Life’s a Beach Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Life’s a Beach Giveaway Hop, hosted by  The Mommy Island & The Kids Did It!

Last year’s hop image was a cat with sunglasses. We’d just gotten George, and he resembled the cat in the picture a bit. I was thinking that when he grew up he might look like the cat in the image – minus the shades, of course. George still has way too much big kitten energy to sit and pose with things on his face!

And now that George is full grown – or close to it – it’s easy to see from the pictures that he isn’t quite as pale and isn’t nearly as chill!

Speaking of chill, it’s a bit chilly outside here in Atlanta today (Monday, May 3). It’s also pouring rain and there’s a tornado watch. Not exactly a day for going to the beach.

Tuesday and Wednesday aren’t looking so hot either. C’est la vie.

So this isn’t exactly beach weather. It’s more like stay indoors and read weather, which is just fine with me!

Whether you want to get something for future days at the beach, or just want to curl up and read, fill out the rafflecopter for a chance at the usual prize here at Reading Reality, the winner’s choice of a $10 Amazon Gift Card or $10 in books.

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For more terrific prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

Review: Peaches and Schemes by Anna Gerard + Giveaway

Review: Peaches and Schemes by Anna Gerard + GiveawayPeaches and Schemes: A Georgia B&B Mystery by Anna Gerard
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: cozy mystery, mystery
Series: Georgia B&B #3
Pages: 304
Published by Crooked Lane Books on May 11, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

In Anna Gerard's third delightful Georgia B&B mystery, Nina Fleet learns that despite the satin, lace, and buttercream trappings, weddings often prove to be anything but sweet...
Undeterred by the handful of hiccups she's had with her bed and breakfast in the small tourist town of Cymbeline, Georgia, Nina Fleet has her pedal to the medal to make her inn the best it can be with her trusty Australian Shepherd, Matilda. Looking for potential new guests, Nina takes a booth at the annual Veils and Vanities Bridal Expo, put on by the town's two wedding pros: Virgie Hamilton, retirement-aged dress shop owner, and Roxanna Query, a Gen X event planner and Nina's new friend. But everything goes wrong when Roxanna comes tumbling out of an oversized prop wedding cake, strangled to death by a scarf.
Virgie is immediately arrested for the crime, having been overheard accusing her partner of embezzlement. Nina is incensed to believe Roxanna's denials from the argument since Virgie has a relationship for burning bridges. Meanwhile, Nina's sometimes nemesis and current tenant Harry Westcott informs Nina that her lousy ex-husband is engaged to be married again. Unable to wrap her mind around the news, and incensed by her friend's murder, she goes to do the very least she can: rescue Roxanna's now ownerless dog. But when she does to Roxanna's house, the place is ransacked.
Virgie's been in custody this whole time, without enough time to have made the scene since Roxanna left her house. The police have the wrong man, but when he's released from custody, he immediately disappears, and Nina is convinced it's more than a case of skipping bail. That's when she finds on her front gate a scarf identical to the one on Roxanna's neck when she died. A warning? Now Nina fears that if she can't find Virgie, tying the knot will take on a whole new meaning just for her.

My Review:

I have to say that Cymbeline Georgia is growing on me with every book in this series – but I still miss the nuns from Peach Clobbered. They were definitely something special and I’m still hoping for a return visit.

Even if the homicide rate is approaching that of Cabot Cove, Maine.

The murder that kicks of this particular installment of “as the bodies drop” takes place in a scene that is often fraught with high drama – even if in this case the drama inducement is a bit of by proxy.

I’m referring to weddings. Tensions often run high at weddings, whether on the part of the couple getting married, their respective families, the audience, or all of the above. The stakes feel so high and so many people want to get everything perfect on this special day. But there are plenty of ways that things can go wrong, and so many people are so stressed that its easy for even the littlest things to get blown out of proportion.

The wedding business, therefore, is a business of high stakes and high drama. So it’s not all that surprising that Nina Fleet, owner of the Fleet House Bed and Breakfast, hears not one but two threatening “conversations” between one of the organizers of the local wedding convention and various participants in the event said organizer organized.

But the stakes get higher when the corpse of one of the participants in those conversations spills out of a fake cake at the end of the bridal fashion show in front of an audience expecting to see the latest in bridal creations and not the town’s most recent corpse.

Nina can’t help getting involved this time – not that ever can. The victim was a close friend, while the suspected murderer – as argumentative as the woman ALWAYS is – just plain didn’t have the physical strength to strangle someone with their own scarf. Especially considering that the scarf tripped her Trypophobia.

The cops aren’t quite ready to believe they’ve got it wrong – but someone sure thinks that Nina is on the right track – and keeps trying to run her over with their car to prove it. The question is who – along with why. And how many “shots” at Nina will they get to take before Nina finally puts the pieces together.

Escape Rating B+: Part of the charm of this series – and it certainly is charming – is in the cast of characters and the setting the author has created to contain them and their murderous ways.

Well, not their murderous ways exactly. So far, at least, when Nina puts on her “Secret Squirrel” hat and starts looking into something she has no business investigating, both the victim and the murderer inevitably turn out to be people who are new in town – or new back in town. Nina and her cast of friends and regulars may occasionally be suspects but they’re never the guilty party.

