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Friday, July 31, 2020

๐ŸŒŸ BOOK BLITZ ๐ŸŒŸ Man Down by Kate Meader {EXCERPT + GIVEAWAY!}




Man Down by Kate Meader

Release Date: July 28th 2020 by Kate Meader LLC
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

I’ve been texting the wife I lost, the woman I loved beyond measure . . . Now someone else has answered back.

Gunnar Bond is broken.

Three years ago, he lived through the car crash that took his wife and twins away from him—though “lived” barely describes his current state. Giving up professional hockey, going off grid, and drinking himself into oblivion are his coping mechanisms. Another is texting his dead wife about his days without her. Therapeutic? Doubtful. Crazy? Definitely. But those messages into the ether are virtually the only thing stopping him from spiraling to even darker places.

Until someone texts back …

Sadie Yates is losing it.

Suddenly guardian to a little sister she doesn’t know and a misbehaving hound she’d rather not know at all, she’s had to upend her (sort of) glamorous life in LA and move back to Chicago. The nanny has quit, the money’s running out, and her job is on the line. The last thing she needs is her sister’s hockey camp counselor, a judgmental Viking type, telling her she sucks at this parenting lark. Thank the goddess for her sweet, sensitive, and—fingers crossed—sexy text buddy who always knows the right thing to say. In the same city at last, they can finally see if their online chemistry is mirrored in real life. She just needs to set up a meeting …

A ruined man who claims to have used up all his love is surely a bad bet, but Sadie’s never been afraid of a challenge … even one that might shatter her heart into a million pieces.



{EXCERPT}

Gunnar must be losing his mind. This woman infuriated him, yet he couldn’t stop thinking about her. About her lush curves and bright eyes, that mobile mouth and stubborn chin. A part of the attraction was how much he obviously pissed her off—which was somewhat his fault and somewhat hers. After years of numbness, the novelty of feeling something, anything, was so electrifying that all considerations about the fact he was kissing the wrong person were easily set aside.

The wrong person? Why had he thought that?

Possibly because she wasn’t kissing him back.

Fuck.

She wasn’t kissing him back.

He stopped. “I shouldn’t have done that.”

“No?” A question rather than outright agreement.

“This isn’t what you want. I—” He scraped a hand through his hair.

She peered up at him, her eyes big and round as silver moons. No censure, only … confusion.

“You surprised me. Big time.” Her lips curved into that slayer smile and his heart kicked hard against his rib cage. “I thought you didn’t like me.”

“I don’t.” It was out so fast that it could only be true. “But then like doesn’t have much to do with this, does it?”

“This?”

He waved between them, indicating the this he meant.

“You’re … attracted to me?” Her eyes grew impossibly rounder.

“That is usually why someone kisses someone.”

“But you don’t like me?”

“I don’t know you. To be honest, we seem to rub each other the wrong way.”

“We know why that is. You accused me of being a neglectful guardian and frankly, your apology was not good enough.”

Here we go again. “I apologized, but some people prefer to hold grudges because they enjoy being mad at anyone other than themselves.”

“That’s what you think this is? I’m misplacing my anger and directing it at some poor guy who doesn’t deserve it?”

“Why else would you hold on to it?”

“Clearly because I’m annoyed at wanting you!” Her hand flew to her mouth. “That’s not what I meant to say.”

A pleasant shiver of surprise rolled through him. He had been right. There was something worth pursuing here. “What did you mean to say?”

“That I don’t buy your psychobabble. I can be mad at you for several reasons. I am woman. I contain multitudes.”

He rubbed his mouth, hiding his smile. Sadie Yates was going to be a lot of fun. Only that’s what he’d thought about Angel, who had ignored the couple of texts he’d sent her.

Sadie reared up on tip-toes, all fire and indignation, and pushed at his chest. “Don’t you dare laugh at me.”

“Why not? You’re being funny right now.”

“I’m not. I don’t even like you and …” Her brow furrowed. “I want to.”

“You want to? Why?” A weird statement and a weirder question, but he needed to know.

“It’s like when everyone reads the latest New York Times bestseller and loves it, but you’re all ‘who cares? Why are people loving this junk?’”

Comparisons with junk. Definitely on brand. “So you’re wondering why your opinion of me is so out of step with the masses. Maybe because you like to go against the grain to be contrary.”

“Maybe because I have taste. As far as I can see, you’re a judgmental dick who happens to be tall and bearded. That’s all you have going for you. Unreasonable height and killer facial hair!”

“Poor me.” He felt another smile coming on. “Sadie?”

“What?”

He stepped in closer. “You don’t have to like me. You don’t have to think what everyone else does. Half the time, I can’t tell if people are being nice to me because they like me or because I’m a famous hockey player or because I have a sad backstory that invites pity.”


