March 31, 2014

BLOG TOUR: Stroke of Love (The Remingtons #2)


Welcome to my stop on the tour for Stroke of Love, the second book in Melissa Foster's The Remingtons series, organized by AToMR Tours. Read on for my review, and then check out the special offer Melissa Foster is extending to readers during the tour. And, be sure to visit the other stops on the tour!

Stroke of Love (The Remingtons #2), by Melissa Foster
Published March 11, 2014
Publisher:
World Literary Press
Format:
e-book, provided by the author and AToMR Tours
Genre: 
adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble
 

Rating:  3.5 STARS

(From Goodreads)  Kate Parello runs a volunteer program in Belize for Artists for International Aid, where she deals with self-centered artists who use the program as a means to repair their marred reputations. She loves the country, the people, and what AIA stands for, but too many diva volunteers have turned her off to press-seeking celebrities altogether and left her questioning the value of the volunteer program. When she meets incredibly handsome and charming Sage, he stirs emotions she hasn’t felt for ages, even though he represents the things she despises.

Laid-back artist Sage Remington escapes his wealthy lifestyle in the Big Apple for a two-week journey of self-discovery to figure out how a guy who has so much can feel so empty. When he meets ultra-organized Kate, who lives her life the way he’s always dreamed of living his, the attraction is too hot to ignore, but Sage is there to figure out what’s missing in his life, not to find a woman.


Every look, and every late-night chat in the romantic jungle brings them closer together, but Sage can barely think past stripping away Kate’s misconceptions about him. Kate fights him every step of the way—even though she finds it hard to ignore the strikingly handsome, generous-to-a-fault artist who wants to do nothing more than right the wrongs of the world—and love her to the ends of the earth.


I loved the premise of Stroke of Love - that love could be found while working in the trenches of an underdeveloped country. There was a lot to really like about this book. The setting was awesome. The main project was well thought out. The writing was really compelling. And, the main hunky alpha male was pretty damn awesome.

Sage is unfulfilled living the good life in New York. He wants to use his artistic talent to truly help others in need. So, he signs on with a group that sends celebrities to underdeveloped nations for charity work. His group of pretentious publicity seekers goes to Belize to work under the watchful eye of Kate Parello who has become jaded over the years. Sage and Kate hit it off, and both manage to re-work the others' idea of what they want out of life.

The best part about Stroke of Love is the fact that nearly all of it takes place in a remote village in Belize. I loved the infusion of local culture. There was a lot of talk about local foods, beverages, language and people, which was really fun and refreshing.

The base camp area for the charity work almost seemed set up like what I remember camp was like as a teen with cabins for the participants and a main mess hall for socializing and meals. It was cool hearing about the set up and how the camp worked.

Sage is an artist - like, a painter/sculpture artist. He's amazingly talented and wildly successful. He's a millionaire many, many times over because of it. He goes to Belize because he doesn't want to just write a check to a charity. He wants to get his hands dirty and really DO something. He's gorgeous, artistic, filthy rich, a humanitarian, kind, generous, romantic. He's perfect.

Way. Too. Perfect.

Sage's only flaw is that he sometimes gets too involved in his art and loses track of time, therefore blowing off appointments and dates and such. This guy does not exist in real life. As described, he would wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed at the butt crack of dawn and create a masterpiece before breakfast. Next, he would rescue a kitten from a tree, visit a nursing home, take his girlfriend to an expensive restaurant, then have amazing sex with her all night long.

On top of that, Sage appears to come from a perfect family. He has four brothers and one sister. His brothers include a brilliant engineer, a published author, an Olympian, the owner of a successful software company and his sister is a highly-sought after model. His mother is also an accomplished artist, and his father is a 5-star general. Seriously. There is not one unsuccessful, disingenuous, unattractive member of this family. No black sheep to speak of. Everyone gets along and is highly supportive of one another. Again - a family like this is a mythical creature. I had a really hard time reconciling Sage and his family with what is reality, and that made the book as a whole a lot less impactful for me.

Kate was raised by veteran Peace Corp volunteers, and she lives to work with the less fortunate. She hates having to deal with the fake celebrities who only come to better their image and not themselves. She pigeon-holes Sage from the beginning, and that was my favorite part of their relationship. She wasn't so nice to him and thought the worse, and Sage had to work hard to turn her opinion of him around.

I did like Sage's ways to win Kate over to his side. I liked that he loved children and wanted to work with them to paint a mural on the side of the school. But, for heaven's sake, this man needs a fatal flaw! Couldn't he have been even a little bit of a jerk? Or even have a little BO or something? Anything? I also liked that Stroke of Love was told in dual POV. I liked being in on Kate's insecurities regarding her job and her relationship with Sage. I even loved hearing Sage's perfect thoughts.

I loved the ideas presented in Stroke of Love. I loved the setting and the relationships that formed. I just really, really wanted some more drama. Things seemed to come too easy to these perfect people, and it didn't seem quite real. In any case, I really want to visit Belize now.

About the Author

Melissa Foster is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling and award-winning author. She writes contemporary romance, new adult, contemporary women's fiction, suspense, and historical fiction with emotionally compelling characters that stay with you long after you turn the last page. Her books have been recommended by USA Today's book blog, Hagerstown Magazine, The Patriot, and several other print venues. She is the founder of the Women’s Nest, a social and support community for women, and the World Literary Café. When she's not writing, Melissa helps authors navigate the publishing industry through her author training programs on  Fostering Success. Melissa has been published in Calgary’s Child Magazine, the Huffington Post, and Women Business Owners magazine.

Melissa enjoys discussing her books with book clubs and reader groups, and welcomes an invitation to your event.

Learn more about Melissa --> Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads


Special Offer

During this tour, Melissa Foster is offering two of her books FREE!


Lovers at Heart - Amazon or Barnes & Noble

Sister in Love - Amazon or Barnes & Noble

March 28, 2014

ALL OF COURT'S MEN: Gabriel


It's time for our weekly peek at Courtney Cole's delicious men! In this week's installment of All of Court's Men, we're taking a look at my favorite member of the Court. This week, I bring you... Gabe.

Gabriel


Excerpt
     It’s chilly outside, but he’s not wearing a jacket, only a snug black t-shirt and a pair of perfectly fitting jeans. There isn’t a trace of fat on him.  He’s lean and muscled, with short darkish hair.  From the side, his features are chiseled and from what I can tell, he’s got just the barest hint of stubble along his strong jaw.  That’s an instant turn on for me. It seems so rugged.
     And this guy… he definitely seems rugged.  Everything about him screams strength and power.   That’s an instant turn on for me, too.   I decide that this is what intrigues me.  He’s like power personified.  He holds himself with purpose. 
     As I watch, he lights up a cigarette and takes a drag, releasing the smoke out slowly into the night.   His lips are full and masculine and he’s got a cleft in his chin.  He’s undeniably sexy.  Normally, I would stay far away from someone like him, someone sinfully sexy but so… forceful.  A guy like that is trouble.  That’s for sure. 
     But I didn’t come to the club tonight to run away.
     I came here to hook up.  To blow off my responsibilities and be reckless for a night.  To act my age.  To be someone I’m not. 
     I eye the guy again. 
     Normally, I would run away from him.
     But maybe…just tonight…I won’t.
     I don’t have to be me tonight.  I can be anyone I want to be because he’ll never see me again.
     Just for tonight.
    I hesitate, trying to decide what to do. 
     Then, almost as though my feet have a mind of their own, I take a step toward him.  And then another. 

