Archive | December 2016

                                     RELEASE DAY                                            HARD HITTER by SARINA BOWEN

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Title: Hard Hitter

Author: Sarina Bowen

Series: A Brooklyn Bruisers Novel #2

Genre: Sports Romance

Release Date: 3rd January, 2017

Publishers: Penguin Random House / Rennie Road Books

 

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Synopsis:

 

He’s a fighter in the rink, but he’s about to learn that playing nice can help you score…

 
As team captain and enforcer, Patrick O’Doul puts the bruise in the Brooklyn Bruisers. But after years of hard hits, O’Doul is feeling the burn, both physically and mentally. He conceals his pain from his coach and trainers, but when his chronic hip injury becomes too obvious to ignore, they send him for sessions with the team’s massage therapist.

After breaking up with her long-term boyfriend, Ari Bettini is in need of peace of mind. For now, she’s decided to focus on her work: rehabilitating the Bruisers’ MVP. O’Doul is easy on the eyes, but his reaction to her touch is ice cold. Ari is determined to help O’Doul heal, but as the tension between them turns red hot, they both learn that a little TLC does the body good…

 

CLICK HERE FOR EXCERPT

 

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Kindle Friends Forever:  ★ ★ ★

Reviewed by Sharon Thérèse

There’s no doubt whatsoever that Ms Bowen is the queen of hockey novels. Her knowledge of this game never ceases to amaze me, her detailed account is as such that for someone like me who would love to see a live game felt as if she were there. It was actually like having a lesson in this sport’s ethics, too. I had a vague idea why there’s so much aggression on the pitch; however, I didn’t realise the importance team’s supporters give it. It seemed to me that more provoked violence there was, the more crowds were drawn in. I could quite understand how the female protagonist whose profession is tightly knit to the players felt while watching them get a good bashing!  

I have to admit that I hadn’t read the first book in this series, but this didn’t affect my reading enjoyment at all. There wasn’t one moment when I felt out of my depth in the storyline’s fast moving pace and I easily became invested in all the characters. Ms Bowen also refreshed my memory regarding the sport’s vocabulary by explaining certain definitions to me. The importance of an Enforcer; a hard reputation to live up to and difficult to imagine. No wonder there are so many injuries in this sport since it is their job to impede or react to overly aggressive players. The high-pressure coming from all angles added angst to Hard Hitter and helped me comprehend how stressful it must be living up to this title. One thing is for sure, it’s only fitting for someone capable of taking on such a demanding responsibility. This person has to be built like a wall and take as much as he is given. This person is Patrick O’Doul.

“He has an ego the size of the stadium. If you have any trouble with him, I’m happy to play the bad cop.”

My heart went out to the captain of the Brooklyn Bruisers for more than one reason. Patrick is a lovely soul. A tad moody and quite the loner when it comes to his personal life, what I liked about him is he’s not at all full of himself! In fact, his concern for the game and attitude towards his teammates’ well-being I found humbling. Yet his handling of an unacceptable deed which was of his own doing, and his gullibility to trust those he shouldn’t have, really got me mad. In my eyes, it was the route of all evil. Nonetheless, how it panned out became a much-wanted twist and a half in the story. Although I tried to put myself in his shoes, for me, the whole situation was the be-all and end-all. I yearned for him to find a solution. In a nutshell, I was just as disappointed in him as he was in himself. Time is ticking away and he’s terrified that sooner or later the cat will be let out of the bag.

“He puts up an asshole front, and he’s kind of an egomaniac. But he’s got that whole macho honor code thing working. “

Henry, the team’s head trainer rubs salt in Patrick’s wound by ordering him to go to physio-sessions which he has no time or like for. How cool can a trainer be when all he wants is the best for his players! I really connected to this guy’s togetherness and had no option but to agree with him. He could do no wrong for me. And the press breathing down the captain’s neck helped little and added to my anxiousness. The new young owner of the hockey team who I might add, is gorgeous, appears to be the only one who has little to say in the matter but obviously wants results. Results. Always results. Companions will back him up without knowing the whys and wherefores because they have faith in him. And the plot thickens!  

“Why, Patrick O’Doul.” “I’d almost think you liked this.”

“It’s tolerable.”

To my delight, Ari Bettini saunters into the scenario like a breath of fresh air. This is her moment. Her chance to do something she loves and show them what stuff she’s made of. She also needs a break from her past and no way wants to mess it up. So, this change in her life couldn’t have come at a better time as you will see. Now it’s not going to be a bed of roses. She’s not only got to convince one of the players that he needs her expertise, but put to use her mental skills on the whole hockey team. After much cajoling, Patrick goes to her appointments and is grateful that she respects his personal space. I loved how Ari trod carefully and tended to his needs with utter professionalism and no favouritism. Once he realises that she could help him with his injury and fears, he’ll try his hardest not to miss his hour with her. There’s much more to Patrick than meets the eye though. On occasion, both he and I were confused by some of his out of character actions. Certainly, the likes of breaking rules weren’t on their agendasthus, how they’d deal with them side by side makes for an heart-warming read. 

“I wouldn’t ever touch a client inappropriately. It would violate the trust that you give me when you climb onto my table.”

The banter between Ari and Patrick is fabulous. Texts go back and forth as they feel their way in a relationship which boils down to trust. They made me cry, smile and brought out all my emotions. If it were ever possible, I could have given them a good talking to. At times, I had my doubts! Ari doesn’t want to let on about her past and O’Doul’s not forthcoming about his, either. What is plainly obvious is the sizzling hot chemistry between them. Ah, but if it wasn’t for her! The saying ‘Behind every great man is a great woman,’ couldn’t be more fitting in this story.  Because she is great. Can he be great by her side?  

“Humor me. I’ve never had anyone to spoil before now.”

The author’s character development is as always, par excellent. Her storytelling technique in this book is unusual since dates mark a timeline above and beyond pucks, goals, love or sorrow. It is a story that melds perfectly into her concept of happenings and I can’t wait for PIPE DREAMS coming in May. Bravo Ms Bowen!

 

HARD HITTER IS LIVE!

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PIPE DREAMS coming May, 2017

Author’s bio:

Sarina Bowen is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance and New Adult fiction from the wilds of Vermont.

Her Ivy Years and Brooklyn Bruisers books are hockey romance novels. These two connected series began breaking hearts in 2014 with The Year We Fell Down. See http://www.sarinabowen.com for updates.

HIM and US are the bestselling, hockey LGBT novels co-written with Elle Kennedy. HIM is also a finalist for the Romance Writers of America’s RITA® Award.

For lovers of angsty snowboarders, Sarina also writes the Gravity series, featuring snow sports heroes.

Sarina enjoys skiing, coffee products and a nice glass of wine. She lives with her family, six chickens and more ski gear and hockey equipment than seems necessary.

She would be honored to connect with you at http://www.sarinabowen.com.

Author’s social site media links:

Why not get in touch with Sarina? She’d love to hear from you!

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                             RELEASE DAY BLITZ                                                      VICIOUS by L. J. SHEN

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Title: Vicious

Series: Sinners of Saint #1

Author: L.J. Shen

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Release date: 27th December, 2017

Cover Model: Andrea Denver

Cover Design: Letitia Hasser, RBA Designs

 

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Emilia

They say love and hate are the same feelings experienced under different circumstances, and it’s true.

