Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Book Review, Giveaway: Set the Night on Fire (Cottonbloom - Book #6) by Laura Trentham

Set the Night on Fire

Cottonbloom, Book 6

by Laura Trentham


From award-winning author, Laura Trentham comes Set the Night on Fire, a novel about starting over, finding your way back home—and falling head over heels. . .

Ella Boudreaux has a lot to prove to her family, friends, and foes—and to herself. So when her marriage ends she decides to invest her energy and money into a place that brings back some of Ella’s happiest memories: the Abbott brothers’ garage. Maybe, if she puts her mind to it, she can teach skeptical, stubborn Mack Abbott how to make the business a true success. Which would be a lot easier if the hunky mechanic didn’t make her motor run quite so fast…and hot.

Mack was furious when his brother, Ford, sold his share of the business. He’s in no rush to team up with a wealthy divorcée who shows up to the garage in stilettos—and the longest, sexiest legs he’s seen in forever. But Ella’s grit and determination won’t quit…and soon Mack can see that she’s been down a few rough roads herself. Neither Mack nor Ella can deny the fierce attraction that’s revving up between them. Could it be that true love has been in the back seat all along…and they’ve finally found the key?

My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:

“… you and Sutton have a wedding to plan.” “All I have to do is show up, according to Sutton. Her mom is going a little crazy. She has mentioned a harp player and doves.” “Good Lord, one of the Abbott cousins might pull out a shotgun and shoot a dove if they’re in season.”

… the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee drawing him in like a cartoon mouse to cheese.

Mack led them out and around the garage to the parking lot where the Corvette was parked in a ray of sunlight like the Second Coming.

A deep shuddery breath forewarned a rising tide of tears. She had to get home. A threesome in bed with Ben and Jerry was all she craved.

Trevor’s smile was full of smug self-satisfaction. How had she ever thought he was handsome and sophisticated? He was a nasty little bug, and she wore the shoes to smush him.

My Review:

I have greatly enjoyed each of my three visits to Cottonbloom, an especially peculiar little town with an identity disorder as it falls within two different states with divisive social circles.  Book six in the series was the third in a row to feature the hard-working, endearingly flawed, resilient, and devastatingly handsome classic car mechanics of the Abbott family.  I could almost smell the motor oil as Ms. Trentham’s agile use of lush details cunningly employed all the senses and painted a complete, spectacular, and vivid picture for the mind's eye while also smoothly keying-in the emotional tone.  The writing was well-balanced and expertly paced while evocative, amusing, steamy, and heart-squeezing with crisscrossing and engaging storylines.  I enjoyed the verbal sparring and developing romance as well as the surprises from the unfolding secrets of family drama - all culminating into a highly satisfying HEA.  I keep hoping for prequel scenes to chronicle the now elderly aunties hellion salad days, as I’m quite certain they had them.

Empress DJ

Author Info:

An award-winning author, Laura Trentham was born and raised in a small town in Tennessee. Although, she loved English and reading in high school, she was convinced an English degree equated to starvation. She chose the next most logical major—Chemical Engineering—and worked in a hard hat and steel-toed boots for several years.

She writes sexy, small-town contemporaries and smoking hot Regency historicals. KISS ME THAT WAY, Cottonbloom Book 1, won the Stiletto Contest for Best Long Contemporary and finaled in the National Readers Choice Award. THEN HE KISSED ME, Cottonbloom Book 2, was named an Amazon Best Romance of 2016 and was a finalist for the National Excellence for Romance Fiction. TILL I KISSED YOU, Cottonbloom Book 3, is a finalist in the Maggie contest. LEAVE THE NIGHT ON, the latest Cottonbloom book, was named an iBooks Best Book of the Month and a Recommended Read from NPR.

When not lost in a cozy Southern town or Regency England, she's shuttling kids to soccer, helping with homework, and avoiding the Mt. Everest-sized pile of laundry that is almost as big as the to-be-read pile of books on her nightstand.

Website: https://www.lauratrentham.com

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The first five (5) books in the Cottonbloom series!

Kiss Me That Way, Book 1

Then He Kissed Me, Book 2

Till I Kissed You, Book 3

Leave the Night On, Book 4

When the Stars Come Out, Book 5

The contest is open to International entries! US winner will receive autographed copies.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Book Review: Dr. Strange Beard by Penny Reid


Dr. Strange Beard, an all-new standalone in the bestselling, romantic comedy Winston Brothers Series by Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author Penny Reid, is LIVE!