My Review

If You Leave (Beautifully Broken #2), by Courtney Cole
Published August 6, 2013
Publisher:  Forever
Format: e-ARC, provided by NetGalley
Genre:  new adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating:  5 STARS

(From Goodreads) 26-year old Gabriel Vincent is a badass hero. Or he used to be, anyway. As an ex-Army Ranger, Gabe never thought he needed anyone. But after one horrible night in Afghanistan scars him in a way that he can't get past, he needs someone who can help him heal...even if he doesn't realize it.

25-year old Madison Hill doesn't need anybody...or so she thinks. She grew up watching her parents' messed-up abusive relationship and she knows there's no way in hell that she's ever letting that happen to her.

They don't know it in the beginning, but Gabriel and Madison will soon develop a weakness: Each other.

But Gabriel's got a secret, a hidden monster that he's afraid Maddy could never overcome... And Maddy's got issues that she's afraid Gabe will never understand. They quickly realize that they need each other to be whole, but at the same time they know that they've got demons to fight.

And the problem with demons is that they never die quietly.


Courtney Cole is on my map. I've only read two books by her, but both books in the Beautifully Broken series have gripped me in a unique way. Both are new adult books, and therefore include certain standards - 20-something main characters, troubled pasts, steam and sex. But, there's something about her books that draw me in and touch me in crazy ways. 

Madison has always been the "responsible" older sister. When her parents died, she resigned herself to living a mediocre life so that her younger sister Mila could have a full one. Now, Mila is married with a baby on the way, yet Madison still can't cut the past loose. A chance meeting with Gabriel at a club one night, then again at her restaurant has given her something else to think about. And then someone else to lean on when the rest of her world starts falling apart. Only, Gabe has his own problems - big ones - left over from his time in Afghanistan. And those problems may stop their relationship before it really gets going. 

I have a new weakness - books featuring war heroes. I've read three or four now, and If You Leave was one of the best. Gabe spent time in Afghanistan and experienced something truly awful. As a result, he's suffering from some pretty extreme PTSD. There's something about these sad, broken men who find themselves again once they find someone to love that really gets me. Gabriel has a hyped up protective instinct that is my achilles heel - I see that come out in a guy, and I'm instantly in love. BAM - hello, new book boyfriend. 

Gabe is rough around the edges - he spent much of his time recently around a bunch of other guys in the desert, for crying out loud. He's not smooth or sweet. But, when the guy realizes what he feels for Madison, he goes balls to the wall to try and keep her.

"It's like I'm not whole when I'm not with you. You're a piece of me. A big piece of me. And, when you're gone, I can't function right. I'm only half a person... I don't deserve you. That much is true. But, all I want is you. And if I can't have you, then I don't want anyone." 
Madison is a female lead I can get behind. I get her self-sacrificing attitude, and the way Cole writes her, it doesn't seem artificial or over-the-top. Madison is a strong person who doesn't take any crap from anyone. She's learned to depend on herself and her sister. And, I love how Gabe is the one who cracks her hard shell. She doesn't really make it easy for him, either. There's no insta-love here (thank you for that, Ms. Cole). Which makes the inevitable get-together so much sweeter and fulfilling. 

One of the best parts is the solid presence of Mila and Pax from If You Stay. They play a major part in Madison's and Gabe's story, and I really loved that. I fell in love with Pax, and seeing him as a husband and father-to-be was so amazing. 

If You Leave is told in dual POV - Madison's and Gabe's. Gabe's thoughts were particularly compelling, especially toward the end when he starts to face everything that happened to him. I finished this book in record time. It was completely engrossing and so, so emotional. I was brought to tears several times.

Before We Fall (Beautifully Broken #3) is the next book in this series, and it comes out in early December. Based on my experiences with Courtney Cole and her Beautifully Broken series so far, I may just have to one-click book three right now, because it's a sure thing as far as I'm concerned.

About the Author


Courtney Cole is a novelist who would eat mythology for breakfast if she could. She has a degree in Business, but has since discovered that corporate America is not nearly as fun to live in as fictional worlds. She loves chocolate and roller coasters and hates waiting and rude people.
 

Courtney lives in quiet suburbia, close to Lake Michigan, with her real-life Prince Charming, her ornery kids (there is a small chance that they get their orneriness from their mother) and a small domestic zoo.

Learn more about Courtney --> Website / Facebook / Twitter
 

March 27, 2014

REVIEW: Unholy Magic (Downside Ghosts #2)

Unholy Magic (Downside Ghosts #2), by Stacia Kane
Published July 6, 2010
Publisher:
Del Rey
Format:
audiobook, purchased
Genre: 
adult urban fantasy
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble
 

Rating:  5 STARS

(From Goodreads)
For Chess Putnam, finding herself near-fatally poisoned by a con psychic and then stopping a murderous ghost is just another day on the job. As an agent of the Church of Real Truth, Chess must expose those looking to profit from the world’s unpleasant little poltergeist problem humans filing false claims of haunting's all while staving off any undead who really are looking for a kill. But Chess has been extra busy these days, coping with a new “celebrity” assignment while trying on her own time to help some desperate prostitutes.

Someone’s taking out the hookers of Downside in the most gruesome way, and Chess is sure the rumors that it’s the work of a ghost are way off base. But proving herself right means walking in the path of a maniac, not to mention standing between the two men in her life just as they along with their ruthless employers are moving closer to a catastrophic showdown. Someone is dealing in murder, sex, and the supernatural, and once again Chess finds herself right in the crossfire.


OMG. This series. I really enjoyed the first book, Unholy Ghosts. More than I thought I would. But, it was the second book, Unholy Magic, that solidified me as a certified fangirl of the Downside Ghosts series. The beyond complicated relationship between Chess and Terrible laced together with an incredibly weird and twisted mystery made for a book that was completely unresistable.

Prostitutes are being mutilated, and Bump has Chess and Terrible looking into it. Meanwhile, Chess is looking into a supposed haunting at a famous actor's house. Only, things start going wrong at every turn. The prostitutes keep dying, the house really might be haunted by the spirit of a murderous ghost, and Chess' time of burning candles at both ends when it comes to Lex and Terrible is about to blow up in her face.

Chess continues to be an enigmatic heroine. Her drug use doesn't appear to be tapering off. In fact, if anything, it seems to be getting worse. Her success at solving complicated and dangerous jobs has sent more high-profile - and high-stress - cases her way. She is falling more and more in love with Terrible, which scares the poo out of her. And Lex is giving her free pills. All of which serve as evidence that her pill-popping is not going to stop anytime soon. 

