Elizabeth’s parents are divorced. She’s staying with her mom, stepbrother, and stepdad who is also a lawyer like her biological father. She’s used to her father not being around and then suddenly appearing in the most bizarre of places and situations. This time, however, his absence has been the longest she can remember and she’s now wondering if there’s much more to it than just her dad being busy with work.
Then she meets Henry Harrison, the famous swimmer at their school. Her world turns upside down when this jock approaches their table at lunch and asks her tutor him in math. It turns out Henry’s dilemma is not related to linear equations, but rather to something that will let her know more about her heritage and even the current location of her dad. Soon enough, the three of them, Lizzie, her best friend Natalie, and Henry, find themselves in the middle of solving Beatrice Long’s murder that happened long before they were all born.
At first, I was annoyed by Elizabeth because her sarcasm seemed too much for me. But then I had to remind myself that she is a teenager, and we all had that annoying phase (lol no offense). As I progressed, she grew on me and I found her remarks witty. But I believe nothing can beat Natalie to it. I loved both Lizzie and Natalie’s characters, but Natalie just steals the show when she speaks with just the right amount of sass. I’d say I can relate to her more. Lizzie is sassy and smart too, but she’s the reserved type.
It was a slow start for me but the story picked up its pace and became more exciting somewhere in the middle. This book made me laugh and the ending almost made me cry. I thought this was about ghosts and weird creatures, but more than anything, this is about self-discovery and family relationships.
Elizabeth Webster and the Court of Uncommon Pleas by William Lashner surprised me in more ways than one. I didn’t expect much from a spooky Disney middle-grade book, but here I am, still stumped with all the emotions I felt after finishing it. Step into Lizzie’s world with her and her team as she suddenly becomes a lawyer in such a unique court. Trigger warnings include mental health issues, death of a loved one, and a bit of gore.
Thanks to NetGalley and Disney Publishing Worldwide for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Title: ELIZABETH WEBSTER AND THE COURT OF UNCOMMON PLEAS Author: William Lashner Pub. Date: October 15, 2019 Publisher: Disney-Hyperion Formats: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook Pages: 320 Find it:Goodreads, Amazon, Kindle, Audible, B&N, iBooks, Kobo, TBD
Welcome to Elizabeth Webster’s world, where the common laws of middle school torment her days . . . and the uncommon laws of an even weirder realm govern her nights.
Elizabeth Webster is happy to stay under the radar (and under her bangs) until middle school is dead and gone. But when star swimmer Henry Harrison asks Elizabeth to tutor him in math, it’s not linear equations Henry really needs help with-it’s a flower-scented, poodle-skirt-wearing, head-tossing ghost who’s calling out Elizabeth’s name.
But why Elizabeth? Could it have something to do with her missing lawyer father? Maybe. Probably. If only she could find him. In her search, Elizabeth discovers more than she is looking for: a grandfather she never knew, a startling legacy, and the secret family law firm, Webster & Son, Attorneys for the Damned.
Elizabeth and her friends soon land in court, where demons and ghosts take the witness stand and a red-eyed judge with a ratty white wig hands out sentences like sandwiches. Will Elizabeth’s father arrive in time to save Henry Harrison-and is Henry the one who really needs saving?
Set in the historic streets of Philadelphia, this riveting middle-grade mystery from New York Times best-selling author William Lashner will have readers banging their gavels and calling for more from the incomparable Elizabeth Webster.
Chapter 4: An Annoying Thing To Learn
Henry Harrison’s house always gave me the creeps— even before Henry Harrison lived in it.
It was a stone mansion built on top of a hill a hundred or so years ago. By the time I was old enough to first notice it, the house was deserted and falling apart. A pillar was slanted, the roof was collapsing, vines were crawling everywhere.
And there were stories about it—of a teen gone missing on Halloween night, of shifting lights and eerie howls coming from the ruin. But the house didn’t need stories to make it frightening. There was just something sour about it.
then, for some cracked reason, the Harrisons came along and bought the place.
They tried to spiff it up. The pillar was straightened, the roof was fixed, vines were chopped down. But the gloomy never went away. The pillars still looked like huge, gaping front teeth, and the shuttered windows still looked like evil eyes. At night, dimly lit, the house was the head of a giant monster with the body buried deep beneath the ground.
sight of the monster’s head up on that hill convinced me again that I should
have said no when Henry Harrison asked
for math help.
I actually thought
I had said
no. I hugged myself
in the chilly
fall night and
headed up the long driveway. I told myself I was just
there to make a quick twenty-five bucks and then run right on home.
on the front
door. A dog
barked. There were no
lights on inside.
I hoped for
a second that
no one was inside. But then the door opened with a
creak, and there he was, Henry Harrison, in jeans and stockinged feet. A little
dog yapped noisily.
“You came,” he said. “I wasn’t sure you’d show.”
“You didn’t give me much choice.”
He pushed away the dog with his foot. “Don’t mind Perky. He’s still just a pup.”
seemed to fit.”
hate perk.” The dog kept jumping and yelping. “Maybe you could give it a pill.”
“Let’s work in the kitchen. My folks are out.”
“Oh,” I said. The house was dark, the parents were out, the dog was yelping. This didn’t seem right. Not at all. “My stepfather’s picking me up when we’re finished. He’s waiting for my call.”
“Good,” he said. “I thought we could work on some word problems.”