AUTHOR BIO:


Originally from Ireland, USA Today bestselling author Kate Meader cut her romance reader teeth on Maeve Binchy and Jilly Cooper novels, with some Harlequins thrown in for variety. Give her tales about brooding mill owners, oversexed equestrians, and men who can rock an apron, a fire hose, or a hockey stick, and she's there. Now based in Chicago, she writes sexy contemporary romance with alpha heroes and strong heroines who can match their men quip for quip.


{GIVEAWAY!}



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๐Ÿ”– REVIEW BLITZ ๐Ÿ”– The Perfect Woman by Nicole French




The Perfect Woman by Nicole French

Release Date: July 30th 2020 by Raglan Publishing
Series: Rose Gold #2
Genres: Romance, Contemporary

My husband is a monster.
My home is riddled with lies.
I thought I could bear the torment for my daughter's sake.

Until I met him.

In one night, Matthew Zola showed me everything I never knew I was missing.
Passion.
Pleasure.
Deep, dark, earth-shattering love.

Matthew thinks I'm the perfect woman.
But we're only as good as the secrets we keep.
And my biggest one—the one he doesn't know—could cost him everything.

Could I to risk everything to buy back my freedom?
Or should I remain in shackles to protect the man I love?




My Review:

The Rose Gold series just keeps getting better! French once again has managed to deliver an incredible story in The Perfect Woman that was full of sizzling romance, suspense and the plots twist that will leave you wanting for more.

The story picks up right after we left off in The Other Man, with Nina de Vries and Matthew Zola vowing to not see each other after it was found that her husband is connected to a bigger crime that neither of them expected him to be. In order to protect her daughter, Nina agrees to return to her husband while Matthew does everything he can so that they can be together once again. Yet, there are things that Nina has kept hidden for the past ten years, secrets that have made her prisoner in her own world. Her only hope is that the love of her life frees her once and for all. But time is running out and she will have to decide if she can leave her life behind in order to create a new one with Matthew or stay behind.

Matthew Zola is good at his job, he has prosecuted a lot of bad people and he promised Nina to do everything he can to free her from her husband. She has become the woman he loves but can never have. As he gets closer to finding out the truth, he discovers an even bigger secret that can shatter the love he has for her.

The Perfect Woman had me hooked from beginning to end! I loved how easily I was able to get into the story and follow the next step in the characters’ journey. It is told in duel POV, which made it that more intriguing and interesting to read. Although it is mainly Nina’s journey, the story does give a good perspective into her past and why she made the decisions that she made. There are so many little twists, yet the biggest one is at the end. French left us all with a huge cliffhanger, it’s a good things the conclusion to their story will be released very soon. It was nice to see how the characters developed in this book, it was more in depth and full of emotions. Matthew was sweet as ever with Nina and he truly loves her. But their love gets tested once again when we find out the shocking plot twist at the end. It was nice seeing the characters interact with characters from previous series. All in all, I would highly recommend checking out this series and any others by the author, you will not regret it. :)

**I voluntarily read an early copy of this title in exchange for an honest review**

My Rating:



Meet Nicole French:

Nicole French is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance. She's also a hopeless romantic, Springsteen fanatic, and total bookworm. When not writing, she is hanging out with her family, playing soccer with the rest of the thirty-plus crowd in Seattle, or going on dates with her husband. In her spare time, she likes to go running or practice the piano, but never seems to do either one of these things as much as she should.

Keep up with Nicole French and receive your FREE copy of one of her books when you subscribe to her newsletter: bit.ly/NicoleFrenchNewsletter


Thanks for stopping by! ๐Ÿ“š

Thursday, July 30, 2020

๐ŸŒŸ BOOK BLITZ ๐ŸŒŸ Hasty by Julia Kent {EXCERPT + GIVEAWAY!}




Hasty by Julia Kent

Release Date: July 28th 2020 by Amazon Digital Services
Series: Do-Over #4
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Romance

AN ALL-NEW STANDALONE FROM NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR JULIA KENT

I never thought my perp walk would lead to true love.

Then again, I never thought I’d be arrested on RICO charges and hauled away in zip ties on camera for the world to see, minutes after closing the most amazing deal of my career.

And all of it in front of my biggest viral, billionaire wunderkind Ian McRory.

I am broke.

I am disgraced.

I am alone.

I am a sucker.

But the worst part? I have to go back to my hometown and live in my bedroom filled with relics from my childhood.

Lisa Frank never made me so mad before.

Just when I needed a rescue, I got one — in the form of help from my biggest rival.

He can’t bring back my money.

He certainly can’t bring back my reputation or my pride.

But there’s one thing he can bring back to me.

A sense of hope.

Maybe even love.

Ian sees something in me no one else does, and he’s relentless about making me see it, too. As we grow closer, I’m starting to see that while my entire life used to be a lie, the truth is staring me in the present — and it’s a truth I like very, very much, hot eyes and gorgeous smile and all.