Chess is a study of the imperfect heroine. It seems that, in books, heroes and heroines are very "good." They're strong, confident, beautiful, intelligent and well-liked. They sometimes make bad choices, but things always have a way of working out in the end. Chess is like the anti-heroine. Although intelligent and pretty, Chess is not strong or confident or well-liked. She hates herself and where she comes from. She suffered horrible abuse as a child which seriously messed with her head. She doesn't think she's capable of love or being loved. She second guesses all her choices and she usually takes the easy way out in order to not face the truth, especially if she thinks the truth will be particularly hard to face. 

Chess has cornered the market on making mistakes. Particularly when it comes to the men in her life. Whenever she starts having real feelings for Terrible, she runs right into the arms of Lex because he is safe and she feels nothing for him. It's a temporary balm, but all of it comes crashing down around her and she eventually has to face up to all of her actions and feelings. 

The mysteries in Unholy Magic are seriously messed up. I've got two words for you - GHOST WHORES. Seriously - if those two words don't make you want to run right out and read this book right now, I don't know what will. It's an intricate plot with lots of twists and turns, many of which I didn't see coming from a mile away. It was awesome! Although dark and twisted, I thoroughly enjoyed trying to figure out who did what and how the two separate cases were tied together as they seem to be in this series. 

Terrible is just the most awesome guy ever. He's scary and formidable and uneducated. He's scarred and unattractive by most people's standards. Yet, it's so easy to see that he cares deeply and fiercely for the people he considers important. We learn more about him and his past and it just goes further toward proving this fact. 

Once again, I listened to the audio version, and once again I'm so glad I did. Narrator Bahni Turpi does an amazing job with the Downside lingo. I enjoy her interpretation of the books so much, I intend to continue with the books in the series in their audio format. I enjoy them so much - I can't wait to get in my car every day to go to work. 

March 25, 2014

COVER REVEAL: Make it a Double (Last Call #2)

Earlier this month I reviewed the first book in Sawyer Bennett's new Last Call series, On The Rocks. It was FANTASTIC. In it, Brody was introduced as a really tragic figure. He's the subject on the next Last Call book, MAKE IT A DOUBLE. And, today, I have the cover reveal for you. You ready?


Make it a Double (Last Call #2), by Sawyer Bennett
To Be Published March 31, 2014
Publisher:
Big Dog Books
Genre: 
new adult contemporary romance

(From Goodreads)
Brody Markham has endured a nightmare, spending the last five years in prison and losing everything that was dear to him. Now he’s back home, trying to survive in a world he doesn’t recognize anymore. While his family and friends desperately try to reach through to him, he shelters himself further and further away from their love.

Alyssa Myers has worked her entire life to distance herself from the luxurious and privileged lifestyle in which she was raised. Running her non-profit agency, The Haven, she is content to spend her days helping abused animals find sanctuary, which fulfills her in a way that money just can’t buy.

Maybe it’s that she recognizes in Brody some of the same characteristics she sees in her homeless wards, but Alyssa is powerless to stop her personal quest to make Brody whole again.

While Brody struggles to surface from the darkness, Alyssa tries to protect her heart in case he’s not willing to accept the light that she offers him.



Are you as excited as I am about this book?? 

About the Author


USA Today Best-Selling author, Sawyer Bennett, is a snarky southern woman and reformed trial lawyer who decided to finally start putting on paper all of the stories that were floating in her head. She is married to a mobster (well, a market researcher) and they have two big, furry dogs who hog the bed. Sawyer would like to report she doesn’t have many weaknesses but can be bribed with a nominal amount of milk chocolate.

Learn more about Sawyer Bennett --> Website | Facebook | Twitter

March 24, 2014

NEW ADULT MONDAY: Out of the Shallows (Into the Deep #2)


The New Adult genre - their bad boys and big problems and epic loves make them engrossing tales that are so easy to lose yourself in. What's not to love about that? And, now, thanks to the cool chicks at Bewitched Bookworms, we can show these books the love they deserve in a weekly feature - New Adult Mondays.

Out of the Shallows (Into the Deep #2), by Samantha Young
To Be Published April 15, 2014
Publisher:
self-published
Format:
e-ARC, provided by the author
Genre: 
new adult contemporary romance

Rating:  4 STARS

(From Goodreads)
LIVE YOUNG. LIVE HARD. LOVE DEEP.
 

Charley and Jake’s story concludes in Out of the Shallows…

Somehow, after everything they’ve been through, Jake Caplin and Charley Redford made their way back to one another. But finding each other and staying together are two completely different things.

When Charley’s world is flipped upside down, she begins to question the choices and decisions she’s made since her arrival in Edinburgh, and in an effort to grip onto what she holds most dear she believes she must sacrifice her love for Jake.

Returning to the States for her senior year, Charley struggles to find peace and happiness. While everyone else seems to be finding themselves in college, Charley is terrified that, along with almost everything else that’s important to her, she’s lost herself.

While friends and family deal with their own tumultuous lives, there is one person resolved to uncover the reason behind Charley’s sudden defection and unhappiness. Refusing to give up without a fight, Jake believes he is the only one who can truly understand what Charley is going through, and this time he’s determined to prove he’s there for her no matter what obstacles are thrown in their way.

However, as Charley strives to make it through the biggest personal journey of her life thus far, there is no guarantee that the woman she is becoming will still need Jake as much as the girl she once was did...

 

Out of the Shallows made my heart hurt. Jake and Charley's story began in Into the Deep, and it was a tumultuous story to say the least. They had an intense connection and a crazy powerful love when they were teens. Then, a tragic accident tore them apart. Four years later, they reunite unexpectedly at college, except Jake has a girlfriend and Charley's never gotten over him. Their history can't be denied, though, and finally, they find their way back to one another. You'd think that would be the end of their story. Their happily ever after, so to speak. You would be wrong. 

"... you against my fallow heart. There'll be no sympathy from me, my friend. I lost you out in the shallows..."
My loyalties have flip flopped. In Into the Deep, I was totally Team Charley. Jake was a jerk to her when they were teenagers. He dumped her, left her and stopped talking to her. She's trying to move on when he shows back up - with a girlfriend, no less - and starts messing with her head. Although I was, of course, rooting for them to get back together, I really wanted her to make him suffer a bit for being such a jerk. 

Suffer he did, so their reunion was hard won and well deserved. However, their happiness didn't last long. Soon, Charley's family, who had very long memories when it came to Jake and the pain he caused Charley after leaving her the first time, starts voicing their issues with Charley and Jake getting back together, and Charley thinks she has to make a choice between her family and Jake. At first Charley chooses Jake, which causes a major rift in her family. After a major event, Charley changes her tune and chooses her family over Jake, which causes her to lose the man she loves more than any other, only this time by HER actions, not his. 

Go Team Jake. I spent much of Out of the Shallows feeling intensely frustrated. Nearly every character spends 95% of the book completely miserable. Charley and Jake are apart, but neither wants to be. Beck is still denying his feelings for Claudia, causing both of them to be upset nearly all the time. Charley's parents are mad about her career and boyfriend choices. Charley's sister won't speak to her because she's back together with Jake. And I wanted to shake all of them and tell them to focus on what's important!

