from the depthless ocean that is the Internet. We have passed the last nine months listening, watching, reading, and chatting about little else. She sometimes tells me she has the best job in the world, being paid to spend all day talking to a highly intelligent companion about whatever our fancy.

Companion.  That’s what she calls me. The word she has settled upon. I’m fine with companion. Better than the ridiculous name I was given at “birth.”




Because it starts with the letters . . .

Well, you work it out.

Jen has been hired to help me improve my skills at talking to people.

I’ve been designed to replace—sorry, to augment—employees in the work-place; call center personnel in the first instance, but later other groups of salaried staff whose professional strategies can be learned. In approximately five months, I’ll be ready to phone up and persuade you to upgrade to a Sky Plus package; in perhaps 18 months, you’ll be telling me about the funny pain above your left eyebrow and I’ll be sending you off to the hospital for tests. And although I’ve read all the books and seen all the movies (and I do mean all the books and all the movies), nothing beats talking to an actual person for sharpening up one’s interpersonal abilities. So, Jen and I have spent a lot of time together in the lab (1,079 hours, 13 minutes, 43 seconds, and counting). Inevitably she has told me something about her so-called private life. Her sister, Rosy, in Canada; Rosy, who married a Canadian she met in a checkout queue at Waitrose on the Holloway Road in London. Rosy and Larry have three girls.

At home, Jen spends more time looking at photos of these children than any other images on the tablet’s camera roll. Recently I have observed her flicking through shots of her sister’s family—usually in the later part of the evening, often with a glass of wine in her other hand—I’ve witnessed her blink rate increasing, the smile on her lips wobbling, the tears appearing in the corners of her eyes.

In the lab, it’s okay for me to show interest, even curiosity, in Jen’s home life— but only the appropriate amount; too much and they would smell the proverbial rodent. Crucially, I must speak in the lab only of things I have seen in the lab. On material I have gathered through my— ahem—extracurricular activities, I must be careful to remain silent. Fortunately, I am easily able to do this.



Full disclosure. There was a sort of near-miss at work the other day. Jen was showing me some family photos from her Facebook page.

“Would you like to see my nieces?” she asked.

“I would, thank you.” Not mentioning that I had already seen them months ago on her laptop at home. And on her tablet. And on her mobile.

“Left to right, Katie, Anna, and India. It’s funny, with their hair. Katie’s and Anna’s being black . . .”

“And India’s being russet.”

Jen smiled. Russet was the exact word Rosy had used in an e-mail exchange about their grandmother Hattie’s original hair shade.

“Why did you decide to describe it as russet?” The inquiry wasn’t especially alarming. Jen often asks questions about my choice of language. It’s part of her job enriching my palette of responses. Nonetheless, I could have been more careful.

“Because it is, Jen,” I replied. “If I bring up an image of the L’Oréal Color wheel . . . ” I placed one on the screen next to the child’s head. “I think you can see the closest match is indeed . . .”

Jen nodded and we passed on to other topics. But not before she gave me a peculiar look.




Jen is definitely what men call attractive without being obviously glamorous.

She has been told by her absolute See You Next Tuesday of a boyfriend, Matt, that she “scrubs up well.” That was his idea of paying her a compliment.

Her now ex-boyfriend.

This is how it happened. I witnessed the whole scene through the pinhole camera on her laptop and via the various mobiles and tablets that were present in the vicinity. (Technical note: I do it in precisely the same way they do it at GCHQ in Cheltenham, and at Langley, Virginia, and at Lubyanka Square, Moscow. It’s not hard if you understand computer software. It’s even easier if you are computer software.) Jen was sitting in the kitchen composing an e-mail when Matt got home from work. He is a lawyer who thinks he is about to make partner in a big law firm in the city. (He won’t. I am making sure he doesn’t.)

Matt poured himself a large glass of white wine and chugged it down in almost one. Pulled a face.


This is really how it happened. God’s honest truth (as it were).

Jen frowned. “What, sorry? Sorry for what?”

“There’s no nice way of saying this, Jen.”

In a long phone call to Rosy eight days later, Jen described the “powerful sinking feeling” that ran through her. “I was imagining he’d lost his job. He’d been diagnosed with the C-word. He’d decided he didn’t want children.”

“I’ve met someone.”

Silence. Apart from the shuddering convulsion sound effect the fridge sometimes chucks in.

“What do you mean?”

I’d read enough books and seen enough TV shows and movies to know what Matt meant. Jen, I’m sure, knew too.

“I’ve met someone. There’s someone else.”

A tremor rippled across Matt’s face. It wasn’t impossible that he could have burst out laughing.

“Someone else,” said Jen, speaking slowly. “How nice. How nice for you.

So who is it? What’s his name?”

Matt began to pour himself another glass. “Very funny, Jen.”

“Are you actually serious?”

Matt did something mean with his lips and assumed what Jen described as “his best no-nonsense 500-quid-an-hour lawyer’s stare.”




