Category Archives: Jennifer Locklear

Jennifer Reviews: Missing Pieces by Meredith Tate (@mltate24)

Missing Pieces

Synopsis:

Your family is the most important part of your life. Your families are the people you love, and love is what separates us from scoundrels and criminals. It maintains order. Your parents, your sibling, and your Partner, are the ones you love. There should never, ever, be anyone else who comes close to that bond. You have only one best friend, and that is the person you’ll be marrying someday. We must learn to differentiate the relationships in our lives: the people we love, and the ones we don’t. It’s inappropriate, it’s foolish, and it’s forbidden to think otherwise.

Trace Bailey’s mouth is her worst enemy – somehow it always gets her in trouble. Luckily, she has a partner in crime – her best friend and neighbor since age seven, Piren Allston. He can’t get enough of her crazy sense of humor, and she loves that he’s always up for another adventure.

They can’t be friends, though, not in their world. Trace and Piren were Assigned to other people at the age of six, and they’re supposed to marry their Partners when they turn twenty-four. Failure to comply leads to Banishment, a fate worse than death.

Worse still is the growing realization that their bond is stronger than just friendship.

In a world without freedom, there are still choices to be made. Following their hearts means losing their family, but following the law means losing each other.

Forever.

My Review:

Missing Pieces is the story of best friends, Piren Allston and Trace Bailey. The two meet in childhood, and their strong bond to one another forms almost immediately. They spend as much of their free time together as possible and quickly achieve an intimacy that even children recognize as a once in a lifetime kind of event.

“From the moment we happened upon the treehouse, it became our sanctuary, our pirate ship, our castle, our hideaway, our place. We visited it every day after school.

Trace and I shared all our secrets lying on the floor of our treehouse, from the juicy to the mundane, I relished the chance to share my day’s stories with her, and most afternoons I couldn’t get up that ladder fast enough. She’d perch her chin on her hands and smile up at me, awaiting whatever news I wanted to tell. I knew she already accepted my secrets before I even opened my mouth. Her presence draped me in an overwhelming sense of comfort.”

Theirs is the kind of affection we tend to label as Puppy Love, and in our universe it is normally viewed as something endearing and sweet. Unfortunately, Piren and Trace do not live in the same world as us.

In their society, children are assigned Partners by those in authority and are committed to their eventual spouses at the age of six. From a very young age, children are taught that no one but their assigned partner can be their best friend and they must adhere to a strict set of social rules until they are old enough to marry.

They date no one but their partner and cannot kiss until age sixteen.

They must begin living together at eighteen, but cannot have sex before marriage takes place at twenty-four.

And they must never have more than two children.

These are just the basic rules; and you can bet there are plenty of other restrictions in place. Any violation of the rules results in Banishment from everyone and everything they know.

Despite the serious consequences at stake, Piren and Trace manage to find ways to keep and grow their friendship while still adhering to their societal expectations. However, this leads to near constant complications that begin in childhood, continue through adolescence and seep into adulthood.

As I read this story, it was obvious that even a best case scenario for Piren and Trace would not be free of conflict and anguish. I found myself growing increasingly concerned for their eventual outcomes with each turn of the page. Missing Pieces is a tension rich story, yet despite the logical probabilities that consume Piren and Trace, both characters stubbornly cling to the hope that they will find a way through their tribulations together.

As a result of their defiance, there isn’t much that comes easily to Piren and Trace. The author, Meredith Tate, doesn’t shy away from allowing her characters to be damaged, and this kind of fearlessness in writing is a trait I have come to admire. It can be difficult to put your characters through hell, subjecting them to their worst nightmares come true; but we all know that nothing worthwhile in life is ever easy to secure.

Don’t allow the youth of these characters to steer you away from giving this book a try. Piren and Trace may be young, but their lives are full of raw intensity. These characters shouldn’t be required to become wholly focused on adulthood responsibilities, but because they are their story is a mature and cautionary tale.

You will experience a wide range of emotions while reading Missing Pieces and I give tremendous credit to Meredith Tate for striking the perfect balance between all of them.

This is a 5 star read that I highly recommend.

Missing Pieces is now available from Omnific Publishing:

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You can also follow Meredith Tate on social media:

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Jennifer Reviews: Pros & Cons by Sydney Logan (@SydneyALogan)

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Synopsis:

Con artists Jenna York and Ethan Summers always seem to cross paths during their travels around the world. With their partners in tow, the cunning criminals wreak havoc across the globe, stealing from the rich and giving to the richer. While Jenna tries to convince herself that she sees him as nothing more than a professional rival, Ethan finds it a little harder to fight his attraction to the beautiful thief.

When tragedy strikes, Jenna and Ethan join forces, but are the stakes too high? Can they escape this last job with their lives—and their hearts—intact?

My Review:

Over the past couple of years, I’ve read and reviewed several of Sydney Logan’s novels. Her books are always well-written and offer a certain amount of sweetness that I find refreshing. I’ve enjoyed all her stories to date, and was excited when I heard another book was on the way. Right from the moment I first saw the cover of Pros & Cons, I knew there was going to be something a bit different about this story.  As soon as I began reading this book, I really began smiling…

 As I slip quietly out of the suite and rush toward the elevator, I can’t deny I’m feeling a little better about Vegas.

That is, until the elevator doors open.

Standing there, leaning against the stainless steel wall with a cocky smile on his face, is the one person I really didn’t want to see this weekend.

With a miserable groan, I step inside the elevator and furiously stab the button.

“Are you following me, Summers?”

“I’d follow your dimples anywhere, York.”

Ethan Summers is infuriatingly charming and handsome. Both assets have proven to be beneficial to his career and detrimental to mine.

“Well, these dimples just lifted Bradley Jones’ credit card numbers.”

“Impressive. Although, one might argue that a more superior con artist would be capable of accomplishing such a feat without showing a little skin. Really, Jenna, I’m disappointed.”

He rarely calls me by my first name. Last names have always been our thing.

“Were you watching me?”

“Every heterosexual man in the casino was watching your little performance. Nice legs, by the way.”

Crap.

“Not good,” I mutter.

“No, but I enjoyed it.”

Ethan grins as the elevator doors open. I don’t protest when he grabs me by the elbow and leads me toward the nearest exit. It’s not brightly lit, but there’s a very nice bouncer that Ethan greets by name who allows us to walk right out the door and into the starry Nevada night. He doesn’t let go of my arm as we hurry toward a black SUV.

“Why are you helping me?”

“You drugged a millionaire and stole his credit card info. I think it’s best we get you out of town.”

That doesn’t really answer my question, but I can’t argue with his logic.
Ethan opens the passenger door and helps me inside.

“Nice stilettos.”

I glare at him, and he shoots me a sexy smile before slamming my door.

It’s really too bad that I hate his guts.

Ethan Summers and I have crossed paths many times throughout the past couple years. It’s unavoidable, considering we’re two of the finest criminal minds in the world.

That’s what the news says, anyway.

“Let me guess,” Ethan says as he pulls the SUV out onto the highway. “You used Rohypnol on Jones?”

I roll my eyes. “I’m a thief, not a sexual predator.”

“Well, you obviously slipped something into his drink.”

“Sleeping pill.”

Ethan hums his disapproval. I can’t argue with him. Slipping Bradley a sedative is so amateur.