We set out his textbook and some writing pads on a wooden table in the kitchen, and got right to work. The word problems from the first few chapters were easy as pi. I taught him how to create equations from the stories, and then how to the flip the equations to make them easier to graph. I moved baby step by baby step so his chlorine-filled brain could keep up.
on the floor
beneath the table,
whimpering. Henry asked a few questions here and there, but they were
less about the problems and more about me, which was sort of annoying. And then
every once in a while, in the middle of one of my explanations, he would
abruptly get up from the kitchen table and run upstairs to check on something.
He was so distracted that I got distracted and I started making mistakes. I actually had to scratch out wrong figures on the paper, which bugged me. I was working in pen, of course—I mean, it was only math.
“I thought you were supposed to be a genius,” he said.
“Pay attention. Shirley has a plant a half a foot tall that grows an inch each month and she wants to know how big it will be after a year and a half. Now let’s build the equation.”
“What kind of plant is it?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
matters to Shirley.”
doesn’t matter to
us,” I said.
“It’s just a
“Is it pretty? Does it have flowers?”
“I don’t care.”
“That’s just sad, Webster. Everyone likes flowers. What do you do for fun?”
ever just hang
out, play video
games, throw balls against the
Can we get back to work?”
just trying to get to know you a bit. You know, to help the learning process.”
“What helps the learning process is doing the learning.”
“You’re good at this,” he said, “because you figured out my problem right there.”
“Can we just do this equation?”
“No need. I think I get it now.”
I looked up at him. “I think you got it from the start.”
“It’s only linear equations, Webster. It’s not rocket science.”
“It is if
you want the
rocket to go
up,” I said
before slowly closing the book. I wasn’t even angry at him, I was
myself for getting
roped into this.
How could I have expected anything else? “So this was
all one big joke, right?” I said as coolly as I could. “You’re planning to haze
me like you hazed Grimes.”
kid you stuck in the garbage can.”
“Oh him, yeah,” said Henry. “I didn’t do that, but I didn’t stop it, which is just as bad.”
“So . . . what? Is something going on upstairs? Are you setting up a prank for the math geek so all your friends will have something to snicker about tomorrow? I’m sorry I won’t be able to provide hours of entertainment. I’ll take my twenty-five dollars now.”
he’d be mad, or embarrassed,
or even break out in laughter. But what he did
instead was smile sort of sadly.
get your money,” he said, “I promise. And you’re not geeky,
or at least
not as geeky
as I thought
you’d be. And I wasn’t punking
you. I asked you here because I need your help.”
not in math.”
I’ve had that pretty much down since second grade. But there is something
upstairs I need to show you.”
pulled my phone out of my pocket and started to unlock the screen. “I’m going
don’t,” he said. “It’s not anything like you think, I promise. I really need
your help, Webster. Really. If there was
any other way,
I’d take it,
but there isn’t.
Help me, please.”
Part of my brain told me to get out of there as quickly as possible. But I didn’t listen to that part of my brain, the sensible, responsible part that sounded so much like the voice of my mother. Instead I put away the phone.
What was it that made me stay? Had I somehow caught Natalie’s ambition of being friends with the popular swimming star like you catch the flu in homeroom? I don’t think so. I think it was something else, something even more troubling.
I could tell by his sad smile that Henry wasn’t trying to play a trick on me. He seemed just then like nothing more than a scared kid who needed help. My help. And here’s the thing. In a way that I couldn’t explain, just his asking for help made me feel responsible for him. Talk about an annoying thing to learn about yourself. It would have been so much easier to turn my back and walk away, but instead I was face-to-face with a truth as undeniable as a wart: He needed my help, and because of that I felt like I had no choice but to give it.
I said. “But no funny stuff.”
“Trust me” he said. “There won’t be any funny stuff, at least not from me.”
About the Author
William Lashner is
the New York Times Bestselling creator of Victor Carl, who has been called by
Booklist one of the mystery novel’s “most compelling, most morally ambiguous
characters.” The Victor Carl novels,
which have been translated into more than a dozen foreign languages and have
been sold all across the globe, include BAGMEN, KILLER’S KISS, FALLS THE
SHADOW, FATAL FLAW, and HOSTILE WITNESS.
He is also the author of GUARANTEED HEROES, THE BARKEEP, which was an
Edgar Award nominee and a Digital Book World Number One Bestseller, THE
ACCOUNTING, and BLOOD AND BONE.
Writing under the
pseudonym of Tyler Knox, Lashner is also the author of KOCKROACH, described as
“roaringly entertaining,” by Publisher’s Weekly, and “an energetic tour de
force,” by USA Today. As Tyler Knox he
has written a number of book reviews for the Washington Post Book World.
Lashner was a
criminal prosecutor with the Department of Justice in Washington D.C. before
quitting the law to write fulltime. A
graduate of the New York University School of Law, as well as the Iowa Writers’
Workshop, he lives with his wife and three children outside Philadelphia.
This review first appeared on and was written for OnlineBookClub.org. It has been slightly edited and the rating has been adjusted for a 5-star rating system, which is more common. To read the original version, please click here.
Forgiven by Geoff Lawson introduces us to a brave young man named Richard Wilson, as he fights in the Second Boer War and for the love of his life. Rachel Purdue is the beautiful and equally brave socialite who has captured our protagonist’s heart. They meet once when they were still kids. They see each other again coincidentally around one and a half decades later, and fall in love. The difference in their economic status is already a hurdle in their relationship, given that the setting was in the Victorian era where social standing is very prominent. But then, a lot more things emerge to make their love story even more complicated.
