Review: Sunrise on Half Moon Bay by Robyn Carr + Giveaway

Review: Sunrise on Half Moon Bay by Robyn Carr + GiveawaySunrise on Half Moon Bay by Robyn Carr
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: relationship fiction, women's fiction
Pages: 304
Published by Mira on April 14, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Sometimes the happiness we’re looking for has been there all along…

Adele and Justine have never been close. Born twenty years apart, Justine was already an adult when Addie was born. The sisters love each other, but they don’t really know each other.

When Addie dropped out of university to care for their ailing parents, Justine, a successful lawyer, covered the expenses. It was the best arrangement at the time, but now that their parents are gone, the future has changed dramatically for both women.

Addie had great plans for her life but has been worn down by the pressures of being a caregiver and doesn’t know how to live for herself. And Justine’s success has come at a price. Her marriage is falling apart despite her best efforts.

Neither woman knows how to start life over, but both realize they can and must support each other the way only sisters can. Together they find the strength to accept their failures and overcome their challenges. Happiness is within reach, if only they have the courage to fight for it.

Set in the stunning coastal town of Half Moon Bay, California, Robyn Carr’s new novel examines the joys of sisterhood and the importance of embracing change.

My Review:

Sunrise on Half Moon Bay is an absolute heartbreaker of a story that leads its heroines through some very dark places. But when they emerge on the other side, they are all made stronger by the journey. And they beautifully earn their peace, their joy, and their happy ever afters.

Even if – or perhaps especially because those HEAs are not dependent on the men in their lives. But rather on their love for each other as sisters, daughters, aunt and nieces. The women of the Descaro family have learned to help each other stand tall and strong. And it’s marvelous.

The story is focused on the Descaro sisters, successful Justine in her early 50s, and rudderless Adele, their parents’ surprise baby, in her early 30s. But as the story begins, both of them are at crossroads in their lives.

Adele’s situation is the more obvious. She’s depressed, unfocused and not sure how to pick up her life and her dreams after 8 years of being her invalid parents’ caregiver. Now that her mother has died, her life is her own again. She just doesn’t know what to do with it now that she has it back.

Justine, a successful corporate attorney, is facing a decision. The company she has worked long nights and weekends for for over 20 years has just gone through a merger. Positions are being eliminated right, left and center, and she knows that hers is on the chopping block. She’s burned out and wants to do something different, but her family, her stay-at-home husband, her two high school age daughters, AND her sister are all dependent on her income. An income that is now in jeopardy.

But so is her marriage. When Addie witnesses her brother-in-law passionately kissing a woman other than his wife at the local pizza parlor, she feels compelled to tell her sister what she saw.

And that’s where everyone’s life goes more than a little pear-shaped, as the perfect life that Justine thought she had goes up in flames. Leaving her with a choice. She can continue putting her time and energy into a relationship based on lies, and into a job that has long since lost its appeal. Or she can choose another path. She can divorce the cheating husband and find work that fills her soul.

While Addie, shocked into motion at the shattering of her sister’s life, begins to take charge of her own.

Together they find a way forwards into the future. And finally into becoming the friends, the sisters, the family that they never really were.

Escape Rating A: I didn’t expect to love this as much as I did. But I really, really did. I found it to be a completely compelling read, and I basically lost a day between its pages, pulled along in this story of growth and change and sisterhood.

I loved Justine’s side of the story. I found her easy to identify with and enjoyed the time spent in her head, even when there was so much in her headspace that was hard and painful. She thought her life was perfect. She believed her marriage was good. She counted on her husband as her partner in life and in raising their girls. The arrangement where she worked and he took care of their daughters was one that they had agreed to, and that appeared to be working for both of them. Until she learned that it wasn’t.

I adored her decisiveness in the face of her discovery. She didn’t waffle or dilly-dally. She was fortunate to have a successful career, and she picked up the pieces and started moving on. There were painful days when the pieces seemed to scatter all over again, but she kept moving forward and eventually got through.

Of the sisters, Addie was the dilly-dallier, but her journey was a portrait of a different kind of learning and growing. She started by just putting one foot in front of the other, but learned to find a new purpose as well as let go of old baggage. It was only in her search for love that she kept holding herself back.

I liked the way that the two sisters grew up, grew together and grew towards each other. And that they did their level best to provide examples of strong women who learned to stand their ground to Justine’s two daughters.

I also liked the fact that while romantic relationships do eventually become part of their lives, those romances are not the reward. Finding a new man is never the be-all and end-all of either woman’s journey, and that’s a great example for the teenagers.

Instead, they both get their own stuff together first and then reach out for someone who not merely loves but genuinely respects them and their strength.

A great story with the best kind of happy ending!

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

I’m giving away a copy of Sunrise on Half Moon Bay to one lucky US commenter on this tour!

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Review: The Sea Glass Cottage by RaeAnne Thayne

Review: The Sea Glass Cottage by RaeAnne ThayneThe Sea Glass Cottage by RaeAnne Thayne
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss, supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance, women's fiction
Pages: 384
Published by Hqn on March 17, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

The life Olivia Harper always dreamed of isn’t so dreamy these days. The 16-hour work days are unfulfilling and so are things with her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when she hears that her estranged mother, Juliet, has been seriously injured in a car accident, Liv has no choice but to pack up her life and head home to beautiful Cape Sanctuary on the Northern California coast.

It’s just for a few months—that’s what Liv keeps telling herself. But the closer she gets to Cape Sanctuary, the painful memories start flooding back: Natalie, her vibrant, passionate older sister who downward-spiraled into addiction. The fights with her mother who enabled her sister at every turn. The overdose that took Natalie, leaving her now-teenaged daughter, Caitlin, an orphan.

As Liv tries to balance her own needs with those of her injured mother and an obstinate, resentful fifteen-year-old, it becomes clear that all three Harper women have been keeping heartbreaking secrets from one another. And as those secrets are revealed, Liv, Juliet, and Caitlin will see that it’s never too late—or too early—to heal family wounds and find forgiveness.

My Review:

One of the great things about being part of, let’s call it pre-Millennial Generation is that all of our youthful embarrassments and peccadilloes were thankfully NOT recorded and posted on the interwebs for all to see – and for all to resurrect from the dusty vaults of the Internet Archive or the Wayback Machine if we become even semi-famous, whether accidentally or on purpose.

However, some of us wrote in diaries made out of dead-tree stuff. In other words, paper. And paper is a fantastic way of preserving the thoughts and feelings of the past – whether those thoughts and feelings deserve preservation or not.

The things that Olivia Harper and her late sister Natalie wrote in their high school diaries creep out of the dusty past to bedevil and haunt not just the still-surviving – and still wounded – Olivia after all these years, but also Natalie’s daughter Caitlin, now 15 and searching for the baby daddy that her mother never revealed to a soul. Not her daughter, not her mother, not her sister, not her best friend – not even the baby daddy himself.

