Tag: St. Martin’s Press

Sunday Spotlight: Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon by Kerrelyn Sparks

Posted April 8, 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

Last year I was introduced to Kerrelyn Sparks. The Embraced follows a group of adopted sisters as they discovered they have elemental or magical powers. I really enjoyed the previous books in the series and I’m looking forward to this one.

Sunday Spotlight: Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon by Kerrelyn SparksEight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon (The Embraced, #3) by Kerrelyn Sparks
Series: The Embraced #3
Also in this series: How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days (The Embraced, #1), So I Married a Sorcerer (The Embraced, #2), So I Married a Sorcerer (The Embraced, #2), Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon (The Embraced, #3)

Publication Date: March 27th 2018
Point-of-View: Historical Romance, Paranormal Romance, Fantasy
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Romance, Paranormal Romance
Pages: 448
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads

From the brilliant imagination of Kerrelyn Sparks comes a bold new fantasy romance series in which passion and magic collide. Behold the Embraced…

Gwennore has a talent. An Elf able to track down the cause of an illness and heal it, she’s a valuable asset to her people. But when the kidnapping of a young girl thrusts Gwennore into the very heart of the realm of the dragons, she discovers not only a place of power and magic, but also a haunted land, plagued by an ancient curse that all but ensures extinction to the royal family. But when she meets the smoldering General Silas Dravenko, they strike a bargain—save the country from its cursed illness, and he will return the kidnapped girl. She’s been raised never to trust a dragon, but never did making a deal with the devil feel so good…

Silas has no way of curing the family he’s loyally served for years. But when a beautiful elf, long considered the enemy of the dragons, comes bursting into his world, Silas is awakened to passion and desire in a way he’s never felt before. But can he trust a sworn enemy to save the very existence he holds dear? And can their love survive those that threaten to tear them apart?

Order the Book:

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

Excerpt

fluff, she thought about wishing for that magical world where the tall and handsome stranger was waiting for her. But what were the chances of that actually happening? It made more sense to wish for something that could possi- bly come true. A long and happy life for Eviana and Eric.

“I’m weady!” the little girl announced.

“Me, too!” Gwennore took a big breath and started to gently blow.

Eviana huffed and puffed, spitting more than blowing, then giggled as white florets detached from the flower head and floated away on a breeze. “We did it!” She danced about. “Guess what I wished for!”

“Ye shouldn’t say, or it won’t come—”

“I wished you not be sad.”

Gwennore stiffened. Good goddesses, was she so obvious that even a three-year-old could tell? “Ye think I’m sad?”

Eviana nodded. “ ’Cause we get pwesents, and you don’t. But I’ll give you some fwowers, too.”

Gwennore smiled. “That’s very sweet of you, but ye needn’t worry. My birthday will happen in the fall at the Autumn Embrace. I have the same birthday as yer papa. And Brigitta, Maeve, and Brody.”

“Weally?”

“Yes. Really.”

Eviana clapped her hands together. “Then we can have another party?”

Gwennore nodded. “Now let’s get some flowers for Sorcha, so we can head back to camp.”

“All wight!” Eviana skipped away, stopping every now and then to pluck a flower.

A large shadow swept over them, and Gwennore glanced up. Good goddesses! Her heart lurched.

Dragon.

She scrambled to her feet. What was a Norveshki dragon doing here? Was that what had been circling them? Why would it be interested in her? Not me. Icy-cold terror crept into Gwennore’s bones, freezing her for a few seconds. Eviana. Dragons were known for kidnapping small children.

With a shriek, the dragon swooshed down. Fire burst from its mouth and hit the ground, creating a wall of fire between the hill and the encampment. Heavenly god- desses, it was cutting them off!

“Eviana!” Gwennore dashed toward the little girl. She would grab her and run for the nearby forest. There, the larger trees could shelter them from the dragon’s view.

Eviana’s eyes grew wide with terror, and the flowers tumbled from her hand. She turned and ran. Away from the forest.

“Nay!” Gwennore struggled to catch up with her. The dragon swooped down.

Gwennore heard the beating of its wings and its breath huffing just above her head. She reached out a hand to grab Eviana, but the dragon shoved her with its powerful back legs, flattening her facedown on the ground. She barely caught her breath before she saw the talons of the dragon’s forelegs curl around Eviana.

With a squeal, the little girl squirmed.

“Eviana!” Gwennore scooted forward on her elbows while the dragon hovered a few inches above her. She seized its talons and attempted to pull them back. But they only tightened, digging into Eviana’s skin till beads of blood blossomed on the girl’s white dress.

“Stop it!” Gwennore cried. “Ye’re hurting her!”