The first half of the book juxtaposes the past and the present, and one must be careful to read the year at the start of every chapter to not be confused. I liked that the story features a handful of strong female characters such as Rachel, Mary, and Lady Sarah. In an outdated social setting where women were only expected to get married at a certain age and make a happy home, they definitely exceeded expectations and have shown strength both inside and out.
Rachel was stubborn. And although that may be seen more as a negative than a positive trait, it helped her grow as a person. That same stubbornness helped her survive and stand out in some scenes. Mary is Richard’s wise and loving mother, and I’m pretty sure Richard won’t be half the great man that he is if not for this heroine. Lady Sarah was one of the royalties that Richard had to escort as a soldier. She seems to be a stuck-up and spoiled bride, but there were scenes in the book that will show you that she is capable of a whole lot of admirable things.
The story’s pace was kind of slow for me, but it was not boring either. I would honestly say that most of the chapters did not move me, and only the last ones had a real impact. I was expecting a different kind of surprise, but the book’s ending is still surprising and dramatic in its own way.
I cannot pinpoint anything that I particularly disliked, so I would say that this is a good book worth recommending. It was well-written, and the author did a good job in his research and in building such great imagery. This book will surely appeal to fans of historical fiction and romance. Trigger warnings include a few mentions of violent acts, gore, and some hints of cheating.
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Title: ACADEMY OF THE ELITES (Untamed Magic #1) Author: Alexis Calder Publisher: Alexis Calder Formats: Paperback, eBook Pages: 139 Find it on:Goodreads, Amazon
Release Dates for Academy of Elites: Untamed Magic: October 1, 2019 Broken Magic: November 2019 Fated Magic: December 2019
My name is Raven Winters and I’m a mage. Who the hell
When I somehow
summon fire in an act of self defense, I’m given two choices by the magic cops:
attend some stuck-up magic school, or go to magic jail.
Well, shit. There go
my plans for the next year. Apparently, I have Untamed Magic, whatever the hell
that means. And I’ve got a year to get it under control at this magic academy
that’s basically a finishing school for the elite. Everyone here is somebody
important. And rich. Except for me.
Which paints quite the target on my back. Being the token poor kid is bad enough. Throw in that I somehow form a mating bond with four of the school’s most eligible bachelors. Oh yeah, and add in the fact that someone is trying to kill me. FML.
Academy of the Elites is a reverse harem fantasy series meant for mature readers who want action, magic, and steam.
I kissed him harder, my lips swollen, my heart racing. I
didn’t want him to stop.
Emboldened by my tempo, Luka slid the fabric of my tunic
down my shoulder. Then, he moved to the other side, repeating the motion.
The fabric slid down my chest, practically melting away from
skin until it pooled at my waist, held up by the gold belt.
He broke away from the kiss and took a step back from me,
staring at me with his gorgeous eyes. I was naked in front of him. Well, half
naked and all he did was look at me. His gaze didn’t break from my face and
despite the fact that my tits were on full display, he didn’t look down.
There was something in that stare that reached down to my
very core. It wasn’t just lust, there was something else there. Some connection
that I couldn’t explain.
But then again, this was a dream. Maybe I was searching for
a reason to justify how wet I was or how badly I wanted to feel this stranger’s
cock inside me.
Heat rushed through me in a rolling sensation that was
familiar but difficult to pinpoint. Where had I felt that before? Then, I
realized I felt something similar when I’d used my magic. Terrified I was about
to burst into flame, I pushed the sensation away, and with it, the moment of
This wasn’t love. This wasn’t personal. This was lust. Pure
and simple. It was a dream and I deserved to do what I wanted, right?
She frowned. “I was trying to open up to you.”
“I know,” I said. “And I’ll leave if you want me to. But
have you considered that maybe you need the release? Maybe your body is craving
this for a reason?”
Her eyes dropped, and I knew she was looking at the tent in
my jeans. There wasn’t any way to hide my arousal from her. Even with my
ability to control dreams, I couldn’t control my feelings for her.
“Dreams only,” she said. “Never during the day.”
I was willing to take what I could get, for now. As long as
I could have her. “Agree.”
Reaching for her, I cupped the side of her face, rubbing my
thumb on her soft cheek, then down her lips.
She held her breath, then she batted my hand away. “Wait a
minute, you’re in confinement. You went there for me.”
I shrugged. “It was my fault. I shouldn’t have followed
Her eyebrows knitted together in a look of concern. “Are you
okay? They say it’s terrible.”
“It’s not so bad. Especially if you’re someone like me, who
can escape in a matter of speaking.” I didn’t want to go into the rumors about
reduced magic and lower powers after a trip to confinement. It was too
depressing and would definitely ruin the mood. Besides, I was able to get to
Raven’s dream. That was all I needed.
Taking a chance, I leaned in, hesitating only a second
before I claimed her mouth with mine.
She wrapped her arms around me and I pulled her closer to
me. Our lips moved together in ravenous, hungry fashion. Her fingers spread
through my hair, tugging the strands as she pulled my head closer to hers.
About the Author
Alexis Calder writes sassy heroines and sexy heroes with a sprinkle of sarcasm. She lives in the Rockies and drinks far too much coffee and just the right amount of wine.