There’s also a feeling that this story is about self-protection and self-preservation, especially of the variety where we lie to someone in a way that is supposed to protect them, but is really all about covering our own broken places and protecting ourselves.

At the heart of this story, of the Sea Glass Cottage itself, is a circle of those kinds of social – and emotionally distancing – lies.

Olivia’s ability to continue telling herself she is absolutely fine is shaken when she witnesses a senseless attack in her favorite coffee shop. Her emotional and physical distance from her mother is shattered when her mother’s fall from a ladder puts Juliet into the hospital and rehab, forcing Juliet to acknowledge that she needs her daughter’s help – and that she’s in love with her friend and neighbor, Henry.

Olivia’s return to Cape Sanctuary makes her re-examine her life, her relationships, and the job that keeps her well-paid but prevents her from fulfilling her dreams.

And Caitlin’s compulsive reading of both her mother’s and her aunt’s teenage diaries brings all of the secrets that have been hidden out into the open, surprising everyone with just how much they’ve all been hiding in the vain attempt to keep each other “safe”.

The kind of safety they are all trying to maintain is an illusion, but love, on the other hand, is very, very real. If you let it in.

Escape Rating B+: The Sea Glass Cottage isn’t really a romance, in spite of the number of romances that take place within its pages. And not that two of its heroines don’t find their HEA by the time the story ends.

But the heart of this story is the relationship between three generations of Harper women, grandmother Juliet, daughter Olivia, and granddaughter Caitlin. And even 15-year-old Caitlin’s HEA is hinted at being somewhere in her future, just not yet.

But it’s the way that the relationships among the three women are changed by Juliet’s accident and Olivia’s return to Sanctuary Cove that create the beating heart of this story. And at the center of their story – and their estrangements – are a series of lies and half-truths that have kept them apart and in some ways kept them broken for most of Caitlin’s life.

What reshapes their story and their lives is the unraveling of the truth about the events that took Steve Harper’s life all those years ago. Juliet’s husband Steve was the chief of the volunteer fire department, and he died in a fire that he should never have entered, alone and unequipped, because he believed his daughter’s best friend was inside the burning house.

And that’s a burden that Cooper Vance, the best friend in question, has been shouldering alone for all these years. He feels like he’s the reason his friend and mentor died, and indirectly the reason that the Harper family fell to shreds – as well as the reason that Natalie fell into addiction until it killed her.

Caitlin’s discovery of her mother’s and her aunt’s diaries has opened all of the old wounds, but Caitlin, like Cooper, like Juliet and like Olivia, tries to bear the weight of those secrets alone. Until they all come spilling out, all the ugly truths are finally revealed, and healing can finally begin.

At the beginning of the story, Caitlin is, quite honestly, a bitch all the way around. She’s 15 and trying to hold a terrible secret. She lashes out at pretty much everyone around her, and her parts are difficult to read for quite a while into the story. She does get less abrasive as the story goes on and the reveals start coming, but it takes a while.

She’s holding her aunt Olivia responsible for crap she said when she was hurting, oddly enough around the age that Caitlin is now. But Caitlin isn’t able to make the leap from her own hurt feelings to the idea that an adult in her life, one that she loved and respected, was once a whiny teenage girl – just like her.

The romances are of the extremely slow burn variety. A burn that catches its fire off-screen, but the slow progression of the romances feels right for the way that the story works. I found it particularly poignant that one of those romances featured 50something Olivia, and was with her younger friend and neighbor at that! Her hesitance and the reasons for it felt very real.

Although the first half of the book was a bit slow-going, it has a lot of heavy lifting to do, setting up the relationships, the crises, the family background and all the secrets. Once this one gets going, it reads really fast as the hits come thick and fast and all of the burning issues get resolved. So when you start this one, have a little patience and hang on for a lovely read!

Review: The Moonglow Sisters by Lori Wilde

Review: The Moonglow Sisters by Lori WildeThe Moonglow Sisters by Lori Wilde
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance, relationship fiction, women's fiction
Pages: 400
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on March 3, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

It’s Jill Shalvis meets Susan Mallery in this gorgeous novel by New York Times bestselling author Lori Wilde about three sisters, one small town, a wedding, and the summer that changes everything.

Welcome to Moonglow Cove, Texas, a place where your neighbors know your name and the gentle waves of the Gulf of Mexico lap lazily against the sands. It’s a magical spot, especially in the summertime…

Once the town was the home of the Clark sisters—brought up by their grandmother at the Moonglow Inn. Nicknamed “The Moonglow Sisters”, as children they were inseparable.  Then, a wedding-day betrayal tore them apart and they scattered across the globe and away from each other.  But the sisters have at last come home…

There’s Maddie: smart, sensible, and stubborn. Shelley, who ran off to find her bliss. And Gia, a free-spirit determined to keep the peace. It’s her impending wedding that keeps them together…but Gia has a secret, and when her sisters find out all heck is going to break loose!

The Moonglow Sisters continues Lori Wilde’s trademark storytelling to create an unforgettable novel of family, betrayal, love, and second chances.

My Review:

This is a story that invokes ALL the feels. Seriously. All of them.

By that I mean that this story of sisterhood, family ties, family love, family secrets and especially long-held family grudges swings from grief to anger to joy and back around again as the Moonglow sisters come home, but not together, to take care of their beloved Grammy – but seem to have no intention of taking much care – or paying much attention to – each other.

Once upon a time the Moonglow sisters, take-charge Madison, peacemaker Gia and impetuous Shelley, were the darlings of not just their grandmother and her best friend Darynda but the entire town of Moonglow Texas.

At least until five years ago, when Madison caught Shelley kissing Madison’s fiance on Madison’s wedding day, and the sisters broke apart on the rocks of anger, jealousy and disappointment with each other’s lives and choices.

Madison left for New York City and is now a reality-TV star with her own hit cable TV show about making a beautiful home. Something that she herself lacks, as her controlling nature has pushed away not just her family but also the fiancee with whom she shared a terrible loss.

Shelley disappeared to Costa Rica and her sisters have not heard a thing from her in those same five years. Grammy knows where Shelley is, but there doesn’t seem to be much communication there, either.

Gia turned her passion for kite-making into an apprenticeship with a master kite-maker in Japan, and has returned to Moonglow to open her own business, making and selling artisan kites.

Gia, living in Moonglow, is the one who arrives at Grammy’s for their regular weekly brunch to discover that Grammy has left a note for her, asking Gia to get her sisters back together in Moonglow, to fix their fractured family and finish the “Wedding Ring” quilt that was supposed to have been a present for Madison for that dramatically cancelled wedding.

