October 25, 2021

Blog Tour Promo Post: Fan Club by Erin Mayer

at 10/25/2021 12:44:00 AM 0 comments

In this raucous psychological thriller, a disillusioned millennial joins a cliquey fan club, only to discover that the group is bound together by something darker than devotion.

Day after day our narrator searches for meaning beyond her vacuous job at a women's lifestyle website - entering text into a computer system while she watches their beauty editor unwrap box after box of perfectly packaged bits of happiness. Then, one night at a dive bar, she hears a message in the newest single by international pop-star Adriana Argento, and she is struck. Soon she loses herself to the online fandom, a community whose members feverishly track Adriana's every move.

When a colleague notices her obsession, she’s invited to join an enigmatic group of adult Adriana superfans who call themselves the Ivies and worship her music in witchy, candlelit listening parties. As the narrator becomes more entrenched in the group, she gets closer to uncovering the sinister secrets that bind them together - while simultaneously losing her grip on reality.

With caustic wit and hypnotic writing, this unsparingly critical thrill ride through millennial life examines all that is wrong in our celebrity-obsessed internet age and how easy it is to lose yourself in it.


BUY LINKS:





I’m outside for a cumulative ten minutes each day before work. Five to walk from my apartment building to the subway, another five to go from the subway to the anemic obelisk that houses my office. I try to breathe as deeply as I can in those minutes, because I never know how long it will be until I take fresh air into my lungs again. Not that the city air is all that fresh, tinged with the sharp stench of old garbage, pollution’s metallic swirl. But it beats the stale oxygen of the office, already filtered through distant respiratory systems. Sometimes, during slow moments at my desk, I inhale and try to imagine those other nostrils and lungs that have already processed this same air. I’m not sure how it works in reality, any knowledge I once had of the intricacies of breathing having been long ago discarded by more useful information, but the image comforts me. Usually, I picture a middle-aged man with greying temples, a fringe of visible nose hair, and a coffee stain on the collar of his baby blue button-down. He looks nothing and everything like my father. An every-father, if you will.

My office is populated by dyed-blonde or pierced brunette women in their mid-to-late twenties and early thirties. The occasional man, just a touch older than most of the women, but still young enough to give off the faint impression that he DJs at Meatpacking nightclubs for extra cash on the weekends.

We are the new corporate Americans, the offspring of the grey-templed men. We wear tastefully ripped jeans and cozy sweaters to the office instead of blazers and trousers. Display a tattoo here and there—our supervisors don’t mind; in fact, they have the most ink. We eat yogurt for breakfast, work through lunch, leave the office at six if we’re lucky, arriving home with just enough time to order dinner from an app and watch two or three hours of Netflix before collapsing into bed from exhaustion we haven’t earned. Exhaustion that lives in the brain, not the body, and cannot be relieved by a mere eight hours of sleep.

Nobody understands exactly what it is we do here, and neither do we. I push through revolving glass door, run my wallet over the card reader, which beeps as my ID scans through the stiff leather, and half-wave in the direction of the uniformed security guard behind the desk, whose face my eyes never quite reach so I can’t tell you what he looks like. He’s just one of the many set-pieces staging the scene of my days.

The elevator ride to the eleventh floor is long enough to skim one-third of a longform article on my phone. I barely register what it’s about, something loosely political, or who is standing next to me in the cramped elevator.

When the doors slide open on eleven, we both get off.



In the dim eleventh-floor lobby, a humming neon light shaping the company logo assaults my sleep-swollen eyes like the prick of a dozen tiny needles. Today, a small section has burned out, creating a skip in the letter w. Below the logo is a tufted cerulean velvet couch where guests wait to be welcomed. To the left there’s a mirrored wall reflecting the vestibule; people sometimes pause there to take photos on the way to and from the office, usually on the Friday afternoon before a long weekend. I see the photos later while scrolling through my various feeds at home in bed. They hit me one after another like shots of tequila: See ya Tuesday! *margarita emoji* Peace out for the long weekend! *palm tree emoji* Byeeeeee! *peace sign emoji.*

She steps in front of me, my elevator companion. Black Rag & Bone ankle boots gleaming, blade-tipped pixie cut grazing her ears. Her neck piercing taunts me, those winking silver balls on either side of her spine. She’s Lexi O’ Connell, the website’s senior editor. She walks ahead with her head angled down, thumb working her phone’s keyboard, and doesn’t look up as she shoves the interior door open, palm to the glass.

I trip over the back of one clunky winter boot with the other as I speed up, considering whether to call out for her attention. It’s what a good web producer, one who is eager to move on from the endless drudgery of copy-pasting and resizing and into the slightly more thrilling drudgery of writing and rewriting, would do.

By the time I regain my footing, I come face-to-face with the smear of her handprint as the door glides shut in front of me.

Monday.



I work at a website.

It’s like most other websites; we publish content, mostly articles: news stories, essays, interviews, glossed over with the polished opalescent sheen of commercialized feminism. The occasional quiz, video, or photoshoot rounds out our offerings. This is how websites work in the age of ad revenue: Each provides a slightly varied selection of mindless entertainment, news updates, and watered-down hot takes about everything from climate change to plus size fashion, hawking their wares on the digital marketplace, leaving The Reader to wander drunkenly through the bazaar, wielding her cursor like an Amex. You can find everything you’d want to read in one place online, dozens of times over. The algorithms have erased choice. Search engines and social media platforms, they know what you want before you do.

As a web producer, my job is to input article text into the website’s proprietary content management system, or CMS. I’m a digitized high school janitor; I clean up the small messes, the litter that misses the rim of the garbage can. I make sure the links are working and the images are high resolution. When anything bigger comes up, it goes to an editor or IT. I’m an expert in nothing, a master of the miniscule fixes.

There are five of us who produce for the entire website, each handling about 20 articles a day. We sit at a long grey table on display at the very center of the open office, surrounded on all sides by editors and writers.

The web producers’ bullpen, Lexi calls it.

