Critique Groups and Contests? No Thanks. by Charlotte Hubbard – Guest Blog and Giveaway


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Critique Groups and Contests? No Thanks.

Although a lot of writers feel they benefit from belonging to a critique group, I’ve never been one of them. I don’t like group members—especially if they haven’t published any full-length fiction—telling me what they either love or would “fix” about the pages they’ve read because you come away with such a mix of advice, and their opinions often contradict each other! What are you supposed to believe?

Same goes for entering contests. Unless the contest judges are editors of a publishing house looking to acquire new authors, the comments and critiques really don’t count for much, the way I see it. Other readers, no matter how well-intentioned, are just giving their opinions, after all. They have no stake in the fate of your book.

I admit it: I’m a bit thin-skinned and I dislike criticism. Over the years, I’ve come to believe my own gut intuition about which elements of a story I should include—and I believe my sense of storytelling is right for the fiction I create.
Do I get revision letters and requests for changes from my editors? You bet I do. Some of the books you’ve read—including A MOTHER’S GIFT—are different in print from the manuscript I originally turned in. Originally, Leah raised deer to sell to a hunting lodge—and I know an Amish family in Jamesport, MO who actually does this for income. My editor felt some readers would be offended or upset about the fate of these deer, so in the final version, Leah raised cattle instead. I trust my editor’s judgment, so I rewrote those parts of the story. Her sensitivity overruled my authenticity.

Here’s my final answer about critique groups and contests: the only person who gets to have an opinion about my work is the one who signs my checks.

Does this sound arrogant? Maybe it is. But if you’re a struggling writer, maybe that piece of writing advice is exactly what will free you from the frustration and confusion that comes from listening to too many voices that drown out your own. Pay attention to feedback from agents and editors who are interested in your work—because they know the market and your genre’s requirements—but otherwise, shut out the noise of other people’s opinions. What do they know?

For Leah Otto, marrying Jude Shetler is a long-held dream come true. As a young girl, she was captivated by his good looks and talent as an auctioneer. When Jude, now a widower with three children, begins to court her, Leah doesn’t hesitate. Other men may not appreciate her tomboy ways, but Jude values Leah’s practical nature and her skill with the animals she tends, and both enter the marriage with joy and optimism.

Three months later, Leah feels as if her world is coming down around her. Her twin teenage step-daughters, Alice and Adeline, are pushing boundaries and taking far too many risks, while five-year-old Stevie deeply misses his mother. Leah, more at ease in a barn tending her goats and chickens than in a kitchen, struggles with her housekeeping duties.

Then a baby is abandoned on their doorstep, and Leah must search her soul. Caring for little Betsy fills her with renewed purpose and the strength to begin pulling her family together. With Jude’s steadfast support, Leah finds that what she once thought of as a happy ending may be something even better—the beginning of a life rich in love, faith, and unexpected blessings.

Enjoy an Excerpt

As Lenore Otto sat on the bed with Leah, wistfully watching the dusk of late November fill her daughter’s room, her heart was torn. The two of them had shared this evening ritual of talking and praying since Lenore’s husband, Raymond, had died last year. It had always brought her a comforting sense of peace, along with the certainty that she and her daughter would move forward with the plans God had for them. After all the cleaning they’d done and the preparations they’d made to host Leah’s wedding festivities the next day, she was ready to relax—but she needed to speak the words that weighed so heavily on her heart.

Tomorrow, when Leah got married, their lives would follow separate paths. Lenore knew she would be fine remaining on the small farm alone, making and selling her specialty quilts. She supposed some of her qualms about her daughter’s marriage plagued every mother . . .

Lord, I wish I could believe my Leah’s reaching toward happiness rather than heartache.

Before God’s still, small voice could respond to Lenore, Leah let out an ecstatic sigh. “Oh, Mama, it’s a dream come true,” she murmured. “Starting tomorrow, when I marry Jude, my life will finally be the way I’ve always wanted it. My waiting is over!”

Not for the first time, Lenore sighed inwardly at her daughter’s fantasy. As she returned Leah’s hug, savoring these precious moments in the room where her little girl had matured into a woman of twenty-eight, she didn’t have it in her to shatter Leah’s dreams. No mother wanted her daughter to forever remain a maidel, yet during these final hours before the wedding, Lenore thought she should try once again to point out the realities of marrying Jude Shetler. Jude was a fine, upstanding man any parent would be pleased to welcome as a son-in-law, but as a widower he carried a certain amount of . . . baggage.

About the Author:Charlotte Hubbard is the acclaimed author of Amish romance and fiction that evokes simpler times and draws upon her experiences in Jamesport, the largest Old Order Amish community west of the Mississippi. Faith and family, farming, and food preservation are hallmarks of her lifestyle—and the foundation of all her novels. A deacon, dedicated church musician and choir member, she loves to travel, read, try new recipes, and crochet. A longtime Missourian, Charlotte now lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, with her husband and their border collie, Vera.

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Sit, Stay, Love by Debbie Burns – Spotlight and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Debbie Burns who is with us to celebrate the upcoming release of her newest book Sit, Stay, Love, the second book in her Rescue Me series. Enter to win one of five copies of A New Leash on Love by Debbie Burns!

These dogs aren’t the only ones in need of rescue

For devoted no-kill shelter worker Kelsey Sutton, rehabbing a group of rescue dogs is a welcome challenge. Working with a sexy ex-military dog handler who needs some TLC himself? That’s a different story.

Kurt Crawford keeps his heart locked away from everyone. Well, everyone except the dogs who need his help…and always have his back. But as Kurt gets to know the compassionate, beautiful woman he’s been assigned to work with, he can’t help but feel a little puppy love…

Enjoy an Excerpt:

Kurt’s skin was crawling, and the tightness in his jaw had migrated to his temples. His shoulders and spine tensed as he scanned the parameters of the long, open warehouse like he was on patrol. The rear of the building was blocked off by accordion-style dividers. It bothered him that he couldn’t see past them.

It was the smell setting him on edge, he finally realized. Not the obvious smell—the smell of hot, unbathed dog multiplied by 150. That smacked you in the face when you stepped through the doors. Unnerving him was the underlying scent of fear radiating from the expansive rows of crates that were dwarfed by the thirty-foot ceiling and five-thousand-square-foot floor.