Whoosh, whoosh. The air around them stirred as the dragon beat its long, black wings.

It was going to take off! Gwennore frantically yanked at its talons, but it enveloped the little girl in its forelegs and pulled her tight against its smooth chest.

A bolt of lightning struck the ground just as the dragon rose in the air. Leo was attacking. The ground beneath Gwennore trembled from the impact, and a booming noise deafened her ears.

The dragon rose high enough for her to gain her foot- ing. A sudden blast of wind shoved the dragon to the side, causing it to collide with her and knock her back down. That had to be Brigitta’s husband, using his wind power to attack.

As the dragon struggled to regain its equilibrium, she scrambled to her feet and grasped one of the creature’s forelegs to try to keep it from flying away. If the two kings succeeded in frightening the dragon enough that it re- leased Eviana, she would fall, and it would be dangerous for her to fall more than a few feet.

A second lightning strike ripped past them, then an- other one, dangerously close to the dragon’s head. The air sizzled with energy, buzzing in Gwennore’s ears.

With a screech, the dragon shot up into the air. Gwennore gasped as she was pulled off the ground. Her arms strained, and panic threatened to overwhelm her. Should she let go? No! She couldn’t leave Eviana alone.

Higher and higher, the dragon rose. The people below grew smaller, their screams more distant. The Norva River was now a blue ribbon, winding through a minia- ture forest. Luna and Lessa help her! If she lost her grip, she would plummet to her death.

Another bolt of lightning streaked past them, and she cringed. Poor Leo! He had to be frantic, but what could he do? If he hit the dragon directly, the shock would kill his daughter. And if Ulfrid used his wind power to make the dragon crash into the ground, Eviana would die.

“Gwennie,” Eviana whimpered.

“I’m here!” Gwennore’s arms burned. How long would her strength last? How long could she hold on with this fierce grip before her hands began to cramp?

Don’t think about it. She hissed in a breath between clenched teeth. She had no choice. Letting go would mean death. Letting go would leave Eviana unprotected. “I won’t leave you.”

A squawk sounded in the distance, and she spotted an eagle following them. Brody. Thank you. She wasn’t alone.

But could she hold on all the way to Norveshka? If only there was a way to reason—

Of course! If the dragons worked for the Norveshki army, then that meant they were able to follow orders. They had to understand the Norveshki language.

“Can you hear me?” she yelled in Norveshki. “You must return us immediately!”

No answer, but then how could a dragon reply?

She raised her voice. “You have kidnapped a princess! She’s the daughter of the king and queen of Eberon and the niece of the queen of Tourin. Those countries will declare war on Norveshka! They will attack you!”

The dragon made an angry huffing noise.

“Return us now!” Gwennore screamed. “Return us or hundreds of Norveshki will die. Take us back now!”

Do as she says, brother.

Gwennore flinched as a deep male voice reverberated in her head. Who—what was that?

No, another male voice answered.

She gasped. There were voices in her head? And they were arguing? Goddesses help her, she had to be losing her mind. She twisted in the air, looking around.

Another dragon! It was coming from Norveshka and flying straight toward them.

Is it true what the woman says? the deeper voice asked. Have you taken a princess?

The queen needs a princess, the other one replied.

She was hearing the dragons, Gwennore realized with a shock. The voices were speaking Norveshki, and there was no one else around, other than Brody, who was far behind.

This is a mistake, brother. You must return the child, the deeper voice insisted.

That had to be the newcomer. “He’s right!” Gwennore yelled. “It’s a terrible mistake. Take us back now!”

Silence.

Was it just her imagination, or had she felt the muscles in the dragon’s foreleg flinch? The dragon that was carrying her and Eviana had grown tense.

She heard us, he hissed. The damned elf can hear us!

Stay calm, the newcomer urged him.

No! The dragon shot straight up into the sky.

Gwennore cried out, struggling to keep her grip. The wind buffeted against her, threatening to tear her loose. Good goddesses, the dragon was trying to kill her!

“Gwennie,” Eviana whimpered.

“I’m here!” Tears stung Gwennore’s eyes as the ache in her shoulders and hands became more agonizing.

The dragon went into a series of rolls.

As Gwennore was tossed about, one of her hands slipped loose. No! Luna and Lessa, help me! The dragon used his back legs to kick her loose.

Down, down, she was falling. Dear goddesses, am I going to die? The wind rushed past her ears, mingling with the little girl’s screams. Eviana. I wanted to protect you.

Something dark blocked her vision, then bam! She struck something so hard, it knocked the breath out of her. Stunned, she was unable to think for a moment. Then, with a rush, her mind raced. She was still alive. Black,leathery legs held her suspended in the air.