Charley seems to think she needs to choose between her family or Jake. Granted they don't like him because of how he treated her. But, they won't listen to reason. The thing is, Charley shouldn't have to split her loyalties. No one should ask her to do that. Her parents, although they mean well, treat her horribly. They make her feel guilty for wanting to work in a dangerous profession, and then play upon that guilt to get her to do what they want. Even worse, they know full well what they are doing, and are okay with it. 

The strong, snarky Charley from Into the Deep was missing. She was replaced with someone indecisive, whiny and cruel. I didn't like the Charley of Out of the Shallows very much at all. It took a lot of council from her friends (most of which seemed to fall on deaf ears) before Charley decided to take action, but once she does, it was like coming home. To see my confident, Supergirl Charley back was awesome.

Jack was completely amazing in Out of the Shallows. Despite being hurt and upset, he seems to have learned his lesson from the first time around. He talks to her about how he feels (seriously - who IS this guy and why aren't there more like him out there?!), he gives her space when she needs it, and most importantly, he never gives up on her.

There was also the story within the story - the continuing saga of Beck and Claudia. In Out of the Shallows, we see something awful happen to both of them, and we see how the other helped. But, it became apparent in Into the Deep that Beck has some serious commitment issues. It was also clear that he loves Claudia very much. Watching the change in Beck was pretty cool. 

We see all the awesome side characters from Into the Deep, including my favorite - Lowe. I'm really hoping Samantha Young will write about him next. He still seemed to care a whole lot about Charley in Out of the Shallows, and I'd love to see him get his happily ever after. 

Out of the Shallows was intense and emotional. It was hard to read at times, but the ending was pretty amazing. It made all the stress and angst worth it.   

March 21, 2014

All of Court's Men: Alex


It's time for our weekly peek at Courtney Cole's delicious men! In this week's installment of All of Court's Men, we're taking a look at Alex from Courtney's Confessions of an Alli Cat. Say hello to Alex...

Alex


Excerpt

     “You look marvelous!” Sara says when I round the corner into the bedroom.
     “I feel ridiculous.”
     “Why?  We are simply two wealthy women with trophy boy toys out for a night on the town at one of Vegas’s most luxurious night spots.  Nothing to feel ridiculous about.”
     “I’m dressed like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, only without the body for it,” I say, indicating my short, tight dress.  “How did I let you talk me into buying this?”
     “Well, I thought it might help things with Rick the Dick many moons ago, but this is an even better use.  Besides, you look mouthwatering.”  
     Standing up, she walks to me.  She trails the fingertips of one hand down my cheek.  

     "A beautiful face,” she says, dragging her hands down to palm my boobs next.  She gives them a squeeze.  “Delicious rack,” she declares then grabs my waist and spins me around.  “And a perfect ass,” she exclaims, slapping my butt.  “You are gorgeous and any man in his right mind would give his left nut to lick you from head to toe and everywhere in between.”
     “I think you secretly have the hots for me,” I laugh.  “Maybe I should be going out with you instead.”
     “Oh, you flatter!  If either of us swung that way, we’d be perfect together.  But, alas, I’m a sausage lover, as are you.  No tacos for us.”
     I can’t help but laugh.  “Have you always been this way and I’m just now noticing?”
     “Yes.  You’ve been preoccupied for a few years.”
     “I’m beginning to really love this new you.  Even if she shocks me regularly and gets me into trouble more often than not.”
     “You love it and you know it.  I add much-needed excitement to your life,” Sara claims, walking to the mirror to touch up her lipstick.
     “Did I tell you I love that hair style on you, too?”  I ask, referring to her dark red pixie cut.  She totally has the face to pull it off.
     “Keep going like that and I’m yours.”
     We both laugh. 
     “Well, I guess I’m ready.”  I add under my breath, “At least as ready as I’ll ever be.”
     “Then it’s time to go.”
     My stomach flutters in dread and anxiety and, yes, a little bit of excitement.  I take a deep breath and smile at Sara.  She loops her arms through mine and grins. 
     “Welcome to the first night of the rest of your life.”
     We make our way outside and down the walk to the curb, to the shiny black limousine waiting there.  The ride is only twenty minutes or so, during which I drink champagne in the back of the limo at a rate of speed that would make a sailor proud.
     When we glide to a stop at the club, I follow Sara out of the car. 
     And the man waiting for me nearly takes my breath away.
     He’s taller than I imagined and much broader than I expected.  His shoulders look a mile wide in his perfectly-tailored tuxedo, making his waist look smaller than mine.  His hair is dark brown and his eyes are the same dark, sparkling blue as they are in his picture.
     He’s young, all right.  But there is nothing boyish about this guy.  Not at all.
     As I step from the car, he extends his hand toward me.  I slip my fingers into his and he smiles.  I’m pretty sure my knees go numb and my uterus has a spasm.  But it’s when he speaks that I know it’s all over but the shouting. And the Hallelujah choir. 
     “You’re more beautiful than I could’ve imagined,” he purrs in a deep, velvety voice.
     Yep, I’m gonna ride him like a runaway bull tonight. No two ways about it.
     The thought makes me smile.

Confessions of an Alli Cat (The Couger Chronicles #1), by Courtney Cole
Published October 23, 2012
Publisher:
Lakehouse Press
Genre: 
Adult Contemporary Romance
To Buy: Amazon

(Synopsis)
Thirty-five year-old Allison “Alli” Lancaster has it all—a fabulous job, a beautiful 15 year-old daughter, a hilarious BFF and a gorgeous house with a pool and Jacuzzi in an exclusive Las Vegas neighborhood. What she doesn’t have is a husband, because she kicked her lousy, cheating ex to the curb nine months ago. Since then, Alli has paid her dues with seemingly endless self-improvement and seemingly endless mourning. Now she’s ready to move on and try new things.

Alli’s idea of “trying new things” is nothing like that devil-of-a-best-friend of hers. Somehow, Sara, the devil of a best friend, talks Alli into trying out a sex toy, sleeping with a younger man and letting a stranger in a lab jacket put hot wax on a place that should never, ever, ever see wax. And that’s only the beginning.

Alli never saw her life going quite like this. She also never thought she’d meet someone else who had the very real potential to change her life forever.

But she did.

Enter the new guy. He’s gorgeous, refined and mature. He’s also marriage material. But that poses a problem for Alli, who renounced the institution of marriage when she renounced her ex. What’s a girl to do?

They say that what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. But what the heck happens when you can’t leave Vegas? Well, you spin the wheel, of course. You play the game and let the chips fall where they may.

Alli just hopes she can find them all. 


About the Author


Courtney Cole is a novelist who would eat mythology for breakfast if she could. She has a degree in Business, but has since discovered that corporate America is not nearly as fun to live in as fictional worlds. She loves chocolate and roller coasters and hates waiting and rude people.
 

Courtney lives in quiet suburbia, close to Lake Michigan, with her real-life Prince Charming, her ornery kids (there is a small chance that they get their orneriness from their mother) and a small domestic zoo.

Learn more about Courtney --> Website / Facebook / Twitter
 

March 20, 2014

REVIEW: Unholy Ghosts (Downside Ghosts #1)

Unholy Ghosts (Downside Ghosts #1), by Stacia Kane
Published May 25, 2010
Publisher:
Del Rey
Format:
audiobook, purchased
Genre: 
adult urban fantasty
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating:  4 STARS

(From Goodreads)
THE DEPARTED HAVE ARRIVED.

