Monday, November 30, 2015

Review: Lord Dashwood Missed Out

Spindle Cove #4.5
Tessa Dare
Historical Romance
144 pages
Available December 8th
Source: eARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
A snowstorm hath no fury like a spinster scorned!

Miss Elinora Browning grew up yearning for the handsome, intelligent lord-next-door…but he left England without a word of farewell. One night, inspired by a bit too much sherry, Nora poured out her heartbreak on paper. Lord Dashwood Missed Out was a love letter to every young lady who’d been overlooked by gentlemen—and an instant bestseller. Now she’s on her way to speak in Spindle Cove when snowy weather delays her coach. She’s forced to wait out the storm with the worst possible companion: Lord Dashwood himself.

And he finally seems to have noticed her.

George Travers, Lord Dashwood, has traveled the globe as a cartographer. He returned to England with the goal of marrying and creating an heir--only to find his reputation shredded by an audacious, vexingly attractive bluestocking and her poison pen. Lord Dashwood Missed Out, his arse. Since Nora Browning seems to believe he overlooked the passion of a lifetime, Dash challenges her to prove it.

She has one night.

Lord Dashwood Missed Out is an all-too fleeting return to the Spindle Cove world, one that delights us once again with Ms. Dare’s trademark sense of humor and a cast of characters who never take themselves too seriously.

Nora is a joy of a heroine, a young woman who had a crush on a friend of the family growing up and dreamed of the time when her fantasies of a wedding and children would finally become a reality. What awaited her instead was heartbreak and loneliness as Lord Ashwood took off to travel the world, but not before he made it glaringly obvious that he was aware of her feelings and didn’t return them. While we don’t know all the details until midway through, we can more than relate to Nora’s unrequited crush and the pain that accompanies such a thing, and we can’t help but applaud her for writing an essay encouraging young women like herself to find worth in themselves rather than in a proper marriage as decided by the Ton.

Lord Ashwood has some serious groveling to do from the first page as our solidarity lies firmly with Nora even without knowing the whys behind his actions, but Ms. Dare of course beautifully redeems him (eventually that is, he earns a narrowed eye or two along the way) with warmth, humility and humor. While their romance is unfortunately brief (this is a novella) and Nora forgives a touch too easily, both things are easily overlooked as we glory in characters who always leave us hoping for more time with them.

A review for this series wouldn’t be complete without the mention of Mrs. Highwood, a woman so hilariously unrelenting in the pursuit of an advantageous marriage for her youngest daughter that we can’t help but smile at her every appearance on page. If you’ve yet to experience the Spindle Cove series and are a fan of historical romance, I can’t recommend these books highly enough!

Rating: 4/5

Find Tessa:


This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Well, everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving that is. To the rest of you, Happy Rest of the Week:)

I've already got my stretchiest pants set aside, ready and waiting to accommodate the 95lbs of mashed potatoes I plan on eating over the next 5 days. I live for mashed potatoes. And chocolate. Not together obviously, but copious amounts of both will be consumed in the coming days.

Before I go change into sweatpants though (who am I kidding, I'm already in sweatpants), I just want to say how exceedingly grateful I am to all of my amazing blogger friends and everyone who reads this blog, you guys give me something to smile about even on my worst day. *group hug*

I'll be back Monday with a full schedule of reviews and interviews, so I'll talk to you all then:)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Review: Shadow's End

A Novel of the Elder Races #9
Thea Harrison
Paranormal Romance
320 pages
Available December 1st
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
For Beluviel, consort to the Elven High Lord, and Graydon, gryphon and First Sentinel of the Wyr, even the slightest desire for each other is forbidden. But two hundred years ago, after a desperate play to save Beluviel’s stepson left them indebted to the cruel Djinn Malphas, they found their fates inexorably linked together—and the hunger between them growing too strong to ignore…

Two centuries later, with their debt to Malphas coming due, Beluviel and Graydon realize that, if they are to stand any chance of saving their souls, they must once again work together—this time more closely than ever before. But every moment they spend with each other brings them nearer to losing something even more vital—their hearts…

For lovers of the Elder Races series like myself, the wait for Graydon's story has tested the boundaries of our patience as we've watched everyone around him pair off book after book. He won many a reader’s heart in the first book even when pitted against the sheer immensity of Dragos’s personality and his role as hero, and we’ve since waited and wondered when Ms. Harrison would gift us with his turn at leading man. One of the main concerns when cracking the spine of a romance like this that features a beloved secondary character finally granted their time in the spotlight is that their story won’t quite meet the absurdly high expectations a long wait creates, something that was sadly the case in this ninth installment.