Dogs didn’t have sweat glands, so it wasn’t as if the smell was coming out of their pores. But he’d been in the service long enough to know fear when he smelled it—his own, another human’s, a dog’s. Metallic and salty—like blood, only subtler.

The gushy blond accompanying him on the tour wasn’t setting him at ease either as she squatted down and talked to every crated dog. The bumper sticker on the back of her Corolla—the bright-yellow car he’d parked by had to be hers; he’d seen her keys—was a telltale enough sign she wasn’t right for this job. I BRAKE FOR TURTLES. He didn’t know what Rob was thinking, sending a bunch of trained fighters off to be in this girl’s care.

The bumper sticker wasn’t the only thing he noticed. She was tall and strikingly pretty in an understated, natural way, and she had an hourglass figure.

Not that her looks mattered.

What mattered was that dogs treated the way most of these had likely been treated—stuck in crates or tied to chains and freed only to fight—needed much more than soft words and treats passed through the bars of their crates.

“She seems sweet enough,” she said of the mastiff mix displaying submission along with a good deal of stress while being stared down through the door. Her voice was easy and calm like the slow pour of honey.

Kurt gritted his teeth as she pulled free a yellow sticky and pressed it on top of the crate. Yellow. Seriously? Her and her stickies. He’d stifled a laugh earlier when he figured out her system. Pink for definitely, yellow for maybe, blue for pass. She’d only used one blue sticky so far, and the way that Rott had attacked the cage door, Kurt wouldn’t have been surprised if he was rabid.

About the Author: Debbie Burns lives in St. Louis with her family, two phenomenal rescue dogs, and a somewhat tetchy Maine coon cat who everyone loves anyway. Her hobbies include hiking, gardening, and daydreaming, which, of course, always leads to new story ideas.

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Fearless in Texas by Kari Lynn Dell – Spotlight and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Kari Lynn Dell who is celebrating the upcoming release of Fearless in Texas, the fourth book in the Texas Rodeo series. Enter the Rafflecopter at the end of the post for a chance to win a Texas Rodeo bundle of books.

He’d step in front of a bull to save a life
But even he’s no match for a girl this Texas tough

Rodeo bullfighter Wyatt Darrington’s got it all figured out. The perfect car, the perfect job, the perfect looks—the perfect lie. He may be on the fast track to the Hall of Fame, but he knows he’ll always be an outsider to people like Melanie Brookman. Texas-born and bred, with the arena in her blood, Melanie’s come to see Wyatt as her personal enemy, and that suits him just fine—this way, she’ll never realize the truth.

He’s been crazy in love with her for years.

Melanie’s always been a fighter. Fiercely independent and tough as nails, she’s stood up to everything that got in her way—including Wyatt. But now her infamous temper’s got her on the ropes, and there’s nowhere left to run but toward the man she swore she’d never trust…and this time, there’s no denying just how hot he makes her burn.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Wyatt braced a hand on the front door of the Bull Dancer Saloon, blocking Melanie. “You can’t go back in there.”

She looked at his arm as if debating whether she should bite it or snap it in half. “You think you can stop me?”

“Yes.” He jerked a thumb toward the door and quoted the flyspecked sign posted inside. “I am the proprietor, and we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.”

Hell. That wasn’t what he’d meant to say, but the sparks that were flying off of her were burying themselves under his skin, kindling fires that threatened to reduce all of his good intentions to ashes. Her mouth dropped open, and he braced himself for some truly spectacular swearing. Instead, she snapped it shut, whirled around, and strode away, her shiny red heels clicking angrily on the empty street.

“Melanie…wait! Could we just talk—”

Her answer was a stiff middle finger shot straight in the air. He took a couple of steps in pursuit, but his ankle made it clear that anything above a sedate stroll was a bad idea, not that he was sure what he’d do if he caught her. Attempting to stop her when she was like this would be like tackling a mountain lion, but if she intended to go to one of the other bars, she was headed the wrong direction.

“Where are you going?”

“To the bridge. It’ll have to do, since I assume you’ll follow me and there’s not a cliff handy.”

He’d already taken several more steps, but he stopped. “The rail is too high.”

“Then I’ll knock you over the head with a rock and roll you off the dike.”

She wouldn’t. Would she? “If you’re going to commit assault and attempted murder, you’ll need your keys to make your getaway.”

She stopped dead and spun around. He held up the keys in one hand and the purse in the other.

She swore and started back toward him. “Don’t think I won’t kick you square in the nuts and stomp on your fingers when you fall.”

“Not a doubt in my mind.” He unlocked the door that led up to her apartment, yanked it open, and threw both the keys and the purse to the top of the stairs before she could reach him. Then he stepped back, feet braced, ready to dodge or deflect any blow aimed at his groin. If Melanie had said it, she was seriously considering it.

She went for the door instead, but paused with her hand on the knob. “If I go in after them, you won’t let me out.”

“Nope.” Although it would take all his strength to hold the door shut if she was determined to push it open, and there was the fire escape…

Her hand dropped, and she turned on him. If it were possible for a stare to be literally cutting, his guts would’ve fallen out onto the street. “What…the hell…is your problem?”

“You.” He gestured toward her painted face, her dress, those damn red shoes. “I know what all of that means, but you’re wrong. And if you would just let me explain—”

“Yes!” She threw her hands in the air like a Baptist preacher. “Please, oh wise and knowing male, tell me how I’m supposed to feel. Better yet, explain why it is that you could leave this place with any of those women you’ve never met before and you get high fives, but if I do the same, I’m an embarrassment to your shitty little bar.”

Despite his vow to remain calm, his temper began to stir. “I did not say—”

“You don’t have to. I grew up in the goddamn Bible Belt. I’ve heard it all my life.” The bitterness in her voice ran generations deep. “Well, sorry, but not sorry. I’m done trying to please anyone but myself. I’ll sleep with who I want, when I want, and y’all can just deal with it.”

Not likely. Wyatt’s anger boiled up, shooting past the red line and straight into fury. Yes, her rage was justified, but she did not get to lump him in with bastards like Michael and her former boss. All he’d ever wanted, from damn near the first moment they’d spoken on the phone, was Melanie, but it was as if the entire universe had conspired against him, and he was so damn tired of fighting this bone-deep need…

He took a step toward her. Then another. She didn’t budge, but her eyes flicked toward the apartment door as if reconsidering her choices.