The world is not the way it was. The dead have risen, and the living are under attack. The powerful Church of Real Truth, in charge since the government fell, has sworn to reimburse citizens being harassed by the deceased. Enter Chess Putnam, a fully tattooed witch and freewheeling ghost hunter. She’s got a real talent for banishing the wicked dead. But Chess is keeping a dark secret: She owes a lot of money to a murderous drug lord named Bump, who wants immediate payback in the form of a dangerous job that involves black magic, human sacrifice, a nefarious demonic creature, and enough wicked energy to wipe out a city of souls. Toss in lust for a rival gang leader and a dangerous attraction to Bump’s ruthless enforcer, and Chess begins to wonder if the rush is really worth it. Hell, yeah.


Unholy Ghosts is most definitely a book outside of my comfort zone. Like, WAY outside. Urban fantasy, although definitely growing on my list of must-read genres, has always been hit or miss for me. In addition, the world includes a "church" that rules everyone's lives. And, our main character? She's a drug addict. 

Chess Putnam had an awful life before The Church of Real Truth rescued and educated her. She now works for the church as a debunker - a witch who has a penchant for banishing murderous ghosts. The damage her early life inflicted on her is dampened only by drugs, so Chess also has to answer to drug lord Bump and his enforcer Terrible. Soon, her loyalties are tested as she does a job for the Church as well as a job for Bump, and it seems that they might be related. 

No, Unholy Ghosts is definitely not something I would normally make time to read. My book bestie Jen suggested we start to listen to it on a drive to a book signing, though, and I had heard some stories about how awesome Terrible was, so I was a tiny bit curious. Although it took me a few chapters to get into it - world building always seems to take so much longer with urban fantasy - once I did, I was shocked to find myself hooked. 

Chess is the most damaged heroine I've ever encountered. She had such an awful childhood, the likes of which only scratched the surface in Unholy Ghosts. I'm honestly surprised she's as functional as she is. But, honestly, she's more than functional. Chess is incredibly smart and intuitive. Despite her need for her pills and the fact that she owes a drug lord a crap ton of money she doesn't have, she is really good at her job. She doesn't always make smart decisions - hell, she makes really, really bad choices quite often in fact. But, I think she's inherently a good person who is trying to deal with a lot of baggage and self-loathing.

Terrible is an awesome hero because he's completely unexpected. He's not gorgeous. Or rich. Or well-spoken. He's a drug lord's muscle. He has poor fashion sense (but, a really cool car). And I fell completely in love with him. Terrible is a little bit damaged as well, and it's obvious he cares a lot for Chess. He's kind of adorable, really. Chess is oblivious to his attraction for most of the book even if the reader isn't. This was the cause of a ton of frustration on my part. 

The world in which these characters live is incredible. Ghosts stormed the world in 1997 and killed half the population before people with magic beat them back and imprisoned them in The City. The people with magic became The Church of Real Truth, and the set about effectively eliminating all of the world's organized religions and set themselves up as the law. Now, The Church runs everything everywhere. They employ the most powerful people to round up any straggling ghosts and return them to The City. Chess is one of those people, and she lives in Downside, which is like the slums of Triumph City. Drugs, prostitution, and crime of the worst kinds happens daily. Stacia Kane did an amazing job setting up this world and introducing it to the reader a bit at a time so as not to be too confusing. 

The mysteries that Chess was asked to solve were complex and interesting. I couldn't wait to find out who the mastermind was and how Chess would thwart him or her. The crimes and the methods of detection were really graphic and gruesome at times, but in the context of the story, they fit in perfectly. Chess' and Terrible's relationship is sweet and fun to read about. Well, listen to, in my case. I'm very glad I listened to the audio version of this book. The Downside lingo would be rather hard to understand if I had to read it, and I thought the narrator did a fantastic job with it. I was so taken with this series, I immediately moved on to the second book. I can't wait to see what's in store for Chess and Terrible next.    

March 19, 2014

REVIEW: Alice in Zombieland (The White Rabbit Chronicles #1)

Alice in Zombieland (The White Rabbit Chronicles #1), by Gena Showalter
Published September 25, 2012
Publisher:
HarlequinTeen
Format:
hardback, borrowed from a friend
Genre: 
young adult paranormal
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating:  5 STARS

(From Goodreads)
Had anyone told Alice Bell that her entire life would change course between one heartbeat and the next, she would have laughed. From blissful to tragic, innocent to ruined? Please. But that’s all it took. One heartbeat. A blink, a breath, a second, and everything she knew and loved was gone.

Her father was right. The monsters are real….

To avenge her family, Ali must learn to fight the undead. To survive, she must learn to trust the baddest of the bad boys, Cole Holland. But Cole has secrets of his own, and if Ali isn’t careful, those secrets might just prove to be more dangerous than the zombies….


I've made no bones about the fact that zombies and horror are not really my bag. Hence, my reticence with starting Alice in Zombieland, despite all the wonderful things I had heard about it. I mean, it's about zombies, and zombies = bad. Right?

Wrong.

Alice's dad is nuts. He sees monsters. As a result, he has sheltered Alice and her younger sister in order to protect them. And then, after an awful car accident that kills everyone in her family but Alice, she finally sees the monsters too. She moves in with her grandparents, switches school, and finds out that there are others out there who see them too. Including the dashing and dangerous Cole. Soon, Alice is recruited into Cole's band of zombie slayers. And, there's got to be a reason that the zombies seem to be going after Alice, right?

What an amazing and creative take on zombies! This book took me completely by surprise. Who knew I'd be giving 5 stars to a "zombie book?!" 

In Alice in Zombieland, not everyone can see the zombies. Only those with a special ability to separate their spirit from their body can see them. And, the zombies only exist on the spiritual plane. But, they can still kill people. They don't eat brains, or even flesh, really. They're after your spirit. Those that can fight the zombies can split their spirits from their bodies in order to take them on. They can ash them with their hands. 

Alice is such an amazing heroine. She's only 16, but acts so much older than that. Her family is dead, she has this new, scary ability, she sees monsters on a nearly daily basis - if it were me, I'd be sitting in a corner rocking and crying like a baby. Alice sets out to get answers. And, when she discovers a powerful connection with her new school's resident bad boy, she knows where to get them. 

Speaking of the bad boy, Cole is perfection. He's misunderstood, scary, and an all-around good guy shielded by tats and piercings. And, he has many of the answers to Alice's questions. It turns out they work well together - in more ways than one. Their connection is intriguing and sexy and exciting. When they look at each other for the first time each day, they get a glimpse of the future. Sometimes that vision is good. Sometimes, not so much. Cole and his violet eyes are absolutely captivating. 

I love Gena Showalter's writing. It's sharp and witty. Alice and Cole's banter and snark back and forth was brilliant. And, the things that have sprouted from her imagination amaze me. 