The man who comes to me in my dreams also haunts me in my nightmares.

He is a brilliant lawyer.

A skilled criminal.

A beautiful liar.

A bully and a savior, a monster and a lover.

Ten years ago, he made me run away from the small town where we lived. Now, he came for me in New York, and he isn’t leaving until he takes me with him.

Vicious

She is a starving artist.

Pretty and evasive like cherry blossom.

Ten years ago, she barged into my life unannounced and turned everything upside down.

She paid the price.

Emilia LeBlanc is completely off-limits, my best friend’s ex-girlfriend. The woman who knows my darkest secret, and the daughter of the cheap Help we hired to take care of our estate.

That should deter me from chasing her, but it doesn’t.

So she hates me. Big fucking deal.

She better get used to me.

 

 

One-click now!  VICIOUS IS LIVE on Amazon and ONLY 99c / 99p!

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Release Party (January 6, 2017)

Invite only – send LJ a message on Facebook for your invite HERE

 

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5 Vicious Stars by Sharon Thérèse on behalf of KFF

Don’t you love that feeling of excitement you get when you read the first paragraph in the first chapter and know that book you’ve started is going to make you put your life on hold? Ms Shen’s story did just that to me and at a drop of a hat. Never was the male protagonist’s nick name taken in vain as he most certainly lived up to this adjective’s definition. Re: the title. Although I skipped no words, what I didn’t do was highlight any passages or jot down notes. By doing so would have essentially slowed my reading pace down which wasn’t an option. By being overly toyed with the plot, I was given no choice but to reread the whole book which I can assure you, was effortless! The author left me spent and guess what… I wanted more! So be warned; Shen’s story isn’t merely reading her written words. The depth of them is nothing less than absorbing. The force of the storyline is as such that delving deeply into the thoughts of two diversely different characters’ backgrounds and personalities results in a very challenging and an emotional read. The time-frame construed made my morbid curiosity yearn for the next move like a bee to a honeypot and was perfect. In this case, the word perfect is an understatement.

Baron Spencer has reasons for not wanting to use his given name. He also has reasons for being callous and downright ruthless. Figuratively speaking, he provoked my thoughts to such an extent that I could have given him a taste of his own medicine. I felt quite ashamed of myself for loving him regardless of his outrageous behaviour towards Emilia LeBlanc. She just so happened to be in the firing line, and I had no doubt that if it wasn’t her, it would have been someone else. But she was the perfect target in the wrong place at the right time.

“Ms LeBlanc, who am I?”
“A sadistic jerk?”

Vicious’ quest for vengeance is a complicated one and would normally be the recipe for disaster for someone as young as him. I was astounded that nothing ruffled his feathers, that he’s in no rush… at all. The timeline is very relevant though. He doesn’t even need to put manipulating skills to the test. He’s a born natural! He’d learnt at an early age the hard way and the situations he plays on are always to his advantage. Nevertheless, Vicious still got under my skin, and still annoyed and bewildered the pants off me!

“I smell a challenge. You know I’m always a little silly for a challenge…”

Now then, the author went to town on her characters’ development in such a way that for me, it was obvious from the start that she wanted to shock the reader. There’s no lovey-dovey relationships with any of Vicious’ tight-knit group of friends, either. They know what to expect and stick together… until one of them steps into his territory and upsets well-laid plans depending on how one looks at it. And that folks, is when the merde hits the fan! Yet bent truths have a way of showing their ugly heads sooner or later.

“What’s your problem with me, huh? What have I ever done to deserve this?”

Only Vicious has the audacity to give the noun ‘help’ in parenthesis to a gal who never deserved his ire. Maybe said noun will change into the verb. Wait and see future readers! Emilia is not only adorable, naïve and a talented, but also a fighter. Neither her dress sense nor social status worries her. I had her back throughout what was to become a game of deception she had no idea she was participating in. She’s a pawn in a catastrophic secret which was beyond her. If you’re like me and can’t wait for the outcome, get ready ‘cause it’s harsh and will help you to put Vicious’ story is into perspective!

“How about you keep your side of the deal, Ms LeBlanc?”
“I will. Eventually. Patience is a virtue.”

Her foremost concern is for her sister whose handicap is one of the bi-roots of this story. However, certain circumstances put me in panic mode because I had no idea how either of them were going to come out this nightmare unscathed. There wasn’t one moment I sat back and breathed deeply. I was on tenterhooks; on their team cheering them on.

“I don’t know what you’ve got planned for her, but if it’s vicious like you, I’m not going to let you get away with it.”

None of the most important characters swayed their ideals in a fast-flowing but complex story. Some of them grew up side by side, were successful in their joint professions and their joint goals in life. Others weren’t so fortunate. Their ups and downs are at all times, easy to relate to. Except of course, Vicious! But the simple fact that they don’t adhere to his convoluted ways of thinking or his actions was for me, chapeau. His persona is unbendable, he is invincible, he is outstanding!

“I’m going to regret this”
“Probably.” “But it’ll be worth it.”

Summing up this read is not as easy-peasy as I thought it would be. I hope I haven’t let on because the last thing I would do is inadvertently spoil this read for you. Please take note that I haven’t mentioned the bedroom scenes in this review. I’d like to say more. I won’t! What I can say is the magnetism between Emilia and Vicious is Off. The. Charts, their dialogue—incredible. There was not a single thing I disliked about this book and it’s fast become one of my fave reads this year. I couldn’t have wished to have had a better initiation into Ms Shen’s storytelling, too. The editing and proofreading which I give a lot of importance to was faultless. Bravo ma’am!

“Am I an idiot for sitting here with you?”
“You’re a lot of things. And idiot has never been one of them.”
“Then what am I?”
You’re … complicated…”

 

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EXCERPT

“You’re pissing me off,” she said quietly, her eyes still searching my face.

“And that’s turning me on,” I retorted, my voice flat. “So you might wanna tone down the hate glares if you don’t wanna find yourself being fucked on this desk with the blinds still open.”

I was still staring at my screen, working on the merger deal I was eager to get signed before Christmas, but I could see from my peripheral that she had paled. I liked how—once again—I’d gotten under her skin. Quickly.

“You’re disgusting,” she muttered, still staring at me—but not in a way that suggested she was appalled.

I cracked my neck, opening my browser and checking the stocks on the screen, skimming through the greens and the reds. “That may well be, but I’m balls deep in your fucking head, Help, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Her eyes glittered with rage, and fuck, I was so hard, and fuck, she was so beautiful. This was so on. I was going to fuck Dean’s ex-girlfriend, use her for my personal needs, and toss her away when I was done.

And after choosing the wrong guy, there was no doubt in my mind, she deserved it too.

“You just gave Floyd a lecture about the inter-office fraternization policy. No mixing business and pleasure.” She leaned forward. Her elbow touched my finger accidentally, and she jerked it away.

I met her halfway, erasing the space between us across the desk. “Correction—guys like Floyd won’t give you pleasure. Men like me would. Besides, the man likes Arrow,” I drawled, as if this alone was a reason to fire him.

To me, it was.

“You know what your problem is, Vicious? You still haven’t decided if you hate me or like me. That’s why you act like this every time I’m around other men.” There wasn’t a trace of embarrassment in her voice. She owned up to this.

