Valentine’s Day Blog Tour – Guest Post from Kristan Higgins

Today I’d like to welcome Kristan Higgins, the author of the recent Now That You Mention It as well as the absolutely marvelous Blue Heron series. (Anything for You was my personal favorite).As this is a Blog Tour for Valentine’s Day recommendations, Kristan is here to tell us her favorite Valentine’s tradition. And don’t we all remember the dread of having to give Valentine’s to every kid in the class?

Pizza, Books & Valentine’s Day
by Kristan Higgins

Here’s a little secret I’m somewhat loath to admit—I hate Valentine’s Day. When I was a kid, we’d have to give every single one of our classmates a card, and I’ll confess: Joey L. did not deserve a Valentine from me, no sir. Nor did Kate M., who was always mean.

Even then. the holiday smacked of forced good cheer. When I was in college, the poor lad I dated would give me a gas station rose, or worse, write me a poem and then read it to me, and I’d sit, twitching, waiting for the recitation to end.

As a young married couple, McIrish and I once made a Valentine’s Day reservation at a lovely Italian restaurant. That night, the servers were harried and forgetful, and the restaurant was mobbed with couples feeling the pressure to be romantic. No one was proposed to, though I’m pretty sure one young woman was waiting, because she got more and more tense as the night went on (eavesdropping is one of my great gifts). The food, which was usually so good, was mediocre, and McIrish and I decided not to go out anymore. These days, I usually draw McIrish, my sainted husband, a cartoon of the two of us. Some grown-up snuggling may ensue. Sometimes I make him pudding or crème brulée in the heart-shaped ramekins we got as a wedding gift.

Truthfully, the best Valentine’s Day I can remember was when I was living alone, working in a strange city, no friends. A bouquet of flowers arrived at my workplace, signed “From Your Secret Admirer.” I immediately called my dad to thank him, and, bless his heart, he played dumb.

When I got out of work, I went home to my little apartment, got a pizza from the restaurant below, and read a book. A romance novel, of course. No pressure, no expectations… just me with two of the great loves of my life: pizza and a good book.

About Now That You Mention It

One step forward. Two steps back. The Tufts scholarship that put Nora Stuart on the path to becoming a Boston medical specialist was a step forward. Being hit by a car and then overhearing her boyfriend hit on another doctor when she thought she was dying? Two major steps back.

Injured in more ways than one, Nora feels her carefully built life cracking at the edges. There’s only one place to land: home. But the tiny Maine community she left fifteen years ago doesn’t necessarily want her. At every turn, someone holds the prodigal daughter of Scupper Island responsible for small-town drama and big-time disappointments.

With a tough islander mother who’s always been distant and a wild-child sister in jail, unable to raise her daughter–a withdrawn teen as eager to ditch the island as Nora once was–Nora has her work cut out for her if she’s going to take what might be her last chance to mend the family.

But as some relationships crumble around her, others unexpectedly strengthen. Balancing loss and opportunity, a dark event from her past with hope for the future, Nora will discover that tackling old pain makes room for promise…and the chance to begin again.

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

Winter Holiday Traditions Guest Post from Lori Foster + Giveaway

Today I’d like to welcome one of my favorite authors, Lori Foster, to share some of her own holiday traditions here at Reading Reality as part of the Winter Holiday Traditions (+ reads!) tour from TLC Book Tours and Harlequin Books.

The book that Lori is featuring this time around (we were part of this tour last year too!) is Close Contact, the third book in her marvelous Body Armor series. I read it a couple of weeks ago and absolutely loved it. I hope that it’s one of the book that you might be thinking of curling up with this holiday season!

Bestselling Romance Author Lori Foster Shares
Her Own Family Holiday Traditions

While I detest cold weather, I LOVE the holidays. Ever since my husband and I first married – more than 39 years ago – we’ve been the holiday people. Family parties are at our house and as the family has grown, we’ve learned to adjust.

