Tag: Sunday Spotlight

Sunday Spotlight: Last Guard by Nalini Singh (+ Exclusive Excerpt)

Posted July 18, 2021 by Casee 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. 🙂

I’m always THRILLED when Nalini Singh releases a book. It doesn’t matter what she publishes, I will read it. I’m really excited to learn more about the Merchants in Last Guard.

Sunday Spotlight: Last Guard by Nalini Singh (+ Exclusive Excerpt)Last Guard by Nalini Singh
Narrator: Angela Dawe
Series: Psy/Changeling Trinity #5
Also in this series: Silver Silence, Silver Silence, Silver Silence, Ocean Light, Ocean Light , Wolf Rain , Wolf Rain, Alpha Night, Alpha Night, Last Guard
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: July 20, 2021
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 384
Length: 13 hours
Add It: Goodreads
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Series Rating: four-stars

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh returns to a world devastated by change in her award-winning Psy-Changeling Trinity series, where two people defined by their aloneness hold the fate of the Psy in their hands…
Termed merciless by some, and a robotic sociopath by others, Payal Rao is the perfect Psy: cardinal telekinetic, CEO of a major conglomerate, beautiful—and emotionless.
For Canto Mercant, family and loyalty are everything. A cardinal telepath deemed "imperfect" by his race due to a spinal injury, Canto cares for the opinions of very few—and ruthlessly protects those he claims as his own. Head of intel of the influential Mercant family, he prefers to remain a shadow in the Net, unknown and unseen. But Canto is also an Anchor, part of a secretive designation whose task it is to stabilize the PsyNet. Now that critical psychic network is dying, threatening to collapse and kill the entire Psy race with it.
To save those he loves, Canto needs the help of a woman bound to him by a dark past neither has been able to forget. A woman who is the most powerful Anchor of them all: Payal Rao. Neither is ready for the violent inferno about to ignite in the PsyNet…or the passionate madness that threatens to destroy them both.

Excerpt

Beyond its limited but well-maintained grounds, Vara was surrounded by smaller buildings of a similar vintage, and looked out over a mishmash of more ancient structures and rickety new buildings that appeared held together by not much more than hope and the odd nail.

Gleaming Psy skyscrapers rose in the distance in stark contrast.

Yet even that clinical intrusion into the heart of this ancient city hadn’t been able to tame the controlled disorder of Delhi. Her city had its own soul and wasn’t about to bow to the whims of any civilization.

Every now and then, she still spotted monkeys scrambling up into the fruit trees on the grounds, and the pigeons had no respect for any of the bird deterrents trialed by the maintenance staff.
Through it all, Vara stood, solid and enduring.

Her father had once considered bulldozing her and rebuilding out of steel and glass, then decided the mahal was an important symbol of their long-term power. “The Raos were here long before others who might think to defeat our hold on this city,” he’d said as they stood at Vara’s highest viewpoint, the rooftop garden hidden from below by the decorative crenellations. “And we’ll be here long after they’re dead and buried.”

It was silent and cool in her third-floor office, but she knew that should she step out onto the stone balcony, she’d be hit with a tumult of horns and cries and scorching heat—the monsoon winds hadn’t yet arrived, bringing with them a humidity that was a wet pressure on the skin.

Payal would then wait for the rains to come, wash away the muggy air.

Her office was situated at the front of Vara, only meters from the street. She could see motorcycles zipping through traffic with apparent insouciance, while multiple auto rickshaws stood lined up in front of Vara hoping for a passenger.

A Psy in San Francisco or Monaco might turn up their nose at that mode of transport, but Psy in Delhi knew that the small and nimble vehicles were far more adept at navigating the city’s heavy traffic than bigger town cars. The more intrepid drivers even dared take on Old Delhi’s narrow lanes—but it was far smarter to travel via motorcycle in those mixed pedestrian/vehicle zones.
The traffic chaos was an accident of history. Delhi had grown too fast at a time when it had more pressing issues to address, and now there was simply no room to expand the roading or underground rail. The rickshaws were here to stay.

Even Payal was known to hail one on occasion despite the fact she was a teleport-capable telekinetic. It helped her keep a finger on the pulse of the city. She’d seen too many powerful Psy fall because they had no idea what was happening beyond their insulated bubble.

