Blog Tour + Review: MOTION ( Laws of Physics Trilogy Part 1 ) by Wall Street Journal and New York Times Bestselling Author PENNY REID!@ReidRomance

 

 

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Motion, the first in the all-new Laws of Physics Trilogy from Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestselling author Penny Reid, is available now!

MOTION LOP_MOTION

 

One week.

Home alone.

Girl genius.

Unrepentant slacker.

What’s the worst that could happen?

Mona is a smart girl and had everything figured out a long time ago. She had to. She didn’t have a choice. When your parents are uber-celebrities and you graduate from high school at thirteen, finish college at seventeen, and start your PhD program at eighteen, you don’t have time for distractions outside of your foci. Even fun is scheduled.

Which is why Abram, her brother’s best friend, is such an irritant.

Abram is a talented guy, a supremely gifted musician, and has absolutely nothing figured out, nor does he seem to care. He does what he feels, when he feels, and—in Mona’s opinion—he makes her feel entirely too much.

Laws of Physics is the second trilogy in the Hypothesis series; Laws of Physics parts 1 (MOTION) & 2 (SPACE) end with a cliffhanger.

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Excerpt:

My stomach rumbled, long and loud, and I pressed my hand against it. Grunting into the darkness, I tossed off the covers and stood from Lisa’s bed. Food on my mind, I slipped out of the room and down the stairs. The kitchen was dark, but instead of flipping on a light—which might’ve alerted Abram as to my whereabouts . . . which he probably didn’t care about so long as “Lisa wasn’t doing anything crazy”—I crept on quiet feet to the fridge and opened it.

Momentarily dazzled by the bright light within, it took several seconds of squinting and blinking before the scant contents became visible. I frowned. In addition to the pizza box, two suspicious-looking containers of Chinese takeout, and various condiments, I found: shredded cheddar/jack cheese blend, a zucchini, a half a pint of mushrooms, and hot salsa. Opening the hot salsa, I smelled it, and then I dipped my pinkie inside and tasted it while examining the lid. It looked, smelled, and tasted fine.

Placing my finds on the island counter, I shut the fridge. The sudden extinguishing of the bright light meant that the kitchen was now pitch black. Shrugging off my lack of sight, I extended my arms and blindly felt my way over to the pantry until my hands connected with the torso of a person.

A person.

A PERSON!

I jumped back on instinct, my leg hitting one of the stools at the island counter and sending it crashing to the ground. My heart in my throat, I screamed, turned, and darted forward, but my feet tangled with the felled stool and I pitched, bracing myself for a gravitational collision with unseen wooden bars and a granite stool top.

But then strong arms caught me, deftly spinning and lifting me into the air. Cold dread rushed through my body, tensing every muscle. I couldn’t think. I didn’t think. Instinctively, my legs and fists pumped, fighting against my captor. Rocks in my throat as I readied another scream, a hand covered my mouth just as I belted it out.

“Whoa! Calm down. It’s me.” Abram’s voice at my ear soothed, his bulky arm a tight band around my torso, my back to his front, my feet not touching the ground. “Calm down. Shhh. Calm down.”

Hot breath teased my hair and neck, and I stilled, relief at discovering it was Abram didn’t quite chase away the viral panic still attached to my hemoglobin, coursing through my veins. I shook. I was shaking. And I was gasping through my nose, greedy for air.

Perhaps he heard or felt my strained breathing because his arm loosened, lowering my feet to the ground, and his hand covering my mouth slid away. “Are you okay? Are you hurt?”

“I’m fine,” I said, not sounding convincing. Truth was, I felt like throwing up. “Can you, uh, let me go?”

His arms immediately fell away and I stupidly rushed forward, once more crashing into the stool.

I heard Abram mutter a curse under his breath just as he caught me again, lifting me off the ground again, and saving me—again—from another gravitational collision. This time he turned us away from the stool and carried me across the room.

I didn’t fight him this time. In fact, I relaxed into him. Wired and exhausted, but mostly embarrassed, I allowed myself to be transported without protest. We left the kitchen and I was finally able to see dim outlines of furniture and walls, courtesy of the streetlamp illumination spilling through the windows of the living room.

Abram carried me to my mother’s favorite piece of furniture in our house, a gold velvet chaise lounge said to have once belonged to Napoleon’s sister, Pauline Bonaparte. Depositing me on the soft surface, Abram crossed to one of the Tiffany lamps and pulled the chain, bathing the room in soft blue and yellow, colored light filtering through the stained glass.

He then returned, knelt in front of me, one hand on my leg, the other cupping my cheek. “Are you okay?”

“Yes,” I said, cleared my throat, unable to lift my eyes higher than his black T-shirt, and said again, “Yes.”

He blew out a breath, pushing his fingers through my hair. By doing so, he forced my chin up and caught my gaze. That wrinkle of worry appeared between his eyebrows, and his very pretty eyes—which glowed and sparkled like polished amber cabochons—moved between mine.

“You really freaked out.”

I stiffened, gritting my teeth and yanking my head back, out of his reach. “I didn’t know you were there.”

Watching me with watchful watchfulness, he let his hand drop slowly until it rested on my left leg, next to his other hand which covered my right knee. “I said your name—twice—when I walked in.”

“I didn’t hear you.” I glanced from his eyes to where his palms were hot on my skin. “And I couldn’t see. I’d just shut the fridge, my eyes hadn’t adjusted.”

“Did you think I was a robber?” His left eyebrow lifted as did the side of his mouth, just a hint.

Clearly, he was trying to lighten the mood. Unfortunately, I still felt shaky. And embarrassed.

“I- I didn’t think,” I admitted, releasing an unsteady breath. “I wasn’t thinking. Sorry I fell.”

“No need to apologize. It wasn’t like you could help it.”

“Yeah. Gravity can be such a downer.”

He made a light, laughing sound. “What?”

“Uh, nothing. Whatever.” No physics jokes!

His frown returned, his fingers flexing slightly on my legs. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

Reaching for his hands, I removed them from my knees, setting them away. “I’m really fine. I just don’t like—”

He glanced at my knees. “Being touched?”

“When it’s unexpected.” I crossed my arms.

“That makes sense. But your reaction, even after you knew it was me—” He paused and sat back on his heels, as though debating how to continue and finally settling on, “It was a big reaction.” Abram continued to study me with his big, pretty, knowing brown eyes. “Hey, I would never hurt you.”

I winced, just a little, my gaze falling to my knees where his hands had been. I wanted to huff a laugh and roll my eyes, maybe say something like, I know, don’t be ridiculous.

But the word “Okay,” small and fragile sounding, slipped out instead. I immediately wished it back, because I didn’t understand it. I didn’t know why I’d said it, and I hated not knowing.

Get ahold of yourself, Mona. Pull it together. You are fine. Nothing happened.

Meanwhile, he continued his examination of me, I felt his stare, assessing my downturned face. “Out of curiosity, and no big deal if you don’t want to say, but did something happen to you this last year?”

My back straightened and I sucked in a slow, deep breath before asking calmly, “Like what?”

“You’re very . . . different than you were before.”

“Because I don’t want you touching me?” I tried to infuse my words with challenge, strength—wanting to shake off any earlier impression of weakness—and mostly succeeded. Peeking at him, I gauged his reaction from behind a hastily built wall of dispassion.

But then Abram dropped his chin to his chest, a massive grin lighting his features, and the fragrance of him hit me. My lashes fluttered as though he’d blown dust in my eyes, penetrating my wobbly wall of dispassion and sending it crumbling to the ground.

God, he smelled so good, and—unlike visual stimuli—I couldn’t stop whatever cascade of relaxing, soothing, melting awareness smelling his scent set off. Unthinkingly, I leaned forward an inch, chasing and inhaling the smell of him while he cleared his throat, like he was trying not to laugh.