And that’s the way it should be in a cozy mystery series.

But there’s one continuing character in this series who, while not generally a murder suspect, is usually suspected of being up to something, and this entry in the series is no exception.

Nina Fleet and Harry Westcott have been the best of frenemies since Peach Clobbered, when Harry rode into town on a tour bus dressed as Harvey, the 6’ tall white rabbit, claiming that he was the true owner of the home that Nina had just converted into a B&B. Harry is now living at Fleet House, in the high turret he used to occupy when his great-aunt owned the place. Nina and Harry aren’t exactly friends, aren’t exactly enemies, and certainly aren’t lovers, but they have come to rely on and depend upon each other in a way that makes both of them more than a bit uneasy.

They care about each other but they don’t exactly trust each other. They can’t resist sniping at each other about their true motivations for continuing to look out for each other. Neither of them is ready for any kind of a relationship and neither of them is quite willing to let go.

So they end up as partners in crime and the solving of it more often than not. I hope the resolution of whatever they are going to be to each other takes a long time because it’s fun to watch them spark and snipe.

Reading Nina’s latest adventure, I also can’t help but think that Nina Fleet and Charlie Harris, the increasingly less amateur detective of the Cat in the Stacks series, would get along like a house on fire, comparing notes on how they each got into being amateur detectives in their small Southern towns, and just how often they’ve each promised local law enforcement to keep their inquisitive noses out of police business – only to break that promise as soon as the case starts to hit too close to home. As small as both Cymbeline GA and Athena MS are, it’s all too easy for that to happen in blink of an eye.

As it does in Peaches and Schemes, much to my reading enjoyment. I had a great time visiting Cymbeline again and I’m looking forward to Nina’s next case. But I still miss those nuns!

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

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TOUR PARTICIPANTS
May 3 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT
May 3 – Reading Reality – REVIEW
May 3 – My Journey Back the Journey Back – CHARACTER GUEST POST
May 4 – Novels Alive – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
May 4 – My Reading Journeys – REVIEW
May 4 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog – SPOTLIGHT
May 5 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT
May 5 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW, CHARACTER GUEST POST
May 5 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
May 5 – Reading Is My SuperPower– REVIEW
May 6 – Mysteries with Character – REVIEW
May 6 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – GUEST POST
May 6 – Baroness’ Book Trove – REVIEW
May 7 – Laura’s Interests – REVIEW, INDIVIDUAL GIVEAWAY
May 7 – Reading, Writing & Stitch-Metic – GUEST POST
May 8 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
May 8 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT
May 8 – FUONLYKNEW – SPOTLIGHT
May 9 – Cozy Up With Kathy – REVIEW
May 9 – Angel’s Guilty Pleasures – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
May 10 – The Avid Reader – REVIEW, INDIVIDUAL GIVEAWAY
May 10 – StoreyBook Reviews – GUEST POST
May 10 – A Wytch’s Book Review Blog – REVIEW, CHARACTER INTERVIEW
May 11 – Diane Reviews Books – REVIEW
May 11 – Ascroft, eh? – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
May 11 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT
May 12 – Socrates Book Reviews – REVIEW
May 12 – Literary Gold – SPOTLIGHT
May 12 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW

Review: An Invincible Summer by Mariah Stewart + Giveaway

Review: An Invincible Summer by Mariah Stewart + GiveawayAn Invincible Summer by Mariah Stewart
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance, relationship fiction, women's fiction
Series: Wyndham Beach #1
Pages: 378
Published by Montlake on May 1, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository
Goodreads

It was a lifetime ago that recently widowed Maggie Flynn was in Wyndham Beach. Now, on the occasion of her fortieth high school reunion, she returns to her hometown on the Massachusetts coast, picking up right where she left off with dear friends Lydia and Emma. But seeing Brett Crawford again stirs other emotions. Once, they were the town’s golden couple destined for one another. He shared Maggie’s dreams—and eventually, a shattering secret that drove them apart.
Buying her old family home and resettling in Wyndham Beach means a chance to start over for Maggie and her two daughters, but it also means facing her rekindled feelings for her first love and finally confronting—and embracing—the past in ways she never thought possible. Maggie won’t be alone. With her family and friends around her, she can weather this stormy turning point in her life and open her heart to the future. As for that dream shared and lost years ago? If Maggie can forgive herself, it still might come true.

My Review:

It’s not that summer is invincible, even if it sometimes feels that way. It’s that during this particular summer Maggie Flynn, along with her besties Lydia and Emma, discover that their friendship, tried and tested and true, makes them invincible.

Not in spite of, but because of, the 50+ years it has been supporting and sustaining them. Although definitely in spite of all the challenges that life has thrown their way.

The story begins in the summer of their 40th high school reunion, making all three women 58 give or take a few months. Lydia and Emma have lived in tiny Wyndham Beach Massachusetts all their lives, while Maggie left to work in Philadelphia and ended up staying there for 30 years, through marriage, two daughters – and the still recent death of her beloved husband.

When Maggie comes back for the reunion, she discovers that in spite of the years and the miles and the tragedies, Wyndham Beach is still – or again – the place that she thinks of as home. Even though both of her adult daughters live in the Philly area, and she loves them and sees them often, Wyndham Beach, where she grew up and where Lydia and Emma still live, is the place that calls her heart.