Nikita Duncan was the perfect example—the ex-Councilor held considerable financial and political sway, but she’d lost her once-tight grip on her home base. The DarkRiver leopard pack had grown exponentially in power right under her nose. San Francisco would never again be Nikita’s city.

Payal kept an eye on multiple small groups like DarkRiver that wielded more power than they should—she watched and she learned. Always.

After spending several minutes focused on the patterns of movement out on the street, she glanced down at the signature at the bottom of the unexpected e-mail: Canto Mercant, Mercant Corp.
Mercant.

Talk about a small group that held an excessive amount of power. Though the rumored scion of the family was now one of the most famous faces in the world, the Mercants didn’t generally seek fame or overt political power. Rather, they were the primary shadow players in the PsyNet, with a network of spies so skilled they were said to have something on everyone.

Payal knew the latter to be an overstatement for the simple reason that they had nothing on her. The fact she was an anchor wasn’t any kind of a smoking gun or threat. No doubt she was on a list of As somewhere in the Ruling Coalition’s archives. But she didn’t exactly advertise her status. Not when the most well-known telekinetic anchor of recent years had ended up a serial killer.

So how had Canto Mercant worked out her root designation?

Anchor minds weren’t visibly different on the PsyNet, couldn’t be pinpointed that way. And because A was an “inert” designation during early childhood, when Psy were sorted into various designations for the necessary specialized training, it would’ve appeared nowhere on her early records.

In point of fact, all her public-facing records listed her as a Tk.

Canto Mercant shouldn’t have the data on her true status. She certainly hadn’t known the Mercants had an anchor in their midst. Not only an anchor but a hub, born to merge into the fabric of the PsyNet. Chances were Canto Mercant was a cardinal.

Non-cardinal hub-anchors were rare inside an already rare designation.

Setting aside her organizer on her desk, she used her intercom to contact her assistant: Ruhi, bring me our files on the Mercants.

From LAST GUARD published by arrangement with Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2021 by Nalini Singh.

Psy-Changeling Trinity

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Sunday Spotlight: July 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 Nalini Singh

I've been writing as long as I can remember and all of my stories always held a thread of romance (even when I was writing about a prince who could shoot lasers out of his eyes). I love creating unique characters, love giving them happy endings and I even love the voices in my head. There's no other job I would rather be doing. In September 2002, when I got the call that Silhouette Desire wanted to buy my first book, Desert Warrior, it was a dream come true. I hope to continue living the dream until I keel over of old age on my keyboard.

I was born in Fiji and raised in New Zealand. I also spent three years living and working in Japan, during which time I took the chance to travel around Asia. I’m back in New Zealand now, but I’m always plotting new trips. If you’d like to see some of my travel snapshots, have a look at the Travel Diary page (updated every month).

So far, I've worked as a lawyer, a librarian, a candy factory general hand, a bank temp and an English teacher and not necessarily in that order. Some might call that inconsistency but I call it grist for the writer's mill.


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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

Giveaway Alert

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Sunday Spotlight: July 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 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: To Sir, with Love by Lauren Layne

Posted June 20, 2021 by Rowena in Features, Giveaways | 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. 🙂

Lauren Layne is one of my favorite authors and I’m super thrilled to be featuring the first chapter of her upcoming release, To Sir, with Love. This book releases on June 29th so there’s not a long wait at all.

Sunday Spotlight: To Sir, with Love by Lauren LayneTo Sir, with Love by Lauren Layne
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: June 29, 2021
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 288
Add It: Goodreads
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Love Is Blind meets You’ve Got Mail in this laugh-out-loud romantic comedy following two thirty-somethings who meet on a blind dating app—only to realize that their online chemistry is nothing compared to their offline rivalry.

Perpetually cheerful and eager to please, Gracie Cooper strives to make the best out of every situation. So when her father dies just five months after a lung cancer diagnosis, she sets aside her dreams of pursuing her passion for art to take over his Midtown Manhattan champagne shop. She soon finds out that the store’s profit margins are being squeezed perilously tight, and complicating matters further, a giant corporation headed by the impossibly handsome, but irritatingly arrogant Sebastian Andrews is proposing a buyout to turn the store into a parking garage. But Gracie can’t bear the thought of throwing away her father’s dream like she did her own.

