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ARC review–A Season to Dance by Rebecca Heflin

Order A Season to Dance Here

4/5*

Publication date–Dec 2018

 

I received this book as an Advanced Reader Copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

After Olivia’s mom dies, Olivia must return to her hometown. The prima ballerina is recovering from a torn Achilles heel, and might never dance again, which is ironic because her mother leaves Olivia her dance studio. Olivia decides to stay on through the annual recital, and then plans to sell the studio after.

Zach returned home to keep an eye on his father. After years on the Atlanta PD, he’s become the chief of police in his hometown. When Olivia returns to deal with her mother’s estate, it’s like a knife to his heart.

Olivia and Zach were in love in high school, but Olivia left to pursue her dream of becoming a professional ballerina, which broke Zach’s heart. He’s still in love with her. And she has never gotten over him.

Watching the two of them long for each other, but pulling apart so that they can guard their hearts is a great read. You root for them from the beginning, and when they finally come together, it’s very satisfying.

There is a subplot about vandalism, and Olivia is targeted. Unfortunately, for the reader it’s beyond obvious who is behind the attacks on Olivia’s dance school.

The sex is well done.

I recommend this book if you like the tropes of rekindling love with an ex or hometown romance.

I won NaNo and another snippet

Technically NaNo doesn’t end until Friday, but I uploaded and validated my win today with a grand total of 80,900 words. I finished both The Game of Love and Lab Rats.

The Game of Love is exactly the type of hot mess draft that just pushing through a story, even when deep down you know it’s weak and needs a lot of work, can produce. I knew it was a mistake not to go back and fix things, but I pushed through instead. Now what I have is a hot mess that will need so much editing it will be almost starting from scratch. Ironically this is the first novel I’ve ever outlined, and I guess part of me thought that it would help create a cleaner first draft. I’ve reread it and there’s promise, but it’s more like a draft I would have written a dozen years ago (aka the last time I won NaNo) that my current standard of writing.

Lab Rats is a whole other ballgame. I hope that after reading the snippet in the last post you also see the promise. Here’s another snippet from Chapter One, featuring my hero, who has a giant stick up his butt at the start of the book.

Dr Benjamin Wells didn’t watch daytime television. It was a frivolous waste of time, and the only frivolity he enjoyed was Star Trek: The Next Generation.

“Dr. Wells?” the brunette in the first row—Valerie Alvarez, according to the seating chart—waved her hand in an undignified manner.

“Yes, Ms. Alvarez?”

“Do you think that there’s any way, biologically speaking, that the viral video about the werewolf on that morning show is possible?”

“I think we should leave nonsense like werewolves to discount writers and movies, don’t  you?”

“So you don’t believe it?” The voice came from the back of the room without so much as a raised hand.

“I will admit to not seeing it, but no, I do not believe that such mutations are biologically probable,” Ben replied.

“You say not probable, not impossible.” Yet another student blathering on about this damned video.

Enough. Today’s lecture is on DNA methylation. You have all read the assigned reading, I hope.” From there he launched into his lecture.

The students, properly rebuked, opened their laptops and began to take notes. There were no more ridiculous suppositions about mythical creatures.

Once back in his office, though, curiosity got the better of him. What was this dratted video they were all going on about? He entered Video werewolf talk show into the search bar. Already ashamed of this waste of time, he clicked on the first search result.

He rolled his eyes at the pap his students were watching. What a waste of time. Was this some sort of mass joke on the professor in retaliation for a test he hadn’t graded on a curve? Trends in movies? Who cared?

“Screw that,” finished the actor and he stood. Ears shifted upwards on a head that was turning, indeed lupine in nature. Fingers became shorter and melded together into a paw. The screaming in the background was frenzied. Then the video cut out.

Ben wanted to dismiss it as CGI. But something deep inside of him—the reptilian part of his brain, he reasoned—quaked in fear. All of that rippling skin, hair sprouting from every inch of the body, hands blurring into paws made his stomach roil. If this was real, there seemed to be no way to know who was human or not until they exposed themselves. What if people of actual consequence—generals, the President, the Dean—was one of them?

Fear skittered along Ben’s spine.

The phone rang at seven that evening, just as he was about to leave his office and go home. He almost didn’t answer, but his stepmother’s cold voice droned in his head that when one is present it’s just good manners to answer a ringing telephone.

Ben picked up the phone. “Dr. Benjamin Wells.”

