Tag Archive | contemporary romance

K.J. Watters: The Sale of Woodhouse Glass (Giveaway)

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The author will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Click here for the Rafflecopter. Click the banner above to follow the tour and increase your chances of winning.

About The Sale of Woodhouse Glass

“Touching and intelligent, The Sale of Woodhouse Glass isn’t your ordinary romance. Kali Woodhouse is a widowed mother-of-two who spends her days running her deceased husband’s business, Woodhouse Glass, and flirting with the town police officer, who is exactly right for her in every way. He’s certainly a better choice than the bad-boy, screw-up she’s known since childhood, and who just so happens to need a job and has the necessary skills for Woodhouse Glass.

“No, this isn’t the generic storyline you’ve seen before with flat characters who play their roles according to the formula. Watters eschews cliche and instead tells a touching story about love, loss, family, and finding happiness again after tragedy.”

-Author of “Someone Else’s Fairytale” E.M. Tippetts

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Excerpt

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00063]Within half an hour, the lawyers had arrived with their paperwork and it was done. Kali and Spencer walked out side by side into the warm summer day, a sense of finality clinging to them.

“How do you feel, fancy suit-wearing business owner?”

“Excited. And sad.” Spencer stopped walking to turn and look at her. He pulled on his collar. “And hot.”

Kali laughed. “A mixed bag. Such is the life of the self-employed. I guess I’m off to the life of the unemployed for now.”

“You sure you don’t want to keep your job?” Spencer looked hopeful.

“Nah. No offense, but I sold it to get away from you, so that would kind of defeat the purpose.”

Spencer nodded with a good-natured chuckle. “Fair enough. But if you change your mind…”

Kali smiled sadly. They both knew that wasn’t going to happen, and they stood looking at each other for a moment, neither exactly sure how to walk way.

“Hey, um, give the kids a hug for me. I’m gonna miss ‘em. Would it be weird if I signed up to coach Ryder’s soccer team this year?” He wasn’t serious about the soccer, but she knew he would miss the kids. They would miss him, too. They already complained about not getting to see him much. Now they wouldn’t see him at all.

“Single thirty-something man with no children signs up to coach six-year-old soccer. Yeah…I’m thinking it might be weird.”

He laughed as he reached for her and pulled her into a tight embrace. It was the first time they had touched in weeks. “I’m gonna miss you, Kal.”

Kali rested her cheek against his silky tie and freshly pressed shirt. This was goodbye.

“I kind of hate you, Spencer.”

“I kind of hate myself, Kal. But I love you.” He didn’t let her go.

“I love you, too.”

When he finally released her, his eyes looked a little bit glossy, the way hers felt. He kissed her on the forehead and turned to walk to his truck, leaving her standing in the sunshine, not quite sure if she was supposed to feel relieved or heartbroken to have reached the end.

About the Author

MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_TheSaleOfWoodhouseGlass copyK.J. Watters is the author of The Sale of Woodhouse Glass, a solitary journalistic article, and a large number of unfinished manuscripts.

She has an underutilized degree in Communications, selected for its minimal math requirements. She married her math tutor who is now a CPA in southern Oregon.

Her hobbies currently include reading, writing, and watching beginner level gymnastics, ballet, and soccer practices. When she isn’t writing or being a mom, she also teaches high school conflict resolution classes part-time.

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Kimberly Keyes: Lover’s Leap (Giveaway)

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Kimberly will be awarding a $10 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Click here for the Rafflecopter. Click on the banner above to follow the tour and increase your chances of winning.

Welcome to today’s interview of Candace and Logan, the heroine and hero in Kimberly Keyes’ contemporary romance, Lover’s Leap.

Interviewer: Candace and Logan, the two of you are involved in a wildly passionate relationship and anyone who sees the two of you together can’t miss the fact you’re meant for each other, but as we understand it, when you met, starting a relationship with each other was the furthest thing from either of your minds. The word is your paths crossed by chance when both of you wound up vacationing at a mutual friend’s luxury vacation home in Tahoe. Can you tell us a little bit about how you both ended up there at the same time? And also, what held you back from acting on the attraction the two of you so obviously share?

Logan: I wasn’t on vacation in Tahoe. More like on sabbatical. Trying to decide what direction I wanted to go in my career—and my life, for that matter.

Candace: I wasn’t actually on vacation, either. I went to Tahoe to work—I’m a romance writer—and to clear my head. The house belongs to my agent, who also happens to be my very good friend, Eric. He offered it to me after a certain…um…traumatic event put my life into turmoil.

Logan: She walked in on her fiancé in bed with another woman.

Candace: (Laughs) Yep. Eric was worried about my ex badgering me into taking him back. I knew that would never happen. I can’t stomach cheaters, especially not after the way my dad treated my mom. But I did want to examine why I wasn’t more broken up about ending my engagement.

Logan: She didn’t love the guy. (Grins) She loves me, though.

Candace: (Gazes at Logan) I sure do.

Interviewer: So you both had reasons for hiding out in Tahoe. And?

Candace: After Eric offered me the house, he belatedly realized his quote-unquote special friend, Logan was already staying there. At that point, he almost rescinded his offer to me! And that’s where the confusion came in. You see, Eric’s gay. When he said he had a special friend at his vacation home, I figured that meant…

Logan: She figured I was Eric’s lover. I was pretty shocked when I realized she thought that. And a little peeved. Eric had (clears throat) given me strict instructions to keep my hands off his quote-unquote special friend, Candace, so I thought he’d told her he and I were lovers to insure my cooperation.