The Embraced

Giveaway Alert

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

Kerrelyn Sparks

WEBSITE | TWITTER | GOODREADS

Apparently, she has issues with reality. After writing 16 books about vampires and shifters, Kerrelyn has now completely gone off the deep end and wound up on another planet.

Although Kerrelyn is best known (so far) for the Love at Stake series, which has hit as high as number 5 on the New York Times list and 22 on the USA Today list, she hopes her readers will love The Embraced as much as they did her merry band of vamps and shifters.

Kerrelyn lives with her family in the Greater Houston area of Texas. You can visit with her on Goodreads or her Facebook page, where she does a monthly contest. On Twitter, she posts as @KerrelynSparks.


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Guest Review: So I Married a Sorcerer by Kerrelyn Sparks

Posted April 6, 2018 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: So I Married a Sorcerer by Kerrelyn SparksReviewer: Jen
So I Married a Sorcerer (The Embraced, #2) by Kerrelyn Sparks
Series: The Embraced #2
Also in this series: How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days (The Embraced, #1), So I Married a Sorcerer (The Embraced, #2), Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon (The Embraced, #3)
Published by St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: August 29th, 2017
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Pages: 469
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Growing up on the Isle of Moon, Brigitta knows nothing of her past, except that she is Embraced: born with powers that forced her into hiding. Everything changes when she learns she’s a princess, hidden away from her villainous half-brother who now rules the kingdom. But he knows about Brigitta, and he’ll do anything to get her back. Unless a certain roguish pirate has anything to say about it…

Rupert is both an infamous pirate and a sorcerer with the power to harness the wind. He’s been waiting nineteen years for revenge—and he needs Brigitta to get it. What begins as a kidnapping of the fiery beauty turns into a fierce attraction. But can he win the captive princess’s heart?

I enjoyed Book 1 of the series, but I loved Book 2! To recap, the series follows a group of adopted sisters who’ve been secluded at a convent. Here we follow the second of the sisters, Brigitta. The convent is headed by Mother Ginessa. In the style of Albus Dumbledore, Mother Ginessa has kept the girls’ true histories secret until she’s forced to reveal some tiny amount info, at which time she reveals just a slice of the truth before sending the girl off on her merry way. (Because, you know, understanding their family histories and being able to prepare to meet those challenges head on is apparently a no-go for Mother Ginessa.) But as with Luciana from book 1, Brigitta rises to the challenge when she’s told she’s actually a princess (surprise!) who’s half-brother the king is suddenly requesting her presence (i.e., basically kidnapping her off the ship she’s on). But while she’s getting these truth bombs dropped on her, the infamous pirate Rupert interrupts her brother’s kidnapping with his own more successful kidnapping. Turns out Rupert haaaaates her brother and wants to use Brigitta as part of his revenge plot, and as Brigitta learns more about her awful brother and Rupert’s big secret, she realizes she’s sorta ok with that. The rest of the book becomes about Brigitta, Rupert, and their friends trying to right past wrongs and bring peace to the kingdom.

I adored both Brigitta and Rupert. Brigitta is smart and brave but in a way that’s realistic for a naive, sheltered young woman. She’s understandably freaked out by Rupert and isn’t stupid about taking risks, but she also knows that if she doesn’t go with him she puts innocent people in danger. I love the way she’s so protective of her friends and, later, of Rupert and his crew. She’s Embraced as well (a person born with magical powers, which is illegal in most of the world), although I didn’t think her power was used to its full potential for most of the book. She can find things that are hidden, which can mean objects as well as a person’s secrets. I thought there could be more done to explore this talent, but instead it really only plays a major role towards the end.

Rupert is also Embraced, and his power is much cooler. He can control the wind, a power he uses to great effect when he’s pirating or whispering sexily in Brigitta’s ear from across the ship. He’s very much a pirate in the style of Westley from A Princess Bride, in that he’s handsome, kind, only steals from bad guys, and always protects innocent people. He’s kind to his crew, helps out the underdog, and is so tender with Brigitta, even from the start. That doesn’t change the fact that he is planning to use her in a cruel way, though. As readers we can see immediately that he would never be able to go through with it, but he experiences some major internal conflict as he wrestles with his desire for revenge and his desire for Brigitta. He has spent his entire life plotting revenge and hating both Brigitta and her brother, but the more he gets to know her the more he sees she is not what he thought. I loved that as his feelings grew for Brigitta, he realizes he has to find another way, and then he’s all in with her. He is just such a good man!