What she didn’t know was that I knew exactly how I felt about her.

I hated her, but was attracted to her. It was really that simple.

“You know what I feel right now, Ms. LeBlanc? I feel like you need to pack a fucking bag and start making the necessary arrangements. You’re coming with me to California, whether you like it or not.”

 

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About the Author

L.J. Shen resides in sunny California with her husband, son, chubby cat and wild, wild dreams.

Her passion is to write badass stories, sushi, UFC and her awesome family and friends (not in this order, though. Obviously, sushi comes before writing. Oh, and also the family part.)

She spent the first half of her twenties traveling the world and is now paying all the fun with extra shifts in front of her MacBook. Feel free to contact her on her Facebook page. She loves to hear from her readers.

 

 

L. J. Shen’s Social Media Links:

 

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                                  COVER REVEAL                                     THE DO-OVER by JULIE A. RICHMAN

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Title: The Do-Over

Author: Julie A. Richman

Publication Date: January 26th, 2017

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Photographer: Wander Aguiar

Cover Model: Forrest Harrison

Cover Designer: Jena Brignola

 

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Synopsis:

~ Sometimes, one degree is all that separates you from the one you were meant to be with ~

Wes Bergman was sex on a stick.

We’d been circling one another our entire lives, mingling at the same clubs… attending the same events…sharing mutual acquaintances…yet we’d never actually met.

Until . . . we both boarded a Windjammer Cruise in the Caribbean. And it was like meeting my long, lost best friend for the first time. I hadn’t ever connected with a guy that way before.
But Wes had a girlfriend. So, when the week was over, he walked off the ship, unknowingly taking a piece of my heart with him.

Now, over a decade later, newly divorced, I’m the proverbial fish out of water. Dating has totally changed. Apps. Swipe left. Swipe right. Catfishing. Men my age want two things: twenty-five-year-olds—like my ex’s new child bride of a wife—or just a quick hook-up.

After a string of bad dates, I finally did something I never thought I’d do. I had a hot one-night stand with a really handsome guy I met online who didn’t even know my real name.

Turned out Mr. Fling is a big shot for my company’s newest client. And just my
luck, that client’s CEO is none other than . . . Wes Bergman.
Now I’m separated by one degree again from the man who stole my heart.
And Mr. Fling could destroy my chance of what I want most –

A Do-Over with Wes.

 

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Pre-Order Links:

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About the Author:

USA Today Bestselling author Julie A. Richman is a native New Yorker living deep in the heart of Texas. A creative writing major in college, reading and writing fiction has always been a passion. Julie began her corporate career in publishing in NYC and writing played a major role throughout her career as she created and wrote marketing, advertising, direct mail and fundraising materials for Fortune 500 corporations, advertising agencies and non-profit organizations. She is an award winning nature photographer plagued with insatiable wanderlust. Julie and her husband have one son and a white German Shepherd named Juneau.

Connect with Julie:

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                                      BLOG TOUR                                             HATE STORY by NICOLE WILLIAMS

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Title: Hate Story

Author: Nicole Williams

Genre: Contemporary Romance 

Release date: 23rd December, 2016

 

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Nina can’t let herself fall in love with the man she’s going to marry. Both of them have experienced the sting and sham of love and have no intentions of falling victim to it twice. Love is expensive—hate is free.

Three years. A million dollars. A solution to both of their problems. They planned it all, from the story of their first meeting to the date of their divorce. Nothing could go wrong.

But what they didn’t consider was chemistry, and Nina and Max have no shortage of it. After too many near-kisses, Nina convinces herself that hating Max is better than loving him, and the more she gets to know this soon-to-be-husband of hers, the more she discovers just how very much she truly, madly, and deeply . . . hates him.

This isn’t a love story. This is the other kind.

 

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excerpt

 

He hadn’t stopped smiling at me, and it wasn’t the friendly kind of smile. It was the kind that made it seem like he was in on some secret I wasn’t privy to. The kind of smile that made me feel like I was being trifled with and made the punch line of a hundred jokes I had yet to hear.
I wanted to wipe the cocky smile off his face, but that would have required touching him and even I wasn’t gutsy enough for that. A woman did not touch a guy like him unless she wanted him to be her undoing. Nope. You didn’t play with fire. You didn’t touch it. You didn’t even come close.
Fire. That was all I saw when I looked at him. I was playing with it by agreeing to this kind of arrangement with him.
Even the way he lounged in the chair was smug. Like it was his throne and he was just waiting for minions to come bow before him.
“You’re younger than I thought you’d be.” He broke the silence first.
Though it was faint, I could just make out an accent. It was European, but I couldn’t nail down the country. To look at the bastard, you’d think he was Scandinavian—blond hair, blue eyes, commanding frame—but his accent was too sharp to hail from the land of Vikings.
I was tempted to glare at the tipped smile aimed at me, but I didn’t want to lead him to the impression I cared. I gave him my version of the same smile, abandoning my “no expectations” policy for the prospect of pissing him off. “You’re older than I thought you’d be.”
His smile shifted into the realm of a smirk, like he knew I was lying. So yeah, maybe I was lying about thinking he was older, but I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of confirming his silent accusation. He was older than me, but not by much. He might have been closing in on thirty, but he wasn’t past it.
He leaned forward in the chair. When his gaze circled my face to my fiery red hair, his brow elevated. Yes, I am the stereotype. Be warned.
“Prettier too.”
I stiffened. He was fucking with me now. I’d already agreed to marry him. How much more did he think he could screw me over?
I gave him a cursory glance and kept the unaffected look on my face. “Uglier.”
He cocked a brow like he knew better. “And the personality of ten women rolled into one.”
“Intimidated?”
His head shook once. “Intrigued.”
“Irritated?”
His eyes investigated me again. It felt intrusive, definitely not cursory. “Impressed.”
“As impressed by me as the woman in heat who was just mauling you over by the bar?”
“You mean the woman who gave me this?” He pulled something out of the inside pocket of his suit jacket and set it on the small table between us.
It was a hotel card key. With a lipstick kiss pressed into it.
“Classy place, this five-star hotel.” I glanced back at the woman at the bar. She was still there, watching him as though he was the height of the male species. “Did you tell her the reason you were here?”
His attention stayed on me. “Yes, I told her I was here to meet the woman I was going to marry.”
My stomach wrung. This was the man I was going to marry.
Holy shit.
“And she didn’t ask for her room key back?” I asked.
“She didn’t give it to me until right after I mentioned that.” His stare was intense. Too intense. I felt like every secret—every piece of who I was—was strewn out on that table for him to see. “Women love a man who isn’t afraid of commitment. It’s like an aphrodisiac.”
“You know what else women like?” I didn’t pause for an answer because I guessed he didn’t have a clue. “A man who’s humble.”
He fought a smile and leaned back in his chair when a server approached with a couple of drinks on a tray. “No, they like to think they do, but they don’t.” His head shook authoritatively. “They like the cocky bastard who goes after what he wants and doesn’t take no for an answer.”
Because the server was shielding some of me from his view, I allowed myself to shift. I was getting fired up, and if he kept saying the same kinds of things with the same kinds of looks on his face, that drink was going to wind up in his face.
That was when I noticed what the server had set in front of me. A tumbler with something amber in color. The same thing she was setting in front of him. Although from the curve of her smile, she was offering to give him a blow job on the side, compliments of the house.
“What is this?” I asked. Him. Her. Whoever wanted to answer.
“Scotch,” he answered, ignoring the server lingering between us.
My nose curled at the drink.
“Expensive scotch.”
“I don’t care if it came from the fountain of youth. I won’t drink it.”
His forehead creased with what appeared to be irritation, but I couldn’t be sure. Maybe it was confusion, like he couldn’t decide what to make of me. “You would have me believe you wouldn’t take a sip of that if you knew it would give you eternal life?” When I shook my head, his head tipped. “Why?”
“Because I value my free will far more than long life.” I pushed the drink away until it clinked against his. “I’d rather live one day free than an eternity in a cage.”
He was quiet for a moment. The server stayed between us, staring at him, waiting.
“Then why are you here?” he asked me finally.
I leaned forward and hoped my stare was as powerful as his. “Because free will is expensive.”