He leaned in close, his breath fanning her cheek, his voice low and lethal even to his own ears. “Is that what you want? Just someone with a pulse you can use up and toss out when you’re done?”

He heard her swallow, but she didn’t flinch. “Why shouldn’t I? Men have been doing it forever.”

“Yes, we have.”

He gathered a fistful of her hair and wound the warm silk around and around his hand until his knuckles were pressed to the nape of her neck. Her breath caught at the electric press of skin against skin, and her eyes went even darker. The line he’d held for so long had been crossed. He was beyond stopping—unless she made him.

“As long as you’re determined to do something you’ll hate yourself for in the morning, it might as well be with me.” And then he kissed her.

And instead of shoving him away, Melanie clenched both hands in his shirt and yanked him closer.

About the Author: KARI LYNN DELL brings a lifetime of personal experience to writing western romance. She is a third generation rancher and rodeo competitor existing in a perpetual state of horse-induced poverty on the Blackfeet Nation of northern Montana, along with her husband, son and Max the Cowdog.

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Running the Risk by Lea Griffith – Spotlight and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Lea Griffith who is celebrating the upcoming release of her latest book Running the Risk, book two of the Endgame Ops series. Enter the Rafflecopter at the end of the post for a chance to win a copy of Flash of Fury, the first book of the series.

Survival is crucial.
Trust is optional.
Love is unstoppable.

Jude Dagan’s life as he knew it ended a year ago. On a mission gone wrong, he was forced to watch as Ella Banning, the only woman he’s ever loved, was killed. Or so he thought.

Jude wasn’t the only one who lost something on the day Ella was presumed dead. She sacrificed Endgame Ops, the love of her life, and parts of herself she can never get back. Now she’s determined to take down the world’s most dangerous terrorist—even if it means working for him.

When Jude and Ella are reunited, they’ll battle the lies Ella has been forced to tell…and struggle to save a love that knows no bounds.

Enjoy an Excerpt

The food smelled amazing, and her stomach reminded her she needed to build up her strength. The drugs she’d been pumped full of over the last few days were still making her sluggish, and she’d barely eaten. She picked up her—she laughed out loud—her spoon, and she dug in. She saw the smile that lit his features a second before the taste of the meal hit her taste buds.

Ella groaned. “That’s delicious.”

“I know,” he said with not a hint of humility. “Tia Rosa left me stocked the last time she was here.”

Ella took another bite, watching her food instead of Jude. “You didn’t cook it?”

“No time,” he said around a bite.

She didn’t ask him why he had no time. She knew. He’d been hunting her hard the last six months. Brody had warned her and done everything he could to keep proof Ella was alive from Endgame, but in the end, the world of spec ops was only so big. Word got around. Once she’d save King in Spain, she’d known her gig was up. She hadn’t anticipated the scenario playing out quite like this though.

“This place yours?” she asked. She needed information on him. Had to have it. Like the Jude junkie she was.

“Well now, Ella, I don’t think that’s any of your business,” he answered in a hard voice.

She winced.

“Unless you’re willing to trade information?” Jude asked with a milder tone.

She couldn’t not look at him anymore. She raised her gaze and found him staring at her, his face blank, his eyes hot. “Don’t ask that of me, Jude.”

She couldn’t call him Dagan anymore. He was Jude. She could give herself that much at least.

He barked out a laugh that was anything but humorous. “I’m going to ask that and more, Ella.”

She kept her gaze on him, and he returned it, refusing to look away. “If you’d just give me some time—”

He cut her off. “There’s no more time. We’re out of it. Dresden is making moves that will decimate world order. We need to know everything you’ve got, and we need it yesterday.”

“That’s not my mission, Jude,” she protested.

He took a bite of his beef and then a drink of tea Ella knew she’d find unbearably sweet. He wiped his mouth, never looking away from her. “Fuck your mission, Ella.”

She snorted. “You have fucked me. Royally.” She wondered where her anger was. He’d taken her off grid somewhere, was making it plain as day he was going to do everything in his power to get information from her, and she was as far from angry as she’d ever been.

“Not yet, lady,” he said with a wink before picking his fork back up. “But that’s coming too.”

Her breath caught, and an errant piece of meat lodged in her throat. She coughed, choking even as she laughed at his overwhelming gall. He started to get up, but she held up a hand, managing to dislodge the meat before she took a drink of his tea.

“Damn that’s sweet,” she complained.

“Only way to drink tea,” he responded.

He was lulling her, and damn him, it was working. She was falling back into her pattern with him, and the comfort of it was a draw she could barely resist.

She couldn’t allow this. She was going to hurt him when she left again. Because she would leave again. She had to take Dresden down, and the only way to do that was from inside his organization. He was probably wondering where the hell she was and mobilizing to either find her or destroy Jude. And beyond all that, Ella’s skin continued to crawl with worry for Anna Beth Caine. Fear prickled her skin.

“Where are we?” she asked suddenly, her fear communicating in the waver of her voice.

He held up six fingers.

Her eyes watered. Damn tears!

“You’re sure?”

He peered at her, intense and a bit put out, if the look on his face was anything to go by. Yes, she thought, how dare I question the ultimate warrior, Jude Dagan.

“I need to hear the words, Jude,” she admitted.

“We’re safe, Ella. I won’t let anything hurt you ever again.”

“Not a promise you can make,” she countered.

“You don’t think I can keep you safe?” Oh, the affront in his voice!

“I don’t think you have to. I’ve done enough to stay alive the last year, Jude. All you’re doing by keeping me here is making things exponentially more impossible for me.”

He grunted. “They were impossible before you left with Dresden in Beirut. I’m trying to keep you alive.”

“And mine my secrets in the process? Come on, Jude, let’s be honest. The only reason you’ve got me here is because I’ve become your mission. King wants answers. Endgame wants Dresden’s head. What none of you seem to realize is that there is more in play here!”

Ella slammed her hand down on the table and stood up, leaning over the table to get in his face. “I can keep myself alive. It’s you I’m worried about!”

He stared up at her, his gaze moving over her face, his expression giving her nothing. She had never yelled at Jude. Ever. But she wasn’t the same Ella anymore.