“This is General Abernathy with the US Army Medical Corps.” The voice was low and rumbled, yet carried an undeniable authority. It was a voice used to being obeyed.

“How can I help you, General?”

“It is the belief of our scientists that you are the best person to examine the werewolf. Your paper on mutations of human cells suggests you can tell us if this is a mutation or something entirely inhuman.”

Benjamin blinked several times. “You want me to experiment on a werewolf?”

“Yes. We have it in custody, and in a reinforced cage. We can get you the blood you need to conduct your research. Will you serve your country?”

Revulsion flooded Benjamin’s body. He wanted to go back to this morning, before he’d heard about the video. He didn’t want anything to do with mutants or the government. But another voice twined through his brain—someone will do their research for them. They will be famous, able to get tenure at any university Think of the research money. The two impulses battled for supremacy.

Benjamin was as surprised to hear himself say, “Yes, sir, I will.”

“Excellent. I will meet you in your office at oh-six-hundred tomorrow morning.”

“Yes, sir.”

The phone clicked, signalling that the General had hung up.

What have I agreed to?

Nano progress and a snippet

With only eight days left, most of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is behind me. I’ve “won” in that I’ve written more than 50,000 words this month–an unprecedented level of success and productivity. I guess this is what I can do with basically no distractions like television (I genuinely forgot Outlander was back, and I’m a huge fan), keeping my book playlists on repeat so that the characters are constantly in my head, and dragging my laptop literally everywhere. It’s also what I can do when I dance on the edge and sometimes slightly into the manic side of my bipolar disorder, which is kind of exhausting, honestly.

I think it’s healthy to have a daily writing goal and it’s helping me quite a bit right now. But I’m also going to have to go into an editing phase and I’ll need to figure out how I can write and edit at the same time. Historically I’ve only focused on one and that means huge lags between my projects. It’s been two years since Capturing the Moment was published (three since it was accepted for publication) and while there have been huge changes in that time, like an international move, I have not always used my time well. I have some ideas for New Years Resolutions, but we shall see how things progress from here.

Thus far in Nano I have completed the book about love and espionage at a video game company  (which is either a long novella or a short novel), and am about 90% done with the second big project of November which is a long novella about what comes after the Were community is exposed on national television, and what will be the first in my first series of stories.

In the meantime, he’s the opening from that Shapeshifter book, which I’m currently calling Lab Rats

Everything went to hell in less time than it took to conduct a five minute interview on Wake Up LA!

Liz Green, the perky blonde co-host batted her eyelashes at Justin Carson. He was a deliciously hot up and coming actor. She wondered if he had a girlfriend, and if he might be amenable to a little extracurricular activity in her dressing room. She leaned forward, just enough to give Justin a glimpse down the front of her top.

“So what do you think of the new trend? Zombies are in, werewolves and vampires are out.”

“Zombies suck,” Justin said flatly.  “Werewolves are where it’s at.  You think dead humans are scary when they want to suck you blood or eat your face?  That’s not scary. You know what’s scary, Liz?  When you can’t tell the monsters from the humans. How can you?  Anyone here could be a werewolf. I could a werewolf.”

Liz, laughed nervously. “I had no idea you were so passionate about scary movies!”

She had never lost control of an interview before, and Justin wasn’t about to faze her. He was probably teasing a new project. She could picture him in a horror flick, and even more clearly, she could picture herself clinging to his arm, pressing her face against his broad shoulder, his arm coming around her to hold her close. Later that night, he’d tease her for being so scared of make believe creatures, and then he’d rock her world six ways from Sunday.

“But you know what, Liz?  No one thinks they’re real, so humans get cast to play werewolves.”

Liz laughed and played along. “Sounds like you’ve got a very meta project coming up. Actors playing werewolves who are actually werewolves. Give us another hint.”

Justin growled. Actually growled.

Nervously, Liz looked at her notecards. “So how did you connect with the character of Grant for After Dark?”

Justin stared at her, unblinking.

Liz glanced at the camera. The interview was D.O.A. and she still had three minutes to fill. Her foot jiggled, the heel bouncing against the floor. The idea of hot sex in her dressing room was starting to fade in the harsh light of a bad interview. She knew she’d be blamed for it—bad delivery of questions, not enough effort at chemistry, making him upset. She took a deep breath, then flashed a dazzling smile at Justin.

“I heard the producers are hoping to start a whole After Dark franchise.”