It struck me as way over the top—at first—primarily because Eric was my late twin, Luke’s partner. But after spending, what? Five minutes in Candace’s presence? I knew there was something really special about her.

Candace: He got the hots for me.

Logan: There was that…but also, she was a breath of fresh air. For most of my adult life, women have kind of…how do I say…

Candace: They throw themselves at him.

Logan: I was going to say, they come on strong when they’re interested.

Candace: Which any single woman is bound to be.

Logan: See? Told you she loves me. So…back to my guilty conscience over having it bad for Candace when I’d promised to steer clear. I tried not to notice her pretty eyes that saw right into me, and I tried not to follow her around like a puppy dog just because she really listened to me when I talked, and I never meant to get possessive and protective over her when I learned about her idiot ex cheating on her.

Candace: Or when the store clerk offered to help me.

Logan: (frowns) He seemed aggressive.

Candace: Whatever you say, Logan.

Logan: Okay, okay. Maybe I wanted you all to myself and that clerk was showing just a little too much interest.

Candace: Logan had taken me sightseeing in Tahoe, and practically ran off the cute male store clerk. At the time Logan and I were still firmly in the friend phase. I picked up on the boyfriend-ish vibe, but decided I was just wishful thinking, because, after all…

Logan: I was supposedly Eric’s boyfriend.

Interviewer: Okay, so if I understand you right, you each felt an attraction for the other, but felt you couldn’t act on it?

Candace: Guilty.

Logan: Absolutely. And it only got worse after we slept together.

Interviewer: Excuse me?

Candace: (Laughs out loud) It’s not how it sounds. We just had occasion to wind up in bed together in the middle of the night. The dreams I had about Logan…

Logan: and I had about Candace…

Candace: Still make me blush. But that’s a story for a different day.

Interviewer: You were attracted, but felt each other were off limits. How did you get over that hump?

Logan: I had to leave Tahoe. Had some personal business in San Francisco, and I wasn’t supposed to come back to the lake house. My God, I was gone something like twenty-four hours—

Candace: Not even.

Logan: …and I missed her like hell. But I resisted calling her because she’d been through enough with her jerk ex. I figured she didn’t need any Loganesque complications.

Candace: I missed Logan, too. I pretty much decided I needed to have my head examined. I finally felt a soul-deep attraction for a man, and he was completely off limits—or so I thought. But then a killer storm hit Tahoe.

Logan: (takes Candace’s hand) And I came rushing back.

Candace: He came rushing back to me.

Interviewer: And? What happened next?

Candace: (Smiles at Logan; Logan smiles at her) You’ll just have to read Kimberly Keyes’s Lover’s Leap and find out!!

About Lover’s Leap

After finding her fiancé in bed with another woman, Candace, a twenty-something, up-and-coming romance novelist takes off for a friend’s vacation home in Tahoe. The good news? She’ll share the place with fellow house guest, Logan, her best friend Eric’s latest lover. Except…

Logan, the nearly-irresistible-to-women photographer, isn’t Eric’s lover. Not now, not ever. He’s in Tahoe licking his own personal wounds, and before he’s allowed near Candace, he’s sworn off of her. No problem. Except…

There’s something about Candace. She’s not simply beautiful and enticingly off-limits. It’s in the way she doesn’t flirt with him. In the way she treats him like he isn’t a shallow pleasure-seeker. In the way, somehow, she brings peace to his world-weary soul.

Too bad she thinks he’s gay. But even if he can clear that hurdle, can he really entrust Candace’s heart to his own haphazard keeping?

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Excerpt

MediaKit_BookCover_LoversLeap copyExhausted. Soaked. Muddy. Hair plastered to his forehead, blinding him. He dug his elbows into gravel and dragged himself further away from the drop off, then rolled onto his back and closed his eyes. He would definitely lecture Candace. Just let him catch his breath first.

“Logan, are you all right?” Candace demanded, not content to wait for him to recover his strength. She crawled onto his chest and put her ice cold hands on either side of his face, pushing his hair out of his eyes. “Logan, answer me.”

Logan cracked his eyes open and studied her. Her fair hair was soaking wet and plastered to her skin. Water droplets slid down her cheeks, and off her nose.

“You told me you were safe, you silly man,” she half-yelled, half-sobbed. “You’re lucky your car stopped where it did instead of crashing into the gorge.”

Shivers racked her slight frame. Was she frightened? Cold? He lifted one exhausted arm and swiped her hair back from her cheeks. “Let’s get you home,” he said.

For a moment she stared at him with the blankest expression—then laughter burst from her lips. “You’re crazy.”

“I’m crazy? You just took a joy ride in the middle of a tropical storm.”

She sat back on his stomach and just smiled at him. A big beautiful smile that lit up her whole face. Something warm and wonderful filled Logan’s chest and he did the only thing he could do at that moment. Grasping her nape with one hand, and her shoulder with the other, he dragged her down and kissed her.

About the Author

MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_LoversLeap copyKimberly Keyes knew before she was old enough to drive, writing was her passion. Specifically, writing romance. Once she got up the courage to start typing, she never looked back—although some of her earlier works will never get further than underneath her bed!

She writes single title contemporary and historical romance, Victorian era, and is most comfortable working on two books in the two different genres, simultaneously.

The bulk of her time she spends writing, and re-writing, plotting, and dreaming up ways to perplex the characters living inside her head.