There were two relatively minor things I didn’t like about the book. First, I thought the ending with Brigitta’s brother was kind of rushed and trite. I also got annoyed by the constant jokes about the pirates ravishing Brigitta and her chaperone, Sister Fallyn. It is a pretty serious subject and, in reality, would be a huge threat to both women. It went on way too long and just felt kind of icky, when there were other ways Sister Fallyn could have provided comic relief.

I think you could certainly enjoy this book without reading Book 1 of the series, but I think you’d get a lot more out of it if you started with Book 1. I am beyond excited to read Book 3 (one word: DRAGONS!!), and I can’t wait to see where this series goes.

The Embraced Series

Grade: 4.5 out of 5

four-half-stars


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What Are You Reading? (+ Contemporary Giveaway)

Posted March 9, 2018 by Rowena in Features, Giveaways | 6 Comments

WAYR-New

Casee: I’ve had a lot going on and am still reading Storm Gathering by Rebecca Zanetti. I almost put it aside and picked up The Woman Left Behind by Linda Howard, but I’m too anal to leave a book unfinished even if I eventually go back to it. Storm Gathering really picked up too, so I’m looking forward to finishing it. I always say that the weekend is coming up and I’ll be able to read, but that never happens. We have family birthdays for the next two weekends so I doubt I’ll have time until the summer. Ha.

Holly: I’m struggling to read this week. I want to read, but nothing is really holding my attention. I read Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt, which was really good. I love the anti-heroes and Val definitely fit the bill. I’m in the middle of Ocean Light by Nalini Singh, but it isn’t holding my attention. It isn’t often a book by Singh doesn’t immediately suck me in. I’m pretty sure I’m just in a weird reading funk.

I listened to On the Edge and Bayou Moon by Ilona Andrews. Rowena said she was going to start reading them, so I figured I’d read them with her (a hardship, as I’m sure you can imagine..heh). Though to be honest, I wasn’t as invested in either one this time around. Again, I think it’s my reading mood. I don’t know what I’ll read next. Maybe Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope.

Rowena: At the moment, I’m deep into a book hangover after finishing Wildfire by Ilona Andrews. I wasn’t ready to be done with those books and instead of jumping into my next read, which is Hello Stranger by Lisa Kleypas, instead, I’m reading everything I can find online about all things Hidden Legacy and Ilona Andrews. In my quest to find all of the Hidden Legacy stuff, I came across this gem of a blog called Wicked Scribes and her Hidden Legacy character guide is a thing of beauty. If you haven’t checked her out, you should. I’ve been reading everything on her blog since Monday.

I’m hoping that over the weekend, I’ll finish up Hello Stranger and then start on On the Edge by Ilona Andrews because…I can’t get enough of her stuff.

Giveaway Alert

We are very fortunate here at Book Binge. We have loads and loads of books to read and we want to share the wealth so each week, we’ll be tacking on a Freebie Friday giveaway to our What Are You Reading posts. This week, we’re giving away…

What Are You Reading? (+ Contemporary Giveaway)Cowboy Stole My Heart (River Ranch, #1) by Soraya Lane
Series: River Ranch #1
Published by St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: January 2nd 2018
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Westerns
Pages: 304
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads

It takes true grit to build a billion-dollar dynasty like the Ford family ranch. But when it comes to finding love, all it takes is one handsome cowboy to steal a woman’s heart…

SHE’S RIDING SOLO

As one of the heirs to the River Ranch fortune, Mia Ford is practically Texas royalty. But that doesn’t mean she’s some pampered princess. She can saddle up and ride a horse as well as any man, even a hard-working cowboy like Sam Mendes. For years, she’s harbored a crush on the strong, silent horseman. But how can she make a move when she’s his boss?

HE’S TAKING THE REINS

Sam Mendes is through with love—or so he thought. Still recovering from a breakup, he’s doing everything in his power to resist Mia Ford. It’s bad enough she’s the kind of beauty who drives men wild with desire. It’s even worse she’s got him so worked up, aching to kiss her lips, when he’s supposed to be working her ranch. Is this lovestruck cowboy willing to risk losing his job—and breaking his heart—to win the girl of his dreams?

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What are you reading this week? Any new favorites or books that drove you crazy? Share!


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Sunday Spotlight: Maybe This Time by Nicole McLaughlin

Posted February 18, 2018 by Holly 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. 🙂

Sunday Spotlight

Today we’re bringing you an excerpt from Maybe This Time by Nicole McLaughlin. Y’all, the series is called Whiskey and Weddings. How can I resist?