The light fixture above the table buzzes loudly like a nest of bees is trapped inside the fluorescent tubing. I drop my bag on the floor and take a seat, shedding my coat like a layer of skin. My chair faces the beauty editor’s desk, the cruelest seat in the house. All day long, I watch Charlotte Miller receive package after package stuffed with pastel tissue paper. Inside those packages: lipstick, foundation, perfume, happiness. A thousand simulacrums of Christmas morning spread across the two-hundred and sixty-one workdays of the year. She has piled the trappings of Brooklyn hipsterdom on top of her blonde, big-toothed, prettiness. Wire-frame glasses, a tattoo of a constellation on her inner left forearm, a rose gold nose ring. She seems Texan, but she’s actually from some wholesome upper Midwestern state, I can never remember which one. Right now, she applies red lipstick from a warm golden tube in the flat gleam of the golden mirror next to her monitor. Everything about her is color-coordinated.

I open my laptop. The screen blinks twice and prompts me for my password. I type it in, and the CMS appears, open to where I left it when I signed off the previous evening. Our CMS is called LIZZIE. There’s a rumor that it was named after Lizzie Borden, christened during the pre-launch party when the tech team pounded too many shots after they finished coding. As in, “Lizzie Borden took an ax and gave her mother forty whacks.” Lizzie Borden rebranded in the 21st century as a symbol of righteous feminine anger. LIZZIE, my best friend, my closest confidant. She’s an equally comforting and infuriating presence, constant in her bland attention. She gazes at me, always emotionless, saying nothing as she watches me teeter on the edge, fighting tears or trying not to doze at my desk or simply staring, in search of answers she cannot provide.

My eyes droop in their sockets as I scan the articles that were submitted before I arrived this morning. The whites threaten to turn liquid and splash onto my keyboard, pool between the keys and jiggle like eggs minus the yolks. Thinking of this causes a tiny laugh to slip out from between my clenched lips. Charlotte slides the cap onto her lipstick, glares at me over the lip of the mirror.

“Morning.”

That’s Tom, the only male web producer, who sits across and slightly left of me, keeping my view of Charlotte’s towering wonderland of boxes and bags clear. He’s four years older than me, twenty-eight, but the plush chipmunk curve of his cheeks makes him appear much younger, like he’s about to graduate high school. He’s cute, though, in the way of a movie star who always gets cast as the geek in teen comedies. Definitely hot but dress him down in an argyle sweater and glasses and he could be a Hollywood nerd. I’ve always wanted to ask him why he works here, doing this. There isn’t really a web producer archetype. We’re all different, a true island of misfit toys.

But if there is a type, Tom doesn’t fit it. He seems smart and driven. He’s consistently the only person who attends company book club meetings having read that month’s selection from cover to cover. I’ve never asked him why he works here because we don’t talk much. No one in our office talks much. Not out loud, anyway. We communicate through a private Morse code, fingers dancing on keys, expressions scanned and evaluated from a distance.

Sometimes I think about flirting with Tom, for something to do, but he wears a wedding ring. Not that I care about his wife; it’s more the fear of rebuff and rejection, of hearing the low-voiced Sorry, I’m married, that stops me. He usually sails in a few minutes after I do, smelling like his bodega coffee and the egg sandwich he carefully unwraps and eats at his desk. He nods in my direction. Morning is the only word we’ve exchanged the entire time I’ve worked here, which is coming up on a year in January. It’s not even a greeting, merely a statement of fact. It is morning and we’re both here. Again.

Three hundred and sixty-five days lost to the hum and twitch and click. I can’t seem to remember how I got here. It all feels like a dream. The mundane kind, full of banal details, but something slightly off about it all. I don’t remember applying for the job, or interviewing. One day, an offer letter appeared in my inbox and I signed.

And here I am. Day after day, I wait for someone to need me. I open articles. I tweak the formatting, check the links, correct the occasional typo that catches my eye. It isn’t really my job to copy edit, or even to read closely, but sometimes I notice things, grammatical errors or awkward phrasing, and I then can’t not notice them; I have to put them right or else they nag like a papercut on the soft webbing connecting two fingers. The brain wants to be useful. It craves activity, even after almost three hundred and sixty-five days of operating at its lowest frequency.

I open emails. I download attachments. I insert numbers into spreadsheets. I email those spreadsheets to Lexi and my direct boss, Ashley, who manages the homepage.

None of it ever seems to add up to anything.



Excerpted from Fan Club by Erin Mayer, Copyright © 2021 by Erin Mayer. Published by MIRA Books.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Erin Mayer is a freelance writer and editor based in Maine. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, Man Repeller, Literary Hub, and others. She was previously an associate fashion and beauty editor at Bustle.com.


SOCIAL LINKS:




ARC Book Review: The Lady Gets Lucky by Joanna Shupe

at 10/25/2021 12:25:00 AM 0 comments

Following The Heiress Hunt, beloved author Joanna Shupe continues her new Fifth Avenue Rebels series with a scandalous romance about a good girl desperate to rebel and the rebel desperate to corrupt her.


A first-rate scoundrel.

A desperate wallflower.

Lessons in seduction.

The woman no one notices . . .

Shy heiress Alice Lusk is tired of being overlooked by every bachelor. Something has to change, else she’ll be forced to marry a man whose only desire is her fortune. She needs to become a siren, a woman who causes a man’s blood to run hot . . .and she’s just met the perfect rogue to help teach her.

He’s the life of every party . . .

Christopher “Kit” Ward plans to open a not-so-reputable supper club in New York City, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to hire the best chef in the city to guarantee its success. Even if it requires giving carnal lessons to a serious-minded spinster who has an in with the chef.

Their bedroom instruction grows passionate, and Alice is a much better pupil than Kit had ever anticipated. When the Society gentlemen start to take notice, Kit has to try to win Alice in other ways . . . but is he too late to win her heart?

Pre-Order/Buy Links



NOTE: An ARC copy was given to me in exchange for an honest review. 