“Sit down and finish eating,” he said softly. He picked up his fork and did the same, ignoring her outburst as if it’d never happened.

She plopped back into her chair, picked up her spoon, and ate. Silence reigned through the rest of the meal. When Ella finished, she picked up her bowl and carried it to the sink, washing it and her spoon before putting them in the drying rack. She attacked the rest of the dishes and finished them off.

As she was drying her hands, Jude came up behind her. His hands settled on the granite countertop at her sides, his front pressing against her back. His heat wrapped around her as his scent toyed with her emotions.

“Let’s establish the rules right now,” he said at her ear, his voice gruff and hitting her right between the legs. “I don’t need you to keep me safe. I don’t need your protection. I need your cooperation. I need your secrets. Because, Ella? You’re mine. You have been since the moment I saw you, and you always will be. It is my right, my goddamn privilege, to take care of you. And if I have to fight you to do that, then by God, I will. I’ve been waging wars for a long time, lady, and when I fight, I win. You’re too important for me to walk away from.”

Her head fell back against his shoulder, and he took advantage, breathing his fire across her neck. She swore she felt the tip of his tongue on her skin. She went molten.

“Don’t do this to me, Jude. I begged you in Russia, and I’m begging you here.”

“It’s too late to beg. The game is in play, has been since you began working Dresden. The difference is that I know I’m a major player now.”

“You don’t know what you’re asking me for,” she whispered desperately.

“I’m asking you…for you, Ella. Your lies, your truths, and everything in between.”

Her heart climbed out of her chest and sank to his feet. “The rules?”

“Nothing but truth from now on. If you don’t want to answer me, tell me, but always give me the truth,” he answered, biting the tendon that ran from her neck to the shoulder.

Ella hissed in a breath as lust speared her midsection. “What else?” she questioned him breathlessly.

“Truth in everything, Ella. That’s the only rule,” he said against her skin.

About the Author:Lea Griffith began sneaking to read her mother’s romance novels at a young age. She cut her teeth on the greats: McNaught, Woodiwiss, and Garwood. A firm believer that love makes the world go round, she still consumes every romance book she can put her hands on, but now she writes her own.

Lea lives with her husband and three teenage daughters in rural Georgia. Two dogs, a cat, and a beta fish named Coddy George complete a family that is always in motion. When not working at the EDJ, she’s usually at her keyboard, using every spare second to write. Paranormal, science fiction or hot contemporary romance, nothing is off-limits when it comes to her writing.

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Play for Keeps by Maggie Wells – Spotlight and Giveaway


Long and Short Reviews welcomes Maggie Wells who is celebrating the upcoming release of Play for Keeps, the second book in her Love Games series. Enter the Rafflecopter at the end of the post for a chance to win the first book in the series, Love Games.

Mixing business and pleasure is a dangerous game…

Tyrell Ransom, the new men’s basketball coach, is ready to whip his team into shape and start winning some games. But when compromising photos of his soon-to-be-ex-wife with one of his players go viral, everything comes crashing down. With reporters thick on the ground, Ty and his team need some serious damage control—now.

When public relations guru Millie Jenkins arrives in her leopard-print cape to save the day, things really heat up… Soon they’re going to have to work double time to keep their white-hot chemistry out of the headlines.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Her thumb tapped the callback option before she even had a chance to check the clock. Three minutes after eleven. He’d be boarding soon. One little phone call should be safe enough.

“Hello.”

His voice was warm and deep and put her in the mood for Barry White music and lamps draped with gauzy scarves. “Plan on visiting any brothels while you’re in the great state of Nevada?”

He laughed. A full, rumbling laugh that did little to dispel the red wallpapered room she’d conjured in her head. “You never know. If the casinos don’t have any good headliners…”

She could see the whole setup perfectly. Of course, her version was highly romanticized and most likely television inspired. Reality was no doubt a fairly businesslike concern, but this was her trip down the rabbit hole. If she wanted piles of pillows, sheets made of satin, and heavy velvet drapes on the four-poster bed she had him tied to in her head, who could tell her no?

“Boarding soon?”

“Let’s get back to the brothel thing,” he teased.

“Not the kind of headline I want to spin. Besides, it’s been done. Promise me you won’t do anything reckless.”

Ty sobered instantly. “My dad is flying out, remember? I’ll probably be playing thirty-six holes of golf each day and listening to the old man heckle me about my slice.”

Dropping onto the bed, she leaned back against the headboard and pulled her knees up under her shirt. “Shift your weight before you start your downswing.”

“You golf?”

“Some,” she replied, relishing his pleased surprise.

“What’s your handicap?”

“The shoes,” she said without hesitation. He laughed again, and she beamed, delighted to have found their easy rhythm once again. “Pick up any good trinkets in the gift shops?”

“I’ve been hanging out in the Captain’s Club.”

“Free drinks?”

“Coffee.”

She nodded. “Good boy.”

“I’m no boy.”

“Man,” she corrected, allowing a sly smile to color the words. “Big, strong, handsome man.”

“Much better.”

“So your dad will be keeping an eye on you. That makes me feel much better.”

“Were you really worried?”

Millie caught a hint of injury in his question and hurried to correct course. “Well, not really, but I wanted to make you feel all badass and loose cannon, because I know guys like to think they are.”

His chuckle told her she’d hit the right note. “Yes, well, I think I perfected my badass loose cannon act last week.”

They lapsed into silence but not the uncomfortable kind. This was easy. Companionable. The quiet was unusual for Millie but not unwelcome. She spent so many hours of the day pitching and talking and promoting, she sometimes found it hard to switch off the ticker in her head. But Ty made the quiet she’d dedicated her life to filling seem almost natural. Almost but not entirely. Nature abhorred a vacuum and all that.

About the Author:By day, Maggie Wells is buried in spreadsheets. At night she pens tales of people tangling up the sheets. The product of a charming rogue and a shameless flirt, you only have to scratch the surface of this mild-mannered married lady to find a naughty streak a mile wide. She has a passion for college football, processed cheese foods, and happy endings. Not necessarily in that order. She lives in Arkansas.