She’s lucky to have the unswerving support of her family, and most especially her two faithful companions, Pappillon, a twenty pound rescue puppy from Puerto Rico, and Frank, a.k.a. “President of the Black Dog Club,” also a rescue. The two are constantly by her side offering love and encouragement, and occasionally demanding chewies.

Lover’s Leap, a contemporary romance, is her first published book. The Trouble With Tigers, a Victorian romance will be released soon, too! Both books are published by The Wild Rose Press.

 

 

Abby Bardi: The Secret Letters (Giveaway)

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Abby will be awarding an eCopy of The Secret Letters to 3 randomly drawn winners via Rafflecopter during the tour. Click here for the Rafflecopter. Click the banner above to follow the tour and increase your chances of winning.

A Letter From a Character Setting the Scene

by Abby Bardi

Dear J. Fallingwater,

I am writing on behalf of my sister Julie Barlow, who has asked that I contact you. We believe that you were an associate of my late mother, Cynthia Barlow. We found this address for you in Arizona in an old address book as we were cleaning out the contents of her house.

I hope it won’t distress you to hear that we also found a box of old letters that were signed by someone who simply called himself “J.” If this was not you, please ignore the rest of this letter. Let’s be frank: the letters were love letters from during the period my mother was married to my father, Bill Barlow. When my sister and I read the letters, we—well, to be honest, she—checked the dates, did the math, and has come to the conclusion that you are—there is no easy way to put this—her real father.

If you knew my mother, then you might also know the details of her divorce from my father, Bill Barlow. Not to rehash that old history, but it was pretty ugly. I think Julie would be happy if she were able to find out that someone else was actually her father.

So I told her I would write to you, even though to be honest, there is almost no chance in hell of this letter actually reaching you, since the address is at least twenty years old, and even if you get this, you may or may not be the person who wrote the letters. But Julie asked me to write and even though I said no about a hundred times, well, here I am, writing you.

On the off-chance that this letter reaches you, and that you were the same “J.” who wrote love letters to my mother, and you are actually Julie’s father, would you please contact us at the above address?

Sincerely,

Pam Barlow

Attorney

About The Secret Letters

When thirty-seven-year-old slacker-chef Julie Barlow’s mother dies, her older sister Pam finds a cache of old letters from someone who appears to be their mother’s former lover. The date stamped on the letters combined with a difficult relationship with her father leads Julie to conclude that the letters’ author was a Native American man named J. Fallingwater who must have been her real father.

Inspired by her new identity, Julie uses her small inheritance to make her dream come true: she opens a restaurant called Falling Water that is an immediate success, and life seems to be looking up. Her sister Norma is pressuring everyone to sell their mother’s house, and her brother Ricky is a loveable drunk who has yet to learn responsibility, but the family seems to be turning a corner.

Then tragedy strikes, and Julie and her siblings have to stick together more than ever before. With all the secrets and setbacks, will Julie lose everything she has worked so hard for?

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Excerpt

The casket was a double-wide, with painted flowers on the side like a circus wagon. Pam said it looked like hippies had scrawled on it with crayons while tripping.

“She’s at peace now,” one of our idiot cousins said to someone I half-recognized from when my mother used to drag us to West Virginia, where she was born. “Just a bunch of goddamn hillbillies in the Mountain State,” she always said, like she was Martha Stewart.

“Shut up,” Pam muttered in the cousin’s general direction, smiling like she was saying something nice. I hoped she planned to provide snark during the funeral, since I didn’t know how I would make it through otherwise. My other sister Norma was in the front pew sobbing. We were keeping our distance from her, not because of anything in particular, but because we always stayed out of her way if we could. It didn’t pay to try to comfort her, since anything you said would be the wrong thing.

The casket was closed, thank God. Our mother had left strict instructions about this and everything else when she was still conscious. Even while dying, she was a control freak, and amazingly vain for someone who weighed just shy of 400 pounds, even with terminal cancer. “You’re beautiful,” we always said to her in a Hollywood voice, “don’t ever change.” She knew we were just messing with her, but she always smiled and patted her hair.

“That’s a hell of a casket,” I said.

“Sure is purty.” Pam’s eyes were red. I hadn’t looked in a mirror since early morning when I’d slathered on eye makeup, but I’d been crying all day, too, and probably looked like a slutty raccoon. “Is Timmy here yet?”

“Haven’t seen him. It’s so crowded.” I scanned the room.

“Did any of these weirdos actually know her?”

“I don’t know. I bet those fat guys were football players at her high school.” I wiped my eyes, though I knew it was a bad idea, smear-wise.

“Oh, there he is.” Pam pointed to the back of the room and I spotted our older brother. He was wearing a dark suit that made him look like a Mafia don, talking to some blond guy. She tried waving, but he didn’t notice. His eyes were on the casket. He hadn’t seen our mother in almost a year, and I was sure it was hard for him to believe she was gone. Tough shit for him, I thought. He could have come here when it would have made a difference. Now it didn’t matter to anyone what he did.

“Is The Asshole coming?” I asked, referring to our father.

“No, he says he has a schedule conflict.”

“Probably golf. You’d think he could at least manage to show up for this.”

“At least he’s clean and sober.”

“So he says. He’s probably still banging down Zombies at strip clubs.”

“Try not to be bitter, Julie. It’s unattractive.”

“Bitter? You think I’m bitter?”