It's been a while since I have read historical romance. For the longest time, I read nothing but historical romances. Then I got burnout and lost interest in reading historical romance. I still loved reading, but I needed a break from historical romances. During outings to Barnes and Noble, I would see Joanna Shupe's name, but due to said burnout, I wasn't interested in picking up her books. Boy was missing out. I absolutely loved the first book, The Heiress Hunt. The Male Lead (ML) of the sequel The Lady Gets Lucky is a character that was introduced in book one. Enter, Christopher “Kit” Ward. Kit has a reputation as a ladies' man, while our Female Lead (FL) Alice Lusk is a rich and shy wallflower. Alice is tired of being passed over and decides to proposition Kit to become her seduction teacher. Alice's motivations are very much fueled by her desire for freedom away from her overbearing mother. Alice wants a spouse who wants her as a person and not used as a personal piggy bank. Despite his reputation, Kit was hesitant to Alice's proposal, but when he needs the recipes of a famous chef that only Alice has knowledge of, a deal is struck. With this premise, you just know the two main leads would eventually fall in love with each other. A bit predictable, but an enjoyable story all the same. 

4 swoon-worthy stars

About the Author


USA Today Bestselling author JOANNA SHUPE has always loved history, ever since she saw her first Schoolhouse Rock cartoon. Since 2015, her books have appeared on numerous yearly “best of” lists, including Publishers Weekly, The Washington Post, Kirkus Reviews, Kobo, and BookPage.

She currently lives in New Jersey with her two spirited daughters and dashing husband.

When she’s not writing or doing laundry, she can be found on Facebook or Instagram.

Joanna is represented by Laura Bradford of the Bradford Literary Agency.


October 24, 2021

HTP Fall Blog Tour (Inkyard Press/YA Edition) Promo Post: Lies My Memory Told Me by Sacha Wunsch

at 10/24/2021 02:30:00 AM 0 comments


From the thrilling voice of Sacha Wunsch comes a heart-stopping psychological mystery in a world where memories can be shared—but maybe not trusted.

Enhanced Memory changed everything. By sharing someone else’s memory, you can experience anything and everything with no risk at all: learn any skill instantly, travel the world from home, and safeguard all your most treasured secrets forever. Nova’s parents invented this technology, and it’s slowly taking over their lives. That’s where Nova comes in. She can pick up the slack for them—and she doesn’t mind. She knows Enhanced Memory is a gift, and its value outweighs its costs.

But Kade says Nova doesn’t even know the costs. Kade runs a secret vlog cataloging real experiences, is always on the move, and he’s strangely afraid of Nova—even though she feels more comfortable with him than she ever has with anyone. Suddenly there are things Nova can’t stop noticing: the way her parents don’t meet her eyes anymore, the questions no one wants her to ask, and the relentless feeling like there’s something she’s forgotten.

But there’s danger around every corner, and her own home might be the most dangerous place of all.

BUY LINKS:


Target  |  Apple Books  |   kobo  |  LibroFM  |  Google Play





Prologue


The platform was a hundred and fifty feet up.

I tried not to look down.

I hadn’t even known I was afraid of heights until the moment I stood up there.

The stranger came up to me, grinning. “You’re going to love it,” he said.

I swallowed.

My entire body was sweating, most notably my palms, slipping as I tried to grip the safety harness.

Was I really going to do this?

No. I was going to get unclipped, turn around, and simply climb back down what felt like the millions of stairs stretching below me.

And then, just as I started to turn, someone pushed me off the platform.

I screamed as I dropped, nothing but air beneath me.

And then… I started to glide.

The scream kept coming a few seconds more, but my heart did a flip before it could reach my mind. I was soaring. Over the treetops. Whizzing along the zip line at high speeds. It was the best thing I had ever felt.

I had never been this free. Which made sense, I was essentially flying, after all.

Giggling was very much not in my nature, but there I was, giggling anyway. I closed my eyes to get a better sense of the wind on my face, but when the sweet scent of fresh-blooming flowers greeted me, I opened them again. Sure enough, the trees several yards below my feet were blooming some kind of large purple flower.

I sucked in a breath, wishing I could inhale the whole scene, wanting to appreciate it as much as I could—savor it—know­ing it wouldn’t last forever, and landed gently on the other side.

I did not have to be pushed off the second platform—barely able to wait my turn to jump again. I soared from platform to platform, wishing nothing more than for this to go on for­ever, grinning all the way, and realizing only at the last sec­ond that the final landing platform wasn’t a platform at all, but a deep, cooling pool.

I sucked in a breath, and with a final burst of adrenaline, I splashed into the crystal-clear water.



TWENTY MINUTES EARLIER



“Come on, open it,” Mom said, her smiling beaming.

I held the small, beautifully wrapped box, unable to imag­ine what it was. My parents knew I wasn’t really that into jewelry, and neither were they really, but what else could be in such a small box?

I tore into it and flipped the lid open.

Which confused me even more. It wasn’t a ring or a pen­dant, just a small metal disk.

Dad sensed my confusion. “Give it a second,” he said, beaming even brighter than Mom.

In a blink, a form emerged, a hologram above the disk. There was no sound, but it looked like the person in the ho­logram was gliding through the tops of trees high in the air.

“This is…really cool,” I said, and meant it, but couldn’t help but feel like I was missing something.

Mom was practically bouncing on the couch. “We wanted to do something special for your birthday.”

“Thank you” was all I could really think to say. The disk was pretty cool, but what the hell was with their enthusiasm?

“You’re welcome Nova,” Dad said. “But this isn’t the whole thing. It’s the experience of it that’s the real gift.”

“The experience of it?”

Mom had gotten up and gone to the desk by the front door. She picked up another box, this one unwrapped, and pulled something from inside.

“Here, you put this on,” she said, handing me a clunky set of headphones plugged into a small handheld device about the size of a phone.

“The disk goes in there,” Dad said, and showed me how to open it, setting my new present inside.

And then I experienced my first ever zip line.

As the experience ended, I blinked my eyes open, a hun­dred percent sure I’d be soaking wet, but I was sitting right back in my living room. The sensation was a bit disorienting, but my parents were staring at me like they were about to explode.