The note makes it clear that the message may very well embody Grammy’s last wishes. As Gia reads the devastating message, Grammy is in surgery. She has stage 4 brain cancer, and the surgery is intended to remove as much of the cancer as possible to slow down its growth. This won’t make her well, but it may give her more time. It may also kill her or leave her a vegetable for whatever time she has left.

Gia treats Grammy’s message as a mission, as Grammy intended. She gets Madison back to Moonglow, and reaches out to Shelley. Madison comes home looking like a million-dollar New York TV star. Shelley blows in worn-out and haunted, with a backpack containing all her possessions, no cell phone and a $200 taxi fare to pay.

It is not an auspicious start for any of the things that Gia thinks she has to accomplish. It’s not exactly an auspicious middle, either, as Grammy remains in a coma after surgery and Madison and Shelley both threaten to leave. It takes a whopper of a tall tale to get them to stay – at least until they discover they have an entirely different mission to carry out.

It’s going to take a village, the entire little town of Moonglow, to take care of Grammy, save her house, and put the Moonglow sisters back together. And it’s touch and go every step of the way.

Escape Rating B+: This one definitely invokes all the feels from beginning to end. It all starts with Grammy writing that message, knowing that she’s just placed a nearly – but not totally impossible burden on Gia. And not knowing that she’s leaving behind as big of a mess as she actually is.

The family dynamic is so fractured that at first it looks like there’s no fixing it. And all of those fractures were created by a whole bunch of family secrets. The sisters don’t know why their mother stopped speaking to their grandmother, and none of them seem to know exactly what was motivating the others during the wedding debacle.

And then there’s the current set of secrets, all brand new and all created post-family feud.

One of the interesting parts of their dynamic is the way that they don’t fit the usual birth order stereotypes. Oldest sister Madison is plenty take-charge and controlling, but middle sister Shelley is the wild child and youngest Gia is the peacemaker instead of the other way around.

But it’s the way that they pull together while falling apart that carries the story. Even though they don’t figure out the darkness that’s at the heart of their fracture until the very end, they still manage to take care of everything that needs to be taken care of, including each other, in spite of everything that’s wrong between them.

In the end, it was intensely cathartic to see Gia finally break. Because her breaking let all the secrets out, and the healing is stronger, a real fix and not just a temporary patch job over everything that had gone wrong.

I also perversely loved that the ending is bittersweet. The sisters can repair the damage to their relationship, they can finally learn and understand what went wrong between their mother and their grandmother, and that reveal allows Grammy to live her own truth for her remaining time. But that time is sadly, appropriately short. Time may heal many wounds, but it cannot heal brain cancer.

At the same time, she’s content with her ending, that she accomplished what she intended to, and got her girls back together before it was too late.

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Review: One Little Lie by Colleen Coble

Review: One Little Lie by Colleen CobleOne Little Lie (The Pelican Harbor #1) by Colleen Coble
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, suspense
Series: Pelican Harbor #1
Pages: 352
Published by Thomas Nelson on March 3, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

It started with one little lie. But Jane Hardy will do everything in her power to uncover the truth. 

Book one in a gripping new series from USA TODAY bestselling romantic suspense author Colleen Coble.

When Jane Hardy is appointed interim sheriff in Pelican Harbor, Alabama, after her father retires, there's no time for an adjustment period. He is arrested for theft and then implicated in a recent murder, and Jane quickly realizes she's facing someone out to destroy her father.

They escaped from a cult fifteen years ago, and Jane has searched relentlessly for her mother—who refused to leave—ever since. Could someone from that horrible past have found them?

Reid Bechtol is a well-known journalist who makes documentaries, and his sights are currently set on covering Jane's career. Jane has little interest in the attention, but the committee who appointed her loves the idea of the publicity.

Jane finds herself depending on Reid's calm manner as he follows her around taping his documentary, and they begin working together to clear her father. But Reid has his own secrets from the past, and the gulf between them may be impossible to cross.

It started with one little lie. But Jane Hardy will do everything in her power to uncover the truth. 

My Review:

There’s more than one lie at the heart of this mystery – and none of those lies are exactly little ones.

This is also a story about revenge being a dish best served cold – but it never gets all that cold in the Gulf Shores. And the revenge story, while fascinating, turns out to be a smokescreen for the bigger reveal. But no less deadly for all that.

When this story begins, it’s not where we think it’s going to be. It’s also not when we think it’s going to be. But that beginning sets up the wider story in a way that doesn’t become clear until much later in the book, after we’ve gotten to know these characters and have learned why at least some of them relate back to Button, 15 years old and 15 years ago, fleeing a religious cult with her father as bullets fly around them.

Fast-forward those 15 years and the focus turns to Jane Hardy, the newly minted police chief of tiny Pelican Harbor, following in her father’s law enforcement footsteps, occupying the office that was his not long ago.

There’s a crime spree in town. Someone claiming to be a vigilante has been punishing, let’s call it moral turpitude, all over town. The exposure of the wrongdoers has generally been embarrassing, but not deadly. At least not until now.

Jane suddenly has not one but two murders to investigate. One looks like the vigilante just went too far, or simply didn’t know that his victim was allergic to feathers. The intention was to leave the adulterer tarred, feathered and locked in the stocks, but instead her allergy killed her.

As strange as that may have been, it makes more sense than the body that one of the local shrimpboats hauls up in its nets. Or rather, the headless, armless and legless corpse that the old shrimper finds in a cooler that he hauls up in his nets.

So Jane has two murders to solve and a documentary filmmaker in tow. The Mayor wants to reap the good publicity of having a female Police Chief in an era where they are fairly thin on the ground.

But that publicity may not be all that the city fathers and mothers hoped it would be. One of Jane’s officers is a suspect in the tar-and-feather murder. He’s certainly the married man the victim was having an affair with. Jane’s father, the former chief himself, is arrested by the FBI for a whole laundry list of crimes.

And the documentary filmmaker has an agenda that Jane will hate and love in equal measure. If they live long enough to learn the truth about that one, long ago, little lie.

Escape Rating B+: I have to start off by saying that I am absolutely one with Jane Hardy’s taste in reading. The two books she is mentioned as reading are Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series and C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. Both are old favorites. And there’s an audiobook of John Cleese reading Screwtape that is marvelous if you can find it – and still have a cassette player around.

But seriously, that peek into Jane’s reading habits made it easy to get inside her head and really feel for her as a character. Readers identify with other readers.

Climbing down off my librarian soapbox, I should probably talk about the two mysteries in this story, because there are definitely two – and surprisingly for a police procedural type mystery they are not related to each other.

Come to think of it, there are really three mysteries.

The most sensational is the vigilante turned killer, not that vigilantes don’t usually turn out to be killers. Pelican Harbor is a small town, which means that everybody knows everybody else’s business whether they want to or not. That someone would take their frustrations with other people’s immorality out in some kind of public shaming doesn’t seem all that far-fetched. But when it turns into murder it feels like a strange kind of escalation – only because it is.