As the minister cut in and began to read the eulogy my mother had probably written for him, my mind started wandering like I was in grade school waiting for the bell to ring. I tried to concentrate, but I couldn’t. Every so often I’d tune back in and hear things that weren’t true. Her devotion to other people. Her service to the community. Her wonderful family life—I could just about hear her voice coming out of the guy’s mouth. I didn’t know where she found him, since she never went to church. I figured he was an actor she hired to play a minister, and made a mental note to mention this to Pam.

As he droned on in his phony actor voice, I closed my eyes and imagined walking through the woods on the hill behind our house. Most of it was gone now, bulldozed to make room for the townhouse development just over the ridge. I made a path through the old trees, and the dogs ran in circles around me. Ahead of me was the pond, though in real life it wasn’t there any more either, except for the hints that sometimes bubbled up in people’s driveways. I was going to dangle my bare feet in the water. I could hide there all day, and no one would know where I was. Then I would run back through the trees to our house, with the dogs behind me, and my mother would be there, and Frank, and Donny.

When I opened my eyes the minister was gone, and some cousin who hadn’t seen my mother in years was reading from a wrinkled piece of paper. She was stumbling over the words, maybe because it was Mom’s loopy handwriting, or maybe she couldn’t read. It was Mom’s life story minus all the bad parts and made going to high school in East Baltimore, meeting The Asshole, and having five children with him sound like an E! True Hollywood Story. Norma was born six months after the wedding, and it didn’t take a mathematician to figure out the facts, but the cousin glossed over that, and the ugly divorce, and finished with the happy ending, my mother finding true love with Frank and then having little Ricky. Ricky, on my left, burst into loud sobs. I put my arm around him and he cried onto my shoulder. I could smell he’d been drinking again. I would have pulled him onto my lap like I used to, but he was a big boy now. When I looked at him with his tattoos, dreadlocks, and piercings, I still saw that cute little blond guy and felt how much we had loved him. We still loved him that much, but it was complicated.

Pam leaned across me and held his hand. “You’ll be fine, sweetie,” she whispered to him, though we were pretty sure he wouldn’t.

About the Author

Version 2Abby Bardi is the author of The Book of Fred. She grew up in Chicago, went to college in California, then spent a decade teaching English in Japan and England. She currently teaches at a college in Maryland and lives in historic Ellicott City with her husband and dog.

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Carla Caruso: Starcrossed (Giveaway)

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Carla will be awarding an eCopy of Starcrossed to 3 randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour. Click here for the Rafflecopter. Click the banner above to follow the tour and increase your chances of winning.

A letter from Starcrossed heroine Simona Gemella to her ex-husband Carmine

Dear Carmine,

I know I will never send you this letter, but it feels good just to write it.

To let you know that I’m not a bitter divorcée, that you haven’t sucked the life – the passion – out of my romance-writing career just yet by walking out on me.

Okay, so I’ve had a bit of writer’s block since you left, but I’m on my way to fixing that. I’ve joined my best friend, Nessie, at a girly, cosmic-inspired retreat on Kangaroo Island.

The island is rugged, windswept and isolated – just the sort of place to get the creative juices flowing again. And I’ve got a whole week here to soak up the wintry vibe.

The retreat’s being run by an astrology guru called Astrid. You’d probably agree with her description of Capricorns, like me, being ‘workaholics’. Isn’t that one of the reasons you walked out on me?

Anyway, I’m having fun learning about New Age-y stuff at the retreat, like astrology and Auro-Soma, plus doing morning yoga and hanging out with the other holidaymakers, including Raquel (who’s a real sweetie) and Jordana (nice, though I don’t much fancy her frowny husband who’s tagged along).

There’s also a cool guy called Denham Cobalt, who helps out at the old manor where the retreat’s being held. He’s so different to you. He even has a scorpion tattoo on his neck. I couldn’t even imagine you getting one!

The manor can be a bit creaky and spooky, but right now, it just feels good to be a long way from home. Plus, there’s a masquerade party on the last night of the retreat, coinciding with a total lunar eclipse. If only you could see how hot I’ll look in the frock I bought for it!

Best,

Simona

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About Starcrossed

Fledgling romance author Simona Gemella is hoping the rugged wilderness of South Australia’s Kangaroo Island will help reignite her creative spark after her husband walked out on her (calling her a workaholic and filing for divorce).

She’s joined her best friend, Nessie, on a health and wellness retreat at a mysterious old manor on the island, run by an astrology guru.

Though Simona’s sworn off men, she can’t help being distracted by a darkly dangerous man with a scorpion tattoo – Denham Cobalt – who’s also staying at the manor. Then strange things start to happen, including uncanny accidents and even a possible murder.

It all culminates at a masquerade party on the night of a total lunar eclipse. Will Simona survive – with her heart intact?

Amazon

Excerpt

Simona woke with a start, her heart pounding. A dream featuring dark-eyed strangers and clawing scorpions had been interrupted by the sound of footsteps. Real ones. Growing closer. Not far from her bed. She could have sworn it. Although, the pitch black revealed nothing.

The noise had seemed to come more from the right side of the room, behind the wardrobe. Almost inside the wall. Which was ridiculous. She turned her head, peering into the darkness. 3:08 glowed in fluorescent green digits on the alarm clock radio.

Grasping the covers under her chin, Simona lay still, waiting for more, her ears pricked. Three glow-in-the-dark star stickers shone down from the ceiling. She imagined a travelling mum sticking them there to soothe their child, remind them of home. Unfortunately Simona needed more than that to placate her.

