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Monday, March 19, 2018

The Rake and the Bishop’s Daughter by Julia Donner πŸ’• Exclusive Excerpt & Gift Card Giveaway πŸ’•(Historical Romance)

Society’s beloved wastrel, Sir Harry Collyns, pushes his popularity past the point of acceptability when he poses for a statue that creates a social uproar. People line up for blocks to see Handsome Harry in the nude, sculpted by a female artist! Bored with the fuss and scandal, Harry hitches up his fastest team, heads for the country, and a near fatal curricle accident. When the bandages are removed from his head days later, he discovers the angel-voiced widow who’d cared for him is neither elderly nor as mild as her tone, but a straight-laced do-gooder unimpressed with his flamboyant past and dashing good looks. Head-battered and heading for a broken heart, he falls into love with Widow Olivia St. Clair, who might be the one woman in England that Harry can’t charm into loving him back.

On the trek across the portrait hall, Olivia dredged up the courage to satisfy her curiosity. “I wonder if you would indulge me in a small request.”

Harry’s brother halted. “How may I be of service?”

“There has been so much talk of the statue done of Harry. The newspapers said Lady Asterly purchased the work. Might I see it?”

His eyebrows raised in curious surprise. He tipped his head in a bow and gestured to a side door. “This leads to a collection room not intended for public view.”

‘Oh, my!” was all she could say after she entered and saw the area crammed with statuary and paintings.

Asterly gestured to a marble statue on her right. Almost nine feet high with the addition of its pedestal, the figure had been covered with a lurid green, silk banyan. Harry’s features gazed down, his head angled slightly to the left, his expression distant, contemplative. Cold, smooth stone captured the perfection of his brow and elegant cheekbones that contrasted with the uncompromising contour of his jaw. His mouth curved with wistful humor.

Asterly’s strong, tanned hand reached out and with a gentle tug, slid the banyan off the statue. Green silk slithered to the floor and pooled beneath Harry’s stone bare feet. In a relaxed stance, his long limbs and lean muscle glided in a fluid, visual flow. He held an unraveled scroll in front of his hips for modesty’s sake.

Blunt-spoken when surprised, Olivia almost blurted that he hadn’t posed entirely nude, as the newspapers had reported. Only one aspect of the rendering was inaccurate. The curved mounds of his backside were actually rounder, higher, and dimpled at the base of his spine. She doubted she would ever forget the sight of him rising up from the bed that sunny afternoon at Beechgate Cottage, going to fetch eggs for their luncheon. Before her father had arrived and ruined the most extraordinary day of her life.

She murmured, “No wonder there was such a commotion and public outcry when this was removed from display. It rivals the David.”

“Would you like me to ask my wife to give it to you as a wedding gift?”

Still caught up in its ethereal beauty, she answered, “If Harry would like it, thank you. For my part, what do I need with a statue to look at when I shall have the real thing?”

The odd noise Asterly made sounded like a swallowed laugh, causing her to review what she’d said. Mortified, she whirled and retraced their steps, escaping from her stupid remark that still echoed in the private collection room. She waited in the gallery, furious that she blushed over the slightest thing, until Asterly rejoined her—and blessedly, without a word—escorted her to the foyer.

During the tour!
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Take Back the Memory by Augustine Sam πŸ’• Book Tour & Gift Card Giveaway πŸ’• (Romantic Suspense)

Paige Lyman, an accomplished psychiatrist, is on the verge of madness but she doesn't know it yet. The madness begins when she gets it into her head to write her memoirs. As her brilliant mind assembles bits and pieces of her life for the book, ugly skeletons, long forgotten in the closet, begin to rear their heads.

It had all begun with a simple act of love. And love, for her, was a blond-haired Irish boy named Bill, so when Bill abandoned her for priesthood the world around her collapsed. Seized by a different passion—vengeance—she seeks her proverbial pound of flesh in the beds of various priests...

But that is before she meets Stern W, a medical researcher, who sweeps into her life like a hurricane and marries her, and they live happily ever after until he dies in a helicopter crash and she discovers the startling truth about who he really was.