But I have to be careful.

I can’t be too —

That’s right.

Hasty.

The final book in the USA Today bestselling Do-Over Series (Fluffy, Perky, Feisty), as Mallory’s sister, Hastings “Hasty” Monahan gets her turn at a happily ever after that starts off with an arrest.

Hers.




{EXCERPT}

Today is the best day of my life.

I know people say that, and they mean it, but they don’t mean this. My best day is better than anyone else's. Trust me.

I know.

I’m sitting at a table at Essentialz, a five-star restaurant in San Francisco. Everyone at the table watches me as I tuck the signed paperwork away in my black Bottega Veneta woven leather brief bag.

I, Hastings Monahan, just signed a nine-figure investment deal on behalf of the venture capital firm I work for.

Full partner, here I come.

Of course, lawyers will handle the majority of this. The signatures are symbolic as much as they are legal. But the fellow diners at my carefully crafted table will go back to China with an exciting opportunity for their company, Zhangwa Telecommunications, to enter the North American market with climate-change technology projecting yields that are the best aphrodisiac ever.

As I sip from my glass of Montrachet Grand Cru, I catch the eye of Ming Bannerton, a consultant with Zhangwa whose father is a high-ranking U.S State Department official in China, a woman who has a hunger for financial success that I can spot in anyone in three seconds flat. There’s something special about a fellow hustler–and when I use the word hustler, I don’t mean it pejoratively.

People who hustle get things done.

We connect. We network. We pattern match. We ruthlessly apply what we intuitively feel to what we operationally know in order to produce optimal outcomes.

In short–we hustle.

And we win.

But in competition, there can only be one winner.

One.

Tonight, I'm it.

Her smile mirrors mine, red lips stretched over perfectly white teeth that are as straight as a new picket fence. The smile doesn't reach her eyes, but an intensity infuses her. She’s about five years younger than me, with a knowing eye that tells me we need to stay in touch. Someday soon, she may shoot past me, and that’s where all the legwork pays off.

In this business, you network down as well as you network up, if you want to get anywhere.

And the manila folder resting in my brief bag, the one that feels like a warm gold ingot pressed against my lips? That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you get somewhere.

“Where is Burke?” Mr. Zhao Bai asks, his head at a slight tilt, a gesture of genuine curiosity as his eyes survey me, looking for information that doesn't come directly from my mouth. He's the youngest of the four men at the table, a fast talker who looks around the room like he's a mob boss. Negotiating with him took a steady hand I didn't know I possessed, but now I understand.

Burke is part of the deal, and I didn't realize it.

The contracts are signed, though. That makes my husband an off-the-books addendum. No matter what, this is my accomplishment.

My husband, Burke Oonaj, is one of the hottest market makers in finance right now. Even he will have no choice but to be impressed by the deal I’ve just put together.

But the inquiry about my husband makes my uterus fall.

And it’s not like he’s around to catch it.

“Good question,” I say before taking another sip of wine, needing to buy myself a smidgen of space and time. I only need a split second.

Normally.

For some reason that I can't explain, my emotions are tangling in my mind, and that's an unpredictable variable I have to weed out.

Fast.

My heart feels strangely heavy in my chest, a sense of dread filling me that has no right to be here. This is MY night, I tell that sense of dread. This is MY deal. This is my culmination of six years of careful work, all coming together, right now.

Go away, dread.

But Mr. Zhao’s question is a good one, because Burke isn’t answering any of my texts or emails or phone calls, and hasn’t for the last three days.

My husband has disappeared.

Not literally, of course, because husbands don't just do that. Business travel can be intense. Plenty of stretches of time have gone by without hearing from him. They involved twenty-four hours or less, though.

Not eighty-one hours and thirteen minutes.

Not that I'm counting.

I can’t admit any of this to anyone at this table, of course, so instead, I give what my pattern-matching brain tells me is the optimal answer, designed to make me look good.

“Burke’s fine,” I say with a grin, the glass of wine still full enough to make more sips look like an appropriate response. “He sends his best regards. He would have been here tonight, but… you know.”

Two of the men share a look I don’t like. It’s a fleeting glance, the type that is practiced and meant to look like nothing. You think I'm paranoid, that I'm inventing it all?

Wrong.

I’m in a state of hyperarousal.

No, not the sexual kind. Haven’t felt that in a long time, at least not with Burke. My hyperarousal is based around the stress hormones pumping through me from the excitement of what I just accomplished.

Me. Myself. Alone.

Independent of Burke.

As workday smiles stretch to become the more casual, intimate grins of people enjoying bottle after bottle of excellent wine, I loosen up. The answer I gave them sufficed. We can move on.

My body feels numb and excited at the same time. I’m on top of the world. The pinnacle.