Aside from the occasional breathy snort from Nessie, though, silence reigned. Her friend had finally hit the pillow after kicking on to play pool with some backpacker. She had called Simona a stick-in-the-mud earth sign for leaving the pub early. Nessie always had a knack for making her feel dull.

Simona strained her ears. Still nothing. Her writer’s imagination had obviously conjured up the footsteps. Pity, as she had found it hard to get to sleep in the first place. Phone in her possession again, she had been kept up, mulling over a three-star Goodreads review from a writers’ group pal. Yup, three measly stars. Friends were meant to give you five stars, or four at least to look realistic. It was an unofficial rule.

But her supposed mate, who had hidden behind a code name (undone by the profile pic of her pet dog), hadn’t been so generous. She had written: I fell in love with the rugged hero and the unique story. The only shame was that some of the more intriguing plotlines weren’t further explored, sacrificed for the romance aspect of the book …

Um, it was a romance novel, hence, the emphasis on that particular component. Really. Of course, any criticism only hurt because she feared it was true: she was her own worst critic.

Then, just as Simona was drifting off, Nessie had crashed home, flicking on the lamp so that she could put on her so-called ‘lucid dreaming’ sleep mask. Another bizarre Nessie-style item. This one, she reckoned, helped encourage creative thinking. Though what Nessie needed it for, Simona didn’t know. Dreaming up more crazy holiday ideas? If anyone required it, it was Simona with her severe case of writer’s block.

And now? Now she was imagining things that went bump in the night.

Why oh why had she been fooled into believing going on holiday with a friend would be fun? It never was. She would have had more luck with inspiration striking at home. Where the internet was never far from her fingertips, and her thoughts weren’t clouded by no-good men.

Willing sleep to come soon, Simona unearthed an arm from beneath the doona and stretched to tap the bedside table three times. For luck — in case she wasn’t crazy and someone really was lurking about. Touching wood was a vice of hers. Nessie would probably say it had something to do with her being an earth sign and needing to be close to Nature. Really it just meant she was a tad OCD. Besides, the footsteps she’d heard before probably were just in her head — a symbol of her fear of being walked out on again.

About the Author

AuthorPhoto_Starcrossed copyCarla Caruso was born in Adelaide, Australia, and only ‘escaped’ for three years to work as a magazine journalist and stylist in Sydney. Previously, she was a gossip columnist and fashion editor at Adelaide’s daily newspaper, The Advertiser. She has since freelanced for titles including Woman’s Day and Shop Til You Drop.

These days, she plays mum to twin lads Alessio and Sebastian with hubby James. Visit http://www.carlacaruso.com.au.

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Dianne Maguire: What Matters Most (Giveaway)

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Dianne will be awarding an eCopy of What Matters Most to 3 randomly drawn winners via Rafflecopter during the tour. Click here for the Rafflecopter. Click the banner above to follow the tour and increase your chances of winning.

About What Matters Most

There is good love and bad love. Good sex and bad sex. And sometimes it’s hard to know the difference.

Paediatrician and mother Mia Sandhurst is scraping to keep her marriage together after her husband of 25 years breaks her heart. Finally facing reality, Mia embarks on a series of outlandish new behaviours to make startling discoveries about herself, love and life.

But the lies and betrayal Mia endures are nothing compared to those of her 15 year old patient, Rachel Hooper.

Set on the magical coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula, What Matters Most is a story of love, family, misplaced loyalty and how our choices shape who we are.

Amazon

Excerpt

When her family arrived, Rachel’s condition was stable, but she was still in a coma.

Mia left the treatment room for the waiting area to see Jack in discussion with a short, round woman wearing a brown coat and woollen cap from which locks of red hair fading to grey seemed to be struggling for an escape. Her chin jutted as though she was fighting for her life, and even from a distance Mia could see her blue eyes bulging with anger. Beside her, a dungareed man of medium stature, with the stoop that comes from back neglect, listened with no show of emotion or facial expression, his hands clasped behind his back. Tim, morosely silent but actively listening, held the hand of a boy aged about seven whose round face, topped with a mop of dark hair like his sister’s, moved silently and intently from his mother to Jack as they each spoke.

BookCover_WhatMattersMost copy‘Mr and Mrs Hooper, I’m Dr Sandhurst.’ Mia stepped up and extended her hand first to Peter, who shook it flaccidly and flicked dark, seemingly bottomless eyes towards her for a brief moment.

‘I’m Annie,’ the woman said with a stiff smile and a perfunctory shake of Mia’s hand. ‘And this is Ben, our youngest.’

‘Hello, Ben.’ Mia shook his hand to elicit a wry grin before leading the way towards a room in the treatment area. Jack bid his farewells in a way that made it clear to Mia that he and the family knew each other well.

The moment they entered the small interview room and sat on the trio of mustard vinyl chairs facing the narrow desk, Annie let forth as though she had held back for long enough.

‘This cannot be true, Dr Sandhurst. It is not like Rachel,’ she said, absently watching Ben climb onto Tim’s knee. ‘Yes … she can be unpredictable … Yes, she’s stubborn about simple things like refusing to have a shower … But to her credit she has never followed the crowd and she would never ever drink alcohol … and as for taking drugs, well it’s just ludicrous to even entertain the idea.’ Her blue eyes shone more than would be natural and she swallowed with difficulty.