Even if she has to face the heartbreak she left behind all those years ago in order to stay.

Escape Rating A: This is EXACTLY the kind of story I think of as “women’s fiction”. And as much as I dislike that phrase, I LOVED this book.

One of the things I loved was Maggie. It was terrific to see a story centered on a woman near my own age that focused on her and not on her 20something daughters. Not that Maggie’s daughters aren’t important to the story and not that they don’t get their share of pages, or of Maggie’s attention. And certainly not that they don’t have their own issues to deal with over the course of the book.

But the focus here is on Maggie. She’s the person at the center, it’s about her friendships, her adult relationships with her daughters and her possibilities for romance. She’s the one turning a corner in her life and she’s the one who has to make decisions about her future.

A future that the story dives into from all sides with the acknowledgement that at not-quite-60 Maggie still has plenty of life to live and love to give and that she’s not ready to step back from life. The same is also true of her friends Emma and Lydia.

In other words, Maggie may be a grandmother, but that is far from the entire focus of the rest of her life. It doesn’t have to be and it probably shouldn’t be.

The terrific thread that runs through the story is the way that all of the women, Maggie, Lydia, Emma and Maggie’s daughters Natalie and Grace are ALL at inflection points in their lives. And that all of them grasp their respective bulls by their horns and wrestle their lives into the shapes that they want to live. If romance happens for any of them, it’s the icing on a cake they’ve baked themselves with help from each other.

Also, the issue in Maggie’s past that was holding her back, while the shape of it, so to speak, was obvious early on, the exact nature of the original issue and the way it got resolved was both surprising and lovely.

Honestly, the whole book was just a lovely, charming read from beginning to end.

This is one of those cases where a story turned out to be the right book at the right time. I fell into the lives of Maggie, her friends and her daughters with a contented sigh, and was sorry to fall out of Wyndham Beach at the end. So I’m very happy to see that there will be a second book in this series, Goodbye Again, just in time to pull me out of the winter doldrums next February. That beach is going to sound awfully good about then!

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

I am really, really pleased to be able to give a copy of An Invincible Summer away to one very lucky US/CAN winner. I loved this book and hope the winner will too! (As far as the question in the rafflecopter, I haven’t been to a single reunion since the 10th. I wasn’t close to anyone in high school haven’t had the urge to go and probably won’t. YMMV)

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

Rain Drops on Roses Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Rain Drops on Roses Giveaway Hop, hosted by Mama the Fox!

We’re not so much for the “rain drops on roses” in this house, but we have PLENTY of whiskers on kittens!

Even if they are grown-up kittens. Big kittens. In George’s case, huge kittens.

But the theme of this hop mixes the whole “April Showers” thing with the opening lines of the classic song from The Sound of Music, as Maria sings that “Rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens” are just a few of My Favorite Things. Well, her favorite things, but mine too.

This is a hop where I get to give away one of my favorite things, either a book from the Book Depository, or a gift card from Amazon, where the winner can, naturally, buy more books. Or a bit of whatever one of their favorite things might be.

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For more chances at a whole host of possibly new favorite things, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

MamatheFox and all participating blogs are not held responsible for sponsors who fail to fulfill their prize obligations.

Review: Split Shift by TA Moore + Excerpt + Giveaway

Review: Split Shift by TA Moore + Excerpt + GiveawaySplit Shift (Night Shift #2) by T.A. Moore
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: M/M romance, paranormal, urban fantasy
Series: Night Shift #2
Pages: 117
Published by Rogue Firebird Press on April 19, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

The hard thing about Night Shift is when you realize werewolves are bad news, but people can be worse.

After Night Shift officer Kit Marlow solved the murder of child star Haley Jenkins, he figured he was due a little down time. Maybe even a dinner date with Cade Deacon, the sarcastic security consultant, very good kisser, and werewolf who'd helped with the investigation.

That was before someone in a Night Shift uniform drove them both off the road. With the full moon up the only dinner date Cade is interested in...has Marlow served up on a plate. And not in a sexy way.

It's the second time that corrupt Night Shift officers have tried to kill Marlow. If he has his way, it will be the last. Problem is he only has twenty-eight days before the next full moon. If he hasn't identified who wants him dead by then, he'll have to take to werewolf filled streets with a team at his back he can't trust.

First things first, though. Get through the next twelve hours alive and uneaten, and hope that if a second date is still on the cards it's less eventful.

My Review:

The awesome tease that was the first book in this series, Shift Work, left me screaming for more because it ended on an honest-to-goodness (more likely badness or badassness in this case) cliffhanger.

As in someone just T-boned Marlow’s car – with Cade in it – and left them precarious hanging onto the end of a literal, actual cliff as dusk descends and the full moon comes up over the horizon.

Meaning that Cade is about to wolf-out and Marlow is going to be on his menu – and not in the way that the two men were both hoping.

The thing is, though, that the car that crashed them onto that cliff’s edge was driven by someone in a Night Shift uniform – one of Marlow’s fellow officers. Someone he’s supposed to be able to trust to have his back on those nights when it really isn’t safe out there.