Sunday Spotlight: Maybe This Time by Nicole McLaughlinMaybe This Time (Whiskey and Weddings, #2) by Nicole McLaughlin
Series: Whiskey and Weddings #2
Published by St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: February 27th 2018
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 300
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads

Jen Mackenzie has been knocked down more than a few times, but she always gets up and makes sure she has the last word. It’s the reason she now considers herself equal parts self-sufficient and free-spirit. But since losing her job and trying to help her mother beat cancer, real life―and her occasional careless choices―have begun to catch up with her. Her one saving grace: The Stag, a boutique distillery that has become Kansas City’s go-to wedding venue. The only catch: One of the owners, TJ Laughlin, happens to be the one man who somehow manages to make Jen feel inadequate.

TJ has secretly had a thing for Jen since high school. Now, as her new boss, it’s a daily struggle between revealing his feelings and wringing her beautiful neck. Only one thing is for certain: he can’t stand idly by and watch the woman he cares for struggle. She may be convinced that accepting TJ’s help is a weakness. But all he sees in Jen is beauty and strength, inside and out. As things finally heat up between them, can TJ find a way to convince Jen that love is about give and take―and having it all, together?

Order the Book:

AMAZON || BARNES AND NOBLE || KOBO || iBOOKS || GOOGLE PLAY BOOKS

Excerpt

One

Twelve years earlier

Apparently, blondes did have more fun. Or at least got more attention, Jen Mackenzie thought as she made her way down the main hall of her high school. Three guys had already made lewd comments, she’d received one request for her number, and several girls had given her dirty looks.

And the day was only half over.

The first tardy bell sounded as she took a left toward the history and social sciences wing of Green Hills High School.

“Looking good, Jen,” the best friend of the most popular guy in school said. Did that make him the second-most popular guy? Jen didn’t hang around with—or give two shits about—popularity. It wasn’t for her, so she just gave him the finger and kept on walking.

He laughed in response. “Anytime you want.”

She rolled her eyes, but smirked. She could appreciate a guy that could take it as well as he gave it. Jen was no stranger to male attention. However, she wasn’t used to it being so blatant. Not at school anyway, where she was normally an outcast. Or the kind of girl guys propositioned in secret. But the previous week she’d performed the role of Sandy in her high school’s musical rendition of Grease. Apparently dyeing your normally dark hair blonde, proving you could act and sing, and donning tight-as-hell pants, could turn an obscure emo girl into an overnight sensation. Now the catcalls were loud and proud. Who’d have thought?

Although she was smart enough to know none of it was genuine, not even a jaded and bitter soul such as herself could deny the instinctive pleasure this new attention brought her. It wasn’t that she’d wanted to be a nobody … necessarily. It was just so much easier to not care. Case in point: She was already feeling the pressure from this newfound attention. The blonde hair had to be part of the appeal, and yet, there was no way her mother would give her the money to maintain it. The director’s sister did hair, and so she’d let Jen come to her shop and get a head full of platinum highlights for free. But a few weeks from now she’d be the girl with the nasty dark roots—a clear reminder to her peers that she was not one of them. With a sigh, she picked up her pace as her stomach gave a tiny moan of protest. Don’t you dare humiliate me, stomach.

She’d purposely not eaten lunch for two reasons. One, she didn’t want to risk spilling anything on her top, and two, to ensure she didn’t have bad breath for this hour. And okay, probably a little bit because her lunch account was negative nine dollars. At ten, they held the right to refuse you, depending on the mood of the cashier, and Jen wasn’t willing to risk suffering that humiliation. Not again. Asking her mom for lunch money was only successful when she was in a good mood. Otherwise she’d get the “if you want to eat lunch every day, then get a job” speech. But a job would not allow her to attend rehearsals. A dilemma, but they didn’t call them starving artists for nothing. Someday her talent would pay off.

As Jen approached the door to her fifth-hour Government class, she slowed, trying not to appear overeager. Normally, that would have come naturally. She hated this class. Mr. Timmons was a bore, and she hated the texture of his hair, which looked like a toupee but supposedly wasn’t. All she could do was stare at it all hour to try to see if it moved in conjunction with his head. Incredibly distracting, and several times she considered just raising her hand and asking if he’d just give it a good tug so everyone could finally focus on the three branches of government.

Today, however, she was nervous and excited. Popping a piece of gum in her mouth, she entered the class as the second bell rang, the reason for her anxiety staring back at her from the far row.

TJ Laughlin.

Just the sight of him made her nauseous and tingly. And did he just shift in his seat and look away in disgust? Was he annoyed? The seating arrangement had just changed at the end of class yesterday. Maybe he wasn’t happy, considering he used to sit next to a group of his friends.