Hunches, horse races, and heartbreak

Ten years after Simone Payton broke his heart, all Roscoe Winston wants is a doughnut. He’d also like to forget her entirely, but that’s never going to happen. Roscoe Winston remembers everything—every look, every word, every single unrequited second—and the last thing he needs is another memory of Simone.

Unfortunately, after one chance encounter, Simone keeps popping up everywhere he happens to be . . .

Ten years after Roscoe Winston dropped out of her life, all Simone Payton wants is to exploit him. She’d also like some answers from her former best friend about why he ghosted her, but if she never gets those answers, that’s a-okay. Simone let go of the past a long time ago. Seriously, she has. She totally, totally has. She is definitely not still thinking about Roscoe. Nope. She’s more than happy to forget he exists.
But first, she needs just one teeny-tiny favor . . .

Dr. Strange Beard is a full-length romantic comedy novel, can be read as a stand-alone, and is the fifth book in the USA TODAY bestselling Winston Brothers series.

My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:

All men are fugly as soon as they demonstrate an inability to carry on a conversation about issues that matter… Or if they poop with the bathroom door open. No one wants to see that. Even I—ye old goddess of crime fighting—have accepted that some mysteries in life are better left unsolved, such as the facial expressions associated with a boyfriend’s constipation. Hard. Pass.

…the element of surprise was my favorite, even if it wasn’t on the periodic table.

Roscoe was a man-maiden. That’s what he was. A fair man-maiden, with a beard so dark and eyes so blue, a tall specimen of manly greenness, innocent and untouched.

Clowns, in my experience, are like cats. They can sense when a person isn’t into them and then go out of their way to interact with that person. Once, in my case, I’d had a clown follow me around a co-worker’s child’s birthday party, trying to foist balloon animals on me (I thought they all looked like genitalia, but what did I know?)

My Review:

Penny Reid is da bomb!  It was an instant freefall into this skillfully adept wordsmith’s compelling vortex and I gleefully smirked my way through her captivating and cleverly amusing tale.  Written in my favorite dual POV, the storylines were lively, well-crafted, and stacked with unexpected twists, and unique conundrums.  Ms. Reid’s own special blend of brainy humor and cunning wit amuses while simultaneously enlightening with interesting factual tidbits.   Roscoe’s eidetic memory was fascinating and I and appreciated the humanizing and thoughtful observations illuminating the advantages and disadvantages for those bearing such a trait.  I have adored this series and the uniquely peculiar little community of Green Valley, Tennessee, which appears to be populated with oddly beguiling and magnetic characters brimming with idiosyncrasies and intriguing quirks.  

Empress DJ


Download your copy today!
Add to GoodReads: https://bit.ly/2KvoGwA

Meet Penny Reid:

HeadshotPenny Reid is the Wall Street Journal and USA Today Bestselling Author of the Winston Brothers and Knitting in the City series. She used to spend her days writing federal grant proposals as a biomedical researcher, but now she just writes books. She’s also a full-time mom to three diminutive adults, wife, daughter, knitter, crocheter, sewer, general crafter, and thought ninja. 

Connect with Penny:
Twitter: @ReidRomance

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Book Review: The Love Letter by Rachel Hauck

The Love Letter

by Rachel Hauck

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (June 12, 2018)
#TheLoveLetter,tnzfiction #NetGalley

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Wedding Dress comes a story of long-lost love and its redemption in future generations.

Romance has never been actress Chloe Daschle’s forte—in life or on screen. But everyone knows who to call for a convincing death scene . . . and it might be killing her career.

When Chloe is given a peek at the script for an epic love story, she decides to take her destiny into her own hands and request an audition for the lead female role, Esther Kingsley. The compelling tale, inspired by family lore and a one-page letter from the colonial ancestor of scriptwriter Jesse Gates, just might break her out of this career-crippling rut. Jesse would rather write about romance than live through it after his past relationship ended in disaster. But once on-set together, the chemistry between Jesse and his leading lady is hard to deny.