“What was that?” I asked, grabbing the hem of my shirt, which I couldn’t quite comprehend being dry.

“That was Enhanced Memory,” Dad said, but the look on his face said so much more—like if he’d had feathers, they’d be plumaged out like the most badass peacock of the bunch.

“What did you think?” Mom asked, clasping her hands like she had so much energy whizzing through her body she had to do something to hold it in.

“Well obviously it was amazing, but by the way you two are acting, you already know that.” I couldn’t help but grin. They were just so cute sitting there all proud of themselves. “But seriously, what is this? What is Enhanced Memory?”

I’d seen 3D movies and had even tried virtual reality once, but this was way beyond either of those. This was next level.

“It’s simple,” Dad said. “The headphones are equipped with dozens of…well, let’s call them electrodes for sake of ease, though really, they’re more advanced than that.”

“Okay,” I said, mostly with him still, although knowing Dad it wouldn’t be long until the science-y droning took hold and steered him right off the layman’s term trail.

“And these,” he said, taking the disk out of the machine and holding it up, “are Memories.”

“Memories.”

Mom nodded. “We discovered a way to extract memories and reproduce them.”

“Wait, you guys created this?”

Mom nodded, her smile huge and eyes wide. “This is what we’ve been working toward all these years.”

My mouth dropped open. I knew my parents had been working on some kind of project for a long time, but I guess I hadn’t really been that interested in what it was.

Mom laughed at my stunned expression while Dad came over to give me one of his signature kisses on the top of my head.

“Happy birthday, sweetheart,” Mom said, beaming.

I mean, they were scientists and science was basically the last thing I wanted to pay attention to, so I never really asked many questions.

But this was way beyond science. This was…actually kind of awesome.

A smile crept across my face. I couldn’t wait to try it again.



Excerpted from Lies My Memory Told Me by Sacha Wunsch, Copyright © 2021 by Sacha Wunsch. Published by Inkyard Press.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Photo Credit: Tammy Zdunich

Sacha Wunsch grew up dividing her time between the family farm in Canada and traveling to numerous fictional worlds. She was a bookseller before discovering her love of writing mind-twisty novels - which has proved an excellent job since she gets to blame all the TV she watches on her love of storytelling. She now splits her time between the city and the lake, and still travels to made-up worlds as often as she can.


SOCIAL LINKS:


Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Instagram  |  Goodreads


Author website: https://sachawunsch.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sachawunsch

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sachawunsch/



Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55920773-lies-my-memory-told-me?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=yWdh9NEb7s&rank=1








October 23, 2021

Promo Post: Celebration at Christmas Cove by Carrie Jansen

at 10/23/2021 01:08:00 AM 0 comments


Acclaimed writer Carrie Jansen excels at delivering sweet and gentle romances that are sure to charm readers and make them believe in the healing power of love. This fall, Jansen makes her Berkley debut with the first installment of the Sea Spray Island Romance series. Celebration at Christmas Cove tells a heartwarming story of a grieving woman who can't wait to leave a wintry New England island and a widower who would do anything to stay. 

Travel magazine writer Celeste Bell is in a terrible mood. Not only was her flight to the Caribbean diverted to a Massachusetts island, now it looks like she’ll have to spend Christmas there. Single and still mourning the loss of her mother a year earlier, Celeste is desperate to avoid any emotional entanglements and all holiday festivities. She just doesn’t feel like celebrating.

But that’s exactly what community center executive director Nathan White and his young daughter, Abigail, want to do. Nathan is entirely focused on making sure that his daughter has a happy Christmas, especially with the knowledge that if he can’t raise money for the community center soon, it will close and they’ll have to leave the island. When he meets Celeste, Nathan begins to feel a connection and wonders if he’s brave enough to risk his heart once more.

Thawing their frozen hearts and saving the community center will require a Christmas miracle. But tis the season…


Preorder Links


Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Book Depository  |  Target


Monday—December 19


“You’re bumping me?” As a writer for an elite travel magazine, Celeste Bell had virtually flown around the world over the course of the past seven years and she’d never been bumped from a flight. She knew it was bound to happen sooner or later; she just didn’t want it happening now.

“We paged you three times, but since you weren’t at the gate for initial boarding, we assigned the seat to another passenger,” the agent explained.

Celeste wasn’t at the gate because she’d had to bring her luggage to the ticket counter after changing out of the ugly sweater she’d worn to her office holiday party earlier that day. This season, she’d been avoiding Christmas festivities like the flu, but since participation was mandatory, she reluctantly donned the most hideous apparel she could find: a fluffy, white sweater with a cartoonish fir tree emblazoned across the front. The tree was crowned with a blinking LED-powered star, and a dozen miniature, multicolored sleigh bells were strung from its boughs with silver tinsel. The sweater bore an uncanny resemblance to a yuletide craft Celeste had made in first grade from a paper plate, cotton balls, glitter and various geometric shapes cut from red, green and yellow felt. Oh, the things she did for the sake of her career.

“I get it. Symbolism,” Brad, the college intern, remarked. Holding a plastic cup of eggnog in one hand and a chocolate mint brownie in the other, he gestured toward her midsection with his chin. “You chose that sweater because your last name’s Bell, right?”

The bells were actually Celeste’s least favorite part of the sweater, which was saying a lot. Whenever she walked from her cubicle to her boss’s office or to the break room and back again, their jingling made her feel like a Clydesdale horse—it didn’t help that she’d gathered her long, thick blond hair into a high ponytail—and drew increasingly annoyed looks from her coworkers over the course of the day.

She intended to switch wardrobes before a colleague drove her to Logan International Airport, but at the last minute, the magazine’s editor in chief, Philip Carrington, tasked Celeste with proofreading Brad’s post about the Boston Harbor Holiday Cruise. And by proofreading Philip meant rewriting. Brad’s draft was so poorly structured, it took Celeste half an hour to reword it, and by that time her coworker was threatening to leave without her.