“I was desperate. The entire weekend has been a complete waste of time. When did the Viper install dome cams?”

“A few weeks ago. The casino’s hosting the U.S. Poker Championship next month. Ceiling cams are a requirement.”

“Super.”

“I know.”

“So, if you knew about the cameras, what were you doing at the casino?”

“Let’s just say a little birdie told me you were hitting the Viper tonight. I had a feeling you might need my assistance.”

“So you’ve been talking to Abby.”

He remains silent and keeps his eyes trained on the freeway, giving me the chance to study his profile. Ethan has a mop of unruly dark hair and deep blue eyes that make most girls go weak in the knees.

Not this girl. Nope.
“Like what you see?”

My face heats. I hate when he catches me ogling him.

“You’re an ass.”

He laughs. “Someday, Jenna, you’re going to stop fighting this attraction between us. I’m really looking forward to that.”

Right off the bat, Ethan and Jenna show us their incredible chemistry.  Their back and forth banter is flirty and fun, and as the story moves along the sexual tension between the two amps up considerably with each encounter. Along with this dose of humor, however, is a darker plot twist that perfectly offsets the sexy comedy. As the story progressed, I found myself wrapped up within the fast paced plot and drawn up in the suspense generated once years of conning others begins to catch up with Ethan and Jenna.

The synopsis for Pros & Cons is shorter than most books I see, and I think there is good reason for this. There are several great twists and turns within the story, and to reveal any one of them could really diminish from the reader’s overall enjoyment. I am always loathe to reveal spoilers in my reviews, so I’m hoping my enthusiasm for Pros & Cons along with the excerpt I’ve included here will be convincing enough for you to give this book a go. If you’re looking for an entertaining read with some great sexual tension and a large dose of humor thrown in, then I highly recommend Pros & Cons.

While I was reading the story, I tweeted Sydney Logan and informed her this was fast becoming my favorite book of hers, and I still stand behind that tweet in this review. Four fabulous and flirty stars from me!

Buy links:

Kindle

B&N Nook

About Author

Amazon bestselling author Sydney Logan holds a Master’s degree in Elementary Education. She is the author of three novels – Lessons Learned, Mountain Charm, and Soldier On. Sydney has also penned four short stories and is a contributor to Chicken Soup for the Soul.

A native of East Tennessee, Sydney enjoys playing piano and relaxing on her porch with her wonderful husband and their very spoiled cat.

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Jennifer Reviews: Fix You by Beck Anderson (@BeckAndersonID)

Fix You final cover

Adult Contemporary Romance
New release from Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster) March 2015
Previously released by Omnific Publishing

Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Synopsis:

In this modern-day Cinderella story with a charming twist, a young widow with two rambunctious sons falls for a gorgeous movie star. But can she handle life in the limelight?
When Kelly Reynolds’s husband died two years ago, he left her to raise their two young boys. She’s barely pieced herself back together and takes refuge in her routine, running her kids around town and running the trails near their Idaho home.

A chance encounter on a trail run brings famous actor Andy Pettigrew into her life. He’s clearly interested in her, but Kelly hates risk, and a love affair with Andrew is certainly tempting fate. She doesn’t fit into his Hollywood world. She doesn’t own a pair of Louboutins, and she couldn’t walk five steps in them if she did. Andrew oozes cool. She reeks of dork.

Despite this, they click. But Andrew struggles with the pressures of his fame, and Kelly’s hold on a so-called normal life is already tenuous. So as much as she wants to indulge the fantasy, she doesn’t know how either of them is supposed to cope with stalkerazzi and tweet-happy fans with camera phones. Especially when she and Andrew both have secrets that seem impossible to keep…

Add to your Goodreads list!

 My Review:

As an author of a contemporary romance set in the celebrity world of Hollywood, I’m always interested to read someone else’s inside perspective on a movie star’s life.  Having already read another one of Beck Anderson’s novels, I was confident I would be treated to a good story in Fix You.  I’m happy to report that was exactly the case.

Both Fix You and The Jeweler feature heroines who are dealing with loss and grief, which can be a difficult emotion to write about.  It can be easy to over-dramatize the emotions associated with deep loss, just as easily as it can be to underwhelm a reader with a character’s apparent lack of feeling while mourning a loved one.  Just as when one writes about love, there is a fine balance to be maintained when addressing the delicate subject of death and grief. Beck Anderson has proven to me, not just once but twice, that she can convey these complicated emotions organically with her characters and I greatly admire this skill of hers.

When Kelly Reynolds loses her husband at the beginning of Fix You, the reader is taken along on her journey to mourn and to move on with life so that she can remain an involved and caring mother for their two children.  In the process of recovery, Kelly finds herself on vacation with her sons and her parents in California.  One morning she goes out for a jog and ends up running into one of the world’s most sought after movie stars. One brief introduction to Andy Pettigrew, the famous actor, leads to another brief interlude and soon Kelly finds herself easing into a most unlikely new friendship.

“Remember when you were first learning to drive?” I take another deep breath. I’m not sure if I’ve been breathing in any reliable way since we crossed the condo’s threshold.

“Yeah, I do, actually. Everything was a giant ordeal. My dad took me out in our neighborhood. I sneezed and ran the car up on Mr. Hattingfield’s yard. Took out his mailbox.”

“I haven’t been very social lately – except with people I know. Heck, since the boys were born, I haven’t been super social at all. Okay, I wasn’t ever amazingly social to begin with.”

“But your point?” I think he’s kind of grinning. At me. He could be close to laughing.

“I have one. Stop smiling. You’re not helping. The point is, I’m back at the aware-of-every-little-part-of-a-social-interaction stage. Like beginner driving, when you check the mirrors, and you have to think, Turn on the blinker. That’s the stage I’m in. I don’t even know where to look. Do I look right at you the whole time we talk? Do I look you right in the eye?”

I stop to breathe for a second. He turns the mug all the way around by the handle before he responds, his eyes on the tea bag. “You’re fine. You need to breathe, and you need to not tap the spoon on the table. Other than that, I find you pretty socially capable. I might even venture to say charming.”

“Where do I look?” This has devolved into a social etiquette class offered by a movie star to a woman whose mind has completely left her in her moment of need.

“You can always look at me.” He looks up from the mug, right into my eyes.

I agree. I think I could look at him for a nice long while.

Naturally, Andrew (as he prefers to be called) prefers to keep his personal life as private as possible, and given the situation Kelly is currently working through her mindset is in a similar place. The two enjoy a budding but secret friendship, and when Andrew makes an unexpected visit to Kelly’s hometown of Boise, he soon finds that her quiet lifestyle is exactly the kind of life he dreams to call his own.  The two spend limited time with one another but quickly come to rely on each other for a much needed change of pace from their individual normal routines.

Content in their bubble of distraction, Kelly and Andrew easily find ways to avoid sharing some of their deeper personal struggles with one another, but as their affection for one another begins to grow hiding these issues becomes more and more difficult.  Both Kelly and Andrew are in mentally fragile places and Fix You soon transforms into a dramatic love story as a result.

I’ve enjoyed reading Beck Anderson’s books recently and it is easy to see why Fix You was picked up by Gallery Books for a re-release. Beck is a skilled storyteller and she navigates her characters quite naturally through some very extraordinary circumstances.  As a reader, I experienced a wide variety of emotions while immersed in the story and practically read this book through in a single day, after finding it nearly impossible to set down.