Marlow’s all too aware that it isn’t safe for him inside his own squad – a safety that he hoped he’d gotten back after a past betrayal by a dirty cop nearly ended both his career and his life. But the case that put Marlow and Cade into each other’s orbits in Night Shift isn’t done yet.

Someone is still out to get him. He just has to figure out who before they succeed. Because he’s still hoping for that date with Cade – and he has to be alive to enjoy it.

Escape Rating A-: Godsdammit but she did it again. I turned the last page of this book and realized that this case still isn’t done yet. At least Marlow isn’t hanging over the edge of an actual cliff this time. But I’m not satisfied – actually neither are Marlow and Cade – because this case still isn’t over.

ARRRGGGHHH!

One of the things that this series so far is doing really well, besides teasing its readers half to death, is showing that no matter who or what the monster of the day is in urban fantasy – this time it’s werewolves – that the real monsters, forever and always, are human beings.

The wolves are just following biological imperatives. They aren’t culpable for what happens when they are shifted. They really aren’t.

When the wolves are assholes, and some of them are, it’s not because they are wolves. They are assholes because they are humans for all except the three nights of the full moon. And human beings frequently, often, suck.

And not in a fun way.

So, the problem that Marlow is having has nothing to do with wolves – even when they are chasing him. It’s humans every single time. The question that he has just begun to solve at the end of his Split Shift revolves around exactly which ones? And just how far will they go to get him out of their way?

Maybe we’ll find out in the next book in the series. Pretty, please, Ms. Author? Soon, please!

Guest Post from TA Moore + Chapter 2 of the Night Shift prequel short (check out Chapter 1 at Love Bytes)

First of all, thank you so much for having me! I’m thrilled to be here with my new release, Split Shift by TA Moore, the second novella in the Night Shift series.

For the blog tour I’ve written a short story set in the Night Shift world. I hope you enjoy!

Chapter 2

Sorry.

It was technically the third apology. So far Brian hadn’t responded to any of them. Marlow stared at the phone screen for a second and then dropped his head back against the cushioned, pleather back of the booth in frustration. He stared up at the ceiling, a single cobwebby string of dust strung from one chrome light fitting to the tiles.

Three months ago Brian had thought dating someone in Night Shift was exciting. Hot. Dangerous in a sexy way. He’d wanted Marlow to turn up at his apartment in uniform, the more battered the better.

Now he had either left Marlow on read the morning after the full moon, or he’d slept through their dinner/breakfast date.

The call-and-response rhythm of food orders pitched up and down in the background. Start the Day Right was open at breakfast, but it mostly catered to the night shift. Both the Night Shift who kept the city safe during the full moon, and the less celebrated ones who kept the city running during it. So there was the occasional pancake order or call for fried beets and eggs–who didn’t like breakfast food all day?–most of the orders were for fried chicken, avocado sandwiches, and beers.

“You ready to order, love?” the waitress asked.

Marlow lifted his head. “Sorry,” he said.

For all the ‘love’ the waitress looked about twenty four. She winked at him and clicked her pen.

“Not the first who’s dozed off in here,” she said. “Not even the first today. You ready to order.”

Piper had left his order before he’d stepped out to make a call. That was easy.

“Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, extra spicy,” he said.

The waitress scratched half the order down, and paused on the spicy. “Are you sure?” she asked. “When we say something is extra spicy, it’s made people go blind.”

“That’s what he wants,” Marlow said, with a nod to Piper’s jacket on the other chair. While the waitress wrote the rest of the order down, Marlow gave the menu a quick once over. The thought of food made his stomach knot, but he supposed he had to have something on the plate. “Crispy ginger latkes?”

She nodded and scrawled it down. A swipe of the pen underlined the order and she turned to go, only to rock back on her heels as she came face to face with Piper.

“Oh!” she said. A wide smile crossed her face. “Ned! If I’d known it was your table I’d not have questioned the extra-spicy sauce.”

“I’d hope not,” Piper said. “Make that two of the same, along with whatever Marlow ordered.”

She amended the order quickly and headed off to the kitchens. A few other diners tried to catch her attention on the way past, but she waved them off. Piper pulled the chair on the other side of the booth out and sat down.

“Budge up,” the tall, blond man told Marlow as he slid into the booth next to him. His elbow nudged Marlow in the ribs and he smelled of fresh soap and leather. “You’re in my spot.”

Piper took a drink of coffee. “Marlow,” he said. “Meet Colin Franklin. He just got cleared to get back to work.”

“I got a new hip,” Franklin said with bluntly weaponised good cheer as he took his jacket off. “I try and think of it as more cybernetic than geriatic.”

“How’s that going?” Marlow asked.

He shifted up the bench to put space between them. Franklin promptly shifted back

into the space, his leg pressed against Marlow’s under the table.

“Better some days than others. On the plus side I learned to play a mean hand of bridge,” Franklin said. He stole Marlow’s coffee and took a drink. The taste made him grimace and give it back. “Bean juice. Gross. You can keep that.”

“It isn’t mine,” Marlow lied blandly. “It was on the table when we got here.”

There was a visible pause as Franklin stopped the schtick. The genial goofball slipped for a second and Franklin’s heavy-boned, handsome face settled into a thoughtful expression. It only lasted a moment then was banished with a lazy grin.