Gently closing the door, Mia knew she was about to make a highly provocative suggestion, but she was experienced enough to know the reality — a harsh new reality that had to be faced sooner or later by the family. ‘I gather Rachel was on her own in the lounge room for quite a while, once her friend Cassie had gone to bed and before Tim found her in the bathroom,’ she said sitting on the swivel chair behind the desk. ‘It makes me wonder if she deliberately took the alcohol and drugs with the intention of harming herself.’

Annie sprang from her seat like a giant cork. ‘That’s insulting and ridiculous. How dare you even suggest …’ She promptly sat again as though pushing away any semblance of thought about the words she was about to utter.

Mia cast a glance at Peter’s persistently bland expression, now intently aimed at the mottled blue carpet. Then at Tim, who muttered something about bullshit.

‘No, it’s quite feasible actually,’ Mia persisted, one eyebrow arching. ‘Rachel would not be the first troubled teen to overdose on alcohol or drugs because she is overwhelmed by problems. And she wouldn’t be the last. Hopefully, one of our psychologists will get her to talk about it.’

Annie Hooper’s eyes widened. ‘I’d prefer the shrinks left her alone. They cause more harm than good in my opinion.’

Over the following minutes Mia tried to make allowances for the parents’ rigid denial of the possibility that their daughter was deeply troubled. Shock and even the will to protect family dignity may have been factors, but these people stubbornly refused to relent, despite her most determined efforts at convincing them that much care was needed because their daughter could be in grave danger of making a repeat attempt on her life.

‘Mm, it’s all a bit of a mystery,’ Mia said, finally giving up. ‘But we shall know more when Rachel regains consciousness. The good news is that there doesn’t seem to have been any damage done to her heart muscle.’ She stood and a spontaneous sigh escaped her. ‘You can see Rachel very briefly, then I suggest you go home and get some sleep. That way you’ll be fresh for her tomorrow.

 About the Author

AuthorPhoto_WhatMattersMost copyDianne Maguire is a social worker turned novelist with over 20 years’ experience in child welfare and protection.

She has won the Pauline Walsh Prize in the Eastwood/Hills Regional Annual Literary Awards and in 2010 she co-wrote a collection of non-fiction short stories, It’s About Time, for children’s charity Time for Kids. Her articles have been published in state and national newspapers and magazines.

Although Dianne lives in Adelaide with her husband Jerome, she does most of her writing on the Fleurieu Peninsula. What Matters Most is her debut novel.

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Sabrina York: Guard Dog (Stone Hard SEALS and Hot SEAL Crossover Novella)

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Love Hot SEALs?

What if all your favorite military romance authors got together and wrote a series of HOT SEAL romances in the same world?

This is Cat Johnson’s HOT SEALS Kindle World. It’s an exciting opportunity for you to discover new authors writing in the genre you love in a world you know!

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About Guard Dog

A scorching sequel to Stone Hard SEALs

Mason Steele expected to be a SEAL until the day he died. And he was. A pity they revived him. Now he’s been mustered out of the Navy and his life seems wholly unsatisfying. He misses the action; he misses the camaraderie; he misses being able to use his tightly-honed skills. He’s lucky to have snagged this job with GAPS—the Guardian Angel Protective Services—it provides some hope for his future. But the last thing he wants to do is babysit a spoiled heiress who is obsessed with the color of her nail polish and carries a Chihuahua in her purse.

But there’s more to Pansy Hightower than can be seen at first glance. She’s smart, sassy and determined to save the business her late mother built. She resents having a guard dog and does what she can to lose her muscular shadow. But when it becomes clear that someone is targeting her—perhaps for the same kind of fatal “accident” that befell her mother, she decides having the 240 pound SEAL with killer instincts and lethal hands at her back might be a good idea after all.

Until they share a kiss, that is. Until those lethal hands prove they have other talents as well. Talents that leave her breathless and wanting and weak. The last thing either of them wants is a relationship, but the scorching passion between them cannot be denied…even though it will undoubtedly spell disaster for them both.

Excerpt

“All right then.” Pansy’s surprisingly chipper voice cut through his dismal mood. It had been mortifying admitting his weakness, his failure, especially to her. It was something of a relief that she didn’t seem to understand the deep implications of his confession.

He dared a glance at her. Even bedraggled and tattered as she was, he wanted her. She shot him a bright smile. It made him glower. “All right then, what?” he muttered.

“All right, then. You’ll do.”

You’ll do? You’ll do? Irritation riffled through him. When she tipped her head and her ponytail swung, his ire blossomed.

“But I don’t know about the others.”

“The others are excellent.” He wasn’t sure why he was arguing with her. He wanted this job. He wanted to be with her. He wanted to keep her safe. And for some reason, thought of some other dude, even one of his brothers in arms, stepping into the duty rankled.

“But I don’t know them.”

“We’ll arrange a meet.” It was standard procedure…when they weren’t on a covert job.

She put out a lip. God he wanted to suckle it. Maybe it would be better if someone else took over. He was far too attracted to her to keep a clear mind. “But I want you,” she said.

Again, her words made something hard and needy sizzle through his bowels. He knew what she meant. He knew she was talking about her protection and not some scalding, savage coupling in the big bed in the next room that was far too close to be successfully ignored.

It was a testament to his delusional state that all he could think about was sex. All he could think about was stripping her naked and taking her here and now. That she wanted it as much as he did.

He imagined he could smell her arousal in the air, which was ridiculous.

A woman like her and a guy like him?

Yeah. Nucking futs.