When she arrived at the airport, Celeste wheeled her luggage into the restroom so she could change. She removed her heavy winter coat, scarf and gloves, and she stuffed them into her suitcase, along with her socks and shoes. Then, she opened her smaller carry-on and checked to make sure she had a travel blanket with her before adroitly exchanging her slacks and ugly sweater for a casual slate-blue swing dress and crochet cardigan. Finally, she slid her feet into a pair of canvas sneakers. Celeste intended to be ready for the tropical Caribbean temps the moment she stepped off the plane.

But first she’d have to step onto the plane.

“Are you sure there aren’t any seats left?” It was an inane question, and Celeste could hear the whine of desperation in her own voice.

“I can book you on the eleven-thirty-six flight tomorrow morning. Of course, we’ll compensate you for the inconvenience, as well.”

Tomorrow was December 20. Technically, Celeste didn’t need to be in the Caribbean until first light on December 23. That’s when the Christmas carnival—or simply carnival, as it was called—for the particular island she was visiting kicked off a daybreak street party known as j’ouvert. The trip was a mix of business and pleasure; after taking a couple days to enjoy a much-needed break, Celeste would spend December 23, 24 and 25 attending carnival and describing its highlights in a Christmas Day post on the magazine’s blog. That meant if she didn’t leave Boston until almost noon tomorrow, she’d squander nearly a full day of vacation. Even so, Celeste cared less about that than she did about the weather forecast, which warned that a nor’easter was brewing. If it followed its projected course, the storm could pack a wallop in terms of snow accumulation, and who knew how that might affect air travel for the next few days. She couldn’t risk it.

“Would you check for flights on other airlines, please?”

The agent’s fingernails clicked against the keyboard, her expression impassive. After what felt like an eon, she said, “If we hurry, I can book a seat for you on a flight with our partner airline, IslandSky. There would be a brief layover on Sea Spray Island—”

“I’ll take it,” Celeste said as the woman continued to speak.

“—then you’d continue to New York City and from there you’d fly nonstop—”

“Yes, thank you, that’s what I want to do.” Celeste didn’t care about the small print, she just needed to get on that flight.

A few more minutes of keyboard clicking and then Celeste was off and running, dodging fellow travelers and circumventing airport vendors as she darted toward Terminal C with her carry-on bag in tow, the sweater inside it jingling all the way. As she ran, she recognized it wasn’t really the need for an extra day of relaxation that spurred her on. Nor was it solely that she’d made a professional commitment to cover the carnival. No, what really urged Celeste forward was the fear that if she didn’t leave now, right now, it would be too late and then there’d be no escaping for Christmas.

And escaping was her primary purpose in volunteering to immerse herself in a Caribbean carnival while all of her coworkers were celebrating Christmas with their families. From the rollicking parades and music, to the lively dancing, vibrant costumes and mouthwatering food, the carnival wasn’t likely to evoke memories of the calm and cozy but joyful Christmases that Celeste used to celebrate. On the contrary, going to the Caribbean would keep her from thinking about how it had been just over a year since her mother passed away. And it would take her mind off the fact that she was still lonely. Still alone.

Just thinking about not thinking about it made her lungs contract.

Or maybe it was the exertion of tearing through an overly dry, hot and crowded airport trailing an unwieldy piece of luggage in her wake. As fit as she was, by the time Celeste arrived at her gate she was gasping. Light-headed, she hardly registered that the descending ramp the agent directed her to follow led outside to ground level where the plane awaited her on the tarmac.

Celeste skidded to a standstill. The realization hit her like a gelid gust of air: it’s a prop plane. When it came to prop planes or Christmas festivities, it was almost a toss-up as to which distressed her more. Almost but not quite. Pressing her dress flat against her legs so it wouldn’t fly up in the wind, Celeste numbly soldiered forward, the end of her ponytail lashing sideways at her face.

She climbed the four ladder-like steps and entered the dimly lit interior where a flight attendant—or was he the copilot?—reached to take her carry-on for stowing while simultaneously issuing safety instructions. Overcome with either regret or relief, Celeste plunked herself into the seat closest to the door, fastened the buckle around her waist and closed her eyes. She was finally on her way.

From CELEBRATION AT CHRISTMAS COVE published by arrangement with Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2021 by Carrie Jansen.

 About the Author

Carrie Jansen earned an MFA in creative writing and published many poems and short stories before becoming a novelist. An avid bodyboarder and beach walker, she spends as much of the year as she can on Cape Cod, where she draws inspiration for her contemporary romances. She also writes Amish romance novels under her pseudonym, Carrie Lighte. Learn more online at carriejansen.com.

October 21, 2021

INVESTIGATOR Harlequin Series Fall Blog Tour Promo Post: Mountain Fugitive by Lynette Eason

at 10/21/2021 01:25:00 AM 0 comments

Their search for a fugitive makes them both targets.

Out horseback riding, Dr. Katherine Gilroy accidentally stumbles into a deadly shoot-out and comes to US marshal Dominic O’Ryan’s aid. Now with Dominic injured and under her care, she’s determined to help him find her brother—the fugitive he believes murdered his partner. While Katherine’s sure her brother isn’t guilty, someone’s dead set on killing her and Dominic…and finding the truth is their one shot at survival.

Buy Mountain Fugitive by Lynette Eason


 Harlequin.com  |  Kindle  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Book Depository


 

Heart pounding a rapid beat, Katherine pulled Hot­shot to a stop between the men and the direction the bullets had come from, praying the person wouldn’t shoot the horse. She slid from the saddle, leaving the reins trailing the ground, then snagged the first-aid kit from the saddlebag. US marshals according to the vests the men wore. 

Looked like their prisoner or fugitive had turned the tables on them. Which meant the person was either gone now that he’d taken care of the threat—or she was now a target because she planned to try to help the men. A quick scan of the area didn’t reveal any­thing unusual or worrisome, but the trees could easily be hiding the sniper. 