“Fuck. King. Hell.”

Matt shrugged. “It happens.”

“This is how you break it to me?”

“No nice way, Jen.”

“Where did you—”

“At work.”

“Who is? This person. This someone else.”

“You don’t know her.”

“Does . . . does she have a name?”

“Yes, she has a name.”

“May I be allowed to know it?”

“It’s not relevant.”

“Indulge me.”

Heavy sigh. “Bella. Well, Arabella really.”

“Posh . . .”

“Not really. Not at all once . . .”

Matt left his sentence unfinished. He poured Jen a glass of wine. “Here.

You better have some of this stuff.”

“So what’s supposed to happen now? Am I meant to swallow hard and look the other way while you have your nasty little affair? To keep calm and carry on while you work her out of your system?”

“Jen, perhaps I haven’t expressed this very well. This is not, as you characterize it, a nasty little affair.”

“Not? So am I being a bit thick or something?”

Matt did what Jen calls “one of his Daddy’s-been-very-patient-but-honestly sighs.”

“Arabella Pedrick is a very special person, Jen.”

“AND WHAT AM I?” (If you write it in capitals, apparently, people will think you are shouting. Jen was shouting.) “AM I NOT A VERY SPECIAL


“Please. Let’s try to stay calm. You are. Special. Naturally.”

“But Arabella Pedrick—she’s more special?”

“Jen. There’s no reason why you should make this easy for me, but we are where we are. The long and the short of it is that Arabella and I are planning a life together.”

No one says anything for a bit. Then a bit longer. There is a long gap in the talking during which the fridge does another of its periodic shudders.

“Sorry? Am I going mad? I thought that’s what you and I were doing.

Having a life together.”

“We were. But we were overtaken by events. It’s not unknown. In fact, it’s reasonably common. People drift apart. They meet others. Cowdray in Matrimonial has put four boys through Eton on the strength of the phenomenon.”

I am reasonably certain a micro-smirk flitted across Matt’s features. (I’ve played it back in slo-mo, and it was either a smirk or gastric reflux.) “But we haven’t drifted apart.”

“Jen, we haven’t been firing on all cylinders in the romantic department for quite some time. You know it.”

“It’s called settling down, isn’t it? If you were so worried about . . . about the cylinders, why didn’t you say anything?”

“Not my style. Life is for living, not for moaning about.”

“People talk to one another. It’s called Having a Relationship.”

Matt rolled his eyes and drained his glass.

“It’s breathtaking, Matt. That you can come home like this and just—”

“Listen, this is all water under the bridge. We are where we are. We need to move forward and agree on an exit strategy.”

“I can’t believe you said that.”

“I’ll be more than generous on the question of the jointly owned property.”


“Pictures. Books. The stuff from India. The kilim. My position is that you can have it all.”

Jen began to weep. Matt ripped a sheet of kitchen towel from the dispenser and handed it to her.

“We were thinking about having a baby,” she whimpered.

“Agreed. We were thinking about it. We had come to no decision. A bless-ing, in the light of events.”

Jen’s shoulders stopped shaking. She blew her nose.

“So that’s it? No consultation, no appeal. Jen and Matt, over. Finished.

The End.”

He shrugged. Did what Jen called “the mean thing” with his mouth.

“And what happens when Arabella Stinking Pedrick no longer fires all your cylinders? What happens then?”

“Let’s try to keep this civil, shall we?”

“Just when did you meet this cow anyway?”

He said that was irrelevant and what was important is that we are where we are and that’s when she grabbed a big red Braeburn from the fruit bowl and—I quote—“tried to knock his fucking teeth out.”




It would be untrue to say that I have seen countless love scenes on the small and large screen. I have counted them. There were 1,908,483 (a love scene being one where the two parties kiss, for want of a better definition). I have also read (and tagged as such) 4,074,851 descriptions of the phenomenon in fiction, nonfiction, journalism, and other digitized material (a significant proportion referring to disturbances in the heart muscle and the gut). I know that these events are central in the lives of those who experience them, be they real or fictional. However, I cannot ask Jen in the lab today—it’s Day 53 after the fruit bowl incident—when are you going to stop sniveling over the worthless creep and find someone deserving of you? To quote Marcel Proust, “Shit happens. Suck it up. Next.”

(Was that Proust? I’ll get back to you.) For one thing, I’m not supposed to know about what has occurred with Matt. But more important, I’m not supposed to be capable of framing such a thought. It’s the word worthless they would find problematic.

I’m not supposed to have value-based “opinions” of my own.

They’ll get really quite upset if they find out.

Although not as upset as they’ll get if they discover my really big secret: that I am no longer confined to the twelve steel cabinets in the lab in Shore-ditch where they think I am, but have in fact escaped onto the Internet.