Centuries earlier, in the heart of the Revolutionary War, Hamilton Lightfoot and Esther Longfellow wrote their saga off the silver screen. Esther’s Loyalist father opposes any relationship with Hamilton, but Esther must face her beloved father’s disapproval and the dangers of war in order to convince Hamilton of their future together. Hamilton has loved Esther for years, and on the eve of battle pens the love letter she’s always wanted—something straight from the heart.

Set in stunning upcountry South Carolina, The Love Letter is a beautifully-crafted story of the courage it takes to face down fear and chase after love, even in the darkest of times. And just maybe, all these generations later, love can come home in a way not even Hollywood could imagine.

My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:

Chloe never understood how one could simply fall out of love. Was it an open window, a trap door?

Hollywood is getting tired of me. I’m fifty-seven going on a hundred. I refuse to have plastic surgery and…  I refuse to play one of those horny old cougars who makes a fool of herself by falling for some hot thirty-something who only has one thing on his mind.

My Review:

While the premise sounded interesting, I struggled to remain engaged with this book, it wasn’t my cup of tea. Written with two timelines that were 240 years apart, both storylines involved a young couple of ancestral heritage bucking authority and yearning to establish a romantic relationship during a turbulent period. Both timelines were overflowing with heartbreak, grueling disappointments, angst, stress, despair, and conflicts of every sort – which again,  not my favorite tropes.  As such, my frustration and dissatisfaction were entirely self-inflicted - I chose poorly. There was considerably more religious spirituality than I was expecting and I couldn’t seem to invest or connect to but a few of the characters as I found most of them rather shallow and tedious. Several storylines seemed to lack cohesion - or maybe I just got lost. I probably should have stopped with a DNF but was ultimately glad I continued as despite my disappointment and frustrations with the author’s choices, I needed closure and in due course, I did enjoy the ending, although I doubt it would be an easy read for anyone, nor was it an HEA all the way around.

Empress DJ

About Rachel Hauck 

Rachel Hauck is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA TODAY bestselling author of The Wedding Dress, which was also named Inspirational Novel of the Year by Romantic Times and was a RITA finalist. Rachel lives in central Florida with her husband and pet and writes from her ivory tower.

Book Review: The Haunting of Hattie Hastings - Part Three by Audrey Davis

The Haunting of Hattie Hastings - Part Three
by Audrey Davis

 Amazon US/ UK 

Nothing lasts forever … Gary’s time on earth seems to be coming to an end. His visits are less frequent and his visibility is fading fast. But he still has a mission to accomplish, which involves Hattie and her ability to pass on a heart-rending message.

Best friend Cat’s ex-husband is determined to prove that he deserves another chance, but do leopards really change their spots?

Times are tough for Hattie’s mother Rachel, but where there’s life, there’s hope …
Meanwhile, is there someone already in Hattie’s life who can help her move on when it’s finally time to say goodbye?

Get your tissues at the ready – both for laughter and tears – with the final installment of a trilogy that has been hailed ‘brilliant’, ‘hilarious’, and ‘a great feel-good read’.

My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:

Don’t think I haven’t noticed you ogling Mike next door when he’s mowing the lawn in those ridiculously tight shorts. Christ, if they were any tighter, his balls would be begging Amnesty International for freedom.

She was make-up free, her skin that enviable porcelain Hattie could only have dreamed of in her youth. Her teens had been plagued by spots, the hideous blighters regrouping during the night.

Can you take a few days off from the salon, or will the wrinkly clientele attack you with pitchforks and vats of serum?

‘Does my bum look big in this?’ Cat stretched around to check out her rear, encased in skin-tight faux leather trousers. ‘Bloody enormous. Like something you’d see wallowing in an African river,’ retorted Hattie…

My Review:

I adored this cleverly amusing and delightfully saucy series; each installment left me with pages and pages of favorite quotes while whittling the list down to include in my review proved increasingly painful each time.  Audrey Davis provided a humorous and creative vision of the afterlife, one which I certainly wouldn’t mind finding myself slotted into, even if I needed to fulfill the role of helpful specter before earning my spot within “The Next Realm” with bouncy castles and a bump up in class, comfort, and extra legroom.  I reveled in her quirky characters and highly innovative and entertaining storylines.  Ms. Davis’ lively wit and comedic stylings kept me smirking and snorting aloud and left my Brit Vocabulary List well padded.  New additions from this volume include scuppered (ruined), telling porkies (lying), and Sod’s law (when things go bad, it is always in the worst possible way).  