Still using the horse as a shield, she hurried to the man closest to her. The bullet had hit him just above his left ear and he’d landed on his side. His brown, sight­less eyes stared up at her and she knew he was beyond help. She checked his pulse anyway and got what she expected. Nothing. 

She closed the dead man’s eyes then turned her at­tention to the other one. A pulse. She focused on his head. A gash just below his hairline bled freely. A low groan rumbled from him and Katherine placed a hand on his shoulder. “Don’t move,” she said. 

He blinked and she caught a glimpse of sapphire-blue eyes. He let out another groan. “Carl…” 

“Just stay still and let me look at your head.” 

“I’m fine.” He rolled to his side and he squinted up at her. “Who’re you?” 

“I’m Dr. Katherine Gilroy so I think I’m the better judge of whether or not you’re fine. You have a head wound which means possible concussion.” She reached for him. “What’s your name?”

He pushed her hand away. “Dominic O’Ryan. A branch caught me. Knocked me loopy for a few sec­onds, but not out. We were running from the shooter.” His eyes sharpened. “He’s still out there.” His hand went to his right hip, gripping the empty holster next to the badge on his belt. A star within a circle.

“Where’s my gun? Where’s Carl? My partner, Carl Manning. We need to get out of here.” 

“I’m sorry,” Katherine said, her voice soft. “He didn’t make it.” 

He froze. Then horror sent his eyes wide—and searching. They found the man behind her and Domi­nic shuddered. “No. No, no, no. Carl! Carl!” He army crawled to his partner and sucked in a gasping breath, cupped Carl’s face and felt for a pulse. 

Katherine didn’t bother to tell him she’d already done the same—or what he’d find. After a few seconds, he let out a low cry then sucked in another deep breath and composed his features. The intense moment has lasted only a few seconds, but Katherine knew he was com­partmentalizing, stuffing his emotions into a place he could hold them and deal with them later. 

She knew because she’d often done the same thing. Still did on occasion. 

In spite of that, his grief was palpable, and Kather­ine’s heart thudded with sympathy for him. She moved back to give him some privacy, her eyes sweeping the hills around them once more. Again, she saw nothing, but the hairs on the back of her neck were standing straight up. Hotshot had done well, standing still, being a buffer between them and a possible sniper, but Kath­erine’s nerves were twitching—much like when she’d worked with the police department. “I think we need to find some better cover.” 

As if to prove her point, another crack sounded, and Hotshot reared. His whinnying scream echoed around them. Then he bolted for home. Katherine grabbed the first-aid kit with one hand and pulled Dominic to his feet with the other. “Run!”


About the Author

Lynette Eason lives in Simpsonville, SC with her husband and two children. She is an award-winning, best-selling author who spends her days writing when she's not traveling around the country teaching at writing conferences. Lynette enjoys visits to the mountains, hanging out with family and brainstorming stories with her fellow writers. You can visit Lynette's website to find out more at www.lynetteeason.com or like her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/lynette.eason


Connect with the Author


Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

 

October 16, 2021

BELIEVER Harlequin Series Fall Blog Tour Promo Post: The Path Not Taken by Ruth Logan Herne

at 10/16/2021 03:25:00 AM 0 comments

A second chance to follow her heart…


in this novel by USA TODAY bestselling author Ruth Logan Herne

She never thought she’d see him again…

Or tell him they have a son.

Ten years ago, Devlyn McCabe refused to let her secret—their child—be the reason Ryland Bauer stayed. Now Rye’s back to make an offer on her property, and she can’t keep hiding the truth. Rye will do anything to be part of his son’s life. But he’ll have to reveal the real reason he left if he wants them to become a family…


Buy The Path Not Taken by Ruth Logan Herne


Harlequin.com  |  Kindle  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Book Depository


He was on his way to a meeting he couldn’t avoid because nestled in the middle of Smoky Mountain De­velopment Corporation’s “over 55” neighborhood con­cept was a thirteen-acre property owned by Devlyn McCabe. His first love. Maybe his only true love. No one before or since had touched his soul like Devlyn, but that was a long time ago.

He swallowed a sigh, determined to think of something else. Anything else. The land. The project. But there was no separating the project from Devlyn or her land. Her acreage crested the rise of the ridge, giving Kendrick Ridge its vantage point and its name. Her land abutted his and linked his to two other neighbors. Phase One of the project would only go ahead with that middle parcel: Devlyn’s land.

That meant seeing her tomorrow. Rye never took the easy way first. The other property owners were already interested in selling. He knew that.

Dev would be different because his deal came packed with a whole lot of painful history.

He took the turn onto Route 321 and headed for B&B Cabins. A small town like Kendrick Creek didn’t offer hotel and motel lodging, but a smattering of cabin rent­als had sprung up over the years. As long as it had a decent bed and Wi-Fi, he was good to go.

He wanted to settle in and plan how he was going to approach Devlyn the next day. One way or another this project would move forward. Hopefully with Devlyn’s land, but if he had to go to Plan B, he would. It wouldn’t be as pretty. Devlyn’s ridge allowed a magnificent view of the mountains east of the valley, and the lower land that bordered the northern edge of Rye’s farmland was thickly forested. The wooded land changed the dynam­ics of the homesites. Either way, he’d be here for several weeks to put a plan in motion.

He turned into the broad driveway for B&B Cabins and parked outside the manager’s small house, while a cat happily crunched on some kind of treat nearby.

His key was taped to the door in an envelope. “Had an errand. Make yourself at home. Cabin five. We’ll finish stuff up tomorrow. B. Taylor.”

God bless the small-town mentality that trusted he wouldn’t take advantage of the older lady who’d taken his reservation the day before.

He took the key, got back in his car and drove up the curving drive to cabin five. The yard was well lit with dusk-to-dawn lights. The cabin was typical: rustic and simple. A door was centered between two identical windows. Colorful pansies broke up the wood-on-wood of the small porch, wood railings and wooden steps, while different-colored tulips bobbed their heads in narrow rectangular plots in front of the porch.

