Tag: Giveaways

Sunday Spotlight: The Adversary by Thea Harrison

Posted July 4, 2021 by Holly in Features, Giveaways | 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. 🙂

I’ve been dying to find out what’s happening with Dragos and Pia in the Other lands. The Adversary is available for preorder at all major retailers, but if you don’t want to wait, you can buy it now from the author’s direct shop. Click here to buy a copy now.

Sunday Spotlight: The Adversary by Thea HarrisonThe Adversary by Thea Harrison
Series: (Chronicles of Rhyacia #2, Elder Races #9.95
Also in this series: Dragon Bound (Elder Races, #1), Storm's Heart (Elder Races, #2), Serpent's Kiss (Elder Races, #3), Oracle's Moon (Elder Races, #4), Oracle's Moon (Elder Races, #4), True Colors (Elder Races, #3.5), Lord's Fall (Elder Races, #5), Kinked, Lord's Fall, Kinked (Elder Races, #6), Pia Saves the Day & Peanut Goes to School, Dragos Takes a Holiday, Night's Honor, Night's Honor, Dragon Bound, Midnight's Kiss, Midnight's Kiss, Dragos Goes to Washington, Shadow's End, Pia Does Hollywood, Liam Takes Manhattan, Pia Does Hollywood, The Chosen: A Novella of the Elder Races, Planet Dragos (Elder Races, #9.8), Planet Dragos (Elder Races, #9.8), Lionheart (Moonshadow, #3), Spellbinder
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: July 26, 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 176
Add It: Goodreads
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From NYT bestselling author Thea Harrison comes the explosive conclusion to The Unseen!

When Dragos and Pia move to the Other land of Rhyacia, they hope starting a new life will bring safety and freedom to their family, especially their young baby, Niall. And at first their new home seems perfect… but looks are deceiving.

Beneath Rhyacia’s idyllic façade an ancient, malevolent force lurks, waiting for the right opportunity to break free of its cage. When that opportunity comes, it strikes with devastating accuracy.

While Dragos has never backed down from a fight, he’s also never encountered an enemy like this one before. How can he fight a foe who doesn’t have a body? A foe who can invade and turn his own mind against him?

How can Dragos protect his family, when at any moment one of them may become the enemy?

As Dragos and Pia race against time to fight this unseen menace, they must also acknowledge a terrifying truth—when anyone can become the enemy, no one can be trusted.

An adversary who can trap the dragon poses a threat to everyone in Rhyacia, and that means no one is safe…

***This book does NOT end on a cliffhanger***

Excerpt

CACULATION FLASHED IN Dragos’s gold eyes. Pia framed his cheeks with her hands and watched the minute changes in his hard expression.

God, she loved his face. He was both handsome and scary at once. The sheer ruthlessness that could take over his hard features had a purity that fascinated her. He was not burdened in the slightest by the many things that consume modern males—self-doubt, misogyny, insecurity, fear of their own vulnerability, the need to soul search about their morality or question their existence.

For all Dragos’s irritating qualities (and as much as she adored him, she had to admit he had, shall we say, more than a few), his soul had a purity that she had never found in any other creature. If you were the rare, lucky person who achieved his inner circle, he would protect you to death and beyond.

If you were on the outside, he might deign to tolerate you, but he would keep watch. And if you showed yourself to be unreliable or traitorous in any way, God help you, because he didn’t forgive and he never forgot, and he might exercise all the patience in the world, but he would sure as hell find a way to get even.

And he was singularly untroubled by the possibility of going to war. In fact, she would swear he thrived on it. War involved tactics and strategy, a kill or be killed mentality, and sometimes it provided the opportunity to acquire loot or tribute, and on a very elemental level that appealed to the dragon.

More often than not these days, he chose to take the more peaceful route when he could, but she was convinced that was only because he now had a family. Dragos tried to avoid war out of courtesy to her, but if it was unavoidable?

You bet your ass he would relish the hell out of it.

And while Pia was pretty much Dragos’s opposite in just about every way, she was also pragmatic enough to acknowledge that sometimes war was unavoidable, as it was now .

“Two days, max, I think,” he said after a thoughtful moment. Focusing on her, he added gently, “Maybe sooner, but I can’t promise. I know that’s not what you want to hear.”

Momentarily at a loss for words, she shook her head and pressed her lips to his hard mouth. His lips softened and caressed hers, so she lingered, helpless to pull away, drawing on the comfort of the moment as hard as she had drawn on the hug with Liam.

Here was the magic they created between them: time fell away, danger was inconsequential, and all the tragedies in the world became bearable. As long as she had her mate, she could survive anything.

But even the best of kisses had to end sometime.

As she reluctantly pulled away, she told him in a husky voice, “Two days is a freaking miracle compared to when I thought you were dead.”

“I understand.” His reply was just as husky. He cleared his throat and looked as if he might say more, but just then the muscles in his big body twitched, and fury clenched his face and body.