The first third of Graydon and Bel’s story is told in one long flashback, sending us two hundred years into the past so that we may bear witness to the beginning of their courtship and the steps that led to their bargain with pariah Djinn, Malphas. Part of the problem with flashbacks (for me personally) is the feeling of missing out on something in the present, and while the events leading up to Gray and Bel’s deal with the devil are intrinsic to the story as a whole, their romance during that time feels rushed and lacking in the spark we’ve come to expect from Ms. Harrison’s couples. We then fast forward to the present and begin gearing up for the big showdown, but between one chapter and the next we've missed out on two hundred years of emotional fallout.

Because of their deal with Malphas, Gray and Bel have a forbidden relationship, one that was poised to give us all the feels as they struggled against Malphas’s invisible shackles, but the split timeline gives us the formation of a relationship at novella-length speed before breaking for two centuries and then resuming that love as though no time had passed. All the tension, need, and thwarted desire is left somewhere in the 200 years we missed out on, and their interactions in the present, while enjoyable, are missing the banter, antagonism, and–most of all–the heat that characterized the previous romances.

Ms. Harrison does pack an emotional wallop outside the romance at the end of this story, and it’s sure to be nothing short of ugly-cry inducing for Elder Races fans. That said however, Gray and Bel do get their happily ever after and we also get a sneak peek at some interesting things to come for Dragos, Pia and Liam. Though this was perhaps not the strongest installment despite Gray being an Elder Races favorite, this series is still one not to be missed.

Rating: 3.5/5

Find Thea:

This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Review: Not If I See You First

Eric Lindstrom
Contemporary Young Adult
320 pages
Available December 1st
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
The Rules:

Don't deceive me. Ever. Especially using my blindness. Especially in public.

Don't help me unless I ask. Otherwise you're just getting in my way or bothering me.

Don't be weird. Seriously, other than having my eyes closed all the time, I'm just like you only smarter.

Parker Grant doesn't need 20/20 vision to see right through you. That's why she created the Rules: Don't treat her any differently just because she's blind, and never take advantage. There will be no second chances. Just ask Scott Kilpatrick, the boy who broke her heart.

When Scott suddenly reappears in her life after being gone for years, Parker knows there's only one way to react-shun him so hard it hurts. She has enough on her mind already, like trying out for the track team (that's right, her eyes don't work but her legs still do), doling out tough-love advice to her painfully naive classmates, and giving herself gold stars for every day she hasn't cried since her dad's death three months ago. But avoiding her past quickly proves impossible, and the more Parker learns about what really happened--both with Scott, and her dad--the more she starts to question if things are always as they seem. Maybe, just maybe, some Rules are meant to be broken.

Not If I See You First is engaging from beginning to end, giving us little choice but to fall in love with a protagonist who has a delightfully blunt mouth and refuses to be held back by what others would consider a handicap. Mr. Lindstrom writes in a fluid, conversational style, one that keeps us from checking page numbers every now and again to note our progress and instead leaves us shocked when we find ourselves halfway through in what felt like the blink of an eye. As a result, we can't help but feel as though we know Parker from the moment we meet her, a part of her group of friends despite the barrier of paper and fiction between us.

Parker is a joy with whom to spend a couple hours, in possession of a set of rules regarding her blindness those around her must follow for both her safety and theirs (a fist smashing into their face if they startle her with an unexpected touch is something to be avoided) and determined to run unaccompanied every single day. She's unapologetically honest–in a brutally humorous way–with those around her, calling things as she sees them (no pun intended) with both friends and strangers and bringing a smile to our faces as she does so.

A quiet romance does come into play as we follow Parker in her day to day life, a former best friend re-entering the picture thanks to a school consolidation, and Mr. Lindstrom manages to keep things between them light yet full of emotion at the same time, the drama kept to a minimum but the feels cranked up as new light is shed on past mistakes. When Parker has the opportunity to see the event that caused their rift from a different perspective she doesn't let it pass her by, instead reaching out to make amends in a beautifully genuine way once she realizes Scott was not the only one responsible for the deterioration of their relationship.