“All right, at least people won’t think you’re funnier than me,” he said.

“He’s better at hand to hand,” Piper said conversationally. He unwrapped his cutlery and laid it out on the table. “Drives like an old lady, though.”

Franklin laughed, despite the flicker of annoyance he’d shown at the first part of the sentence. “Shows what you know,” he said. “Some of the old dears in getting their hips done would have put half the cops on the force to shame. They’d run down a toddler down to get to a toilet paper sale.”

Marlow resisted the urge to move further up the bench. He’d just end up squashed into the corner and still have Franklin’s thigh against his.

“No offense, sir,” he said. Piper made a face at the ‘sir’ and Franklin sucked air through his teeth. “What is this in aid of?”

There was a pause as the waitress came back from the kitchen, plates in hand. She slid them onto the table, introducing each as she went, and grabbed a pot to top up their cups. When she finished she chirped ‘enjoy your meal’ and headed over to a nearby table that had been trying to get her attention.

“…we were here first,” one of the men grumbled. “How come they got served first?”

Marlow missed the justification for that as Piper reclaimed his attention.

“Franklin was my first pick for Night Shift,” he said as he tucked his napkin into his lap. “You both know that. He has the experience, I know he has the nerve, and the skills I want to bring to the team.”

Shit.

For a second Marlow’s chest cramped, tight and wet as if he’d just swallowed water, and then he relaxed. It wasn’t exactly what he’d wanted to hear, but it was done. He took a bite of his latkes and started to play what next.

Robbery hadn’t been that bad, but with six months on Night Shift under his belt he could move to Homicide. Or just…move? The Sheriff’s Department had their own Night Shift division, for the small towns and out in the desert. That was another option. Or another city? State?

The idea felt huge. Marlow had spent his whole life in San Diego, but his family was gone and his friends weren’t lifelong ones. There was Brian, but…

It wasn’t like he’d texted back yet.

“See?” Piper said to Franklin. He sounded obscurely pleased. “That’s what Marlow brings to the team. He’s unflappable, even in the middle of a fight. So yeah, Franklin was my first choice but you were always a close second, Marlow. I’d rather not get rid of either of you. It puts us over-budget on our wages for the year, but Quints is retiring in six months and we can absorb it until then.”

Franklin slapped Marlow on the shoulder. It was a little too hard to be friendly. “You sitting there near shitting yourself,” he chuckled, “And for what?”

“The other shoe,” Marlow said. He watched Piper over the rack of condiments in the middle of the table. “We aren’t getting a free meal for nothing are we?”

Piper smirked. He added more hot sauce to his sandwich and took a bite. The batter crunched between his teeth and juice dripped over the plate as he set back down on the table. He wiped his mouth and then his hands on a napkin as he chewed until he could swallow.

“Are you two going to be able to work together?” he asked. “Or you going to be butting heads about who’s my favorite the whole time?”

Franklin shrugged and picked up his burger. “I just want to get back to work,” he

said. “I’m not in it for back pats and medals.”

He took a huge bite and chewed contentedly–and noisily–on it.

“I don’t care who’s the favorite,” Marlow said. “I just want to do the job.”

Piper dipped a fry in the hot sauce and bit it neatly in half. He gave both of them a slow, greasy-lipped smile.

“Good,” he said. “Tonight you get to prove it. I’m going to yoke you two together, see if you can put aside your egos and do what needs done. If you can’t, well, then I guess I have a decision to make.”

He waved the waitress down again and asked for the rest of sandwich to go. It came back to the table in a neat box with a ‘little bit of something sweet to get through till tonight’.

“See you tonight at the briefing,” Piper said as he stood up. “Get some sleep.”

He walked out, bag swinging from one hand.

“I mean, you know I am the favorite right?” Franklin said as he shoved the last bite of chicken and fries into his mouth. “First choice. See you tonight, rookie.”

He bumped Marlow with his shoulder, slid out of the booth and left. The smear of hot sauce left on his plate was sour and strong enough to wrinkle Marlow’s nose. He’d not left any money.

The latkes were only ok. Marlow finished his coffee and tilted his head to catch the waitress’s eye. She topped up a coffee and sauntered over.

“Refill?”

“Just the bill,” Marlow said.

She laughed and shook her head. “No. It’s always on the house for Piper,” she said. “He saved the owner’s kid one full moon. And you, of course, thank you for your service!”

Catch the next chapter tomorrow at Two Chicks Obsessed and follow the tour for the rest of the story!

About the Author:

TA Moore is a Northern Irish writer of romantic suspense, urban fantasy, and contemporary romance novels. A childhood in a rural, seaside town fostered in her a suspicious nature, a love of mystery, and a streak of black humour a mile wide. As her grandmother always said, ‘she’d laugh at a bad thing that one’, mind you, that was the pot calling the kettle black. TA Moore studied History, Irish mythology, English at University, mostly because she has always loved a good story. She has worked as a journalist, a finance manager, and in the arts sector before she finally gave in to a lifelong desire to write.

