June 30, 2020

Book Review: Flame by Donna Grant

at 6/30/2020 04:14:00 PM 0 comments

If she believed in destiny, she would believe they were meant for each other. But that fire was put out long ago. . .

Living among the Dragon Kings, Cain has spent lifetimes learning to distrust both mortals and Fae. He is a warrior born—and every instinct demands that he fight to keep his own kind safe. But when a fringe member of the Dark Fae contacts the Kings with an urgent warning, Cain is torn for the first time. How can he trust this beautiful creature when resisting his primal attraction to her is battle enough?

Noreen is horrified by what her kind and the malevolent Others are planning for the Dragon Kings. Dark Fae or not, there are lines she will not cross—even if it means risking her life. But she never imagined that she would risk her heart until she meets Cain. She wants him with a soul-deep desire that frightens her…and endangers them both. Is saying goodbye to everything Noreen has ever known worth a love that will span time and realms?

Buy Links

Note: Advanced Readers Copy provided by the St. Martin's Press via NetGalley.

Dear Readers, we're almost there! Book 17 of the Dark Kings series features Cain and Noreen in a "enemies to lovers" story with developments in the other storylines in this series, e.g. Rhi, Erith, and Con's HEA. The main story revolves around Cain and Noreen. Noreen, a Dark Fae affiliated with the Others, the antagonists of the story. Noreen tips off the Dragon Kings about possible danger, and gets caught by the Dragon Kings. Did you really think you can fool the tech-savvy dragon? Noreen agrees to help the Dragon Kings and Cain is suspicious of her, but it doesn't stop him from lusting after her. Things do get a little confusing with some timey-wimey flashbacks and hints about who Rhi's Dragon King was. With the end scene, it narrows it down to possible theories. If you're caught up, click the spoiler button to read, otherwise skip ahead. I thought Flame was along the same vein as the previous Dragon Kings books. MCs meet, there's attraction, conflict, danger, and banging/mate talks. Y'know, the standard stuff. Per the usual, Cain and Noreen's story was a little "insta-love," but this time around, it seems a little different with the time skipping and memory manipulation. I'm glad we got to find out what happened to Balladyn and the build-up to the final showdown in the next and final book. I highly recommend new readers to start at the beginning.

Check out this post by Scottish Book Lover about the facts and lowdown about Rhi and Con!

4  stars

Confused about the reading order for Donna Grant's Dark World universe?

Click here for the entire reading order.

About the Author

Donna is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over a hundred novels. Her most popular series is the breathtaking Dark King (aka Dragon King) series featuring dragons, immortal Highlanders, and the Fae.

In addition to her novels, Donna has written short stories, novellas, and novelettes for digital-first and print release. She has been dubbed as giving the “paranormal genre a burst of fresh air” by the San Francisco Book Review. Her work has been hailed as having “deft plotting and expert characterization” by Publisher’s Weekly and “sizzling” by RT Book Reviews.

She has been recognized with awards from both bookseller and reader contests including the National Reader’s Choice Award, Booksellers Best Award, as well as the coveted K.I.S.S. Award from RT Book Reviews.

Donna travels often for various speaking engagements, conferences, and book signings. She is also a frequent workshop presenter at national conferences such as RT Book Lovers Convention and Thrillerfest, as well as local chapters.

Born and raised in Texas, she also has ties across the border in Louisiana. Growing up with two such vibrant cultures, her Cajun side of the family taught her the “spicy” side of life while her Texas roots gave her two-steppin’ and bareback riding. She is never far from her faithful 80-pound dog, Sisko, or her three cats. She can often be found at the movies or bookstore with her children. Or buying makeup. And shoes.

You can find her at www.DonnaGrant.com as well as her website devoted entirely to the Dragon Kings and all series that encompass the Dark World at www.MotherOfDragonsBooks.com.

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Blog Tour Promo Post: Hate Crush by Angelina M. Lopez

at 6/30/2020 01:00:00 AM 0 comments

Series: Filthy Rich, #2
Length: 416 pages
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Imprint: Carina Press
eBook On-Sale: June 29, 2020
MMP On-Sale: June 30, 2020

A fake relationship could help Princesa Sofia save her kingdom. Only problem: She’ll have to fake it with the man who broke her heart.