Not If I See You First is a story full of humor and witty banter between friends, with gorgeously flawed teenage characters free of deep dark secrets and angst-ridden moments to exaggerate the fiction of their lives shining brightly from the pages. We're treated instead to young women and men who laugh, cry, face things we can relate to and some things we can't, all the while feeling as though we could find them walking the halls of the high school closest to us.

Rating: 4.5/5

Find Eric:
This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Harper Winter 2016 Tour + Giveaway: Burning Glass

Happy Friday Everyone!

I'm insanely excited today to be a part of the Harper Teen Winter Blog Tour, a tour where each participating blog highlights one book from Harper Teen's Winter 2016 catalog. There are a whopping 40+ books being featured, so be sure and check out the other stops (see full schedule below) to see what bookish awesomeness Harper has in store over the next few months.

My book of win to share with you guys today is Burning Glass by Kathryn Purdie, but before I get to the synopsis and all the giveaway goodies, I want to do a quick top 3 list of why I need this book in my life immediately.


1.  Fantasy + Romance = All I need to know. I've been on a YA fantasy kick for going on 2 years now and I simply can't get enough of the imaginative worlds, the magic, and the often epic romances. Burning Glass promises all three so I'm completely sold.

2. Loner Heroine. Sonya is the only one left with her particular ability, soon finding herself conscripted into the service of the emperor. There's something appealing to me about a young woman who's isolated despite being surrounded by people as such characters often have a tragic strength to them, and I can't wait to see what Sonya's made of.

3. It releases March 1st, which just happens to be my birthday. THIS BOOK AND I WERE MEANT TO BE.

You'd probably like to have a better idea of what Burning Glass is about now that I've rambled on a bit, right? Right.

Sonya was born with the rare gift to feel what those around her feel—both physically and emotionally—a gift she’s kept hidden from the empire for seventeen long years. After a reckless mistake wipes out all the other girls with similar abilities, Sonya is hauled off to the palace and forced to serve the emperor as his sovereign Auraseer.

Tasked with sensing the intentions of would-be assassins, Sonya is under constant pressure to protect the emperor. One mistake, one small failure, will cost her own life and the lives of the few people left in the world who still trust her.

But Sonya’s power is untamed and reckless, her feelings easily usurped, and she sometimes can’t decipher when other people’s impulses end and her own begin. In a palace full of warring emotions and looming darkness, Sonya fears that the biggest danger to the empire may be herself.

As she struggles to wrangle her abilities, Sonya seeks refuge in her tenuous alliances with the volatile Emperor Valko and his idealistic younger brother, Anton, the crown prince. But when threats of revolution pit the two brothers against each other, Sonya must choose which brother to trust—and which to betray.

BURNING GLASS is debut author Kathryn Purdie’s stunning tale of dangerous magic, heart-rending romance, and the hard-won courage it takes to let go.

Find Kathryn + Burning Glass

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • •


There is not one but TWO massive giveaways for this tour, so two people are going to be the luckiest book lovers out there.

Giveaway #1: A Harper Teen Winter 2016 Prize Pack of 40+ Books
(includes all the YA titles in the Winter 2016 catalog with the exception of The Siren by Kiera Cass, Yellow Brick War by Danielle Paige and Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway #2: 5 Finished Copies from the Harper Teen Fall 2015 Catalog
(includes The Lies About Truth, Walk on Earth a Stranger, Dreamland, Dumplin' and Da Vinci's Tiger)
How to enter:
Collect the daily word from each blog stop during the Harper Winter 2016 Tour (a total of 45). Once you’ve collected them all, email the complete saying to:

Prize Rules:
  • Winner must have a valid US mailing address to receive the prize 
  • Winner must be over 13 
  • Only one (1) entry per person for Prize #2 – duplicates will be deleted.  
  • Only a completed phrase will be accepted as an entry – do not email each word/phrase daily. Wait until you have the complete saying and then email in. 
  • All email submissions must be received by 11:59 PM EST 11/30/2015.  
  • Winners will be selected 12/1/2015 and will have 48 hours to claim their prize before another is selected. 
  • Participating blogs and bloggers are not responsible for unsent, damaged, and/or stolen prizes offered by the publisher. 