For those of you who enjoy a good Hollywood novel or a story about finding love a second time around, I highly recommend Fix You. I happily rate it 4.5 stars!

About the Author

Beck Anderson loves to write about love and its power to heal and grow people past their many imperfections. She is a firm believer in the phrase “mistakes are for learning” and uses it frequently to guide her in writing life and real life.

Beck balances (clumsily at best) writing novels and screenplays, working full-time as an educator, mothering two pre-teen males, loving one post-40 husband, and making time to walk the foothills of Boise, Idaho, with Stefano DiMera Delfino Anderson, the suavest Chihuahua north of the border.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads

Locklear Library: The Prince by Sylvain Reynard (@sylvainreynard)

Morgan and I recently benefited from good book release timing. As we were finishing up our year-long read of Dragonfly in Amber, we realized we would have the perfect opportunity to read the first novella in The Florentine Series before moving on to the next book in the Outlander saga. We read through The Prince in just a couple of evenings and found it an intriguing introduction to the underworld of Florence, Italy.

In case you haven’t read one of our Locklear Library posts before here is how it works. This will be a written conversation between us about our experiences and impressions of the book. We do our best not to disclose spoilers, but we will be talking about the story, and we have no idea what we’ll be asking each other about until now.

Jennifer will go first…

 

the prince

JENNIFER: We’re both long time readers of Sylvain Reynard’s stories, and I know you’ve been curious to see what SR could do with a supernatural series. After reading The Prince what are your first impressions? What do you think of SR’s vampyres and their world?

MORGAN: Did you spell vampyres with a ‘y’ on purpose? SR told me many years ago that he wanted to write a vampire novel and I knew then that he had a dark side just waiting to get out. The Prince was even darker than I had expected. The Prince is savage, and worse yet, unreasonable! I didn’t know if I liked him or loathed him and I tend to enjoy reading complicated characters like that. As you know, I am a fan of creating and re-creating lore. What did you think of how SR used established rules and the new ones we hadn’t heard of before?

JENNIFER: Yes. I did spell the word with a ‘y’ on purpose out of respect for the world created in the Florentine Series.

I remember that we both were excited by the idea that the Prince had the ability to keep others of his kind away from his villa by making them feel physically ill whenever they strayed too close to his home. I have to admit that power could really come in handy sometimes.

A lone figure lurked in the shadows outside the Prince’s villa, which overlooked the city of Florence. From the villa’s windows, one could enjoy an incredible view of the skyline – even at night.

Not that the figure was able to enjoy that prospect.

The Prince used strange magic to repel others of his kind, or so the figure averred. Half a block from the villa, which was more like a fortress, he felt nauseated and uneasy, his muscles twitching. No wonder the Prince had ruled the city for so long. No one was able to set foot inside his gates, let alone challenge him physically.

Much of the vampyre lore I observed in The Prince was not unfamiliar, but I did enjoy how SR put a special twist on some of the usual vampyre rules. The moment when the Prince visits Santa Maria Novella and the Spanish Chapel stands out in my memory. I found myself replaying that scene over and over as I read The Raven. To me, it was an outstanding opportunity to study the true character of the Prince.

I heard you chuckling quite a bit whenever the Prince offered his unsolicited opinions about my beloved Professor Gabriel O. Emerson. May I ask what was so funny?

MORGAN: It was clear to me that SR was making the conversation between the Professor and Julia sickeningly sweet and I liked how it annoyed the Prince. I related to his character in those moments by wanting to kill them myself. I’m glad you brought up the “warding” of places to keep other vampires away. It was a cool bit of writing that I had never encountered before. I get the feeling that Aoibhe will have a bigger role to play in future books. What do you think about her?

“How does it feel to be dead, my lord?” Aoibhe addressed him in English as she entered his private rooms near the Council chamber.

He was seated in a tall wingbacked chair, perusing a leather-bound volume of Machiavelli and listening to medieval music, which he found soothing.

“A better question would be how does it feel to be dead again?”

Aoibhe laughed.

“There are many kinds of death. The littlest of them is my favorite.” She gave him a heated look.

He lifted his eyebrows but said nothing.

“I see you have yet to go into hiding.” She regarded his lavishly decorated apartment with appreciation.

“I wished to retrieve a few items.” He pointed to some books and a couple of manuscripts that he’d placed on a nearby table.

“When was the last time you fed, my lord?”

“Why?”

“I have procured sustenance for you. Someone lovely.”

“This is irregular.” The Prince’s eyes narrowed. “To what do I owe your generosity?”

“I’m glad you’re still alive.”

The Prince took a moment to examine her features.

She was beautiful and strong and very, very ambitious. He wondered if she resented Niccolo’s elevation. At the moment, it seemed clear she wanted something: he simply wasn’t able to discern what it was.

JENNIFER: This is probably a good time for us to mention that while I went on to read The Raven, you haven’t yet had the time to do so. There are a few things I know about Aoibhe now that you don’t, and yes I would say your instincts about her are correct. A few weeks ago, I mentioned online that I thought Aoibhe was a scene stealer (along with who knows what else). She is a fascinating character and, truthfully speaking, I’d love to see a novella that focuses on her. She is cunning and ambitious and I think she has a deeper hold on the Prince that he’s willing to admit to anyone, even himself.

Having read the Gabriel’s Inferno series, we’ve become more familiar with Florence, Italy over the past few years. What did you think of SR’s decision to expand on the setting by populating it with an underworld of vampyres?

MORGAN: He used his setting well, and didn’t just describe its beauty, but its grit. An historic and art filled city, Florence makes for a great place to tell any story; but this one in particular was aided by its magnificent backdrop. It was the Prince who stole the show, however, with his consuming arrogance and his insurmountable power. He captivated me. He is bloodthirsty, and not just because he’s a vampire. There is a rage inside him, a need for satisfaction even though his logic is unjustified. I’ve been wanting to ask you questions about The Raven and whether or not the Prince gets called out on his mindset, but since this is a post about the novella, I’ll restrain myself.

Do you like this new direction SR is taking as a writer, moving from romance to life and death supernatural drama? Does his exploration of evil up the ante for future books?

JENNIFER: I’ve been a fan of supernatural stories for most of my life, so I’ve been looking forward to The Florentine Series for a while now. Although it was tempting to devour the story, I forced myself to read The Raven slowly. There is so much I’d love to talk to you about, so I hope you get the chance to read it soon. I can say with confidence that if you enjoyed your introduction with The Prince, then you would definitely like The Raven. In the novella, the Prince witnesses a private moment between the Emersons that stays with him and this begins to influence his choices during The Raven. I find the complexity of his character absorbing. The Prince’s vampirism is a trait that cannot be ignored, but I see it as merely one aspect of a very complicated individual. There is still plenty of romance within the story, so fans of the Professor shouldn’t be disappointed in that regard; and yes, I think SR’s exploration on the themes of justice and mercy have made for a compelling read. I’m very much looking forward to the next two books.

If you’ve enjoyed our talk today and would like to look up Sylvain Reynard and his works, here is the Goodreads link for you to check out.

Please also feel free to friend us on Goodreads to see what else we’re reading and to share your recommendations with us.

Morgan  Jennifer

See you soon and thanks for reading!