“Oh, no, no.” She gripped his shoulders with frantic strength as if she would hold him into his body by sheer emotion. “I’m not done talking yet—”

“Get off,” he snarled.

She recoiled—he had never talked to her in such a vicious tone of voice before—and lost her balance and slid off his lap. As she scrambled to her feet, she stared at him…

…and watched the fury in his gold eyes fade to amber. Dragos’s feral viciousness faded as well. Oh, no, baby. No.

“Lady wife,” said the thing in Dragos’s deep voice. “How delightful to see you again. Our previous conversations were cut far too short.”

Chronicles of Rhyacia

Elder Races

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Sunday Spotlight: July 2021

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About Thea Harrison

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Thea Harrison resides in Colorado. She wrote her first book, a romance, when she was nineteen, and had sixteen romances published under the name Amanda Carpenter. She took a break from writing to collect a couple of graduate degrees and a grown child.

Thea writes in a variety of genres, including the award-winning paranormal Elder Races series and the Game of Shadows novels, and is currently at work on various new projects in sci-fi fantasy, paranormal and contemporary romance.

She adores animals and currently resides with two small dogs that have very large personalities.


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Sunday Spotlight: When Stars Collide by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Posted June 27, 2021 by Casee in Features, Giveaways | 3 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. 🙂

I haven’t read SEP in awhile. This one caught my eye. I love the Chicago Stars series & am really looking forward to reading this one.

Excerpt

The Diva sat in the opposite corner of the limo, sunglasses still on, cheek resting against the window. So far, the only communication she’d shared with Thad was a look of active hostility when they’d gotten off the plane. Paisley’s thumbs raced over her phone, more likely texting a friend than doing any work. Henri was also on his cell, engaged in an energetic conversation. Since Thad only spoke some menu French, he couldn’t decipher the topic. The Diva, however, understood. She opened her eyes and waved a hand.

“C’est impossible, Henri.”

The way she said Marchand’s name . . . pushing the Aw-ree from the back of her throat. When Thad said the name, it took all his energy just to drop the h and the n. Forget all that back-of-the throat stuff.

Their subsequent exchange didn’t enlighten Thad about exactly what was so uh-poss-eeee-bluh, but as they pulled up to the hotel, Aw-ree enlightened him. “We’ve had a slight change of schedule. We need to move up today’s interviews immediately after we check in. An inconvenience, but these things do happen, as I’m sure you understand.”

Not even ten minutes later, he and The Diva were being ushered into the hotel’s presidential suite, with Henri and Paisley following. In addition to a luxurious living area, the suite had a dining room, kitchen, grand piano, and big French doors that opened onto a sweeping terrace. A large coffee table in the center of the living room held platters of pastries and assorted bottles of wine and mineral water.

“You have a few minutes to freshen up before the reporters arrive,” Henri said. “Paisley will bring them in.”

Paisley looked petulant, as if escorting reporters wasn’t part of her job description. Henri didn’t seem to notice. Or maybe he did and was pretending not to.

The Diva disappeared into the bathroom. As Henri double-checked the refreshments that had been laid out for the reporters, Thad wandered onto the tiled terrace to take in the view of Camelback Mountain. If only he were doing this promotion with a female rock star instead of a stuck-up opera singer. The next four weeks stretched in front of him like an endless road headed exactly nowhere.

**

Paisley ushered in two of the newspaper reporters and disappeared into the corner with her phone. Ironically, the music critic was big and beefy; the sports reporter small and wiry. The editor of the lifestyle section arrived soon after, a middle-aged woman with short hair slicked to her skull and multiple ear piercings.

Thad had yet to meet a member of the press who didn’t appreciate free food. Each of the men polished off a couple of cannoli along with a half dozen lemon cookies while the lifestyle editor sipped a glass of chardonnay and nibbled a few almonds. Thad exchanged small talk with all of them, hiding his irritation that The Diva was still sealed up in the bathroom. Just as he got ready to pound on the door and ask her if she’d fallen in, she deigned to join them.

She’d set aside her trench coat, along with the scarf and sunglasses, and she advanced toward the reporters, stilettos clicking, studiously ignoring him. Her sweep of dark hair coiled in one of those loose bun things, which—along with her royal-blue stilettos—brought her height to someplace in the vicinity of six feet. Her figure was formidable: broad shoulders, long neck, straight spine, and trim waist, all of it accompanied by skyscraper legs. She was neither skinny nor plump. More . . . He searched for the right word, but all he could come up with was “daunting.”

Along with her stilettos and black slacks, the open throat of her white blouse showed off a gold rope necklace with a pigeon egg–sized stone that appeared to be a giant ruby. She wore multiple rings, a couple of bracelets, and the Cavatina3. He liked his women small and cuddly. This one looked like a tigress who’d raided an Hermès store.