Ten years ago, wild child Princesa Sofia Maria Isabel de Esperanza y Santos fell in fast crazy love with heartbreaker Aish Salinger during one California harvest season. Now, all grown up and with the future of her kingdom on her shoulders, she hates him as passionately as she once loved him.

Even if her body hasn’t gotten the hate memo.

Faking a relationship with the now-famous rock star for the press and public will ensure the success of her new winery and prosperity of her kingdom. All she has to do is grit her teeth and bear his tattooed presence in her village and winery—her home—for a month.

Trying to recover from his own scandal, fallen superstar Aish Salinger jumps at the chance to be near Sofia again. Leaving her was the biggest mistake he’s ever made, and he’s waited ten years to win her back.

He never counted on finding a woman who despised him so much she didn’t want to be anywhere near him.

A war of wills breaks out as the princess and rock star battle to control their fake relationship. She wants to dictate every action to keep him away from her. He wants to be as close as he can be. She’s already lost so much because of Aish—e won’t be the reason her people lose even more.

But he also won’t make her break her life’s most important vow: To never fall in love again.

Read Filthy Rich Book One, Lush Money, available now from Carina Press!

Buy Links

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  iTunes  |  kobo  |  Google Play

Aish pulled the bud out of his ear and straightened, never taking his eyes off her as he held it out. When she took the bud from him, she let her fingers linger. His fingertips were warm and that tiny touch sent a frisson down her arm.
She unwrapped the headphones from around her neck and stuffed them into her back pocket. But she didn’t move back.
“I’m a musician,” he said, voice low.
“I know.”
A corner of his mouth went up. “What else do you know?”
That he made every millimeter of her skin buzz. That he smelled like boy and sweat and ocean salt. She hated the nose-clogging scent of cologne. There was nothing fake about the way this boy smelled.
She pulled her long braid over her shoulder and tugged on it. “You’re from LA, your father designs clothes, your mother is a famous fitness instructor. Y…you’re very good at surfing, singing, partying, working harder on less sleep than everyone else and…oh, , ménage à trois.”
Shock, mortification, and humor created a palette across his expressive face. “Who said I’m good at threesomes?”
Sofia ran a hand down her braid and shrugged, all Spanish cool. “No sé. I keep my nose to myself. It’s everyone else who talks.”
When he grinned this time, he looked like he might lean down and taste her. “And what does everyone say about you?”
Sofia worked to maintain her smile. She wanted to be no one to nobody. She wanted to have nothing said about her. But even if she’d lived a cloistered life in a high tower, her story would be marred with her parents’ dramas and affairs and fights, ugly public episodes that stripped Sofia of dignity without her involvement. And Princesa Sofia hadn’t lived a cloistered life. Maintaining her dignity hadn’t been high on her list when she’d mooned the crowd from atop a Semana Santa float in Cádiz or when she’d waved drunkenly to the paparazzi from a movie star’s hotel balcony when she was supposed to be presented to the Queen of England. She’d been neither drunk nor sleeping with the star. But her humiliated mother had abandoned the duke’s bedroom she’d been occupying to drag Sofia back to the Monte.
She didn’t want to think about her scandalous past. She didn’t want to think about the demands of her future. All Sofia wanted right now was to be a dirty, half-naked girl wrapped around a beautiful boy in a wine tank.
“I know some stuff about you,” Aish said quietly.
Sofia focused on the air in front of his face and ran her hand down her braid.
“Your name’s Sofia. That’s…really fucking pretty.” He hadn’t said Princess Sofia. He hadn’t said Sofia de
Esperanza y Santos. Just Sofia. And he thought it was pretty. She focused again on his eyes.
“You’ve got a great accent.” The air between them felt like it was warming up. “You like grunt work, which is so hot it kinda hurts.”
Nothing about her royal status. Nothing about her reputation. He’d just arrived; perhaps none of the interns had told him about the princess in their midst. Perhaps his uncle had just said, “Make sure the new intern hasn’t passed out. Her name is Sofia.”
“You’re not wearing a bra.” Her mouth opened at that, surprised, as his eyed gripped shut. “I noticed and if you noticed I noticed, I’m sorry ’cause I don’t want you to think I’m a total fucking creeper and scare you away…”
“I don’t think you’re a creeper,” she said, reaching to brush her fingers over his clenched fist. Her breasts were so small she seldom wore a bra. But this boy acted like they were an irresistible temptation.
Aish opened his eyes. “Are you for real?”
Sofia smiled up at him, feeling helpless and foolish and floating.
“I mean, am I having some weird acid flashback?” His urgency seemed to express that it was a real possibility.
“Wouldn’t I be having one, too?” she asked. “And I’ve never done acid.”
“No, no.” He was a lit fuse aimed in her direction. “This could be my own personal hallucination. Because, what the fuck. My uncle tells me to go check on the new intern and inside a tank is a kick-ass, bare-skinned fairy girl listening to elf music. I feel like I’m tripping. Am I?”
With amazement beaming from her, Sofia shook her head.
He reacted like she’d punched him. “Fuck. Your smile. Can I kiss you?”