Why he was fighting a laugh, I didn’t know, but the apparent genuineness of Abram’s struggle to subdue his grin only served to increase his attractiveness.

A moment later, he lifted his eyes and they connected with mine. He’d conceded to a shy smile. It was quite a smile.

“Yes,” he said.

“Yes?” I parroted dumbly. What were we talking about? And would it be weird if I buried my nose in his neck?

“Yes. You not wanting me to touch you means that you are very different now than you were before,” he explained.

I appreciated the completeness and thoroughness of his sentence.

My cheeks were hot. I pressed my hands against them while I examined him with suspicion. What was he doing to me?

“How so?” I asked, hoping to keep him talking so I could hunt down the splintered pieces of my concentration.

His eyebrows pulled together as his shy smile became a smirk. “You’re telling me you don’t remember?”

“Tell me your version of events,” I demanded, side-stepping a lie and still holding my cheeks.

“Uhh . . .” He scratched the back of his neck, peering at me like I both confused and amused him.

I was used to confusing people, but not amusing them. My cheeks burned hotter.

“Do you even remember?” I pushed, knowing my tone was belligerent.

He made a sound like he was choking on a laugh. “Yes. It’s hard to forget waking up to a naked girl in my bed.”

Jaw dropping, my eyes grew to their maximum diameter.

Naked. Girl. In . . . bed?

“Are you serious?” I whispered, my mind darting in all directions, attempting to form a reasonable hypothesis for Lisa’s behavior and coming up completely empty. Suddenly, I couldn’t catch my breath.

He shook his head, giving me an astonished once-over. “You honestly don’t remember?”

My mouth opened and closed as I struggled to speak, but it was no use. I was too . . . I was too many things. Shocked. Confused. Incredulous. ANGRY.

LISA!

What had she been thinking? She’d been eighteen! How would she have liked waking up to find a strange, naked, eighteen-year-old boy in her bed?

I was beyond shocked. I was horrified. I was electrocuted by the reality of my sister’s brazen-slash-creepy quotient, because I couldn’t imagine doing anything in the same sphere of possibility. I was beginning to believe that if my twin and I were represented by a Venn diagram, our only areas of overlap would be physical. A minor sliver of shared corporal characteristics, and that was absolutely it.

“Lisa?”

Blinking at Abram, and promptly becoming tangled in his searching gaze, I realized he was still there. And I was still here. And my hands were still pressed against my cheeks as I warred with what I now identified as hot mortification.

What else could I do? I shot to my feet and marched out of the living room, dropping my hands and running up the main staircase.

Pre-order the rest of the series today!

Space

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Time

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REVIEW:

Motion is the first in a the second trilogy in in the hypothesis series. This is The Law of Physics part one. As always with Penny Reid expect the unexpected. In this book we meet Mona a twin whose abilities with maths and physics has produced someone who has had very little time in her life for wasting time and having fun. Uptight is putting it mildly. Suddenly she receives a phone call from her twin who has been arrested, and needs Mona to go home and pretend to be Lisa. The good time sister who is with a rock star and is into drugs. So to keep her sister out of trouble with their parents Mona agrees.
Only one problem Mona has not got a clue how to behave like Lisa. To keep her out of trouble her brother’s best friend Abram is staying at the house to watch and keep her under control.
Well after a makeover and advice from Gabby, Lisa’s best friend Mona arrives at the house and meets Abram. Well Mona is tongue tied and tries her best. Well we all know what happens with the law of hormones, the more time they spend together the more they like each other. This is a Penny Reid romance keeping me addicted until the last page, and then I have to wait until March until I read more of Mona and Abram.
To find out what happens you have to read the book. Just a little warning this ends in a cliffhanger.

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Meet Penny Reid:

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Penny Reid is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today Best Selling Author of the Winston Brothers, Knitting in the City, Rugby, and Hypothesis series. She used to spend her days writing federal grant proposals as a biomedical researcher, but now she just writes books. She’s also a full time mom to three diminutive adults, wife, daughter, knitter, crocheter, sewer, general crafter, and thought ninja.

 

Connect with Penny:

Facebook: http://bit.ly/2AXQQxj

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Amazon: http://amzn.to/2lakzsD

Twitter: http://bit.ly/2FDLziw

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www.pennyreid.ninja

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Blog Tour + Review: COLD & DEADLY ( Cold Justice CROSSFIRE ) New York Times Bestselling Author TONI ANDERSON @toniannanderson @InkslingerPR

 

Romantic Suspense lovers – the first book in Toni Anderson’s Cold Justice: Crossfire series is available today! Pick up your copy of COLD & DEADLY now!

About COLD & DEADLY

Hostage Negotiators can talk themselves out of anything—except falling in love.

FBI Supervisory Special Agent Dominic Sheridan is an accomplished expert in the Crisis Negotiation Unit. Practiced, professional, used to dealing with high-stake situations under tense conditions, Dominic is a master at manipulating people. Everyone, that is, but the headstrong rookie agent bent on destroying her fledgling career.

As a child, Ava Kanas put her life on the line when the mob executed her father. Now someone has killed her mentor, the man who inspired her to become an FBI agent—and she’s the only one who recognizes it was anything but a tragic accident.

When another agent is murdered and Dominic nearly dies, it becomes obvious a serial killer is targeting the FBI. Together Dominic and Ava search for clues in the investigation, all the while fighting a forbidden attraction that will complicate everything, especially when the predator sets their sights on Ava.

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Get your hands on COLD & DEADLY now!

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Read an excerpt of COLD & DEADLY:

Did she tell Dominic the truth and risk him sending her away? The thought of losing her job made her feel physically ill. But she wanted to be braver. She wanted to trust…

Was he awake? She listened attentively for the sound of his breathing but she couldn’t hear a thing. Feeling slightly panicked that he’d left her here alone, she caught the bottom of the makeshift curtain and raised it high enough to see the man lying on his back, features softened in sleep.

She stared, taking in the straight nose, thick brows and stubborn jaw. The bruises from the accident looked like darker shadows in this dusky twilight. His mouth was parted and she found herself wondering what it might be like to kiss him.

He rolled onto the side facing her and suddenly opened his eyes.

Ava froze, then whispered slowly, “I thought you might have left me behind…” She tried to swallow her mortification at being caught staring at him. The words revealed more than she wanted.

He reached out and touched her cheek, which was more or less healed now. “Still here, Kanas. Go back to sleep. It’s four AM.”

Her heart pounded crazily as she held his gaze. She should tell him about Gino. Confide the truth. He’d understand and wouldn’t send her away. His palm was so hot against her skin it burned. She wanted to get closer to that heat. The craving was so overwhelming it terrified her, paralyzed her.

He removed his hand with a slight smile that she could get used to and sleepily closed his eyes. Murmured, “Go to sleep, Ava.”

She lay there staring up at the ceiling, until dawn flooded the room with light. She didn’t sleep another wink.

REVIEW:

I love Toni Anderson books, they have everything I love reading about. In this book we hit the jackpot, great characters, plenty of murders and above all a couple falling love.
This starts at a funeral of a well loved FBI agent who had either committed suicide or shot himself by accident. So under the circumstances the mourners are close friends and family. Suddenly shots are fired at the FBI agents attending. This starts an investigation that leads all over the county.
Dominic Sheridan is investigating with the help of Special Agent Ava Kanas.It always hard to write a review without giving much away especially a murder mystery. This book kept me gripped and I couldn’t put it down. It kept me guessing until the end and them I felt bereft when it was finished. So what I’m trying to say is this is a great read, and I loved the Ava and Dominic they are good together or should I say HOT together.
This is definitely going on my reread shelf.