To make it easier on families with kids, we do Christmas Eve vs Christmas Day. With both sides of our families attending, we get anywhere from 40 to 70 guests. Much depends on whether or not the young adults bring dates. This year we’ll have kids from 6 months to 21 years. (Yes, I still count them as kids.)

I decorate the house inside and out (I hire decorators for the outside!) and I buy gifts for everyone who will be there. I prefer something wrapped to simple gift cards. Because there are so many people, I start my shopping early!

Before Christmas Eve, I get together 200+ Christmas cards to mail. I also do Christmas packages for my grandkids and a few other very special children who I adore. I’ve found that kids love getting mail! I include a Christmas card, a few pieces of candy, and some fun little toys that mail easily.

In early December, I have a luncheon for local authors and some reader friends. It’s so fun to get together with plenty of time to chat and catch up. We usually do an ornament exchange and (when I’m lucky) I end up with lots of cookies from guests. 😊

About 2 weeks before Christmas, I have a kids’ party – just to help the little ones unleash all that anticipatory energy. LOL. We play games, they win prizes, everyone gets a small gift, and then we chow on kid-fun food and desserts.

This year, we’ll probably have Christmas Eve in our new house! The contractor has been working on it for more than a year, but I think we’re close to it being done. It’ll work out better for us because it’s all one big open space – perfect for so many people to mingle. (Plus there’s still a large lower area where the young adults can go to play video games.)

In the middle of all, I still write! I’m like an ogre when I can’t spend at least a little time each weekday working on a story. However you celebrate the holidays, either in a frenzy of activity as I do, or more calmly, at a slower pace, I hope you have lots of love and peace.

About Close Contact:

There’s no resisting a desire like this…
MMA fighter Miles Dartman’s casual arrangement with personal shopper Maxi Nevar would be many men’s fantasy. She seeks him out, they have mindblowing sex, she leaves. Rinse, repeat. Yet lately, Miles wants more. And when Maxi requests his services via the Body Armor security agency, he’s ready to finally break through her defenses—and protect her day and night.
Receiving a large inheritance has brought chaos and uncertainty into Maxi’s life. Her ex has resurfaced, along with lots of former “friends,” and someone is making mysterious threats. Then there’s Miles, who doesn’t ask for anything…except her trust. Pleasure is easy. Now Maxi has to give her heart as well as her body…or risk losing a man who could be everything she needs.
“Foster writes a tale that is off-the-charts hot and steeped with mystery.” – RT Book Reviews on CLOSE CONTACT

“Mysterious things that go bump in the night fuel this romance right into a blaze.” -Night Owl Reviews on CLOSE CONTACT

About Lori Foster: Lori Foster is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author with books from a variety of publishers, including Berkley/Jove, Kensington, St. Martin’s, Harlequin and Silhouette. Lori has been a recipient of the prestigious RT Book Reviews Career Achievement Award for Series Romantic Fantasy, and for Contemporary Romance. For more about Lori, visit her Web site at


Lori and Harlequin are giving away a$50 Amazon Gift Card to one lucky entrant on this tour!

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

Review: Down Home Cowboy by Maisey Yates + End of Summer Tour + Giveaway

Review: Down Home Cowboy by Maisey Yates + End of Summer Tour + GiveawayDown Home Cowboy (Copper Ridge, #8) by Maisey Yates
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance, western romance
Series: Copper Ridge #8
Pages: 384
Published by Harlequin Books on June 27th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

This Texas cowboy has come home to Copper Ridge to put down roots…but will he risk his heart again?
Asked where he'd be at this point in life, Cain Donnelly would have said anywhere but Copper Ridge, Oregon, living with his estranged brothers. But since his wife abandoned them, both he and his daughter, Violet, are in need of a fresh start, so he's back to claim his share of the family ranch. Local baker Alison Davis is a delicious temptation, but she's also his daughter's mentor and new boss. That makes her off-limits…until she offers a no-strings deal that no red-blooded cowboy could resist.
Alison has worked tirelessly to rebuild her life, and she won't jeopardize her hard-won independence. Especially if it also complicates Cain's relationship with Violet. But with Cain offering a love she never thought was possible, Alison has to find the courage to let her past go…or watch her future ride away for good.