Copyright © 2020 by Angelina M. Lopez

About Angelina M. Lopez

Angelina M. Lopez wrote "arthur" when her kindergarten teacher asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. In the years since she learned to spell the word correctly, she's been a journalist for an acclaimed city newspaper, a freelance magazine writer, and a content marketer for small businesses. Finally, she found her way back to the "author."

Angelina writes sexy, contemporary stories about strong women and the confident men lucky enough to fall in love with them. The fact that her parents own a vineyard in California’s Russian River Valley might imply a certain hedonism about her; it's not true. She's a wife and a mom who lives in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. She makes to-do lists with perfectly drawn checkboxes. She checks them with glee.

You can find more about her at her website, AngelinaMLopez.com.

Connect with Angelina M. Lopez

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June 27, 2020

Blog Tour Promo Post: Sisters & Secrets by Jennifer Ryan

at 6/27/2020 02:00:00 AM 0 comments

If you love Jill Shalvis and Susan Mallery, then you won’t want to miss this newest novel by New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Ryan.

There’s nothing more complicated than the relationship among family…Especially when the Silva Sisters are keeping secrets.

For Sierra it means returning home with her two little boys after a devastating Napa wildfire takes her home, her job, and even the last mementos of her late husband, David. Determined to start over, how can she ever reveal the truth—that her husband may have led a double life?

To the world, Amy’s world is perfect: handsome husband, delightful children, an Instagram-worthy home. But behind this facade lies an awful truth: her marriage is rocky, her children resentful, her home on the verge of breaking up.

Heather, impulsive, free-spirited, and single mom to an adorable little girl, lives for the moment wearing a carefree smile. But she refuses to reveal the truth about her daughter’s father, and his identity remains a mystery even to her family.

As the Silva Sisters secrets are revealed, each realizes that there is more to their family than meets the eyes…and forgiveness may be the only way to move forward and reclaim true happiness at last.

Sisters and Secrets is a moving novel of sisterhood, second chances, and the secrets that have the power to break or bond families—and alter destinies.

Buy Links

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  kobo  |  iBooks  |  Goodreads  |  BookBub