 

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Kindle Friends Forever 5 Review by Sharon Thérèse

The premise of this story is not new one. Nonetheless; Ms Williams managed to make this read especially hateful, downright lovable and totally unputdownable. I had no option but to put life on hold and do an all-nighter! So be warned; if you start reading it at stupid o’clock like me, you’ll most likely have to pay for the consequences the next day! This author never ceases to astound me with her writings. Her protagonists’ personalities and woeful stories quite honestly played havoc with my imagination. She made them come alive in such a way that at times I felt like I was intruding on their most personal space. In fact, talk about babbling to myself isn’t in it! If I gave advice to one, the other was getting a good talking to and vice versa! And did either of them listen to me? Nope!

“Better to worry too much and be pleasantly surprised than worry too little and get taken advantage of.”

As Nina Burton’s story panned out, she effortlessly got under my skin and I soon understood the predicament she was in. Solution’s seed was sown by Kate, her sassy and open-minded bestie who at all times, was in the background and had her back. I actually felt what Nina was about to do arguably debatable. Feasible, definitely. Morally correct…you’ll have to make your own minds up! Yet like Kate, I still thought if no-one was going to get hurt, this short-longish project of sorts might just work out regardless of Nina shying away from any kind of emotional relationship.

“You are clueless.”

“Yeah, and I’d like to remain clueless when it comes to that part of his anatomy, so scoot…”

Observing this young woman give as good as she gets and come over so strong blew the socks off me! Her dry wit creased me up and her no-nonsense fighter attitude I adored. However, as she’d willing stepped out of her comfort zone, the way she handled her emotions annoyed me a tad. Her consuming fears were like blinkers. She couldn’t see further than her nose when the man who inadvertently wiggled his way into her life consumed her. Always a lover of Shakespearean scenarios, tragedy seemed to be too close to home for my comfort.

“This isn’t an act. Maybe it was in the beginning. Maybe I wish it still were. But this—it’s not an act.”

Why then, did I support the heroine and blast the hero out of the astrosphere when his proposition was the perfect package? Probably because said package was indecently his to start with. Although my pain for Nina was fraught; in contrast, Max brought out even more conflicting feeling in me. Re: Hate Story! I truly wanted to give Nina a good wake up call, too. I found her icy attitude towards him incomprehensible seeing as he tried so hard to make things work under such unusual circumstances. I knew her trust issues were justifiable. Hurtful events going back as far as she remembers became my present torment and hers. . . they were always hers. Saying that, her future worries stem from this and are the crux of the matter. In her book, getting close to anyone was a no-no. Will that solid wall she’d carefully built around her heart protect her from Maximilian Hans Xavier Sturm?

“I’m good with my hands. I’ve got references should you need them”

“I’m sure the only reference who’d give a glowing recommendation is the region below your belt.”

Was making a deal with the devilishly gorgeous Max who wears a suit like his second skin, selling her soul? In my book, yes! He’s drop-dead yummy gals. . . but, and the huge but is how long it takes Nina to realise what she’d actually let herself in for. Believe me, all my feelings cried out aloud in that one unlawful clause written in ink that has a sell by date making me want to curl up and die. Signing on the dotted line was easy to envisage, difficult to fathom. . . do they abide by it or keep their promises?

“Is your silence a sign of agreement, disagreement, or indecision?”

Maximillian Hans Xavier Sturm. It’s been a long while since I have been able to invest in such a character as is him. He has personal reasons for his actions. Neither he nor I ever expected an outcome that would floor both of us. While writing this review, I sobbed my heart out. His stance regarding the situation Nina and himself were in was of his own doing. Only throughout the story did I see him grow and bend beyond my wishes showing me his true facets. In fact, I really hope the author doesn’t mind but I have to speak to him in first person. “Max, you did good. Your patience was your virtue.” Saying that, I lost my patience with Nina whilst she battled with her emotions.

“But one day at a time, okay? Don’t rush this. Don’t rush us.”

I really don’t want you to take these words of mine lightly. This heartfelt standalone is worthy of reading. The storyline was above my expectations, the secondary character development, par excellent. Family conflicts come to a head giving this read the spice I yearned for. As you might have observed in this review, I haven’t mentioned the bedroom scenes. I was actually prepared to give them second place since this story is so much more than this. Despite trying to ignore them, I simply couldn’t. Aptly woven into two beautiful characters’ to and fro, come and go or make it and break it, these precious moments grazed my thoughts just enough to make me smile. Conclusion, Max and Nina made me believe life’s struggles are worth it. And Nina’s secret is safe with me. Bravo Ms Williams!

 

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AMAZON: U.S | U.KCANADAAUSTRALIA

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Nicole Williams is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of contemporary and young adult romance, including the Crash and Lost & Found series. Her books have been published by HarperTeen and Simon & Schuster in both domestic and foreign markets, while she continues to self-publish additional titles. She is working on a new YA series with Crown Books (a division of Random House) as well. She loves romance, from the sweet to the steamy, and writes stories about characters in search of their happily even after. She grew up surrounded by books and plans on writing until the day she dies, even if it’s just for her own personal enjoyment. She still buys paperbacks because she’s all nostalgic like that, but her kindle never goes neglected for too long. When not writing, she spends her time with her husband and daughter, and whatever time’s left over she’s forced to fit too many hobbies into too little time.

 

Nicole is represented by Jane Dystel, of Dystel and Goderich Literary Agency

 

Website   Facebook  Twitter  Blog  Instagram

 

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                              RELEASE DAY BLITZ                                   HATE STORY by NICOLE WILLIAMS

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Title: Hate Story

Author: Nicole Williams

Genre: Contemporary Romance 

Release date: 23rd December, 2016

 

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Nina can’t let herself fall in love with the man she’s going to marry. Both of them have experienced the sting and sham of love and have no intentions of falling victim to it twice. Love is expensive—hate is free.

Three years. A million dollars. A solution to both of their problems. They planned it all, from the story of their first meeting to the date of their divorce. Nothing could go wrong.

But what they didn’t consider was chemistry, and Nina and Max have no shortage of it. After too many near-kisses, Nina convinces herself that hating Max is better than loving him, and the more she gets to know this soon-to-be-husband of hers, the more she discovers just how very much she truly, madly, and deeply . . . hates him.

This isn’t a love story. This is the other kind.

