[Review] ELIZABETH WEBSTER AND THE COURT OF UNCOMMON PLEAS by William Lashner, 5/5

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.

For more reviews and other bookish stuff, check my sidebar and follow me on the rest of my social media accounts: Instagram, Goodreads, and Twitter.

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[Blog Tour + Giveaway] ELIZABETH WEBSTER AND THE COURT OF UNCOMMON PLEAS by William Lashner

About the Book

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: GoodreadsAmazonKindle, Audible, B&N, iBooks, Kobo, TBD

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Blurb

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.

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Excerpt

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.

And 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.

The 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.

I  banged  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.”

“Perky?”

“It seemed to fit.”

“I 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.

Perky  lay  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.”

“It matters to Shirley.”

“But  it  doesn’t  matter  to  us,”  I  said.  “It’s  just  a  stupid plant.”

“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?”

“Math.”

“Do  you  ever  just  hang  out,  play  video  games,  throw balls against the wall?”

“No. Can we get back to work?”

“I’m 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 angry  at  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.”

“Who?”

“The 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.”

I  thought  he’d  be  mad,  or  embarrassed,  or  even  break out in laughter. But what he did instead was smile sort of sadly.

“You’ll 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.”

“But not in math.”

“No, I’ve had that pretty much down since second grade. But there is something upstairs I need to show you.”

I pulled my phone out of my pocket and started to unlock the screen. “I’m going home.”

“Please 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.

“Okay,” 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.

William Lashner Photo © Sigrid Estrada Website | Goodreads

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Giveaway

3 winners will receive a finished copy of ELIZABETH WEBSTER AND THE COURT OF UNCOMMON PLEAS, US Only. Click here to enter.

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Tour Schedule

Week Three

Oct 14 – Books_AndPoetriiExcerpt

Oct 15 – Jena Brown WritesReview

Oct 16 – NerdophilesReview

Oct 17 – Savings in SecondsReview

Oct 18 – The Reading Corner for AllReview

Click the banner to learn more about the Rock Star Book Tours.

[Review] FORGIVEN by Geoff Lawson, 4/5

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.

For more honest reviews and other bookish stuff, check my sidebar and follow me on the rest of my social media accounts: Instagram, Goodreads, and Twitter.

[Blog Tour + Giveaway] ACADEMY OF THE ELITES by Alexis Calder

About the Book

Title: ACADEMY OF THE ELITES (Untamed Magic #1)
Author: Alexis Calder
Publisher: Alexis Calder
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 139
Find it on: GoodreadsAmazon

Release Dates for Academy of Elites:
Untamed Magic: October 1, 2019
Broken Magic: November 2019
Fated Magic: December 2019

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Blurb

My name is Raven Winters and I’m a mage. Who the hell knew? 

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.

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Excerpt

Raven

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 connection.

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?

Luka

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 you.”

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.

Facebook | Amazon Author Page | BookBub |  Goodreads

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Giveaway

One lucky winner will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card. This is international. Click here to enter.

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Tour Schedule

Week One

Sep 30
BookHounds YA Excerpt
Wonder StruckReview

Oct 1
Satisfaction for Insatiable ReadersExcerpt
Lifestyle of MeReview

Oct 2
A Gingerly ReviewReview
Polish & PaperbacksReview

Oct 3
Fire and Ice Review
A Bookish DreamReview

Oct 4
Read. Eat. Love.Review
BookriotReview

Week Two

Oct 7
Smada’s Book SmackReview
book briefsReview

Oct 8
Sophie Reads YAReview
Shelf-RatedReview

Oct 9
Novel NoviceExcerpt
Fyrekatz BlogReview

Oct 10
Books a Plenty Book ReviewsReview
EatingbetweenthelinesINCReview

Oct 11
Writer of WrongsReview
Books_AndPoetriiExcerpt 

[Review] Jurisdiction Denied by Jack Gold and Mark Debbaudt 2/5

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.