A Standalone Novel
© 2020 Jennifer Ryan


Flames burned bright orange and red on both sides of the two-lane road as they consumed and destroyed everything in their path. Homes, businesses, multimillion-dollar vineyards. Nothing was spared as the fire climbed over the Napa Valley hills, unrelenting in its destruction. Sierra prayed it spared everyone on the road leading out, especially her sons.
She drove, heart-pounding, fear amped to infinity, with her clammy palms locked on the steering wheel. Bumper to bumper, traffic moved at a snail’s pace. Like her, the other residents had been notified too late to gradually evacuate. The sheer number of people trying to escape all at once down a single lane prevented them from racing away from the flames. The other lane was left open to emergency vehicles that occasionally sped into the belly of the beast. Everyone had to feel exactly like her: desperate to flee before this dark and dangerous road became their grave.
She loved watching the flames dance in her woodburning stove, but driving through a wildfire made her feel like she was inside an inferno. Trapped. A wave of terror shot through her, cold fear dancing down her spine. She wanted out. Now.
Sierra glanced at her two small sons in the back seat, danger inches away outside. Helpless to eradicate it, she sucked in a breath to calm the fear and focus on getting them out of here as safely as possible. Every instinct told her to stomp on the gas, jump in the other lane, speed past everyone, and get them to safety no matter what. But like everyone else, she tried to stay orderly and calm.
Noxious fumes, unbelievable heat, and fire surrounded them. Nothing and no one was a match for Mother Nature’s firestorm. Ash, smoke, and sparks blew all around them while the satellite radio cut in and out, the signal blocked by the thick smoke obliterating their view of the night sky. Fear knotted her gut and rising panic sped up her heartbeat. Every second trapped within the blaze raging on both sides of them made it harder to keep it together for her two little boys.
She thought about their lives, how they’d already suffered a great loss when their father died, and all they had ahead of them. She didn’t want it to end this way. She wanted to see them grown, happy, healthy, living the life they chose and thriving.
“Mom.” Danny’s voice shook. “The window is hot.”
“Don’t touch it.” She’d flipped the vent system to recirculate, but the smoky stench permeated the car along with the immense heat. The acrid scent turned her stomach and left a sour taste in her mouth.
Oliver held his favorite blanket over his mouth and nose. His eyes held a world of worry, too great for one five-year-old to face and understand beyond the fact that the scene outside was scary as hell and he wanted to be far away.
So do I.
Frustration got the better of the guy in the pickup truck behind her and he laid on the horn. Where did he expect her to go? The line of cars had only moved ten feet in the last two minutes. At this rate, they wouldn’t get out of the fire zone before dawn.
At least, it felt that way.
A rush of adrenaline shot through her again, signaling the flight-or-fight response she’d felt when she’d seen the smoke and fire headed toward their home. She could neither fight it nor flee from it when it literally surrounded her. And so she tried her best to stay alert, remain calm, and pray this all worked out.
Three more fire engines sped past in the opposite lane. Reinforcements for the dozens she’d passed on the tedious and exceedingly dangerous trip out of here.
We’ll make it out. We have to.
She’d worked too hard the last eleven months to keep her head above water after her husband’s tragic car accident to have it all end like this . . . in a car, on a dark road, consumed by fire.
It felt too eerily close to how they lost David.
Sierra gripped the steering wheel even tighter to stop her hands from shaking and focused on the car in front of her, following it around another curve, not getting her hopes up when their speed increased even marginally, but telling herself steady as she goes was good enough, so long as they got out of this alive.
The thought of anything happening to her babies . . . She couldn’t go there. It stopped her heart. But that fear drove her to keep her head and do everything possible to get them out of this situation even as thoughts of their home, her job, and the future swamped her mind. She’d barely made it by these last many months. If she lost everything . . . What then?
How would she support herself and the boys?
More flashing red and white lights glowed against the thick smoke ahead. She inched her way toward the emergency vehicles, the cars slowing ahead of her as they approached what must be an intersection. Fire trucks and police cars blocked the cross street, drawing everyone’s attention and slowing them down as everyone stared to the side to see if the fire had destroyed everything down that road. Ahead, cars shot forward as if they were racehorses released from the starting gates as they passed the commotion and the open road broke free of the fire border.
Relief hit like a crashing wave.
We made it.
Now what?
She didn’t really have a plan for where to go. She ran out of her house with the clothes on her back, her purse, an armful of personal files, and her two sons in tow with the stench of smoke heavy in the air and flames devouring the houses only six streets away. By now, for all she knew, her house and all those on her block were gone.
Bile rose to the back of her throat, the thought so terribly upsetting, their future left uncertain.
Right now, though, she’d take the thirty-five-mile-an-hour speeds, the open land and road ahead of her as she outran the fire and smoke and spotted the sign for Yountville and the acclaimed restaurant the French Laundry.
“Is the fire gone?” Oliver asked.
She wished. “We’re getting farther and farther away from it.”
“Where are we going?” Danny leaned toward his brother so he could see through the windshield.
Now that the flames weren’t licking at the sides of the car and bearing down on them, Sierra took a moment to think about her next move. She needed a place to put the boys down to bed tonight. In the morning, there’d be news of the firefighters’ efforts to stop the massive blaze and whether or not her home had been spared. She hoped, but her heart sank with the realization it didn’t seem likely and they’d lost everything.