“No worries. I’ll be on your team. But we’ll have at least three others.” Two on days and two on nights. Although, if he had his way, she wouldn’t be going out again. Certainly not to clubs where he couldn’t guarantee her safety. On that note, he fixed her with a dark look. “We need to talk about security. You’re going to have to make some lifestyle changes until this threat is contained.”

“Like what?”

“Like going out in public.”

“I have a business to run.”

“Is that what they call it? Partying all night with entitled socialites like Monique Dupree?” He didn’t mean to snarl it as he did. But it hardly mattered. She was utterly unaffected by his ferocity.

“Those entitled socialites are my customer base. More than that. They are my influencers.”

He had no idea what that meant. “Too many people. Too many blind spots. We need to keep you in controllable environments.” Like this hotel. Like this suite. That bed…

“Controllable environments?”

Again with the pouting lip. God. It was driving him crazy.

With a grunt, he pushed to his feet—ignoring the sharp string of yips this elicited from Ratacus—and prowled to the wall of windows, pulling back the curtains and peering out at the night in a pretense of assessing any potential hazards. Her suite was on the thirtieth floor. Doubtful anyone would enter from the balcony. Still, he checked the lock on the door. Probably wouldn’t hurt to install a door brace on the front door. He strode back to the foyer and jiggled the handle. Yeah, definitely a brace. He made a mental note of other upgrades the suite needed, of the things he needed to check. First order of business was to sweep for any bugs and check for hidden cameras.

He glanced over at Pansy and immediately revised his priorities. She was leaning back with her head resting on the sofa, her eyes closed. Her face was a cameo of perfection, but it was wreathed in exhaustion. First order of business was to get her to bed.

Lust lanced him.

Shit.

No. Get her in bed.

Alone.

By herself.

So she could sleep.

Aw, hell.

His gaze skated over her and he took in the rips in her dress, the scrapes on her legs and the dirt smudging her cheek. He should have tended to her wounds right off the bat. He should have seen to her comfort. He should have—

An ominous clicking sound and a sudden riffle of movement near his ankles captured his attention and he glanced down.

Lola, in her pink tutu glared up at him, her lip curled over impressively pointy teeth. Mason tipped his head to the side and met her challenging gaze with one of his own. It said: Really? Whatcha gonna do, Ratacus?

He probably shouldn’t have.

She lifted her leg.

And peed on his boots.

“Son of a bitch.” He didn’t mean to boom as he leaped back, but he did. Pansy shot up, her eyes wide. “What?” she cried. “What is it?”

He shot her a contrite look. “Your dog peed on my boots.”

“She does that.” Pansy huffed a sigh and headed for the powder room to grab a hand towel. “One of the reasons I don’t date.” She knelt before him and mopped up the puddle.

He should have stooped to help her, but honestly, he couldn’t. He couldn’t move to save his life. Because there she was, kneeling before him, with her head so close…

A scintillating thought, a captivating vision, a scalding need rose like the hydra. That, and a lowering realization.

He was a pervert. A goddamn pervert.

She was cleaning his fucking boots for God’s sake.

“You need a shower.”

Right. No idea why he blurted that.

Well, maybe one idea. He desperately needed her to stand. To move away, before he lost his mind and did something insane and necessary, like pull her closer.

She looked up at him. He forced himself to step away, he had to. Or his erection might have brushed her cheek.

And that would have been a disaster.

“Yeah. Um. You’re all banged up. We should get some antiseptic on those scrapes. Do you have a first aid kit?”

She said nothing so he glanced at her. That she was staring at his crotch sent a bolt of lightning through him. Her tongue peeped out and she lifted her gaze. He could have sworn he saw something simmering there. He tried mightily to ignore it.

Surely it wasn’t what he thought. Imagined. Ached for.

“Do you? Have a first aid kit?”

She shook her head. “I have no idea.” Nearly a whisper.

“I’ll call the concierge.” This was a penthouse suite. Surely there was a concierge. “Why don’t you go…um, clean up and I’ll call down for something.”

She stood slowly, holding his gaze. Something about her, her energy, her intensity, had shifted. It made him antsy. It made him restless. It made him hungry. She turned around—his heart sank—but then she said, softly, with a tentative quiver to her voice, “Could you unzip me?”

Holy. Fuck.

She peeped at him over her shoulder. Her eyes, so beautiful and blue, bore into his. “I can’t do it myself.”

He was certain she could. She was a grown woman. She’d been dressing—and undressing—herself for years. But he couldn’t refuse. Not when she asked so politely. “S-sure.” Hopefully she missed the stutter.

She could not have missed the fact that his fingers shook as he tried to grasp the tiny teardrop at the top of her zipper. Why the fuck did it have to be so tiny? It took forever for him to make the long journey down her spine, partly because the damn zipper kept catching and partly because he really wanted to savor the journey. As it advanced, more and more of her creamy skin was exposed. He wanted nothing more than to place his palm on her, to stroke her. To feel the heat of her skin against this.

But she’d asked him to unzip her. Not make a move.

It was a damn good thing he’d developed indomitable willpower as a SEAL. Denying himself things crucial to his being—air, water, food—was par for the course in their training.

This was by far the most difficult denial of all.

When he reached the bottom of the zipper, when a hint of a crease at the base of her spine was exposed, he stepped back. Though it cost him. “There,” he said.

Jesus, God. He was going to heaven for this.

He fucking better.

His restraint was nothing short of a penance.

But then…

Holy God.