[Blog Tour] A Reluctant Spy by Miller Caldwell

About the Book

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

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Blurb

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.

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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.

Check out Caldwell’s social media accounts: Website | Twitter

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Tour Schedule

September 23: Infinite Pages
September 24: A Daydreamer’s Thoughts
September 25: Splashes into Books
September 26: Fountain of Books
September 27: _Forbookssake
September 28: Big Book Little Book | Emilys_Book_Corner
September 29: Books_AndPoetrii
September 30: Rambling Mads
October 1 : Mixing Reality with Fiction
October 2: Jera’s Jamboree
October 3: Turn the Page
October 4: Jazzy Book Reviews
October 5: Book Room Reviews
October 6: Donna’s Book Blog

[Blog Tour + Giveaway] Pushing His Luck by Kira Archer

About the Book

Title: PUSHING HIS LUCK 
Author: Kira Archer
Pub. Date: September 23, 2019
Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC (Indulgence)
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 150
Find it: GoodreadsAmazonKindleB&NiBooksKobo

__________________________________________________________

Blurb

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. 

__________________________________________________________

Excerpt

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 process dairy.

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 hers.

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 first.”

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 milk.

“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 in response.

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 still. Focus!

“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 patience.

“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 was anxious.

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 there.

Her phone dinged with a reminder that her meeting started in an hour.

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 the floor.

“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 pitcher.

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 hoped.

“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 face.

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 deserved.”

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.

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About the Author

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 McLean.

Sign up for Kira’s Newsletter!

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads

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International Giveaway

1 winner will receive a $15 Amazon Gift Card. Click here to enter.

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Blog Tour Schedule

Sep 23 – BookHounds & Two Chicks on Books

Sep 24 – Don’t Judge, Read & Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Sep 25 – Shelf-Rated & books_andpoetrii (This is me and you are currently here :))

Sep 26 – Dena Garson-Real… Hot… Romance & Dazzled by Books

Sep 27 – Reese’s Reviews & Book Briefs

[Review] Small Change by Keddie Hughes 4/5

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.

[Blog Tour + Giveaway] The Revenge Game by Alice Gaines

About the Book

Title: THE REVENGE GAME
Author: Alice Gaines
Pub. Date: September 23, 2019
Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC (Indulgence)
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 211
Find it: GoodreadsAmazonKindleB&NiBooksKobo

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Blurb

Adam Morrow is a self-made millionaire. But one night with her could ruin everything…

I’ve worked my ass off for what I have, and I’m damn proud of it. I started off with nothing and now I’m filthy rich. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like revenge to help you get your ass in gear. And that’s what I’m taking, with every exclusive resort I open—sweet, sweet revenge…on her.

Nicole Westmore was my first love. The poor little rich girl stole my heart with her sweet smile, hot body, and irresistible innocence. The summer I worked for her father was the best time of my life…until he drove me away. Even then, I thought Nicole would wait for me. She didn’t.

And so, I decided to get even, opening rival hotels, slowly driving them out of business. The old man is gone now, but Nicole is still running the company that’s about to collapse. All my hard work will soon pay off. And then I catch sight of her at a wedding, and all those feelings come rushing back–for both of us. Still, she doesn’t know what I’ve done—yet—and she seems more than willing. What will one night in her bed hurt?

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Excerpt

Two years ago

Testosterone hung like a cloud in the basketball court at the insanely expensive gym in uptown Manhattan. Tuesday afternoon meant a game of two-on-two hoops for Adam Morrow and his friends. Adam’s background in college boxing qualified him as an athlete. Grant Howard played quarterback in the NFL, and Ryan Stewart made his fortune off sports medicine.

True friends through good times and bad. These guys were worth their weight in gold.

Of course, they needed a fourth for their game, or two of them would have ganged up on the third for a friendly pummeling. Only the club manager, Roger—who’d played college ball—could measure up. All three men were competitive to the core. Otherwise, they never would have achieved the level of success they had.