The men rose as she approached. Henri performed the introductions. She extended her hand and gazed down her long nose at them, her lips curved in a regal smile. “Gentlemen.” She acknowledged the lifestyle editor with a handshake and gracious smile before she folded herself into the chair across from Thad, ankles crossed off to the side, broomstick up her ass.

He deliberately slouched into his chair and stretched out his own legs, making himself comfortable. The classical music critic led off, but instead of addressing The Diva, he turned to Thad.

“Are you an opera fan?”

“Haven’t had much exposure,” he said.

The sports writer picked up on that. “What about you, Ms. Shore? Do you ever go to football games?”

“Last year I saw New Madrid play Manchester United.”

Thad could barely disguise a snort.

The sports writer exchanged an amused look with him before turning back to her. “Those are European soccer teams, Ms. Shore, not American football.”

She adopted a girls will be girls look that Thad didn’t buy for a second. “Of course. How silly of me.”

There wasn’t anything silly about this woman, from the throaty resonance of her voice to her figure, and something told him she knew damn well they were soccer teams. Or maybe not. For the first time, she’d spiked his curiosity.

“So you’ve never seen Thad Owens play?”

“No.” She gazed directly at Thad for the first time, eyes as cold as a January night. “Have you ever heard me sing?”

“I haven’t had the pleasure,” he said with his best drawl. “But my thirty-seventh is coming up, and I’d sure welcome a round of ‘Happy Birthday’ to mark the occasion.”

The lifestyle editor laughed, but The Diva didn’t crack a smile.

“Duly noted.”

The classical music critic launched into some questions about a concert The Diva had given about European opera houses. The sports writer asked Thad about his fitness regimen and his thoughts on the Cardinals’ prospects for next season.

Paisley had returned to her cell phone coma. Marchand offered more wine. “We’re honored to have two people as accomplished as Madame Shore and Mr. Owens as our new Marchand ambassadors. Both of them are style setters.”

The lifestyle editor took in Thad’s gray slacks and quarter-zip raspberry cashmere sweater. “What’s your fashion philosophy, Mr. Owens?”

“Quality and comfort,” he said.

“A lot of men wouldn’t be brave enough to wear that color.”

“I like color,” he said, “but I’m not into trends, and the only jewelry I wear is a great watch.”

She cocked her head. “Maybe a wedding ring someday?”

He smiled. “I wouldn’t wish me on anybody. I’m too unreliable. Now when it comes to reliability”—he extended his wrist, earning his paycheck—“this is what I count on. I’ve worn Marchand watches for years. That’s why I was attracted to their invitation.
They’ve outdone themselves with the Victory780.”

Henri beamed. The lifestyle editor turned to The Diva. “What about you, Ms. Shore? How would you describe your fashion philosophy?”

“Quality and discomfort.” She surprised him by slipping off her stilettos.

The style editor’s gaze traveled from Thad’s raspberry sweater to The Diva’s black-and-white ensemble. “You seem to prefer neutral colors.”

“I believe in elegance.” She glanced at Thad with open contempt. What the hell was wrong with her? “Bright pink is best kept on the stage,” ’ she said. “I’m only speaking for myself, of
course.”

His sweater wasn’t fucking pink. It was raspberry!

“I’m very selective,” she went on, her attention returned to the lifestyle editor. “That’s why the Cavatina3 is the perfect watch for me.” She took it off and handed it to the reporter to examine more closely. “My schedule is demanding. I need a watch I can rely on, but also one that complements my wardrobe and my lifestyle.”

Commercial over.

Adapted from WHEN STARS COLLIDE by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, published by William Morrow Books. Copyright © 2021 by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Reprinted courtesy of HarperCollinsPublishers.

Chicago Stars


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Sunday Spotlight: June 2021

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Sunday Spotlight: Wildflower Season by Michelle Major

Posted May 23, 2021 by Holly in Features, Giveaways | 1 Comment

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

Sunday Spotlight: Wildflower Season by Michelle MajorWildflower Season: A Novel by Michelle Major
Series: The Carolina Girls #1
Publisher: HQN
Publication Date: May 25, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 352
Add It: Goodreads
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"A dynamic start to a series with a refreshingly original premise." —Kirkus Reviews on The Magnolia Sisters

She always followed the path of least resistance…until it leads her to a small town where she can follow her dreams.

When Emma Cantrell’s marriage imploded, she learned a fast and painful lesson about trusting her heart. Then, on a visit to Magnolia, North Carolina, to see her brother, an elegant, if dilapidated, mansion for sale presents the opportunity to start over. Risking everything on her dream of opening the Wildflower Inn, Emma buys the house…just as the storm of the century hits, severely damaging the structure. But a chance meeting with Holly, a bride-to-be in desperate need of a new venue, gives her hope…and the name of a contractor who’ll work fast and cheap, allowing Emma to repair the inn in time to host the wedding and save her investment.