“Hey, Jen,” a second-tier popular girl named Renee said from her seat. “Cool hair.”

Jen glanced at her, trying to analyze if it was a sincere compliment. Unable to tell, she replied, “Thanks.” No smile. Better to play it safe and not look foolish.

Making her way to the table she was now sharing with TJ, she pulled out her chair and sat down. He said nothing, but his left leg was bouncing nervously beneath the desk. Her first instincts must have been right.

“Feel free to request to move to another seat,” she said under her breath.

His leg froze as he looked at her. “Why would I do that?”

He almost looked pissed off. She glanced down at his leg. “Either you have to take a piss, or I make you uncomfortable.”

He let out a huff of a laugh and shook his head. “You have no idea.”

That was a vague answer. Before she could demand he clarify, Mr. Timmons was beginning his droll lecture. TJ, having always been a perfect student, wouldn’t appreciate her talking to him during class. Nerd. Except he was a hot, rich nerd. The kind of guy who would never want anything from Jen but what she could give him in fifteen minutes in his car. She was no prude, but she wouldn’t give any guy the satisfaction of looking down on her any more than he already did.

Mr. Timmons went on about Congress, and it wasn’t long before Jen was leaning back in her chair and doodling in her notebook. Anything to take her mind off how good TJ smelled, or how his forearm muscles constricted as he furiously took notes. He was left-handed, and she liked watching the way his wrist curled in as he used his pen. Almost like he was writing upside down.

“The way you write looks messed up,” she whispered.

His hand stilled as he turned to look at her. “I’m left-handed.”

She gave him a long look. “No shit.” She sat up, scooted her chair forward, and leaned on the table, looking at him. She whispered. “Does that mean you jerk off with your left hand?”

“What the…” He turned away, as if to be sure no one overhead her. Redness bloomed on his cheeks and down his neck.

Jen smiled, biting her bottom lip as he faced her once more.

“Why would you ask me that?”

She shrugged. “Just curious. There’s no shame in jacking off, TJ.”

He gave her a side-eye. “I didn’t say there was.”

They stared at each other for a long moment until his eyes finally roamed over the blonde waves framing her face. “You gonna dye it back?” he asked, surprising her.

“I don’t know. Should I?”

He lifted an eyebrow. “Doesn’t really matter. But the blonde isn’t you.”

She wasn’t sure what he meant by that, but she assumed it was because her normal dark brown hair was drab. Just like her. Jen wasn’t meant to be a sweet, beautiful, upbeat, Sandy kind of woman. In fact she’d auditioned for Rizzo, thinking she was a shoo-in. She felt like she was made for the role. But the minute she’d got done singing, the director had stood up, clapped, and said, “I did not expect that voice to come out of you. But I think we have our Sandy.” Nobody had been more shocked than Jen, and probably most of the student body. And she still hadn’t decided if his initial reaction was a compliment or not. She was leaning toward him being a stereotyping jerk, but she did appreciate the part.

Jen looked away, trying to convince herself that TJ’s comment about her hair didn’t sting. From anyone else, it probably wouldn’t. There was no explaining her thing for him, but she knew it went beyond the fact that he was beautiful to look at. They had four classes together this semester, and she often found his eyes glancing away from her, which made her look at him more, always hoping to catch him staring back. It made her feel a little insane and obsessed.

Maybe she was tired of his judgment and subconsciously wanted to convince him that she could make him want her. Stupid her should realize that boys didn’t want girlfriends who talked about pissing and jacking off. They wanted a lady. If only they could see those “ladies” in the locker room. They were all crude, even the popular ones. In fact they might be the worst.

Mr. Timmons stopped in front of their table and handed them each a worksheet titled FROM BILL TO LAW. “Feel free to work together,” he said. He probably thought Jen couldn’t handle the work on her own. Jerk.

“Don’t feel obligated,” she muttered, pulling a pen out of her purse.

TJ scooted his seat to face her a little more. “I don’t, but it would be stupid not to work together and get this finished faster. It’s front and back.”

Jen sighed, covering up her relief. “Fine.”

It didn’t even take them fifteen minutes to get through the entire thing, and she had to admit, he was a good partner. Didn’t try and answer all the questions first. That surprised her.

“You really know this stuff,” TJ said, stuffing his pen into the backpack on the floor at his side.

“I’m not stupid.”

He gave her a long look. “Will you cut it out with the attitude? I never said you were stupid. But considering you drew pictures of fairies all through the lecture, it surprised me how much you knew.”

She stared at him, wondering how he’d managed to see what she’d been drawing. Wondering why he’d been interested. Shrugging, she put her supplies away. “I find government fascinating and also infuriating enough to hold my attention. I read the chapter last night.”