Overwhelmed and not wanting to admit to her friends or family that she’s having second thoughts about the shop, Gracie seeks advice and solace from someone she’s never met—the faceless “Sir”, with whom she connected on a blind dating app where matches get to know each other through messages and common interests before exchanging real names or photos.

But although Gracie finds herself slowly falling for Sir online, she has no idea she’s already met him in real life…and they can’t stand each other.

This book is a cute contemporary romance that features two characters that don’t get along at first but come to fall in love with each other. Their journey made for an entertaining few hours so check out this excerpt and be excited about this release with me.

Excerpt

My dear lady,

I’m not sure how to say this politely, so I’ll just say it. You’re incorrect in every sense of the word. You haven’t lived until you’ve tried a lemon sorbet on a hot summer day in the city. Ice cream, by comparison, is so very pedetrian. I thought I knew you.

Yours in gentle contempt,
Sir
______________________________________

To Sir, with equal contempt, less gentle:

I stand by my assertion that sorbet is an affront to frozen treats everywhere. I’ll see your lemon sorbet and raise you a pistachio gelato any day of the year.

Lady

One

“What am I looking at here? What is that smile?”

I drop my cell phone back into my bag and turn my full attention to the baby settled on my thighs, my hand resting protectively over his warm tummy. I wipe a tiny bit of drool from his adorable mouth. “That smile is me plotting to steal this baby. And maybe the baby’s beautiful daddy.”

My best friend is unfazed by my threats to steal her child and husband. “Never going to work. Felix assures me he’s partial to Jewish women. Oh, and he likes big boobs.”

“I can convert.” I make a cooing noise at the baby. “And get a boob job.”

“I hope those fake boobs produce milk. Because Matteo here’s still breastfeeding.”

“You’re a boob man already, hmm?” I ask the baby, who wraps tiny fingers around my own and shakes, grinning at me.

“Not for long,” Rachel says. “I’m trying to wean the little bastard, but bottles make this one gassy.”

“Farts from bottles?” I look over. “That’s a thing?”

“Oh, trust me,” Rachel says in a dark tone. “It’s a thing. Too bad there’s not a return or exchange policy for children.”

“No need.” I make smooching noises at the baby. “I’m stealing him, remember?”

“So you said in your attempt to distract me, but back to your Disney princess smile over whatever you were looking at on your phone. I’ve known you for over twenty years, and I know that smile. You’re in your Cinderella mode.”

“I do not have a Cinderella mode.”

“You totally do,” Rachel says. “I just watched you feed half your sandwich to the pigeons. Who you named.”

“Are you even a real New Yorker if you don’t befriend pigeons in Central Park?”

“And then you sang to them,” Rachel continues.

“I hummed. A slight but crucial distinction.”

“Mmm-hmm, and what song did you hum?”

I purse my lips and refrain from answering the question.

I’d been humming “It Had to Be You,” Frank Sinatra style. To the pigeons. Which, when not in my so-called Cinderella mode, I know are basically sky-rats.

This isn’t looking good for me, and we both know it.

Rachel very slowly shakes her head. “Gracie Madeleine Cooper, you are in love and you didn’t tell me.”

I snort. “That’d be a hell of a feat, considering I haven’t been on a second date in almost six months and waaaaay too many first ones.”

She holds out her palm. “Phone.”

“What?”

“That dreamy smile comes on your face every time you check your phone.” She reaches over me to grab my purse in the confident, overbearing way of a best friend of twenty years. “Let me see it.”

“What? No! Here,” I say, trying to maneuver Matteo into her arms. “Let’s trade. Your baby for my privacy.”

Her jaw drops. “You never want privacy! You have a secret!”

“I do not have a secret!”

I do. I totally have a secret, and it’s delicious and also a tiny bit embarrassing to admit, even to someone who’s held my hair back over the toilet of a Coney Island bathroom after too much blue cotton candy.