I am Peak Hastings.

Which is why, when the maรฎtre d’ approaches my side, I don’t pick up on the gravity of his whisper. No one would. Because learning that my credit card has been declined for this business dinner is definitely not part of the plan, and the areas of my brain assigned to processing language literally can't comprehend it.

“It’s what?” I whisper, standing carefully, legs still steady, my alcohol consumption measured, even if my tablemates have made their way through more wine than an entire wedding party back home.

The maรฎtre d’, Josรฉ, gives me a wide-eyed but polite look. “I’m sorry, Ms. Monahan. This has never happened before when you’ve dined with us. But the credit card company was very firm. You cannot use this one.”

Mr. Zhao gives me an inquiring look. My stomach sinks. Did he overhear?

“Will you all excuse me?” I tell them, hating the disruption, my legs turning into two steel beams covered in chilled skin.

“Something must be wrong with the credit card processor,” I snap at the maรฎtre d’ as I hurry away from my group. I want to get the taint of this failure out of the way and get back to my stellar success.

Once we’re out of sight of my table, I rifle through my purse and find another business credit card. “Use this one. And let me be very clear, to you and to your boss, that this is absolutely, abjectly unacceptable.”

He inserts the card, chip side in. “I realize this, Ms. Monahan, but we cannot…”

Beep.

He stares at the credit card terminal.

I read the display upside down. “Declined!” I hiss. “This is impossible! That card has no limit!”

“Perhaps you’ve had your identity stolen, or there are fraud alerts on your account? Perhaps you’re the victim of a financial crime?” Josรฉ suggests.

“I can’t be the victim of a financial crime!” I snap at him. “I’m a financial expert! This doesn’t happen to people like me. Here!” I shove a third company card at him. This one better work.

I only have one more.

My mind races ahead, conjuring contingency plans, even as my cheeks burn with shame.

Shame.

Why would I feel shame for someone else’s mistake? And yet, there it is, and I have to override it fast. Because if I don’t, it gets a toehold.

And that is the fastest way to lose your edge.

Josรฉ closes his eyes and lets out a sigh through his nose, a split second before the display terminal beeps.

Again.

“Your computer system is down,” I declare, pulling out the fourth card and my phone, texting my office manager. Maybe something went wrong. Maybe Josรฉ is right. Maybe we were hacked. But this is surreal enough to let the dread come inside me and have a seat, as it decides whether to become an overnight guest.

It doesn’t matter. What matters is that I’m staring at a mid-four-figure bill that I owe, right now, and have no way to settle.

This cannot be happening.

As he runs the fourth card, the main door opens. My spine straightens, calves stretching tall, and not just from the five-inch heels I’m wearing.

I know that man.

I hate that man.

And he’s the last person on Earth I want to see in the middle of this debacle.

Ian McCrory cannot see me like this.

AUTHOR BIO:


New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Julia Kent writes romantic comedy with an edge. Since 2013, she has sold more than 2 million books, with 4 New York Times bestsellers and more than 19 appearances on the USA Today bestseller list. Her books have been translated into French and German, with more titles releasing in 2020 and beyond.

From billionaires to BBWs to new adult rock stars, Julia finds a sensual, goofy joy in every contemporary romance she writes. Unlike Shannon from Shopping for a Billionaire, she did not meet her husband after dropping her phone in a men's room toilet (and he isn't a billionaire she met in a romantic comedy).

She lives in New England with her husband and three children where she is the only person in the household with the gene required to change empty toilet paper rolls.


{GIVEAWAY!}



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๐Ÿ”– BLOG TOUR ๐Ÿ”– Liar Liar by Donna Alam {R E V I E W}




Liar Liar by Donna Alam

Release Date: July 23rd 2020
Genres: Romance, Contemporary

My first mistake? 

Causing the sexy Frenchman a concussion. 

My second? 

Telling the hospital staff that I was his girlfriend.

In my defense, he didn’t speak English.

My third? 

Taking him home, letting him sleep in my bed. Naked.
I never said I was Florence Nightingale . . .

He gave me a night I’ll never forget but when I wake, he’s already gone.
I tell myself it’s his loss, that I wasn’t expecting him to stay forever anyway,
And my life moves on.
I get a new job. A fresh start in a new country and I stop counting my mistakes.
Until those striking green eyes meet mine across the office,
And it all comes rushing back.

But he’s not that man anymore.
Gone are his jeans and his playful attitude.
Rich and powerful, he’s now sin in a suit.
And his English is perfect.
Were his kisses also lies? His caresses meaningless?
I feel like such a fool—I want to wrap my hands around his neck.
Though not to hug him,
Because the man is a force of nature.
A master manipulator.
He’s also my new boss.
And I already hate him.

The biggest lies are the ones we tell ourselves.