When he didn’t respond, she glanced up at him. God, he was so handsome, his green eyes sparkling, light-brown hair sweeping over his forehead just right. Even his eyebrows were perfectly placed and groomed. Was that natural or did he maintain them? She wanted to ask, but didn’t, because his lopsided smirk was suddenly throwing her off.

“What?” she asked.

He opened his mouth to speak, but they were interrupted by Evan Peterson, Green Hill South football star and ladies’ man. “Hey, you two.”

Jen looked up to find him leaning on their table. It was only a few minutes until the bell rang and Mr. Timmons was busy with something at his desk, so several students had left their seats to socialize.

“What’s up, Peterson?” TJ said dryly. Jen knew the two guys were friends, so TJ’s irritated greeting surprised her. Evan was kind of cute in the rugged jock kind of way, but sooo not her type. Or in her league. He’d recently broke up with Adeline, a varsity cheerleader and total rich bitch. Could anything be more cliché?

Evan smiled at Jen. “Great job last week. I think you had every guy dreaming of you in those tight pants this weekend. You should wear them to school.”

“Jesus, dude. Shut up,” TJ said.

Evan looked at him, confused. “What for? That’s a compliment.” He turned to Jen. “Right? Shit, I never even go to the musicals, but after I heard about how amazing you were, I had to. Didn’t disappoint.”

Jen wouldn’t mind slapping the dickhead in the face, but for some reason she just gave him a tight-lipped smile.

He took her silence as agreement and leaned in closer. “I was kind of wondering. How would you like to go to the dance together next Saturday?”

Jen’s shock was further intensified by the way TJ froze beside her. His bouncing leg once again halted. And had she seriously just been asked out by one of the most popular guys in school? Why did it make her feel a little excited? Maybe because she’d been watching these handsome yet self-absorbed asshats walk these halls for almost four years, looking straight through her the entire time? Probably also because in those four years she’d never been invited to a dance. Which reminded her.

“Isn’t this a Sadie Hawkins dance?”

“Yes. It is.” TJ’s voice was low and stern beside her. She glanced at him, but his eyes were glued to Evan. “Which is why this is stupid.”

Jen looked at her potential date. He just shrugged. “Didn’t want to take the chance. After last week, you’re a hot commodity. Feel free to ask me instead. Laughlin can keep a secret.”

Jen glanced back at TJ, who finally met her eyes. Why did he look mad? Maybe they were all going as a group and he didn’t want her around? The thought pissed her off. No, she was not popular or rich, but she had every right to hang out with whomever the hell she pleased.

She turned back to Evan. “Maybe I will ask you. Better stay on your toes.”

He gave an awkward and obviously stunned laugh. “Alright then, I will. Can’t wait,” he said before walking back to his seat.

Jen and TJ were both quiet in his absence, so she finally picked up her backpack. The bell would ring any second, and she’d be off to Acting 2. Her favorite class. Drama Club and the performances were the only reason she didn’t just drop out of school already.

“You really gonna ask him?”

She glanced over to find TJ staring at her, his own backpack over his shoulder.

“Do you have a problem with that?” Maybe he’d be honest. Her theory was that she was hyperaware of his constant judgement because she herself was so focused on him. He must sense that she had a ridiculous crush on him, and he was trying to subconsciously send her “no fucking way” signals. She knew other students looked down their nose on the weird poor girl, too, but TJ was the one she felt it from. It must be annoying for his friends to be asking her to join their social events.

“Yeah. It does bother me,” he said, his eyes narrowed, brow furrowed. He breathed in hard and blew it out through his nose before glancing up at the clock.

Jen stood there fuming. Screw this guy. There was no point in being attracted to such an asshole any longer. She would be asking Evan to the dance. Maybe it would finally send hot rich boy the message that she was not beneath him.

Yep. Blondes totally had more fun.

Copyright © 2018 by Nicole McLaughlin in Maybe This Time and reprinted with permission from St. Martin’s Paperbacks.

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About the Author

Nicole McLaughlin

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Nicole wrote her first full length book (6 pages) about the birth of her baby sister, when she was eight years old. She only finished it because her mother bribed her with a Rick Astley cassette tape. Sad, but true. Now her characters are what keep her writing and her subject matter has gotten a little bit deeper and a lot more romantic. She resides in a small town outside of Kansas City with her husband and three sons. When she isn’t writing, she’s a wedding and portrait photographer, loves to cook, and watch historical dramas or documentaries.