Coffee, Doc Marten boots, and good friends are the essential things in life. Spiders, mayo, and heels are to be avoided.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads |

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

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Review: The Consequences of Fear by Jacqueline Winspear + Giveaway

Review: The Consequences of Fear by Jacqueline Winspear + GiveawayThe Consequences of Fear (Maisie Dobbs #16) by Jacqueline Winspear
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, historical mystery, mystery, thriller
Series: Maisie Dobbs #16
Pages: 352
Published by Harper on March 23, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

As Europe buckles under Nazi occupation, Maisie Dobbs investigates a possible murder that threatens devastating repercussions for Britain's war efforts in this latest installment in the New York Times bestselling mystery series.
September 1941. While on a delivery, young Freddie Hackett, a message runner for a government office, witnesses an argument that ends in murder. Crouching in the doorway of a bombed-out house, Freddie waits until the coast is clear. But when he arrives at the delivery address, he’s shocked to come face to face with the killer.
Dismissed by the police when he attempts to report the crime, Freddie goes in search of a woman he once met when delivering a message: Maisie Dobbs. While Maisie believes the boy and wants to help, she must maintain extreme caution: she’s working secretly for the Special Operations Executive, assessing candidates for crucial work with the French resistance. Her two worlds collide when she spots the killer in a place she least expects. She soon realizes she’s been pulled into the orbit of a man who has his own reasons to kill—reasons that go back to the last war.
As Maisie becomes entangled in a power struggle between Britain’s intelligence efforts in France and the work of Free French agents operating across Europe, she must also contend with the lingering question of Freddie Hackett’s state of mind. What she uncovers could hold disastrous consequences for all involved in this compelling chapter of the “series that seems to get better with every entry” (Wall Street Journal).

My Review:

In London, in September of 1941, fear was a constant companion. Every person old enough to be aware, including any children past toddlerhood, has to have felt at least some level of fear every waking minute. Fear of bombs, fear of losing someone dear to them – likely because of a bomb, fear of being made homeless and losing everything they owned – due to a bomb.

Fear that Hitler would invade Britain after softening up the target with – yet more bombs. Fear that Britain, standing alone, wouldn’t be able to hold back the tide of Nazi Germany any more than King Canute could hold back the ocean’s tide by ordering it so.

Maisie Dobbs, once upon a time a battlefield nurse in World War I, now serves as part of the checks and balances at the Special Operations Executive, vetting agents who are about to be sent to infiltrate occupied Europe as secret radio operators, saboteurs – and spies.

She did her bit in the first war, and she’s doing it again. Just not quite as near the front lines, although every bit as heartbreaking.

Maisie has spent the years between the wars as a private investigator, trained by her mentor Maurice Blanche, to ferret out the secrets that people have been keeping, sometimes even from themselves, in order to resolve personal issues they bring to her, and crimes brought to her by the police, or, in the case of her interviewing for the SOE, by the government.

The story here is about Maisie attempting, not always successfully, to balance her government work, her private clients, her family out in the country, and her American lover in the Diplomatic Corps of his own country.

It is also a story about the ways in which those responsibilities come into conflict. A country that expects her to drop everything at a moment’s notice in order to send people into situations where death is almost certain. A country that expects her to keep its secrets even from those she loves. A country that expects her to help cover up a murder in order to protect an alliance that it considers strategic.

It’s that last stress that proves to be more than Maisie can live with. The question becomes whether or not she, or anyone else involved, will die for it.

Escape Rating A: This is Mystery & Thriller week on Goodreads, and the image being used looks a lot like a piece of the cover for this book. I fully admit that I had no idea when I was picking out this week’s books that I would be echoing this theme, I just wanted books that I knew would be good and it turned out I struck a theme.

It took me most of the book to get how the title related to this particular story. Everyone is afraid at this point in the war. Things are pretty dark, and in spite of the famous British “stiff upper lip” the situation does not look hopeful.

But the fears that drive this story are not all about the war, even though they circle back to it. There’s a murder in this mystery, and everything about that murder is a result of fear. The murderer fears the loss of his honor, and the exposure of that loss. The witness fears that the killer knows he is a witness, and that the murderer is out to get him as well. And Maisie fears that her emotions are clouding her judgment, and most importantly, fears that the war will rob her of her second chance at happiness.

All three act out because of their fear, and act on their fear at the same time. This entire case and its outcomes are all consequences of those fears.

The ending is not all heartbreak as one might expect from the beginning, although the piper does get paid.

The story closes on December 8, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor. The Americans, including Maisie’s lover, are scrambling to prepare America’s response to the attack. The entire war has changed irrevocably, along with Maisie’s life.

I’ve followed Maisie’s adventures from her very first story, fittingly named after this singular character. This is a series that follows the history of both its character and the world she inhabits, and sincerely rewards readers who get involved at the very beginning. This is not a series to pick up in the middle, especially as the last few books in the series, from A Dangerous Place onwards, show the shadows darkening over Europe as Britain prepares for the inevitable that no one wants to see.

This turned out to be a fitting close for the theme of this Blogo-Birthday Celebration Week as well. Both Maisie Dobbs and Sebastian St. Cyr are coincidentally at the 16th book in their respective series, but more importantly, both are atmospheric historical mysteries set in periods of great upheaval featuring compelling and fascinating protagonists.