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About Toni Anderson

Toni Anderson is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, RITA® nominee, science nerd, professional tourist, dog lover, gardener, mom. Originally from a small town in England, Toni studied Marine Biology at University of Liverpool (B.Sc.) and University of St. Andrews (Ph.D.) with the intention she’d never be far from the ocean. Well, that plan backfired and she ended up in the Canadian prairies with her biology professor husband, two kids, a rescue dog, and two laid-back leopard geckos. Toni started writing while pregnant with her first child and never stopped. Her greatest achievements are mastering the Tokyo subway, climbing Ben Lomond, snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, and surviving fourteen Winnipeg winters (fingers crossed). She loves to travel for research purposes and was lucky enough to visit the Strategic Information and Operations Center inside FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. in 2016, and she also got to shove another car off the road during pursuit training at the Writer’s Police Academy in Wisconsin. Watch out world!

Toni’s books have hit #1 in Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and the Top 10 on Amazon, Kobo, and iBooks. Her novels have won many awards.

If you want to know when Toni’s next book will be out, visit her website (http://www.toniandersonauthor.com) and sign up for her newsletter. If you want to read other fascinating stories about life in a city that, during winter, is sometimes colder than Mars, friend her on Facebook: (https://www.facebook.com/toniannanderson).

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Newsletter | Instagram | Pinterest

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Blog Tour + Review: APOCALYPSE 5 ( Archive of The Fives #1 ) by STACEY ROURKE!@rourkewrites @XpressoTours

 

Apocalypse Five
Stacey Rourke
(Archive of the Fives, #1)
Publication date: February 12th 2019
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

Good luck and have a pleasant apocalypse.

The end of the world is coming. How or when, scientists can’t agree upon. For decades, Earth’s best line of defense has been a team of young soldiers known as the Apocalypse Five, forced into virtual reality simulations to train for Doom’s Day. But, this is no game. Death on the grid is brutally final and calls up the next in a long line of cadets.

Stationed aboard the AT-1-NS Starship, the A5 are celebrities thrust into the limelight by a calling they didn’t choose. All it takes is one unscheduled mission, showing seventeen-year-old team leader Detroit a harsh and unfathomable reality, to shake the A5’s belief in all they thought they knew. After questioning people with the power to destroy them, the team is framed for a crime they didn’t commit and marked for death. Now, the hunt is on.

Can the Apocalypse Five expose the truth the starship would kill to keep hidden? Or, will their bravery end in a public execution?

REVIEW:

Wow what an amazing start to an imaginative series. As book one we are introduce to the world the Apocalypse five live in aboard a star ship thinking they are training to defend earth. The five spend all the time together, and ages starting at twelve or thirteen they are fighting battles of life and death.
Until they find out something they shouldn’t and everything they find is a lie and the apocalypse has already happened. I’m in awe at the imagination authors in this genre have. I thoroughly enjoyed this introduction to hopefully an absorbing series that I’m looking forward to. So where is book two?

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Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo

Author Bio:

RONE Award Winner for Best YA Paranormal Work of 2012 for Embrace, a Gryphon Series Novel

Young Adult and Teen Reader voted Author of the Year 2012

Turning Pages Magazine Winner for Best YA book of 2013 & Best Teen Book of 2013

Readers’ Favorite Silver Medal Winner for Crane 2015

Stacey Rourke is the author of the award winning YA Gryphon Series, the chillingly suspenseful Legends Saga, and the romantic comedy Reel Romance Series. She lives in Michigan with her husband, two beautiful daughters, and two giant dogs. She loves to travel, has an unhealthy shoe addiction, and considers herself blessed to make a career out of talking to the imaginary people that live in her head.

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GIVEAWAY!
 Signed copy of Apocalypse Five
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Valentine Countdown Blitz: Day 10, 6th TURN: KAT ( League of Elder ) by REN GARCIA!

 

Ren Garcia is a Science Fiction/Fantasy author and Texas native who grew up in western Ohio. He has been writing since before he could write, often scribbling alien lingo on any available wall or floor with assorted crayons. He attended The Ohio State University and majored in English Literature. 
 
Ren has been an avid lover of anything surreal since childhood. He also has a passion for caving, urban archeology, taking pictures of clouds, and architecture. He currently lives in Columbus, Ohio with his wife, and their four dogs.

~ Website ~

Raised in the dark under the lash of the Black Hat Sisterhood, when the woman who would become known as Kat, is sent on a suicide mission into the heart of the League, she was not expected to survive. Her mission: discover the identity of the fabled Shadow tech Goddess, a being who does not exist. All other considerations, including her possible death, are secondary.
 

 

But, Kat is guided by higher powers, by merciful hands that feed her, clothe her and whisper in her ear. As she watches the sun rise for the first time, she recalls their words: “Be strong,” they said. “You have much to live for.
 
 
 
 
 

 

Snippet:
The Autocon inside her body swam through her Shadow
tech like a giant parasite. It cajoled her along the way with its icy Shadow
tech voice:
“Do not die! The Black Abbess is invested in your
success. Die, waste our training in you and we will reclaim our Shadow tech and
cast your soul to Hell where it will be devoured for the remainder of eternity
… Do not die!”   —
Kat, along with a
tormenting demon, confined within an atmosphere suit.
 

 

To view our blog schedule and follow along with this tour visit our Official Event page Part 1 

and Official Event page Part 2 

 

 

 

Valentine Countdown Blitz: CALIFORNIA CRUSH ( Romance Across State Lines ) by USA Today Bestselling Author DEBBIE WHITE!

Debbie currently lives on the west coast with her husband and two dachshund rescues, Dash and Briar. She loves to hike, work in the garden, and on most sunny days you can find her enjoying her backyard with a glass of wine.

 

 

She’s an avid supporter of animal rescue, and as a pledge to all animals seeking their forever home, she happily donates a percentage of all book sales to local and national rescue organizations. When you purchase any of her books, you’re also helping animals.

 

~ Facebook ~ Website ~

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Bookbub ~

Breanna Murphy has been planning her wedding for years so when her fiancé runs off with a hula dancer, she is forced to realize her destination wedding is nothing more than an exotic vacation for one.
Trying to escape the embarrassment and disappointment of being jilted at the altar, Breanna answers an ad for a job clear across the country. When the voice on the other end offers her the job, she’s excited about what awaits her in California.
Builder Calvin Comstock must make right on his daughter’s mistake regarding the nationwide advertisement and hiring of Breanna. He doesn’t know what to expect, but when Breanna walks into his office with her infectious smile, peaches and cream complexion not to mention her sexy southern drawl, Calvin is happy for his daughter’s error.
Breanna is drawn to Calvin’s mature movie star good looks, charming personality, soft voice, and strong hands. She’s trying to stay focused on the job and not the overwhelming lure she feels pulling her in to test the waters. But when the two realize the attraction is mutual they throw caution to the wind and give in to the undeniable desire to be together.

Can an ex-wife and a teenage daughter spoil their happiness or will it make them stronger than ever?

Snippet:

Calvin watched her as she walked toward the concrete stairs
that led upstairs to her room. Her gently swaying hips and auburn hair bouncing
across her shoulders caught his eye, that was certain. These Louisiana girls
were quite pretty, especially when they were part Creole and part Irish.
She quickly turned around as she grasped the railing. Her
wide smile infectious as everything else about her.
“I had a great night. Thanks for showing me around.”
“My pleasure. Maybe we can do it again sometime?” He dug his
hands in his pockets to help hide their shaking. It had been a long time since
he’d taken a beautiful woman out to dinner.
“I’d like that, Calvin.”
“Oh, listen. Let’s not be so formal. Call me Cal.”
“Okay, Cal.” Her cheeks blushed, which perfectly coordinated
with her auburn hair.
“In that case, call me Bree.” She pulled herself around from
the railing and began to ascend the steps.
“Bree,” he called out.
She stopped.
“The floorplans.” He jogged over to his car and reached into
the back seat, pulling out a cardboard tube. “You’ll need this.” He handed her
the tube then reached into his back pocket and retrieved his wallet. When he
handed her the plastic card, their hands touched, and for a moment he wanted to
pull her in and kiss her plump lips. Instead, he left his hand just a little
longer on hers so he could pull in all the energy he felt from her, from her
touch. “Here,” he said softly.
“Thank you,” she whispered.