 

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excerpt

 

“Okay. So how do you think this is going?” Max tipped the broom handle between us. “You and me?”
My forehead pinched together. “You and me the plan? Or you and me the surprise?”
Max’s brow answered my question.
“And this topic is what you consider not-so-deep?” I nudged him and moved to finish stocking syrups.
“All I’m looking for is a simple estimation. Since we were just talking about school, give us a grade for how you think this is going.”
“A grade? Like A, B, C, D, F?”
“Exactly like that.”
I shook my head. “Did you have a rough day at work today? Lose an Olympic-size swimming pool of money or something? Are you needing your daily ego stroking to come from somewhere else today?” When I glanced back at him, I found Max leaning into the door he’d relocked, arms crossed and waiting.
“Our relationship is unique,” he said. “Intricate. I’m asking not because I need my ego stroked, but because I care. If I need to make some changes, I’m willing to. Anything you need, whatever you want, that’s what I’ll give you. But first, I have to know how I’m doing.”
If a man could get a woman pregnant from a piercing stare and a collection of words, I’d just gotten myself good and knocked up. With twins.
“You know how it’s going,” I said, trying to focus on the syrups instead of what—or who—I wanted to focus on.
“I know how I think it’s going. I’d like to know how you think it’s going.”
My mouth went a little dry. Having these kinds of talks was hard for anyone—they were next to impossible for me. “Well, you haven’t gone and confessed your undying love or scared the hell out of me by asking me to be your baby mama, so you’re keeping your promise to take it nice and slow.” When he gave a mini bow, I rolled my eyes. “Not to mention you aren’t too shabby in the sack, you don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink, and you share the remote well.”
Max’s face went flat. “Not too shabby?”
“Oh, please. You know how good you are. Stop fishing for compliments.” A flush crept up my neck as I thought of the most recent evidence to support that theory.
A slow, crooked smile spread across his face. “I want a grade.”
“Like comprehensive? Or broken down by category?” I was stalling, and Max knew I was stalling.
“You’re making this way too difficult,” he grumbled.
“An A minus,” I said abruptly. “I’d give you an A minus.”
“Why not an A plus?”
I kept my head turned so he couldn’t see my smile. Only Max Sturm would be outraged by an A minus. “Because there’s always room for improvement. And I wouldn’t want it to go to your head, that’s why not an A plus.”
The door creaked when he shoved off of it. He made no move to tame the way he was checking me out, leaning into the counter as I organized the syrups. “Something’s definitely going to my head.”
My gaze roamed his zipper region. “I was talking about the one north of your neck.”
“And I’m talking about the one at the end of my dick. My, at present, hard dick, thanks to you.” He came up behind me, fitting himself against my backside as his hands moved around to work on my jeans.
“Max,” I protested, my eyes closing a second later when his dick nuzzled deeper into my backside.
“Nina. I’m taking your body. Here. Now.” His chest pressed into my back as he lowered my zipper. “Accept that so we can move on to the next part.”

 

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Kindle Friends Forever 5 Review by Sharon Thérèse

The premise of this story is not new one. Nonetheless; Ms Williams managed to make this read especially hateful, downright lovable and totally unputdownable. I had no option but to put life on hold and do an all-nighter! So be warned; if you start reading it at stupid o’clock like me, you’ll most likely have to pay for the consequences the next day! This author never ceases to astound me with her writings. Her protagonists’ personalities and woeful stories quite honestly played havoc with my imagination. She made them come alive in such a way that at times I felt like I was intruding on their most personal space. In fact, talk about babbling to myself isn’t in it! If I gave advice to one, the other was getting a good talking to and vice versa! And did either of them listen to me? Nope!

“Better to worry too much and be pleasantly surprised than worry too little and get taken advantage of.”

As Nina Burton’s story panned out, she effortlessly got under my skin and I soon understood the predicament she was in. Solution’s seed was sown by Kate, her sassy and open-minded bestie who at all times, was in the background and had her back. I actually felt what Nina was about to do arguably debatable. Feasible, definitely. Morally correct…you’ll have to make your own minds up! Yet like Kate, I still thought if no-one was going to get hurt, this short-longish project of sorts might just work out regardless of Nina shying away from any kind of emotional relationship.

“You are clueless.”

“Yeah, and I’d like to remain clueless when it comes to that part of his anatomy, so scoot…”

Observing this young woman give as good as she gets and come over so strong blew the socks off me! Her dry wit creased me up and her no-nonsense fighter attitude I adored. However, as she’d willing stepped out of her comfort zone, the way she handled her emotions annoyed me a tad. Her consuming fears were like blinkers. She couldn’t see further than her nose when the man who inadvertently wiggled his way into her life consumed her. Always a lover of Shakespearean scenarios, tragedy seemed to be too close to home for my comfort.

“This isn’t an act. Maybe it was in the beginning. Maybe I wish it still were. But this—it’s not an act.”

Why then, did I support the heroine and blast the hero out of the astrosphere when his proposition was the perfect package? Probably because said package was indecently his to start with. Although my pain for Nina was fraught; in contrast, Max brought out even more conflicting feeling in me. Re: Hate Story! I truly wanted to give Nina a good wake up call, too. I found her icy attitude towards him incomprehensible seeing as he tried so hard to make things work under such unusual circumstances. I knew her trust issues were justifiable. Hurtful events going back as far as she remembers became my present torment and hers. . . they were always hers. Saying that, her future worries stem from this and are the crux of the matter. In her book, getting close to anyone was a no-no. Will that solid wall she’d carefully built around her heart protect her from Maximilian Hans Xavier Sturm?

“I’m good with my hands. I’ve got references should you need them”

“I’m sure the only reference who’d give a glowing recommendation is the region below your belt.”

Was making a deal with the devilishly gorgeous Max who wears a suit like his second skin, selling her soul? In my book, yes! He’s drop-dead yummy gals. . . but, and the huge but is how long it takes Nina to realise what she’d actually let herself in for. Believe me, all my feelings cried out aloud in that one unlawful clause written in ink that has a sell by date making me want to curl up and die. Signing on the dotted line was easy to envisage, difficult to fathom. . . do they abide by it or keep their promises?

“Is your silence a sign of agreement, disagreement, or indecision?”

Maximillian Hans Xavier Sturm. It’s been a long while since I have been able to invest in such a character as is him. He has personal reasons for his actions. Neither he nor I ever expected an outcome that would floor both of us. While writing this review, I sobbed my heart out. His stance regarding the situation Nina and himself were in was of his own doing. Only throughout the story did I see him grow and bend beyond my wishes showing me his true facets. In fact, I really hope the author doesn’t mind but I have to speak to him in first person. “Max, you did good. Your patience was your virtue.” Saying that, I lost my patience with Nina whilst she battled with her emotions.

“But one day at a time, okay? Don’t rush this. Don’t rush us.”

I really don’t want you to take these words of mine lightly. This heartfelt standalone is worthy of reading. The storyline was above my expectations, the secondary character development, par excellent. Family conflicts come to a head giving this read the spice I yearned for. As you might have observed in this review, I haven’t mentioned the bedroom scenes. I was actually prepared to give them second place since this story is so much more than this. Despite trying to ignore them, I simply couldn’t. Aptly woven into two beautiful characters’ to and fro, come and go or make it and break it, these precious moments grazed my thoughts just enough to make me smile. Conclusion, Max and Nina made me believe life’s struggles are worth it. And Nina’s secret is safe with me. Bravo Ms Williams!