Maisie also links back to, not Susan Ryeland or Atticus Pünd in Moonflower Murders, but rather to the author of the series, Anthony Horowitz, and the TV character he created, Christopher Foyle of Foyle’s War. Although a police detective rather than a private investigator, Foyle is another compelling character who served in WW1 and is now, in the second war, investigating crimes on the homefront – and occasionally working for the government – just as Maisie is.

I expect Maisie’s war to be every bit as dangerous, and to include every bit as much crime and punishment as her between the wars life has done. And I’m certainly looking forward to reading about Maisie’s war now that it is finally and officially here.

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

Today is the final day of my Blogo-Birthday Celebration Week. This is a series that is near and dear to my heart, making it a perfect ending to a week of giveaways. I love this series and am thrilled to share a bit of that love with one lucky winner.

The winner of today’s giveaway will receive their choice of one book by Jacqueline Winspear (up to $25 US to include The Consequences of Fear) whether in the Maisie Dobbs series or her standalone or her nonfiction. If you haven’t met Maisie, I would recommend starting with one of the early books in the series, either the collection of novellas in Maisie Dobbs, or the first complete novel that features her, Birds of a Feather.

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Review: What the Devil Knows by C.S. Harris + Giveaway

Review: What the Devil Knows by C.S. Harris + GiveawayWhat the Devil Knows (Sebastian St. Cyr, #16) by C.S. Harris
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss, supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, historical mystery, mystery, thriller
Series: Sebastian St. Cyr #16
Pages: 336
Published by Berkley Books on April 6, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Sebastian St. Cyr thought a notorious serial killer had been brought to justice until a shocking series of gruesome new murders stuns the city in this thrilling historical mystery from the USA Today bestselling author of Who Speaks for the Damned.
It's October 1814. The war with France is finally over and Europe's diplomats are convening in Vienna for a conference that will put their world back together. With peace finally at hand, London suddenly finds itself in the grip of a series of heinous murders eerily similar to the Ratcliffe Highway murders of three years before.
In 1811, two entire families were viciously murdered in their homes. A suspect--a young seaman named John Williams--was arrested. But before he could be brought to trial, Williams hanged himself in his cell. The murders ceased, and London slowly began to breathe easier. But when the lead investigator, Sir Edwin Pym, is killed in the same brutal way three years later and others possibly connected to the original case meet violent ends, the city is paralyzed with terror once more.
Was the wrong man arrested for the murders? Bow Street magistrate Sir Henry Lovejoy turns to his friend Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, for assistance. Pym's colleagues are convinced his manner of death is a coincidence, but Sebastian has his doubts. The more he looks into the three-year-old murders, the more certain he becomes that the hapless John Williams was not the real killer. Which begs the question--who was and why are they dead set on killing again?

My Review:

If you like your historical mystery very much on the dark and gritty side, you absolutely cannot go wrong with Sebastian St. Cyr. The feeling of being in his moment with him is so strong that the reader just can’t turn their eyes away until the mystery is solved – and that’s been true for 16 books now and hopefully counting.

Because it’s clear at the end of What the Devil Knows that this particular mystery may be solved – for certain definitions of the word solved – but that there are many greater – and lesser – mysteries yet to be revealed.

The most important being the mystery of St. Cyr’s very existence. Although his current case is less personal and a whole lot bloodier.

When St. Cyr is called in to investigate the grisly death of a corrupt magistrate, he knows that the case is already bigger than it seems as it appears that the perpetrator of the heinous Ratcliff Highway Murders (the original murders really happened) has struck again. But that man was executed three years previously, and the killings stopped. Even the doubters were silenced in the intervening three years.

But as St. Cyr investigates the latest murders, he becomes certain that there was a rush to judgment, aided and abetted by the government who needed to calm a roiling – and occasionally rioting – populace. The need for reform was in direct conflict with the government’s fear of a revolution every bit as destructive to the upper classes – and the country as a whole – as the French Revolution that was not just within living memory, but whose results were still being felt.

No one in the government, especially not St. Cyr’s father-in-law Charles Jarvis, the power behind the Prince Regent’s self-indulgent, shaky, profligate regency, wants St. Cyr to poke his nose into the original case. It’s too obvious that there was a fix in, and too many people involved in that fix have died in its wake.

And that’s just what St. Cyr finds. Three new and very flashy murders connected to that original miscarriage of justice. Along with a whole lot of very, very quiet stabbings in the dark.

Escape Rating A+: One of the things that makes this series so marvelous is the way that it exposes the dark underbelly of the Regency. As a result of the popularity of Georgette Heyer’s sparkling Regency romances, when we think of the period we think of romantic aristocrats, the strict rules of the haut ton, and a lot of glitz and glamour.

St. Cyr’s restless investigations into the seamier side of the Regency, reveals all of the creeping, oozing, frightening things that you find when you kick over a rock, just that in this case the rock is very, very shiny and hides more muck than expected because we’ve all been blinded by that shine.

It’s not just that bad things happen to bad people – although they do – or even that bad things happen to good people – but it’s the way that so much of what is wrong has been perpetrated and perpetuated by those in power, supposedly for the greater good. Or at least for Britain’s good. But usually for their own good.

And all of that has resonance for the 21st century while still leaving St. Cyr as a man of his own time. He’s someone who is on the outside of both worlds and has the intelligence and the vision to see what is wrong along with the will not to turn his eyes away.