Jennifer Reviews: The Jeweler by Beck Anderson (@BeckAndersonID)

The Jeweler Banner-1

Adult Contemporary Romance
Published by Omnific Publishing
Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Synopsis:

Fender Barnes profits from an institution he doesn’t believe in: marriage. He’s a talented designer, but a reluctant jewelry store owner, thanks to his pop’s retirement. He’s cynical, he’s jaded, he’s not entirely certain about the concept of love, but he’s happy to sell an eager young guy an engagement ring for his fiancée to be—until moments after the transaction when that eager guy is hit by a car and killed, and Fender’s conscience pays a rare visit.

He retrieves the ring and decides to find the woman his customer intended to marry. That woman turns out to be Ginger Stevens, twenty-something ski instructor, who—despite being full of guilt and self-doubt after the death of her boyfriend—is someone Fender finds he quite enjoys being around. He’s smitten.

Which is all well and good, except that after he meets her, Fender can’t do it. Though it’s right there in his pocket, he can’t tell her about the ring. Instead, he embarks on a long, ridiculous quest to find a way to tell her the truth he knows she deserves. Aided by advice from Pop and the antics of his best friend Sam, Fender tries desperately to juggle his budding romance with the reality he knows could ruin it.

Will he find love or foul it up? Can Ginger move out of the past to embrace what the future has to offer? Meet this unlikely pair in Beck Anderson’s heartfelt and fabulously funny second novel, The Jeweler.

Add to your Goodreads list!

My Review:

I’ll make one statement right upfront. For me, there was a familiarity with The Jeweler that was particularly endearing. The story is set in Boise, Idaho, which is a place that many of my family and friends call home. We travel there for family events every once in a while and so I recognized many of the settings used in this novel (the scene at the Record Exchange was a particular favorite). There’s even a mention of an Oregon coast town that I know well and it really helped me connect on a deeper level with the book. It was as though I was reading about people I already knew.

The synopsis above does a stellar job of explaining the overall plot,  so I won’t bother to recap the summary here. I’d rather spend my limited review space highlighting the one big note I made about The Jeweler as I read it.  There’s a unique spin on this romantic tale that I don’t often come across in such stories. Ready?

While this is a narrative written in third person, and explores the perspectives of Ginger and Fender, I found that much of the romantic story unfolded from the male point of view.

“Fender looked back on his “wasted youth” and didn’t feel regret; he just felt sorry for his dad. Oh, to have a son who excelled in mediocrity, with a side of troublemaking. This was yet another reason to never have children; they might inherit his juvenile delinquency. And another reason not to get married. But Fender was constantly reminded why he despised marriage, regardless. Every time he’d craft a delicate setting with a pale, clear diamond, and it went on the hand of a crass, selfish gold digger, or some cheating, sweaty lout gave a necklace of blood red rubies to his unsuspecting, hard-working wife, Fender remembered how he felt about the sacred institution.”

Not only does the reader become well-accustomed with Fender’s thoughts and feelings about romance in general and Ginger in particular, but many of the story conflicts and solutions are largely driven by the male influences in Fender’s life.  Fender’s best friend, Sam, is the epitome of the Pacific Northwest bachelor. He lives a quiet, unassuming life and enjoys smoking, Carhartt coveralls and beer. He’s perfectly content and could truly care less if people can’t deal with his choices.  But he’s also warm and loyal and willing to help Fender figure out his dilemma with Ginger.  He pushes Fender to stray outside his romantic comfort zones, and stays right by his side through thick and thin.

Another source of male guidance and support is Fender’s father. Not only has he looked after Fender emotionally, he has also provided his only child with an established jewelry business for financial security. Having grown up without a mother and with no other siblings, Fender’s experiences with women are largely limited. Until his life intersects with Ginger’s under a set of tragic circumstances, Fender has kept his interactions with women casual, seemingly as Sam and his father sit on the sidelines waiting for Fender to discover something or someone special.

Pop’s questioning gray eyes were still trained on Fender, and his sparse mustache twitched with curiosity. “Tell me, Sonny. What’d you do today?”

“Nothing.” The day had been humiliating enough. He didn’t want his dad to know on top of it all.

“Jerry, he was in fine form.” Sam sat across the table from them, out of Fender’s striking distance.

Fender tilted his head and shot his most withering look at Sam. “I went skiing.”

“No, no, it’s better than that. We went after this girl, and Fender learned how to ski all over again. He also tried to use two old ladies as bowling pins.” Sam’s shoulders were shaking again.

As per usual, Pop focused on the woman in the conversation. “Fender went after a girl? Really? Does this mean little Sandy didn’t make you swear off women forever?”

Sam brightened. “I’d almost forgotten about Sandy. Isn’t she the one that wrote I HATE YOU with weed killer on your front lawn?” Sam sat back and stretched his arms out on the top of the booth, relaxed and apparently prepared for a stroll down Fender’s memory lane of exes.

As The Jeweler unfolds, we see that even Ginger tends to rely on the support and advice of these two gents; and as a captivated reader I was glad to see her do so.   For these reasons, this novel was an enchanting and refreshing read for me. I’ve become a true fan of Beck Anderson as a result, and I’m hoping that she’ll be willing to meet up with me in downtown Boise the next time I happen to pop into town for a visit.  The author has that special ability to infuse both tragedy and humor into a novel without skewing to extremes with either. Not only is this novel filled with characters I swear I already know, it tells a story that is as realistic and fragile as it is courageous and surreal. Just like life.

An enthusiastic four star read from me!

About the Author:

Beck Anderson loves to write about love and its power to heal and grow people past their many imperfections. She is a firm believer in the phrase “mistakes are for learning” and uses it frequently to guide her in writing life and real life.

Beck balances (clumsily at best) writing novels and screenplays, working full-time as an educator, mothering two pre-teen males, loving one post-40 husband, and making time to walk the foothills of Boise, Idaho, with Stefano DiMera Delfino Anderson, the suavest Chihuahua north of the border.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads

Jennifer Reviews: Love Starts With Z by Tera Shanley (@terashanley)

LSWZ Cover

 

Synopsis:

Twenty-four years into the Dead outbreak that ended the world, Soren Mitchell sticks out like a sore thumb in the remains of the human race. She’s an anomaly: a hybrid of human and Dead, created by her mother’s genetic immunity. Like her parents, she’s fierce and strong. But despite their hopes for her happiness and safety, and even though she is no real threat to the colony, she has let the humans muzzle her and confine her within the walls of Dead Run River in search of a cure.

When Kaegan Langford stumbles into the colony with an injured friend draped across his shoulders, her world is turned upside down. Intrigued and affected by her, he asks her to come to Empalme, Mexico with him to fight in the war between Deads and humans. It’ll be a long, treacherous journey to the coast, but she’s had all she can take in the colony.

Battles with Deads, betrayal, injury, kidnappings, and a criminal-run train ride stand between them and the war. But in the end, it’s not just the war with the Deads that could be the death of them.

Tera Shanley’s final book in the Dead Rapture series will thrill your heart…and your braaaains.

My Review:

Love Starts With Z is the third and final book in the Dead Rapture series, and I have to confess upfront that I’ve haven’t yet read the first two books.

Tera’s novel was brought to my attention by her publisher, and after hearing a little bit about the plot I decided that I would give it a go.  Admittedly, this was a bit of a risk but I’m happy to say that the book can easily be read as a stand alone novel. And perhaps the even better news is that I now plan to backtrack and read the others in this series.