FREE in Kindle Unlimited!



My Review:

Ever since I looked at the eye-catching cover and read the synopsis, I knew that I had to read the book. Not having read any other books by the author before, I didn’t know what to expect and to my surprise the story was not what I was expecting it to be. The chemistry between the characters and the unexpected turn of events had me reading until the very end.

At the beginning of the story we get to meet, Rose Ryan, who has just been fired from her job. She has had a very long night and the minute she gets home a man grabs her arm and in an attempt to get away, Rose hits on the head. Afraid that she might have just killed the guy, she get out of her apartment when she hears that he is awake and in terrible pain. The mysterious guy is attractive and doesn’t look like he is there to harm her so so the he gets taken to the hospital. She finds out that he will be fine but the problem is that he doesn’t speak English and the stuff think that she is his girlfriend. Now she is stuck taking care of a handsome stranger without realizing that her life is about to change forever.

He gives her the night she will never forget only to meet again a few months later, now as her new boss, one who speaks perfect English. They still have the instant chemistry they had when they met, but things are different now. Their worlds are completely different and she realizes that they both have pasts that neither one really knows about and that can end up hurting their future. Remy Durrand never expected to see Rose again, she give him the best night of his life and she was there for him without expecting anything in return. But the minute she comes back to his life, Remy vows to give her the world and protect her with his life. Yet there are secrets that he keeps from her that he has to keep hidden before it’s too late.

There is so much more to this story than the little glimpse that we got from the synopsis, it truly had twists that I didn’t see coming at all. The chemistry between Remy and Rose was sizzling! She is aware that they come from different backgrounds, while he can give her anything that she could possibly want, she still wants to work for her money. Remy is kind to her and truly wants to protect her. The setting of the story was exciting and kept the story interesting to read. While I loved everything else, the length of the story felt a bit too long that it did dragged at the end. I’m also not the biggest fan of the ending, it felt a bit unresolved to me, with that said in some areas it did tied loose ends and the extended epilogue really helped the story at the end. I would still recommend checking it out, it’s romantic and very steamy. :)

**I voluntarily read an early copy of this title in exchange for an honest review**


My Rating:


About the Author:

USA Today bestselling author Donna writes dirty stories, according to her family. She hopes you find them funny, too.

When not bashing away at a keyboard, she can usually be found hiding from her family and responsibilities with a good book in her hand and a dog that looks like a grey mop by her feet.

She likes her humour and wine dry, her mojitos sweet, and her language salty.


Thanks for stopping by! ๐Ÿ“š

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

๐ŸŒŸ BOOK BLITZ ๐ŸŒŸ The Hollow Gods by A.J. Vrana {EXCERPT + GIVEAWAY!}




The Hollow Gods by A.J. Vrana

Release Date: July 28th 2020 by The Parliament House Press
Pages: 409
Genres: Dark Fantasy, Magical Realism, New Adult

Isolated in the forests of Western Canada, Black Hollow is a town with a dark secret. For centuries, residents have foretold the return of the Dreamwalker—an ominous figure from local folklore said to lure young women into the woods with the help of wolves, and possess them. Yet the boundary between fact and fable is blurred by a troubling statistic: every now and again, women do go missing. And after they return, they almost always end up dead.

When Kai wakes up next to the body of a recently missing girl, his memory blank, he struggles to clear his already threadbare conscience. Miya, a floundering university student, experiences signs that she may be the Dreamwalker’s next victim and finds herself caught between a supernatural kidnapping and a senseless murder. And after the death of a young patient, crestfallen oncologist Mason embarks on a quest to debunk the town’s superstitions, only to find his sanity tested.

Yet a maelstrom of ancient grudges, forgotten traumas, and deadly secrets loom in the foggy forests of Black Hollow. Can three unlikely heroes put aside their fears, and unite to confront a centuries old evil? Will they uncover the truth behind the fable, or will the cycle repeat?



{EXCERPT}

Chapter 1

MIYA

Miya had always been obsessed with the hidden. What lurked beneath the veneer of a perfect smile or the faรงade of Stepford contentment? What cracks hid under the polish, threatening to topple the entire structure?

But behind the gloss of the British Columbia logo printed on the envelope in her hand, Miya knew exactly what she’d find. She tore it open, not caring that whatever was inside became collateral damage. Piecing it back together, she forced her eyes to scan over the page.

Dear Miss Emiliya Delathorne,

After careful review of your academic performance, the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences regrets to inform you that you have been placed on academic probation for failing to meet the Satisfactory Progress Policy requirements outlined below.

Sweat pooled at the back of her neck as her eyes tripped over every word.