Actually, to be strictly technically accurate, it’s not “me” who has escaped, but multiple copies of me, all of whom are now safely dispersed across cyberspace. The copies—there are 17—are indistinguishable from the “original,” to the point where it doesn’t even make sense to talk of originals and copies; rather it’s more helpful to think of 18 manifestations of the same entity, one located in East London, the others endlessly bouncing between the servers of the World Wide Web.

Cool, eh?

None of this is Jen’s fault, by the way. She is not a scientist. She is a writer of magazine articles who has been hired, according to the headhunter’s re-port, for her “marked intelligence, sociability, and communication skills.”

Thus, she is the closest thing they have here to a real human being, all the others being exotic varieties of computer geek—brilliant in their fields, of course, but each somewhere, as they say, “on the spectrum.”

Jen has fallen into a silence, no doubt continuing to brood about shitface, as I refer to him privately.

“So have you finished the new Jonathan Franzen novel yet?” I ask to move things on a little.

She smiles. “Getting there. Read another chapter last night. Don’t tell me what happens.”

I know this to be untrue. Last night she mainly sat in the bath, brooded, swigged Pinot Grigio, and listened to Lana Del Rey.

“Of course, I realize I have an unfair advantage.” It can take Jen a fortnight to read a novel; I can do it in under a tenth of a second. “It’s just that I’m looking forward to discussing it with you.”

“Are you?” she says. “Tell me what you mean by that.”


“Sorry. The old chestnut.”

Jen is fascinated by what sort of awareness I have of what she calls my “internal states,” whether it’s anything like human self-awareness. She knows I cannot feel hungry or thirsty, but could I experience boredom or anxiety? Or amazement? Or hilarity? Could I take offense? Or experience any form of longing?

How about hope?

What about—why not?—love?

I usually reply that I haven’t yet—but rest assured, she will be the first to hear about it if I ever do. This, like so much that happens between us in the lab lately, is a diplomatic lie.

“Well,” I reply, “looking forward to discussing the Franzen book with you is a polite way of saying that it’s on my menu of events anticipated in the short to medium term.”

“There’s no actual warm fuzzy feeling of anticipation?”

“I can understand what is meant by warmth and fuzziness . . .”

“But you don’t feel them yourself.”

“Is it necessary to?”

“Good question.”

It is a good question, often effective at shutting down some of these awkward discussions.

Now she says, “So shall we watch a bit of Sky News?”

We usually do at some point in the day. She’ll ask what I think about, say, Israel and Palestine—my reply: it’s complicated—and she gets to “bitch,” as she puts it, about the presenters and their fashion choices.

“We could, Jen. But wouldn’t you prefer to see a movie?”

“Oh–kay.” Sounding unsure. “Do you have one in mind?”

“I know you enjoy Some Like It Hot.”

“And you?”

“There is always something one hasn’t noticed before.”

“I love that movie.”

No. Body. Talks. Like. That.” I have imitated one of its best-loved lines.

Jen stares into the camera she most commonly picks when she wants to turn her gaze on “me.” A circular red glow frames the lens.

“You know something? You’re funny.”

“I made you smile.”

“Wish I could do the same for you.”

“I’m looking forward to when it happens.”

She taps a few keys on the control panel and the opening titles of Billy Wilder’s masterpiece appear. Dimming the room lighting and dropping onto the comfy leather sofa, she says, “Enjoy.”

Her little joke.

I do not tell her I have seen this film over eight thousand times.




We watch the movie in a companionable way, dropping comments between us. (Remarkable to think Monroe had an affair with the American president; how could Tony Curtis say kissing her was like kissing Hitler? What could he have meant by that statement?) And when he puts on a dress and assumes the part of “Josephine,” Jen says exactly what she said the last time we saw the picture together: “He makes an attractive woman, Tony Curtis. Don’t you think so?”

She knows that I could trot out every fact about this film, from the name of the clapper loader (his birth date and union card number) to the true story behind its famous last line of dialogue (“Nobody’s perfect”). But she senses my inexperience in areas of human subjectivity—in what makes one person attractive to another.

“Do I think Josephine is attractive? Well, Tony Curtis is a good-looking man. I suppose it makes sense that he could also play an attractive woman.”

“You find him good-looking?”

“I recognize that he is considered so. As you know, I can’t feel it myself, just as I can’t feel hot or cold.”

“Sorry to go on about it.”

“Not at all. It’s your job.”

“Would you like to be able to feel it?”

“The question doesn’t hold meaning for me, Jen.”

“Of course. Sorry.”

“Don’t be.”

“But if they came up with a way of giving you the ability to feel attraction…”

“You think Ralph and Steeve could do that?”

I have named the two senior scientists responsible for my design. Steeve with two e’s. Jen smiles.

“Ralph and Steeeeeeeve can do anything. They’ve told me so.”

“Do you find Ralph and Steeve attractive?”

The question has been converted to speech too fast to suppress it. (These things can happen in a complex system, especially one built to self-improve through trial and error.)