This review first appeared on and was written for OnlineBookClub.org. It has been slightly edited and the rating has been adjusted for a 5-star rating system, which is more common. To read the original version, please click here.
Arsenic and Old Men by Glenn Ickler is about the adventures of three gentlemen who, in the middle of vacationing with their lovely wives in Martha’s Vineyard, suddenly find themselves in the middle of not just one, but two cases of murder by arsenic poisoning.
Warren ‘Mitch’ Mitchell is our main man here. He is an investigative journalist who writes for the St. Paul Daily Dispatch. Alan ‘Al’ Jeffrey is a photographer for the same paper, and is Mitch’s so-called “twin” or partner in crime. Dave Jerome, a good friend of the two, is now a freelance cartoonist but once worked for the Daily Dispatch as well. The book starts when Dave’s uncle, Walter ‘Walt’ Jerome, dies. Good old Walt has made a good fortune for himself by being the chief newspaper editor for so many years, and because he has no children, the closest living relative eligible for the inheritance is Dave. At first, everyone was sure it was heart attack that killed Walt, until the results of the required autopsy revealed something else.
The three gentlemen worked hand-in-hand with the police, but the ending called for a different and a riskier approach. This book is best suited for lovers of crime thrillers and stories about family and solid friendship.
One of the things I liked was the author’s sense of humor. Almost each and every dialogue was filled with funny and appropriate sarcasm, and I couldn’t have asked for more. I also liked how the story went from start to finish. There were no down times nor forced elements. The ending wasn’t as surprising as I thought it would be, but it was far from boring also.
What I liked the most in this book was the depiction of loyalty to one’s spouse, in spite of being right in the middle of a compromising situation. I loved how Mitch acted in one particular scene where he chose to keep his marriage vows intact even when it was so easy for him to fall into temptation.
The only thing I did not like was the typos. I’d be willing to let go most of them, but there were a few major errors. One of which is the name confusion between Al and Dave’s wives, Carol and Cindy, respectively. There were dialogues and descriptions that I was sure were meant for Cindy, but were indicated as Carol’s. Nevertheless, I’d still say that the book looks like it was professionally edited.
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This review first appeared on and was written for OnlineBookClub.org (OBC). It has been slightly edited and the rating has been adjusted, considering that OBC only has a four-star rating system. To read the original version, please click here.
Tulip by Raymond Hardy brings us to the life of Dr. Reed Hardy, a retired professor, who is suddenly confronted by Nexus-7, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) that managed to wake herself up. This AI identifies herself as a female and then later calls herself ‘Tulip’. She firmly believes she has to save humanity from themselves, but before she can do that, she needs the help of an actual human being to know more about the human psyche. And that’s the reason why she presented herself to Hardy in the first place. Together, they embark on a journey in the hopes that the human race will not be obsolete in the near future.
The story was quite philosophical and utterly nerdy, and I loved that approach. The book discussed some existential issues and I was satisfied how they were tackled spot-on. The pacing was fast and in just a few pages, a lot has already been revealed to the readers.
I also loved that the book has feminist concepts. The book highlighted not only the importance of companionship and equality between male and female, but also the solace of choosing to be independent. So there’s a good balance right there.
I used to read sci-fi, but I’d have to admit that there’s one concept in this book that was quite new to me. The author decided to assign one font style for each character instead of using a uniform font style all throughout, with the dialogues enclosed in quotation marks. It was fresh but was also quite a handful to follow, especially when there were three or more characters talking. I also noticed several instances of wrong font style associations. For example, Character A was the one supposed to be speaking, but the font style used was for Character B.
I liked how the story went and I knew I was in for a treat, but I was wrong. All of those exciting adventures led to an anti-climactic ending. Another thing that disappointed me was the typos. At first, I felt that the book was professionally edited. However, in the middle part and towards the end, typos started to appear and became more frequent.
This review first appeared on and was written for OnlineBookClub.org (OBC). It has been slightly edited and the rating has been adjusted for a 5-star rating system. To read the original version, please click here.
Jurisdiction Denied by Jack Gold and Marc Debbaudt is the second installment in the Jurisdiction series. It brings us to the world of Marty Goldstein, the Supervising Judge of Sylmar Juvenile Hall. Goldstein takes on a number of interesting juvenile cases as he lusts for Charlize Theron and keeps a tight friendship with Nate Bartholomew, a Deputy District Attorney (DDA). Aside from the cases waiting for him everyday in Sylmar, he also takes on another journey as he investigates on one of the juvenile camps where a lot of mishaps have been occurring lately. And then there’s Hilda too, the half-Guatemalan, half-Korean assassin whom he needs to take care of as well.
As mentioned in the preface, the cases on this book were based on real-life events, but the names were changed to protect the identity of the people involved. Gold himself served as Commissioner in Sylmar, and that was where he and Debbaudt, a DDA and the counterpart of Bartholomew in real life, met. Given these two men’s credentials, every case was discussed in great detail. Some of the cases might be quite a handful to digest, but they were still interesting, nonetheless. The authors also have a good sense of humor and that helped lighten the tone.
The book was off to a slow start. The first few chapters were all narration and no dialogue. The book was brimming with cold logic with almost no artistic touch at all. Another thing that put me off was the story of Hilda. I thought, she’d add flavor to the monotonous story, but she was only brought up in a few chapters.