Though only in his thirties, Adam had founded a series of world-class resorts. His first, Finesse, had taken the industry by storm. His most recent, Lit, was breaking records for profits, making him not only one of the youngest CEOs in the hospitality business but also one of the richest. His properties brought in obscene amounts of money, giving him success in everything he’d ever wanted, except for one thing—getting revenge for how Nicole and Maurice Westmore had humiliated him by dumping him for not being good enough. And he’d have that, too, soon enough.

Adam elbowed Grant as he drove around him to the basket. A quick layup gave his side two points.

“You fouled me,” Grant shouted. The smile on his face belied the anger in his words.

“I don’t see a ref. Do you?” Adam answered. An NFL pro, Grant had taught Adam how to get away with stuff when the officials weren’t looking. Payback was a bitch, but Grant was probably prouder of Adam for learning the lesson than anything else.

“Are you two going to keep jawing, or are we going to play?” Ryan asked.

Roger stood bent over with his hands on his knees, breathing heavily. He needed to spend less time in the office and more on the court.

Ryan slapped Roger on the back. “Come on, guy, catch your second wind.”

Adam couldn’t help but fill with pride, studying his friends. Adam could hold his own with both of them. He did it the way he’d fought his way through life and his college boxing career—by scrapping. And he had the scars to show for it—even a broken nose from a back-alley fight before he’d learned discipline.

Beside the court, Roger’s phone went off, and the man appeared truly relieved for the interruption. He trotted over, answered, and listened for a moment, then grabbed his towel. “Trouble at the front desk.”

“You told them to call you if we were kicking your ass,” Ryan said. “Didn’t you?”

Grant held his arms out. “What am I going to do for a partner?”

“Play with yourselves,” Roger said on his way out of the court.

“Very funny,” Adam called after him.

“I don’t know why he puts up with us,” Ryan said. “We always run his butt ragged.”

“Because we’re his best customers,” Adam said. Which was true. Not only were they the three richest men in the club, but they drew in clientele—a lot of it female, in hopes of hooking up with one of them. “Eligible bachelors,” or so a lot of women thought. Thanks to Nicole Westmore and her father, Adam had given up on love years earlier. Grant’s divorce had accomplished the same thing for him. Only Ryan remained the innocent, and he was currently involved with someone.

“Free throws,” Grant said as he went to the line and sent the ball arcing toward the basket. It swished through—nothing but net. Of course, a quarterback would have a great arm. “Loser buys dinner.”

“You’re on,” Ryan said as he snatched the ball from under the basket and approached the free throw line. Ryan shot and missed—something he almost never did.

Grant laughed as he caught the ball and heaved it back at Ryan. Totally off guard, Ryan let the pass smack him in the middle of his chest. Ryan let out a loud “oof,” which made Grant laugh all the harder.

“What’s up with you today, man?” Grant asked.

Ryan retrieved the ball and threw it to Adam with as much force as Grant had used. “Just waiting for you two to stop clowning around.”

Requiring more finesse than bravado, free throws weren’t Adam’s strong suit, and he’d probably lose again. The winner would choose one of Manhattan’s most expensive restaurants, and they’d have drinks before dinner. He could afford it.

The kid who could barely remember his bastard of a father and had gone through college on scholarships and gotten an MBA from Princeton? The kid who’d worked on Westmore’s cars and driven the old man around like the royalty he thought he was? The kid who was part of the help but uppity enough to think Westmore’s princess of a daughter was in love with him? Well, that kid had grown up to be richer than the old man. And he’d been plotting his revenge for years.

It hadn’t been too complicated, really. All he had to do was spread rumors that Westmore Hotels was floundering, then buy up stock from nervous investors. Use the “no confidence” clause from Westmore’s bylaws to remove the CEO—now Nicole, since her father’s death. Then merge their companies under his own name. Everything Maurice Westmore had built, now part of Morrow Properties. Sweet.