My Review:

Maisey Yates’ Copper Ridge series has been a bit of a mixed bag for me. I adored Last Chance Rebel, but let’s just say that I did not feel much love for Slow Burn Cowboy. On my other hand, my Guest Reviewer Amy clearly enjoyed Hold Me, Cowboy. So we were two out of three coming into Down Home Cowboy.

And we have another winner.

Neither Cain Donnelly nor Alison Davis are looking for a relationship. But they are both looking for sex. Four years is a long dry spell for anyone in their early-to-middle 30s, even coming out of their completely different but equally bad relationships.

Maybe not quite equally bad. Alison was abused by her ex-husband for eight years, and her four years post-divorce have been a journey of self-discovery and self-fulfillment. But her baggage is huge and painful, and she’s just reached the point where she is willing to dip her toe back into the waters of sex. But she is unwilling to cede an inch of her hard-won independence to any man for any reason. And it’s impossible to blame her.

Cain’s ex-wife left him four years ago, running off and leaving him with sole custody of their daughter Violet. Dealing with the fallout from that disaster, along with being a single father, has left Cain with little time, energy or inclination to get involved with anyone, until he meets Alison.

But they definitely start out on the same page. They both want sex, but neither of them is interested in the complication of a relationship. Things are already complicated enough – Alison is Violet’s boss at her bakery, and it seems like working for Alison is the first thing that Violet has even half enjoyed since Cain uprooted them from Texas and moved in with his half-brothers in the ranch they all inherited from their grandfather.

(The details of that particular SNAFU are in Slow Burn Cowboy. And while the romance in that book was a bit of a disappointment, the messy drama of the Donnelly boys making themselves into a functionally dysfunctional family was a load of fun. I’m happy to see more of them! Possibly not quite as happy as Alison is to see ALL of Cain, but that’s part of what makes Down Home Cowboy work.)

The problem that Cain and Alison have is that it is difficult to make love without feeling at least a little love (Which was also one of Finn’s issues in Slow Burn Cowboy. This may be a trend.) And no matter what fibs they told themselves about what they were expecting from their liaison, it’s pretty clear from the beginning that they are, quite definitely, making love and not just getting their ashes hauled. Not that they aren’t doing that, quite well, too.

But when Cain challenges Alison to admit that they both feel more for each other than they planned on, Alison lets her past fears ruin her present hopes. Unless she can finally drop the baggage that’s weighing her down for good.

Escape Rating B+: This one was fun. And it was way, way, way more fun than Slow Burn Cowboy, without quite rising to the level of angsty goodness that was Last Chance Rebel.

This is a story where everyone has baggage, and everyone needs to drop it. Or learn to carry it. Or both. And it’s a story where everyone is afraid, and with good reason.
Both Violet and Cain fear abandonment. His father abandoned him, his mother was an alcoholic, and her mother abandoned both her and Cain. Those fears are all real. Alison is afraid of losing herself again, the way she did in her abusive marriage. She’s not certain her new found strength and independence is strong enough to let her love someone without letting them take her over, even though she knows that her ex’s need to take her over and grind her down had way more to do with him than with her. That she let it happen haunts her to the point of preventing her from moving all the way forward, and we understand why.

Watching them all overcome the worst of what’s holding them back and learning to cope with the rest in a healthy and not destructive fashion is what makes this story work. At least, that’s what made the story work for this reader, and I hope for lots of others.

If this review, or any of the reviews, guest posts and spotlights in this End of Summer Blog Tour tickle your reading fancy, you can download a sampler of all the opening chapters from Harlequin.