 

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AMAZON: U.S | U.KCANADAAUSTRALIA

Nook iBooks

 

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Nicole Williams is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of contemporary and young adult romance, including the Crash and Lost & Found series. Her books have been published by HarperTeen and Simon & Schuster in both domestic and foreign markets, while she continues to self-publish additional titles. She is working on a new YA series with Crown Books (a division of Random House) as well. She loves romance, from the sweet to the steamy, and writes stories about characters in search of their happily even after. She grew up surrounded by books and plans on writing until the day she dies, even if it’s just for her own personal enjoyment. She still buys paperbacks because she’s all nostalgic like that, but her kindle never goes neglected for too long. When not writing, she spends her time with her husband and daughter, and whatever time’s left over she’s forced to fit too many hobbies into too little time.

 

Nicole is represented by Jane Dystel, of Dystel and Goderich Literary Agency

 

Website   Facebook  Twitter  Blog  Instagram

 

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                                 RELEASE BOOST                           FOR ALL THE EVERS by DEBRA ANASTASIA

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Title: For All the Evers

Author: Debra Anastasia

Genre: Romantic Suspense 

Release date: 18th December, 2016

Cover Art Design by A True Friend

 

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SYNOPSIS

Fallen Billow should be in college like most of her friends, but instead she’s raising her brother and working as a housekeeper at a vintage local hotel. It’s back-breaking work, but not nearly as challenging as fending off unwanted advances from the hotel’s owner.

Thomas McHugh is fighting for our country, across the globe and decades before Fallen Billow was even born. So there’s no way they’re soul mates. There’s no way he can be desperate to see her, hold her, kiss her. Except there is.

Is it a dream when he inks his name on her skin? Is it a delusion when she puts her hands on his face and says she loves him? Nothing has ever felt more real.

Fate has etched paths for Thomas and Fallen that even time cannot touch. A Purple Heart proclaims Thomas’ valor and bravery. And his death. But Fallen dares to dream of the impossible. She wants Thomas to stay. Just stay.

A tribute to all who have served our country, this novel honors the impossible beauty of love and the endless power of hope. Come open your heart and celebrate the many facets of bravery with Fallen and Thomas.

 

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Kindle Friends Forever: 5 ★ Review by Sharon Thérèse

I truly had no idea what to expect from this read and all I can say is the author left me speechless. In fact, if I were you, I wouldn’t read the synopsis. Trust me, she’ll take you on a mystical journey like no other you’ve been on. Her extraordinary ability to pull the reader in from the first page and make you want to turn the next and the next and the next remains unparalleled. The plot is a fascinating one. Her characters I loved to hate and others made me come undone. Yes, man-sized hankies are a must here since this story of forever and ever love touches one’s very soul. She kept me on edge throughout so much so that I needed to take a break and even then, I couldn’t stop thinking about the two protagonists’ dilemma. And ooh boy, what a DILEMMA! You ma’am, made me lose sleep over these lovebirds!

For All the Evers couldn’t have a more apt title. For me, it conjured up a story that has no ending. Ah. . . does it have one though? You’ll have to wait and see because while you’re reading, it’s not only Fallen and Thomas’ surroundings that come alive. I can assure you that this reader never could have envisaged such beautiful scenes in every sense of the word. Their story; their lifetime and lifeline, made me smile, cry and pray hopelessly all at the same time. I was given no option but to root for two of the most awe-inspiring characters who at the author’s hand, made me feel like I was alongside them. And I can’t thank her enough for giving me this pleasure.

“Don’t cry, my pretty Fallen. This. What we just did here? It will be the light in my darkest goddamn hour. Memories of time with you are my sanity.”

Fallen. Gosh. . . how on earth can I begin to tell you how I felt about her. Firstly, her nature is selflessly caring and the humblest of all heroines I have yet to meet. She takes no credit; she survives by doing her best. She is too young to take on so much responsibility; however, she gets on with the job making sure her brother needs for nothing under such dire circumstances. Her love for him is unquestionable. When the going gets tough, it’s hands down regardless of one family member’s interference. An interference which is sadly something which exists and difficult to deal with for those of us that have had to live with it.

“How dare you? How dare you come in here and ask me what my paycheck is? Do we have to starve? Do we have to have nothing to make you happy?”

Thursdays. “So why or what is the problem with this day of the week,” you may ask! Simply answered. This book awakens where you’d least imagine it to. Or just maybe it falls into a dream beyond anyone’s comprehension. Perfect narration had me itching for it to be Thursday again! And as much as I’d like to tell you more, I can’t possibly let on. What I can say is three completely different personas slam together with an almighty clash on these days to such an extent that I was either showing support for two of them, or wishing the other would do a disappearing act. I’d have gladly given the latter a good Kindle-head-bashing! Grrr. . What a conniving so-and-so he is. There were times when a didn’t know how Fallen was going to tackle this man without coming out unscathed.

“I could make your life much easier.”
“I’m not sure that’s how things work. . .”

Thomas. Not allowed to swear here since you know who won’t publish my review; ooh, but for the love of him, he had me from the first time I set eyes on this chivalrously gorgeous man. Yes, it’s a very visual read so excuse me while I swoon! When I met Thomas, I was a tad confused. Fortunately, I wasn’t left puzzled for too long. He goes out of his way to do the impossible and I have to confess that there were moments when I thought he wouldn’t be able to be where he wanted.

“Stay with me.”
“Dream girl, make it until next Thursday. Please.”

Any good story has to have a bad guy and if there are a couple of bad gals to spice things up, all the better. I loved the how Fallen named two of her backstabbing co-workers; nevertheless, Fallen does make a trustworthy friend in her workplace and takes all the advice she can get from her. I adored Desta. This wise and wonderful woman doesn’t make it easy for Fallen to begin with but at the end of the day, she is there for her. The baddie. . . read the book and make your own minds up!

“You have to keep this between us. I’m never supposed to talk about it, but there’s a spark in you, lady. I feel you can handle the truth of it all. Well, the truth of what I know.”

I can honestly say that while writing this review, I cried. I could have made it longer; there is so much more to say and I feel that my written words don’t give enough praise to the author who has written such an amazing story. Lady, you have brought Thomas home. The ending. . . BRAVO!

“Thank you,” “For stealing me from time. I want to spend all the evers I get right here. . .”

 

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EXCERPT

    “I bet you were adorable.” He put his knuckle under her chin and encouraged her to lift her head. She rolled back over and settled against his shoulder.

    “I don’t want to be adorable. I want to be impossible.”

    “How do you mean?” He kissed her forehead.

    “I want to be impossible for you to forget, impossible for you to keep your hands off of.” She leaned up for a kiss.

    “You’re my impossible then. Have no fear.” He tenderly reminded her he was her impossible, too, with his lips.

    She put her hand against his stomach and snuggled in. “This is my spot. Right here. With you—it’s home.”

    He swallowed before talking to the ceiling. “My heart was like a fist. Where I am? It’s not a place you plan to survive. I’ve been there for years, and it’s not about skill; it’s not even about luck. You get strapped into a machine, and fate’s driving. You can’t get out even if you want to. So you submit to it. You harden your soul. You get ready to die.”