A furniture builder who hasn’t picked up a tool in the five years since his wife died, Cameron Mitchell has no intention of agreeing to help this beautiful—and, he’d guess, entitled—woman insisting that he fix her inn. Until he learns that Emma was sent by Holly, the little sister of his late wife. Grudgingly, Cameron agrees to do the work, with one condition: that he be left completely alone. But the more time they spend together, the more Emma touches a part of his heart he was sure died long ago, forcing him to try making peace with his past.

The Carolina Girls

Excerpt

Excerpted from Wildflower Season, by Michelle Major. Harlequin, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

She’d gone to the dock south of town as Holly instructed, only to be told Cam was at home today. The guys that gave her directions to his property appeared both curious and amused a woman was seeking him out. But they’d been nice enough to her face—polite in a down-home kind of way—even with the comments about Cam not having friends or entertaining ladies at his home.

Emma could see why as she approached the house. It wasn’t run-down per se, and the front yard was relatively tidy compared to the chaos on the way in. But there was something unapproachable about the cabin. A weighty emptiness hung in the already thick, sultry air.

If only one of the contractors she’d contacted earlier had returned her call. Maybe she should turn around and try them again. Or insist Holly come with her to talk to Camden.

“Can you read?”

She stopped in her tracks at the question that carried to her from the cabin’s front door, spoken in a deep, almost disbelieving tone.

“Yes, I can read.” She plastered a smile on her face and took another step forward. “Are you—”

“Then you need to turn right around, ma’am. Because the signs posted are pretty clear to someone claiming to be literate.”

“I’m not looking for trouble.” She lifted her sunglasses to the top of her head, held a hand over her eyes and squinted up at the porch, but all she could make out was the silhouette of a man in the door.

He chuckled, a rusty sound that reverberated through her like the vibration of a tuning fork. “Somehow I don’t believe you.”

The screen door squeaked open. Emma heard a booming bark and caught a streak of tan fur and then she was on her backside in the dirt with at least a hundred pounds of damp dog circling her in glee.

Emma liked dogs, all animals, really. She’d never actually owned one, but when she ran her family’s charitable foundation they’d funded various local shelters and animal rescue organizations.

The dog seemed overenthusiastic but not threatening. “Good boy,” she said, peering under his belly to confirm he was indeed a boy. She got to her feet as he ran back to the house with her sunglasses in his mouth.

Sunglasses that had cost her over three hundred dollars and that she couldn’t afford to replace on her current salary of less than nothing. She wasn’t about to explain that to the man who stared down at her from the top step.

Her breath hissed out like she’d just taken a blow to the stomach. Holly had failed to mention that her former brother-in-law was hot as all get-out, in a Paul Bunyan sort of way. Rugged had never been Emma’s type. Her ex-husband was handsome enough, polished and a little nerdy. But Cam Arlinghaus was every lumberjack fantasy Emma had never had come to life. He had dark, wavy hair and a shadow of stubble covering his angular jaw. It was nearly ninety degrees so there was no flannel to be seen, but he wore the low-slung cargo shorts and faded T-shirt like he was a cover model for a deep-sea fishing guide magazine.

“You ignored the No Trespassing and the Beware of Dog signs,” he said, his voice flat. “Those signs are there for a reason.”

She nodded, her flummoxed mind trying hard to put together a coherent thought in the face of all that strapping masculinity. It rolled off him in waves and felled Emma like a riptide. Turn around, her sense of self-preservation screamed. Run as fast as you can.

The Carolina Girls

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Sunday Spotlight: May 2021

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 Michelle Major

Michelle Major author photo

Michelle Major is the Publishers Weekly best-selling, RITA award winning author of over thirty sexy and sweet contemporary romances. She loves second-chances love stories, smart heroines and strong heroes. A Midwesterner at heart, she’s made the Rocky Mountains her home for nearly half her life and is thrilled to share her books with readers. Connect with her at www.michellemajor.com.


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Sunday Spotlight: Shadow Storm by Christine Feehan (+ Exclusive Excerpt)

Posted May 16, 2021 by Casee in Features, Giveaways | 1 Comment

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

I adore this series & I absolutely loved this book. I think the Shadow Riders series is one of Feehan’s better ones. I love the sense of family. The Ferraros are so close knit and they would die for each other. Love that.

Sunday Spotlight: Shadow Storm by Christine Feehan (+ Exclusive Excerpt)Shadow Storm by Christine Feehan
Narrator: Jim Frangione
Series: Shadow Riders #6
Also in this series: Shadow Reaper, Shadow Reaper, Shadow Reaper, Shadow Keeper, Shadow Warrior, Shadow Flight, Shadow Storm
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: May 25, 2021
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Pages: 432
Length: 11 hours and 15 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
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Series Rating: four-stars

A long-simmering feud between two families comes to a head in this gripping novel in Christine Feehan's New York Times bestselling Shadow Riders series. As the youngest member of the Ferraro family, Emmanuelle has watched each of her brothers find happiness in love while her own heart was shattered by a lover's betrayal. For two years she's stayed as far away from Valentino Saldi as possible--until she learns that he's been shot during a hostile takeover of his family's territory.
Emme's first instinct is to call her brother Stefano for help, and soon the entire Ferraro clan arrives to bring Val back from the brink of death and protect the Saldis from further attack. With one choice Emme has re-exposed herself to Val's intoxicating pull and dragged her family into the Saldis' private war.
A deadly storm is brewing, and only time will tell who survives...