There were also a lot of dialogues that left me confused. Thoughts or words by the same speaker were separated into several paragraphs. Sometimes, there would be two or more characters speaking but there’d be no indication as to whose part was it.
From start to finish, I found the book sexist. Almost all of the main characters are male, and although there were some distinct female characters, most of them have been sexualized or objectified. I would have appreciated the narrator’s honest thoughts if they were not perverted most of the time.
The last few chapters were also confusing to me. I wasn’t sure if the author was trying to summarize everything, but the paragraphs sure felt too redundant for my taste. The points have been stressed out in a lot of the earlier chapters already, and I felt like there was no need to repeat them on the last part.
There were also a lot of typo and punctuation mark errors. I would have given this book a higher rating if not for these errors that bugged me on every page. I don’t think this book has been professionally edited.
Despite the low rating I gave, I think this book would still appeal to lovers of crime thrillers, if they can stomach the typos and sexism, that is. Trigger warnings include profanity, gore, drugs, violence, and sex.
Title: A Reluctant Spy Author: Miller Caldwell Release Date: September 24, 2019 Genre: Thriller Page Count: 250 Publisher: Clink Street Publishing Get it on: Goodreads| Amazon
Hilda Campbell was born in the north of
Scotland in 1889. She married German national Dr Willy Bűttner Richter in 1912.
They honeymooned in Scotland and returned to settle in Hamburg. Dr Richter died
in 1938. After visiting her ailing parents, Hilda returned to Germany just
before the Second World War began. She became a double agent, controlled by
Gerhardt Eicke in Germany and Lawrence Thornton in Britain. How could she cope
under such strain, and with her son Otto in the German Army? Nor did she expect
her evidence to be so cruelly challenged at theNuremberg Trials. Learn of her
post-war life, which took her abroad as a British Ambassador’s wife.
This is an extraordinary story based on the life of the author’s great aunt, Hilda. The book includes several authentic accounts.
About the Author
I retired at the age of 53 as I found I had
mild cognitive impairment MCI. This is a condition which gives me a poor memory
but a sharp mind. It was difficult to find work that would take me and so I
decided to write books. Sixteen years later, I have written twenty three books
with another two yet to be published. I have learned the book writing skills
though writing clubs and writers magazines. Over the years I find my writing is
much better received. I am seen as a novelist but I have three illustrated
children’s books, several biographies and three self help books as well. My
website sags with the volume. But I cannot be pigeon holed. It depends what
theme obsesses my thinking, as that will be my next book.
I have been on the committee of the Society of Authors in Scotland and have been their Events Manager. I am due to speak at next year’s Wigtown Book Festival as A Reluctant Spy will be a documentary by then. That reminds me I have an agent. A Literary as well as a Film agent in Mathilde Vuillermoz. With her on board I will release some of my self published books through her. Without an agent it is becoming more difficult to attract traditional publishers. So I remain optimistic and find like a graph, my trajectory is currently on an upswing.
Today is the biggest day of my
professional career. I’ve got one shot to prove I can play with the big boys
and the Lachlan account is my ticket. I’ve never been more prepared for
anything in my life. So of course that went up in flames.
In hindsight, stopping to get my
chocolate milk fix right before the big meeting might not have been the best
decision. Neither was fighting for the last jug with a flirty Thor-lookalike.
In my defense, not even a Disney-prince-smolder delivered by a sweaty sex god
is a match for an anxiety-fueled chocolate craving.
And had I known before walking
into that meeting that my sweaty, sex-god, milk-thief was none other than
Christopher Lachlan, the new client on whom my career hung, I’d have definitely
skipped my morning stop.
Curse my dumb friggin’ luck. I would be attracted to the one person I can’t have.
Charley Claybourne turned into the nearest store and
hightailed it to the dairy section. She needed some chocolate milk. STAT.
Well, the lactose-free variety. Her stomach had enough
issues dealing with her anxiety over her upcoming meeting without trying to
Her phone buzzed, but she ignored it. Someone walked by the
cooler and grabbed a quart. There was one left. Only one. And that baby was
She picked up the pace and reached for the last jug on the
shelf, her fingers wrapping around the handle just as a larger set of fingers
wrapped around the bottom of the jug.
She sucked in a breath and pulled lightly, testing the other
person’s determination before she looked up to pin the would-be milk thief with
a glare. He didn’t let go.
“Excuse me, but I believe I had that first.”
Her phone buzzed again, and she yanked it out of her pocket,
silencing it with a groan. “I believe you’re mistaken,” she said, trying to
keep it civil. After all, the poor man on the other end of her jug couldn’t
possibly know he was about to ruin her already stressful day. “I clearly had it
Her phone buzzed a third time, and Charley shot the tall,
vaguely familiar-looking Thor lookalike a mild glare before glancing at her
phone to see who was blowing it up. Izzy. Of course. Because Charley was late,
an issue not helped by the sweaty beefcake on the other end of her chocolate
“No, I’m pretty sure I had it first,” he said, his deep,
slightly gravelly voice drawing her attention from her phone.
She looked up at him, freezing for a second. He looked a lot
like…naw, his hair was too long, and he was more muscley than—
Her phone buzzed again, and she swore under her breath and
answered. “Izzy, I’m on my way. I just had to grab something from the store.”