I manage to safely get the baby back into her arms, and Matteo takes my side and starts to fuss, granting me a brief reprieve from my best friend’s prying. As though reading my mind about the hair thing, Rachel shifts Matteo to her shoulder and hands me a hair band. “Tail me,” she orders, turning her back to me.

Obediently, I gather her thick hair and attempt to wind the elastic around her mass of gorgeous curls. I smile as a childhood memory bubbles up. Me, on the first day of third grade at a new school, my ponytail a lumpy mess, courtesy of my widowed father who did his best but didn’t know the first thing about little girls’ hair.

Rachel, the definitive alpha of Jefferson Elementary’s third-grade class, had taken one look at my stricken face, marched over, and announced that she needed to practice her French braiding and that I was her muse.

We’ve been styling each other’s hair ever since.

“You have the best hair,” I say, tucking an errant curl into the band and studying my handiwork.

“Attempt to distract from the matter at hand rejected,” she says, turning back around.

“You’re such a weirdo.” But I sigh and relent. “Okay, if I tell you what’s going on, you have to promise not to lecture.”

She makes a mock-wounded face. “If you care about me at all, you wouldn’t ask me to deny my true nature.”

“Fine,” I relent. “But as you lecture, at least try to remember that I already have an older sister who has yet to grasp that I’m thirty-three and not ten.”

“I will take it into consideration. Proceed.”

I take my time, leaning back on the green park bench, studying the cheerful energy of Central Park at lunchtime on a late summer’s day.

I exhale. “So there’s this dating app.”

“Tinder?”

“No.”

“Hinge?”

“No.”

“eHarmony?”

“Okay, you rattled those off way too quickly for someone who’s been married for seven years,” I say. “And it’s called MysteryMate.”

Rachel makes a face. “Oh, I don’t like the sound of this at all. There is no good use for the word mate outside of the Discovery Channel.”

“Yeah, the name’s not great,” I say.

Their tagline’s even worse: Love at no sight. And that’s not even the embarrassing part of my secret.

“So how does it work?” she asks.

I reach over and rip off a piece of her unfinished sandwich and toss it to my pigeon friends, Spencer and Katharine, as in Tracy and Hepburn.

“So, you know how Tinder is all about first impressions based on someone’s photo?” I say. “Well, this is sort of the opposite. There are no photos. No names, even. Instead you choose from these little cartoon avatar things and a screen name, and the app matches you with potential mates.”

I emphasize the word deliberately with a grin, and she rolls her eyes. “Okay, I get it. The app is all ‘beauty is on the inside.’ What happens after you’re matched?”

I shrug. “You message each other. If you click, you set up a meeting in person.”

“But what if the other person’s hideous?”

I give her a gently chiding look, and she shrugs as she rubs the baby’s back. “It’s a fair question. A meeting of the minds is nice, but physical attraction is hot.”

“Well, so far, none of the guys I’ve decided to meet in person have been hideous.”

“But one of them was hot, huh? Oh wait, no. You said you hadn’t been on any second dates.”

“I haven’t,” I say a little glumly. “All of the men have been perfectly nice, all pleasant looking in their own way. But no chemistry. None.”

Rachel tilts her head. “Then why the Cinderella mode? You only ever revert to that when you’ve got a crush.”

I take a deep breath. “Okay. Here’s the part where you’re going to want to dust off your best lecturing voice.”

Rachel taps her throat and hums like a singer warming up her voice. “Okay, ready. Hit me.”

“There’s this guy on the app I really like talking to. But . . . we haven’t met.”

“Hmm.” She purses her lips. “No lecture yet. But why not just meet him and see if you have chemistry?”

I bite my lip. “He’s not really available.”

“Then what’s he doing on a dating app?”

“He didn’t actually sign up for the app. He was at a friend’s bachelor party, and I guess one of them got drunk and thought it would be hilarious to steal his phone and set up a profile on his behalf.”

“Okay, but if you guys hit it off—”

“He has a girlfriend,” I interrupt.

“Ohhhhhhhh,” Rachel says, eyes widening. “That’s tricky. Wait. You’re having a cyber affair! With a cheater!”

“I’m not. I’m really not!” I repeat at her look. “And he’s not a cheater. After we matched, I messaged him, and he explained right away what had happened and that he wasn’t looking for a relationship. If he were looking for some sort of weird Internet affair, would he have told me about his girlfriend right away?”