About the Author

NY Times & USA Today bestselling author JENNIFER RYAN writes suspenseful contemporary romances about everyday people who do extraordinary things. Her deeply emotional love stories are filled with high stakes and higher drama, love, family, friendship, and the happily-ever-after we all hope to find. Jennifer lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and three children. When she finally leaves those fictional worlds, you’ll find her in the garden, playing in the dirt and daydreaming about people who live only in her head, until she puts them on paper. For information about her upcoming releases, sign up for her newsletter: www.jennifer-ryan.com/newsletter.

Author Links
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads  |  BookBub  |  Amazon

To celebrate the release of SISTERS AND SECRETS by Jennifer Ryan, we're giving away a paperback set of Sisters and Secrets and The Me I Used to Be to one lucky winner!

GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS:  Open to US shipping addresses only. One winner will receive a paperback set of Sisters and Secrets and The Me I Used to Be by Jennifer Ryan. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Avon Books.  Giveaway ends 7/31/2020 @ 11:59pm EST. 

ENTER →  https://bit.ly/2TZxzF7

June 25, 2020

Blog Tour Promo Post: She's Faking It by Kristin Rockaway

at 6/25/2020 02:00:00 AM 0 comments

Genre: Fiction/Romance/Contemporary  
Trade Paperback | Graydon House Books

You can’t put a filter on reality.

Bree Bozeman isn’t exactly pursuing the life of her dreams. Then again, she isn’t too sure what those dreams are. After dropping out of college, she’s living a pretty chill life in the surf community of Pacific Beach, San Diego…if “chill” means delivering food as a GrubGetter, and if it means “uneventful”.

But when Bree starts a new Instagram account — @breebythesea — one of her posts gets a signal boost from none other than wildly popular self-help guru Demi DiPalma, owner of a lifestyle brand empire. Suddenly, Bree just might be a rising star in the world of Instagram influencing. Is this the direction her life has been lacking? It’s not a career choice she’d ever seriously considered, but maybe it’s a sign from the universe. After all, Demi’s the real deal… right?

Everything is lining up for Bree: life goals, career, and even a blossoming romance with the chiseled guy next door, surf star Trey Cantu. But things are about to go sideways fast, and even the perfect filter’s not gonna fix it. Instagram might be free, but when your life looks flawless on camera, what’s the cost?