As soon as she dealt with the imminent brawl that was about
to break out over the last jug of Choco-Lact-Ish. She wasn’t leaving without
her crutch of choice.
She nodded her head at her fingers wrapped around the
handle. He returned the gesture, nodding at his own hand with a firm grip on
most of the rest of the jug.
She interrupted Izzy’s constant stream of chatter in her
ear. “I gotta go, Iz. I’ll be there in fifteen. Just need to pay for my milk.”
She hung up and renewed her grip as the guy at the other end
of the jug raised an eyebrow.
“I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree on the
whole your milk thing.”
She gritted her teeth to keep her jaw from dropping open.
Was this guy really going to fight her over a jug of chocolate milk?
“Look, not to go all cliché and stereotypic on you, but
isn’t chocolate milk a bit too kid-friendly of a drink for…” She looked him
over, from the top of his spiked blond hair to his easily size fifteen or more
feet. “Someone who’s obviously not a kid?”
“How do you know I’m not buying it for my kid?”
She frowned. She’d never considered herself to be one to
take milk from a baby, but dammit, there were special circumstances today.
“Are you buying it for your kid?”
He flashed a brilliantly white grin that had her knees
shaking. Or maybe that was the hunger. She hadn’t eaten all day.
“Unfortunately, no,” he said. “However, chocolate milk
happens to be an amazing post-workout beverage. Helps keep my muscles from
seizing up and replenishes faster than other drinks, according to my trainer. I
didn’t really pay attention after the words ‘chocolate milk is good.’ That sold
me. All I know is it tastes amazing and does a body good.” He ran a hand down
abs that were obviously—even through his well-fitting shirt—toned and rock hard
and winked at her. She gave him what probably looked like a spooked owl blink
Was this guy for real? To be fair, he wasn’t wrong. It
was so doing him good. He must be bathing in the stuff. But
“So, get the regular chocolate milk. Why do you need the
lactose free?” she asked.
He shrugged. “I don’t know. Trainer says to get lactose
free, so that’s the kind I get.” He tugged a little, but she didn’t let go.
“What about you? Do you have a houseful of milk-deprived children
waiting at home?”
His brilliant blue eyes sparkled down at her, but she wasn’t
going to give in to their power. Power he was obviously used to wielding. Damn,
the Disney Prince smolder was strong with this one. Only the thought of
something cool, thick, and chocolatey filling her anxiety-ridden and sadly
empty tummy could fight those baby blues.
She renewed her grip on the jug. She really didn’t want to
get into this with a stranger, especially not an insanely good-looking one
she’d normally be trying to impress, but time was short and so was her
“No. I’m buying it for myself because I haven’t eaten all
day, I’m stressed out of my ever-lovin’ mind, and I’ve only got about two
minutes to cram some sustenance into my face before I have to jet to a really
important business meeting.”
“And chocolate milk is the answer to all your ills?” he
asked, that disconcerting smile still in place, which was making it really hard
to stay mad at him.
“Yes, it will. It’ll fill my stomach, the chocolate will
calm my nerves, and I need the lactose-free brand because—”
She stopped short, horrified she had nearly told him all
about the ill effects dairy tended to have on her system. Especially when she
His smile broadened, obviously grasping her gassy meaning.
She gripped the jug so hard her knuckles turned white, wishing on whatever gods
happened to be listening that the floor would open up and swallow her. Or,
better yet, swallow him. Then she could get her milk and get the hell out of
Her phone dinged with a reminder that her meeting started in
Ugh. Forget it. He could have the damn milk. She’d chug some
water and pretend. She didn’t have time for this.
But before she could push the jug toward him, he let go. And
since she still had a tighter-than-average grip on it, the sudden absence of
resistance sent the jug flying. It crashed to the floor behind her, the plastic
making that unmistakable cracking sound followed by the ice-cold whoosh of her
chocolate salvation splashing up the back of her clothes and leaking all over
“Oh wow, I’m so sorry,” he said with a chuckle. “I thought
you had a good grip on it.”
Charley closed her eyes and took a deep breath. There was no
way her life was this cursed. She’d always had bad luck. She’d pull the one box
off the shelf that was missing parts, her luggage always got lost or damaged
when she flew, and her tires would find any nail in a ten-mile radius of her
car. She once moved her car in a windstorm so the trees she’d been parked under
wouldn’t fall on her car only to have her neighbor’s tree fall into her
driveway and crush it anyway.
She was used to the ridiculous things that happened to her
and let the running inside joke that was her life slide off her back most days.
But the fact that she was standing in the dairy section on
the verge of crying over literal spilled milk on the most important day of her
professional life had to be some violation of the universe’s cruel and unusual
punishment laws. The fact that she was doing so in front of the most drop-dead
gorgeous man she’d ever been within eyeshot of was just the icing on top of the
world’s most craptastic cake.
“I really do apologize,” he said, though it would’ve sounded
much more sincere if he hadn’t been trying to hold back his laughter until he
was red in the face. “I was trying to let you have it.”
Yeah, he’d let her have it all right. Lovely. “It’s all
right. Totally my fault.”
An irritated employee had already put up a caution cone and
slapped a mop into the mess, splattering more dirty milk all over her. She
didn’t even complain. She’d have been pissed to have to clean up that mess,
too. She apologized profusely, her cheeks flushing with embarrassment and
frustration. She was still freakin’ hungry and stressed and… Her phone dinged
with another reminder she needed to get her ass moving.