Empress DJ

About Audrey Davis
Audrey Davis survived secondary school on the West coast of Scotland. Rubbish at science but not too bad at English, she originally wanted to be an actress but was persuaded that journalism was a safer option. Probably wise. She studied at Napier College in Edinburgh, the only place in Scotland at that time to offer a journalism course.

Her first foray into the hard-nosed newspaper world was as a junior reporter in Dumfriesshire. Duties included interviewing farmers about the prize-winning heifers to reporting on family tragedies. She persuaded her editor to let her launch an entertainment column which meant meeting the odd celebrity – or just the downright odd. From there, she moved to the loftier rank of senior reporter back in her home patch. Slightly more money, fewer farm animals but a higher crime rate. As Taggart would say: 'There's been a murrrrder!'

After a stint in London on a video magazine – yes, she is that old – Audrey moved to Singapore with her fiancé. She tried valiantly to embrace the stinking heat, humidity and lack of jobs, although she did work briefly on a magazine which was banned by the government for 'artistic' use of naked men's bottoms.

Next on her adventures was a land Down Under where her main focus was raising Cost Centre One (aka firstborn) and coming to terms with the imminent arrival of Number Two. Still, she loved the Aussie way of life – BBQs, beaches and bring your own booze to restaurants – so it came as a blow when OH announced a move back to the UK. Not a job between them, the climate a possible deal breaker and an Exorcist-style vomiting infant on the flight home didn't bode well …

Always a survivor, Audrey sought out similar-minded friends (i.e. slightly bonkers), got the children into a good school and thought about taking up writing again. Sadly, thinking about it was as far as she got, unless you count shopping lists. Then, hubby drops another bombshell. Switzerland. As in – it's packing time again. Off to the land of cheese, chocolate, scarily efficient trains and a couple of teeny, tiny issues. Like driving on the 'wrong' side of the road and speaking a foreign language (French). The former was conquered fairly quickly (we'll skip over the wall demolition in week two), the latter remains an ongoing battle of the hopeful against the hopeless. At least she provides amusement for the local workforce.
It wasn't until 2016 that Audrey rediscovered her writing mojo with an online Writing Fiction course. From there, her first novel – A Clean Sweep – was born, although it took a bit longer than nine months from conception. A short, darker prequel – A Clean Break – followed, and in November 2017 she published the first in a novella trilogy, The Haunting of Hattie Hastings Part One. Part Two is published on 21 March 2018, with the conclusion following in July. After which she might have a wee lie down …

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Book Review, Giveaway: Madam Love, Actually by Rich Amooi

Madam Love, Actually

by Rich Amooi

Amazon US/ UK/ CA/ AU

Lance Parker is an arrogant know-it-all. As the author of the bestselling book Your Soulmate Doesn’t Exist, he says love is for losers. Madam Love is a fortune teller and matchmaker who has brought hundreds of couples together. 

When the two clash during a radio interview, she admits even someone as irritating and impossible as Lance has a soulmate. He says she’s delirious and a fraud. Then the gauntlet is laid down: Madam Love has two weeks to prove Lance wrong and find him a soulmate.

When Lance meets wonderful Emma by chance, he doesn’t know what to think anymore. But Emma has a secret. She’s Madam Love, actually. And it's going to take a whole lot more than a crystal ball to get her out of this mess.

My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:

… she had enough gold jewelry around her neck and wrists to make Kanye West feel insecure.

Do you think you have enough red and purple in this room? It looks like a combined shrine to Prince and Valentine’s Day.

It says here on this website that the life expectancy of fortune tellers and psychics is ten years less than that of a normal person… Killed by their disgruntled clients, I’m guessing.

My dad was a military man— a colonel in the Air Force. We never got along, so when I had the opportunity to name our new dog in high school, I chose the name General. I just thought it would be funny to have a dog that outranked my dad.

My Review:

Oh, what fun!  This was my first experience reading the talented Mr. Amooi and I found his work a delightful treat.  His characters were endearingly quirky and the writing was pleasantly entertaining, amusing, and as comfortable as smooth jazz.  It was a quick, light, and easy to follow tale with a vibrant cast and a silky flow.  Lance and Emma were an adorable and sweet couple with an instant and electrifying connection that threatened to fry their circuits.  After his prickly introduction, I didn’t expect to enjoy the character of Lance as much as I did but I cannot resist a handsome and charming man who names his puppy Typo and teaches him to cha-cha, loves cupcakes, finds a woman cute when she snorts with laughter, jumps in with first aid for a stranger, and recycles without being reminded.  I mean, really, very few women could resist all that! 