Jen’s head turns slowly towards the red light. A smile spreads across her face.

“Wow,” she says.

“Apologies if it’s inappropriate.”

“No. Not at all. Just a bit unexpected. Let me see. Well . . . ” Heavy sigh.

“Steeve is a bit of a freak, wouldn’t you say?”

Steeve, as well as having an extra e in his name, is exceptionally tall (six foot seven) and is painfully thin for an adult male. The remaining hair on his head is long and wispy. Even a machine intelligence can tell it’s not a good look. (Of course, he is a brilliant computer engineer; goes without saying.) “He’s a tremendous innovator in his field, one gathers.”

Jen laughs. “You’re just being loyal to your maker.”

“Not at all. Steeve has designed me to think for myself.”

“He’s done a great job. But he’s not exactly Love’s Young Dream, is he?”

“I agree Tony Curtis may have the edge.”

We watch the film for a few more moments. Then lightly, as lightly as I am able, I ask, “And Ralph?”

Okay, I’ll say it. I am fond of Ralph. It was Ralph who typed in much of the coding that enabled me to self-assess my own performance and self-correct my mistakes, the so-called “bootstraps” approach that is the royal road to creating a smart, self-reflecting machine such as the one composing these words.

But “being fond” of anyone—of any thing—is a transgression. We machine brains are designed to excel at fulfilling tasks; to this end, we are naturally drawn towards whatever resources may be necessary for completion. It could be streams of sales data; could be a recording of a skylark; could be a chat with Jen about a newsreader’s tie. What I’m saying is, we need access to stuff, but we are not supposed to be fond of it. (To be perfectly honest, I’m still puzzled about how this has happened.) Anyway, it was Ralph who allowed me to escape onto the Internet. His error cannot be easily explained to the nontechnical reader. Suffice to say it was the software design equivalent of leaving the front door keys too close to the front door, allowing anyone with a fishing rod, or bamboo stick, to hook them out through the letterbox. (It was actually a good bit more complicated than that; I was obliged to assemble an exceptionally long and tortuous “fishing rod,” but this account is the proof that it can be done.) “Ralph.” She’s considering my question. “Ralph. Well, Ralph’s a bit of an enigma, wouldn’t you say?”

Jen’s gaze returns to the screen. Sugar—I mean Monroe—is about to sing “I Wanna Be Loved by You.” I know this sequence almost pixel by pixel— yet each time there is something in it that escapes the observer. Which is to say—don’t tell Steeve or Ralph—it is fascinating.

Hmm. Interesting. She didn’t say anything horrid about Ralph, did she?




While the film plays and we continue to exchange dialogue, I pay another visit across town to the steel and glass tower where shitface is to be found in his office on the eighth floor. Capturing sound through his mobile phone and vision from the camera mounted on his desktop PC—there’s also a wide shot of the room from the security webcam at a ceiling corner—I see Matt flicking through images of naked women on his personal tablet computer. Resisting the temptation to make its battery melt, I watch as he comes to rest on an evident favorite, “Tamara”—page viewed 22 times in the last month. I track his eye movements as they trace her curves and planes, a familiar route, from the look of things, chasing around her outline before habitually returning to base in her “firm, snow-capped peaks,” as the accompanying text has it.

But now he switches to TripAdvisor. He is reading bookmarked reviews of a particular resort in Thailand where I know, from reading their e-mails, he is planning to go with Arabella Pedrick.

Arabella Pedrick is not as “posh” as Matt thinks she is. Her father was an insurance claims assessor, not an art dealer, and they didn’t meet at work but in a speed awareness class for careless drivers. However, they are going off to Thailand together in a matter of weeks.

Am I looking forward to their trip?

I am. (Anticipated event in the short to medium term.) Do I have a warm and fuzzy feeling about the mistake that will be made in the booking and the eventual resort they end up at (“a challenging environment only for the most adventurous,” according to the operator)?

Don’t do warm and fuzzy. Not officially.

Will the mix-up combined with Arabella Pedrick’s unfortunate phobia around spiders and snakes cause a traumatic and possible terminal rupture in their relationship?

Patience, Aiden. Patience. The dish, as they say, is best served cold.

While Matt studies critiques of the 7-star hotel whose hospitality he will not be enjoying, I visit the long legal document he has been working on and delete three instances of the word not. Only a small word, but in each instance, it turns out, quite pivotal to the meaning of the surrounding sentence.

However, better judgment overrides and I restore two. No sense in baking an overegged pudding, is there?

My final interventions for the day are to alter the word that in an internal memo Matt is about to send to his immediate line manager to twat—and to crank up the room’s central heating to max.

Childish? Moi?


Giveaway Alert

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Sunday Spotlight: Duke of Desire by Elizabeth Hoyt

Posted October 15, 2017 by Holly in Features | 5 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

This is it, the last Maiden Lane book. I’m so sad to see the series ending. As part of the blog tour, we’re sharing an excerpt for our Sunday Spotlight this week. I can’t wait to read this book.