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Review: Year One by Nora Roberts

Posted February 8, 2018 by Casee in Reviews | 9 Comments

Review: Year One by Nora RobertsReviewer: Casee
Year One (Chronicles of The One #1) by Nora Roberts
Series: Chronicles of The One #1
Published by Macmillan, St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: December 5th 2017
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Pages: 419
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
three-half-stars

A stunning new novel from the number-one New York Times best-selling author - an epic of hope and horror, chaos and magic, and a journey that will unite a desperate group of people to fight the battle of their lives...

It began on New Year’s Eve.

The sickness came on suddenly, and spread quickly. The fear spread even faster. Within weeks, everything people counted on began to fail them. The electrical grid sputtered; law and government collapsed—and more than half of the world’s population was decimated.

Where there had been order, there was now chaos. And as the power of science and technology receded, magic rose up in its place. Some of it is good, like the witchcraft worked by Lana Bingham, practicing in the loft apartment she shares with her lover, Max. Some of it is unimaginably evil, and it can lurk anywhere, around a corner, in fetid tunnels beneath the river—or in the ones you know and love the most.

As word spreads that neither the immune nor the gifted are safe from the authorities who patrol the ravaged streets, and with nothing left to count on but each other, Lana and Max make their way out of a wrecked New York City. At the same time, other travelers are heading west too, into a new frontier. Chuck, a tech genius trying to hack his way through a world gone offline. Arlys, a journalist who has lost her audience but uses pen and paper to record the truth. Fred, her young colleague, possessed of burgeoning abilities and an optimism that seems out of place in this bleak landscape. And Rachel and Jonah, a resourceful doctor and a paramedic who fend off despair with their determination to keep a young mother and three infants in their care alive.

In a world of survivors where every stranger encountered could be either a savage or a savior, none of them knows exactly where they are heading, or why. But a purpose awaits them that will shape their lives and the lives of all those who remain.

The end has come. The beginning comes next.

Where do I even begin with this book? I feel like it has plagued me since it was first released, followed me through Christmas and into the new year. I thought that if I could just sit down and get into it, I would have no problem finishing it. That was true and not true. It was really hard to put this book into the “paranormal romance” category because it’s not really a romance, but it is paranormal. It has more of a “post-apocalypse” vibe, yet there was no apocalypse. You could go either way. I went with paranormal romance because there is romance in it. Maybe a “paranormal almost post-apocalypse romance”?

It was not easy for me to get into this book and this had nothing to do with the time I had or didn’t have to read. This is a new world for Roberts and I think it might be a series that’s going to go on for a little while (don’t quote me on that). My reasons are 1) the series is called the Chronicles. That’s it. That’s my reason. Plus there is no way that she went through everything she did in this first book for a trilogy. I am known to be wrong. So there was a lot, a lot of time spent getting to know this world, these characters and how The One was going to be important. Maybe too much time? It is also incredibly hard to bring you a good review because there was so much going on and so many characters.

The book began in Scotland as these books usually do. Or Ireland. From all the information that I was trying to take in, I gathered that it all began at a stone circle in Scotland. Ross MacLeod didn’t know that going hunting for pheasant was going to end his life, the lives of his family, and billions of others. That’s what happened and all because of the bird landing in the stone circle that has been talked about in whispers within his family. Poor guy. The MacLeod family seemed to just be a family on the peripheral, but their daughter ended up being an important part of the book. Ross and his wife, Angie, went home to New York and spread what was going to become known as the “Doom” from Scotland to New York and everywhere in between.

At the same time the Doom started spreading, anyone with any magical ability had their existing ability enhanced. Some that didn’t know they were magical found out they were faeries or elves. Anyone with magical abilities became known as the “Uncanny”. Not everyone was crazy about the Uncannys, which is putting it lightly. The Uncanny’s learned to hide their powers because some people would kill them on sight.

I really want to tell you about every single character, but that would be so boring. I’ll just try to break it down as simple as I can.

First we have Lana and Max, witches from New York who add human Eddie and canine Joe to their caravan. Then you have Jonah, Rachel, Katie (MacLeod’s daughter) and her three newborn babies. You also have Arlys, Fred, and Chuck. So everyone from New York on a mission. They each have their own journeys that eventually lead them to each other, but it wasn’t an easy one. And who is The One? Well, I’m not going to spoil that.

Once I got into it a little more, I finished it in a day and a half. I found myself really enjoying it. There was something I didn’t see coming which I adjusted to, but the ending? Good Lord help me. It was such a rushed ending that I felt ripped off. Not that the ending didn’t need to come, but it was all tied up in such a nice little bow. Nothankyouverymuch. Still, I’ll read the next one.

Grade: 3.5 out of 5

three-half-stars


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