 

He stepped away and then turned around. Walking slowly back
to his car, he wondered if she’d call him back and ask him up to her room. But
that was just plain ludicrous. What young, beautiful woman, who you’d just only
met, would do that?

 

To view our blog schedule and follow along with this tour visit our Official Event page Part 1 

and Official Event page Part 2 

 

 

 

Release Blitz: GOING HOME ( Chandler Hill Inn Book 1 ) by JUDITH KEIM is Now LIVE! @judithkeim @RABTBookTours

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Chandler Hill Inn Series, Book 1
Women’s Fiction
Date Published:February 13, 2019
Publisher: Wild Quail Publishing
 
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In 1970, Violet Hawkins’ only wish at eighteen is to escape her life in the Dayton, Ohio, foster-care system and make her way to the west coast to enjoy a mellow life and find the love she’s been missing all her life. She makes it to San Francisco, but soon learns she needs a job if she’s to live properly. A kind, young man named Kenton Chandler offers her a sandwich and a job at his father’s inn and vineyards. With nothing to lose, Lettie takes him up on his offer and begins a whole new life in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. She immediately falls in love with the land and is fascinated with the idea of growing grapes in order to make wines. She, Kenton, and Rafe Lopez become friends as she learns about running the small inn on the property.
At the same time she marries Kenton, a stroke kills his father. And then before she can tell Kenton she’s pregnant, he dies in an automobile accident. Heartbroken and burdened with the gift of the Chandler Hill Inn and Winery, she’s left with the task of making them a success. Struggling to raise a child alone while working to grow the business, Lettie makes a shocking discovery that changes everything.
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EXCERPT:

CHAPTER ONE
Some people’s lives unfold in the most unusual ways.
In 1970, the only things Violet Hawkins wanted for her eighteenth birthday were to escape the Dayton, Ohio, foster-care system in which she’d been raised and to make her way to San Francisco. There, she hoped to enjoy a mellow lifestyle and find the love that had always been absent in her life.
                Though she made it to San Francisco easily enough, she soon discovered she couldn’t afford a clean, safe place in which to settle down. At first, it hadn’t seemed to matter. Caught up in the excitement and freedom of living in a large city where free love and openness to so many things reigned, she almost forgot about eating and sleeping. One couch, one futon was as good as any other as long as grass or other drugs were available, and others didn’t mind giving her a place to sleep. But after spending four months there, the dollars she’d carefully saved, which had seemed so many in Dayton, were nothing but a mere pittance in a city where decent living was too expensive for her. She took to wandering the streets with her backpack until she came upon a friendly group willing to give her a sleeping space inside or a bite to eat.
                One June day, feeling discouraged, she’d just sunk down onto the steps outside a row house when a young man emerged.  
                He smiled down at her. “Tired?”
                She was more than tired. She was exhausted and hungry. “Looking for work. I need to eat.”
                He gave her a long, steady, blue-eyed look. “What’s your name?”
                “Violet Hawkins. But call me Lettie.”
                His eyebrows shot up. “With all that red hair, no flowery name for you?”
                She shook her head. She’d always hated both her hair and her name. The red in her hair was a faded color, almost pink, and the name Violet indicated a delicate flower. She’d never had the luxury of being the least bit frail. 
                He sat down beside her and studied her. “You don’t look like the hippie type. What are you doing in a place like this?”
                “On my eighteenth birthday, I left Dayton, Ohio, to come here. It sounded like a great plan—all this freedom.”
                “How long have you been here?”
                “Four months. I thought it would be different. I don’t know … easier, maybe.”
                He got to his feet. “How about I fix you a sandwich, and then I’ll tell you about a job, if you want it. It’s at a vineyard in Oregon. I’m heading there later today.”         
                Her glance slid over his well-built body, rugged facial features, and clean, shoulder-length, light-brown hair. He didn’t fit into the usual crowd she’d been with, which made her cautious. “Who are you? And why would you do this for me?”
                “Kenton Chandler.” His lips curved into the same warm smile he’d given her earlier. “I’m heading to Oregon, and, frankly, I could use the company. Keeps me from falling asleep.”
                “Yeah? And what is this vineyard?”
                He shrugged. “A couple of years ago, my dad bought a small inn with 75 acres in the Willamette Valley south of Portland. He’s planted most of the land with grapes. He doesn’t know that much about making wine and wants me to learn. That’s why I’m in San Francisco. I’ve been working at a vineyard in Napa Valley just north of here, learning the ropes.” He grinned. “Or maybe I should say, learning the vines.”
                “What kind of sandwich?” she asked, warming toward him and his wacky humor. Her stomach rumbled loud enough for them both to hear it. 
“How does ham and Swiss sound?” he said, giving her a knowing look.    
“Okay.” Lettie didn’t want him to think she couldn’t manage on her own. That was dangerous. She’d learned it the hard way, fighting off a guy who thought he could have her just because he gave her a puff of weed. She’d been careful ever since to stay away from situations and guys like that.
“Well?” He waved her toward the door.
Lettie checked to see if others were within hearing range if she needed them. Plenty of people were hanging around nearby. Thinking it was safe, Lettie climbed the stairs behind Kenton. He didn’t know about the knife tucked into one of the pockets of her jeans.
Inside, she found the same kind of contrast between this clean house and others she’d been in. It wasn’t sparkling clean, but it was tidier than most.
He led her into the kitchen. “Sit down. It’ll only take me a minute to make your sandwich.” He handed her a glass of water. “Mustard? Mayo?”
“Both,” she replied primly, sitting down at a small pine table in the eating area of the room.
She sat quietly, becoming uncomfortable with the idea that he was waiting on her. She wasn’t used to such a gesture. She was usually the one waiting on others both in her foster home and at the church where she’d spent hours each week attending services and events with her foster family. Thinking of them now, a shiver raced across her shoulders like a frightened centipede. It had been her experience that supposedly outstanding members of a church weren’t always kind to those they’d taken into foster care primarily for the money.
“Ready!” said Kenton, jarring her out of thoughts of the past. He placed a plate with the sandwich in front of her and took a seat opposite her.
She lifted the sandwich to her face and inhaled the aroma of the ham. Keeping her eyes on Kenton, she bit into the bread, savoring the taste of fresh food.
He beamed at her with satisfaction when she quickly took another bite.
“Who lives here? Lettie asked.
“A friend of mine,” said Kenton. His gaze remained on her. “You don’t look eighteen.”
She swallowed, and her breath puffed out with dismay. “But I am.”
“And you’re not into drugs and all the free-love stuff everyone talks about?”
Lettie shook her head.  “Not really. I tried weed a couple of times, but it wasn’t for me.” Her strict upbringing had had a greater influence on her than she’d thought.
“Good. Like I said, if you want to ride to Oregon with me, there’s a job waiting for you at the Chandler Hill Inn. We’re looking for help. It would be a lot better than walking the streets of Haight-Ashbury. Safer too.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “And if I don’t like it?”
He shrugged. “You can leave. One of the staff recently left for L.A. That’s why my father called me to ask if I knew anyone who could come and work there. You’re my only choice.”
Lettie’s heart pounded with hope. Acting as nonchalant as she could, she said, “Sounds like something I’d like to try.”
###
The ride to Oregon was mostly quiet as an easy camaraderie continued between them. Kenton answered any questions she had about him, the inn, and the way he thought about things. Lettie was surprised to learn he hadn’t joined in a lot of the anti-war protests. 
“My best friend died in ’Nam. He believed in serving our country. I want to honor him,” he said to Lettie.
“A boy in my high school was drafted. His parents weren’t happy about it.”  
                “Well, if I’m drafted, I’m going,” Kenton said. “I don’t want to, but I will. I don’t really have a choice.”
                As they talked, they agreed that John Wayne was great in the movie True Grit.
“And I love the Beatles,” said Lettie.
“Yeah, me too. Too bad they just broke up.”
“And what about the new group, The Jackson 5?” Lettie said.
“They’re great.  And I like Simon and Garfunkel and their music too.”
At one point, Lettie turned to Kenton. “Sometimes you seem so serious, like an old man. How old are you, anyway?”
                He gave her a sheepish look. “Twenty-two.”
                They shared a laugh, and in that moment, Lettie knew she’d found a person with whom she could be herself.
###
                Lettie woke to someone shaking her shoulder. She stared into the blue-gray eyes of a stranger and stiffened.
“Lettie, we’re here,” said a male voice.
As she came fully awake, she realized Kenton was talking to her.
“Here at Chandler Hill?” she asked, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.
She looked out through the windshield of the Ford Pinto and gaped at the huge, white-clapboard house sitting on the top of a knoll like a queen overlooking her realm.
Lettie scrambled out of the car and stood gazing at the clean lines of the two-story building. Across the front, four windows offset by green shutters were lined up with identical windows below. Beneath a small, protective, curved roof, glass panels bracketed a wide front door, welcoming guests. To one side, a two-story wing had been added to the house.
Green, leafy bushes offset by an assortment of colorful flowers she didn’t recognize softened the front of the building. As she walked closer, she realized between the main house and the addition a small, stone patio and private garden had been installed.
“Come on in,” said Kenton. “There’s a beautiful view from the back porch.”
Feeling as if she were Alice in a different kind of Wonderland, Lettie entered the house. As she tiptoed behind Kenton, her gaze darted from the polished surfaces of furniture to gilt-edged mirrors to a massive floral bouquet sitting on a large dining-room table. It all seemed so grand.
Kenton led her to a wide porch lining the back of the house. Observing the rolling land before her and, in the distance, the hills crouching in deepening colors of green, Lettie’s breath caught. The sun was rising, spreading a gold topping on the hills like icing on cake.
“Nice, huh?”
Lettie smiled and answered, “I’ve never seen anything so beautiful, so peaceful.”
At the sound of footsteps behind her, she whirled around.
A tall, gray-haired man with striking features similar to Kenton’s said, “Welcome home, son.”
They shook hands, and then the older gentleman turned to her. “And who is this?”
Shy, she stared at the man who seemed so familiar to her.
Kenton nudged Lettie.
Minding her manners, Lettie held out her hand as she’d been taught. “Lettie Hawkins. I’ve come for a job.” A niggling feeling kept her eyes on him longer than necessary. When she could no longer stop herself, she blurted, “Aren’t you Rex Chandler, the movie star?”
He smiled. “Yes, I am. But I’ve changed professions.”
Lettie held back a chuckle of delight. A friend’s mother had privately adored him.
“Why don’t the two of you come into the kitchen,” said Rex. “Mrs. Morley will want to talk to Lettie, and I need to talk to you, Kenton.”
As Lettie followed the men into the kitchen, a woman hurried toward them, crying, “Kenton! Kenton! You’re home at last!”
Laughing, Kenton allowed the woman to hug him. “You’d think I’ve been gone a year, Mrs. Morley.”
“You almost were,” she said, smiling and pinching his cheek. “And look at you! More handsome than ever.”
Looking as if he couldn’t wait for her to focus her attention elsewhere, Kenton said, “Mrs. Morley, I’d like you to meet Lettie Hawkins. She’s here for a job.”
Mrs. Morley’s gaze settled on Lettie. “So, you like to work?”
“She likes to eat,” said Kenton, bringing a smile to Mrs. Morley’s full face.
“By the looks of it, Lettie, you could use more food,” said Mrs. Morley. “Let’s you and I talk about what kind of jobs you could do around here. I’m short-handed at the moment.”
Kenton and Rex left the kitchen.
Mrs. Morley waved Lettie over to a desk in a small alcove in the kitchen. After lowering her considerable bulk into a chair, Mrs. Morley faced her. Her green eyes exuded kindness as she studied Lettie. Her gray-streaked brown hair was pulled back from her face and banded together in a ponytail, giving Lettie a good look at her pleasing features.  
“Have a seat, dear.”
 Lettie sat in the chair indicated for her and clutched her hands. After seeing the small inn and the beautiful countryside, she desperately wanted the job.
“Where are you from, Lettie? And why in the world do you want to work here in the country? I’d think a pretty, young girl like you would want to be in a city having fun.” 
Lettie paused, unsure how to answer her. She’d thought she’d like living in the city, being free to do whatever she wanted. But after four months of doing just that, the excitement had worn off. She liked to know where she was going to sleep at night and when she’d next eat.
 “Maybe I’m just a country girl at heart,” she answered lamely. Her two best friends at home would scoff at her, but right now, that’s how she felt.
“Well, that’s what you’ll be if you stay on. A lot of activity is taking place around here, what with people buying up turkey farms and the like, turning them into vineyards, but it is country. I hope it always will be.” She leaned forward. “Know anything about cooking? Cleaning?”
“Yes,” said Lettie. “I used to do both in my foster home. I was the oldest of eight kids there.”
“Eight? My land, that’s a lot of kids to take in,” said Mrs. Morley.
“It’s a lot of money,” Lettie said, unable to hide her disgust. “That’s why they did it.”
“I see,” said Mrs. Morley, studying her. “So how long have you been on your own?”
“Four months,” she replied. “I was in San Francisco when I met Kenton.”
“Such a good, young man. I’ve known him for a while now,” Mrs. Morley sighed with affection. “You’re lucky he found you. Why don’t we start in housekeeping, see how it goes, and then maybe you can give me a hand in the kitchen.”
“Okay,” Lettie said, jumping to her feet. “Where should I put my things? I need to get them from the car.”
Mrs. Morley gave her an approving look. “I like your eagerness. Let me show you to your room and then I’ll give you a tour.”
The north half of the front of the house consisted of a large, paneled dining room she’d seen earlier. The long mahogany table that sat in the middle of the room held seats for twelve. A summer flower arrangement consisted of pink roses and pink hydrangeas interspersed with white daisies and sat in a cut-glass vase in the middle of the table. Along one wall, above a service counter, an open cupboard made of dark wood stored coffee mugs, extra wine goblets, and water glasses. A coffee maker and a burner holding a pot of hot water sat on the marble counter. A bowl of sugar, a pitcher of cream, and a dish of lemon slices were displayed nearby. At the other end of the counter, a large plate of homemade, chocolate-chip cookies invited guests to take one.
“How many guests do you usually have?” Lettie asked.
“We have six guest rooms, so we have as many as twelve people for the breakfast we serve. During the day, people come and go on their own, tasting wine at nearby vineyards or sightseeing. We offer a simple dinner to those not wishing to travel to restaurants at night.” A look of pride crossed Mrs. Morley’s face. “Sometimes my husband, Pat, grills out, or Rita Lopez cooks up Mexican food. Guests like these homestyle meals. In fact, we’re becoming known for them.”
Lettie’s mouth watered. It all sounded so good.
Mrs. Morley led her to a sideboard, opened its drawers, and gave her a smile. “Let’s see how well you polish silver.”
Later, after being shown how, Lettie was working on the silverware when Kenton walked into the kitchen.
“Well? Are you going to stay?” he asked.
“Yes,” Lettie said with determination. The whole time she’d been cleaning the silver she’d been able to gaze at the rolling hills outside. This, she’d decided, is where she wanted to be. It felt so right.
About the Author

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Judith Keim was born and raised in Elmira, New York, and now makes her home in Idaho with her husband and their two dachshunds, Winston and Wally, and other members of her family.
Growing up, books were always present being read, ready to go back to the library, or about to be discovered. Information from the books was shared in general conversation, giving all of us in the family wealth of knowledge and a lot of imagination. Perhaps that is why I was drawn to the idea of writing stories early on. I particularly love to write novels about women who face unexpected challenges and meet them with strength.
A hybrid author who both has a publisher and who self-publishes, Ms. Keim writes heart-warming stories of strong women who face challenges and find love and happiness along the way. Her books are based, in part, on many of the places she’s lived or visited and on the interesting people she’s met, creating believable characters and realistic settings her many, loyal readers love.
Contact Links
Purchase Links

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Release Boost: DEATH’S MAIDEN ( Time Bridge Book Two ) by ANNIE BECKER is Now LIVE! @AnnieBecker123

THE TIME HAS COME!
Death’s Maiden by Annie Becker is LIVE!!!