Maybe that would get this interview back on track. Most actors couldn’t wait to talk about how their franchise was going to be the biggest thing since the Marvel Cinematic Universe series of movies. Please let this get him out of whatever snit he was in. Please, please, please.

“Weres are scared of being outed, and this is the consequence.  Screw that.”

Justin’s hands clenched the armrests of his chair, and his knuckles turned white from the pressure. His nails scraped over the buttery leather, leaving marks in their wake.

“Um…” God help her, she was going to have to dump to commercial. Liz sat back, and squirmed, no longer thinking of sweaty trysts on the soft blue coverlet of the daybed she’d picked over having a couch in her dressing room. At this point, she’d be grateful just to climb into the daybed and pull that coverlet over her head until she could face the world again after this horrific goose egg of an interview.

Justin stood up. He kicked off his shoes, but his paws ripped through the socks. His jeans shredded as his legs contorted, becoming shorter and thicker. His face elongated, and suddenly long canines snapped at his shirt until it, too, ripped and fell away from his body. Within a minute, a large wolf had replaced the handsome man.

Liz screamed, and fell off her chair, out of view of the camera. She skittered backwards, away from the monster she’d actually fantasized about fucking. She could feel a wetness spreading under her as she peed herself in fear. She scrambled to her feet, kicked off her heels and ran as fast as she could toward the safety of her dressing room, which had a solid lock. She’d be safe there, or so she hoped.

As Liz was escaping, the audience had fallen into chaos. People were shoving each other, willing to trample the less vulnerable in an effort to get away as fast as possible. Screams mingled with sobbing as the reality that this wasn’t some strange special effect—this was a real honest-to-God werewolf. And if you believed him, he wasn’t the only one. They fled as if he were on their heels, about to take a big bite out of them.

A woman wearing a smart blue pantsuit with tasteful gold jewelry dashed into the frame.

“Justin, we need to go. Now!”

The large wolf snarled at her.

“I said now,” she snarled back.

The wolf turned its head to the camera, tilted its head back, and howled.

The video cut out.

Two Book Reviews—Touch and Sight by Kait Gamble

I’ll be reviewing both Touch and Sight in this review. Kait gave me a free copy of both books, but I liked them so much I bought them.

 

Buy Touch here

4/5*

Published April 2018

Dr. Lily Cole is a Scientist at the Antarctic research station. She’s happy to immerse herself in work, and even though many of the researchers have gone home, she’s still there, devoted to her research. That is until she’s asked to show Kiernan King around the station in hopes of opening his wallet to fund more of their research. Lily is not interested in showing him around, but her boss makes her. But she can’t help but warm to him when Kiernan proves he’s not just another playboy looking to throw some money around. But can a scientist and a philanthropist live happily ever after?

One of the reasons I’m happy to review a Kait Gamble book is that she never lets me down. Her characters are well drawn, her settings are unique and interesting, and the sex is scorching. It’s a great take on the dislike to love trope, and Kait keeps you rooting for her couple. It’s fairly short, so you can burn through it fairly fast, although you’ll want to slow down and prevent the story from ending.

 

Buy Sight here

5/5*

Published October 2018

Of the two novellas, Sight is my favorite.

Chloe has moved from London to Paris to make it on her own and to get away from a persistent ex. Worn out from work, she glances across the way to see an erotic encounter between a man and his lover. Mason is living in Paris, and doesn’t want complications. When he sees the woman across the way, he wants her. Together they start a purely voyeuristic relationship without knowing so much as each other’s names. But after a while, the distance is too much to take, and it’s time to take the relationship out of the windows and into real life.

I like the way Kait uses the passage of time to move the story along while still creating compelling characters and some burning hot sex scenes. The transition from voyeur to real life is handled deftly. Chloe and Mason are both well-fleshed out characters with complex inner lives. But I think the thing that sets this book apart from Touch is that secondary plot of Chloe’s ex, Charles. He’s not willing to take no for an answer.

Without giving too much away, I have to encourage everyone to read Sight. It’s H-O-T.

 

ARC review–Unforgettable by Elle Spencer

Buy Unforgettable here

4/5*

Published 11.13.18

 

I received a copy of Unforgettable from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Unforgettable is actually two novellas bundled together. I’ll be reviewing each separately below.

 

In Forget Her Not, Samantha King queen of the one night stand with men, has woken up next to Mia Rossi—and she can’t remember a thing about their night, only that it changed something within her. But the obstacle to their relationship isn’t that Sam can’t quite remember what happened, or even that they live far away from each other–the biggest two are that Sam thinks she’s a huge fuck-up and that Mia is her ex-boyfriend’s little sister.