Google Play  |  IndieBound  |  Kobo

From Chapter Two

“Don’t these books make your purse really heavy? There’s gotta be some app where you can store all this information.”
“Studies show you’re more likely to remember things you’ve written by hand, with physical pen and paper.” She reached across my lap and opened the glove compartment, removing a notebook with an antiqued photograph of a vintage luxury car printed on the cover. “For example, this is my auto maintenance log. Maybe if you’d kept one of these, like I told you to, we wouldn’t be in this predicament right now.”
I loved Natasha, I really did. She was responsible and generous, and without her I’d likely be far worse off than I already was, which was a horrifying thought to consider. But at times like this, I wanted to grab her by the shoulders and shake the shit out of her.
“A maintenance log wouldn’t have helped me.”
“Yes, it would have. Organization is about more than decluttering your home. It’s about decluttering your mind. Making lists, keeping records—these are all ways to help you get your life in order. If you’d had a maintenance log, this problem wouldn’t have caught you off guard in the middle of your delivery shift. You’d have seen it coming, and—”
“I saw it coming.”
 “This didn’t catch me off guard. The check engine light came on two weeks ago.” Or maybe it was three.
“Then why didn’t you take it to the mechanic?” She blinked, genuinely confused. Everything was so cut-and dried with her. When a car needed to be serviced, of course you called the mechanic.
That is, if you could afford to pay the repair bill.
Fortunately, she put two and two together without making me say it out loud. “Oh,” she murmured, then bit her lip. I could almost hear the squeak and clank of wheels turning in her head as she tried to piece together the solution to this problem. No doubt it included me setting up a journal or logbook of some sort, though we both knew that would be pointless. The last time she’d tried to set me up with a weekly budget planner, I gave up on day two, when I realized I could GrubGetter around the clock for the rest of my life and still never make enough money to get current on the payments for my student loans. You know, for that degree I’d never finished.
But Natasha was a determined problem solver. It said so in her business bio: “Natasha DeAngelis, Certified Professional Organizer®, is a determined problem solver with a passion for sorting, purging, arranging, and containerizing.” My life was a perpetual mess, and though she couldn’t seem to be able to clean it up, that didn’t stop her from trying. Over and over and over again.
 “I’ll pay for the repairs,” she said.
 “No.” I shook my head, fending off the very big part of me that wanted to say yes. “I can’t take any money from you.”
“It’s fine,” she said. “Business is booming. I’ve got so much work right now that I’ve actually had to turn clients away. And ever since Al introduced that new accelerated orthodontic treatment, his office has been raking it in. We can afford to help you.”
“I know.” Obviously, my sister and her family weren’t hurting for cash. Aside from her wildly successful organizing business, her husband, Al, ran his own orthodontics practice. They owned a four-bedroom house, leased luxury cars, and took triannual vacations to warm, sunny places like Maui and Tulum. They had a smart fridge in their kitchen that was undoubtedly worth more than my nonfunctioning car.
But my sister wasn’t a safety net, and I needed to stop treating her like one. She’d already done so much for me. More than any big sister should ever have to do.
 “I just can’t,” I said.
“Well, do you really have any other choice?” There was an edge to Natasha’s voice now. “If you don’t have a car, how are you going to work?”
 “I’ll figure something out.” The words didn’t sound very convincing, even to my own ears. For the past four years, all I’d done was deliver food. I had no other marketable skills, no references, no degree.
 I was a massive failure.
Tears pooled in my eyes. Natasha sighed again.
“Look,” she said, “maybe it’s time to admit you need to come up with a solid plan for your life. You’ve been in a downward spiral ever since Rob left.”
She had a point. I’d never been particularly stable, but things got a whole lot worse seven months earlier, when my live-in ex-boyfriend, Rob, had abruptly announced he was ending our three-year relationship, quitting his job, and embarking on an immersive ayahuasca retreat in the depths of the Peruvian Amazon.
“I’ve lost my way,” he’d said, his eyes bloodshot from too many hits on his vape pen. “The Divine Mother Shakti at the Temple of Eternal Light can help me find myself again.”
 “What?” I’d been incredulous. “Where is this coming from?”
He’d unearthed a book from beneath a pile of dirty clothes on our bed and handed it to me—Psychedelic Healers: An Exploratory Journey of the Soul, by Shakti Rebecca Rubinstein.
 “What is this?”
 “It’s the book that changed my life,” he’d said. “I’m ready for deep growth. New energy.”
Then he’d moved his belongings to a storage unit off the side of the I-8, and left me to pay the full cost of our monthly rent and utilities on my paltry GrubGetter income.
I told myself this situation was only temporary, that Rob would return as soon as he realized that hallucinating in the rainforest wasn’t going to lead him to some higher consciousness. But I hadn’t heard from him since he took off on that direct flight from LAX to Lima. At this point, it was probably safe to assume he was never coming back.