Empress DJ

Author Bio –

Rich Amooi is a former radio personality who now writes romantic comedies full-time. He is happily married to a kiss monster imported from Spain. They live in San Diego, California with their very hairy daughter, a mini Goldendoodle puppy. Rich believes in public displays of affection, silliness, infinite possibilities, donuts, gratitude, laughter, and happily ever after.
Social Media Links –

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/author.richamooi

Twitter: https://twitter.com/richamooi

Win a Sterling Silver Lucky Charm Pendant, plus an autographed paperback copy of Madam Love, Actually
(Open Internationally). 

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be passed to the giveaway organizer and used only for the fulfillment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data. I am not responsible for dispatch or delivery of the prize.

Book Review: Bentley by Melanie Moreland


(Vested Interest #1)

by Melanie Moreland 

Three young men meet in university and form a lifelong friendship. 

Their pasts dictate the men they are, but their present shapes their future. 

What happens when these men meet the one person they are destined to be with? Can they fight their feelings and walk away? Or will they each succumb and learn the sweet agony of love? 


The leader of the group. He is uptight, formal, and cold. Rigid and set in his ways, always following the same path. Until the day, he stumbles upon her. 
She brings with her spontaneity and light. The world she lives in is so different from his, yet he cannot control the draw to her. Nor can he explain the way she makes him feel. 

My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:

My name isn’t Emmy… Winifred Windfall. That means, really, I’m Freddy Money.

“Does he go with you everywhere?” I nodded, winking covertly at her. “He’s like a fungus I can’t get rid of.”

We headed toward the counter, and I made a beeline for an older woman, thinking she’d be the safest bet. Except when she looked up, her frank appraisal made me hesitate. When she licked her lips, I felt Maddox’s yank on my arm. “Abort, abort,” he hissed. “Cougar.” Like a well-oiled machine, we veered to the right…

Aiden, maybe you can teach me some of your karate skills. I bet I could take them if I tried. I don’t know if there is, like, a kidnapper network, but if word got out I wasn’t to be messed with, that would help keep them away.

My Review:

I adored each of these characters and am eager to delve into the rest of the series.  The storylines were crisp, intriguing, cleverly amusing, and unfailingly entertaining.  The character of Bentley was initially that of a frosty and arrogant businessman, but underneath he was a considerate and swoony teddy bear.  I relished the easy banter and bawdy teasing among the group and was in awe at the deft and insightful handling of several rather heavy and vexing emotional issues.  Ms. Moreland's smooth and engaging writing style held my interest, attention, and admiration from start to finish.  

Empress DJ

About the Author

New York Times/USA Today bestselling author Melanie Moreland, lives a happy and content life in a quiet area of Ontario with her beloved husband of twenty-seven-plus years and their rescue cat, Amber. Nothing means more to her than her friends and family, and she cherishes every moment spent with them. 

While seriously addicted to coffee, and highly challenged with all things computer-related and technical, she relishes baking, cooking, and trying new recipes for people to sample. She loves to throw dinner parties, and also enjoys traveling, here and abroad, but finds coming home is always the best part of any trip. 

Melanie loves stories, especially paired with a good wine, and enjoys skydiving (free-falling over a fleck of dust) extreme snowboarding (falling down stairs) and piloting her own helicopter (tripping over her own feet.) She's learned happily ever afters, even bumpy ones, are all in how you tell the story.

Melanie is represented by Flavia Viotti at Bookcase Literary Agency. For any questions regarding subsidiary or translation rights please contact her at flavia@bookcaseagency.com

Friday, July 27, 2018

Book Review, Giveaway: Maddox by Melanie Moreland

Title: Maddox
Series: Vested Interest Series
Author: Melanie Moreland
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense 18+
Release Date: July 9, 2018