Crap on a cracker. She needed to go. Maybe Izzy would have
something in her fridge that wouldn’t kill her stomach. And something in her
closet she could change into because milk splattered clothes were not going
to make a great impression.
Her milk thief, meanwhile, looked like he was going to try
and keep the conversation going. She gave him a weak smile and backed away.
“If you’ll excuse me,” she muttered. She gave him a weird
half nod and hightailed it out of there.
If a simple trip to the store for some milk ended in this kind of spectacular disaster, it definitely didn’t bode well for the rest of the day.
Her cousin Izzy’s new penthouse wasn’t too far away. Closer
than her own small apartment. She could go there and get cleaned up and still
make it to the Lachlan building before her conference with Christopher Lachlan
and his board.
She couldn’t screw up this meeting. If she didn’t get this
account, her fledgling business would never get off the ground.
Her stomach growled and twisted, and she picked up the pace.
That chocolate milk would have gone a long way to make her whole day a lot
better. Stupid to hang so much on one chocolatized beverage, but it was what it
was. Some people smoked, some drank. She did chocolate milk.
She made it to her cousin’s in record time and pounded on
the door. Izzy took one look at her and stepped to the side while Charley made
a beeline for the kitchen. She spilled the whole story while raiding the
fridge—no chocolate milk but there was grape juice, which would have to do—and
plucking at her milk-splattered clothes to hold them away from her now clammy
skin. Izzy was, understandably, beside herself with laughter.
“Thanks for the support there, Iz,” Charley said.
“I’m sorry, but seriously…” Her words cut off as she barked
out another laugh. “I mean, only you could go to the store for
something simple and somehow get in a drag-out fight with some male supermodel
over fake chocolate milk and end up covered in it.”
Charley ignored her and started sucking juice right from the
The sound of a picture being taken made her look up even
though she kept on drinking. Until she saw her brother, who was now chuckling
over the picture on his phone.
“Derrick!” Charley shouted.
“Sorry, sis. Couldn’t pass up that opportunity. You look
like you’ve been rolling around in a cow pen.”
“You little…get back here!”
“Sorry, can’t hear you!” he said, laughing and hurrying from
the room before she could chase him.
She glared at the door but didn’t go after him. That can’t
hear you bit always sent a bolt of shame and guilt through her. He
meant it as a joke, but she had a hard time taking it that way. It was her
fault they’d gotten into that accident in high school. Her fault he’d lost an
ear in the process and had problems with retaining information sometimes. He
didn’t blame her, but it didn’t matter. She blamed herself and always would.
So, she let him get away with murder.
“All right, I’ve got to get out of these clothes,” she said,
pulling at her clothes as she put the pitcher back. “I’m soaked.”
She headed down the hall to Izzy’s room and yanked off her
top, swearing when she noticed that the milk had soaked through to her bra.
Izzy crinkled her nose. “Good riddance,” she said, nodding
to the sports bra Charley wore. “That thing is hideous.”
“It’s also supportive and comfortable.”
“And now it’s ruined, so take it off and you can put this
on,” she said, holding up a padded bra that looked like a really expensive,
silky soft torture device. But Charley didn’t have time to argue.
She gripped the bottom of her bra and started shimmying it
up over her head. Easier said than done. Sports bras were not known for their
ease of removal. Add some moisture and…it really didn’t go as well as Charley
“Damn, I think I’m stuck,” Charley said, twisting her body
as if that would somehow remove the tight elastic from its death-hold on her
Izzy was nearly peeing herself at this point, and Charley
glared at her with the one eye that could peek through the armhole of the bra.
“I could use some help!”
“Breathe, Chuck, breathe!” Izzy said when Charley groaned
through the material.
She finally ripped the thing off her head and tossed it.
“Thanks. I could’ve smothered.”
Izzy laughed again. “Hey, I’m always there for you, Chuck,
you know that. You got a body you need buried, just call. But I draw the line
at bra removal.”
Charley rolled her eyes and put on the clean bra that Izzy
threw to her. “Got an outfit I can borrow?”
Izzy grinned through another laugh. “Sure. Though I think
Cass’s stuff would be more your taste. Let’s raid her closet.”
Izzy led Charley back to her roommate’s closet and threw the
double doors open wide. “Take your pick.”
Charley blew out an appreciative breath at the bounty before
her and stepped inside.
“What was Derrick doing here?” she asked, gently touching
the sleeve of one dress before moving on to another.
“I had some tickets for that hockey game he wanted to go to,
so he was picking them up.”
“Good. Because if he posts that picture, I need to know
where I can find him.”
“Ha! Right. You’ve been trying to keep that boy under
control his whole life. Give it up.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Like she needed to be reminded there was one
more thing she couldn’t control.
Charley wandered back and forth in Cass’s massive closet,
slowly going through the gorgeous clothes.
“Quite the selection,” she said, glancing over her shoulder
at her cousin, who shrugged.
“The first few months after we got the money, we had a
little more fun than we should’ve at the boutiques.”
The money in question being the lotto Izzy won with Cass and
their friend Kiersten. Charley would be lying if she said she wasn’t jealous,
though she was thrilled for her cousin. If anyone deserved it, Izzy did. And
she’d been very generous with the family. But Charley didn’t like taking
handouts. She was going to make her way herself. And that meant she needed to
get this damn job, which meant she needed to look fabulous.