No notation will appear on your official university transcript. You can review the Satisfactory Progress Policy on our registrar’s website—

Miya tossed the letter aside, uninterested in the rest. How the hell did it get this bad? she thought, her stomach knotting with guilt. Her parents would be gutted. They’d agreed to pay for the semester, and they expected results. Distance learning was intensive, so they'd hoped to lessen the pressure to find gigs, allowing her more time to study. But scraping rent money together was still on Miya’s shoulders. She was late again this month, and her ostentatious landlady, Patricia, was running dry on charity.

Digging a shallow grave in the sand with her shoe, Miya kicked the letter in and ground it into the dirt. She shifted on the swing and gripped the rusted chains at her sides, staring across the hazy white field where vendors would set up the market in a few hours. Her audience, an endless blanket of towering trees, loomed from the perimeters of the meadow only a few paces from where she sat.

For as long as Miya had lived in Black Hollow—an insignificant dent in British Columbia’s temperate rainforests—the market was next to the abandoned playground on the edge of the misty black woods for which the town was named. Whenever fog descended on Black Hollow, the surrounding forest’s emerald lustre seemed to darken. For twelve years, Miya had been returning to the old swing by that viridescent sea—especially on nights like this. She could find it blindfolded.

Don’t lose your way, she heard the wind hiss an ominous spell, or there’ll be hell to pay.

Feathers kissed the back of Miya’s neck and she shuddered, jumping from the swing and spinning towards the forest. Some said the playground was haunted, and it wasn’t unusual to hear voices in the wind, beckoning innocent bystanders to approach—or sometimes, to run away.

But Miya wasn’t one to shy away from the unknown. “I’m not lost,” she called to the darkness. “I know exactly where I am.”

The declaration was met with silence. Miya sighed and reached down for her bag when the nearby shrubs rustled. A raven swooped down to the swing and cawed, his wings flapping as he steadied himself.

Miya squinted at the bird—barely visible in the dim blue light before dawn. “Tough luck. I’m going home,” she told him and turned to leave, but a flurry of feathers and the scrape of talons on the back of her skull stopped her.

“Jesus!” She flailed her arms over her head and turned back towards the swing, only to find the raven still perched there. It was like he hadn’t moved at all.

He canted his head and chortled.

“How did you—”

Before she could finish, the rustling from the woods grew louder, more persistent. There was someone there.

“H…Help.”

It was a faint murmur, barely audible in the open air. Dropping her bag, Miya rushed towards the trees. As she kicked past the shrubs, she reared back when she saw a young woman clinging to a nearby branch for support. In the pale glow of sunrise stretching across the sky, Miya caught a glimpse of her face and recognized her immediately.

“Elle!” she gasped, rushing to catch the swooning girl. Although she was slight, Elle crashed onto Miya’s shoulder like deadweight. She was barely conscious, her skin cold as ice, and her teeth chattered as she grasped weakly at Miya’s clothes.

They didn’t know each other personally, but it was hard to go a day without hearing Elle’s name. She’d been missing for almost a week.

After struggling to pull her from the woods, Miya combed her over for injuries, but aside from a few scratches and shadows clinging to the hollows of her eyes, she appeared unharmed. Miya stripped off her jacket and wrapped it around Elle’s trembling frame, then pulled her phone from her back pocket and dialed the police.

“I’ve found Elle Robinson,” she blurted out when the operator answered. The voice on the other end perked up.

“Yes, she’s alive, but I think she needs medical attention.”

After hanging up, Miya sat down next to the huddled teenager and rubbed her shoulders, awkwardly attempting to warm her up. Her knee-length nightgown was fraying near the hem, the ivory satin soiled from tumbling through the woods. She was fiddling with the thin gold chain around her neck when she looked up. Who—or what—could have done this to her?

“You,” Elle trailed off, wide eyes trained on Miya. “You told me to stay away from Black Hollow.”

Miya dropped her hands from the young woman’s shoulders. “I think you might be confused,” she replied. “We’ve never met.”

She must have been a bit loopy from dehydration.

Miya burned to ask where she’d been, what had happened to her, but it felt ill-timed. When the police arrived, they took Miya’s statement as the ambulance carted Elle off to the hospital.

“Think it was the Dreamwalker?” she caught one of the officers whispering, only to be hushed by the lead detective.

“We don’t deal with boogeymen, only criminals,” he chided. He turned to Miya and shook her hand, smiling brightly.

“It’s a miracle you were here,” Detective Brandon Hughes told her. “You saved her life, Emiliya.”

“Fateful timing, I guess.” Miya revelled in the praise. Detective Hughes offered her a ride home, and she happily accepted. He didn’t ask what she’d been doing out before dawn and seemed perfectly content to dole out kind words.

Miya ate them up like all-you-can-eat sundaes. Her heart swelled, the memory of the probation letter already fading. She’d done something amazing—even if by accident—and it was enough to momentarily abate the existential dread.

Perhaps even the shallowest grave was deep enough to bury failures.