The arrest of Jane’s father doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere with what’s happening, until it does. When that plot thread wriggled up out of the blue I’ll admit that I thought they had to be connected even if neither the how nor the why was obvious. And they were, just not in anything like any of the ways I was expecting.

But the heart of both of those mysteries leads to the third. While they aren’t all part of the same thing, they all have one big thing in common. Both of these mysteries involve the betrayal of someone close to Jane. Someone that she has misjudged all along. Which leads back to that first lie.

While she worries that her father has lied to her about who and what he really is, that he might be guilty of the crimes he’s been accused of, that’s not the real betrayal. His real betrayal occurred 15 years ago on that night they fled the cult compound, the scene that opens the book.

Jane had a child. Had literally just had the child. Her father told her that her perfect little boy was dead. He lied. And that’s the lie that comes back to haunt them all.

What made this story so fascinating was that it was so easy to empathize with so many of the characters. There were two who were just a bit out there, notably the vigilante killer who had a much bigger plan than anyone realized and was just a bit cray cray. And the documentary filmmaker’s ex who just felt tacked onto the story without really being integral to a plot that already had plenty of meat to it.

But at the heart the story revolved around Jane, her father, that documentary filmmaker, and his son. All of them felt like real people and what they did and the reasons that they did it all made sense. Even, in the end, the lie at the start of it all.

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Review: Children of the Stars by Mario Escobar

Review: Children of the Stars by Mario EscobarChildren of the Stars by Mario Escobar
Format: ebook
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, Holocaust, World War II
Pages: 368
Published by Thomas Nelson on February 25, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

From international bestseller Mario Escobar comes a story of escape, sacrifice, and hope amid the perils of the second World War.

Jacob and Moses Stein live with their aunt in Paris until the great raid against foreign Jews is unleashed in August 1942. Their parents, well-known German playwrights, have been hiding in France, but before their aunt manages to send them south, the gendarmes stop the boys and take them to the Velodromo de Invierno, where more than 4,000 children, 5,000 women, and 3,000 men had to subsist without food or water. Jacob and Moses manage to flee, but the road will not be safe or easy. This novel by internationally bestselling author Mario Escobar follows two brave young Jewish boys as they seek refuge in the French town of Le-Chambon-sur-Lignon and eventually Argentina.

My Review:

The English title of this book, Children of the Stars, sounds bright and hopeful. And most of the time when that title has been used, it is just that. This book certainly does have its bright and shiny bits as well, although there’s plenty of parts that are not remotely so.

Yellow badge made mandatory by the Nazis in France

The thing is that the title is also a kind of a pun. At least in the gallows humor sense. Because the stars that Jacob and Moses Stein are the children of are the yellow Stars of David that the Nazis and their French collaborators, forced all Jews to sew on their clothing.

The title of this book in the original Spanish is Los Niños de la Estrella AmarillaThe Children of the Yellow Star, and so they were.

Children of the Stars takes place during the Nazi occupation of France, and Jacob and Moses begin the story wearing those yellow badges – and being rounded up and sent to horrific conditions in the Velodromo de Invierno outside Paris. A place where those same Nazis expected as many Jews as possible to die, before rounding the survivors up and sending them to concentration camps inside the Reich, where they were expected to die or be killed in the gas chambers.

Instead, these boys, 13-year-old Jacob and 9-year-old Moses, escaped the Velodrome and began a trek across France that was hopeful and heartbreaking in equal turns, hunting for their missing parents. Parents they believe are somewhere south of Lyon, but are actually much, much further away.

Across the Atlantic Ocean. In Argentina.

It will be a challenge for two young boys, alone in the world, to hide from the Nazis, the gendarmes, and the collaborators, all while making their way across hostile territory to an unknown future.

They find help along the way, as well as betrayal, along with more than their share of both good and bad luck. There are enough setbacks to challenge anyone, let alone two children.

And at the end, there is triumph.

Escape Rating A-: There is more than one way to look at this story. On the one hand, it is a story about the triumph of not just the human spirit, but of humanity itself over, under and around the bootheel of oppression and tyranny. And that’s a hopeful story, celebrating those who stand up to be counted even at the cost of their own lives.

But it is also a story about those who, as one of the characters in the story says, surrendered their souls and looked the other way.” Those who gave into the lies. The ones who kept their heads down and hoped that the ax would fall on someone else.

As that same character continued, “The worst friend of the truth is silence. The worst lie in the world is that ordinary people are powerless against tyranny.” The Stein boys, and those who helped them along their perilous journey, are the ones who stood up. But it is also the story of a world gone, not mad, but silent, allowing the evil to happen – even participating in that evil out of either cowardice or complicity.

The Stein brothers are fictional. But they are also a composite of many children who undertook the same journey, or similar. Thousands of children who managed to escape and find shelter, sometimes temporarily, sometimes long enough to outlast the war, and sometimes to escape it outright, as they did. And just as many who failed.

While the details of this journey are the product of the author’s imagination, the historical events that underlie it happened in history; both the horrors of the Velodromo de Invierno and the heroism of the town of Le Chambon Sur Lignon.

In the end, Children of the Stars is both a triumph of the human spirit, and a condemnation of the conditions that required it. And it is a story guaranteed to haunt any reader who lets it into their heart.

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Review: Wild Wild Rake by Janna MacGregor + Giveaway

Review: Wild Wild Rake by Janna MacGregor + GiveawayWild, Wild Rake (The Cavensham Heiresses #6) by Janna MacGregor
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss, supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical romance
Series: Cavensham Heiresses #6
Pages: 368
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on February 25, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads


Her first marriage was an epic failure.

Lady Avalon Warwyck never did love her husband. Arrogant, selfish, and cruel, it’s a blessing when she’s widowed and left to raise her son all by herself. Finally, Avalon can live freely and do the work she loves: helping fallen women become businesswomen. She’s lived these past ten years with no desire to remarry―that is, until Mr. Devan Farris comes to town.


Can he convince her to take another chance at happily ever after?

Devan Farris―charming vicar, reputed rake, and the brother of Avalon’s son’s guardian―is reluctantly sent to town to keep tabs on Avalon and her son. Devan wishes he didn’t have to meddle in her affairs; he’s not one to trod on a woman’s independent nature and keen sense of convictions. But she’ll have nothing to do with vicar with a wild reputation―even though he’s never given his heart and body to another. If only he could find a way to show Avalon who he really is on the inside―a good, true soul looking for its other half. But how can prove that he wants to love and care for her. . .until death do they part?

My Review:

Avalon Warwick’s marriage showed just how much grit was hidden under the glitter of the Regency. Her parents sold her in marriage to a man who absolutely despised her, to the point where he put his mistress in her place and exiled her to his country estate with as little money as he could indecently get away with.