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Interview and Giveaway: Nick Haskins

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Nick Haskins who is visiting with us today. Nick currently has four books out: One the Edge of Heat (2011), Jamal (2012), My Husband’s Wife (2013) and Betrayed (2017). Leave a comment or ask the author a question for a chance to in an autographed copy of his latest book Betrayed and a $25.00 restaurant gift certificate (winner chooses the restaurant).

I asked him what inspired him to start writing.

“When I was around twelve years old, I started having storylines, and characters, pop up in my head. Once I started paying attention to it, I could see, and remember, exactly what each character looked like along with all their separate characteristics and traits. When I turned seventeen I started to write in a notebook. I used to watch CBS Daytime with my mom, and I can remember wanting to mimic the drama and heartbreak I saw on TV, while captivating an audience the way soap operas captivated my mother and grandmother.”

In 2008, he found the notebook he had started writing in and became serious about his writing. Those first endeavors became his first novel, On the Edge of Heat, and he started sending query letters to New York. The book was released in 2009.

Carl Weber is not only his favorite author, he is also one of Nick’s biggest inspirations.

“Once I start one of his books,” he told me, “I not only can’t wait to finish it, but can’t wait to start the next book.”

For Nick, the characters start to form in his head first. Then he gets the plot and the ending of the book based on those characters. Then he waits and compartmentalizes the story until it’s time to write it out.

“Usually, the characters, plots and the ending playout for so long, I feel the story is already written; it just needs to be put on paper,” he explained.

Then comes the editing, and that’s the hardest part of writing for him.

“I can get the story to come out fairly easy, but it seems I can never get it right once it comes out,” he said. “I can open the galley to either one of my books right now and find at least seventy to ninety things I would change.”

“What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?” I asked.

“Sometimes when I’m writing I’ll be listing to a certain song, and I’ll add parts of the lyrics to the song into the chapter I’m working on. Also, I’ve used a line or two to poke fun at myself, the author, in each of my books.”

When he was growing up, he did not want to be a writer. In fact, he was sure he was going to be a pediatrician. He even changed his signature in seventh grade to look more like a doctor’s signature and admitted to me that he still uses his doctors signature. His goal now though is to become a better man and writer. He wants to be a successful, great storyteller and would like to be on the New York Times best seller list.

“If you could apologize to someone in your past,” I asked him, “who would it be?”

“If I could apologize to one person, it would be Kendra Zimmerman. A few months back I said some disgustingly horrible things to her that I did not mean. I allowed anger to lead the way to an irrelevant shouting match that should have never happened. That bothers me every day.”

Finally I asked, “Do you hear from your readers much? What do they say?”

“I don’t hear from my readers nearly as much as I would like to. Reviews are IMPORTANT, but I would love to chat, and tweet, and engage more with my readers via social media, or email. I would like to know what they’re thinking about my books, answer questions, or laugh along with them at a funny part.”

Sixteen years ago, William Majors Sr. made his young son, Billy, a promise that he would always take care of him after his mother died. He vowed to raise his son into a man he would someday be proud of. William also vowed not to take another wife until Billy was all grown up, so he opted to live as a single man. That all changed the day Jennifer Payne walked into his life. Her seductive body and stunning beauty instantaneously captures William . . . and Billy. When Billy secretly deceives William – seemingly overnight – Jennifer finds herself trapped in a dangerous love trio with both Father and son. When she chooses one over the other, a deadly line of betrayal will be crossed that will shake The Majors’ forever . . .

About the Author:Nick Haskins is the author of On the Edge of Heat, Jamal, My Husband’s Wife and his latest novel, Betrayed. Nick was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio where he currently resides. After years of aspiring to become a film and TV writer, he began to shape his creative dreams and released his first book in 2011. Nick has been actively working on building his catalog of work, and readership, with plans to become a full-time writer.

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X-Ops Exposed by Paige Tyler – Spotlight and Giveaway


Long and Short Reviews welcomes Paige Tyler who is celebrating the upcoming release of X-Ops Exposed the eighth book in her paranormal romantic suspense X-Ops series. Enter the Rafflecopter at the end of the post for a chance to win one of five copies of Her Dark Half, the seventh book in the series..

HE LEFT TO KEEP HER SAFE
Believing he’s too dangerous to be among people, feline hybrid Tanner Howland retreats deep into the forests of Washington State—with no choice but to leave behind the woman who’s captured his heart. What he doesn’t know is that she followed him…

SHE WOULDN’T STAY BEHIND
Heartbroken and determined, Dr. Zarina Sokolov tracks Tanner into the wild. Her presence unleashes Tanner’s protective instinct—big time. Locals have been disappearing and he is desperate for Zarina to leave. As the kidnappings escalate, Tanner must embrace the dangerous instincts he fears so much. But with Zarina at his side, he’ll have to learn to control his animal impulses, or lose himself—and the woman he loves—to the beast within.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Knowing she wasn’t going to get away, Zarina slid to a stop and spun around, ready to shout at the beast that wanted to kill her. She’d seen Tanner let out a roar that could paralyze almost anything crazy enough to attack him, so perhaps she could do the same thing.

But her cry of defiance died in her throat as she came face-to-face with a gigantic grizzly bear. The beast reared up on its hind legs, towering over her for one heart-stopping moment before dropping to all fours and roaring at her so loud, her bones felt turned to jelly.

She vaguely remembered the store clerk in town trying to sell her a can of bear repellent. If she wasn’t so terrified, she’d laugh at the idea. What the heck would a can of pepper spray do to something this big?

The bear took a step in her direction with another roar, showing off fangs large enough to bite right through her.

For a split second, Zarina considered running again, but it would be pointless. She’d never outrun a bear.

Rabbits get eaten.

So instead, she screamed as long and loud as she could.

The grizzly looked shocked for a moment, but instead of scaring the animal off like she’d hoped, all it did was seem to make him mad. Head low, the bear started toward her.

She was going to die.

But suddenly, the bear stopped, a look of what could only be confusion on its face as it focused on something behind her. A second later, a roar ripped through the night that shook the ground. She jerked her head around, almost collapsing in relief when she saw Tanner standing there in the dark, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, his eyes glowing vivid red, fangs bared as he let out a roar that sounded exactly like that of a lion. Which made sense, because those were the DNA strands blended with his own.

Zarina stood transfixed. Tanner’s fangs were longer and looked more terrifying than the bear’s.