Thursday, November 19, 2015

Poet Anderson Blog Tour + Giveaway: Interview with Suzanne Young

Today I'm so pleased to have author Suzanne Young stopping by the blog to chat about Poet Anderson...Of Nightmares, a new novel she co-wrote with Tom DeLonge. Suzanne was nice enough to answer a few dream and nightmare-related questions for me, so I hope you guys enjoy the interview. I'm already shuddering in anticipation of the spider question. *dies* Be sure and check the bottom of the post too for all the details on a fabulous giveaway!
If you could take a walk through the Dream World and see into the dreams and nightmares of any fictional character, whose unconscious mind would you most want a peek into?

This is random, but I’m a fan of True Blood and the Sookie Stackhouse series. I would love to wander into Eric Northman’s dreams.

A Night Terror is fear that takes the form of a snarling beast. My personal Night Terror would also likely be crawling with spiders since they have me curling into the fetal position whenever I see one. What additional element might a Night Terror have if it were to reflect one of your personal phobias? 

WHAT DID I JUST READ?? I’m totally freaking over the spider comment. To be honest, I find spider crabs to be the most terrible things on the planet. So my Night Terror would have long, gross legs like that. *shudders*

What piece of advice might a Dream Walker have for me should I ever find myself facing one of the Dream World’s many nightmare-inducing creatures?

Uh, if it’s some spider concoction the Dream Walker would tell you to “RUN FAST!” He might also tell you conquer your fears before they destroy you.

While the Dream World is clearly full of many things dark and scary, what’s one thing about it that makes Jonas grateful he’s a Lucid Dreamer?

I think he’s grateful to feel like he’s in control of his own destiny. After losing his parents and his brother, his life is happening TO him. I think Lucid Dreaming is a way for him to be himself without the trauma of the outside world. He can be stronger than he is in the waking world. I think he finds comfort in that. 
If we were to ask the Jonas at the beginning of Poet Anderson…Of Nightmares his greatest fear, what would he say? The Jonas at the end?

On the car ride to Seattle, I think Jonas would have said that his greatest fear was disappointing Alan. But by the end, I think his fears are bigger than his brother. He’s scared that he won’t be able to save the world. Now he’s afraid of disappointing everyone.
Thanks so much Suzanne!

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Poet Anderson…Of Nightmares follows the epic journey of two orphan brothers, Jonas and Alan, who are Lucid Dreamers. After a tragic car accident lands Alan in a coma, Jonas sets out into the Dream World in an attempt to find his brother and wake him up. What he discovers instead is an entire shared consciousness where fear comes to life as a snarling beast called a Night Terror, and a creature named REM is bent on destruction and misery, devouring the souls of the strongest dreamers to get closer to the Waking World. With the help of a Dream Walker—a guardian of the dreamscape, Jonas must face his fears, save his brother, and become who he was always meant to be: Poet Anderson.

| Indiebound
 Animated Excerpt | Novel Teaser

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Suzanne Young is the New York Times bestselling author of The Program series. Originally from Utica, New York, Suzanne moved to Arizona to pursue her dream of not freezing to death. She is a novelist and an English teacher, but not always in that order. Suzanne is the author of THE PROGRAM, THE TREATMENT, THE REMEDY, and HOTEL RUBY.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • •


Tom DeLonge is an award-winning American musician, producer and director best known as the lead vocalist, guitarist and songwriter for the platinum selling rock bands Blink-182 and Angels & Airwaves. His home is San Diego, where he focuses on creating entertainment properties that bridge music, narrative and film through his multimedia company To The Stars. For the full experience of Tom’s work, visit

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wednesday Flourish: Empire of Sand

Happy 2-More-Days-Till-Friday Everyone!

Back in March I revealed the cover for Love in a Time of Monsters which featured one of my favorite illustrations I've done, so I was beside myself when author Teresa Yea got in touch and said it was time to revisit this series with a prequel novella. Cue spastic happy designer flail.

While we of course wanted to stick with feel established by Monsters, keeping vibrant colors and bold texture as unifying elements, Teresa wanted this prequel to be a bit darker in tone and hark back to the spirit of adventure found in the likes of Indiana Jones. Teresa makes my job incredibly easy by putting together Pinterest inspiration boards that clearly point me in the direction she wants me to go, and then gives me the freedom to put my spin on her initial ideas. I'm always enormously proud of the work we do together, and our latest collaboration just might displace Monsters as my new Teresa Yea favorite.

Empire of Sand, a prequel in The Golden Age of Monsters series, releases December 1st, and I hope you guys consider adding this one to your lists!