The End of Summer – Guest Post by Maisey Yates

I love Summer. When it’s not burning hot (which is when I end up hiding in the AC) it takes me right back to being a kid. Our schedule is relaxed, the days are long, the evenings cool and blue, and the mornings…perfect for laying in bed just a little bit longer.

But days like that can all blur together, and then Summer can end up flying by before you know it.

I find that changes in scenery help a little bit with that. We live in Oregon, and it’s an amazing state with totally diverse landscapes that make for some amazing road trips. Or even just glorious back yard hangouts.

We’ve spent our share of time out on the lake paddle boarding this year, and hiking on the trails behind the historic town we live close to, making the most of what we have nearby.

In early July, we took our kids way up in the mountains and lay in the back of the pickup truck and looked at the stars. It makes a huge difference when you can escape the light pollution. We could see the Milky Way and (for the most part) the kids even got along.

Then we went on a big road trip to the eastern part of the state, where we got to enjoy the high desert.

We’re used to a lot of green in the state. I’ve lived in Oregon all my life, and I don’t think I had an adequate appreciation for just how unique the Eastern part of the state is. The red mountains and volcanic rock are a pretty sharp contrast to the evergreen mountains that surround our house.

From there we continued up to Portland, Oregon, which is our major city. (You might know it from the TV show Portlandia. I can’t dispute the accuracy of that show. At all.)

We got to enjoy the museum of science, and Oregon Zoo and some other more urban things that we don’t get a chance to take in very often seeing as we live very, very not urban.

So far this summer we haven’t had the chance to make it over to the coast, which is my other favorite Oregon locale. My husband and I honeymooned in Bandon, Oregon twelve years ago, and it has a special place in my heart. Which, if you’ve read my books your can probably tell, since Bandon served as major inspiration for my Copper Ridge series!

Getting out and enjoying Oregon is one of my favorite summer pastimes. And staying in writing love letters to Oregon in my Copper Ridge books is my favorite thing to do all year long.

I love to write books set everywhere, and I love to travel all over, but Oregon is my home, and that’s where my heart is — when it comes to life and fiction.


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

Winter Holiday Recipes (+reads!) : Guest Recipe by Maisey Yates + Giveaway

TLC winter holiday recipes tour button

Please help me welcome Maisey Yates to Reading Reality! I absolutely adored Maisey’s Last Chance Rebel, and my friend Amy gushed equally over Hold Me, Cowboy, so I’m thrilled to host Maisey for this stop of the Winter Holiday Recipes + Reads Giveaway. Her pumpkin pie recipe looks every bit as yummy as her books. And that baking inspired prize pack looks like a ton of decadently delicious fun – even if you do have to do the baking yourself.

Maisey Yates’ Pumpkin Pie Recipe

Pumpkin Pie is more readily associated with Thanksgiving than Christmas, I suppose, but growing up it was my brother’s favorite. So starting in early November (his birthday) and moving through Christmas, Pumpkin Pie was something my mom made a lot of. And I’ll tell you, it is the best pumpkin pie out there. 

Yes, the crust is key. And you know what else is important? Extra cinnamon! Read on for the recipe! (This recipe makes two pies)

The ingredients to the crust are simple, but following the steps is what gets you flaky crust and not chewy crust.

Double 9’ Crust

2 Cups Flour
1 Cup Shortening
1/2 tsp salt

Mix (press with fork) together until crumbly

Step 2 — (1/2 cup water, additional 1/4 cup flour)

In a jar mix 1/2 cup COLD water with a 1/4 cup flour, blend well.

Add to flour mixture. Mix gently until blended well. Handle as little as possible. Separate pastry into two balls.

Heat oven to 425°F. With floured rolling pin, roll both rounds into round 2 inches larger than upside-down 9-inch glass pie plate. Fold pastry into fourths; place in pie plate. Unfold and ease into plate, pressing firmly against bottom and side.