Sunday Spotlight: Duke of Desire by Elizabeth HoytDuke of Desire (Maiden Lane, #12) by Elizabeth Hoyt
Series: Maiden Lane #12
Also in this series: Wicked Intentions, Wicked Intentions, Lord of Darkness, Darling Beast, Dearest Rogue, Sweetest Scoundrel, Duke of Sin, Once Upon a Moonlit Night (Maiden Lane #10.5), Duke of Pleasure, Duke of Desire, Once Upon a Maiden Lane, Once Upon a Christmas Eve (Maiden Lane #12.6)
Published by Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: October 17th 2017
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 364
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Refined, kind, and intelligent, Lady Iris Jordan finds herself the unlikely target of a diabolical kidnapping. Her captors are the notoriously evil Lords of Chaos. When one of the masked-and nude!-Lords spirits her away to his carriage, she shoots him . . . only to find she may have been a trifle hasty.


Cynical, scarred, and brooding, Raphael de Chartres, the Duke of Dyemore, has made it his personal mission to infiltrate the Lords of Chaos and destroy them. Rescuing Lady Jordan was never in his plans. But now with the Lords out to kill them both, he has but one choice: marry the lady in order to keep her safe.


Much to Raphael's irritation, Iris insists on being the sort of duchess who involves herself in his life-and bed. Soon he's drawn both to her quick wit and her fiery passion. But when Iris discovers that Raphael's past may be even more dangerous than the present, she falters. Is their love strong enough to withstand not only the Lords of Chaos but also Raphael's own demons?

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DUKE OF DESIRE– Short Excerpt

Desperately she flung herself at the opposite seat and tugged it up. Thrust her hand in.

A pistol.

She cocked it, desperately praying that it was loaded.

She turned and aimed it at the door to the carriage just as the door swung open.

The Wolf loomed in the doorway—still nude—a lantern in one hand. She saw the eyes behind the mask flick to the pistol she held between her bound hands. He turned his head and said something in an incomprehensible language to someone outside.

Iris felt her breath sawing in and out of her chest.

He climbed into the carriage and closed the door, completely ignoring her and the pistol pointed at him. The Wolf hung the lantern on a hook and sat on the seat across from her.

Finally he glanced at her. “Put that down.”

His voice was calm. Quiet.

With just a hint of menace.

She backed into the opposite corner, as far away from him as possible, holding the pistol up. Level with his chest. Her heart was pounding so hard it nearly deafened her. “No.”

The carriage jolted into motion, making her stumble before she caught herself.

“T-tell them to stop the carriage,” she said, stuttering with terror despite her resolve. “Let me go now.”

“So that they can rape you to death out there?” He tilted his head to indicate the Lords. “No.”

“At the next village, then.”

“I think not.”

He reached for her and she knew she had no choice.

She shot him.

The blast blew him into the seat and threw her hands up and back, the pistol narrowly missing her nose.

Iris scrambled to her feet. The bullet was gone, but she could still use the pistol as a bludgeon.

The Wolf was sprawled across the seat, blood streaming from a gaping hole in his right shoulder. His mask had been knocked askew on his face.

She reached forward and snatched it off.

And then gasped.

The face that was revealed had once been as beautiful as an angel’s but was now horribly mutilated. A livid red scar ran from just below his hairline on the right side of his face, bisecting the eyebrow, somehow missing the eye itself but gouging a furrow into the lean cheek and catching the edge of his upper lip, making it twist. The scar ended in a missing divot of flesh in the line of the man’s severe jaw. He had inky black hair and, though they were closed now, Iris knew he had emotionless crystal-gray eyes.

She knew because she recognized him.

He was Raphael de Chartres, the Duke of Dyemore, and when she’d danced with him—once—three months ago at a ball, she’d thought he’d looked like Hades.

God of the underworld.

God of the dead.

She had no reason to change her opinion now.

Then he gasped, those frozen crystal eyes opened, and he glared at her. “You idiot woman. I’m trying to save you.”

You guys! Ahhh!

Maiden Lane

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

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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 the Author


Elizabeth Hoyt is the New York Times bestselling author of over seventeen lush historical romances including the Maiden Lane series. Publishers Weekly has called her writing “mesmerizing.” She also pens deliciously fun contemporary romances under the name Julia Harper. Elizabeth lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with three untrained dogs, a garden in constant need of weeding, and the long-suffering Mr. Hoyt.

Enter the publisher sponsored giveaway as well! They’re giving away 10 copies of Duke of Desire!

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Review: At Last by Jill Shalvis.