All the while spreading stories around town that painted her as a cold, waspish spendthrift who left him. He ruined her reputation among the ton in every possible way except sexual, as he claimed she was much too cold to want any man in her bed.

But the only time their marriage was consummated left her with his son and heir, so when he died she received enough to maintain them, raise her son, and start an extremely charitable foundation in the village he exiled her to.

So things stand until the story opens, when the young Marquis is rising 10 and his male guardian, her late, unlamented husband’s friend, decrees that the boy should go to Eton as soon as he’s ready. Which in Avalon’s mind will be never.

The man he sends to tutor Thane is his brother Devan, a vicar known for his libertine ways. Devan’s job is to become the parish priest, tutor the boy in anything he might be lacking, and discover just exactly where Avalon is getting the money to set up and maintain that charitable foundation.

He’s happy to do the tutoring, but refuses the spying. Not that Avalon isn’t perfectly aware of why he’s been sent. She just thinks she can make him a better offer financially, to either turn him to her side or drive him away.

But her son wants to go to Eton. And he wants a father. He’s willing to manipulate events to keep Devan around as both tutor and father so he can go to Eton and not leave his mother lonely.

Devan discovers that he is surprisingly onboard with that plan. At least until fate steps in and makes a hash of everything, including the tenuous but surprising romance between Devan and Avalon.

Escape Rating B: This was definitely a mixed-feelings read for me, and it’s going to be a mixed feelings review.

This was a very hard book to read after the two previous books this week. Why? Because both of those featured heroines with a LOT of agency in situations where they could, or were forced to, exercise that agency at every turn.

Avalon, on the other hand, is in a situation where she needs agency and wants it badly but is forced at pretty much every turn to confront how little she has truly managed to claw out of the hands of the men who are legally able to control her life.

Not that she hasn’t done a damn good job carving out a fiefdom as best as she can, and not that she is not administering said fiefdom extremely well when the story begins, but the tension that underpins the eventual romance is the fact that Devan’s brother can take Avalon’s son away from her whenever he wants, and that Devan was sent by his brother to provide a pretext for that taking.

He doesn’t actually need such a pretext, but he’s trying to be a “gentleman” about it. GRRRR.

So the situation in this story gave me a screaming fit. At the same time, I finished the book at 2 in the morning because I wanted to see how the author resolved the romantic dilemma. Which means that the book is plenty well written, just that I’m not the audience for it.

But for readers who can get past or ignore the harsh realities that underlie Avalon’s situation, there’s a lovely romance between a woman who has done her very best to stand firmly on her own two feet and help as many other women as possible to rise with her and a man who appears to be one thing and is actually something entirely different.

Both Avalon and Devan do a very successful job of putting up a strong front – one that hides their equally soft and gooey centers. They are, after all, made for each other. Watching them figure that out was definitely the fun part of the story.

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

I’m giving away a copy of Wild, Wild Rake to one lucky US commenter on this tour!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

TLC
This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.

Review: Last Day by Luanne Rice + Giveaway

Review: Last Day by Luanne Rice + GiveawayLast Day by Luanne Rice
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, suspense
Pages: 412
Published by Thomas & Mercer on February 1, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository
Goodreads

From celebrated New York Times bestselling author Luanne Rice comes a riveting story of a seaside community shaken by a violent crime and a tragic loss.

Years ago, Beth Lathrop and her sister Kate suffered what they thought would be the worst tragedy of their lives the night both the famous painting Moonlight and their mother were taken. The detective assigned to the case, Conor Reid, swore to protect the sisters from then on.

Beth moved on, throwing herself fully into the art world, running the family gallery, and raising a beautiful daughter with her husband Pete. Kate, instead, retreated into herself and took to the skies as a pilot, always on the run. When Beth is found strangled in her home, and Moonlight goes missing again, Detective Reid can’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu.

Reid immediately suspects Beth’s husband, whose affair is a poorly kept secret. He has an airtight alibi—but he also has a motive, and the evidence seems to point to him. Kate and Reid, along with the sisters’ closest childhood friends, struggle to make sense of Beth’s death, but they only find more questions: Who else would have wanted Beth dead? What’s the significance of Moonlight?

Twenty years ago, Reid vowed to protect Beth and Kate—and he’s failed. Now solving the case is turning into an obsession . . .

My Review:

This is a story about lightning striking twice – and for the same reasons. It’s also a page-turner of a mystery combined with a story of friendship and sisterhood.

The story opens on Beth Lathrop’s last day. Or at least the last day when anyone who loved her woke up and believed that she was alive. But she isn’t.

Instead, Beth’s corpse is found in her bedroom, several days dead, by her sister and the local police. Those events would normally be the place where everyone’s nightmare begins, but it isn’t.

The nightmare began years ago, when thieves broke into their family’s art gallery and left Beth, her sister Kate, and their mother bound and gagged in the basement while they robbed the place. The girls spent 22 hours in that basement, tied to the body of their mother who choked to death on her gag.

Beth turned outward, her sister Kate turned inward, and the cop who rescued them still keeps tabs on them in the hopes of protecting them again.

But their first ordeal happened because their father betrayed them. It was his plan and his idea, and he’ll be paying the price for it for the rest of his life in prison.

Now tragedy has struck again. Beth is dead, Kate and the rest of her family and friends are lost in grief. But just as before, their peace has been shattered because someone in their inner circle betrayed Beth and betrayed them all.

The question is whether that same cop can figure out just who hides the evil behind a mask of grief.

Escape Rating B: Last Day was a compelling read. I think my feelings can be summed up by saying that it was good, and it was just on the edge of great – but didn’t quite get there, at least not for me. A couple of things made it fall just short of the mark.

The biggest thing that threw me off was that there are a few very brief chapters from Beth’s point of view, including the opening and closing chapters. She’s dead. Those chapters are weird, and they took me out of the story every time.

Beth’s contributions aside, the story itself is a page-turner. We see most of the action by following Kate, Beth’s older sister, and Conor Reid, the cop who found them all those years ago. Conor is now on the Major Case Team of the Connecticut Bureau of Investigation, and as soon as he learns of Beth’s death, he assigns himself to the case even though he knows he shouldn’t.

He also shouldn’t jump to conclusions, but he knows all of the principals of this case much better than any investigator should. And he wants the husband to be guilty of Beth’s murder.

Not that Pete Lathrop isn’t guilty of plenty of things, but murder may not be one of them. And Conor’s desire to punish Pete for all of the crap he put Beth through in life blinds him to the man’s lack of means, motives and opportunity to cause her death.

At the same time, Kate is left trying to make sense of it all, not just her sister’s death, but all of the secrets that made up her life that Kate knew nothing about. Somewhere among all the things that Beth hid from her sister but revealed to their best friends may lie the reason for her death. Or may just provide Kate with more reasons to grieve.