 

Excerpt

“Stupid, stupid, stupid, Emmanuelle,” Emme whispered to herself as she stood just inside the mouth of the shadow she’d ridden to the North Shore home on Lake Michigan that Valentino Saldi’s birth mother had had in her family for generations. The land had never been taken out of that name and transferred to his adopted name. “You should have told someone you were coming here,” she whispered and pulled out her phone with the idea of texting one of her sisters-in-law.

Closing her eyes tight, she knew she couldn’t do it. If Val was really in trouble, then she wasn’t going to make things worse by giving him up. Taking a deep breath, she sent a text. She was laying herself bare. Making herself vulnerable all over again. Maybe even getting herself killed.

I’m here, Dario, where are you?

Thank G. In main bedroom. Hurry.

She had really studied the layout. There didn’t seem to be any guards. No snipers on the roof of the building. Still, she caught another shadow and rode it toward the house. The tube was dizzying, the walls curved, the views going by at such a speed that if anyone was waiting to take her prisoner, they were nothing but a blur. Still, it was necessary to try to see around her as she passed through the gates and drive, the lawns and, in the distance, the views of the lake.

Twice she had to hastily step from one shadow to the another, but she moved fast. She was adept and very skilled at her work. The last portal took her up the long steps and under the door right into the house. She was familiar with the interior. She’d met Valentino there many times. It had been the one place they felt confident they could go without either family finding them.

Emme’s mouth went dry and her heart beat faster. She tried not to allow any memories to get to her. She was only there to make certain he was alive and well. Dario Bosco was Valentino’s bodyguard as well as his lieutenant, but more importantly, he was his cousin. Dario, in her mind, had always been a question mark. She didn’t quite understand his loyalties, but then she didn’t understand any of the workings in the Saldi family.

“Damn it, Emme,” she heard the whisper of Dario’s voice, coming from the main bedroom. “Hurry. Hurry.” He sounded like he was talking to himself.

Looking quickly around for cameras—there hadn’t been security cameras activated before, and she didn’t find any now—she stepped into another, smaller shadow that shot her straight to the main master bedroom. To her horror, there smears of blood on the door frame. She could smell blood. The door was partially opened, and she pushed it, staying to one side in case it was all a sham and she was being set up.

“Thank fuck you’re here, Emme. Hurry up. I didn’t know what else to do. He said not to call you, but he’s going to die if you don’t help him.”
She was already at the bed, staring down at Valentino Saldi, the love of her life, the man she would have died for, killed for, given up her entire life for. There was too much blood on his clothes, soaking into the sheets.

“He needs to be in a hospital.”

“If I could take him to a hospital, I would have,” Dario snapped. “Tell me what to do.”

There was only one thing she could do if she was going to save Val’s life. “You’ll have to trust me, Dario. You won’t like this, but he’s going to die if I don’t get us help now.”

She yanked out her phone and put in the code to the one person she trusted the most in the world. She knew he would come through, no questions asked. He might flay her alive later, but right now, right when she needed him, he would come fast and bring help and get every single item on the list she sent to him to her as quickly as humanly possible without asking why. Even when she said who it was for and that he’d been shot and that he was dying.

From SHADOW STORM published by arrangement with Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2021 by Christine Feehan.

Shadow Riders

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Sunday Spotlight: May 2021

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About Christine Feehan

I live on the beautiful Northern California coast and draw much inspiration from the beauty around me. I've always been a writer, for as long as I remember. My sisters were forced to read all of my books from the time I could write a story on paper.

I love family. I love my brothers and sisters, my children, my grandchildren and my great grandchildren. My home was always full of kids and children give me so much joy.

I also love my "sisters of the heart", those friends who have supported me through my life, laughed with me, cried with me and loved me regardless of how crazy my life got. I am a strong supporter of women helping each other which is why I became a third degree black belt and taught self-defense to women who'd been abused.

I love people and dogs, good books and great coffee and I'm lucky to know just how blessed I am.


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Sunday Spotlight: Just Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane

Posted May 10, 2021 by Holly in Features, Giveaways | 3 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. 🙂

We had a system glitch and this didn’t post as scheduled yesterday. Let’s hear it for Sunday Spotlight on Monday!