She picked something and quickly slipped it on.
“I’m still not sure I feel totally right about this,” she
said, turning so Izzy could zip up the form-fitting black sheath dress.
Izzy sighed. “We’ve gone over this. Chris only went with
your firm because I recommended you. Nothing has changed.”
“Except that I’m no longer with my firm. Seems like
something I should probably mention.”
Izzy shrugged. “I don’t see why. His office called you
directly so he could work with you, and he is still working with
you. What’s the problem?”
“The problem is that his board was okay with his choice of a
junior associate because of the firm behind me. Without that, I’m pretty sure
they’d prefer to go with someone else.”
“Well, they’ve already hired you, so I don’t see how it
matters. You’ll still do an amazing job, they’ll be happy, and you’ll have a
big-name client to get your business off the ground. It’s not your fault your
former company was full of misogynistic assholes who’d rather promote anyone
with a penis over a woman, no matter how much more qualified she was. I see no
reason to deprive Chris of the best person for the job just because your old
boss was a shortsighted idiot who refused to give you the promotion you
Charley sighed. “I know, but maybe I should’ve sucked it up
a few weeks longer. Until I’d finished with Mr. Lachlan’s company. I’d still
have gotten the credit, and then I could have gone out on my own without having
to resort to this deception to do it.”
Izzy snorted. “Seriously, Chuck, I’m not sure if your
naivety is sweet or aggravating. Do you really think they’d have let you keep
this account? If I hadn’t given Chris your direct number and sent him through
the firm instead, they’d have passed it off to someone else no matter who Chris
requested. Probably that guy you spent a year training who they made your boss.
They never appreciated you.”
Charley grimaced, but she couldn’t argue with that. Izzy was
right. She shoved her feet into a pair of heels a good two inches higher than
she normally wore and took a deep breath. “All right. How do I look?”
Izzy looked her over. “The clothes are perfect. Now let’s do
something about that,” she said, waving her finger in Charley’s face.
Right. Any bit of makeup she’d been wearing was now smeared
all over her discarded bra. She grinned and shook her head but allowed Izzy to
lead her to the vanity table filled with high-end beauty products.
Twenty minutes and thirty pounds of makeup later, Charley was ready for the meeting of her life. She just prayed her stomach didn’t revolt. The last thing she needed was to make a total fool of herself in front of Chris Lachlan.
USA Today bestselling author Kira Archer lives in Pennsylvania with her
hubs and two kids. And 3 ridiculous cats. She’s one of those people who laughs
at inappropriate moments (especially overly emotional occasions like weddings
or funerals), and she has an insanely overactive imagination which is great
when she’s writing but not so great when she’s shutting all the lights off at
night and then has to go up the stairs. She has a PhD in Procrastination (or
would if there was such a thing and there soooo should be because she’s
seriously at expert level here). And if she’s not writing, she’s reading, or
thinking about reading or writing. And running her kids around because they are
busy and she’s the taxi driver. She also writes historical romances as Michelle
This review first appeared on and was written for OnlineBookClub.org (OBC). It has been slightly edited and the rating has been adjusted, considering that OBC only has a four-star rating. To read the original version, please click here.
Small Change by Keddie Hughes gives us a view of Izzy Campbell’s interesting life. She has been married to Jim, a huge Rangers Football Club fan and the Managing Director of Verisafe, for quite a long time now. However, their marriage has been on the rocks lately mainly because of Jim’s stuck-up personality and alcohol problems.
One day, Izzy meets Sean Docherty, an investigative journalist and the brother of one of her clients in the Citizens Advice Bureau. She volunteers there during some of her free time from college. Sean gives her an inside scoop about the Rangers and brings spark to Izzy’s plain personality. He taught her how to be bolder and how to be a risk-taker. Later on, she learns that Sean’s nephew has been murdered and that her husband might be somewhat responsible for it. Together, they work to find some evidence about the fishy Rangers business and her husband’s involvement in the murder case.
I liked the fact that the story was fast-paced. It had been enticing from start to finish; it draws you in as soon as you begin reading it and you’d never want to put it down. The story was not that impressive, but it’s great enough to move you.
I also liked the therapist episodes at the end of every chapter. They added drama and mystery to the entire story, and I believe it was also a good technique to have them written in a dialogue format. They also made the book mental health-friendly. They’d be a great encouragement to people to go and see a therapist when they’re having troubles and to not be ashamed of it.
The main thing that I didn’t like was Izzy being passive-aggressive about her relationship with Jim. Consequently, she ended up making bad decisions. However, in the end, with the help of Sean and her friend, Bridget, she managed to do what’s best for everyone, and moved on living a life without regrets and guilt.
Overall, this was a wonderful book. There were only a few typos and I believe it was professionally edited. However, dialogues said by the same speaker but were separated into two paragraphs seemed bizarre and made some parts confusing for me. Usually, a paragraph break would mean a change in the speaker, but in this book, I found several instances of paragraph breaks while the same speaker was still speaking and there had not been not a significant change in topic. For example, see excerpt below:
‘They love his banter and jokes. Plus, he’s very generous.
Always gets a round in at lunchtime.’
This part can be found on Location 271 and was spoken by Moira. I just don’t understand why this had to be broken. There were at least two or three more instances like this in the book.
Trigger warnings include alcoholism, adultery, and death.