Take Back the Memory is the saga of her compelling backward journey through her own life on a psychotherapist's couch.

The door of the consulting studio swung open at 9.00 a.m. and Dr. Wilson, a slender, pipe-smoking clinical psychologist stuck his hoary head in the doorway. His face lit up at the sight of Paige sitting cross-legged in the cozy waiting room.
“Hello Dr. Lyman,” he smiled courteously, “I had no idea you were here already.”
Paige glanced up, her face a frozen scowl, and gazed at him. She had expected them to be on first-name basis this morning; the unexpected formality fazed her quite a bit.
“Good morning, Dr. Wilson,” she said wryly. “Sorry I’m early, a habit, I guess.”
“Oh, that’s all right,” he said quickly, the smile on his lips waning. “I’ll be with you in a minute.”
She nodded and looked away as he disappeared back into the consulting room. Left alone, she gazed across the lounge. The psychotherapist’s studio was illuminated by the sun’s rays through an opened Venetian blind, and the balmy sunlit ambiance fascinated her.
“Like the cheery whisper of an admirer after a heartbreak,” she said wistfully and rose.
As she did so, echoes of distant traffic momentarily brought her to a state of mental alertness. Palms sweaty, Paige walked to the window and opened it. She gazed, mesmerized, at the sun-drenched avenue on the breezy late September morning and noted the peak time for fall foliage in New York was weeks away yet. She closed the window.
Shrugging, she walked back to her seat and plopped down. Her hand trembled slightly on the black zebra-print clutch bag in her lap.
“Darn,” she mumbled, her thoughts turning to her daughter, who had convinced her to come.
“I shouldn’t be here, Diane,” she whispered savagely. “I just shouldn’t.”
Anxious to gain control of herself, she heaved a sigh and leaned back on the comfortable davenport, puckering her lips.
She wore a rose-tinted shirt with a low-cut neckline that revealed plenty of cleavage. A cherry, handcrafted silk scarf encircled her neck. Knee-high black boots matched the color of her fringed skirt, accentuating its beauty. Angry with herself for letting Diane convince her to come, she sat up, agitated.
She started at the sound of a latch unfastening, as the door of the consulting room swung open again.
“Sorry to keep you waiting,” Dr. Wilson said from the doorway and then walked to where she was sitting.
Paige rose slowly. Her eyes on his face, she smoothed her skirt and noticed his courteous smile had not waned completely. Without altering his gait, Dr. Wilson thrust his hand in front of her. Paige took the outstretched hand and shook it gently.
“Can I come in now?”
“Yes, please do,” he said, gesturing with his hand.
Clean-shaven, he wore no tie. His fawn-striped shirt, unlike hers, was buttoned all the way up. Expensive clothing testified to a successful practice. He wore black semi-brogues and walked with a slight shuffle. Paige followed him into his office, full of expectation.
“Please sit down.” He indicated the black, buckskin couch. “Would you like some coffee?”
“No, thank you.”
Paige sat on the familiar couch. As she gazed at him from the corner of her eyes on the chair that should be hers, the magnitude of the moment escaped her.
In the magnifying silence of the room, Dr. Wilson sat composed on his standard, comfortable chair, the tip of his pen held against his lip the way men who smoked would usually hold a pipe. His eyes remained on her, and hers were on his. For several seconds their eyes locked; at first warily, like two professionals trying to find a meeting ground, a starting point.
“Diane made me come,” she said, frowning. “Frankly, I don’t know why I’m here.”
“You’re here to talk to me,” he said, crossing one leg over the other. “I guess both as a colleague and as a patient, and I’ll love to listen to you as much as I’ve loved reading your work.”
She uncrossed her legs and quickly re-crossed them, and then she leaned back on the couch, her fringed skirt shifting upwards. She noticed his eyes, unlike those of most men, remained on her face and not on her legs.
“Don’t patronize me. Even my own daughter thinks I’m going mad. Don’t lie to me. You think so, too, but I can still sit on that chair and listen to patients.”
“You certainly can,” he responded indulgently. “You were one of the best. However, we both know things aren’t the way they used to be. If you were on this chair, the first thing you would tell the patient would be to admit their situation and talk to you about it.” He paused a moment. “I think you have admitted that much within you,” he said without looking at her. “That’s why you allowed Diane to convince you to come. So, let’s talk, my friend. Let’s talk about the situation.”
Paige regarded him suspiciously. Let’s talk about the situation. Talk about the situation? Dr. Wilson’s words jangled in her head like the howl of a campanile. What was there to talk about?