Sunday Spotlight: Just Last Night by Mhairi McFarlaneJust Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane
Publisher: Harper Collins, William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: May 4, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 416
Add It: Goodreads
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Eve, Justin, Susie, and Ed have been friends since they were teenagers. Now in their thirties, the four are as close as ever, Thursday night bar trivia is sacred, and Eve is still secretly in love with Ed. Maybe she should have moved on by now, but she can’t stop thinking about what could have been. And she knows Ed still thinks about it, too.

But then, in an instant, their lives are changed forever.

In the aftermath, Eve’s world is upended. As stunning secrets are revealed, she begins to wonder if she really knew her friends as well as she thought. And when someone from the past comes back into her life, Eve’s future veers in a surprising new direction...

They say every love story starts with a single moment. What if it was just last night?

Excerpt

Excerpted from the book JUST LAST NIGHT by Mhairi McFarlane. Copyright © 2021 by Mhairi McFarlane. From William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted by permission.

 

Before

“We’re going to win tonight,” Ed says. “I can feel it. I can smell it. I could slice it like a frittata. The air is thick with the odor of our imminent victory. Breathe it in, my bitches.”

He pretends to scent the air.

“Are you sure that’s not Leonard?” Justin says. “He had chili con carne for tea. Got up on the counter and had his face in the saucepan before I could stop him, the fool. He’s been farting in spicy beef flavor ever since.”

“Maybe victory smells exactly like mince and kidney beans working its way through a very small dog’s digestive system,” I say, as Susie says: “BLURGH.”

“How would we know how it smells, after all? None of us have ever been successful,” I say, directing this at Ed.

“Speak for yourself. My GP said my hemorrhoids were the most prominent he’d seen in thirty years practicing medicine.”

I guffaw. (This is a standard joke format with Ed; I assume his bum is fine.)

I reflexively reach out to pet Leonard, who has his own chair, sitting atop Justin’s coat, protecting the upholstery.

Leonard is a “Chorkie”—a Chihuahua crossed with a Yorkshire Terrier. He has beady eyes peering out from under a comical fringe of gray-white hair, spiky in the middle like he’s had Paul Weller’s Mod cut, bat ears, and a lopsided little grin, full of toothpick teeth.

He looks, as Ed says: “Like an enterprising cartoon rat doing some kind of stealthy cosplay as a canine. We’ve been infiltrated by a rodent master criminal.”

Leonard, an omnivorous eater and troublesomely impromptu urinator, is one of the loves of my life. (The rest of them are around, and also sometimes under, this table.)

“You say we’re going to win this quiz every week, Ed,” Susie says, worrying at a coaster, shredding it into a pile of soft cardboard shards. “And we are always fucked by the same five determined men in Lands’ End packable anoraks.”

“Describing my best holiday in Wales, there,” Justin says. Justin is a self-proclaimed “tiresome show-off and performative middle child” and one of the funniest men you’ll ever meet, but you absolutely do not go to him for good taste.

The quizmaster’s voice booms out, cutting through conversation, like the Voice of God:

“Question TEN. Who is Michael Owuo? Who is, Michael Owuo?

The usual seconds of post-question hush fall.

“Is he . . . the Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull East?” Ed whispers, faux-earnestly.

“Seriously?” Susie says.

“No,” I say, rolling my eyes, and Ed taps the pen on his lips and winks at me.

“You three do know who he is, right?” Justin says, doing a double take. “UGH. So we are the millennial cast of Last of the Summer Wine.”

“Did he play the villain in the last Bond?” I ask, and Ed says: “YES! ‘Doctor Pardon.’ What was his gimmick again?”

“He had bejeweled ear gauges,” I say. “And a walker, with tinsel wound ’round it.”

Ed laughs. I love the way he laughs: it starts in his shoulders.

“OK, who is joking, and who isn’t?” Susie says. “I mean obviously, they are,” she grimaces at myself and Ed. “Do you genuinely know who he is, Justin?”

“He’s Stormzy,” Justin hisses. “God, you can tell you lot are thirty-four.”

“You’re thirty-four, Justin,” Susie says.

“There’s thirty-four and then there’s, like, ‘Who are the Stormzys?’ thirty-four,” Justin says, pulling an “old geezer” rubbery face.

“A ‘stormzy,’ you say,” Ed says, in a creaky High Court judge voice. “Whatever a Stormzy is,” and writes “Mr. Storm Zee” on the paper.

Ed has really nice hands; I’m a sucker for nice hands. He cycles a lot and can mend things, and I am now mature enough to appreciate practical skills like that.

Susie takes the pen from Ed, scribbles his words out, and writes Stormzy correctly.

“Don’t your pupils keep you up to date with this stuff?” I ask Ed. “Hip to the jive, daddio?”

“It’s my job to teach them Dickens, not theirs to teach me grime.”

Ed is head of English at a nice county school. You know how they say some people look like police? Ed looks like a teacher—a film or television, glossy young teacher—with his unthreatening, handsome solidity, strawberry-blond, close-cropped hair. In a crisis in a situation full of strangers, Ed’s would be the kind, reliable face you’d hope to see. He’d be the guy offering his necktie as a makeshift tourniquet.