The rage and anger on his face must have been enough to scare the grizzly, because the huge animal gave one more halfhearted chuff in Tanner’s direction, then turned and scurried back into the pitch-dark forest.

To her right, she caught movement. Crap, Tanner was going after the bear. Not because he wanted to hurt the animal, but because by running, the grizzly had become the prey, and Tanner’s lion half simply couldn’t stop itself from hunting the animal down now that the rage had taken over.

“Tanner,” she said softly. “Let the bear go.”

He stopped like he’d hit a brick wall, then stood there, unmoving, for what felt like forever, facing away from her and staring off into the darkness in the direction the bear had run. Not that it was probably all that dark for Tanner. With his animal-enhanced eyesight, he could probably see the grizzly’s big, fuzzy rump bouncing off into the woods. And if his eyes lost the creature, then his keen sense of smell would fill in the details. Which was a good thing, since she’d have probably been a bear treat if it hadn’t been for that nose of his.

After what seemed like an eternity, Tanner turned and looked at her. His fangs and glowing red eyes were gone now, replaced by a mesmerizing blue gaze and a ruggedly handsome face that had made her heart almost stop beating the first time she’d seen it. He had a bit more dark-blond scruff along his jaw and chin now. Actually, a lot more. Maybe it was because she’d grown up in a cold-weather environment where the opposite sex went all caveman in an attempt to stay warm, but she wasn’t usually a fan of facial hair. On Tanner, though, it looked incredibly scrumptious.

His T-shirt clung tightly to his chest and shoulders, showing off all the muscles he had upstairs, while his jeans fought to contain thighs that looked poised to tear their way out at any moment. Had he actually gotten more muscular since he’d been out there?

Zarina almost ran to him right then so she could throw her arms around him and hold him tight for the rest of the night. But she didn’t, because she knew he wouldn’t be ready for that. Not after she’d showed up in the forest out of the blue and almost gotten eaten by a bear.

But damn, it was hard.

Tanner looked better now than when he’d been living in the dorms at the DCO complex. He had been put up there since the agency’s covert agents had found him out here all that time ago. Even the stress lines that had been etched into his features had completely faded. It almost made her sorry she’d come out here to disturb the serenity he seemed to have found. But she couldn’t stay away, not with the way she felt about him. And especially not when she could finally help him.

“What are you doing here, Zarina?” he asked bluntly.

So much for him sweeping her into his arms and saying he was happy to see her. Clearly, he wasn’t. She tried not to let that hurt too much.

“I’m here to help you,” she said, equally blunt.

She’d learned a long time ago that dancing around a subject wasn’t the way Tanner did things. It wasn’t the way she did, either, so that was okay. She didn’t bother mentioning that his disappearance had caused her more sleepless nights than she could count and had nearly driven her insane with worry. That would have been emotional blackmail, and she wasn’t going to do that to him.

His jaw flexed. “I don’t need any help. I’m doing a good job of controlling my hybrid impulses all on my own.”

She looked pointedly in the direction the grizzly had run. “It doesn’t seem like it to me.”

Tanner flinched, and she immediately regretted her choice of words. Dammit, she was out here to help him, not push him further away.

“I haven’t lost control in the two months I’ve been out here,” he said through clenched teeth. “Not until you decided to do something stupid like wander through the middle of a grizzly’s territory by yourself.”

Zarina wanted to point out that she hadn’t planned to be out here this late and that there was no way she could have known she was in a bear’s territory. But she bit her tongue and focused on trying to defuse the situation.

“I’m sorry I made you lose control again,” she said. “But I’m here to make sure it doesn’t happen again…ever.”

She waited, expecting Tanner to ask her what she meant by that, but he didn’t. Instead, he stood there regarding her and looking way better than any man should considering he’d been camping in the woods for two months. She had met plenty of guys who couldn’t pull off his level of masculine perfection after primping in front of a mirror for an hour. That was one of the other things she’d learned about Tanner. He didn’t have to work hard at being so amazing. It came naturally to him.

After another minute of silence, Zarina accepted that if they were going to talk, she was the one who would have to get the conversation started. “I finished the hybrid drug antiserum that will return your DNA back to what it was before Stutmeir’s doctors experimented on you. You can be a normal human again.”

She waited for some reaction—relief, doubt, elation. Something. But Tanner looked as interested as if she’d told him it might rain tomorrow.

“I’ll never be normal again,” he finally said quietly.

“Yes, you will.” She stepped closer, anguish coursing through her when he immediately took a step back. “I worked on the antidote every minute since you left. It will work. It will keep the beast from ever slipping out again.”

“I don’t want it, dammit!” he shouted, making her jump. He cursed and ran his hand through his hair. “I’m sorry,” he said, his voice softer. “For yelling at you. And for making you come all the way out here and hiking halfway across the Wenatchee Forest to find me. But I don’t want the antidote. Just go home, okay? Leave me out here where I can’t hurt anyone.”

Zarina’s heart tore in two at the pain in his eyes. She had no idea why he was turning down her offer, but she wasn’t leaving without him.

“I’m not going home,” she said, standing her ground and leveling her gaze at him.

Having this conversation would have been a lot easier without holding a flashlight. Then she could have folded her arms to emphasize her point.

“Then you’d better have a lot of books on that e-reader of yours, because you’re going to get bored damn fast waiting for me at whatever hotel you’re staying in.”

“I’m not going to a hotel,” she told him. “I’m staying out here.”

Red flared in his eyes but faded just as quickly. “Like hell you are.”

“I’m not leaving,” she said firmly. “You can run off into the woods—we both know I can’t keep up with you—but I still won’t leave. I’ll keep walking all over the forest looking for you.”

His eyes flickered red again, and he muttered something under his breath she couldn’t catch. “You irritate me like no one else on the planet, do you know that?”

“Yes,” she replied, even though it was a probably a rhetorical question. “So, which way to your camp?”

About the Author: Paige Tyler is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of sexy, romantic fiction. Paige writes books about hunky alpha males and the kick-butt heroines they fall in love with. She lives with her very own military hero (a.k.a. her husband) and their adorable dog on the beautiful Florida coast.