There is, of course, a larger story - a bigger plot that will carry through the series. A corporation set on experimenting on the zombies and trying to use them as weapons is trying to thwart the slayers' efforts. And, there's also a reason why the zombies are hunting Alice and why her powers are so much stronger than everyone else's. I can't wait to find out what those reasons are. I can't wait to read more about Alice kicking serious zombie ass. And I definitely can't wait for more Cole.

March 18, 2014

RELEASE ANNOUNCEMENT: In Her Wake (Ten Tiny Breaths #0.5)

Fans of K.A. Tucker's Ten Tiny Breaths, I have a SUPER exciting announcement! 

On September 1, 2014, Atria is releasing a prequel novella to Ten Tiny Breaths that tells the story from Trent's point of view! It's called IN HER WAKE, and I cannot wait one more breath to read it! Want to see the amazing cover?

 In Her Wake  

About IN HER WAKE: Cole Reynolds had it all. And then one night he makes a bad choice... and loses everything.

When a drunken night out at a Michigan State college party results in the death of six people, Cole must come to terms with his part in the tragedy. Normally, he'd be able to lean on his best friends. The best friends that have been in his life since he could barely walk. Only, they're gone. Worse, there's the shattered body of a sixteen-year-old girl lying somewhere in a hospital bed, her entire life ripped from her because of a case of beer and a set of keys.

Everyone assures him that they know it wasn't intentional and yet he can't ignore the weight of their gazes, the whispers behind his back. The all-consuming guilt he feels every time he thinks of that girl who won't so much as allow him near her hospital room to apologize. As the months go by and the shame and loneliness festers, Cole begins to lose his grip of what once was important-college, his girlfriend, his future. His life. It's not until Cole hits rock-bottom that he can begin to see another way out of his personal hell: forgiveness.

And there's only one person who can give that to him...  

Are you as excited about this as I am?? And...this is going to be available at the great price of $.99!!


Four Secondsto LoseAnd while you're at it, pre-order the gorgeous paperback of FOUR SECONDS TO LOSE, hitting bookstores on 4/1!


About FOUR SECONDS TO LOSE: Owning a strip club isn’t the fantasy most guys expect it to be. With long hours, a staff with enough issues to keep a psych ward in business, and the police regularly on his case, twenty-nine year old Cain is starting to second guess his unspoken mission to save the women he employs. And then blond, brown-eyed Charlie Rourke walks through his door, and things get really complicated. Cain abides by a strict “no sleeping with the staff” rule. But being around Charlie challenges Cain’s self-control…and it’s been a long time since any woman has done that.

Twenty-two-year old Charlie Rourke needs a lot of money, really fast, in order to vanish before it’s too late. Taking her clothes off for men makes her stomach curl but Charlie tells herself that at least she’s putting her acting anddancing skills to good use. And though her fellow dancers seem eager to nab their sexy, sophisticated, and genuinely caring boss, she’s not interested. After all, Charlie Rourke doesn’t really exist—and the girl pretending to be her doesn’t need to complicate her life with romance.

Unfortunately, Charlie soon discovers that developing feelings for Cain is inevitable, that those feelings may not be unrequited—but losing him when he finds out what she’s involved with will be more painful than any other sentence awaiting her.    

About the Author
 
Author Photo Born in small-town Ontario, Kathleen published her first book at the age of six with the help of her elementary school librarian and a box of crayons. She is a voracious reader and the farthest thing from a genre-snob, loving everything from High Fantasy to Chick Lit. Kathleen currently resides in a quaint small town outside of Toronto with her husband, two beautiful girls, and an exhausting brood of four-legged creatures.  

Learn more about K.A. Tucker --> Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads

REVIEW: Maybe Someday

Maybe Someday, by Colleen Hoover
Published March 18, 2014
Publisher:
Atria
Format:
e-book, provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Genre: 
new adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating:  5 STARS

(From Goodreads)
At twenty-two years old, aspiring musician Sydney Blake has a great life: She’s in college, working a steady job, in love with her wonderful boyfriend, Hunter, and rooming with her good friend, Tori. But everything changes when she discovers Hunter cheating on her with Tori—and she is left trying to decide what to do next.

Sydney becomes captivated by her mysterious neighbor, Ridge Lawson. She can’t take her eyes off him or stop listening to the daily guitar playing he does out on his balcony. She can feel the harmony and vibrations in his music. And there’s something about Sydney that Ridge can’t ignore, either: He seems to have finally found his muse. When their inevitable encounter happens, they soon find themselves needing each other in more ways than one…


I am not quite sure if a book has ever affected me in such a way as Maybe Someday did. Colleen Hoover is a master at reaching inside of me, grabbing my heart and squeezing it with her beautiful words. She's done it before, and, I don't know. I shouldn't be surprised by it anymore. And, yet, when I read the final word, I sat here blinking my eyes, my mouth opening and closing like a damn fish, completely blown away. 

Sydney and Ridge catch each others' eye across the courtyard of their apartment complex when he plays his guitar on his balcony and she sits on hers and makes up lyrics. Ridge asks for her help in giving words to his songs, and a friendship is born. Just in time too, because when Sydney's boyfriend cheats on her, she has to move out, and it turns out Ridge's apartment has an empty bedroom. The close proximity allows them to continue writing music together, but it also monumentally complicates things. You see, Ridge has a serious girlfriend, and his feelings for Sydney are now blurring the lines. 

I was thrown for a loop nearly right away when Ridge reveals a secret he's been keeping from Sydney (I won't spoil it for you!). It affects the entire story in an incredible way, and was probably my favorite part of the whole book. How this secret is woven into the musical part of Ridge's and Sydney's story was utterly beautiful and a little heartbreaking at times. When it was first revealed, I was totally shocked, but once I finished the book, I don't see how this book would've been even half as amazing as it was without it. 

It was Sydney really for whom my heart broke the most. Ridge was amazing. He's funny, charming, intelligent, artistic and chivalrous. He takes Sydney under his wing, protects her from her douchey ex and gives her a real purpose. How could she not fall completely and utterly in love with him? And, yet, he's been in a relationship for five years with a disgustingly wonderful girl named Maggie, and has no designs to break things off with her. Being around the two of them absolutely kills her, but it's the lesser of two evils, as far as she sees it. Because her world without Ridge in it at all would be even worse. 

Can you imagine what that would be like? Sydney is constantly denying herself what she wants more than anything in life. And to make matters even worse, sometimes Ridge makes it seem like he wants her too. Talk about head games. But, they share this incredible connection through music that is impossible to ignore. 

Unfortunately, the fact that they have a harder and harder time ignoring that connection and the beautiful music they make together, causes the worst heartache ever. Because Maggie also has a secret, and when that is revealed, it changes things for Sydney. She has to come to terms with the nature of hers and Ridge's relationship and face the fact that she might never be able to have him the way she wants him. 

Sydney is stronger than I could ever be. She makes tough choices and tries to make the best of an increasingly difficult situation. Even though Ridge is the main link in this love triangle, it's absolutely impossible to be mad at him. You think you would, right? Nope. And then there's Maggie. You really, really want to hate her. But, you just can't. She's a genuinely nice person. 