GRAB YOUR COPY NOW:
US → https://amzn.to/2OlDLWH
UK → https://amzn.to/2FZbYHC
CA → https://amzn.to/2RsvH3z
AU → https://amzn.to/2CRUTeM

It’s #FREE in KindleUnlimited!!!

BLURB:

When Cassie Martin slips through the top-secret time-bridge to find herself in 1348 Avignon, France, she has high hopes that she can make this trip a quick and magical one, and most of all, keep it secret from her lover Aaron Reegan. She wants to get onto Avignon’s famous bridge, see it and get back within minutes. Then, Cassie comes through the time-bridge the first person to see her is a cruel monk who calls her Hecate and “Death’s Maiden.”

Top-secret time travel facility? Creepy (yet mysterious) fellow reporter Syd Meyer who has lied and betrayed Cassie? No-nonsense ex-Delta force Army Captain who loves BDSM play, has a riding crop – and will use it, if only he can also follow Cassie back in time and find her.

What could possibly go wrong?

GET CASSIE’S TEMPTATION TOO:
Amazon https://amzn.to/2OlDLWH

ALSO FREE IN KU!!!

About Annie

Annie Becker is an American author of adventure romance, stories with smart feisty heroines (who don’t always make the best choices), smoking hot alpha heroes, and plots that are edgy and raw… just a bit outside of the mainstream. Time travel, mysterious artifacts, underwater archaeology, alien abduction, EMP survival… you’ll find all of these in an Annie Becker adventure romance!

Annie, with a co-author, won Romantic Times’ Awards “Best New Historical Romance” and “Best Romantic Adventure” in the 1980s. The duo penned several books that are widely regarded as some of the best “bodice rippers” of all time. After leaving romance writing for many years, she’s back – with a vengeance – and ready to take readers on wild adventures to places that are all too real.

Annie splits her time between her home in Colorado, her son’s home in Virginia and her daughter’s home in London. She loves cats, dogs, her children, her grandchildren, and her husband.

Find Annie Online!
Amazon: https://amzn.to/2NTYTUg
BookBub: http://bit.ly/2E8NfjX
Facebook: http://bit.ly/2DImFOq
Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2Nknr3W
Twitter: http://bit.ly/2OuRD0J
Website: https://anniebecker.net

 

Blog Tour + Review: IT HAPPENS (Bear Bottom MC Book 6 ) by USA Today Bestselling Author LANI LYNN VALE!@LaniLynnVale @InkslingerPR

 

 

 

EBOOK-ShitHappens

 

BLURB:

 

Zee + Annmarie and Tan + Jubilee.

Forever. No exceptions.

They were to have the picture-perfect life together. Everything was all planned out.

Jubilee was to marry Eitan and Ezekiel was to marry Annmarie. That’s how it was always supposed to be from the moment that they met. Textbook, right?

Wrong.

Eitan and Annmarie die in a freak accident that never should have happened, leaving the two survivors reeling.

Sixteen years later, Jubilee and Zee can’t even be in the same room with each other before things begin to deteriorate. Too many memories. Too much pain. Not enough forgiveness.

They’re like hellfire and holy water, and neither one of them is willing to admit that they’re wrong.

Then one day things change, and all of a sudden, they’re looking at each other like maybe they aren’t each other’s enemies after all.

AMAZON | AMAZON UK | AMAZON CA |AMAZON AU |

B&N | KOBO | APPLE

 

 

REVIEW:

Another treat from Lani Lynn Vale in the bear bottom MC Series. This is an unusual story in some ways. Jubilee and Zee grew up together as their parents are best friends. Jubilee and Zee really clash and have all their lives. When they are a little older after being hit by lightening and their siblings are killed in the same strike leaving a whole they both still feel in their life.
Still avoiding each other, but both secretly looking out for each other. All is well until one of Zee’s ex enters the bar and being drunk Jubilee kisses Zee and the next morning they wake up in bed together.

That is the start of another amazing relationship which LLV writes so well. One warning this book is HOT, as the sparks flying with this couple singed my hands as I was reading. I am really enjoying this series, which is fast becoming one of favourites. So that’s all I am writing about. The story is told in dual povs, and can be read as standalone.

gold-stargold-stargold-stargold-stargold-star

 

Meet Lani Lynn Vale

Lani Lynn Vale is a USA Today Bestselling Author of over thirty titles. She is married with three children, two dogs, two cats, a donkey, and a couple (a couple also meaning over twenty) chickens.

When she’s not writing, you can find her curled up in her favorite chair reading.

Lani is married with three children and lives in the Great State of Texas.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | BookBub

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Valentine Countdown Blitz: Day 8, ALL THE WRONG PLACES by REBECCA FISHER!

 

 

“I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, the second of four children. Growing up with the influence of a long line of teachers with a passion for classical education, my time was filled with lessons in violin, cello, piano, ballet…and not-so-classical Girl Scouts and softball.
At the age of twelve, I traveled throughout Europe with my Grandmother and aunts, who filled my days with the shared reading of classics such as Jane Eyre and Sherlock Holmes, developing my love of literature early on.
I pursued my love of literature into college, earning a Bachelor’s of English, a Master’s of Education, and I am currently working to complete a Master’s in English.
My first novel, All the Wrong Places, started as a short story for a creative writing course and chronicles many of my experiences living in a mortuary, raising my daughter on my own and discovering my Christian faith.
My years in college writing programs have left me with a varied collection of short stories, plays and poetry covering many personal experiences from teenage rebellion to single-motherhood and spiritual awakening.
While writing and continuing my own education, I taught High School English in an attempt to pass my love of literature and writing on to others, and continue to share that passion with students and other aspiring writers.
I currently spend my days pursuing my creative dreams and reaching out to women to share my experience, strength and hope as a survivor of sexual assault and domestic abuse. 
I reside in Eagle, Idaho with my husband,  and my very large cat. “

 ~ Website ~

Driving aimlessly through the stormy suburbs of San Francisco, Casey Wheeler is fleeing from her abusive and unfaithful husband with her five year old daughter Maddy asleep in the backseat. With nowhere to go and no one to turn to, Casey loses control of her emotions and her car, crashing into a hillside below a mortuary. 
 
Desperately seeking shelter, and more so independence, she finds herself taken in by the mortuary director who apprehensively offers her a job and a place to live. As she stumbles through the ins and outs of her new and morbid surroundings, Casey is forced into a hostile custody battle with her relentless and increasingly violent husband. 
 
In the midst of all the chaos, she finds a new family and even love in the eccentric and protective people of Golden Oaks Funeral Home. But just when she has found all she could hope for, she will have to fight to the death to protect it.

 

This semi-autobiographical story of a single-mother and her journey to self-discovery, independence and a true understanding of love will keep readers captivated and yearning for more.

Snippet:

He was so becoming in his black suit, and I felt a slight and unfamiliar
kind of attraction to him. He had a warm smile spread across his face that made
me feel at home. What an odd feeling. Nobody had taken me in like he had, not
without an expectation of something in return. Would there be an
expectation?
 