The easy description of this novel is to call it a zombie story, but  it is a zombie story with what I considered to be a unique angle.  The main character of the book is a young woman named Soren Mitchell.  Born in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, Soren is a living, breathing, conscious human who happens to possess many of the physical traits of a zombie. While her zombie-like appearance and her tendency to enjoy extremely rare meat make it difficult for other humans to trust her (most humans initially are inclined to kill her at first sight), these traits also make it possible for Soren to come into direct contact with zombies (also referred to as Deads) without danger of being attacked.

At the beginning of Love Starts With Z, we learn that Soren has left the colony of humans she was born into and raised by to live with a different colony. The purpose in doing so is to assist researchers in their quest to develop a cure for the deadly zombie outbreak that constantly threatens to wipe out the dwindling human race. In this new colony, Soren is treated more like a Dead than a human. She is forced to adhere to a strict series of rules developed to protect humans, but at the cost of dehumanizing Soren. Despite the inhumane treatment, Soren endures in ultimate hopes that her personal sacrifice will benefit mankind.

Amidst this chaos, a young man named Kaegan Langford finds himself at Soren’s colony. Once he’s made aware of her existence, Kaegan becomes infatuated by Soren. What begins as intense curiosity in Soren soon develops into something much more substantial. Kaegan finds her treatment by others in her colony cruel and is soon inclined to become a defender of the mysterious young woman.

Anger coursed his veins, red and blinding until all he could think about was wrapping his fingers around Colten’s throat. Closing his eyes, he counted to ten, and then ground out, “If you call her a zombie again, your nose will match Mark’s.”

“Geez, man. You’re so touchy now.”

“He’s got it bad,” Ben said.

Bad? Nah. He’d liked girls before. It had been a few years since he’d had any kind of steady relationship with one, but bad? So he thought about her more than was maybe healthy. And he worried about her wellbeing. And when people insulted her, he wanted to kill them slowly. Okay, so maybe he did have it worse than he ever had before, but it was Soren. She was different. Not just the way she looked, which enamored him more every time he saw her, but she was kind. Not polite-kind to trick people into liking her, but she was someone who honestly cared about the feelings of others. And she did what she thought was right no matter what anyone else thought of her. She was respectable, beautiful—this gorgeous warrior who had consumed him, mind and body, without any effort at all. And when she fought? She was an artist.

“Hello,” Colten said, waving his hand in Kaegan’s face.

Irritated, he swatted it away and ducked a low hanging branch.

Soon, a friendship begins to grow between Kaegan and Soren and the two allies quickly find themselves caught up in circumstances that accelerate both the depth of their connection and their respect for one another.

While I’m pretty open to reading books of all kinds, I do have to admit that I’ve never sought out zombie stories. What I enjoyed about Love Starts With Z was that while the zombie outbreak is an integral part of the overall plot, this novel is really more about how humans can sometimes be more frightening than the numerous Deads wandering aimlessly in search of brains.  The unusual dynamic that develops between Soren and Kaegan made for a compelling read, and ultimately I found their eventual outcome uncertain due to the unconventionality of their relationship.

The action scenes were well-written, the various characters were numerous and interesting, and the emotional scenes were captivating. There were great moments of suspense and swoon, and I’d happily recommend the Dead Rapture series to anyone looking to read something a bit outside the usual realms of the typical romance novel.

Love Starts With Z is now available from Omnific Publishing:

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Book One (only 99 cents for the month of February! Get it now!)

Book Two

You can also follow Tera Shanley on social media:

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Locklear Library: Dragonfly In Amber by Diana Gabaldon

It’s hard to believe but, it’s been a year since our last Locklear Library installment. We really enjoy this segment and have wanted to do much more with it than we have; but therein lies the problem. Those Outlander books are big!

We read books together, which is to say that Jennifer reads them aloud while Morgan plays stick figure golf on his phone. Dragonfly In Amber, the second book in the Outlander series, is big enough to be mistaken for a family bible and we also had our hands full with the editing and publishing or our own novel. Needless to say, it was a long year that went by in a short time but during that time we have made a ton of Outlander (and OutMANder) friends.

To refresh your memory (and ours), this post will be a written conversation between us about our experiences and impressions of the book. We do our best not to disclose spoilers, but we will be talking about the story, and we have no idea what we’ll be asking each other about until now.

Morgan will go first…

 

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MORGAN: Before we began reading, you warned me that Dragonfly In Amber was written differently than Outlander. This is, of course, due to the fact that the story is bookended by narrative that takes place in two different times. How did you find this change in tone and tense served the novel?

JENNIFER: It was a bold, yet essential decision for the saga to include third person narrative in addition to the continuation of Claire’s first person perspective. The plot broadens so much in Dragonfly In Amber and goes far beyond Claire’s supernatural experiences and her love story with Jamie. Claire’s limited perspective couldn’t possibly cover all of the important plot points that occur in the second book. I also think the change in narrative style sets the perfect tone for Voyager, the third book in the series.

“Roger followed Brianna toward the front of the room, watching the curling tendrils that escaped from her braid to coil damply on her neck.

All that remained now at the front of the kirk was a plain wooden ledge above the hole where the altarstone had been removed. Still, Roger felt something of a quiver up his spine as he stood beside Brianna, facing the vanished altar.

The sheer intensity of his feelings seemed to echo in the empty space. He hoped she couldn’t hear them. They had known each other barely a week, after all, and had had scarcely any private conversation. She would be taken aback, surely, or frightened, if she knew what he felt. Or worse yet, she would laugh.”

As we progressed through Dragonfly In Amber, I noticed your attitude toward Roger (Mackenzie) Wakefield shift significantly throughout the story. You definitely had varying reactions to his character, so I’d like to hear your thoughts about him.

MORGAN: I was getting pretty bored with the first several chapters of Dragonfly In Amber. I wanted to get back to the story in the past, and Roger’s character didn’t exactly jump off the page at the beginning. However, when Claire told her tale to Roger and Brianna, and then revealed how his own past was wrapped up in the story, I was thrilled to see the future world of the story finally connect with the past. Roger is a dry fellow, and I wonder how much more we are going to see of him and his ancestors.

Speaking of ancestors, I was surprised to see how Geilie fit back into the story. Dragonfly In Amber ended well with her having a big moment that (for me) changed everything. What do you think of her? Does Claire finally get a BFF?

JENNIFER: Having read a bit further into the series than you, it’s possible I already know the answer to that question. And you know me; I don’t like to post spoilers. I would simply say that all the characters (Claire included) held a certain level of distrust for Geilie and that should probably be kept in mind going forward.

It was fun watching your reaction to Geilie’s re-appearance in Dragonfly In Amber. As someone who doesn’t know happens after the end of Book Two, I’m curious to hear what your theories are about her?

MORGAN: Well, I am currently processing the fact that when Geilie went through the rocks in 1968 she arrived in the past BEFORE Claire got there, even though Claire went through in1947. I predict that both Claire and Brianna will go back together and Roger might even accompany them, owing to the perceived bad parenting decision to take one’s daughter to Rapeville.

No matter what happens, I know I’ll be hooked because the author, Diana Gabaldon, has really found her voice and is crafting some of the most interesting historical fiction I’ve read since Ken Follet’s, Pillars of the Earth. Has Outlander become your new favorite series, outstripping even Twilight and Harry Potter?