Maybe Someday is told in dual POV, so we get the benefit of all the angst from both Sydney's and Ridge's heads. The language pretty clean; the sex very minimal. Although there's almost no sex, the passion and sexual tension between Ridge and Sydney made my head want to explode. It was That. Good. And then there's the end. OMG - THE END. Completely, utterly, totally, wonderfully P-E-R-F-E-C-T. 

I need you to go out today and read this book. Then, come back here and tell me that you get what I've been trying to say. That you understand now why I'm telling you how amazing it is. I can't wait to hear from you.

March 17, 2014

BLOG TOUR & GIVEAWAY: Unconditional (Beachwood Bay #3)


I LOVE Melody Grace's Beachwood Bay series! So, I'm thrilled to have a stop on the blog tour, organized by Inkslinger PR, for her latest addition to the series, UNCONDITIONAL. It's Garrett's story, and what a story it is! Read on for my review, enter the giveaway, then check out the other stops on the tour!

Unconditional (Beachwood Bay #3), by Melody Grace
To Be Published March 18, 2014
Publisher:
self-published
Format:
e-ARC provided by the author and Inkslinger PR
Genre: 
new adult contemporary romance
To Buy: iTunes * Amazon

Rating:  5 STARS

(From Goodreads)
"I’ve spent my whole life chasing perfection: perfect looks, perfect man, perfect home. But in one brutal moment, I realized it was all just a beautiful lie…"

Carina MacKenzie is fleeing from her past. Picking up the wreckage of her shattered dreams, she seeks comfort in the only place she’s ever felt safe: Beachwood Bay.

Garrett Sawyer isn’t looking to be anyone’s savior. Scarred by old betrayals, he’s sworn never to put his heart on the line again -- especially not for a damaged, high-maintenance girl like Carina. But passion knows no logic, and soon, their reckless chemistry is making him forget his bitter vows.

Two damaged hearts. The hope of true love. As their passion blazes out of control, Carina and Garrett struggle to escape their legacies of hurt. But can you ever outrun the past? And when everything is on the line, can they trust enough to build a love that's unconditional?

*This book contains adult situations and explicit content. 17+*


Only Melody Grace could cause me to love a character that I had previously vowed to hate forever. I'm a very character-driven reader. I need to love the characters in order to love the story. I must admit - I had a lot of hesitation before starting Unconditional. Carina seemed to be a vile human being in Unbroken. It was Garrett that caused me to initially want to read this book. He intrigued me and captivated me in Unafraid. I couldn't wait to find out what his story was. 

Garrett has vowed to never get involved with a woman again after losing his heart and soul once. That was before Carina breaks into the house he's staying in. Although she's mean and abrasive, there's something about her that intrigues him. Carina is running away from the horrible men in her life. It doesn't take her long to realize that Garrett isn't one of them. Can he get over his past in order to face a potential future with someone who needs him as much as he needs her?

Right away, Melody Grace starts to paint a more human face on Carina. She is Juliet's awful sister, but we very quickly see that there are reasons for her behavior. Carina runs to Beachwood Bay to escape her abusive fiance, and literally falls into Garrett's path. Garrett owns the bar that he and Emerson had initially owned together, and now he's housesitting while Emerson and Juliet are trying to make a life in the city nearby. 

Carina really has had a rough go of it. She's learned to put on a brave face and power through all the tough stuff. But, she's reached her breaking point and although it's hard at first, she is ready for something new and different for her life. This in and of itself endeared me to Carina more than I thought possible. It takes a lot of stuff for someone to pull up stakes and give up a life that has become known and comfortable for a life that is unknown. She heads to Beachwood Bay for some clarity and a break from her sad life. Instead, she becomes more confused. 

She runs into Garrett right away, and he gives her a reason to stay. After a rough start, she ends up helping him with a problem at his bar. And, he helps her clear out the riff raff from her life. He ends up being the only person Carina has truly opened up to about her insecurities and mistakes. He helps her try to make amends. And, an unforeseen consequence is that she helps him come to grips with what happened in his past. 

The thing is, Garrett wasn't ready for that, at all. When he runs from Carina, the real question now is whether she has found enough guts to go after him. 

Unconditional was such an emotionally charged book - I loved that about it! The relationship between Garrett and Carina was slow to develop. They really didn't like each other very much in the beginning. Garrett is such an inherently good guy, though, that once he finds out Carina's in trouble, he does what he can to help her. It's almost like he can't help himself. I loved that guy so much. 

And, Carina makes more than leaps and bounds. By the end of Unconditional, I loved her as much as Juliet. She had a lot of drama to wade though. She had to end things with her fiance, sever ties with her awful father, and try to make amends with her sister. There were plenty of heartbreaking moments and plenty of nailbiting moments as well. It's told in dual POV, so we get the benefit of both Garrett's and Carina's thoughts as they work through all their crap. 

This entire series is so emotional and exciting and utterly romantic. I loved every minute of the time I spent with Garrett and Carina. And, I'm very much looking forward to spending more time in Beachwood Bay.

 About the Author

Melody Grace is the USA Today bestselling author of UNBROKEN and UNTOUCHED. A small-town girl turned SoCal beach-lover, she spent years with her nose in a book before deciding it was time to write them for herself. She loves bad boys, good books, and pistachio-flavored ice-cream.

Learn more about Melody --> Website / Twitter / Facebook





Giveaway
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Blog Tour Schedule:
March 13
Book Addict Mumma-Review
Book Bitches Blog-Playlist & Review

March 14
Forever Me Romance-Review
Paperbook Princess-Dreamcast & Review

March 16
Book Angel Booktopia-Guest Post & Review
Nerd Alert Book Love-Review

March 17
Lovin Los Libros-Guest Post & Review
Krista’s Dust Jacket-Review

March 18

March 19
Book Lit Love-Author Interview & Review

March 20
Zili in the Sky-Review
BestSellers & BestStellars-Guest Post & Review

March 21

March 23
The Secret Book Brat-Review
I Dare You to Read-Excerpt & Review

March 24

March 25
Vi3tibabe-Review
The Readiacs-Excerpt & Review

March 26
Wolfel’s World of Books-Character Interview & Review
Book Fixation-Review

March 27

March 28
Holly’s Red Hot Reviews-Graphic Post & Review
Above Average Below Special-Author Interview & Review
 

March 14, 2014

All Of Court's Men: Brennan


It's time for our weekly peek at Courtney Cole's delicious men! In this week's installment of All of Court's Men, we're taking a look at Brennan from Courtney's paranormal series, The Moonstone Saga. And, for this week only, the first book in The Moonstone Saga, SOUL KISSED, is on sale for only $0.99!