Part of the pleasure of this weekly pub appointment to lose the pub quiz, I think, is it brings out and defines all the roles in our foursome. Ed and I clowning around together, Justin refereeing, with his caustic wit, Susie playing exasperated mother.

Sometimes I stop participating in the conversation and just hum happily inside myself, enjoying our togetherness, reveling in the way we all broadcast on the same frequency. I watch us from the outside.

. . . didn’t she marry the singer from the Mumfords? I’d rather be a Sister Wife. (Susie)

. . . this cherry Stolichnaya that Hester brought back from duty-free, it’s amazing, tastes like baby medicine. Or so babies tell me. (Ed)

. . . he was a right grumpy carrot top. I said to him, do you know why gingerism is the last acceptable prejudice? Because it’s acceptable. (Justin, of course)

“Shhhhh,” I say, as I can see the quizmaster adjusting his readers, as he squints at a piece of paper.

“Question ELEVEN. The word ‘CHRONOPHAGE’ is an Ancient Greek word for what is now an idiomatic expression in English. But what does it mean? Clue: your mobile phone may do this. That does not mean you can check your phones, hahaha!”

The quizmaster blows air out of his nostrils in a windy gust, directly into the bulb, and you can hear his spit.

The looks on the faces of our hiking anorak nemeses suggest they’re considerably more confident about this than they were about Mr. Stormzy.

“Chrono means time . . . ,” Ed whispers. “Chronograph watches.”

“Chronological.” Susie nods. “In order of timing.”

“Phage,” I say. “Hmmm. Coprophagic is eating poo. Fairly sure the copro’s poo, so the phagic must be eating.”

“Eve!” Susie barks, with a potato chip halfway into her mouth. “How do you even know that?”

“I’ve lived a full life.”

“I’ve been around for most of it so I know that isn’t true. A quarter full, at best.”

“. . . Eating time?” Justin hisses. “It must mean eating time. Your phone does that. Boom. Write it down.”

Ed obliges.

We come to The Gladstone every Thursday. I would say without fail, but we are thirty-somethings with lives and jobs and other friends and—some of us—partners, so there are some fails. But we’re here more often than not.

“Question TWELVE, before we take a short break. What do Marcus Garvey, Rudyard Kipling, Ernest Hemingway, and Alice Cooper have in common? I’ll give you a clue. It involves a mistake.”

We stare blankly at each other. Packable Anoraks are frantic-whispering instead of writing or looking sneaky-smug, which means they’re not sure either.

“Is it choice of first wife? As in they’ve all had more than one?” Ed says.

“We don’t call people we divorce mistakes now,” Susie says.

“My mum does,” I say.

“Remember when our religion teacher said, ‘People are too quick to divorce nowadays,’ and you said, ‘I think they’re too slow,’ and you got a detention for it?” Susie says and I guffaw.

“Ah, there she is,” Ed says, as the door slaps open and his girlfriend, Hester, appears, her nose wrinkling in distaste at the slight stench of “armpit.”

My heart sinks a notch, but I ignore that it has done this and paste on a strong, welcoming smile.

To be fair, The Gladdy does have a bit of an aroma sometimes, what with the sticky floor, but that’s part of its charm. It’s a dartboard-and-devoted-regulars pub.

I love it, year-round, with its scrappy concrete beer garden with flower planters on the fire escape. I think they are supposed to simulate “verdant urban oasis” in a yard full of lager and smokers. But it’s at its best in autumn and winter. Frosted-leaf mulch and dark skies with bright stars on the other side of the steamed-up panes. Serious hygge to be had, on this side of the window.

Well, mostly.

Hester moved to Nottingham for Ed, a fact she likes to relitigate about once a month.

She looks like a colorized picture has walked into a black and white, kitchen sink realism film: skin the color of ripe peaches and shimmering champagne-blond hair. She’s like a human Bellini.

Her balled fists are thrust in her coat pockets, a Barbour with a fawn cord collar, as if she’s smashed into a saloon in a Western and going to draw two guns.

It’s not that I don’t like Hester . . .

“Are you all drunk by now, then?” she says, bullishly. She glances at me. “Eve looks drunk.”

Oh, why do I bother. It’s absolutely that I don’t like Hester.

 

“And once again for the cheap seats! What do Marcus Garvey, Rudyard Kipling, Ernest Hemingway, and Alice Cooper have in common? It involves a mistake. A mistake. An error. OK, back soon.”

“Hemingway was in a plane crash, were any of the others?” I whisper.

“Bit of a stretch to call a plane crash ‘a mistake’ though?” Ed whispers back and I shrug, nodding in concession.

“And Rudyard Kipling’s a bit too yesteryear for planes, isn’t he?” Justin says. “Not exactly doing his Instagram Story with a Prosecco claw holding a flute aloft in the airport bar.”