JENNIFER: I have so much personal emotional investment in my Twilight reading experience that I think I just have to put that series aside completely in order to objectively answer your question.

I loved reading the Harry Potter books, but I could finish them and walk away not worrying too much about what else I might be missing out on. I do think Outlander will stand out as one of the best books series I’ll ever read simply because I was immediately willing to go back and re-read these books with you. And this is no slight commitment. It took us over a year to finish reading the first two books and we’re only a quarter of the way done with the series. So, I think it’s fair to say we’ll be investing a lot of quality time reading this saga together. That’s bound to be a far reaching memory for both of us.

During Dragonfly In Amber, we were introduced to more of Jamie Fraser’s family. I noticed that Simon Fraser (Lord Lovat) to be of great amusement to you. Do you want to comment on some of the ways in which humor was effectively used by Diana Gabaldon to craft a more compelling story?

MORGAN: Ah yes, Lord Lovat, the old false teeth wearing bastard that dared to blackmail Jamie with threats about his new wife’s continued virtue. Jamie burned him good with his reply, and it was only one of the many good belly laughs I had while reading this book with you. I always think that a bit of humor is valuable in a story, and the Outlander series is almost as funny as it is everything else. Most of the light moments come during Jamie and Claire’s disagreements, but there was some political humor in this book as well as some snarky observations of historical irony.

I raised my arms, reaching behind my head to gather my hair into a bun. Suddenly Jamie leaned forward and grasped my wrist, pulling my arm into the air.

“What are you doing?” I said, startled.

“What have you done, Sassenach?” he demanded. He was staring under my arm.

“Shaved,” I said proudly. “Or rather, waxed. Louise had her servante aux petits soins – you know, her personal groomer? – there this morning, and she did me, too.”

“Waxed?” Jamie looked rather wildly at the candlestick by the ewer, then back at me. “You put wax in your oxters?”

“Not that kind of wax,” I assured him. “Scented beeswax. The grooming lady heated it, then spread the warm wax on. Once it’s cooled, you just jerk it off,” I winced momentarily in recollection, “and Bob’s your uncle.”

“My uncle Bob wouldna countenance any such goings-on,” said Jamie severely. “What in hell would ye do that for?” He peered closely at the site, still holding my wrist up.

“Didn’t it hur … hurt … choof!” He dropped my hand and backed up rapidly.

“Didn’t it hurt?” he asked, handkerchief to nose once more.

“Well, a bit,” I admitted. “Worth it, though, don’t you think?” I asked, raising both arms like a ballerina and turning slightly to and fro. “First time I’ve felt entirely clean in months.”

“Worth it?” he said, sounding a little dazed. “What’s it to do wi’ clean, that you’ve pulled all of the hairs out from under your arms?”

A little belatedly, I realized that none of the Scottish women I had encountered employed any form of depilation. Furthermore, Jamie had almost certainly never been in sufficiently close contact with an upper-class Parisienne to know that many of them did. “Well,” I said, suddenly realizing the difficulty an anthropologist faces in trying to interpret the more singular customs of a primitive tribe. “It smells much less,” I offered.

“And what’s wrong wi’ the way ye smell?” he said heatedly. “At least ye smelt like a woman, not a damn flower garden. What d’ye think I am, a man or a bumblebee?”

What did you think the relationship between Jack Randall and Claire, and how it changed from Book One to Book Two? I didn’t expect them to even want to be in the same room but they enter into a kind of uneasy agreement for peace. Do you think it will make a difference in the end?

JENNIFER: As a writer, I can answer that the truce in their relationship was absolutely elemental to serve the overall story. As a reader, it certainly created a new layer of drama and it allowed me to appreciate the complexity of both characters just that much more. No matter how we feel about Black Jack Randall, we know he must exist and do certain things to ensure the existence of Claire’s first husband, Frank.

Speaking of poor Frank, the TV adaptation of Outlander debuted while we were reading Dragonfly In Amber, and I was so pleased to see how Frank’s character evolved on the show for a couple of reasons. Unlike many readers, I didn’t find his early scenes with Claire in Outlander boring or off-putting. I always believed Frank loved Claire, but that due to the extraordinary circumstances their marriage was forced to endure, they simply didn’t know one another like they should have.

I liked that the television series shows us the agony that Frank goes through when Claire disappears through the stones at Craigh na Dun. I also think that when you compare Frank’s character to that of Black Jack Randall, it makes Jack’s treachery all the more evil in contrast. I think by shining a bigger spotlight on Frank in the TV show, it ultimately makes Jack Randall a more effective villain.

Were there any elements of the TV series that you felt enhanced the story as you know it?

MORGAN: Like you, I’m thrilled that Frank Randall has been better developed. Tobias Menzies certainly has landed himself a juicy dual role. It took me a while to get used to Jamie, but I really love the casting. It helped me keep some of the clansmen straight as well. I’ll also admit I was pleased that the TV show was just as sexual and exposed as the book was.

Didn’t you say Book Three has been your favorite so far? Care to give me a hint as to why?

JENNIFER: Well, since we read the first chapter of Voyager together last evening, I don’t think it won’t spoil anything to say that we get to know more about Jamie Fraser in Book 3.

We’ll experience Jamie from something other than Claire’s perspective, and as a result I think there will be some truly eye-opening moments. I really can’t wait to have that discussion with you. You’ve already experienced so much by reading the first two books, but you haven’t seen anything yet…

MORGAN: I remember a scene from Outlander where Jamie got his first real thrashing from his father and afterward he was told to go into the house to let his mother comfort him. When he protested, his father told him something like “It’s not for you Lad, it’s for her.” I liked the parts we read about Jamie’s life before Claire and if book three is going to dip us into that again I will no doubt like it as much as you.

As Jennifer mentioned, we have already begun Voyager, (7% complete according to the Kindle), and will write up our feelings in another edition of Locklear Library as soon as we’re done.

In the meantime, we will be posting another discussion on Sylvain Reynard’s novella, The Prince, in the next few weeks. We read it to cleanse the palate between Books Two and Three of the Outlander series.

If you’ve enjoyed our talk today and would like to look up Diana Gabaldon and her works, here is the Goodreads link for you to check out.

Please also feel free to friend us on Goodreads to see what else we’re reading and to share your recommendations with us.

Morgan  Jennifer

See you soon and thanks for reading!

Pop Talk: Fifty Shades of L.A.

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Quite unexpectedly, we were invited to attend the Los Angeles screening of Fifty Shades of Grey last weekend. Although the trip away from home was spontaneous, we decided it was the perfect way to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary and Valentine’s Day all in one swoop. So, we drove to the Portland airport and hopped a plane last Thursday.

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The hotel we stayed at downtown had a multi-level Japanese garden so we spent our first morning roaming around on a rooftop oasis in the midst of skyscrapers and at least one cathedral. It reminded us of a similar garden Morgan created in a story called Brutte Parole. It also brought back some fond memories of working together when we were just finding our feet in fiction.

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Later in the day, we ventured to Hollywood, where there are more size twelve thigh high glitter boots than anywhere else in the world. Morgan always likes to purchase new music any time we travel and he had no trouble selecting a few albums at a huge store called Amoeba. He picked up a few here-to-fore difficult finds for his extensive LP collection, and then it was back to the hotel to gussy ourselves up for the big night downtown.