Brennan


Excerpt From Soul Kissed

“The world is not going to end,” I insisted slowly, taking in the desperation on Brennan’s stricken face.  “Why would you think so?  I was wrong when I said it would, Brennan. We can prevent my visions.  We can do anything we set our minds to.”
Brennan turned to me, his expression slightly calmer than it had been a scant moment ago.  I reached out to grab his hand, but he backed away, causing my heart to race.  He stepped out of the tent and I trailed behind him quickly.
“What is it?” I whispered.  “What did you see, Brennan?”
His eyes were pain-filled and stark when he answered.  “I saw flames and floods and a lot of blood.  There was so much blood.  I saw the same things that you did, Empusa.  And if we both see it, I think it is likely to happen.”
“It won’t!” I cried, gritting my teeth and throwing myself at him.  Clutching at him, I gripped his shoulders, trying to make him touch me.  Yet he still shirked away from my fingers, like I had a sickness.  It was alarming.
“Why are you moving away from me?” I asked helplessly, trying to ignore the cold pit growing in my belly.  “I didn’t cause your visions, Brennan. I wish nothing more than to protect you from any ugliness in the world.”
“I know,” he admitted softly.  “But I also know that this isn’t going to work.”
His voice was like gravel, painfully scraping the surface of my heart with every husky syllable.  “I can’t be with you,” he repeated.
He was so casual, so perfunctory, as though we were simply talking about a Cubs game or the weather. I stared at him, at his flecked hazel eyes that gleamed in the sunlight and my chest literally constricted at the thought of even one day without him.
“Yes, you can.  You’re perfect for me,” I answered uncertainly, reaching for him, trying to pull him close. If he could just feel my heart pressed against his, I knew that he might bend, if only just enough to listen.  But he would have none of it and backed away, leaning against the rocks behind us.  He knew the danger within my touch.
“Brennan,” I tried again, stepping forward.  The way that the sun bathed him in backlit glory was breath-taking and I had to re-focus.  It was difficult not to concentrate on his handsome, rugged face and the way his mouth moved as he spoke. 
     “Em,” he continued, as if I’d never even spoken. “I’m not…I’m not strong enough for this yet.  I won’t be able to control my abilities.  I just saw it.  I can’t jeopardize the entire mortal world simply because I can’t master my power.  And Circes… she said that you would risk everything for me. I can’t allow that, Empusa.  I can’t be the one who extinguishes your light.  That won’t be me.”
     He pushed away from the rocks and strode down the ledge with his distinctive lope.  He paused just once on the edge, before he bounded, landing gracefully on his feet far below me.  He didn’t look back, he simply walked away from me.   I stood still, frozen by his words, astounded by their meaning.  Until I realized that if I didn’t do something right now I would never see him again.
I lunged from the ledge, landing roughly in the packed sand below before I raced along behind him.  Even employing supernatural speed, I didn’t catch up with him for a mile. He had mastered speed himself, it seemed.    Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of black and I knew that my mother was close, watching us, but it didn’t sway me. 
I pushed Brennan against a nearby red stone rock mound, shoving him hard and he stumbled, staring at me in shock as his back collided with the stone.  He had never seen me lose my temper.  No one had.  I always had to be so careful, so controlled.  
“You think it’s only up to you?” I shouted.  The wind whipped my hair around my face and I ignored it as I stared directly into the mesmerizing eyes of the only man I had ever loved.
“I have a say in this, too,” I insisted.  “You think you can just throw everything away with a handful of cliches?  Newsflash:  The old it’s not you, it’s me line isn’t effective.  If you don’t want to be with me, just be man enough to tell me why.  Don’t tell me that it is because of the visions.  We can overcome them.  I know it.  If there is something else, tell me right now.”
My face was barely an inch from his.  I was close enough to feel his heart beat through his shirt, to feel the heat from his skin pulse through and bleed into my own skin.  I was close enough to inhale his very breath.  I knew what my nearness would do to him, but I didn’t care.  I closed my eyes and leaned into him… instantly absorbing what he felt; the jagged pain, the overwhelming uncertainty, but mostly, his unbridled need for me.  It filled him up and spilled into me. 
“Tell me,” I murmured against his lips.
He groaned and pulled me against him, his large hands flattening against my back as he smashed me to his chest and ravaged my lips with his own.  He kissed me like the world was ending.  And I knew, with every breath in me, that if he left, my world would end.   
His body was rock hard and he smelled like the sun.  I inhaled him as I grasped his hair and pulled him closer to me, as close as I could possibly get.  Even in the heat of this moment, though, I had to keep a corner of my consciousness carefully focused, making sure I didn’t absorb too much of his strength.  But I still allowed myself to taste it, to enjoy it. 
He was delicious.  Everything about him.
His tongue rammed into my mouth, swirling with mine and he tasted like honey as his very life flowed into me, wispy and transparent, but pulsing hard.  He was so vital.
It made me wild and I couldn’t control myself.  I ripped at his shirt, breaking the buttons as I frantically pushed it off of his shoulders.  I knew it was expensive, but I didn’t care.  My only thought was consuming all of him, every bit and I needed him inside of me to do that.  It was the only way.  My focus faltered and then was obliterated.  Nothing else mattered now but my need for him.
I began seeing things in blurs of color, tasting the scents in the air and feeling the textures beneath my hands as everything else faded away. His breathing was ragged, his heart beat stuttering and racing as we fumbled with clothing.  Our skin was hot and sticky as we pressed together.  I felt his heart beat join with mine, synching perfectly, as the process began.  My fingers pulsed and my vision unfocused.  It was happening.  I would only need a moment longer. 
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the beautiful field of pink flowers explode into flame, too close to withstand my energy as it flared into an uncontrollable storm. They burned impotently against the sandy horizon as our very own fire burned within us.  A loud boom exploded somewhere nearby and I saw chunks of earth scatter, falling around us from the sky. I had no idea where it had come from and I didn’t care at this point.
Brennan yanked at the button on his pants and I reached to help him, desperate to continue, to finish, but somehow sanity returned to me as I thought of that very word.
Finish.
If we completed this act, if I made love to this man- the man that I loved with every ounce of my being, it would finish him.  He could die because we hadn’t learned to master our power. 
I froze.
He reached for me, but I held out my hand.
“Don’t,” I rasped uncomfortably.  “Give me a minute.”

Soul Kissed, by Courtney Cole
Published January 3, 2012
Publisher:
Lakehouse Press
Genre: 
YA Paranormal Romance
To Buy: Amazon

(Synopsis)
Question: When your mother is a powerful witch and your father is a soul-sucking vampire, what does that make you?
Answer: Cursed.

With all the beauty and charm of a Siren, but cursed as a blood-sucking succubus, Empusa longs for love and a normal life. Neither of these can ever be hers, because the only thing she brings to anyone she loves is death.

Em lingers in the mortal world, hiding from her father and existing in a lonely life. Until she meets Brennan. With golden hair and a radiant smile, he captures her heart and awakens it from slumber.

But Brennan is more than he seems. And in a relationship where life itself hangs in the balance, is love ever really enough?

Soul Kissed is book one in the Moonstone Saga. It is followed by Soul Bound (available now) and Princess of the Night (Coming soon). 


About the Author


Courtney Cole is a novelist who would eat mythology for breakfast if she could. She has a degree in Business, but has since discovered that corporate America is not nearly as fun to live in as fictional worlds. She loves chocolate and roller coasters and hates waiting and rude people.
 

Courtney lives in quiet suburbia, close to Lake Michigan, with her real-life Prince Charming, her ornery kids (there is a small chance that they get their orneriness from their mother) and a small domestic zoo.

Learn more about Courtney --> Website / Facebook / Twitter