Adam smiled as he toed the free throw line. He made his first shot. The competition might go on for a while.

“Nice going,” Ryan said. “You must be getting some regularly.”

“Nah,” Adam answered. “Kristen’s job took her back to Australia.”

“Too bad,” Ryan said. “She was good for you.”

Maybe too good. Neither of them had wanted a relationship. Kristen because her career never let her settle down. Adam because he’d never trust another woman with his heart. They’d genuinely liked each other—best to break it off before liking grew into anything else.

“How about you?” Adam asked.

Ryan stared down at the floor. “Well, uh, not so much.”

Okay, trouble. Adam’s sixth sense plus Ryan’s sloppy play had told him as much. He and Grant shared a glance over Ryan’s head.

“Want to tell us about it?” Grant said.

“Not much to say.” Ryan walked to the bench where they’d left their gear. He grabbed a bottle of water and twisted the top off. “Melissa and I called a truce and walked away.”

Grant also went to the bench and picked up a towel to wipe the sweat from his face. “Truce? Sounds like war.”

“I guess it was,” Ryan said.

Adam had been there and done that—in spades—when the only woman he’d ever loved had given up on him before he’d had a chance to prove he was good enough for her.

Grant, on the other hand, had been through a divorce and understood betrayal. Seemed like this would be Ryan’s turn to learn about how everything turned to shit when you allowed yourself to fall in love.

When Ryan sat, Adam joined him and put his hand on Ryan’s shoulder. “You guys seemed pretty happy.”

“I thought we were. We started joking about marriage,” Ryan said. “You know how that goes.”

Grant sat on Ryan’s other side. “Oh, man, do I ever.”

“Then I mentioned the prenup,” Ryan said. “She turned into someone I didn’t recognize.”

Grant looked from Adam to Ryan. “Yeah?”

“She pitched a fit as if it was a personal insult. Claimed I didn’t trust her,” Ryan said. “It got ugly pretty fast. I’m afraid I didn’t react well.”

“Do you trust her?” Adam asked.

Ryan thought for a moment, rolling his water bottle between his palms. “I don’t know. Maybe I didn’t. Or maybe not enough.”

“Trust…that’s the big one,” Grant said. “You can’t know if a lover’s on the level until she’s already gotten too close.”

“A prenup isn’t too much to ask,” Ryan said. “Otherwise, how do I know if she really wants me and not my money?”

“Sorry that happened to you,” Grant said. “A guy in your position has to know lots of women are going to want you for all the wrong reasons.”

“Well, I don’t have to worry about Melissa any longer.” Ryan sighed. “I must have misjudged her, big time.”

“Easy to do.” Adam gave Ryan’s shoulder a shake. “At least you found out about her before you made a big mistake.”

“I can’t marry someone who only sees dollar signs when she looks at me,” Ryan said.

“No shit, Sherlock,” Grant said.

Ryan glanced at Grant. “Is that what broke you and your wife up?”

“Nah.” Grant rubbed the back of his neck. “It was a lot of other crap.”

“Well, whatever. It hurts like hell,” Ryan said.

Adam’s stomach clenched. The pain of Nicole’s betrayal still snuck up on him from time to time. He and Ryan had gotten Grant through his divorce more or less unscathed. Now Ryan’s turn for a little friendship therapy had come.

“I should be like you two,” Ryan was saying. “Lots of friends with benefits. Nothing deeper.”

Grant raised his hands toward the heavens. “Praise the Lord, he has seen the light.”

“You won’t regret it, my friend,” Adam said. “Work hard, play hard, and let the rest of it go.”

“I got the work-hard part covered,” Ryan said. “I guess it’s time to play.”

“This calls for a celebration,” Grant said.

Ryan perked up, his shoulders lifting from their slump. “We should have our own club or something.”

“The Love ’em and Leave ’em club,” Grant said.