In the end, the truth is revealed not by dogged investigation, but by a little girl who is unable to let a lie stand, no matter who tries to gaslight her into believing the lie instead of the truth. The case is finally solved, and the perpetrator is revealed. And it is a betrayal, just as the truth of Beth’s and Kate’s mother was long ago.

But this time only Kate is left to pick up the pieces.

This was one where I didn’t figure out whodunnit at all. I wanted it to be the husband, but it felt too obvious so eventually I read the last chapter just to figure it out – and I was still plenty surprised. I think that, as much as I was riveted by the investigation and the unraveling of Beth’s life as well as the truth of her death, I found the ending a bit unsatisfactory. I’m glad that the murderer was uncovered, but I’m not sure I felt the catharsis I expected. The motives didn’t make complete sense.

Like the detective, I really wanted the husband to be guilty after all.

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

I’m giving away a copy of Last Day to one lucky US commenter on this tour!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

TLC
This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.

Review: The Hollows by Jess Montgomery + Giveaway

Review: The Hollows by Jess Montgomery + GiveawayThe Hollows (Kinship #2) by Jess Montgomery
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, historical mystery
Series: Kinship #2
Pages: 343
Published by Minotaur Books on January 14, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Jess Montgomery showcases her skills as a storyteller in this powerful, big-hearted and exquisitely written follow-up to her acclaimed debut The Widows.

Ohio, 1926: For many years, the underground railroad track in Moonvale Tunnel has been used as a short cut through the Appalachian hills. When an elderly woman is killed walking along the tracks, the brakeman tells tales of seeing a ghostly female figure dressed all in white.

Newly elected Sheriff Lily Ross is called on to the case to dispel the myths, but Lily does not believe that an old woman would wander out of the hills onto the tracks. In a county where everyone knows everyone, how can someone have disappeared, when nobody knew they were missing? As ghost stories and rumors settle into the consciousness of Moonvale Hollow, Lily tries to search for any real clues to the woman’s identity.

With the help of her friend Marvena Whitcomb, Lily follows the woman’s trail to The Hollows—an asylum is northern Antioch County—and they begin to expose secrets long-hidden by time and the mountains.

My Review:

I want to call this “Southern Gothic” but it isn’t really Southern and only parts of it are gothic. But still, that feeling persists.

While this isn’t truly Southern, it also kind of is. It may be set in Ohio, but it’s in the southeast corner of the state, a place that has always been more a part of Appalachia than it is the Midwest. Far away from the big cities, which would have been Cincinnati and Cleveland at the time this story is set, locked in their eternal rivalry.

I’m from Cincinnati. There are other cities in the state, but Columbus wasn’t the big city it is today, although Toledo was probably bigger than it is now. And Cincinnati was more important than it is today. Times change. But that rivalry between Cincy and Cleveland will go on forever.

The Gothic looms over this story in the form of The Hollows Asylum in not too distant Athens. The place from which the elderly, female inmate/patient walks away at the beginning of this story, only to meet her death by falling into a remote railway tunnel ahead of an oncoming train.

It’s that death, whether by misadventure or murder, that drags Sheriff Lily Ross out into the night to see the body and begin her investigation into the true cause of the poor woman’s death – whoever she might be.

But Jane Does, even poor, wandering, confused and possibly senile Jane Does, deserve justice. No matter how many people want Sheriff Ross to let the unnamed dead rest in peace. Or perhaps especially because so many people don’t seem to want the woman’s death to be properly investigated.

And there are plenty of people who don’t believe that Sheriff Ross is the proper person to do the investigation – no matter what it might or might not uncover. Being sheriff is certainly not a suitable job for a woman – even if she “inherited” the job from her late husband.

But Lily can’t afford to listen to the naysayers. If she’s not willing to do her best for the least of her constituents then she has no business running for the job in her own right. And she is running for the job. It might not be anything she expected to be doing, but then she never expected to be a widow in her late 20s with an aging mother and two young children to take care of, either.

She does the best she can, no matter where, or how far it takes her. Even back into the long past. Or into the cells of the asylum – as an inmate.

Escape Rating A-: This wasn’t at all what I was expecting – and I mean that in the best way possible. I think I was expecting more of a historical mystery, with the emphasis on the mystery. Not that there isn’t a mystery in this story because there certainly is.

However, the book I actually got has a lot more depth than the typical historical mystery. This is more like historical fiction that has a mystery in it. There’s plenty of meaty history here, and unveiling the secrets of the past is really the heart of the story – not that plenty of dirty-deeds aren’t being done in its present.

While the individual characters in this story are fictional, there’s also a lot of excellent grounding in real history, beginning with the character of Sheriff Lily Ross. There really was a female sheriff in southeastern Ohio during this time period. Just as the main character of Girl Waits with Gun was also based on a surprising real-life example.

The deeper history that Lily uncovers, the secrets of the past and present in which this case is grounded, are also real, giving the events a resonance that they wouldn’t otherwise have. And I don’t just mean the dark roots of the case in the Underground Railroad, but also the surprising dark present of the WKKK, the Women’s Ku Klux Klan. That’s a bit of history I didn’t know and was perversely fascinated and totally disgusted by at the same time. It makes sense that it existed – unfortunately – but the popular image of the KKK is always men in white masks and robes. That their wives had a “ladies auxiliary” as so many organizations did, feels both right and chilling at the same time.

But this is also a work of fiction, and it’s a story that is wrapped around its strong female characters. Not just Lily Ross herself, but also her friends Hildy and Marvena as they each find their way after the tragic events of the previous book in this series, The Widows. While there was enough backstory provided that I was able to understand where each of these women was coming from without having read that story, I’m sure that there is plenty of nuance that I’m missing out on. So you can read The Hollows as a standalone but I’m about half-sorry that I did.

While this is Lily’s story, Marvena and Hildy each have their own character arcs and points of view in The Hollows, and they all follow different trajectories, as their lives have after those previous events. Lily has become Sheriff, and is currently in the midst of an election campaign to maintain her job. She’s still grieving for her late husband, still hurting on many levels, but has a job to do and two young children to raise. She’s also caught on the horns of a dilemma that women still face today when doing a so-called man’s job. She has to be hyper-competent while not crossing a line into imitating a man while fending off all of the many, many people who believe she can’t do her job or she shouldn’t do her job or she shouldn’t even want to do her job.

Marvena is a union organizer fighting her own battles both against the coal mine owners and the members of the union who are against integration and are raising the banner of the KKK. That part of her struggle feeds into the mystery in both the past and the present.