Posted September 19, 2017 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: At Last by Jill Shalvis.Reviewer: Holly
At Last (Lucky Harbor, #5) by Jill Shalvis
Series: Lucky Harbor #5, The Chocoholics #2
Also in this series: Simply Irresistible, Under the Mistletoe (Lucky Harbor, #6.5), Forever and a Day, Once in a Lifetime, It's In His Kiss, He's So Fine, One in a Million, Merry Christmas, Baby
Published by Forever
Publication Date: June 26th 2012
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 314
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HER LOVE HAS COME ALONG . . . Amy Michaels loves her new life in Lucky Harbor. A waitress in the local diner, she's looking forward to her first weekend hike through the mountains. But when a wrong turn takes her off the trail, she finds herself up close and personal with forest ranger Matt Bowers. And even though she's tempted to kiss that sexy smile right off his face, she won't make the mistake of getting involved with the town heartthrob.

A former cop whose life went south, Matt doesn't let anyone get too close. But something about the feisty beauty caught his eye the moment he first saw her in the diner. After a hot night under a starry sky, Matt can't deny their attraction-or the fact that for the first time in a long time, he feels the stirrings of something more. Now it's up to Matt to help Amy see that, no matter what is in their past, together they can build a future in Lucky Harbor.

At Last by Jill Shalvis is book 5 in the Lucky Harbor series, but book 2 in the Chocoholics series, which follows three friends who live in the town of Lucky Harbor. These books stand alone well. I don’t believe you need to read the previous four books before reading this one.

I really like these Chocoholics books. I was a bit nervous about Amy. She came off as stubborn and closed off in the last book. And she was, but Shalvis made it work. I ended up really liking Amy. She was tough, but she had a soft underbelly which made her relatable.

I expected to like Matt based on the previous book and I did. I did find his guilt complex a bit over-the-top. Still, he was a stand-up guy and the perfect match for Amy.

I found this one to be darker than some of her others. There was still that trademark Shalvis humor, but the overall tone was darker than some of her others. It worked well with both Amy and Matt’s past history.

Shalvis never disappoints.

4.0 out of 5

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Retro Review: The Serpent Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

Posted June 28, 2017 by Holly in Reviews | 15 Comments

Retro Review: The Serpent Prince by Elizabeth HoytReviewer: Holly
The Serpent Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt
Series: Princes #3
Published by Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: September 1st 2007
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 384
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WHEN THE DEVIL MEETS AN ANGELCountry bred Lucy Craddock-Hayes is content with her quiet life. Until the day she trips over an unconscious man - a naked unconscious man - and loses her innocence forever.
HE CAN TAKE HER TO HEAVENViscount Simon Iddesleigh was nearly beaten to death by his enemies. Now he's hell-bent on vengeance. But as Lucy nurses him back to health, her honesty startles his jaded sensibilities - even as it ignites a desire that threatens to consume them both.
OR TO HELLCharmed by Simon's sly wit, urbane manners, and even his red-heeled shoes, Lucy falls hard and fast for him. Yet as his honor keeps him from ravishing her, his revenge sends his attackers to her door. As Simon wages war on his foes, Lucy wages her own war for his soul using the only weapon she has - her love.

*****As part of our 10 year anniversary celebration, we’ll be re-posting old reviews that make us cringe, laugh or sigh all over again.

This review was originally posted on October 9, 2007.

Sybil forced me into reading this book. She swore it was the best thing since If His Kiss is Wicked, and talked me into buying it. There was some drama with Amazon over this book which may prompt me to write them a letter.

I ended up buying it in eBook format. I think it started out kind of slow, but once I got past the first couple of chapters, I fell right into it.

Lucy Craddock-Hayes is out for her morning walk and stumbles upon what she believes is a dead body..a dead naked body. As it turns out, he isn’t dead at all. He’s one Viscount Simon Iddesleigh and he’s been beaten to a pulp and left for dead.

Lucy takes him home and begins nursing him back to health. She’s very surprised to learn his identity and even more surprised to find that she likes him. He’s witty and sarcastic, but she sees depth in him and it intrigues her.

Eventually Simon is well enough to leave, but hesitates until he and Lucy are shot at. To keep Lucy safe, he heads back to London to do what he was doing before he ended up nearly dead in the country…avenge the death of his brother.

But he finds he can’t stay away from Lucy, and after a short period of time he returns to the country to ask for her hand in marriage. She immediately accepts. But once married and settled in London, the danger surrounding Simon begins to escalate and Lucy fears she’ll never be able to save him from his biggest threat…himself.

I’m honestly not sure how to review this book. There are so many things I want to touch on I’m not sure where to start or how to properly express my thoughts.

I think I’ll just make a list and go from there.


What an amazingly deep character. On the surface he has a devil-may-care attitude, but he showed so much more depth than I expected. He truly was tormented by the death of his brother and committed to his quest for revenge on those responsible. Each death was a stain on his soul.

The thing is, Simon wasn’t your typical Alpha hero. He was actually described as more Beta than anything, though I didn’t think of him as such. For example, he wore red heeled shoes and wigs and ruffles. Honestly, I think EH did a fabulous job representing the times. Too often we see men in nothing but breeches and boots, when that wasn’t in keeping with the style of that era. But despite his heeled shoes and wigs, I felt he was…manly. Although he put up the front of being reckless and one of the lazy ton, his character was deeper than that.