Liam is a trained killer--meticulous, cunning, an artist with a knife.
Cat is his protégéewild, reckless, a girl lost.
They're young.
They're beautiful.
They kill monsters.

Egypt, 1866. A terror is unleashed upon Cairo.
A predator that travels under a cloak of storms and
lurks amongst the dunes.
It reigns like a king in an empire of sand and
kills with human-like precision.
Its prey of choice: man.
Liam can't resist the allure of the ultimate kill.
Cat has a vendetta against all unnatural creatures.
They're deadly.
They're invincible.
They're being hunted.

From the author of Love in a Time of Monsters comes an electrifying prequel that invites you to live fast, die young, and shed a little blood.

Find Teresa & Empire of Sand!

You can find more of my cover design work at Seedlings Design Studio!  

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Review: Captive

A.J. Grainger
Young Adult/Thriller
272 pages
Simon & Schuster BFYR
Available Now
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
When a teen is held hostage, her efforts to escape uncover a conspiracy that forces her to question everything in this psychological thriller with a twist of forbidden romance.

They told her not to worry—
because the man who shot her father was in custody.
They told her that she was safe—
because security had been increased.

All it took was one opportunity, one breach,
and then she was theirs. Kidnapped, confined, alone.

They told her she could go home when their demands were met.
That it wouldn’t take long, because she was the prime minister’s daughter.

But it has been days, and still no help has come.

She wonders when they will tire of this game and kill her.

She cannot wait around for that to happen; she will escape. She has to.

Captive draws us in immediately, a quick flashback to Robyn’s father bleeding on the snow in Paris yanking us into this story before we’re flipped back to the present and the building tensions that lead to Robyn’s kidnapping.

Robyn starts out handling her kidnapping in a way we only hope we ourselves would if we were ever in her shoes, managing to stay sharp and calm as she evaluates both her kidnappers and the environment in which she’s kept. She uses every available opportunity to free herself but doesn’t take unnecessary risks, making survival her number one priority and escape her second. Her time with Scar, Feather and Talon is broken up by flashbacks to her time in Paris with her dad (who’s also the British Prime Minister), connective threads between the two events slowly but surely forming until the whole truth is revealed and Robyn finds herself having to look at her world through entirely new eyes.

While Robyn is strong, smart and beautifully level-headed in the first half of this story, the second half sees a marked slip in believability, the  realistic stress and tension of a horrific situation giving way to a more fantastical showdown between Robyn, her kidnappers and those attempting to rescue her. The romance between her and Talon (one of the people holding her hostage) is understandable for the most part–Robyn latching on to the one person who offers her the smallest of kindnesses in a life or death situation–but her affection for him leads her wildly astray in the concluding chapters. Chaos and unlikely scenarios
ensue, detracting from the heart-pounding realism of the first half and leaving us wishing this thriller had ended as strongly as it started.

Overall Captive is a lightning-quick and enjoyable read, but the shift in Robyn from a savvy heroine who keeps calm under pressure to a young woman who risks everything for a boy she just met keeps this one from a higher rating.

*I think it does the first half a disservice to split the difference and give an overall rating of 3.5, so I've done separate ratings instead:)

First half: 4/5
Second half: 3/5

Find A.J.

This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Dare to Disappoint Blog Tour: A Look at the Creative Process

Today I'm excited to kick off a fun and unique blog tour for Dare to Disappoint, a new graphic novel from Ozge Samanci. This tour is going to focus on Ozge's creative process and the unusual materials she used in the creation of her book, with each blog highlighting one material in particular. I always love getting behind the scenes information on how a novel comes to life, so I hope you guys follow the tour to see more of Ozge's work!

The first unconventional material on the tour is stamps, complete with an image of the stamps she uses as well as how they look in the context of Dare to Disappoint!


I combine comics and collage. Sometimes three-dimensional objects from real life become part of my images. I used ten different kinds of stamps in
Dare to Disappoint. I found some of the stamps at thrift stores, I bought some of them from a stamp store, I made some of them myself by carving an eraser-like plastic material. I repetitively stamp the paper with the stamp and create backgrounds, landscapes that contribute the atmosphere of the image.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • 


Growing up on the Aegean Coast, Ozge loved the sea and imagined a life of adventure while her parents and society demanded predictability. Her dad expected Ozge, like her sister, to become an engineer. She tried to hear her own voice over his and the religious and militaristic tensions of Turkey and the conflicts between secularism and fundamentalism. Could she be a scuba diver like Jacques Cousteau? A stage actress?  Would it be possible to please everyone including herself?