But then…she shifted her shoulders and the scrap of material drifted to the floor. She shot another glance at him, something that was too much of an invitation to be misunderstood or misconstrued, and, wearing nothing but her skimpy bra and panties, padded into the bathroom.

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About Sabrina York

Her Royal Hotness, Sabrina York, is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of hot, humorous stories for smart and sexy readers. Her titles range from sweet & sexy to scorching romance. Visit her webpage at www.sabrinayork.com to check out her books, excerpts and contests. Get updates and alerts from Sabrina here: HotSheet Sign Up.

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Elsa Winckler: Touched to the Soul #Giveaway

Elsa is giving away a copy of Touched the Heart, the first book in the series, to a random commenter.

 Interview with Elsa Winckler

Susana: What inspired you to start writing?

Elsa: All those happy endings! I’ve always loved to read and loved the happy endings but I didn’t always like the way the two would get together, so I decided to write the kind of story I like to read. I was thrilled to discover there were other people who also enjoyed reading it

Susana: What comes first: the plot or the characters?

IMGP9652 copyElsa: For me it’s the characters. I try to figure them out, sometimes I even use the Mayer Briggs personality test to really try and understand them! Once I know what makes them tick, the storyline falls into place.

Susana: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Elsa: A pantser, I’m afraid. It used to bother me but I’ve made peace with the way a story unfolds itself. I have a vague idea of what should happen and then I let the characters tell their story – sometimes with twists that I haven’t foreseen.

Susana: What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to learn about you?

Elsa: I knit. My hands always have to be busy, so when I don’t type, I knit – in front of the television, in bed, in the car (when I’m not driving). When I concentrate on a tricky pattern, my mind wanders and it’s often then that I’d get an idea or realize how to solve a problem I was having with a story.

Susana: Is there a writer you idolize? If so, who?

Elsa: I love Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, the Brontë sisters. If I have to pick a favourite story, it would be Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South – a beautiful love story between two complex characters unfolds against the backdrop of a newly industrial England – simply breathtaking (there is also a wonderful BBC DVD available with Richard Armitage as a to-die-for Mr Thornton J )

Susana: What is something you’d like to accomplish in your writing career next year?

Elsa: Up until now, I’ve written mainly category-length love stories but would like to try my hand at something with a little bit of suspense thrown in. 

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About Touched to the Soul

Zoe Sutherland can’t stand the pushy, arrogant architect David Cavallo. He was just too damn sure of himself, too handsome, too…everything. Maneuvered into working as the interior decorator on his latest project, a glamorous new hotel, Zoe can’t keep her mind on the job. And worse, the strange man won’t give her access to the hotel’s floor plans. How is she supposed to finish the design when she doesn’t have the plans? And when the obnoxious man distracts her with every smoldering look, every touch…

David has one goal: get rid of the pesky interior designer. Since he’s been forced into close proximity with the beautiful Zoe, everything’s gone downhill. And to make matters worse, she’s only out to further her own career—and he’s not about to give her the hotel’s plans so she can steal his ideas. He needs to get her out of his system, and sleeping with her seems like the best way to do that. When it comes to women, he’s found the best way to handle them is to love ’em and leave ’em. But something strange is happening…because after a night of loving Zoe, he’s finding it harder than ever to leave…

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Excerpt

And then she swallowed. He bit the insides of his cheeks to prevent him from smiling. So, the lady wasn’t as cool as she pretended to be.

“I tried to contact you after Don and Caitlin’s wedding but you never answered any of my messages.”

She narrowed her eyes. “You know perfectly well why I ignored those messages,” she said primly.

He leaned forward, enjoying her obvious discomfort. “You see, that’s just it. I don’t know. You kissed me, stormed away, and ignored all the messages I sent you.”

Her lips trembled slightly. “You were the one who kissed me,” she said, her eyes stormy.

“You didn’t kiss me back?” he asked, not quite understanding why he couldn’t stop baiting her.

She inhaled audibly, bent her head for a few seconds before she opened the file. “We can go ahead with the contract. That is, if you still want me to.”

“Oh, I still want you…” he said solemnly, waiting a millisecond before he added “…to.”

Her flared nostrils were the only indication that she’d caught his meaning.

“Good.” She got up. “I’ll ask Susan to contact you for the next meeting. Please make sure whoever you send has all the information available—budget, timeline and of course if…”

He also got up slowly. “Seeing that my brother suggested we make use of your firm, I will be working with you. Directly.” He emphasized the last word. “I don’t mind doing favors, but when money is involved, I have to protect the investment we’ll be making. I have to make sure you are not just a pretty face but can actually do the job. You obviously don’t really want to work for me, but you’ve realized it’s good for business. Therefore, I have to make sure our business doesn’t suffer because of yours.”

About the Author

I have been reading love stories for as long as I can remember and when I ‘met’ the classic authors like Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, Henry James The Brontë sisters, etc. during my studies, I was hooked for life.

I married my college boyfriend and soul mate and after 39 years, 3 beautiful children and 3 grandchildren, he still makes me weak in the knees. We are fortunate to live in the picturesque little seaside village of Betty’s Bay, South Africa with the ocean a block away and a beautiful mountain right behind us. And although life so far has not always been an easy ride, it has always been an exiting and interesting one!

I like the heroines in my stories to be beautiful, feisty, independent and headstrong.  And the heroes must be strong but possess a generous amount of sensitivity. They are of course, also gorgeous!  My stories typically incorporate the family background of the characters to better understand where they come from and who they are when we meet them in the story.

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