That’s what makes him a hero worth following from one investigation and one mystery to another, 16 books and very much hopefully counting.

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

This is the second book giveaway for my Blogo-Birthday Celebration, and it’s also the second time that a book in the St. Cyr series has come out just in time for me to include among the week’s giveaways.

The winner of today’s giveaway will receive their choice of one book by C.S. Harris (up to $25 US to include What the Devil Knows), whether in the St. Cyr series or written as Candice Proctor or C.S. Graham. If you have not yet had the pleasure of making Sebastian St. Cyr’s acquaintance, I recommend starting that series at the beginning in What Angels Fear.

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April Showers Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the April Showers Giveaway Hop, hosted by  The Mommy Island & The Kids Did It!

It’s not raining today here in Atlanta. It’s not supposed to rain until the weekend – because of course it’s going to rain on the weekend.

I remember my grandmother teaching me the rhyme that goes “Rain, rain, go away. Come back another day!” and thinking that the rain might shout back, “I DID!” and then just pour harder. C’est la vie.

This is the April Showers Giveaway Hop, so in honor of the name of the hop, I’m going to drag out another oldie but goodie.

“If April Showers bring May Flowers, then what do May Flowers bring?”

I’m looking for wrong answers only, please. I’m hoping for some funny ones.

Your answer, funny or not, will give you a shot at the usual prize here at Reading Reality, the winner’s choice of a $10 Amazon Gift Card or $10 in books from the Book Depository.

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For more great prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop. AND remember to come back here every day this week for more giveaways in Reading Reality’s 10th Anniversary Blogo-Birthday Celebration!

Reading Reality’s 10th Anniversary Blogo-Birthday Celebration + Giveaway

OMG, where on Earth do I begin?

Technically, I already did. That’s kind of the point. On April 4, 2011, Reading Reality’s (then called “Escape Reality, Read Fiction” first post was posted, with the title “It’s Always About the Story” which is still true. For me, it’s still always about the story, whether I’m telling it or especially when I’m writing about it. That’s why most of my reviews get into what I believe the book was about, or at least what the book was about for me. Which may, of course, turn out to be wildly different from what the author intended. Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is readability in the eyes – or the mind – of the reader.

It’s hard to believe that first post was ten years ago. This blog is now, officially, the longest “job” I’ve ever had. And I do my best to treat it with the responsibility that I would a job. Showing up every day, making my deadlines and fulfilling my commitments, doing my best work. If you’ve been with me for a while, I sincerely hope that you are enjoying the results!

Today, April 5, is my birthday, which is how the whole “Blogo-Birthday” thing got started. I like to celebrate this double event as a Hobbit Birthday, meaning that I give stuff away. I give stuff away ALL WEEK LONG!

So, for this opening day of this extra-special anniversary Blogo-Birthday celebration, I have not just one but two giveaways. One is for a $25 Amazon Gift Card and one is for $25 in books from either the Book Depository or, for those in the U.S. $25 in books delivered from the book store of your choice. If you have a local bookstore that’s doing mail order, I’ll have the books or a gift certificate sent to you from them. If you don’t have a local of your own, then you can choose from one of the big regional bookstores like Tattered Cover or Powell’s, national indie Bookshop.org or get your books from the Book Depository. But books you will get!

One final note before I let you get to the Rafflecopter. For my birthday, I have a Birthday Fundraiser going on Facebook for Planned PEThood of Duluth GA. If you have enjoyed the cat pictures I post as part of my Sunday Post, Planned PEThood was part of both Lucifer’s and George’s journeys. Lucifer was checked out by their vets before his original rescuer brought him to us and the TNR cage used to trap George and his siblings was provided to our neighbor by them. So we’re paying that forward a bit and I hope you’ll consider joining us.

Thank you to each and every one of you who has been part of my journey and Reading Reality’s journey. Please stick around for future adventures!

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Honey Bunny Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Honey Bunny Giveaway Hop, hosted by Mama the Fox!

Since this is the Honey Bunny Hop, let’s talk about bunnies! Specifically, let’s talk about CHOCOLATE bunnies. And chomping down on them for Easter. Or just because you like chocolate, shaped like a bunny or not.

Where does one begin to eat a Chocolate Rabbit?

It’s been studied. Of course it’s been studied. Because, well, humans. The study was not exactly serious, but it was published in an otherwise respected publication. (If you’re curious, it’s titled “Seasonality of auricular amputations in rabbits“, published in a professional journal for Otolaryngologists (that’s what ENTs, ear, nose and throat doctors are officially called). That journal is The Laryngoscope.

So the article is real – or real-ish – but the study wasn’t exactly on the up and up. Rather more on the tongue in cheek.

It’s been a while since I had a chocolate bunny, but I know I went for the ears first. Most people do. What about you? Answer in the rafflecopter for a chance at your choice of the usual prize, a $10 Amazon Gift Card or $10 in books from the Book Depository. This giveaway is open everywhere the Book Depository ships.

Hey, if you win the gift card, you could even get some chocolate bunnies and test it out yourself!

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For more fabulous prizes, be sure to hop on over to the other stops on this hop!

MamatheFox and all participating blogs are not held responsible for sponsors who fail to fulfill their prize obligations.