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Free Book – Bringer of Chaos: Forged in Fire


For a limited time only, Kayelle Allen is offering Bringer of Chaos: Forged in Fire for FREE! Take advantage of this now, because the sale ends tomorrow, March 27!

When the immortal Pietas is marooned on a barren world with no food and few survival tools, he knows it could be worse. He could be alone. But that’s the problem. He’s not.
Half a million of his people sleep in cryostasis, trapped inside their pods and it’s up to Pietas to free them. He can’t release one at a time. It’s all or nothing. He’s facing over five hundred thousand hungry, thirsty, homeless immortals who will call on him for rescue and he has no way to answer.

It’s not all bad. The beautiful telepathic warrior he’s loved for lifetimes is at his side. He’s bonded with a sentient panther. He hates humans but the one dumped on this planet with him has become a trusted friend.

Before Pietas can build shelter, figure out how to grow food, or set up a government, he must take back command from a ruthless enemy he’s fought for centuries. His brutal, merciless father.

Immortals may heal, but a wound of the heart lasts forever…

“WARNING”
Contains humor, sweet romance, betrayal, angst, vengeance… and a ginormous, sentient black panther who wants to be Pietas’s “kitty.”

Check out a great excerpt here.

About the Author: Kayelle Allen did a tour in the US Navy, where she climbed around airplanes (on the ground, thankfully) fixing black boxes that helped pilots find their way home.

She wrote her first science fiction novel at 18 and to this day, it’s hidden under the bed, where she vows it will remain. Gems from it, however, launched several series in her galaxy-wide universe of stories.

From childhood, Kayelle was the victim of an overactive imagination and inherited the Irish gift of gab from her mother. From her father, she got a healthy respect for mechanical things.

No wonder she writes Science Fiction and Fantasy peopled with misbehaving robots, mythic heroes, role playing immortal gamers, and warriors who purr. She’s been married so long she’s tenured.

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Lessons I Learned from the Characters in Hanami by V.C. Buckley – Guest Blog and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. V.C. Buckley will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Lessons I learned from the characters of Hanami

1. Not everyone will like you and that’s ok.
– There will always be somebody, somewhere who somehow won’t like you even when you’re just sitting quietly by yourself. There are probably a million reasons why, and you most likely will never know even one reason, but that’s ok because it’s none of your business anyway. Just be yourself and continue to rock on. But if they start trying to hurt you, then that’s a whole different story.

2. You don’t need to look or be like everybody else. Just be yourself.
– Sakura lived in her own head. She was mature for her age and didn’t think like most of her peers. But her sincerity and genuine personality made people gravitate towards her…until they realized she was the next crime boss, then most of them kept their distance.

3. Speak up when something is wrong.
-When Yuna was getting bullied, Sakura didn’t want to intervene at first. She didn’t want to draw attention or have unnecessary drama just because she stood up for someone. But because she’s Sakura, she couldn’t help but come to the rescue. She taught those bullies a lesson and gained a loyal friend.

4. No one has the permission to make you feel like crap.
-The jealous Miyu and her minions have tried to get under Sakura’s skin, but it ends up in frustration every time. In one incident, she spilled soda on Sakura’s back, hoping to rouse the angry dragon from her lair, but instead she got laughed at. The unexpected reaction left her confused.
As for Sakura, she knew what was going on, but her smart thinking caused every bullying attempt to backfire on the giver. She didn’t allow them to get into her head. She used her head instead.

5. Learn when to give up and when to fight.
-There are many instances in the book where the characters fight for something they valued and believed in, but they also knew when to quit and when something wasn’t worth pursuing. Instead, that energy was directed into something else that gave them a better outcome.

6. Most things are not what they seem.
-Sakura caught everyone’s attention the minute she stepped foot in Oniyuri academy. She had the face of an angel and a very fragile looking physique, but the packaging doesn’t always show the truth. No one knew that the girl with the angel face was actual a dangerous monster inside.

7. Respect is a two way street.
-Miyu demanded respect from everyone and bullied those who thought they were better than her. It only made people fear her. But when Sakura crossed her path, she was taught a hard lesson. To get respect, you had to give it in return.

8. Love needs no reason.
-When Jin realized his feelings for Sakura, he didn’t understand himself. He didn’t know why it mattered whether she was okay or not, or that she was safe. It drove him insane not hearing from her after she jumped out of his car or when she went missing during the class field trip. He had the urge to protect her and be there for her. He didn’t know why and he didn’t need a reason. He just did.

9. No amount of money or power can buy sleep for a guilty conscience.
-Mr. Shintani worked hard to transition the family business into a legal and legit empire, so that Sakura can live a guilt-free life. But he is aware of Sakura’s determination to capture and kill whoever murdered her parents, and he hopes to save her from putting blood on her hands.

10. You were never meant to walk this earth alone.
-Sakura thought she didn’t need friends. She found them burdensome. But when she started opening herself to the possibility of friendship, she wondered how she ever got this far without it.

SAKURA SHINTANI is the Dragon Clan heir-Japan’s most notorious crime dynasty. But can she keep this fact a secret from the prying brats of Oniyuri Academy?

She tries to stay out of their radar while mastering her demons and keeping her murderous temper under control, but having the face of an angel only attracts everyone’s attention… including the arrogant heir to Asia’s most powerful tycoon, KENJIN KIYOHARA.

He senses the danger, but Sakura is too interesting to be left alone.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Jin rolled his eyes, settling his gaze back on the girl. He wasn’t surprised with their reaction.

The new girl was hot, but so what? It took more than a pretty face to get his attention. He wasn’t that easy to impress, and he was certain she’d be throwing herself at him anyway. Just like everybody else. He was sure this girl wasn’t any different from the love-crazed hyenas that stalked him.

Jin pushed back his shoulders, seeing her start towards him with her eyes still trailing on the ground.

Already? Jin thought, suppressing a laugh. He crossed his arms, waiting for her to get closer, and sure enough she stopped right in front of him. She was even prettier up close. Asian but with a hint of Caucasian mixed in.

“What?” he asked, smirking. He already knew what she might say: whether he was Kenjin Kiyohara, the sole heir to Kiyohara Industries? The questions were all the same. He thought she would have at least waited until class was over like the rest of them.