1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
4 large eggs
2 can (15 oz.) LIBBY’S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
2 can (12 fl. oz.) NESTLÉ® CARNATION® Evaporated Milk

MIX sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.
POUR into pie shell.
BAKE in preheated 425° F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° F; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

hold me cowboy by maisey yatesAbout Hold Me, Cowboy

Stranded with a cowboy for Christmas…from New York Times bestselling author Maisey Yates!

Oil and water have nothing on Sam McCormack and Madison West. The wealthy rancher has never met a haughtier—or more appealing—woman in his life. And when they’re snowed in, he’s forced to admit this ice queen can scorch him with one touch…

Madison had plans for the weekend! Instead she’s stranded with a man who drives her wild. A night of no-strings fun leaves both of them wanting more when they return to Copper Ridge. His proposal: twelve days of hot sex before Christmas! But will it ever be enough?


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The Ultimate Western Blog Tour: Guest Post by Lindsay McKenna + Giveaway


As part of The Ultimate Western Blog Tour, I’m hosting Lindsay McKenna, talking about the latest book in her Jackson Hole series, Out Rider. When I reviewed Out Rider back in May, I fell in love with the cast and crew of this series, particularly all of the wonderful working dogs who are such a big part of all the stories in the series. If you enjoy slow-burn romances with hot heroes, strong heroines, and heroic (and beautiful) canines, you’ll love Out Rider and the Jackson Hole series.

Inspiration for OUT RIDER, a guest post by bestselling author Lindsay McKenna

I always write “close to the bone.” It’s an ancient writer’s way of saying: what I write is true, but I’ve fictionalized it because no one in their right mind would believe if I tried to say it was the truth.

Well, maybe you would believe it. But I find inspiration for OUT RIDER in my own ranching/farming background. I grew up in the Wild West (literally). I’m a real Californian, born in San Diego, California. But my father had a lot of Eastern Cherokee blood in him and like the seasons, we migrated/moved every 9 months. I lived in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Idaho, Montana and Oregon. I counted one time and realized we’d moved 22 times by the time I was 18 years old and left for the U.S. Navy.

We always lived in rural areas, raised our own beef, had a milk cow, rode the neighbor’s horse or had one of our own, milked the cow daily, had goats, had a huge garden, was canning by nine years old and raising chickens, ducks and geese, as well. As soon as my legs grew long enough and my foot could reach the accelerator and brake pedal on the tractor, I was driving the tractor. I started driving our old Ford pickup at the same age. I felt very fortunate to have that kind of childhood. Not many get one like this nowadays.

I acquired my first horse, Pretty Boy, a two-year old sorrel stallion with four white socks and a wide blaze down his face when I was 12 years old. I paid $45.00 for him. He had been rounded up with a large herd of Mustangs in southeastern Oregon, which is part of the Great Basin (desert), and cowboys brought them to Klamath Falls, where we were presently living. My horse was slated to be killed and ground up into dog food, as was the rest of his herd. He got lucky and got me, instead.

He was a wild Mustang and I tamed him with love, care and attention. I broke him to ride and he never bucked once. We had an idyllic year together. It got so that when he’d lay down in the barnyard to snooze in the afternoons, I would come and snuggle up behind his front legs, my head resting on his shoulder. We had that much trust in one another.

OUT RIDER comes directly out of my horse/Western background and upbringing. I loved writing about Dev and her horse. I also liked putting Sloan Rankin as a blacksmith/horse shoer who was a Ranger in the Great Tetons National Park. Sloan is a military vet, was a K-9 handler for the Army in Afghanistan. His Malinois, “Mouse” (Dutch bred), retires when he leaves the Army. Man and dog are inseparable.

Lucky for Sloan, when he pulls over after seeing a horse trailer bearing a palomino in it, blows a tire, he stops to help the owner. Dev McGuire is grateful for Sloan stopping to help her change the tire. And when she finds out that he works out of the Tetons Ranger station, it’s a pleasant shock. She’s just been assigned to the Tetons because she’s a US Forest Ranger herself. And Bella, her yellow labrador, is also a retired K-9 Army bomb sniffing dog. These two people find they have amazing parallels. But they are going to need every bit of their courage and combat savvy to thwart a villain who is after Dev. He wants to settle an old score with her and he’s just gotten out of prison, tracking her down.