Then there’s Hildy, who I must admit drove me bonkers. Everyone thinks she needs protecting, that she really wants a woman’s traditional life and role. And that she should marry the local grocer because he’s her best chance. Hildy, on the other hand, is struggling against the way that everyone else sees her and the way that everyone else believes they know what’s best for her, including the lover that she can neither give up nor acknowledge. Her vacillating between the life she believes she desires and the person who makes her happy were a bit hard to take over the course of the entire story. But, and in the end it’s a very big but, she finally puts her courage to the sticking point and does what’s best for her, no matter how difficult the journey will ultimately be.

In conclusion, The Hollows was a story that took me up and swept me away. It intrigued me with its creepy mystery and gritty and all too real history. And it got me seriously invested in the lives of its strong female characters and the dilemmas they faced that were both very different and all too familiar.

And last but not least, I want to say that the atmosphere of the story reminds me quite a bit of Sharyn McCrumb’s Ballad series. And that’s excellent company to be in!

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

I’m giving away a copy of The Hollows to one very lucky US winner on this tour!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

TLC
This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.

Review: Cast in Wisdom by Michelle Sagara

Review: Cast in Wisdom by Michelle SagaraCast in Wisdom (The Chronicles of Elantra, #15) by Michelle Sagara
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: epic fantasy, fantasy, urban fantasy
Series: Chronicles of Elantra #15
Pages: 544
Published by Mira on January 28, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

SOMETHING IS WAKING

The fiefs that exist at the heart of the city of Elantra are home to sentient Towers that guard the world against the incursion of Shadow. But between the fiefs exists the gray world of the border zone. In it, geography changes between one passage across a border and the next. The rules of magic are different there—and yet somehow familiar to Kaylin Neya.

When a Shadow escapes, Kaylin must find out how…and why. If Shadows can breach the barrier erected by the Towers, the whole of Elantra will be devoured. It’s happened on other worlds. Bellusdeo, Kaylin’s Dragon companion, absolutely believes it can happen on theirs.

The border zone holds secrets and ancient histories, and people are gathering there in search of its power. Without even understanding what that power is, or why it exists, Kaylin is in a desperate race against time to find those secrets first. She doesn’t know who her enemies are. She doesn’t know how many she’ll face. But she won’t face them alone.

My Review:

“Do not underestimate librarians.” Words to live by, as said by Lannagaros, the Arkon of the Dragon Empire, in Cast in Wisdom. He’s talking about the importance of returning a book, a very particular book, to the Library of the Academia, an Academia that has been lost in the borderlands between the fiefs of Elantra for a very long time. A time measured in centuries if not millennia. A time when Elantra was whole, Ravellon had not yet fallen, and Lannagaros was a young student at the Academia in a time before the wars between the Dragons and the Barrani devastated both of their peoples and the world on which they lived.

A time that has lived forever in his heart. A time that is so far back in the distant past that Kaylin Nera cannot imagine such a thing ever existed. To her brief, mortal eyes, Lannagaros has always been ancient beyond reckoning, and he has always been the Arkon.

We see this world through Kaylin’s eyes. She is human and mortal and fragile in a world that is dominated by the immortal Dragons who rule Elantra and the equally immortal Barrani whose political infighting often threatens to tear the world they all inhabit down to its foundations.

Elantra is a world with epic fantasy proportions, but its stories are often on an urban fantasy scale. Kaylin is a ground Hawk, the equivalent of a police officer who serves the Halls of Law, which are more or less what their name implies. Kaylin’s job is to help keep the peace – even as her extracurricular activities threaten to break it.

Due to incidents that have happened to or around Kaylin in her past, she is mixed up in both the Dragon and Barrani Courts, and her actions often shake the world – to the surprise of nearly everyone around her – especially herself.

Kaylin’s adventures began in the novella Cast in Moonlight almost 20 years ago, with Cast in Shadow the first full-length novel in the series. This is definitely a series where you need to start in the beginning to get a grasp on this world, Kaylin herself, and the found family that has gathered around her – sometimes without any of her intention at all. And we discover ourselves caring about these people because she does. And because we care about her.

Kaylin is a chaos magnet – she is a person to whom things happen – whether she wishes it or not.

The story of Cast in Wisdom is absolutely a case where Kaylin is given an assignment – an official one even – that seems relatively simple and unambiguous on the surface but as is usual turns out to be anything but. And as so often happens to Kaylin, those complexities uncover plots and counterplots that are intended to change this world in a way that will likely lead to destruction.

But no plot seems to survive contact with Kaylin Nera – not even her own.

cast in shadow by michelle sagaraEscape Rating A: I love this series for Kaylin, her snarky voice, and the even snarkier characters she has gathered around her. I fell for it because the opening books were definitely in the urban fantasy vein, even if the world in which they were set felt more like epic fantasy. As the series has continued, Kaylin’s initially small world has gotten bigger and wider, and events have often taken her out of her city.

You can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t really take the city out of the girl. Cast in Wisdom is a story that explores a tiny and obscure portion of Elantra and gives that exploration huge implications without ever leaving the city borders.

Well, not exactly leaving, but that’s part of the story.

I’ll admit that I especially fell for this one because the entire thing is set in a school that has been lost in time – a school that considers its heart and soul to be its library. And that, of course, had me from the beginning.

But it’s also a story about fighting for what you believe in, and it’s a story that breathes life by dragon fire into the idea that it’s never too late to be what you were meant to be. So as much as the series is absolutely Kaylin’s journey, Cast in Wisdom is Lannagaros’ journey. Kaylin is barely two decades old, while Lannagaros has lived for not just centuries but actually millennia. His whole life has been dedicated to preserving the past and learning from it. All he wanted was to be an academic, but he left his studies to serve in a war that is long past. By the time it was over, the Academia he loved was lost to the shadows between the fiefs.

When it is found again, broken and barely functioning as a ghostly shadow of the place he once loved, he is forced to rethink his entire life in order to defend the place where his heart has always belonged – even when he believed it no longer existed.

As the fight for the heart and soul of a school and a library, Cast in Wisdom is a terrific adventure. As a story about it never being too late to grasp the dream of your heart, it is marvelous. As the latest in a continuing saga, it is a wonderful addition to the series.

And now that I have left Elantra for the nonce, I am in withdrawal until the next book in the series, whenever it appears.

Back in Black by Rhys Ford: The Blog Tour

It is my very, make that my extremely great pleasure to welcome Rhys Ford back to Reading Reality! Today is the Grand Opening for the tour for her latest book, the coming-real-soon-now first book in the McGinnis Investigations series, Back in Black. I’m thrilled to have her here today and so very pleased that Cole McGinnis, his partner (now husband) Kim Jae-Min, and their feline overlord Neko are coming back for more hair-raising adventures that I practically begged to be on the tour. My review of Back in Black will be posted next week, but in the meantime, here’s Rhys with the first part of a teaser short story, a few things to say, and a giveaway!

Take it away, Rhys!