Irritation rose inside her like the beginning of a toothache. Yet, she knew he was right. Things were not the way they used to be. In the course of her checkered life and career, especially in recent years, nothing was the same. It hurt her quite a bit the way everyone seemed to think she had gone mad, the way she had been transformed from psychiatrist to patient.
“Be frank with me,” she said. “Do you think I’m crazy?”
“Aren’t we all?” he laughed mirthlessly. “Come on, this is not about you being crazy.”
“What is it about?”
“It’s about you and me having a nice little talk so we can understand how things are.”
She was silent for a while. She wished he could give her a reason to scream. She wanted desperately to scream at someone this morning, so why not this psychologist, with his calm, upper-class manners? After what seemed like a long time, she realized, not without some satisfaction, that he was determined to be courteous with her this morning.
“I’m at a loss,” she whined and turned on the couch to face away from him. “I don’t know where to begin. I don’t even know what to talk about. I mean, there are so many things to explore.”
“Let’s start with the endearing subject of your book. Are you convinced you want to tell it as it is?”
“Every little detail.”
He watched her calmly. “I know you’ve never been afraid to bare your mind, but between me and you, is there any aspect of this memoir that disturbs you a bit?”
“Yes.” She turned and smiled at him. “But an autobiography has to be frank. What’s the point writing it if you are going to shy away from the ugly part? I can’t keep it all inside. I want to let it out.”
“Very well,” he said, his eyes agreeing with her. “Maybe we should talk about some of the traumatizing aspects of the experiences you have recalled and want to write about.”
She gazed at him without a word. Her mind began to tumble backward slowly, very slowly.
“I think it all began with a simple act of love,” she said at length, her voice surprisingly nostalgic. “A simple act of love,” she emphasized, “between me and Bill when we were kids.”
“I’m listening.”
She sat upright on the couch. “My life is like a soap opera,” she muttered, grimacing. “A distressing mΓ©lange spiced with love, heartbreak, and a hidden truth. It will silence your thoughts.”
“I take it you loved this Bill.”
“Don’t interrupt me,” she snapped at him and the psychologist pursed his lips but did not smile. “What Bill and I shared wasn’t a sensual scream, okay? We were kids.”
“Okay,” he mumbled, nodding.
“We grew up together in Kenya,” she told him. “We were on an unending safari. Bill was a handsome Irish boy. You must understand, there weren’t many white boys around to connect to, so I fell desperately in love with him and thought I would marry him someday.” She paused and stared at the rug on the floor of the consulting room, her thoughts a riot.
She hated to remember that back then while she was nursing her infantile dreams of matrimony, Bill’s father was formulating a different program for his son. “Into the service of God you’ll go,” he had told the boy. “A priest, that’s what you are going to be.” Paige glanced up sharply and thoughts jangled in her head. It might have been different, she mused, if Bill had been a Protestant Irish and not Catholic.
She gazed at Dr. Wilson’s shoes as memories flooded her mind. She tried to speak and her voice broke, but the psychologist’s gentle manners soothed her. She and Bill had attended the same school for expatriate kids in Nairobi, she explained. After the boy’s primary school education, his father bundled him into the junior seminary in Ireland, and the world was never the same again. With all contact between them lost, she willed herself to be heartbroken for long, sad years while Bill went on to earn a degree in Theology and was subsequently ordained a priest, or so she thought.
“Did you eventually recover from this heartbreak?” Dr. Wilson said.
“Maybe I did, in my own way.”
“What happened when you recovered?” He spoke warily.
Her eyes didn’t meet his. “A different passion engulfed me then.”
“What kind of passion?”
“Maybe you’ll call it vengeance.”
“Was it vengeance?” Dr. Wilson, like her, uncrossed and re-crossed his legs.
“Yes. A strange kind though.”
Their eyes locked. “A strange kind of vengeance, you say?”
Paige nodded and looked away. “It was priesthood that caused Bill to jilt me,” she said in a defensive voice. “So, I figured a settling of scores might heal me.” She paused, sighed, and then spoke. “I decided to wage a very personal war against priests.”
Dr. Wilson slowly narrowed his eyes. “You mean, like secretly assassinating priests?”
“No,” she frowned, staring at her skirt.
“But a personal war...”
“A personal war that made nonsense of their vow, if you know what I mean.”
“Not really.”
She gritted her teeth. “I seduced them, damn it, and then I made them suffer.”
Wilson gaped at her, “You seduced priests to get back at Bill for abandoning you for priesthood?”
“Yes.” She looked up at the psychologist now. “That is only part of the story.”