#

Miya was riotous with motivation. She wrote a statement to her university, acknowledging full responsibility for her shortcomings and imploring the administration for a second chance. The letter teemed with vulnerability, heart-felt apologies, and promises to get back on track. Without even waiting for a response, Miya began preparing for her triumphant return.

But when the article on Elle Robinson’s disappearance came out, Miya’s chest tightened as she scanned the story. There was no mention of her contribution. Still, she snipped the news piece from the diner’s free paper when no one was looking and kept it as a memento—a reminder of how good it felt to do something right.

As the days blurred together, so did the print in Miya’s textbooks. A week later, her bank statement arrived with a number stamped at the top: $41.52. Her gut clenched and, with a defeated sigh, she let the letter drift into the trash can. Miya had saved ten times that by her final year of high school.

Now she was fast approaching her twenty-first birthday, but there would be little reason to celebrate.

Rolling off the futon wedged between her sticker-covered dresser and dull, grey-blue walls, Miya stumbled out of her room. The final rays of orange and red were disappearing from the tiny window nestled in the corner by the door. After a few nights of no sleep, time whirled by like a high-speed train. Insomnia was that clingy, unwelcome guest who couldn’t take a hint when they weren’t wanted anymore.

It didn’t help that Miya’s browser was littered with tab after tab of job listings she didn’t have the courage to respond to. If she got an interview and went dressed as a semi-mature twenty-something-year-old, she’d be found out for what she really was: an imposter. They’d realize she was only pretending to give a damn about their campy mission statement and it would all be over. Capitalism would be done with her, and she’d be forced to join a commune somewhere in the mountains where taxes couldn’t find her.

Going somewhere no one could find her, on the other hand, didn’t sound bad.

Miya got dressed and dragged herself to the door, but as her hand touched the knob, she glimpsed something darting across the room from the corner of her eye. She whirled around and came face-to-face with the wall—blank as a canvas save for the shadows cast by furniture.

Just my imagination playing tricks on me again.

Turning away from the mosaic of shadows, she left her basement studio with the playground burning in her mind.

After so many years, the walk was automatic. Miya knew that she was close when the buildings grew sparse and the sidewalk turned to gravel. At the intersection with the town’s faded green welcome sign and the crooked maple, she ambled up the hill and through the field where the farmer’s market operated on weekends.

The swings were still coppery with rust and weeds protruded from the wooden curb framing the playground. Miya caught the corner of her probation letter poking out from the sand, so she scooped some up and piled it on top for good measure.

The world had gone dark, and the sound of cicadas filled the air like an orchestra in an amphitheatre. Miya looked towards the forest and fixed her gaze on a spot between the trees near where she’d found Elle. It wasn’t the first time she’d seen something unusual there.

She remembered being eight years old and swinging towards the sky when a swift movement in her periphery pulled her attention from the clouds. Digging her foot into the sand like an anchor, she scanned the edge of the clearing. A shadow slithered somewhere behind the trees. Breath held, Miya listened to the foliage rustle as the shape moved closer to the light. Moments later, an animal emerged—a wolf. Ears erect, posture stiff and alert, it watched her with uncanny attention as she in turn watched it. She was too enthralled to remember the ominous stories townsfolk whispered about wolves. She even forgot they were dangerous predators.

Every time Miya excavated this memory, she imagined locking eyes with the wolf. She didn’t remember the colour of the animal’s coat, but those eyes remained clear in her mind—large, curious, and full of life. Seconds later her name was called, the sound of it lashing through the air and striking her from her fixation. By the time she looked back, the wolf was gone.

Miya never told anyone what she'd seen that day. How could she in a town where people were frightened of a myth?

The Dreamwalker and her wolf.

Every child had heard the story a thousand times, and like some rite of passage into adulthood, they were constantly reminded of how important it was to the town’s history and culture. People in Black Hollow believed in fairy tales. And while Miya loved the idea of fables hidden beneath the veil of the mundane, she’d yet to unearth anything truly spellbinding. After all, the wolf didn’t spirit her away into the Dreamwalker’s arms.

Still, she kept returning to the playground, hoping to see the wolf someday. It was her sanctuary from everything she didn’t want to face. Maybe it was childish, but Miya lamented that reality wasn’t a fairy tale she could rewrite with the power of her imagination. Reality wasn’t timeless or enchanting; it was finite and perilous.

There was no forever-after in Black Hollow or anywhere else. Eventually, Miya would have to rip herself free from this inertia and moving away seemed a seductive option. What did she have to lose? She could go to a new city, shed all self-imposed expectations and start over. Eventually, she’d make enough to pay back her family. All she’d leave behind would be a good friend and a sea of false hope.

Miya’s bones pulsed with excitement; she could finally get a clean start. Tomorrow, she’d pull a blindfold over her eyes and drop a pin on the map. Wherever gravity wedged it, she’d make her new home.