He opened the cabin door before hauling things in from the trunk of his car. The souped-up sports car had been his reward for his first major financial suc­cess years ago. He had just taken it out of storage this week, another sign of the changing seasons.

He grabbed sheets and blankets and carried them in­side to the small bedroom. He could honestly say he’d never stayed in a place where he had to provide his own linens before. Clearly there was a first time for everything.

He went back for his laptop case and suitcases as a small car rolled up the driveway. It drove by him and pulled into one of the two parking spots in front of the cabin next door.

He carried a suitcase in, set it down and headed back outside.

He glanced to the right.

And his heart stopped.

Devlyn.


About the Author

Award-winning novelist Ruthy Logan Herne has written over 40 novels and novellas and pinches herself to see if this is real! She lives on a pumpkin farm in Western New York where the long, snowy winters allow Ruthy time to find a quiet spot and write her beautiful, critically acclaimed stories. With over twenty Love Inspired books to her credit, Ruthy loves to connect with her readers on Facebook and through her newsletters. Visit ruthloganherne.com or contact at: loganherne@gmail.com

  

Connect with the Author

 Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

HTP Fall Blog Tour (Inkyard Press/YA Edition) Promo Post: The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker

at 10/16/2021 03:02:00 AM 0 comments

Julie Kagawa meets Scythe in this captivating and evocative journey into Death’s domain as one soul collector seeks her place in the underworld of 1890s Japan. Book 1 of a planned duology.

Death is her destiny.

Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami, Ren Scarborough yearns for the acceptance she has never found among the Reapers who raised her. When the Shinigami powers she can no longer hide force her to flee for her life, Ren and her younger brother—the only being on earth to care for her—travel to Japan and the dark underworld of Yomi, where Ren hopes to claim her place among the Shinigami and finally belong.

But the Goddess of Death is no more welcoming than the Reapers who raised her, and Ren finds herself set on an impossible task—find and kill three yokai demons, and maybe, just maybe, she can earn a place in Death’s service. With only her brother and an untrustworthy new ally by her side, Ren will learn how far she’ll go to win the acceptance she craves, and whether the cost of belonging is worth any sacrifice.


BUY LINKS:


Bookshop.org  |  Porter Square Books  |  IndieBound  |  Barnes & Noble

Amazon  |  Google Play  |  kobo  |  Apple Books


 

Chapter Two


At the far edge of London, somewhere between nightmares and formless dreams, the Reapers slept by daylight.

The only way to enter our home was through the catacombs of the Highgate Cemetery, through a door that no longer existed. It had been built there long ago, when the Britons first came to our land and Ankou carved a hole in their world so that Death could enter. But humans had sealed it shut with layers of wood, then stone, then brick and mortar, all in the hopes of keeping Death out.

By the nineteenth century, humans had mostly forgotten about the Door and what it meant. Then, when the London churchyards began to overflow with bones, the humans had searched for a place just outside of London to bury their dead. By chance or fate, they’d built their new cemetery right on top of the Door. It turned out that Death drew all of us close, even if we weren’t aware of it.

No streetlights lit the path through Highgate at night, but I didn’t need them to find my way home. Before I’d even passed through the main gate, Death pulled me closer. All Reapers were drawn to him, our bones magnetized to the place of our forefather. As soon as I entered the cemetery, a humming began just under my skin, like a train’s engine beginning to whir. My blood flushed faster through my veins as I brushed aside the branches of winter-barren lime trees and low-hanging elms. My boots crunched shattering steps into the frosted pathways as I ran.

I stumbled through jagged rows of ice-cracked tombstones on uneven ground and through a village of mausoleums, finally reaching the gothic arched doorway of the catacomb entrance. The pull had grown unbearable, dragging me along in a dizzy trance as I descended the stairs into the cool quietness of damp bricks and darkness. The labyrinth would have been unnavigable if not for the fervent pull.

At last, my hands came out to touch the wall where the Door used to be, but now there were only damp bricks and an inscription on the arch overhead that read When Ankou comes, he will not go away empty in rigid script. I dug one hand into my pocket and clutched my clock, pressed my other hand to the bricks, then closed my eyes and turned time all the way back to the beginning.

Time flowed through the silver-and-gold gears, up into my bloodstream and through my fingertips, dispersing into the brick wall. Centuries crumbled away, the mortar growing wet and bricks falling loose. One by one, they leaped out of their positions in the wall and aligned themselves in dry stacks on the ground, waiting once again for construction. Objects were easy to manipulate with time, for I could draw from their own intrinsic energy rather than siphoning off my own. Rather than paying in years of my own life, I could borrow years before the bricks crumbled and quickly repay the debt when I put them back.

I stepped through the doorway and the pull released me all at once. I breathed in a deep gasp of the wet night air, then turned around and sealed the door behind me. The bricks jumped back to their positions in the wall, caked together by layers of mortar that dried instantly, the time debt repaid.

The catacombs beyond the threshold spanned infinitely forward, appropriated as resting places for Reapers rather than corpses. Mounted lanterns cast a faint light onto the dirt floors and gray bricks. It was almost Last Toll, so only the last Reapers returning from the night shift still milled around, their silver capes catching the dim light of the tunnels, but most had retreated to their private quarters for the morning.

I turned right and hurried down the block. The low ceilings gave way to high-arched doorways and finally opened up to a hall of echoing marble floors and rows of dark wood desks. Luckily, there was no line for Collections this close to Last Toll.

I hurried to the first Collector and all but slammed my vials into the tray, jolting him awake in his seat. He was a younger Reaper and seemed perplexed at having been awoken so unceremoniously. When his gaze landed on me, he frowned and sat up straight.

“Ren Scarborough,” I said, pushing the tray closer to him.

“I know who you are,” he said, picking up my first vial and uncapping it with deliberate slowness. Of course, everyone knew who I was.

He took a wholly unnecessary sniff of the vial before holding it up to the light to examine the color, checking its authenticity. The Collectors recorded every night’s soul intake before sending the vials off to Processing, where they finally released the souls into Beyond. He picked up a pen from his glass jar of roughly thirty identical pens, tapped it against the desk a few times, then withdrew a leather-bound ledger from a drawer. He dropped it in front of him, opened the creaky cover, and began flipping through the pages, one by one, until he reached a fresh one.