Can't Stand the Heat by Peggy Jaeger πŸ’• Book Tour & Gift Card Giveaway πŸ’• (Contemporary Romance)

With three successful TV series under her belt, including her cousin Kandy’s, executive producer Stacy Peters is ready to helm her own show. But to make that happen, she has to do her network boss one favor first—spend two months on a ranch in Montana wrangling the notoriously difficult director of Beef Battles. Apparently, he eats producers for breakfast. Yet all Stacy can think when she meets the lean, rugged man is how hungry he makes her . . .

Dominic Stamp—Nikko to his very few friends—has had enough interference from TV newbies. And when Stacy climbs out of the car in Montana, he’s not convinced she’s even old enough to drive, much less produce his show. But he can’t deny that the long-legged blonde with the stubborn will and the dazzling smile whets his appetite. And as Stacy proves her talent with the crew and the budget alike, Nikko vows to prove to her that love is on the menu for both of them . . .

Advice for writers
by Peggy Jaeger

I’ll be honest: I hate getting advice. From anyone. Especially unsolicited.

There are some things I wish other, more experienced, writers would have told me when I got my first publishing contract. This is the one time I would have gladly accepted any advice and run with it. I started on this journey later in life than the norm. My first book was published when I was 55. I had five decades of ignorant bliss behind me when I signed that first contract on the dotted line. Oh, how I wish I could go back to that day with the knowledge I have now.

So, in no particular order:

~ Writing a book is the easy part. SELLING it is where the hard work begins.
In the olden days, like twenty years ago(!), publishing houses had publicity teams and marketing divisions devoted to getting the word out about your book. 50 city book tours and signings at major retail bookstores were the norm. The expensive norm. Not so any more. Production costs, the elevated costs of print copies, salaries, have all forced that publicity blitzkrieg to go the way of the dinosaur. Now, the AUTHOR is the one in charge of their own publicity and book promotion. Most of us who are just starting out don’t have the financial luxury to hire a publicist, so the work of selling, promoting, and marketing the book falls to the writer.

~Have a visible social media presence before your book is released.
Social media rules the world. If you don’t have a social media presence you can’t reach new readers. You’ve got this great book, and aside from the 50 or so people who know and love you, no one else knows about it. Before the book is birthed to the world, have your website up and running, your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Triberr, and any other cyber networks you feel confident about being part of, available. And use them. Don’t just think that because you now have a website that traffic is going to automatically and magically appear on it. You must provide something the public wants to see in the form of blogs, or a newsletter, or even promotions and announcements about when your book will be available. And you not only have to post/blog, you have to do it often. One and done doesn’t cut it. I have a writer-friend who likens Twitter to a drive by shooting. Blink and you miss it. Post. Post a lot. Post at different times and posts different things. If you keep sending the same message over and over, pretty soon people will just glaze over it and not engage at all with anything you are trying to promote.

~Devise a marketing/promotional plan
The moment I had my publication date and my book cover, I started thinking about how I was going to promote the two so that I got pre-orders and dredged up “noise” about the book before it was released. My beautiful daughter is a marketing specialist, as is my best friend, so I picked their brains raw and instituted every single one of their suggestions, then evaluated how they worked so I would know what to keep and what to toss with the release of book 2. Write your plan down. Use a spreadsheet if you’re comfortable with them, or write it out longhand in a notebook you refer to often. Any way you can keep track of what you are doing, how it is paying off for you ( in the way of clicks, shares, likes, and most important, SALES) and what you want to keep or discard for the future.