“Not that,” Adam said. “Love” wouldn’t ever enter the equation, if he could help it, and “leave them” sounded too harsh. “It needs to be simpler. We have a good time getting laid and make sure our lovers do, too. That’s it.”

“Sex with no complications,” Grant said. “I like it.”

“Pure physical pleasure,” Ryan said. “Nothing wrong with that.”

“From now on, let’s make a pact—a players pact,” Adam said. It sounded good. “In it for the fun, with no strings to tie us down.”

“I’ve had enough strings to last a lifetime.” Ryan held his hand out, and when Grant took it, Adam added his own hand in the shake. None of them would ever let a woman get close enough to cause pain. They’d take their fun where they found it, with no entanglements and no regrets. Life could be a whole lot worse.

“Let’s have an initiation into the new club,” Grant declared.

“I could use a few fingers of some really great Scotch,” Adam said.

“I could use a few more than you’re having,” Ryan said.

“And a huge slab of beef,” Grant said. “Bloodred rare.”

“I’m hearing The Tap Room,” Adam said. A place where the steaks were aged as well as the Scotch and the bill could make some guys’ mortgage payments. Their favorite haunt.

“I’m going to have lobster with my T-bone,” Ryan said.

They all laughed. Each of them could afford to buy the restaurant out of lobster if they wanted.

“And if we should run into a few women looking for fun, that wouldn’t hurt, either,” Grant said.

“To sex without strings.” Ryan raised his water bottle in imitation of a toast. “And to the Players Pact,” Adam and Grant said in unison.

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About the Author

Alice Gaines lives in the San Francisco Bay Area in a fixer-upper house she never fixed up. Aside from writing and reading hot, hot romance, she loves cooking, knitting and crocheting, and her church. She has a pet corn snake named Casper. She’s insanely passionate about the funky soul band, Tower of Power.

You can write to Alice at authoralicegaines@gmail.com. You can see information about new releases at http://www.alicegaines.blogspot.com. Sign up for her newsletter. From time to time, she raffles off her handcrafted items to her readers.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

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International Giveaway

1 winner will receive a $15 Amazon Gift Card. Click here to join.

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Tour Schedule

Sep 23
books_andpoetrii: excerpt
Two Chicks on Books: excerpt or interview

Sep 24
BookHounds: excerpt or interview
Jaime’s World: excerpt

Sep 25
Dazzled by Books: spotlight
Burgandy Ice: excerpt

Sep 26
Don’t Judge, Read: excerpt
Books a Plenty Book Reviews: review

Sep 27
Dena Garson-Real… Hot… Romance: spotlight
Cindy’s Love of Books: review

[Review] Spyder Bones by Oliver Phipps 2/5

This is a shortened version of my OnlineBookClub review. Click here to read it. I received a copy of this book for an honest review.

Spyder Bones by Oliver Phipps is the story of Aaron ‘Spider’ Prescott, a soldier who comes back to the Vietnam War, but re-enlists as a medic. This action surprised some of his colleagues and it also made him a laughing stock as being a medic seems to be not as heroic as being a warrior.

After experiencing a near-death experience, he finds himself in another realm where he is given a task that is out of this world. He now learns that the more important battles are not the physical ones but rather the spiritual ones. The question is, will he be able to survive as he takes on this new mission?

I liked the story from the beginning up until the middle part. It had been such a light and easy read. However, as I progressed closer and closer to the end, the story just kind of took a wrong turn.

The writing style was just okay. The story was interesting enough for me to finish it but there’s nothing really impressive. The imagery was not so detailed and I felt like it was very dry in the end. The ending was also anti-climactic for me.

Another thing that I did not like is the fact that the story did not have any strong female characters. Sunny and the rest of the other girlfriends mentioned in the story were used only as accessories. This book also has a lot of typos and I do not feel that it has been professionally edited.

While I feel like I may be in the minority here, I’d still give this book a low rating because of the reasons above.

TW: violence, drugs, heavy on faith/spirituality