I resisted the urge to slam my face against the desk in impatience.

I really didn’t have time to waste, but Collections was a necessary step. I didn’t consider myself benevolent in times of crisis, but even I was above leaving souls to expire in glass tubes instead of releasing them to their final resting place, wherever that was. And besides, a blank space next to my name in the Collections ledger meant a Collector would pay a visit to my private quarters to reprimand me. The last thing I needed was someone realizing that I’d left before Ivy could even report me.

But when the Collector uncorked my fourth vial and held it up to the lamp, swirling it in the light for ten excruciating seconds, I began to wonder if I’d made the right decision.

The bells of Last Toll reverberated through the bricks all around us, humming through the marble floors. In this hazy hour between night and day, the church grims came out in search of Reaper bones to gnaw on. Night collections had to be turned in by then, while day collections had to be processed by the First Toll at dusk.

The Collector sighed as he picked up my fifth vial. “I’m afraid I’ll have to mark your collections as late.”

My jaw clenched. “Why.”

“It’s past Last Toll, of course,” he said.

My fingers twitched. The lamp on the Collector’s desk flickered with my impatience, but I took a steadying breath.

“I was here before Last Toll,” I said, trying to keep my voice even.

“According to my ledger, your collections still have not been processed,” he said, spinning my fifth vial in his left hand.

I sighed and closed my eyes. Of course, I knew what he was doing. Chastising a “latecomer” would earn praise from higher management. It was the easiest way for him to climb the ranks—to exert his power over the half-breed. He would be praised for his steadfastness and gain a reputation as a strict and immovable Collector, while I could do nothing to complain. I could explode his lamp and send glass shards into his eyes, but that wouldn’t make him process my vials any faster. The fastest way to get out of there was subservience.

“Forgive me, Reaper,” I said, bowing my head and dropping my shoulders. I let my voice sound timid and afraid. “I apologize for being late.”

The Collector blinked at me for a moment, as if surprised that I’d given in so quickly. But he looked young and power-hungry and not particularly perceptive, so I wasn’t too afraid that he’d see through my tactic. As expected, he sneered as if I truly had offended him, finally beginning to process the fifth vial.

“It’s a great inconvenience to both Collections and Processing,” he said, “though I wouldn’t expect a half-breed to understand the workings of the educated Reapers.”

The only believable response to his goading was humiliated silence, so I hung my head even further and tried to make myself as small and pathetic as possible. It wasn’t hard, because the memory of the night’s events was still wringing my heart out like a wet rag and my skin prickled with nerves so fiercely that I wanted to claw it all off and escape before Ivy could find me, yet here I was, brought to my knees before a glorified teller. I imagined being a High Reaper, being able to reach over and smash his face into his blotter and shatter his owlish glasses into his eyes for delaying and insulting me.

His lamp flickered more violently and he paused to smack it before finally finishing with my last vial. He placed all seven in a tray and pressed a button that started the conveyor belt, sending the souls down to Processing. The moment he put a black check next to my name in the ledger, I stood up straight and turned to leave.

His hand twisted into my sleeve, yanking me back.

I shot him a look that could have melted glass, but he only pulled me closer.

“There’s the matter of your sanction,” he said.

“My sanction,” I said, glancing around the office to see how many people would notice if I simply twisted the Collector’s neck. Too many.

“For your tardiness, of course,” he said, smirking sourly. From his position stretched across the desk, the lamplight caught in his glasses and turned them into two beaming white moons.

The standard punishment for failing to make curfew was a night on the pillory, hands and feet nailed to the wood and head locked in a hole that was just slightly too tight, letting you breathe but not speak. The other Reapers could pull your hair or pour mead over your head or call you a thousand names when you couldn’t talk back. But the worst part wasn’t the nails or the insults. It was the Reapers who did nothing but look at you and sneer like you were nothing but an ugly piece of wall art, like they were so perfect that they couldn’t fathom being in your place. And far worse than that was my own father and stepmother walking past me and pretending not to see.

“Come back at First Toll,” the Collector said. “We’ll find a nice place to hang you up by the Door.”

It took every ounce of restraint I had left to keep my expression calm. This was the part where I was supposed to say, Yes, Reaper, and bow, but he was lucky that I hadn’t smashed his glasses into his face with my fist.

As if he could smell my defiance, he pulled me closer. His glasses fell out of the lamplight, revealing a deep frown.

“Scrub that look from your face,” he said. “Remember that I’ll handle your collections in the future.”

The future, I thought.

Luckily, I didn’t have a future.

The light bulb flashed with a sudden surge of power, then burst. Glass shards rained down over the desk, forcing the man to release me as hot glass scored his hands. Some of his paperwork caught fire, and he frantically patted out the flames with hands full of shards.

“Yes, Reaper,” I said, bowing deeply so he wouldn’t see my smirk as he sputtered about “bloody light bulbs, I knew we should have kept the gas lamps.”

Then I turned and rushed off to the West Catacombs.

 

Excerpted from The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker, Copyright © 2021 by Kylie Lee Baker. Published by Inkyard Press. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Photo Credit: Greg Samborski

Kylie Lee Baker grew up in Boston and has since lived in Atlanta, Salamanca, and Seoul. Her writing is informed by her heritage (Japanese, Chinese, and Irish), as well as her experiences living abroad as both a student and teacher. She has a B.A. in Creative Writing and Spanish from Emory University and is currently pursuing a Master of Library and Information Science degree at Simmons University. In her free time, she watches horror movies, plays the cello, and bakes too many cookies. The Keeper of Night is her debut novel.


SOCIAL LINKS:

Website  |  Twitter  |  Instagram  |  Goodreads


 

The Consummate Reader Copyright © 2010 Designed by Ipietoon Blogger Template Sponsored by Online Shop Vector by Artshare