Hello! And thank you for joining the Back in Black Blog Tour! My name is Rhys Ford and I will be your guide through this serialized short story featuring Cole McGinnis and his trip to the altar. Hit each blog stop for the next bit of the story AND as a special bonus, Greg Tremblay has narrated each “slice of cake” on this wedding tour!

As some of you know, Cole McGinnis is a former LAPD detective who found love again in a romance suspense series called the Cole McGinnis Mysteries or as I call it, the Dirty Series. It is there he meets and falls in love with Kim Jae-Min, a Korean photographer with a few secrets of his own and a tiny black cat with an attitude. I left Cole and Jae in quite a happy place five years ago in Los Angeles with a promise to come back and “reboot” Cole’s life in a mystery series.

(You can find the first series here at Dreamspinner Press, including a special free bonus collection of shorts in both ebook and audiobook format) 

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/cole-mcginnis-mysteries-6335-s

If you’ve already met Cole, well then I am happy to announce he’s back and well, while things are a little bit different… and he’s a hair older… his life is still as insanely jam-packed with action and more than a few mysteries to figure out. All of the old gang is back along with a few new faces and I hope you all enjoy Back in Black as much as I enjoyed writing it.

And as if Cole wasn’t fun enough to write, Greg Tremblay is back as Cole McGinnis in the upcoming audiobook which is supposed to be out on Feb 13th! If you aren’t a part of my Facebook group or follow me on social media, please be sure to find me to learn about any future stuff. Because 2020 is going to be a hell of a lot of fun.

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

As always, there is a giveaway! Please Please fill out the rafflecopter to enter to win a $25 Gift Certificate to the online store of your choice!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Nothing Else Matters: Part One

Audio Snippet Link: https://rhysford.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/pt1_bib_wedding.mp3 

“I swear to God, Dawson,” I shouted over the gunfire. “If you get me killed before my own damned wedding, I’m going to come back and haunt you every time you have sex!”

“Since I’m married to your damned brother, pretty sure if I get you killed, I won’t be having sex ever again, asshole!” My best friend yelled back, grabbing at the back of my head to shove me down. “Stay down. They’re coming back around!”

When he wasn’t having sex with Ichi, my younger brother, or beating me up at JoJo’s Boxing Gym, Bobby spent most of his free time lifting weights or coaching young rugby players on how to bulk up and increase their stamina. He practiced what he preached and for someone nearly twenty years older than me, there was power in those muscular arms of his. Okay, even if he were my age or younger, his strength was plenty impressive and that shove to the back of my head? Brought my nose right down into the rough cracked asphalt. 

I was never one to worry about my looks but something told me if I showed up at the altar with road rash all over my face, Jae was going to make me wish I had been shot in the middle of Chinatown.

The side of the minivan we’d chosen to take cover behind was taking hard hits, the metal punched through with round after round of whatever it was the two men across the street were shooting. Around us, the sidewalks were nearly empty, having moments ago been sparsely populated by early morning shoppers looking for a bargain among the stalls set up in a side alley. 

Our one almost perfect escape route had been cut off by an old woman who’d taken one look out of her store, spotted what was going on and hastily rolled down the steel door, sealing herself in. Or possibly giving herself enough time to skip out of the back entrance and down the alleyway to get a cup of coffee. Either way, Bobby and I weren’t going to be able to cut through her shop and get out of the line of fire.

“Do you even know these guys?” I yelled into the road I lay face down on. The street sweepers hadn’t been by in years. Either that or someone nearby was still stocking orange Sno-bals and blue-papered cigarettes because that’s what was keeping me company against the curb. 

“Might have arrested them a few times,” Bobby confessed. “Or maybe double crossed them when I worked undercover. Does it really fucking matter now, Princess?”

Sure, my stint with the LAPD lasted long enough for me to gain a few enemies but Bobby seemed to have gone out of his way to piss people off when he wore a badge. Okay, so he pissed people off long after he retired too but chances are, the two guys in hoodies and floppy pants weren’t ticked off because he sniped their boyfriends at a club. And while those days were long over following his marriage — or at least they should be over — there wasn’t any guy worth killing over.

Okay, maybe Jae but if I didn’t get out of Chinatown in the next hour or so, the angry guys with guns would be the least of my worries.

If you want the rest of the story – and you know you do – follow the TOUR!


Back in Black

There are eight million stories in the City of Angels but only one man can stumble upon the body of a former client while being chased by a pair of Dobermans and a deranged psycho dressed as a sheep.

That man is Cole McGinnis.

Since his last life-threatening case years ago, McGinnis has married the love of his life, Jae-Min Kim, consulted for the LAPD, and investigated cases as a private detective for hire. Yet nothing could have prepared him for the shocking discovery of a dead, grandmotherly woman at his feet and the cascade of murders that follows, even if he should have been used to it by now.

Now he’s back in the dark world of murder and intrigue where every bullet appears to have his name on it and every answer he digs up seems to only create more questions. Hired by the dead woman’s husband, McGinnis has to figure out who is behind the crime spree. As if the twisted case of a murdered grandmother isn’t complicated enough, Death is knocking on his door, and each time it opens, Death is wearing a new face, leaving McGinnis to wonder who he can actually trust.

Purchase Back in Black at Dreamspinner, Amazon (Globally) and other online book stores: 

Dreamspinner Press (https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/back-in-black-by-rhys-ford-11514-b)

Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Back-Black-McGinnis-Investigations-Book-ebook/dp/B07YZLRMPG)

Back in Black Audiobook can be preordered here: https://www.amazon.com/Back-Black-McGinnis-Investigations-Book-ebook/dp/B07YZLRMPG

About Rhys Ford

Rhys Ford is an award-winning author with several long-running LGBT+ mystery, thriller, paranormal, and urban fantasy series and is a two-time LAMBDA finalist with her Murder and Mayhem novels. She is also a 2017 Gold and Silver Medal winner in the Florida Authors and Publishers President’s Book Awards for her novels Ink and Shadows and Hanging the Stars. She is published by Dreamspinner Press and DSP Publications.

She’s also quite skeptical about bios without a dash of something personal and really, who doesn’t mention their cats, dog and cars in a bio? She shares the house with Harley, a grey tuxedo with a flower on her face, Badger, a disgruntled alley cat who isn’t sure living inside is a step up the social ladder as well as a ginger cairn terrorist named Gus. Rhys is also enslaved to the upkeep a 1979 Pontiac Firebird and enjoys murdering make-believe people.

Rhys can be found at the following locations:

Blog: www.rhysford.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/rhys.ford.author
Facebook Group: Coffee, Cats, and Murder: https://www.facebook.com/groups/635660536617002/

Twitter: @Rhys_Ford

For more information and to keep track of his upcoming releases, visit Greg Tremblay at: https://gregtremblay.com/