He mimes trying to photograph his pint glass, and Susie snorts.

“They were wrongly given awards that had to be taken back,” Hester says, dragging her coat off her shoulders. “Where’s the pen?”

Justin makes a skeptical face and Ed tries to look persuadably neutral as he hands it over. His sense of humor doesn’t evaporate, exactly, around Hester, but he goes more no absolutely of course I didn’t mean that formal.

Hester’s late joining tonight as she’s been out with friends at a tapas restaurant, and understandably, given the number of babies that the rest of the circle have between them, they wind things up by nine p.m. Hester only joins us at The Gladdy quiz intermittently, anyway. “Sometimes it gets wearying, with all your in-jokes,” she says. Even though she’s known us all for so long as Ed’s girlfriend, I am not sure how there’s an “in” she’s outside of.

“Are you sure?” Susie says.

“Yes, I’m sure,” Hester says. Qualifying: “. . . Well, have you got anything better?”

“Sure, sure—or four-Proseccos-deep-and-we-haven’t-got-anything-better-yet, sure?” Susie persists, smiling in a “Wicked Queen with a red apple” sort of way.

She dares with Hester in ways I absolutely do not dare. Susie dares with most people. Most people don’t dare back.

Susie has long, thick blond-brown hair she wears in a horse-mane-length ponytail, or loose and bunched up into a scarf like she’s Streisand in a seventies film. She has a full mouth with an emphatic pout to her top lip, which looks as if it’s being pulled upward by her tilted nose, which I think is a thing called “retroussé.”

“What award did Marcus Garvey get?” Justin says.

“Rear of the Year?” I say, and Ed hoots. Hester’s fuming, I know.

“OK, ignore me then!” Hester says. “Pardon me for trying to participate, guys.”

“No, no! It’s good! I think you’re right,” Ed says, hastily. “None of us have anything better. Write it down.”

I always respect Ed for leaping chivalrously to Hester’s defense, while wishing it was for someone who better deserved it. Hester scribbles while Justin, Susie, and I try not to meet each other’s eyes.

“More drinks I think, what’s everyone having?” Justin says and gets up to go to the bar.

I go to the loo and, after I flush, I see I have a text from Susie. (Not a WhatsApp, because it would risk appearing in full on a lock screen. Canny.)

When I open it, I see it’s been sent to myself and Justin. I know how they’re triangulating the signal, next door—Justin nonchalantly studying his handset while waiting to be served, Susie slightly angled away from the couple, feigning picking up her messages.

 

Susie: WHY IS SHE SUCH A BOSSY ARSEHOLE THOUGH

Justin: She can get away with anything due to the fabulous breasts, darling

Susie: I have great tits and you don’t see it affecting my personality. That answer is SO OBVIOUSLY WRONG. And why is Ed such a wimp about it. Oh yes write that bollocks down, my precious little poison dumpling. ARGH

Justin: Again, boobs

Eve: The poisoned dumplings

Susie: I swear she knows it’s the wrong answer and is doing it to fuck with us

 

I lean against the pleasantly chilly wall in the loo and type, grinning.

Having been in stone-cold love with Hester’s other half for the best part of two decades means I never know how much of my dislike is plain old envy. Susie and Justin continually—and inadvertently, because they absolutely don’t know—reassure me I’d have disliked her anyway. I often play Nice Cop in regards to Hester, to further throw everyone off the scent.

 

Eve: You wait, she’ll be right and that’ll show us

Susie: She’s not right, she doesn’t even know who Marcus Garvey was, you could see that when Justin challenged her

Justin: She probably thinks he won Best Video 2007 at the Grammys

Susie: Lol. And I’d just point out that Eve’s suggestion got shot down and she didn’t get the hump

Eve: Does this say anything bad about my breasts

Susie: Only that they’re not a carbon offsetting scheme for being a horror

Justin: Sigh. Let us get drunk.

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About Mhairi McFarlane

Author headshot

Mhairi was born in Falkirk, Scotland in 1976. She went to school in Nottingham, studied English Literature at Manchester University and then returned to Nottingham to delight its citizens with her journalism. After roles as trainee reporter, reporter, feature writer and columnist, she realised she’d climbed to the very top of the mountain at the Nottingham Post and at age 31 decided to write a novel. Some very skint years followed, during which she thought she might’ve made a huge mistake.

Her debut novel, the romantic comedy You Had Me At Hello, was an instant hit upon being published in December 2012. It’s since become HarperCollins’ best selling ebook to date, has been translated into 16 languages and is being developed as a major feature film, with Mhairi writing the screenplay. The follow up, Here’s Looking At You, was published in December 2013 and made the Sunday Times Bestseller list.

Mhairi’s first hardback title for HarperFiction, It’s Not Me, It’s You, is published on November 6th 2014.

She’s currently working on her fourth novel, adapting You Had Me At Hello for screen and developing a comedy-drama script for television.


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