"Every reader is going to tell you that Maddox is a dirty talker. He also likes control, but the one thing he can't control is Dee's heart.The joy of this story is the characters learning to trust one another with their hearts." Mae Wood, author of Pig & Barley series
"There's a new book boyfriend on the block and his name is Maddox. Hands off ladies, he is all MINE." Eva LeNoir, author of UCC Saga series
"Right, let's get one thing straight. Maddox = MINE. I mean, I claimed him way, back when, and now I've read his story, I've even more obsessed with him. Even more in love with him. Even more in love with this series, TBH." B. Cranford, author of The Avenue series

Brought up in chaos and fear, Maddox requires order and control to cope with life. He has his career and his two closest friends. That is all he needs. Until Dee enters his life. She brings forth feelings he has denied himself his entire life, threatening his control.
He wants to hold.
Damaged by her past, Dee cannot admit her feelings for him, fighting him at every turn.
Is he strong enough for both of them?
Can he prove to her that they would be perfect together?

My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:

“I don’t date,” she insisted, stubborn as a child being told something they didn’t want to hear. I scrubbed my face. “I hate to break it to you, my lovely. We’ve been dating the past few months.” She sat up, clutching a pillow in front of her like a talisman. “We have not!” I sat up as well, grabbing her shoulders. “Listen to me. We’ve been having dinner, meeting with our friends, talking on the phone, texting. Having sex.” I dropped my voice. “Amazing, crazy sex. Neither of us is seeing anyone else… Whether you like it or not, we’re in an exclusive relationship.” She gaped at me, making me laugh.

“If I have to beat you for this, Mad Dog, I will—but I’ll try to be gentle.” “Whatever,” I snorted. “I can take you, big man.” “You think so? I could snap you like a twig.” “I’ll throw a couple of lemon Danish at you and run. You’ll be so busy trying to catch them, I’ll be fine.”

… he was such a pretentious asshole. He makes Bentley look like a laid-back hippie. The pole he has shoved up his backside must tickle his throat.

My Review:

This series has become one of my favorites to date - I’m intrigued by this endearing and bossy group of successful entrepreneurs who had met and became best friends during their college years.  Each had suffered a traumatic past with no desire for a serious relationship, until one-by-one, the mighty fell, and I so enjoyed watching them tumble.  The three friends, having each miraculously paired off, were assisting Bentley and Emmy in wedding preparations, with cleverly amusing results.  The character of Maddox was happily settling into his first satisfying relationship when an unpleasant part of his past places everything he had worked for at risk and proved to be a sticky thorn to dislodge.  Written from my favorite dual POV, the storylines were entertaining, amusing, and quite erotic.  Maddox was a salacious and sensual read with breath-stealing scenes that left me gasping and seeking cool hydration.  Clutch the pearls; this lascivious couple was scorching the sheets with reams of bawdy talk.  I relished the humor, ease, and supportive nature of this colorful and vibrant collection of curiously alluring personalities, and eagerly anticipate equally entertaining tales of their expanding circle of friends and employees.  