“No,” she admits. “But then why are you two still talking?” “We’re just friends,” I say, shrugging. “After he replied to my message, I replied saying no problem, and then he replied, and then I replied. Somewhere along the line we discovered both of our first crushes are from Empire Records—”

“I’d forgotten about that! You loved A.J.”

“Still do,” I say with a nod. “He had a thing for Corey. We both live in Manhattan, we’re both highly suspicious of oatmeal, we both lost our dads to lung cancer four years ago, we both put mustard on our scrambled eggs—”

“So gross.”

“We don’t, however, like the same ice cream, apparently.” “You’re smiling that smile again,” Rachel says. “Sweetie. I’m not buying this just friends thing. You’re in love with this guy.”

“I’ve never met him!”

Rachel’s lips purse as she shifts Matteo to her other shoulder. “Does Lily know about this?”

“That I sometimes message a male friend? Why would I bring it up?”

I don’t add that I might have mentioned it, if the last time we had dinner Lily had not been going on and on about a documentary she’d just watched about online predators.

“Caleb?”

“Yes,” I say sarcastically. “My younger brother loves to hear all about his sister’s love life.”

“Ah-ha! So it is a love life.”

Whoops. I definitely walked right into that one.

“Did I tell you Caleb moved to New Hampshire?” I ask in an admittedly lame attempt to change the subject.

“Yes, and I still don’t fully comprehend moving out of a rent-controlled loft in SoHo to a barn in New Hampshire, but quit trying to distract me. Does anyone know about this? I need backup that this is nuts.”

“Keva knows,” I say, referring to my friend and upstairs neighbor.

Rachel looks away with just the slightest flinch, and I feel instant regret. She and Keva have met a couple of times and get along, but I sense she’s sometimes jealous of the friendship.

“Hey,” I say gently, pushing my finger into her forearm. “You’re still First Bestie.”

“I know,” Rachel says with a sigh. “It’s just another reminder that living out in freaking Queens means I don’t get to see you as often or get to know the daily details of your life anymore.”

“But you have a yard,” I point out.

“It’s more like a patch of dirt, but . . .” Rachel grins. “Yeah, I have a yard. My mother is scandalized. I swear, half the reason she wanted me to bring the kids into Manhattan today was because she’s worried they’re not getting enough concrete.”

Amy and Sammy, Rachel’s other two kids, are spending the day with her mom in Morningside Heights, which is the only reason I’m not fussing more that I don’t get to see my de facto niece and nephew. Grandma trumps best friend, and though I’m careful not to mention it, Rachel’s fears about Astoria being too far away from her old life aren’t totally unfounded. It’s at least an hour by train, which means I don’t get to see her or her family as much as I’d like.

Rachel gives me a sly look. “What do you think he looks like?”

Medium height. Wiry build. Longish brown hair, warm brown eyes. Big smile.

“I haven’t thought about it,” I say casually.

“Uh-huh. Liar. In these fantasies of yours, is he by any chance a musician and a Sagittarius?”

“Okay, that’s impressive,” I admit.

“I know,” she says, looking mollified to have best-friend status restored. “But you forget that we spent all of middle school and most of high school discussing our future husbands in very specific detail.” She pauses. “Damn, I was far off.”

“You mean your hot Puerto Rican husband isn’t a blond surfer named Dustin? Get out.”

“Oh, Dusty. What might have been,” she says dreamily before turning back to me. “Aren’t you worried your mystery guy could be, like, a hundred? With gout and gingivitis? What if his girlfriend is a caretaker at his nursing home, and the most action he gets is a sponge bath?”

“That would be fine,” I say primly. “I can be friends with someone of a different generation.”

I send out a silent plea to SirNYC. Please don’t get sponge baths.

Rachel takes a last bite of her sandwich, then scrunches the paper wrapping into a ball with a sigh. “I want to warn you about catfishing, but honestly this is too adorable, assuming you don’t do anything dumb. Like agree to meet him in a back alley.”

I let my eyes go wide. “Wait, so I shouldn’t have wired my life’s savings to his overseas account and then given him my home address when he asked to see my panty drawer?”