 

To view our blog schedule and follow along with this tour visit our Official Event page Part 1 

and Official Event page Part 2 

 

 

 

Book Blitz: HIS HAND IN THE STORM by RITU SETHI! @ritusethiauthor @RABTBookTours

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Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Date Published: Dec 22, 2018
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 A MAN COPES ANY WAY HE CAN AFTER KILLING HIS ONLY SON.
His team believes he’s calm and Zen. His boss finds him obsessive. Suspects think him gorgeous but dangerous. They’re all right.
Chief Inspector Gray James is sculpting the remembered likeness of his small son when he receives the call – a faceless corpse is found hanging by the choppy river, swirls of snow and sand rolling like tumbleweeds.
Montreal glitters: the cobbled streets slippery with ice, and the mighty St. Lawrence jetting eastward past the city. One by one, someone is killing the founders of a booming medical tech startup – propelling Gray into a downward spiral that shatters his hard-earned peace, that risks his very life, that threatens to force him to care and face what he has shunned all along: his hand in the storm.
From the prize-winning author comes a psychological, page-turning mystery with all the elements one needs on a rainy night: a complex murder, a noble yet haunted detective, and an evocative setting to sink into.

EXCERPT:

CHAPTER 1
April 1, 5:30 am
MORE NUMBING PAIN.
At precisely five-thirty am on April the first, Chief Inspector Gray James tucked his cold hands into his pockets, straightened his spine, and looked up.
He breathed out through his nose, warm breath fogging the air as if surging out of a dragon and tried to dispel the mingled hints of flesh, cherry blossoms, and the raw, living scent of the river.
The drumming of his heart resonated deep in his chest – brought on more by intellectual excitement than by any visceral reaction to murder. Because of this, Gray accepted an atavistic personal truth.
He needed this case like he’d needed the one prior, and the one before that. That someone had to die to facilitate this objectionable fix bothered him, but he’d give audience to that later. Much later.
A car backfired on le Chemin Bord Ouest, running east-west along Montreal’s urban beach park. A second later, silence ensued, save the grievous howling of a keen eastwardly wind, and the creak of nylon against wood, back and forth, and back and forth.
Heavy boots tromping through the snow and slush came up from behind. A man approached. Tall, but not as tall as Gray, his cord pants and rumpled tweed conveyed the aura of an absent-minded professor, yet the shrewd eyes – not malicious, but not categorically beneficent either – corrected that impression.
Forensic Pathologist John Seymour looked up at the body hanging from the branch of a grand oak, gave it the eye and said, “Well, I can tell you one thing right off.”
“What’s that?”
“You wouldn’t be caught dead in that suit.”
Gray sighed. “What do you suggest? That I refer the victim to my tailor?” To which Seymour shrugged and got to work.
With every creak of the rope biting into the bough, Gray half-expected the swinging shoes to brush the snow-laden grass; each time the cap-toed oxfords narrowly missed. A grease stain marked the bony protrusion of the left white sock (with a corresponding scuff on the heel – from being dragged?), above which the crumpled brown wool-blend fabric of the pants and ill-fitting jacket rippled in the wind – like the white-tipped surface of the river beyond.
Dawn cast a blue light on the water and snow. A damp cold sank through Gray’s coat and into his bones. Amazing how the usually peaceful beach park took on a menacing air: the St. Lawrence choppier than usual, swirls of sand and snow rolling like tumbleweeds, the sky heavy and low. But a children’s playground lay behind the hanging body, and its red swings, bright yellow slide, and empty wading pool offered a marked contrast to the swaying corpse.
With every flash, Scene of Crime Officers photographed the body and documented what remained: only an exposed skull, framed by sparse hair on top, ears on either side, and a wrinkly neck puckered in a noose. A red silk tie under the hangman’s knot accentuated the complete absence of blood. Blood would have been preferable. The features were stripped to the bone, with eroded teeth set in a perpetual grin as if the skull were enjoying a joke at everyone’s expense.
“White male in his early fifties,” Seymour said. “Well off, by the look of him. Only small bits of tissue left on the cheekbones, lips, and around the eyes. Notice the distinctive gap between the two front teeth.”
That could help with identification.
The custom ringtone on Gray’s cell played “She’s Always a Woman.” Why was she calling him so soon? He stabbed the phone and tucked it back into his cashmere coat pocket before circling the body several times.
“What killed him?” Gray asked.
“The facial trauma preceded the hanging.”
That much was obvious since the rope wasn’t eaten away like the face.
“We can’t know the cause of death until I get him on the slab,” Seymour said. “And before you ask, the time of death is hard to say. Parts of him are already frozen. Maybe four to seven hours ago. I’ll have a better window after I’ve checked the stomach contents and what’s left of the eyes.”
Seymour crouched and felt the victim’s knees and lower legs. “Rigor mortis has set in, probably sped up by the cold.” He rotated the stiff ankles. “Look at these tiny feet. Can’t have been too popular with the ladies.”
Gray closed his eyes and counted to five.
All around, professionals bustled gathering evidence, clearing onlookers and photographing the scene. The park lay sandwiched between the beach and parking lot leading to the main road. On one side, the river flowed eastward in a blue-gray haze, blurring the line between water and sky. On the other, traffic going into downtown Montreal grew heavier by the minute. The road led to his neighborhood, where Victorian and Edwardian homes, bistros, and cafés crunched together for ten hipster-infused blocks.
This park held memories of weekends spent with his wife and son. A lifetime ago. Why did it have to happen here, of all places?
“Did some kind of acid cause the burns, Doctor?”
“Yeah. Parts of the eyes are still there. Almost as if they were left for last. I wonder why.”
Gray could think of a reason but didn’t elaborate.
A gust of wind swung the corpse’s legs sideways, narrowly missing an officer’s head.
“What the hell.” Seymour grabbed the ankles. “The sooner we cut him down, the better.”
Which couldn’t be soon enough. Gray bent down and held the lower legs. He gripped the ankle awkwardly with his right thumb and little finger, the middle three immobile these last three years since the accident, and a snake-like scar running from his palm to his wrist blanched from the cold.
Despite his hanging on tight, the corpse danced in the wind. “Don’t rush on my account, Doctor.”
Finally, attendants cut the victim down and laid him on a stretcher. Seymour hunched over, his blond hair parting in the breeze, revealing a pink, flaky scalp, the grinning corpse powerless to refuse examination.
“Definitely acid,” Seymour said. “Going to be hard for you to trace, since it’s so easy to get. Impure sulphuric acid’s available at any mechanic shop. You find the purer kind in pharmaceuticals.” He flashed a penlight into the facial crevices and probed them with a long, needle-like instrument.
The victim couldn’t feel it, but each stab and scrape made Gray flinch. “Must you do that?”
“Look at these chipped bones,” Seymour said. “Here, next to the supraorbital foramen, and here on the left zygomatic arch. They’re edged off, not dissolved by acid.”
“Torture, right?”
“Could be.”
Gray paced his next six words: “Was he alive for the acid?”
“I’m going to have to brush up on vitriolage. If he were, he’d have breathed it in, and we’d see scarring in the esophagus, nostrils, and lungs.”
Looking around at the flat, deserted beach park, the ropy ebb and flow of the water, Gray said, “He didn’t die here, did he?”
“No. From what I can see, livor mortis indicates he probably died sitting and was strung up later. I’ll let you know after all his clothes are off.” Seymour pushed himself up with his hands, his knees popping like the report of a firearm. “What could the poor bastard have done to deserve this?”
Gray didn’t answer. As someone guilty of the greatest sin of all, he considered himself wholly unqualified to make any such judgment.
His cell played “She’s Always a Woman,” again, and he pulled it out. Images from the previous night played in his mind: her hands flat on the mattress, his palm encircling her belly from behind. And those unexpectedly strong martinis she’d made earlier.