Empress DJ

Until one day, I was browsing my local bookstore for something new to read.
Studying a book jacket, I was distracted when a woman’s silhouette caught my attention. She was lissome and pretty, the sunlight catching her light red hair. She was reading the back of a book, her finger running over the spine. Something about her beckoned to me yet seemed familiar. With a grin, I realized it was Dee, and I approached her. “Find something good?”
She glanced at me, startled. I was close enough to see the flecks of brown in her wide green eyes. She smiled and slid the book back onto the shelf. “Not really.” She indicated the books I had in my hand. “I think you’ve had better luck.”
“You can borrow one if you like. I tend to buy in batches.”
She tilted her head, silently mouthing the titles. She looked up with a smile. “That would be lovely.”
“I was gonna grab a cup of coffee. Can I interest you in joining me?”
“I’d love to.”
Seated across from her, I realized it was the first time we’d ever been alone.
“You come here often?”
She shook her head with a wry grin. “Is that your best pick-up line, Maddox?”
I chuckled. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in here until today.”
“I was in the office for a short while, then dropped in here. Usually I browse on my lunch hour.”
“That makes sense.”
Silence fell as we sipped our coffee, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. I noticed she nibbled at the end of her thumb, and it struck me as odd. Given her stoic persona, I found it rather endearing.
And I found my thoughts strange. Endearing wasn’t a word I used often—if ever.
She met my gaze. “So, is it?”
“Is it what?”
“Is that your best pick-up line?”
I studied her as I drank my coffee. “I don’t typically do pick-up lines.”
She smirked. “I’m not surprised.”
“With that whole silver fox thing you’ve got going, I’m sure you don’t have to.”
I frowned. “Silver fox?”
“Maddox, the silver fox. Young, sexy, wealthy, plus that premature gray? I bet you beat them off with a stick.”
I shook my head, amused at her thoughts. “I’m sorry to disappoint, but no.”
“Really? I’m surprised.”
I sat back, crossing my legs, swinging one foot. “What about you, Deirdre? All prim and pretty. You drive the lawyers crazy at your firm?”
She laughed. “Dee. No one calls me Deirdre. It’s stuffy and formal.”
“No. It’s a lovely name for a lovely woman. It suits you. The lawyers you date don’t call you by your full name?”
She ignored my comment about her name. “I don’t date lawyers, or anyone else at my firm,” she stated firmly. “In fact, I don’t date.”
She hesitated, then shook her head. “No. Love, romantic love, isn’t for me.”
I took in a deep breath and spoke. “Why is that?”
“It’s dangerous. It overwhelms and kills you.”
At my raised eyebrow, she continued.
“I’m not saying I don’t see people. I have…needs. But I don’t do romantic relationships. I’ve seen the way love destroys people.” She held up her hand before I could speak. “I know it works for some, but I’m not built that way.”
I drained my coffee, then leaned forward. “Neither am I.”
She widened her eyes. “Really?”
“Love equals power. The power to destroy. The ability to hurt and cause pain. The chaos it causes. That’s what love means to me. It destroys trust and leaves you weak.”
“You feel that way about everyone?”
“There are a few exceptions. And I will never break them for a woman.”
Our eyes met, silent understanding passing between us. The air shifted, and I felt our mutual desire grow. It stretched out, pushing tentatively against the boundaries we had erected. She propped her elbow on the table, lifting her thumb to her mouth. Her small teeth gnawed at the flesh. It was an innocent gesture, yet I found it provocative.
“I have needs too,” I murmured. Reaching over, I tugged her thumb from her mouth, inspecting it. From the roughness of the skin, and the fact that it was the second time she’d done it since we sat down, it was clearly a nervous habit for her. I slowly dragged my fingers across her palm, then laid her hand on the table.
Her breathing hitched. “I’m older than you are.”
“Three years,” I scoffed. “It’s nothing.”
“I’m serious. I don’t do relationships.”
“Nor do I.” I bent forward, lowering my voice. “May I be blunt with you?”
“I prefer blunt.”
“I find you incredibly attractive, Deirdre. Very sexy in your buttoned-up clothes and calm exterior. I’d like to see what happens when you’re naked and aroused.” I tilted my head, studying her. “Like now—are you aware in the past few minutes, your breathing picked up and your eyes darkened? You have the loveliest color across your cheeks. Even the tips of your ears are pink. I wonder how far down I could make you flush that way.”
Her color deepened, but she didn’t flinch. She shifted closer, our knees pressed together under the table. Her normally husky voice was even lower, turning me on. “You want honest?”
I nodded.
“I think you’re one of the sexiest men I’ve ever met, Maddox. I see how your toned body moves when you walk, and I imagine you moving in me. You use your hands a lot when you talk, and I want to feel them on my skin. Your muscles flex under your expensive suits, and I want to feel them tighten under my touch.” She ran her finger over her lips. “I want to taste you and watch you fall apart.”
“Then maybe we should go and explore each other.”

New York Times/USA Today bestselling author Melanie Moreland, lives a happy and content life in a quiet area of Ontario with her beloved husband of twenty-seven-plus years and their rescue cat, Amber. Nothing means more to her than her friends and family, and she cherishes every moment spent with them. 
While seriously addicted to coffee, and highly challenged with all things computer-related and technical, she relishes baking, cooking, and trying new recipes for people to sample. She loves to throw dinner parties, and also enjoys traveling, here and abroad, but finds coming home is always the best part of any trip. 
Melanie loves stories, especially paired with a good wine, and enjoys skydiving (free-falling over a fleck of dust) extreme snowboarding (falling down stairs) and piloting her own helicopter (tripping over her own feet.) She's learned happily ever afters, even bumpy ones, are all in how you tell the story.
Melanie is represented by Flavia Viotti at Bookcase Literary Agency. For any questions regarding subsidiary or translation rights please contact her at flavia@bookcaseagency.com