~Marketing and promotion don’t stop the day the book is released.
There’s an old writing adage that the number one thing to do after you have your first book published is to write your next book. This is true. You don’t want to be a one-trick-wonder. This is your career now, so you need to devote yourself to it. But, while you are writing book two, you need to keep promoting book 1. Facebook parties, Goodreads, even your newsletter, are all ways to find new readers. And new readers will buy your next book if they like the first one. But they will never buy your first book if they don’t know what it is or who you are.

~Don’t be shy.
You need to become a salesperson. Your own biggest cheerleader. The general attention span of an adult is less than twenty seconds. If you are not engaging them, enlightening them about why your book is something they need to read, then they will pass you by and go to the next person, who is doing those things.

“I wish you’d do that more often,” he said, his hand circling her upper arm as he turned her, slowly, back to face him.

“What? Leave?”

He stared at her a beat, the line between his brows deepening. “Smile.”

Flabbergasted, she stood, rooted.

“More specifically,” he added, “smile at me. You do at everyone else. From Dixon, to his son; the crew. Even Melora. Everyone, but me.”


His grip tightened a little as he pulled her in closer, their torsos almost touching.

“Why? Why can you show everyone else that little piece of yourself, but not me?”

“I…I don’t know how to answer that,” she said. “I know I was thrust on you without you wanting me here. I know you don’t like me, I—“

“That’s not true. I didn’t want to like you,” he admitted. “There’s a difference. You’re a producer. A bottom line watcher. An annoying necessity. Liking you goes against the grain.”

At that she did smile, because she knew it was true.

“See now,” he said, as he slid his other hand up her arm to settle on the back of her neck, fingers curling up into her hair to hold on. “When you do that? When you smile at me like that, so openly, so…freely? I can’t think about anything else.”

A gentle tug and he had her head pillowed in his spread palms as he bent his own down to hers.

Through her glasses she watched the fine whiskey in his eyes blend with the ink of his pupils as they dilated.

“I haven’t been able to think clearly about anything for the past few days.” His mouth was a whisper from hers. His gaze skimmed from her eyes to her mouth and back again in one slow string of heat. “Except for this.”

She thought she’d be prepared for the feel of his lips on hers again. After all, she’d done little else but reminisce about their texture and taste for days. But she was wrong.

So wrong.

Nothing could have ever prepared her for the way the slight pressure he placed on the back of her neck as he brought her closer sent a shiver of such carnal delight down her spine she almost hummed. Or the way his breath, warm and full, felt as it washed over her cheeks. And she certainly wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of emotions he released within her when he quite expertly parted her lips and deepened the kiss, pulling at her very soul.

No, nothing in her life had equipped her with how to deal with Nikko Stamp’s kiss.

So she simply let go of all thought, fear, and concern, and surrendered to it.


Kiss the Sky by M.K. Schiller πŸ’• Review, Book Tour & Gift Card Giveaway πŸ’•(Contemporary Romance)

Love can move mountains . . .

Strong, athletic, and driven, Tristan Sinclair is determined to fulfill his late brother’s wish to climb Pakistan’s K2, the world’s second highest mountain. He never expects part of the challenge will be getting along with one of his fellow climbers—or that the greatest peril may lie beyond the summit . . .
A passionate, life-long climber, Pakistan born Farah Nawaz is skeptical of the hotshot from Arizona. But as she and Tristan help each other conquer obstacle after obstacle, they find they have more in common than they thought—including a simmering attraction. And when suspicious deaths put them in the sights of a ruthless killer, they’ll have to cover their tracks long enough to find out why—and stay alive for a future together . . .

MK SO did it again!

I LOVE HER BOOKS. This is the fourth one I've read, and I didn't even read the synopsis. I knew whatever this book was about, that it would be excellent.

MK has an EXCEPTIONAL talent of conveying the soul-deep love between the hero and heroine. I'm telling you, the things Tristan said and did will melt your heart. And MK always includes "that one thing" between the characters, whether it's a special item or idea, that resurfaces at a time that really drives home just how much they love each other.