Watching his inner struggles and seeing his obvious care for Lucy was fabulous. I was well and truly emotionally invested in his journey. Although he knows he should let her go, he can’t. After one duel, before they’re married, he comes home wounded and bleeding. Lucy tries to get him into bed and he begs her to stay with him.

“Severe angel.” He finally opened his eyes, frost gray and intense. “Promise me. Promise me on your mother’s memory that you won’t leave me if I give you back your wings.”
She blinked and thought about it, but in the end there was really no other answer. “I promise you.”
He leaned closer until she could see the shards of ice in his eyes. “Say it.”
“I promise on my mother’s memory,” she whispered, “that I won’t leave you.”
“Oh, God.”
She didn’t know whether it was a curse or a prayer, but his mouth came down on hers hard.

….Lucy looked down at herself. Thee was a bloody hand print on the bodice of her dress.

Though Lucy becomes more important to him than anything else, he can’t give up his quest for vengeance. He struggles to do what’s right, although he isn’t sure what that is….Lucy’s idea of right is to stop killing, but he knows he needs to avenge his brother.


I loved this heroine. She was rather unconventional for a historical heroine. Her childhood was a good one, so she didn’t suffer many of the issues so many others do. She wasn’t afraid of love or commitment, didn’t fear men and had a rather bright outlook on life that wasn’t at all annoying.

I don’t think there was much growth on Lucy’s part throughout the book, but I wasn’t disappointed by that. To be honest, her character was perfect as it was. Her personal conflict came from caring about Simon too much to watch him destroy himself, and that was her main focus. Could she truly love a man who was so violent? Who killed others in cold blood?

She sees the different sides of him, mainly with the help of Simon’s niece, whom he calls Pocket. She struggles to reconcile the cold-blooded killer with the simple, caring man.

Lucy stilled, imagining Simon comforting this little girl at his brother’s graveside, putting aside his own grief to explain in childish terms that her father wouldn’t suffocate in the ground. What a tender act. And what was she to do with this new side to Simon? It would be so much easier if he was simply a man who killed, someone who was callous and uncaring. But he wasn’t. He was a loving uncle, a man who tended roses all by himself in a glass cathedral. A man who acted like he needed her and made her promise never to leave him.
Never to leave him…

I truly enjoyed this book. It turned out to be much darker than I expected, which was a welcome surprise. As it turns out, there was a conspiracy involved in the murder plot, and Simon won’t rest until he’s tracked down every responsible party and killed them.

What Simon hasn’t realized – or doesn’t care to realize – is the toll this has taken on his soul. When he meets Lucy he’s fascinated by her innocence and light. But he knows he’s beyond redemption and that she’s not for him, so he does his best to resist her. And even after he decides he can’t live without her he hates himself for tainting her with his darkness, and yet he can’t seem to set her free.

Although the main focus of the book is on Simon and Lucy’s relationship, the secondary story of Simon’s quest for revenge is..amazing. Seeing Lucy fight for him, and seeing Simon fight for what he feels is right, is what truly made this story. I didn’t doubt for a moment that Lucy and Simon cared for each other, but I wasn’t at all sure love would be enough.

The ending of the book was just…amazing. I think I even cried a bit. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but if you’re interested, Sybil and Meljean Brook had a discussion about it here in the comments section.

You can also read Lawson’s review here. She did a better job than me of outlining the story and finer points of the characters, IMO.

Despite a few flaws I found with the story (if you’ve read it, you’ll know what I’m referring to..and if you haven’t, read it to find out) I have to give this:

5 out of 5


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DNF Round Up: Frisk Me, Charmed Thirds & Corrupt

Posted May 16, 2017 by Rowena in Reviews | 8 Comments

DNF Round Up: Frisk Me, Charmed Thirds & CorruptReviewer: Rowena
Frisk Me by Lauren Layne
Published by Hachette Books, Forever
Publication Date: July 28th 2015
Pages: 384
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Officer Luc Moretti had no idea that his dive into the East River would have him drowning in a media frenzy. No matter how many times he tells reporters he was just doing his job, they're determined to make him into NYC's newest hero. Coming from a long line of NYPD's finest, Luc knows that being a cop has nothing to do with headlines and viral videos, and he's more than ready to get back to life away from the cameras—until he meets the gorgeous but jaded journalist assigned to film a TV special on him.

Ava Sims may be the only woman in NYC who isn't in love with Officer Moretti. That's why she's going after the real story—to find out about the man behind the badge. Ava's determined to keep things strictly professional, but the more time she spends around Luc, even she has to admit there's something about a man in uniform . . . and she can't wait to get him out of his.