Which was probably for the best. It’s not exactly like Rob was Prince Charming or anything. But being with him was better than being alone. At least I’d had someone to split the bills with.
“Honestly,” she continued, “I can’t stand to see you so miserable anymore. Happiness is a choice, Bree. Choose happy.”
 Of all Natasha’s pithy sayings, “Choose happy” was the one I hated most. It was printed on the back of her business cards in faux brush lettering, silently accusing each potential client of being complicit in their own misery. If they paid her to clean out their closets, though, they could apparently experience unparalleled joy.
“That’s bullshit, and you know it.”
She scowled. “It is not.”
 “It is, actually. Shitty things happen all the time and we have no choice in the matter. I didn’t choose to be too broke to fix my car. I work really hard, but this job doesn’t pay well. And I didn’t choose for Rob to abandon me to go find himself in the Amazon, either. He made that choice for us.”
I almost mentioned the shittiest thing that had ever happened to Natasha or to me, a thing neither of us had chosen. But I stopped myself before the words rolled off my lips. This evening was bad enough without rehashing the details of our mother’s death.
 “Sometimes things happen to us that are beyond our control,” Natasha said, her voice infuriatingly calm. “But we can control how we react to it. Focus on what you can control. And it does no good to dwell on the past, either. Don’t look back, Bree—”
“Because that’s not where you’re going. Yes, I know. You’ve said that before.” About a thousand times.
She took a deep breath, most likely to prepare for a lengthy lecture on why it’s important to stay positive and productive in the face of adversity, but then a large tow truck lumbered onto the cul-de-sac and she got out of the car to flag him down.
Grateful for the interruption, I ditched the casserole on her dashboard and walked over to where the driver had double-parked alongside my car.
“What’s the problem?” he asked, hopping down from the cab.
“It won’t start,” I said, to which Natasha quickly followed up with, “The check engine light came on several weeks ago, but the car has not been serviced yet.”
He grunted and popped the hood, one thick filthy hand stroking his braided beard as he surveyed the engine. Another grunt, then he asked for the keys and tried to start it, only to hear the same sad click and whine as before.
“It’s not the battery.” He leaned his head out of the open door. “When was the last time you changed your timing belt?”
“Uh… I don’t know.”
 Natasha shook her head and mouthed, Maintenance log! in my direction but I pretended not to see.
The driver got out and slammed the hood shut. “Well, this thing is hosed.”
“Hosed?” My heart thrummed in my chest. “What does that mean? It can’t be fixed?”
 He shrugged, clearly indifferent to my crisis-in-progress. “Can’t say for sure. Your mechanic can take a closer look and let you know. Where do you want me to tow it?”
 I pulled out my phone to look up the address of the mechanic near my apartment down in Pacific Beach. But Natasha answered before I could google it up.
“Just take it to Encinitas Auto Repair,” she said. “It’s on Second and F.”
“You got it,” he said, then retreated to his truck to fiddle with some chains.
 Natasha avoided my gaze. Instead, she focused on calling a guy named Jerry, who presumably worked at this repair shop, and told him to expect “a really old Civic that’s in rough shape,” making sure to specify, “It’s not mine, it’s my sister’s.”
 I knew she was going to pay for the repairs. It made me feel icky, taking yet another handout from my big sister. But ultimately, she was right. What other choice did I have?
The two of us stayed quiet while the driver finished hooking up my car. After he’d towed it away down the cul-desac and out of sight, Natasha turned to me. “Do you want to come over? Izzy’s got piano lessons in fifteen minutes, you can hear how good she is now.”
 Even though I did miss my niece, there was nothing I wanted to do more than go home, tear off these smelly clothes, and cry in solitude. “I’ll take a rain check. Thanks again for coming to get me.”
“Of course.” She started poking at her phone screen. A moment later, she said, “Your Lyft will be here in four minutes. His name is Neil. He drives a black Sentra.” A quick kiss on my cheek and she was hustling back to her SUV.
As I watched Natasha drive away, I wished—not for the first time—that I could be more like her: competent, organized, confident enough in my choices to believe I could choose to be happy. Sometimes I felt like she had twenty years on me, instead of only six. So maybe instead of complaining, I should’ve started taking her advice.

Excerpted from She’s Faking It by Kristin Rockaway, Copyright © 2020 by Allison Amini. Published by Graydon House Books.


Kristin Rockaway is a native New Yorker with an insatiable case of wanderlust. After working in the IT industry for far too many years, she traded the city for the surf and chased her dreams out to Southern California, where she spends her days happily writing stories instead of software. When she's not writing, she enjoys spending time with her husband and son, and planning her next big vacation.


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