This is a true romantic suspense. No shortage of mystery and "on-the-run"-ness here. MK kept introducing characters and hinting at reasons why they could each be the person behind the tragedies that seemed to follow Tristan and Farah. Heck, I considered that one of them was behind everything...and maybe they'll have to read to find out!

But for as much suspense as there was, there was as much, if not more, love.

And the imagery. WOW!!! Much of the book revolves around the K2 mountain and climbing it. It's beyond obvious that MK did a lot of research in making those aspects of the story as accurate as possible. I felt like I was right there with them, climbing this mountain...except safely on the ground...I hate heights ;)

So, in conclusion, yep...still a HUGE MK fan and I can't wait for her next book!!!

(I received a copy of this book in consideration of an honest review)

If she wasn’t surrounded by earthly beauty, she might have noticed Tristan Sinclair more often. She might have studied the ways his muscles bulged against his shirt. She might even have chanced a few long looks of his backside and broad shoulders. Or observed how often he dragged his hand through his thick hair when he was frustrated or gritted his teeth when he was angry. Surely, she would have wondered a thousand times what the band of black with tiny roman numerals tattooed around his left forearm meant. It was a date, exactly one year ago from today. Did that
have anything to do with why he was acting so somber?
But everything else was too beautiful, and she was far too busy so she just didn’t notice. And if she kept telling herself that, she might just start to believe it.
She was doing the cooking tonight. She stirred a kettle of soup and studied the landscape. They were at Camp II. They would be upon the serac soon, a solid ridge of glacial ice. The days would be colder, leaving less time and energy for wayward thoughts. Their days were filled with hiking, setting up supplies, and acclimatizing. Each time the group reached higher ground, they had to settle in and get used to the thinning air for several days. Otherwise they would risk exposure, pulmonary edema, or possible aneurysm. The human body had to adjust to the physical changes.
Ahmed and Tristan discussed the routes they were taking over the next few days. In a big ice climb, there was usually a ratio of ten to one between planning and actual mountaineering. Tristan suggested they leave behind more supplies so they could reach higher elevation earlier. Ahmed was quick to agree.
Tristan had the kind of presence that turned heads. The few women she’d noticed at the Shalimar when they had dinner had paused in conversation to drink him in. Men seemed to affirm and favor whatever direction he gave.
His confidence never shifted toward arrogance, though. Tristan Sinclair was wisdom interlaced with wit. A methodical explorer whose crooked smile made the air at these high elevations even thinner.
She quickly looked away when he glanced at her. This was getting ridiculous. How could hormones live and thrive at six thousand meters? The way he gazed at her, sought her out during hikes, and sat next to her at meals left little doubt the feelings were mutual. That didn’t make them any less dangerous. He released both the calm and the chaos inside of her. If she gave into those feelings, it would result in a tragic storm.
Being the only woman in the expedition meant she had to remain professional and distant. There were strong expectations placed on her, and her failures would be judged more harshly. She had always listened to a tune that others didn’t hear. It had been a difficult road for her, especially when non-conformity was often confused with disrespect. But she had endured the struggles to carve out a life she loved. She wasn’t about to throw away all those years of hard work and a chance to summit for a stupid crush.
“So what does someone need to do to get a cup of coffee around here?”
Malcolm asked, jerking his head toward the fire.
“Make it,” she responded. “I could use a cup of tea myself. Thank you for offering.”
Malcolm laughed good-naturedly, a pretty rare occurrence for him. Except for Ahmed, she hadn’t known the others in the expedition very well when they started out. They’d had a few meet-and-greets via video chat set up by Ahmed. But the days of hiking and camping had caused an easy camaraderie among the team. Even Malcolm seemed less grouchy. Ahmed still narrowed his eyes whenever Tristan and she talked, but he never repeated his warning to her. Then again, she and Tristan had remained friendly, always edging that symbolic line in the sand, the one that had a huge sign posted no trespassing. They had both drawn the line out of necessity. Neither of them crossed it, like an unwritten pact.