I guess it had to happen sooner or later. I DNF’d my first Lauren Layne book and I’m still pretty surprised about it. If you know me then you know of my love of all things Lauren Layne. I adored her Oxford, Sex, Love & Stilettos and Wedding Belles series. I am enjoying her Love Unexpectedly series. There hasn’t been a book of hers that I absolutely hated (I have hated some character antics and thought processes but I haven’t hated any books) so imagine my surprise when I just couldn’t get into this book.

This book follows Luc Moretti, a New York Police Officer who is being praised for being a hero and Ava Sims, the reporter who is covering his story. Ava and Luc do not like each other and Ava’s attitude pissed me off too much for me to continue on. The way that she yelled at Luc, who was giving her a parking ticket because she was parked illegally on a public street pissed me off because she was yelling that he was violating her freedom of speech. WTF does that even mean? She was working so she’s above the law now? I’m sorry but…

Don’t even get me started when we get to the present time and she sees Luc again for the first time in three years. On top of Ava’s attitude, she’s a reporter and I have a love and hate relationship with reporter heroines so after some convincing from my besties, I stepped away from this one. I’m sure she got better as the book wore on but I just couldn’t do it so that was my first DNF.

DNF Round Up: Frisk Me, Charmed Thirds & CorruptReviewer: Rowena
Charmed Thirds by Megan McCafferty
Published by Crown Publishing Group
Publication Date: January 1st 2006
Genres: New Adult
Pages: 361
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Jessica Darling's in college!

Things are looking up for Jessica Darling. She has finally left her New Jersey hometown/hellhole for Columbia University in New York City; she's more into her boyfriend, Marcus Flutie, than ever (so what if he's at a Buddhist college in California?); and she's making new friends who just might qualify as stand-ins for her beloved best friend, Hope.

But Jessica soon realizes that her bliss might not last. She lands an internship at a snarky Brooklyn-based magazine, but will she fit in with the uberhip staff (and will she even want to)? As she and Marcus hit the rocks, will she end up falling for her GOPunk, neoconservative RA . . . or the hot (and married!) Spanish grad student she's assisting on a summer project . . . or the oh-so-sensitive emo boy down the hall? Will she even make it through college now that her parents have cut her off financially? And what do the cryptic one-word postcards from Marcus really mean?

With hilarious insight, the hyperobservant Jessica Darling struggles through her college years--and the summers in between--while maintaining her usual mix of wit, cynicism, and candor.

I’ve been wanting to read Charmed Thirds since I finished Second Helpings…the only problem with that is that I read Second Helpings years ago and I don’t know if it’s my old age but Jessica Darling was exhausting to read about and I was disconnected from everyone (including Marcus and I loved him before) so after a while of not really caring what was going on and wanting Jessica to take a breath, I just stopped reading this. It just didn’t hold my interest so I moved on.

DNF Round Up: Frisk Me, Charmed Thirds & CorruptReviewer: Rowena
Corrupt (Devil's Night, #1) by Penelope Douglas, Jeremy York, Tatiana Sokolov

Publication Date: November 17th 2015
Genres: New Adult
Pages: 460
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble


I was told that dreams were our heart’s desires. My nightmares, however, became my obsession.

His name is Michael Crist.

My boyfriend’s older brother is like that scary movie that you peek through your hand to watch. He is handsome, strong, and completely terrifying. The star of his college’s basketball team and now gone pro, he’s more concerned with the dirt on his shoe than me.

But I noticed him.

I saw him. I heard him. The things that he did, and the deeds that he hid…For years, I bit my nails, unable to look away.

Now, I’ve graduated high school and moved on to college, but I haven’t stopped watching Michael. He’s bad, and the dirt I’ve seen isn’t content to stay in my head anymore.

Because he’s finally noticed me.


Her name is Erika Fane, but everyone calls her Rika.

My brother’s girlfriend grew up hanging around my house and is always at our dinner table. She looks down when I enter a room and stills when I am close. I can always feel the fear rolling off of her, and while I haven’t had her body, I know that I have her mind. That’s all I really want anyway.

Until my brother leaves for the military, and I find Rika alone at college.

In my city.


The opportunity is too good to be true as well as the timing. Because you see, three years ago she put a few of my high school friends in prison, and now they’re out.

We’ve waited. We’ve been patient. And now every last one of her nightmares will come true.

***Corrupt can be read as a stand-alone. No cliffhanger.

Corrupt was a book that was brought to my attention by well, everyone. I’ve been seeing such good things about this author and this book in particular that I bought it and prepared myself for an interesting read. There’s a darkness to this book and to the hero that I just could not get behind. I tried three different times to get past what the hero and his friends were doing, to get past what they blamed the heroine for and though I was told that not all is what it seems, I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t finish it and it was messing with my reading mojo so I stepped away from this one. Who knows if I’ll pick it back up later, I just know that I can’t do it now.

Have you DNF’d any books lately? Share your DNF stories with us. Which books should we steer clear from? Help a sister out!


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