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It was a major and pleasant surprise to run into no less than ten people we’ve gotten to know in this online community. After picking up our movie tickets from Will Call, the group ventured across the street to the Ritz Carlton. We enjoyed cocktails and appetizers from the 24th floor bar. We were able to place faces with names and enjoyed a fantastic view of the city as the clock ticked ever closer to showtime.

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The theater was electric. People were buzzing like eager chainsaws to see the movie and the sense of comradery was like that of a Comic-Con. We stopped short of locking arms and singing “Single Ladies”, but it was truly a night of goodwill and well wishes all around. Morgan noted that he had the men’s restroom all to himself and Jennifer got a chance to deepen her relationships with already beloved friends in her Twitter feed.

When the lights went down, the crowd cheered. As the movie’s title appeared over the cloudy skies of Seattle while Anne Lennox sang “You’ve Got a Spell on Me” we knew we were about to see something fabulous.

As the characters were introduced to us, we both agreed the movie was quite funny. The humor throughout the film was a welcome relief as the stakes were raised for the seemingly mismatched lovers. The chemistry was clearly as thick as Jell-O between Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele. His coolness mixed with her shy warmth made a strong tea and the aroma wafted through the large theater.

We were instantly taken back to those long ago days of reading the story chapter by chapter as E.L. James’ updates nearly broke fanfiction.net and rendered Twitter a virtual ghost town every week for about two years. It didn’t take long for the film to intensify as the relationship between Christian and Anastasia deepened. The sex scenes were hot and the acting was fierce. Danny Elfman’s score was perfect in tone and instrumentation as the characters discovered one another. We were all getting hooked on this captivating love story once again.

Many people (who have probably never bothered to read the books) declare that this is a story that degrades women and must therefore be avoided. We feel that it is a story of a man who takes control to maintain his own sanity and who simply doesn’t know another way until he meets a woman who refuses to play by his rules. If that isn’t a story about how strong women can be, we don’t know what is.

By the end of the movie, we were left breathless and wholly impressed with the efforts put forth by the production team. The film looked amazing, hit all the good points in the book, and will put Dakota Johnson at the center of a bidding war for her talents for a long time to come.

Jamie Dornan was good as well. Not that we ever considered Fifty to be a robot, but he was always so intense and so focused on having all the control, that it was difficult to picture him as any kind of normal. Christian came off much colder in the book, and we liked seeing his humanity shine through in the movie. It made it easier to realize how Ana could truly fall for him and care so much about his well-being despite his quirks. Jamie Dornan played his steely persona with skill and according to all the ladies present, had a very nice butt.

(Now who’s being objectified).

Fifty Shades of Grey was always going to be good for us given our history with the story and its author; but it far exceeded our wildest dreams and we will be seeing it again when it comes to our hometown theater.

Those who don’t like it frankly have higher expectations than could ever be met. Even for those who haven’t read the book (maybe especially for those who haven’t read the book), the movie is a powerhouse of performances that will stick with you long after the lights come up.

We wish to thank E.L. James for her continued generosity as a friend and send more hugs to those who we met in Los Angeles. The weekend was as memorable as it gets!

The other two movies have been greenlit, so we will now eagerly await the completion of these sequels. In the interim, we’ll just have to satisfy ourselves with the DVD release, which we predict (hope) will have an unrated version of the film.

Thank you for reading and enjoy your experience watching Fifty Shades of Grey!

Morgan and Jennifer

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Jennifer Reviews: Closer and Closer by Jenna Barton (@WriteyJennaB)

Closer and Closer

The Synopsis:

Dominance and submission. The delicate balance between hurts so good and too hot to handle. They’re not just kinky trends for the members of The Enclave, a tight-knit group gathering in a Gilded Age mansion secluded in the North Carolina mountains.

Come Closer…

For Erin Proctor, life has always been about working hard, creating stability, and succeeding. She plays it safe, watching from a distance. Then she encounters an unpredictable, sensual world she’s always known was there, but didn’t believe she could belong to.

Walt Easton is straightforward and unpretentious, a big, earthy man in possession of himself—and a fierce set of solid leather floggers. Once he and Erin meet, their attraction is undeniable. Walt wants a full relationship, not just fun in the playroom. Their kinky adventures can be negotiated later.

They’ve finally found a relationship that can let them explore who they fully are. But can Walt accept that while he’s in charge in their private lives, when it comes to her job, Erin is the one in charge? Will Erin take the risk of letting down her walls and allowing Walt in all the way?

The biggest risk, after all, isn’t mixing pain and pleasure. It’s finding yourself—in love.

The first book of The Enclave series will bring you Closer to your desire.

My Review:

I have to start this review with the disclaimer that I haven’t read a wide variety of stories that feature BDSM, but when I was offered the opportunity to read Closer and Closer there was just something about the synopsis that told me this book was worth a peek. I agreed to receive an ARC in exchange for an honest review and I’ve been mulling over my thoughts on this book for a couple of weeks now.

The story begins with Erin Proctor, a successful and single career woman who has just relocated from California to North Carolina. She does so not only to pursue a promising job opportunity, but also to put some distance between herself and her mother and sister (who have always depended on Erin to be the responsible one). Having secretly possessed a curiosity about the taboo world of BDSM, Erin now finds an opportunity to indulge her interests in a town full of strangers. After being invited by an acquaintance to a *demonstration*, Erin is introduced to Walt Easton at the event.

The attraction between Erin and Walt is sparked almost immediately, but not in the overtly sexual way I would have expected. Erin and Walt genuinely like one another and their friendship forms in a quiet, even sweet way.  By day, Walt is a responsible and unassuming Park Ranger, but he’s also been an *ahem* active Dominant for most of his adult life. Erin know this and is intrigued by him…

He was recalling last night. I knew it, in another atypical flash of human-focused intuition. Felt it, really, as a plume of heat rolled down my neck.

I cleared my throat. “Thank you for inviting me. I’m sure it’s unusual, asking someone to your workplace who’s from…well, you know—there?”

He glanced away, turning the brim of his hat through his hand, then gestured toward me.

“I’m glad you came.”

The timbre of his voice never changed, but the volume softened appreciably. Before I could stifle the thought, I wondered what his voice would sound like in the morning, across from me in my bed, or in my ear as his thick thighs rode between mine, behind me as he grasped my hair and drove into me again and again.

Warmth quite unlike anything I’d known spread, from that first shimmer across my neck, to my shoulders, and sparked a fuse traveling straight down my spine.

His mouth twitched slightly, then spread into a disarmingly sweet smile as his eyebrows lifted. A small rumbling chuckle escaped his chest, and then Walt the Park Ranger with matching floggers shocked the hell out of me. His eyes darted toward the parking lot, he looked down, and the tips of his ears flushed.

“I think it’s just us,” he said, still looking away, and put his ranger’s hat on. “Want to get goin’?”

“Yes, of course.” I bristled inwardly at the sound of my own voice: too efficient, mechanical, harsh.

As we walked across the wooden bridge at the trail’s head, I settled into a pace a little slower than his. Practically, his legs were much longer and he would constantly trip over me if I lead. Letting him lead made sense.