I love writing about what I know. I believe that when you write ‘close to the bone,’ you can bring in the five senses because one has lived it, and it’s easy to record and share with the reader. Enjoy!

out rider by lindsay mckennaAbout Out Rider: With her return to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, New York Times bestselling author Lindsay McKenna shows how love can find a way out of the darkness…
A fresh start—that’s all Devorah McGuire wants. As a former Marine and current Ranger with the US Forest Service, she’s grown accustomed to keeping others safe. But when the unthinkable happens, she can only hope that a transfer to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, will allow her to put the past behind her for good.
Dev’s mentor at Grand Tetons National Park is fellow canine handler and horseman Sloan Rankin. He shows Dev the spectacular trails, never knowing the terror that stalks her every move. Despite her lingering fear, Dev feels an attraction for Sloan as wild as their surroundings.
With Sloan, Dev can envision a new life—a real home. Unless a vengeful man fresh out of prison succeeds in finishing what he started…

About the author: A U.S. Navy veteran, Lindsay McKenna was a meteorologist while serving her country. A pioneer of the military romance genre in 1993 with Captive of Fate. Her heart and focus is on honoring our military men and women. Creator of the Wyoming series and Shadow Warriors series for HQN Books, she writes emotionally and romantically intense suspense stories. Visit her online at her website,


Harlequin is giving away an all-expense paid 3-night luxurious stay for you and 3 guests at The Resort at Paws Up in Greenough, Montana! To enter click here or on the image below:

August 5_Lindsay McKenna_sharable

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Guest Post by Catherine Bybee on “The Hardest Part” + Giveaway

doing it over tour button

I’d like to welcome Catherine Bybee back to Reading Reality! She’s here today to talk about the first book in a new series (and today’s featured review) Doing It Over, the first book in her new Most Likely To series. (I keep thinking of it as the River Bend series). As you can tell from my review, I loved the book. I first got hooked on Catherine’s writing with her Highland Time Travel series, and her contemporary romances are every bit as much fun. If you like small-town contemporary romances you’ll love Doing It Over. And for Robyn Carr fans, think of River Bend as being just down the road from Thunder Point, an absolutely marvelous place to be.

The Hardest Part of Writing Doing it Over
By Catherine Bybee

doing it over by catherine bybeeDoing it Over is the first book in a new series. As if you didn’t know rolls eyes. That said, the hardest part came not from my characters, or even the plot… it came from the fictitious town I created and the world I painted.

World building isn’t just for paranormal romance. While I have written both, a contemporary world can be just as challenging, if not more so, than that with vampires and magic. In worlds where things are completely made up the reader simply accepts certain things as facts. Vampires need blood to survive. Werewolves need a full moon to change. If I say a wolf can only mate with a virgin… boom, the reader believes it. But boy…get the landscape wrong in a contemporary romance and readers will call you on that shit! Doesn’t matter that I’m making up my town…if I place it on a road someone has traveled, said reader will happily point out that there is no River Bend on the coast of Oregon. rolls eyes

World building is more than landscape. It’s a town, and the morals of those in the town…it’s time, and weather and time of year. It’s the financial crust of the character…are they rich, is there a matriarch in the family… clergy? It’s education and jobs. It’s all the extra characters that make the story full.

A new series, and especially the first book in the series, sets the stage for every book to come.

The hero and heroine are not the hard part…the love story…the plot…the twists and turns. No… easy for me. It’s the stage that is set that is always a challenge to weave into the pages.