Putting away the phone, he spoke brusquely. “When will you have something ready?”
“Preliminary report probably later today. And I’ll send remnants of the acid for analysis to determine the type and grade.”
As the body was carried to a van and Seymour followed, second-in-command Lieutenant Vivienne Caron approached Gray carrying two cappuccinos from a nearby Italian cafe. Wonderful steam rose from the opened lids, and the dark, nutty aroma drifted forward, the first hint of comfort on this bleak morning.
Her chocolate brown eyes exuded warmth – eyes both direct and shy, their color perfectly matching her short, straight tresses now whipping about in the wind and framing gentle features.
“Chief Inspector.” She addressed him formally, despite their longstanding friendship. The sound of her nearly perfect English was pleasant and familiar, beautifully accented with the musical intonation characteristic of certain Québecois.
Even though she held the coffee before his left hand; he grasped it awkwardly with his right.
“Don’t spill any on that thousand-dollar suit,” she said.
It made him gag. “Why do you always add so much sugar?”
“Because I know that with a juicy case to solve, you’ll be too busy to eat or sleep.”
A moment of silence passed between them, pregnant with history he didn’t want exhumed.
“I have to make sure you’re okay,” she said. “Even if you refuse to… She was my best friend.”
He placed a hand on her shoulder. “You live with Sita’s ghost more than I do. Enough time has passed for me.”
“Maybe. It’s changed you.”
“For the worse?”
Vivienne stilled, her mouth open. “Non. For the better. That’s the problem.”
Her eyes were warm yet partly adversarial. He saw it as the conflicting desire for wanting him to be okay, but not to leave her to grieve alone. She’d once told him the same trauma that had disillusioned her had enlightened him.
“It doesn’t matter what happens,” he whispered.
“Doesn’t matter?” Her voice took on an edge.
“As long as you can control your reactions – it doesn’t matter. Freedom comes from living in grays – no black; no white. No convenient polarities.”
Her eyes pierced his, but he knew, out of respect, she wouldn’t directly say what she thought; that he oscillated between Zen and obsession, contentment and blackness.
She shuffled her feet. “I don’t know how you made that leap, after the tragedy.”
“The worst thing that could ever happen to me has happened. After that, I can either fear everything or nothing – I have nothing left to lose.”
Vivienne didn’t reply.
What right had he to preach when he still experienced unguarded moments which filled his insides with quicksand as that malignant though raced through his mind: what do I do now? How do I fill this day and twenty years of interminable days when everything is for nothing? When this life feels surreal, dissociated as though I’m on a foreign planet with strangers.
Those moments often occurred when he didn’t have a case; they occurred before sleep and drove his nightly obsession.
“Living in Gray?” Vivienne shook her pretty head. “I believe in good and evil.”
“Then where do I fall? Or will you make excuses for me?”
“Non. I won’t make excuses for you. “
Her eyes hooded over; she took a step back. A door slammed between them, again.
“No cell phone, no ID,” she said. “Any footprints or tracks are covered by snow.”
“Let’s have someone check with the occupants of the hospital rooms facing the river.”
Westborough Hospital sat directly across the road. A magnificent feat of engineering, its four glass-walled buildings were connected by skyways. It had taken twenty years of fundraising to build (with its founding director recently fleeing to Nicaragua under allegations of embezzling some of those funds) and took up several square blocks.
Gray forced down the coffee. Already, warmth and caffeine coursed through his system, bringing life to his numb toes tucked inside the slush-soaked loafers. “Did you check with missing persons?”
“Only one recent report matches. Norman Everett of Rosedale Avenue in Upper Westmount. He’s only been gone since last night and reported missing by his step-son, Simon Everett. And of note, Norman’s a doctor at Westborough Hospital.”
Gray’s head shot up. “Missing since last night, and works at this particular hospital? The timing’s perfect. Give me his details. I’ll do the interview myself while you finish up here.”
“D’accord.”
She handed over the number, and he made the call to Norman Everett’s house, reaching the missing man’s wife, Gabrielle.
Before Vivienne could go, a Scene of Crime Officer jumped forward and handed Gray a transparent evidence bag.
“Found this by the tree over there, Chief.”
“How recent?”
“It lay just under the snow. The city cleaned this area recently; hardly any debris around.”
Gray thanked him and looked down at the four by six-inch identity badge, examined the photo, and read the identifying details, gripping it tight enough that his fist blanched. The image blurred for the briefest second before clearing.
Vivienne rubbed her hands together. “What’s wrong?”
He didn’t trust his voice yet. A shoal of uncertainties flooded his chest. The case suddenly became more raw, more urgent, but he’d handle it. He always did. Gray unclenched his jaw and fingers, and handed her the evidence bag.
“The killer?” she asked.
“A witness.”
“Look at that ID. Look what it says. You can’t be sure.”
“Yes, I can.” His tone came out harsher than he’d intended. He could guess her next words, and he’d deserve them. Does anything matter, now? Will you be able to control your reactions? But she didn’t say it. Didn’t point out the one circumstance that sliced his calm with the efficiency of a scalpel. Instead, she met his eyes in a gentle embrace before moving farther up the beach.
Bells sounded from St. Francis, the eighteenth-century cathedral up the road for the Angelus prayer. Quebec had the largest Catholic population in the country, and maybe as a result, the lowest church attendance and marriage rate. But the familiar ringing comforted and smoothed the sharp edges of his morning.
Gray left the cordoned off area, crossed the breadth of the beach park, and headed to the attached parking lot and his car; the black metallic exterior gleamed in the distance.
At one time, the Audi S5 had consumed a substantial chunk of his detective’s salary, but he hadn’t cared. Memories of countless family road trips lay etched within its metal frame.
Still twenty feet away, he pressed the automatic start to warm the engine, just as Seymour summoned him from behind.
The doctor jogged over sporting a wry smile, breath steaming in the cold air, and his long coat flapping. Behind him, the van carrying the body left the parking lot.
“I forgot to ask you earlier – about your next expedition,” Seymour said. “Mind having some company?”
“I failed last time,” Gray said. “Or hadn’t you heard?”
“A fourteen-hundred-kilometer trek to the South Pole, on foot, is hardly a failure.”
“It is if you can’t make the journey back. Anyway–”
A boom drowned out his words. The earth shook, and air blasted towards them, throwing Gray to the ground onto his right shoulder, pain searing up his arm. Chunks of metal and debris flew from the newly obliterated Audi in every direction, denting nearby cars and clanging against the pavement. A puff of smoke shot upward, chasing the flames, leaving the smell of burning rubber and metal hanging in a thick cloud – while cars on the nearby road screeched to a sudden halt. The fire swayed as though alive, angry arms flailing and crackling, spitting sparks in all directions.
“What the hell!” Seymour lay in the snow, his mouth open, his arm up to ward off the scorching heat.
Gray’s car lay mutilated, the black paint graying as it burned. People jumped out of their vehicles to take a look. Vivienne and some officers ran towards him, their feet pounding on the asphalt.
“Someone is damn pissed off at you,” Seymour said, eying his own dented Mercedes. He turned to Gray. “What did you do?”

About the Author


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A MYSTERY; A BEACH; A BEER:  Ritu’s favorite vacation day.
Ritu’s first book, His Hand In the Storm has had nearly 50,000 downloads. It became an AMAZON BESTSELLER  in the Kindle free store and was #1 in all its mystery categories. She needs coffee (her patch for Coca Cola), beaches, and murder mysteries to survive – not necessarily in that order. She won the Colorado Gold Award for the first in the Chief Inspector Gray James Murder Mystery Series, His Hand In the Storm. The book was also a Daphne du Maurier Suspense finalist.
She’s fulfilling her lifelong desire of becoming a mystery writer. Many thanks to all the readers who are making that possible.
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