“Aren’t you funny. Here, want to give my arms another break?”

“Absolutely,” I say, taking the baby and kissing his head. “How’d you manage to escape with this one? Grandma Becca would have snatched him right up.”

“Oh, she tried. But though she’d die for her grandkids, she’s not big on diapers, so all it took was a casual mention of eruptive poops to secure some Auntie Gracie time.” She gives a slight sniff. “Joke’s on me though. I think he’s just backed up my lie with a very real diaper situation that needs to be addressed.”

“You want to change him at the shop?” I ask, gathering up the remnants of our lunch as she straps Matteo to her chest in some fancy-looking sling thing.

One of the best things about the champagne shop I own and run is that it’s just across the street from Central Park.

Rachel gives me an apologetic look, and I shake my head before she can speak. “You need to get back. Don’t worry about it.

“I do. Ugh. I’ve become one of those moms, huh? Can’t be apart from her Littles for more than two hours.”

“Those are the good kind of moms,” I reassure her as we begin making our way toward the west side of the park.

Rachel tosses our garbage into the green trash can and links her arm in mine, careful not to jostle Matteo. “You don’t have to walk this way with me,” she says, checking her watch. “Doesn’t the shop open at noon?”

“Josh and May are there. Plus, I need to get flowers for the counter, and Carlos on Seventy-Fourth and Broadway always has the best ones.”

“Damn, I miss those pop-up Manhattan flower carts. Almost as much as I miss May. Give her a squeeze for me, it’s been way too long. And wait, who’s Josh?”

“Newish hire. Mostly helps with inventory and stocking, but it’s sweet to watch him overcome his shyness customer by customer.”

“I’m surprised you even know what shyness looks like. Have you ever met a human being who didn’t instantly adore you?”

“Blake Hansel, fifth grade.”

“No, he just really adored you, in the pull-her-pigtail kind of way,” Rachel says as we exit the park and step onto the bustling Central Park West sidewalk. We embrace, careful not to smoosh the baby between us.

I pull back and give Matteo a proper goodbye, unapologetically inhaling his sweet baby smell, mingled with—yep, there’s the eruptive poop. “Goodbye, handsome. You sure you don’t want to run away with me?”

“You, young lady, will text me more often,” Rachel orders with a pointing finger as she begins walking backward uptown toward her parents’ place in Morningside Heights.

I salute in acknowledgment and wave goodbye.

The second my best friend’s back is turned, I pull out my phone to see if I have more messages from him.

Okay, fine. So maybe I’m a tiny bit in love with a man I haven’t met.

My dear Lady,

Pistachio gelato, you say. That’s my mother’s favorite, on the very rare occasions she lets herself eat food with actual flavor or calories. Alas, I confess the often-added green food coloring creeps me out.

Yours in renewed devotion to sorbet,
Sir
______________________________________

To Sir, with alarm,

Did you just compare me to your mother? Not sure how I feel about that…

Lady
______________________________________

My dear Lady,

I hear it now. I take it back and reassure you that in no way do I think of you as my mother.

Yours in apology,
Sir

Copyright © 2020 by Lauren Layne. From TO SIR, WITH LOVE by Lauren Layne , published by Gallery Books, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Printed by permission.

Giveaway Alert

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

Sunday Spotlight: June 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 Lauren Layne

Lauren Layne is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than two dozen romantic comedies. Her books have sold over a million copies, in nine languages. Lauren's work has been featured in Publishers Weekly, Glamour, The Wall Street Journal, and Inside Edition. She is based in New York City.


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Sunday Spotlight: Murder at Sunrise Lake by Christine Feehan

Posted June 13, 2021 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: Murder at Sunrise Lake by Christine FeehanMurder at Sunrise Lake by Christine Feehan
Publisher: Penguin, Berkley
Publication Date: June 29, 2021
Genres: Suspense, Thriller
Pages: 432
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#1 New York Times bestselling author Christine Feehan reaches new heights of passion and suspense in this thrilling novel that takes readers deep into the California backcountry, where a woman is tormented by visions of a killer.