In her unpredictable and funny graphic memoir, Ozge recounts her story using inventive collages, weaving together images of the sea, politics, science, and friendship.

Ozge Samanci is an artist and an associate professor. She was born in Izmir, Turkey, and currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. Dare to Disappoint is her debut graphic novel.

Find Ozge:


Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday Flourish: Schism

Happy Friday Everyone!

I'm hugely excited today to share the cover for the second installment of Jenna Black's Gifted series, Schism. Jenna is one of the clients I have thanks entirely to this blog as I was lucky enough to meet her at an event I was covering in Cincinnati, and the timing couldn't have been more perfect because she just happened to need a designer for her new series. I'm so grateful to her for taking a chance on me early in my cover design career as the two we've done together are all-time favorites.

I've talked a few times about how second books in a series can be a little tricky in terms of design, something that seems counter-intuitive given having an already established aesthetic should in theory make the process run more smoothly. In this particular case though that's exactly how things went, and we arrived at a final design in what felt like record time. Jenna had a clear idea of what she wanted and how this cover should set itself apart from The Gifted Dead despite the main ouroboros symbol remaining the primary focus, so after only a few color tweaks to the initial comp we found ourselves with finished artwork.

Before I get to Schism though, here is a quick reminder of The Gifted Dead:


Politics and magic make dangerous bedfellows.
Deep within the Order, the seeds of corruption have taken root. While younger generations of the Gifted have embraced modern democratic values, a secret society of old-guard zealots seek a return to the past, when only European men of distinguished bloodlines held power.
Now, three venerable European families and a maverick American each plot to seize control of the Order and shape it to their will. A cutthroat game of political intrigue will decide the winner; and the stakes couldn't be higher, for ruling the Order carries with it the power to grant—or deny—an afterlife.
What begins as a battle of wills could turn into an all-out war. And magic could prove deadlier than any missile.

 And now for SCHISM!!!
(releases November 18th) 


As his power grows, so does his malice.
No one is safe. No one can fight back ...

...But they can die trying.
Unforgiving and power-maddened Alberto di Tommaso threatens to take over all of Europe with his iron fist and sinister magic, endangering the very existence of the Gifted. As Alberto's influence and his vile agenda spread, the rebel Patriarch, Matt Landy, and some unlikely allies must stop him before he provokes a war the Gifted cannot win. But with Congress and Homeland Security starting to turn against the American Gifted, the conflict is destined to be greater than any of them imagines. This time, good may not stand a chance against an evil so toxic. 

But they will fight.

 Find Jenna:

Jenna is running a giveaway for The Gifted Dead at All Things Urban Fantasy, be sure and pop by to enter!

• • • • • • • • • • • 

If you want to see more of my work, you can check out my full portfolio online at Seedlings Design Studio!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Review: The Wrong Bride

Highland Weddings #1
Gayle Callen
Historical Romance
384 pages
Available Now
Source: Finished copy from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Shaken from sleep during the night and bundled off to the Highlands by a burly Scot, Riona is at first terrified, then livid. Hugh McCallum insists they were promised to each other as children to ensure peace between their clans. The stubborn laird refuses to believe he's kidnapped the wrong Catriona Duff. Instead, he embarks on a campaign of slow-burning seduction.

At first, Hugh cares only what their marriage can do for his people. Now he's starting to crave Riona for her own sake, but her true identity jeopardizes his clan's contract. And unless she chooses to risk all to be his bride, he'll lose the only thing he prizes more than the lands he's fought so hard to save—the passionate marriage they could have together.

The Wrong Bride draws us in immediately as Riona's grabbed from her bed in the middle of the night and forced to travel cross country to the home of the McCallum Clan. In certain instances stories dealing with mistaken identity can be hugely stressful, anxiety over the moment everything comes to light keeping us from fully settling in, but thankfully in this case Riona is upfront from the beginning. She tries time and again to explain Hugh's error to him, and while he doesn't believe her until the concluding chapters, knowing she's not willingly keeping information from him makes for a much more enjoyable romance.