    He shifted, rolling on top of her. She sighed in contentment. Being beneath him made her feel safe and secure.

    He kissed her lips, then the tip of her nose, before continuing. “But with you, it’s like my heart’s opening up, and I’m terrified to feel, after all this time. Yet I don’t have a choice. No matter where I am, I draw your face whenever I get a scrap of paper.”

    He laughed a little. “We found a puppy, and I named it Fallen, just so I could say your name over and over. The guys think I’m crazy—such a strange name for a dog. But I don’t care. I’m gasping for you every moment I’m awake. And I’m making choices to keep me alive through the week.”

    His eyes searched hers. “What if I’m not as tough as I was in the beginning? God, I hope no one is affected by my distraction with this. But in the end there’s you. Only you. Do what you have to to get back to me when you’re awake. You have to. I need you more than air, more than life right now. The softness of you, the tenderness in your eyes when you see me. I’m trying to force fate to throw me in your direction. To hurl me at you somehow. I don’t know if it will work. But I’m praying for it.”

    Fallen touched his face, then his neck. “I will do everything I can to find you.”

 

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AMAZON: U.S | U.K | CANADA | AUSTRALIA 

SPAIN | FRANCE | GERMANY | BRAZIL

 

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About the Author:

There are a lot of eyes in Debra Anastasia’s house in Maryland. First, her own creepy peepers are there, staring at her computer screen. She’s made two more sets of eyes with her body, and the kids they belong to are amazing. The poor husband is still looking at her after 17 years of marriage. At least he likes to laugh. Then the freaking dogs are looking at her–six eyeballs altogether, though the old dog is blind. And the cat watches her too, mostly while knocking stuff off the counter and doing that internal kitty laugh when Deb can’t catch the items fast enough.

In between taking care of everything those eyes involve, Debra creates pretend people in her head and paints them on the giant, beautiful canvas of your imagination. What an amazing job that is. The stories hit her hard while driving the minivan or shaving her legs, especially when there’s no paper and pen around. Within all of the lies she writes hides her heart, so thank you for letting it play in your mind.

Debra has written a smattering of books in a few genres. There are two paranormal romances in the Seraphim series and now four contemporary romances in the Poughkeepsie Brotherhood series. Fire Down Below and Fire in the Hole complete the Gynazule Comedy Series. The Revenger, a dark paranormal romance, is finally in the light, and the last, a novella called Late Night with Andres, is special because 100% of the proceeds go to breast cancer research. (So go get it right now, please!) For All The Evers (FATE) is a touching time travel story to honor a vet in Debra’s family.

 

Why not enter Debra’s fabulous #GIVEAWAY 

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Debra’s #GIVEAWAY

A signed Paperback of For All The Evers and Saving Poughkeepsie, signed handcrafted holiday ornaments, Boot Camp Dating Service ring, Poughkeepsie lip balm and cardboard keychain, and XL One More Chapter T-shirt!

 

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Love to hug! Stalk Debra and you might just be in for a surprise and get one!

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                                CHAPTER REVEAL                                    HATE STORY by NICOLE WILLIAMS

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Title: Hate Story

Author: Nicole Williams

Genre: Contemporary Romance 

Release date: 26th December, 2016

 

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Nina can’t let herself fall in love with the man she’s going to marry. Both of them have experienced the sting and sham of love and have no intentions of falling victim to it twice. Love is expensive—hate is free.

Three years. A million dollars. A solution to both of their problems. They planned it all, from the story of their first meeting to the date of their divorce. Nothing could go wrong.

But what they didn’t consider was chemistry, and Nina and Max have no shortage of it. After too many near-kisses, Nina convinces herself that hating Max is better than loving him, and the more she gets to know this soon-to-be-husband of hers, the more she discovers just how very much she truly, madly, and deeply . . . hates him.

This isn’t a love story. This is the other kind.

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    Second thoughts. I was having them.

    Experiencing these any time before stepping into the lobby of the swanky hotel I was meeting him at would have been helpful.

    “Sure you’re ready for this?” my best friend, Kate, asked, surveying the lobby like he was going to be lurking there with a sign hanging above his head.

    “I’m sure.”

    It was a lie. I wasn’t sure I was ready, but I didn’t have a choice. The bills had gone from a pile to a pillar, and if I didn’t do something soon, I would lose the house. I couldn’t lose the house. Not ever. It was the only home I’d ever known.

    “You don’t have to do this, you know? There are other options. When I mentioned this a few months ago, it was just a far-off suggestion, not one I thought you’d actually run with.” Kate slowed down as we got closer to the hotel lounge where he was supposed to be waiting.

    “There are no other options that include me keeping the house. At least not ones that are any less illicit than this one.” I licked my lips out of nervousness. With the way things had been lately, it was a miracle they hadn’t turned into sandpaper.

    “You know you could go to jail, right?”

    My tongue touched my lips again. “Only if I get caught.”

    Kate shook her head, and her light hair whipped across her shoulders. She was everything I wasn’t. Tall, rail-thin, straight blond hair that cooperated, skin that looked like she’d been gilded in something ethereal, and dressed like life was one endless party. Our personalities were a stark contrast as well. She was effervescent, where I fell somewhere closer to the jaded end of the scale. She wrung the life out of each day, loved like she’d never been hurt, and laughed like she’d never known sorrow.

    What she saw in me that kept our friendship enduring, I didn’t know. I just hoped she hadn’t hung around when others bailed because she felt obligated. I didn’t want to be anyone’s pity penance.

    She snagged my arm when I walked in front of her, braking me to a stop when I was a few steps from the lounge’s entrance. “Do you know what he looks like?”

    I tempered my irritation before glancing at her. She was coming from a place of concern, but I was committed. I just needed to get this over with already. “No.”

    “About how old he is?”

     My armpits were starting to sweat. I hadn’t even seen him yet and I was already pitting out. “No,” I answered, lifting my arms a little for ventilation.

    “Do you know what he’s going to be wearing tonight?” Kate glanced over my shoulder, almost glaring into the lounge.

    “No.” I twisted from side to side to create as much of a breeze as I could. I so should have splurged for the clinical strength deodorant instead of this cheap dollar-store junk that was probably going to give me cancer one day. If my budget hadn’t been worked out to the last quarter, I would have.

    “Do you know anything about him?” Kate sighed, motioning at me like I was the lamb who’d just brayed as the first volunteer for the slaughter. “Other than, you know . . .” She swallowed. “What he wants?”

    My stomach rolled. I definitely knew what he wanted.

    “I know his name.”

     Kate waited a moment. “And his name is . . .?”

    “Sturm.”

    Her nose wrinkled. “What kind of a name is that?”

    “Sturm’s his last name. I don’t know what his first is.”

    Kate’s nose went back to normal, but a high eyebrow took over its job of disapproving. She was especially expressive. That was another way we were different. Kate seemed to have no desire or inclination to hide what she felt, whereas I had every desire and inclination to hide.

    “So what is he expecting you to call him? Mister Sturm? Because this twenty-first-century feminist is so not okay with one of her best friends addressing this guy like that.”

    “Yeah, neither is this twenty-first-century feminist.” I flapped air in the direction of my armpits because they were only getting worse.