An added benefit was a better view of the movement of his legs against his dark olive green pants, and the round, muscular backside that rippled in differing defined landscapes with each step. His pale green ranger’s shirt stretched across his broad back as his arms swung, revealing even more refined muscles. They strained slightly against the short sleeves before continuing on to tanned forearms, scattered with brown hair.

I pushed a damp strand of hair from my neck. Only May and it’s this humid?

On the other side of the spectrum, Walt is a man who has sworn off relationships in favor of play. When he is introduced to Erin, he immediately knows that she is new to the scene; but he also senses there is a deeper yearning brewing within her. Something more than the mere exploration of her deepest sexual fantasies. Walt intuits (correctly) that Erin wants to experiment as a submissive and he offers her careful guidance as she delves more and more into a lifestyle she knows precious little about.  What I found welcoming about Walt was his concern for Erin’s well-being. He is not an alpha man simply looking to take advantage of a naive woman. Walt values and respects Erin and strives to nurture her burgeoning sexuality.

“So how long have you been in…um, known Cla—clover?”

“How long have I known Claire or how long have I been in the lifestyle?” He took a long drink from his water bottle. “Or how long have I been kinky?”

“I don’t know.” His directness pinned me down, with no easy route to a more comfortable means of discovering everything I wanted to know about him. I wanted to hear his version of this thing—a lifestyle, maybe—he shared with Claire. And I did want to know, not only because I should if what felt like our mutual attraction became something more, but because of him. Already, I liked him. I wanted to know Walt’s story. Maybe all of them.

“Kinky. How long?”

Glancing over at me with a wry half-smile, he laughed softly. “Straight to the point, huh?”

I shrugged, pulled at a stray peanut and bit into it. “I suppose. I wonder about things, though.”

“About?”

“About people. I’m curious about how people figure things out. Not just with—” I gestured toward the forest, like it was where I’d find the perfect example of the parts of BDSM I always was curious about. “That. Being into that.”

“Hey, Erin,” he said, tipping his shoulder toward mine like a conspirator. “If you have a hard time saying it, you might want to reconsider giving it a try.”

As I read Closer and Closer, I was completely won over by Erin and Walt. Their relationship may not be defined by convention, but it is wholly real.  It is emotional and complex, intelligent and sensual. And while all my attention in this review is focused on them, this book also contains a fabulous ensemble cast of characters, each as well-developed and captivating as the two leads. This novel is the first in the new Enclave series by author Jenna Barton, and I’ve been given a few clues by the author as to what comes next.

I’ve thought a lot about this story (and definitely about Walt) over the past few weeks and I’ll be on pins and needles waiting for the forthcoming books! I’ve been spoiled lately with several 5 star reads, and I’ll happily add this story to that list.

Closer and Closer will be released by Omnific Publishing on February 10th, 2015.

You can add it to your Goodreads list or you can follow Jenna Barton’s Amazon page to await the live links.

You can also follow Jenna Barton on social media:

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Jennifer Reviews: Seven For A Secret by Rumer Haven (@RumerHaven)

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The Synopsis:

It’s the year 2000, and twenty-four-year-old Kate moves into a new apartment to find a new state of independence in a new millennium. Almost immediately, she starts crushing on a hot guy who lives in her building. Deciding to take a break from her boyfriend Dexter, Kate believes the only thing now separating her from the fresh object of her sexual fantasies is the thin wall between their neighboring apartments.

A former 1920s hotel, Camden Court has housed many lonely lives over the decades—and is where a number of them have come to die. They’re not all resting in peace, however, including ninety-year-old Olive, who dropped dead in Kate’s apartment and continues to make her presence known.

For Olive has a secret she’s dying to tell. One linking her to the sex, scandal, and sacrifice of a young dreamer named Lon. As the past haunts the present, Kate’s romantic notion that the thrill-of-the-chase beats the reality-after-the-catch unexpectedly entwines her modern-day love life with Lon’s Jazz Age tragedy.

With a little supernatural and a lotta’ razzle-dazzle, Seven for a Secret is where historical fiction meets contemporary rom-com—from the Roaring Twenties when the “New Woman” was born, to the modern Noughties when she really came of age.

My Review:

Truthfully speaking, Seven For A Secret is not just one love story, but two. Although both are told simultaneously and are set in the same city of Chicago, they take place 75 years apart from one another.  One story takes place during the Roaring 20’s and is centered around Lon and Eva. Lon is a man who is attempting to discover his own place in the world, away from the societal expectations of his upbringing.

“Staring down at the floor as he strode deeper down the corridor, Lon lost his focus in observation of the intricate design, step after colorfully tiled step – until his wingtips stubbed against a marble lip rising about an inch from the floor. He looked up to meet the life-sized stone likeness of a courtier wooing a fair maiden above a fountain. The couple was white as purity and forever frozen mere inches from embrace.

“The thrill of the chase,” Lon murmured. “The only thrill there is.”

Lon isn’t looking for love, but finds it anyhow when he attends a party and meets Eva, a young and intelligent woman who immediately captures his eye.

“There was no doubt about it: she was exquisite. Lon knew this not to be a matter of his opinion, but a fact.This beauty had nothing to do with which eye beheld it. It was there, filling all eyes in the same way, no more, no less. She is for everyone.”

In stark contrast is the story of Kate and Dexter, set in the year 2000.  By all accounts, Kate has found a good man in her work colleague, Dexter. But as their relationship deepens and the pressure mounts for Kate to make a long-term commitment she becomes insistent on setting boundaries by moving out of his condo and into her own studio apartment.

“The music next door had stopped, perhaps already had some time ago while she and Dex had been…what? Making love? Just passing the time? What was it that she’d really wanted when she’d walked out of that Lake Shore condo? Suddenly, she couldn’t breathe as the responsibility for Dexter’s heart crushed down on her own. Absence was only making things foggier so far.”

Kate’s desire to establish some personal distance from Dexter provides some potential complication when she notices a good looking stranger in her new building  – a man she soon begins to speculate is her next door neighbor.

“Suddenly shy and anxious about what might happen next, she turned to press her palm against the wall behind her. It felt warm, a soothing contrast to her room that had just turned so cold. She imagined Hot Neighbor sitting there with his hand against the wall, too, directly opposite her. What if he’d noticed her before and wanted to get her attention? Maybe seen her around sometime, even if just out his window, and then followed the sound of her footsteps and door slams to trace her to this unit? Kind of stalkerish, but awfully flattering, Kate thought. After all, she was doing the same thing with him.”

The historical love story is dramatic and dark, while the modern contemporary tale is lighter and humorous. At first glance it might be tempting to think there is too much story within one novel, but Rumer Haven balances it all so well.  Both love stories are compelling, intelligent and heart-warming.  Haven’s narrative is both poetic and endearing and I quickly found myself admiring the effort and devotion that went into writing this story.  There were moments in Seven For A Secret when I laughed out loud, shed a few tears and held my breath while I read.

This novel hit all the right spots emotionally for me, and I highly recommend it. Typically, I’m stingy in doling out 5 star ratings. I only do when I know that a book has made a lasting impression on me and when I know that others will feel the same way once they’ve given the story their time and attention.

Seven For A Secret receives an enthusiastic 5 star rating from me!

I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing what Rumer Haven produces next, which incidentally won’t be long from now. Her next release, Four Somethings and a Sixpence, is coming up on February 3!

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