Hugh is everything that's to be expected of a highland hero; big, strapping and completely dedicated to the well-being of his clan. Though being a kidnapper of innocent women isn't much of a mark in his favor initially, he's nothing but patient with Riona as she struggles with the unfortunate events that marked the beginning of their courtship. He's more than willing to put in the time and effort to get to know her as a person, wanting their marriage to be a happy one despite its rocky start, and if that takes a little teasing and seducing, then so be it.

Riona is a bit trickier of a character, her initial outrage over her kidnapping warranted and the wariness that persists understandable, but she continues to fight Hugh (and herself) emotionally for so long that it's hard to believe she's actually come to love him by the end. The more she starts to warm to him physically, the more she chastises herself and then takes that anger out on him, and we're forced to bear witness to this internal struggle until the end when she finally comes to the realization that she actually wants to be his wife. Part of the frustration with her stems from the fact that we're experiencing her relationship with Hugh in the context of a romance novel, so we know that Hugh is the hero and a fundamentally good man from the get-go, something she obviously doesn't have the benefit of knowing with any certainty. That being said though, the way in which she continues to fight her new circumstances–refusing to try to get to know him and plotting to reveal her true identity to one of his high-ranked clansman–gets tedious after several hundred pages.

Overall, The Wrong Bride gives us a strapping Scottish hero desperately trying to make up for his late drunk of a father's cruel mistakes regarding his people, but we can't help but wish he had a heroine who showed more interest earlier so that we could have seen more of their dynamics as a couple. The concluding chapters introduce us to what will presumably be the lead couple in the next book, and Maggie and Owen's relationship leaves us with more than a little anticipation as we look ahead.

Rating: 3.5/5

Find Gayle:

This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Hidden Impact Blog Tour: Guest Post + Giveaway

I'm so pleased today to welcome author Piper J. Drake to the blog as part of the tour for her newest romantic suspense release, Hidden Impact. As you guys already know by now, I love romance. Love it. I need everything I read to have a little romance in it, but of course the success of that romance depends entirely on the hero and heroine. I decided to ask Piper to share a few of the characteristics she thought made for a successful heroine, so I hope you guys enjoy!

Piper’s Top 3 Characteristics for the Successful Heroine
Think Quick

Events can happen in a blur of action, requiring fast reaction. In my stories, a succesful heroine may only have a fraction of a second but she’s got to make that count. She’s got to be able to think quick so she doesn’t end up dead or badly injured.

Think Clearly

It doesn’t take military training to assess a situation with a clear perspective. I try to give my heroine the ability to take a look at the situation and see it for what it is, without getting too muddled even when emotions are running high and the adrenaline is flowing.

Think Ahead

To succeed, or survive, a heroine needs to think ahead to what might happen next. Having an idea of the possible utcomes and being prepared for them help her navigate some pretty crazy circumstances. Thinking ahead helps my heroine make choices, not just react.

Mostly, I like a heroine who can think on her feet. It’s not always possible, but whenever it is, she should.

Thanks so much Piper! Be sure and check the bottom of the post for all the details on a giveaway as well as a list of participating blogs:)

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He's not the hero she's looking for

As part of the elite Centurion Corporation team, military-veteran-turned-mercenary Gabriel Diaz is a natural defender. He'll do anything to ensure a mission is successful. Anything but get emotionally invested—he learned the hard way that can be deadly. Easy bodyguard jobs in between the more challenging missions are all he's interested in now.

Maylin Cheng is desperate and running out of time. Her younger sister has gone missing but no one seems to take her concern seriously. Her last hope lies in asking an aloof bodyguard for help. He dismisses her outright, but all that changes when she is almost killed in a not-so-accidental hit-and-run right before his eyes.

As Maylin leans on Gabriel, she begins to rely on him for more than just her safety. But as their attraction grows, so does the danger surrounding them. When the elaborate web they're trapped in unravels, Gabriel will do anything to protect them. Even if that means putting his heart in the crosshairs.

Book one of the Safeguard series

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Piper J. Drake (or “PJ”) began her writing career as “PJ Schnyder” writing sci-fi & paranormal romance and steampunk. She has recently received the FF&P PRISM award for her work as well as the NJRW Golden Leaf award and Parsec award.

Now, PJ is exploring the complexity of romantic suspense, incorporating her interests in mixed martial arts and the military into her writing.

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Thanks to the team at Harlequin and Carina Press, one lucky winner will receive the following:
Please enter via the Rafflecopter form.

a Rafflecopter giveaway