    “The same feminist agreeing to marry a man for money?” Kate drew her hand up to her hip and stretched into every inch of her nearly-six-foot frame.

    The word still sucked the air out of my lungs, but it had lost some of its potency. “Exactly—agreeing to marry him for money instead of lame reasons like love or feelings or to grow old together. How much more feminist does it get?”

    Kate looked down at me. “Eh, how about instead of marrying him for money, you could turn him into the authorities for trying to commit green card fraud?” She peeked over my shoulder and craned her neck to look into the lounge. “Besides, what is a million dollars really? That chick in that Indecent Proposal movie got a million and she only had to spend one night with him. Plus if you factor in inflation, since that movie’s almost as old as I am, you are getting the proverbial and literal shaft. In the ass.”

    I gave up the armpit sweat battle and hung my arms at my sides. Why did I care if this guy’s first impression of me was as a profuse sweater? I wasn’t asking for his approval or even expecting it. He was a business transaction to me. I was a means to an end to him.

    A case of two people embracing the capitalist spirit of America.

    “Yeah, but she had to sleep with the guy. That’s not part of our deal,” I argued. “But if it was part of the fine print, believe me, I’d ask for a hell of a lot more.”

    We had an agreement. Kind of. It was more a rough draft that had just as many amendments as it had bullet points, but I preferred having everything ironed out in advance. I wanted to know exactly what I was getting into before sinking up to my neck in it, which I was minutes away from doing.

    “So you’re saying you would sleep with him if the price was right?” Kate’s other hand flew to her hip.

    I gave her the most indifferent face I could. I might have been able to look the part, but I certainly didn’t feel the part. “Hey, Morality Police, I’m already agreeing to marry a guy so he can get a green card. Give me a break.”

    Kate’s phone chimed in her clutch. She’d wrangled up a couple of friends to meet her at this lounge tonight so she could keep an eye on me. I guessed she was worried the guy might not be on the up-and-up and might be using a green card as a cover for wanting to sell me off for internal organs or into the sex trade. I wasn’t worried about that, but I was thankful she was here for support if nothing else.

    After punching in a quick text, Kate circled her phone at me. “And what are you wearing? Did you think there was going to be a ribbon handed out at the end of the night for the most colorful outfit?”

    I glanced down at myself. I liked color. Lots of it. Living in a place like Portland, Oregon, a person had to find a way to fight off the perpetual gray. This was my chosen method.

    “I wanted to make sure he knew who I was,” I said, just barely peeking inside the lounge. Dozens of bodies, all of them different shapes, sizes, and colors, and all of them were dressed like they’d conspired to match. “If I’d known everyone would be in some shade of gray or blue, I wouldn’t have dressed in a green polka-dot dress, fuchsia shoes, and a blue checked scarf.”

    Kate bit her lip to keep from laughing. “You’re a fashion intervention begging to happen.”

    I stopped rubbing at a wrinkle in my dress. If an iron hadn’t been up to the challenge of smoothing it out, my thumb wasn’t going to do it. “I don’t care. I’m not here to impress him or earn his approval.”

    “Yeah, that’s obvious,” she mumbled just loud enough for me to hear. When I went to give her a little shove, she slid out of the way. “And if you’re not trying to impress him, why are you wearing the first dress I’ve seen you in since, god, probably when you wore that very one at spring fling of our senior year?” Kate was looking inside the lounge now, her gaze skimming the space like she was looking for something. Her friends must have already been there because she waved at someone before lifting her finger in a just-a-minute kind of way.

    “Because I didn’t think this place was a holey jeans and sneakers kind of place,” I argued, wondering why I was defending my wardrobe choices to someone who dressed by the less-is-more standard.

    “Let’s hope Mister Sturm is fashion blind.” The way she said it earned her another little shove.

    “He’s a single, foreign man who’s paying someone a hell of a lot of money to marry him.” I crossed my arms at her as she kept peeking into the lounge. “I think it’s safe to say I’m not about to come face-to-face with a guy who spends his nights flipping the pages of GQ. And if you call him Mister Sturm again, I’m going to pull your hair.”

    Kate winked at me. “My scalp’s a little sensitive from the hair pulling last night.”

    I rolled my eyes. “Alexander?” The last man du jour she’d mentioned to me.

    “Trenton.” She kind of sighed his name. Actually, it held the hint of a moan. God. I could never imagine sighing-slash-moaning some guy’s name. Ever. The closest I’d ever gotten to a sigh-moan was over the peanut butter pie my grandma had made for my last birthday.

     “Fine,” I said, interrupting the last notes of her moan.

    “Then I’ll slap your ass if you say it again.”

    She flashed a wicked smile my direction before giving her hips a shake. “Just as sensitive.”

    “God, fine,” I groaned. “Just stop. Your sex life nauseates me.”

    “Jealous is not a good look for you. Besides, someone needs to make up for your lack of it.” Kate waved at me like my sex life was visible for all to read.

    “At your rate, you’re making up for the entire city’s lack of sex life.”

    She nodded solemnly. “You’re welcome.”

    “Besides, sex is not all it’s cracked up to be.” At this point, I was stalling, but I was nervous.

    “Believe me, with the right person who knows what they’re doing, it is all, and more, it’s cracked up to be.” Kate bounced her brows. “Some guys just know how to use their dick better than others.”

    I frowned. “Wow. I’m about to orgasm all over the place.”

    Kate laughed as she slid in front of me and teased my hair with her fingers.

    “Oww,” I whined as she ripped and pulled at my hair. “And I hope you washed your hands with bleach after the last dick you touched.”

    She responded by smearing her hands down the sides of my face. “Most action you’ve ever seen.” She scrubbed them down my face one more time. “You’re welcome.”

    I stepped out of the reach of her filthy little paws and waved her toward the lounge.

    “I’ll be right there. Just give the signal if the guy turns out to be a serious creeper, okay?” She waited for me to nod, then she kissed the air in my direction. “Go get him, tomcat.”

    I didn’t know how to reply to that, so I went with an okay signal.

    I waited a minute after Kate had disappeared into the lounge. Then I waited one more before forcing my feet forward. It wasn’t like my dwindling courage was going to find its way back the longer I stalled.

    Taking in a slow breath, I pictured my house. The one I’d grown up in. The one that had housed a Burton for sixty years. The one that would probably be gutted or ripped down and replaced by whatever rich a-hole bought it at the foreclosure sale. I pictured relief from the stack of bills, the freedom to have choices, and a future that wasn’t already painted with bleak hues and dark strokes.

    Then I moved inside the lounge and took my first step toward my future husband.

 

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Nicole Williams is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of contemporary and young adult romance, including the Crash and Lost & Found series. Her books have been published by HarperTeen and Simon & Schuster in both domestic and foreign markets, while she continues to self-publish additional titles. She is working on a new YA series with Crown Books (a division of Random House) as well. She loves romance, from the sweet to the steamy, and writes stories about characters in search of their happily even after. She grew up surrounded by books and plans on writing until the day she dies, even if it’s just for her own personal enjoyment. She still buys paperbacks because she’s all nostalgic like that, but her kindle never goes neglected for too long. When not writing, she spends her time with her husband and daughter, and whatever time’s left over she’s forced to fit too many hobbies into too little time.

 

Nicole is represented by Jane Dystel, of Dystel and Goderich Literary Agency

 

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