“Move your feet. You’re blocking my way,” the girl said in a sharp tone. She shifted her gaze up at him like a threatening knife. Her topaz-colored eyes darkened, sending icy tremors down his back. He felt as if he’d been hit by a curse as his mind turned blank.

When she finally looked away, Jin was able to regain his senses. He tucked his legs out of her way, and she passed, leaving goosebumps in her wake. His eyes followed her, waiting to see if she’d look back, but she never did. Jin’s hands were trembling. His thoughts became jumbled while he struggled not to look anymore.

What was that? What just happened? This was a first for him. He couldn’t contain himself. His presence had no impact whatsoever. Instead she looked like she wanted to kill him!

Jin took a deep breath, replaying the moment in his head. Who was this girl? She sure got his attention, all right—and it left him in pieces. He fought the urge to look back again.

This girl…Jin thought. There was something about her. He couldn’t shake off the feeling. She seemed dangerous.

About the Author:V.C. Buckley was born in an isolated government facility and shipped off to an Island in Southeast Asia where she grew up braving tropical thunderstorms and warding off evil villains. At sixteen she was discovered by an agent and jetted off all over the world. Her stories come from gritty moments of her childhood to the glitz of her travels. She now lives in Manila with her husband, two kids and an herb garden that has hijacked her balcony.

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Interview and Giveaway: Lenora Bell

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Lenora Bell who is celebrating the upcoming release of her newest book What a Difference a Duke Makes, the first book in her School for Dukes series on March 27. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of the book + a $25 Amazon gift card.

Read our review here–this book got our highest rating!

Lenora is from a tiny, isolated town in Southeast Alaska.

“By tiny, I mean less than 2000 people,” she told me. “It’s one of the most beautiful places on earth. What I love the most about it is the silence. When you step off that ferryboat or that six-seater plane, the silence just hits you. It’s so powerful.”

I wondered if she uses a pen name and discovered that she does – Lenora is a variation of her real first name, and she choose Bell for the last name as a way to pay homage to the Brontë sisters who used it as their pen name. Charlotte Bronte first published Jane Eyre under the name Currer Bell.

Lenora told me she always wanted to be a writer.

“I was raised in a literary household where we wrote poems to express our feelings and reading was as essential and natural as breathing,” she explained. “I didn’t know that I wanted to be a historical romance author until I read an article about Eloisa James in 2005 and thought to myself, ‘I want to do that!'”

She’s suffered from perfectionism and writer’s block her entire life, once turning in a college paper six years late. She focusing now on letting go of the perfectionism and trying to write the best book possible at this point in her life. There are two specific books that help her when she’s feeling stuck, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and Story Genius by Lisa Cron.

I asked, “How do you develop your plot and characters?”

“I start with images: actors who look like the characters, locations, houses, and themes. I print everything out and create a storyboard. Next, I use Lisa Cron’s Story Genius method of diving deep into the childhood, background, worldview, motivations, and misbeliefs of my characters. I’ll spend a month doing that and writing character sketches, defining moments, and memories (often in first person) before I start writing the book itself.”

Lenora pitched What a Difference a Duke Makes to her editor as “Mary Poppins meets Jane Eyre,” so was thrilled that early reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and RT Book Reviews picked up on all the little Mary Poppins/Jane Eyre Easter eggs she wove through the story for readers to find.

Currently she’s working on For the Duke’s Eyes Only, the second book in the series, and told me she’s having a blast. This is the first enemies-to-lovers story she’s written, and she thinks it’s her new favorite trope “because there’s just so many sparks flying and passions igniting.”

You might notice a theme in her titles. She likes to find old song titles and change one word to Duke.

When she’s not writing, she and her husband love to travel. Also, they are both musicians (he plays banjo and she sings) so they also enjoy playing music together and collecting vinyl. She also likes to volunteer wherever she’s living – literacy for girls and anti-trafficking are two causes she avidly supports.

“I’m also a thrift/vintage store addict with WAY too many vintage dresses, purses, and shoes,” she admitted.

Being a musician, it’s not surprising that she listens to music while she’s writing.

“I choose music to fit the mood of the scene I’m writing. I’ll listen to Chopin for quieter scenes, Neko Case for strong heroines, Tom Waits or Mark Lanegan for those gruff rogues,” she said. “I’ll mix in some jazz, blues, or opera for passionate scenes. Sometimes I’ll crank the hip-hop if I need to write faster.”

“What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your books?” I wondered.

“While researching a side character, Lady India (the heroine of Book Two) I discovered an eccentric British socialite, adventurer, and archaeologist named Lady Hester Stanhope who lived from 1776 to 1839. She was infamous for wearing male clothing, riding astride, and mounting a successful archaeological excavation on the Gaza coast in 1815. Which goes to show that unconventional and adventurous women have always existed!”

Finally, I asked her to share her best fan letter with us.

“I love the story I received from a reader who had two toddlers, a busy job, and was having a hard time carving out the space for intimacy with her dear husband. He saw my book on her nightstand and suggested that he could read a few chapters out loud to her. Let’s just say she definitely enjoyed the reading. It’s stories like these that inspire me to write. I want to make people happy and bring love and joy to readers.”

Wanted: Governess for duke’s unruly children

Edgar Rochester, Duke of Banksford, is one of the wealthiest, most powerful men in England, but when it comes to raising twins alone, he knows he needs help. The only problem is the children have chased away half the governesses in London. Until the clever, bold, and far-too-enticing Miss Mari Perkins arrives.

Lost: One heart to an arrogant duke

Mari knows how to wrap even the most rebellious children around her finger. But their demanding, wickedly handsome father? He won’t be quite so easy to control. And there’s something else she can’t seem to command. Her heart. The foolish thing beats so wildly every time the duke is near.

Found: A forbidden passion neither can deny

As his employee, Mari is strictly off-limits. But what if she’s the one breaking all his rules? In the game of governess versus duke, how can Edgar maintain his defenses when the only thing he wants to do is let the tempting beauty win . . .?

About the Author: Lenora Bell is a USA Today bestselling, award-winning author of historical romances. She blames the long, dark winters in her tiny Alaskan hometown for making her a lifelong bookworm. A teacher with an MFA in Creative Writing who has lived on five continents, Lenora currently shares an old farmhouse in the Pacific Northwest with her carpenter husband and two tiger-striped rescue kitties. She loves to hear from readers!

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