That the love interest is the little sister of the man she dated for quite a long time, even to the point of him proposing to her, is a new twist on the dating someone who is known very well by the protagonist. That part is done well, including a showdown between Samantha and her ex.

However, the thing that slows down the book is that Samantha has only one method of coping–self sabotage. There’s a point, though, after which I thought Mia was crazy to keep running after her. But I was rooting on each of the women individually–for Sam to see that she deserves love, and for Mia to kick ass, but it was hard to root for them as a couple. But I suppose that’s the point–love isn’t always logical

***

In Forget Her Never Abby hooks up with the incomparable Kendall and they have an amazing night together. Only for Abby to find out that Kendall is married. Worse, she’s Kendall Squires, half of the lesbian power couple that’s changing New York’s skyline, and Abby is an architect. When Kendall’s wife finds out, she threatens Abby’s job.

Abby tries so hard to do the right thing, but is miserable. Kendall, on the other hand, is tired of living in a loveless marriage, and can’t get Abby out of her mind. When Abby and Kendall try to be just friends, their chemistry makes it impossible.

Of the two novellas, I think I bought into this one better. Kendall and Abby have the kind of raw chemistry that drags you in. I was rooting much more for them as a couple, even when the way forward seemed impossible.

***

Spencer does a good job of providing two very distinct stories, both in the “a night so amazing you’ll never forget it” trope. All four women involved have distinct voices and motivations. Each love has its unique barriers.

But for me, the biggest test is whether the book holds my interest. While there were moments when the stories dragged, it was never so much that I started to consider looking at another book instead.

ARC review: Media Darling by Fiona Riley

Xposted from my book review blog

Media Darling by Fiona Riley can be purchased here

4.5/5*

published 11/13/18

 

I received an arc of Media Darling from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Media Darling is a f/f queer romance between a star and a celebrity reporter.

Haley is a would-be screenwriter who works at the Sun to make her bills. When she is asked to fill in at a media event for another reporter, she’s determined to get something done. When she can’t get Emerson’s attention on a red carpet, she lets out a piercing whistle, which unfortunately silences everyone around her, which gives a paparazzi the opportunity to yell an embarrassing question about Emerson and Rachel.

Emerson is a star under siege when her ex-girlfriend Rachel (who was kicked off the movie they were working on together) accuses Emerson of smearing her reputation and that it was all Emerson’s fault. After the red carpet incident with the paparazzi, Emerson tells her assistant that she never wants Hayley near her again.

Later that night, when Hayley gets between the same cruel intentioned paparazzi and Emerson, Emerson decides to investigate Haley. What she learns makes her decide that Hayley is the right person to tell her side of the story, including the explosive secret Emerson is terrified that Rachel will weaponize. As they spend more time together, sparks fly. But when their relationship is outed (pun intended), they need to decide if what they have is real, or just Hollywood magic.

Riley is a strong writer. Each of the women have a distinct voice. This is especially important in f/f or m/m or multi-partner couples because pronouns, which serve as shorthand in m/f romance can often make things blurrier. Despite seemingly oppositional occupations (in fact, their first encounter leads to a horrible paparazzi encounter for Emerson) Riley lays the groundwork for why these characters could work. The sex scenes sizzle.

The only thing that took it from a 5* to a 4.5* is that the real villain is so obvious that it’s surprising that it takes any effort to figure it out. But even with that, I didn’t mind the ride to see how the characters figured it out, and how they’d react. The writing is strong enough, though, that I think that it could’ve been masked a little better.

Check out Media Darling when it drops next week, or pre-order today!

 

NaNoWriMo 2k18

Last year I wrote a blog post talking about why I wouldn’t do NaNo and what makes it a bad idea for me.

GUESS WHAT I’M DOING?!?!111

So I am doing NaNo this year (add me as your buddy–Delilah Night), *but* instead of starting a new project, I’m continuing to work on my contemporary romance about love and espionage at a video game company. I also keep telling myself that I don’t care about making daily word count, but then I low-key got stressed yesterday because my daughter’s birthday party took over my day and all my energy. (Yes, again. My two have birthdays three weeks apart.) 

Ask me on Dec 1 if this was a good idea of complete folly.

To get me through the month, I’m only going to post once or twice a week, with some cross posting to keep me sane.