It starts in her dreams. Hideous flashes from a nightmare only she can stop. Images of a murderer stalking the ones she cares about most...

Stella Harrison thought she got away from the traumas of her past. Running the Sunrise Lake resort high in the Sierra Nevada mountains has brought her peace, even though she doesn't truly share her quiet life with anyone. Not even Sam, the hired handyman that notices everything and always seems to know exactly what she needs.
Stella doesn't know anything about Sam's past, but somehow over the last two years his slow, steady presence has slipped past her defenses. Still, she knows she can't tell him about her recent premonitions. So far there's been no murder. No body. No way to prove what's about to happen without destroying the life she's built for herself.

But a killer is out there. And Stella knows that this time she'll do whatever it takes to stop him.

Excerpt

Mommy, Daddy’s doing the bad thing again.

The child’s voice very clearly said the words she’d said to her mother when she was four years old. When she was five. When she was seven.

Stella Harrison knew she was dreaming but she still couldn’t fight her way to the surface. This was the fifth night in a row she’d had the dream and the camera had widened the lens just a little more, as it had every night, so she saw additional pieces of the hideous nightmare she couldn’t stop. The man fishing. He wore denim bibbed overalls tucked into high olive-colored waders. A blue cap was pulled low over his eyes so she couldn’t see his face. There were boulders among the heavy reeds and plants that grew thick along the shore, creeping out into the lake. He’d made his way through the boulders to get out from under the shade of several trees.

She tried to warn him. Yelling. Calling out. Don’t cast. Don’t do it. Every night she saw his line go into the same spot. That little darker area that rippled in rings like a little round pool, so inviting. The fisherman always did the same exact thing, like a programmed robot. Stepping forward, casting, the lure hitting perfectly, sinking into the middle of that inky spot, dropping beneath the water into the depths below.

The camera switched then and she could see beneath the water. It should have been tranquil. Peaceful. Fish swimming. Not the man in the wet suit, waiting for that hook, waiting to tug and enter into some kind of terrible game with the fisherman above the surface. The fight for the fish became a real life-and-death battle, with the fisherman lured farther and farther from the safety of the shore and into the reeds and rocks—closer to the threat that lurked beneath the water.

The mythical fish appeared to be fighting. He seemed big, and well worth the exhausting battle. The fisherman paid less and less attention to his surroundings as he reeled the fish nearer to him and realized he was close to winning his prize.

Without warning, the killer beneath the water rose up right in front of the unsuspecting fisherman, slamming him backward so that his waders couldn’t find traction on the muddy floor of the lake. The fisherman hit his head hard on the boulder behind him and went down. Immediately, the killer caught his legs and yanked hard, dragging him under the water and holding him there while the fisherman thrashed and fought, weak from the vicious blow to his head from the boulder.

Stella could only watch, horrified, as the killer calmly finished the scene by dragging the body to the surface for just a few moments so he could pull the bottom of the wader along a boulder. The killer then pulled the fisherman back into the water and tangled him in his own fishing line just below the water line in the reeds and plants close to the shore. The killer calmly swam off as if nothing had happened.

The lens of the camera snapped shut and everything went black.

Stella woke fighting a tangle of sheets, sweat dripping, hair damp. She sat up abruptly, pressing the heels of her hands to her eyes. Rubbing, scrubbing her palms down her face over and over. Trying to erase the nightmare. Not again. It had been years. Years. She’d made a new life for herself. New friends. A place. A home.

Now the nightmare was back and recurring. This was the fifth time she’d had it. Five times in a row. It wasn’t like she lived in a big city. Usually, if murder was happening, everyone would know, especially in a small town. But this killer was brilliant. He was absolutely brilliant and that was why he was going to get away with it—unless she brought attention to the murders. Even then, she wasn’t certain he would get caught.

She hadn’t realized she was rocking herself back and forth, trying to self-soothe. She forced herself to stop. She hadn’t done that in years either. All those terrible habits she had developed as a child, that came back as a teen, she’d managed to overcome. Now, she found they were sneaking back into her life.

 

From MURDER AT SUNRISE LAKE published by arrangement with Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2021 by Christine Feehan.

 

Giveaway Alert

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

Sunday Spotlight: June 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 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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