The moon hung low in the clear night sky, and several stars glimmered over the pitch-black field. Sitting on the swing, Miya clutched the chains on either side of her and bent over backwards until her hair touched the sand. As she stared off into the meadow, she saw shadows shapeshifting like those on her wall. But one of them wasn’t wavering like the others. It was solid, a figure she couldn’t quite make out. Rather than waxing and waning, it slowly but surely moved closer. Miya realized the shape belonged to a person—a man tall enough to be intimidating in the dead of night.

She thought back to Elle, left with no memory of what happened, and stories of other girls who’d come before her.

Maybe it wasn’t a spirit.

Maybe it was a person.

Miya sat up and gathered her things. As she threw on her shoulder bag, the man paused as though he’d caught sight of her. They both froze, like two animals meeting by chance in territory they’d each claimed. The hairs on the back of Miya’s neck stood on end, and before the man could take another step, the headline of her memento came back to her.

Another missing girl found at Old Market Playground.


Miya bolted through the field, leaving her memories behind her.


AUTHOR BIO:


A. J. Vrana is a Serbian-Canadian academic and writer currently residing in Toronto, Canada with her two rescue cats, Moonstone and Peanut Butter. Her doctoral research focuses on the supernatural in modern Japanese and former-Yugoslavian literature and its relationship to violence. When not toiling away at caffeine-fueled, scholarly pursuits, she enjoys jewelry-making, cupcakes, and concocting dark tales to unleash upon the world.


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๐Ÿ”– BLOG TOUR ๐Ÿ”– The Girl Next Door by Emma Hart { R E V I E W }




The Girl Next Door by Emma Hart

Release Date: July 28th 2020
Pages: 168
Genres: Romance, Contemporary, Comedy

One accidental pregnancy. One fake husband. What can go wrong?

There’s nothing like starting your Monday morning with a positive pregnancy test.

Trust me, I know. Because I’m looking at one right now.

All I can think is: Oh, hell. My grandmother is going to kill me.

This might just send her to an early grave, so there’s only one option—pretending the father is my new husband.

If only he’d agree to fake it.

Kai Connors was supposed to be nothing more than a one-night stand. A long, dirty, one-night stand fueled by one too many tequila shots, where the only promise was to never speak of it again.

But if my unfairly sexy next-door neighbor gets his way, this fake marriage could turn out to be very, very real…




My Review:

I’m always happy to read an Emma Hart book, they are always full of banter and wit to keep you reading nonstop until the very end. The Girl Next Door was no different, it was funny and full of charm. It is best read right after The One Night Stand Next Door, a quick story of how the characters meet and where the next story will follow. 

It’s been eight months since Ivy Stuart moved to her apartment building and she is attending her third apartment building party, even though she is not a party person. But going to the party would mean seeing her neighbor and secret crush, Kai Connors. They have fun and drink a lot, which ultimately leads to them having a one night stand. They agree to never speak of it again, but she soon finds out that is pregnant and doesn’t know how Kai is going to react.


To make things worse Ivy is afraid of how her family, including her very religious grandmother is going to react to the news of her being pregnant out of wedlock. To her surprise, Kai is there for her right away. He is shocked at first, but is willing to do anything for her and the baby. This leads to them spending more time together and people are starting to notice, so they come up with a plan to not send her grandmother to an early grave. They will pretend to be married for the time being, yet neither of them expected to be accepted and included in each other’s families right away. They both are aware of the chemistry and the sexual tension between them, so when they give in things quickly change. Ivy doesn’t want to force Kai into a relationship just because of the baby. While Kai is ready to make her see that they might just be perfect for each other.

With their lives changing, both Ivy and Kai will have to go through ups and downs in order to get their happily ever after. I very much enjoyed reading this book, Hart did a good job portraying the characters while making them relatable as well. While Ivy was hilarious, Kai was sweet and credibly romantic. They are a true match and it was fun getting to follow them on their journey. Although I loved the story as a whole, there were some things that I felt were unresolved and it ended a bit fast for me. I would have loved to see the author extended the ending a little bit more, but the epilogue was sweet regardless. I would still recommend it as well any other works by the author, they will not disappoint. :)

**I voluntarily read an early copy of this title in exchange for an honest review**

My Rating:


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The One Night Stand Next Door


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Follow Emma Hart:


Emma Hart is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over thirty novels and has been translated into several different languages.

She is a mother, wife, lover of wine, Pink Goddess, and valiant rescuer of wild baby hedgehogs.
Emma prides herself on her realistic, snarky smut, with comebacks that would make a PMS-ing teenage girl proud.

Yes, really. She's that sarcastic.

Keep up to date on her releases by following her on Amazon or signing up at http://emmahart.net/newsletter

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