Enjoy Doing it Over
Happy Reading

About the Author:
Copyright Julianne Gentry PhotographyNew York Times & USA Today bestselling author Catherine Bybee was raised in Washington State, but after graduating high school, she moved to Southern California in hopes of becoming a movie star. After growing bored with waiting tables, she returned to school and became a registered nurse, spending most of her career in urban emergency rooms. She now writes full-time and has penned the Weekday Brides Series and the Not Quite Series. Bybee lives with her two teenage sons in Southern California.CONTACT LINKS:


Catherine is giving away 1 Kindle Paperwhite and 2 $50 Gift Cards to lucky participants on this tour!

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Guest Post by Susannah Sandlin + Giveaway

I’d like to welcome Susannah Sandlin, also known as and writing as Suzanne Johnson, back to Reading Reality! Because I always love her books, I usually jump on the chance to get a guest post from Susannah whenever she has a book on tour, whatever name it happens to be written under. If you like urban fantasy, start with Royal Street, the first book in her Sentinels of New Orleans series as Suzanne Johnson. If you prefer paranormal romance, visit the vampires of Pentonville in Redemption, the first book in her Penton Legacy series as Susannah Sandlin. And if you prefer your romantic suspense to be more-or-less firmly grounded in the real world, you can’t do better than starting with today’s review book, Wild Man’s Curse

And now, here’s Susannah to talk about her turn to the fully-human side of the romantic force!

Wild Man's Curse Banner 851 x 315

In Praise of the Human

by Susannah Sandlin

Most—okay, all—of my early work was paranormal in nature—urban fantasy as Suzanne Johnson and paranormal romance as Susannah Sandlin. So when, under my Susannah Sandlin pen name, I branched out into romantic suspense, I feared it might be hard to “go human.”

I’d had a taste of it in my standalone STORM FORCE, where I had a team of former Army Rangers and shifters of various species working together to solve a case of domestic terrorism. In that case, I had to find a way to make my human Ranger hero, Kell, be able to hold equal ground with the shifters who report to him and the heroine, Mori, who isn’t exactly human herself.

It was that book that convinced me I could do romantic suspense. The plots of my Susannah Sandlin paranormals have always been fast-paced and conflict-driven—I’ve called them paranormal romantic thrillers in the past—so the only difference between the books I’d written in the past and the romantic suspense novels was the absence of paranormal elements.

Even the characters aren’t so different. In a good paranormal, the characters are complex. My Penton vampires have ugly pasts, dark secrets, deep emotional wounds—the same things my human heroes have (well, minus fangs and a very high-protein liquid diet). They’re as vulnerable as humans in some ways—a vampire caught in the daylight can’t defend himself, of if he’s found during his daysleep. Humans are omniphotounsensitive. (Yeah, I made up that word.)

Except even in my romantic suspense novels, I’ve never quite been able to get completely away from mystical elements. My first romantic suspense, LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP, dealt with a relic stolen from the Knights Templar, whose lost treasure is one of the world’s great mysteries. The second, DEADLY, CALM, AND COLD, tackled the mystery of the Royal Crown Jewels lost by England’s Bad King John (of Robin Hood fame) shortly before his death in the 13th century—were they stolen by a monk? By his entourage? Stashed away for safekeeping before the landowners could have him dethroned?

When it came time to plot the first book in my new series following a team of Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries enforcement agents—think badass game wardens—I knew I had great alpha hero potential and could create complex heroes and heroines similar to those of my paranormal books. But again, I had to bring in a touch of the mystical.

In the case of WILD MAN’S CURSE, it’s the voodoo and Native American mystical elements that come into play. It’s never a given as to whether the rituals of the voodoo practitioner Eva Savoie and her great-niece, heroine Celestine Savoie, are true—but they are true to those characters. And since Celestine is part Chitimacha, a Native American tribe indigenous to South Louisiana, she brings some of their mysticism into play as well. Does it qualify as a paranormal element? In a way, I suppose. Although Eva and Celestine are certainly human, their beliefs help define them and strengthen them—as all belief systems do. And the fact that the villain in the novel fears Celestine’s beliefs, even if he doesn’t share them, gives her an advantage.

Strong heroes, smart heroines, cool stories. It’s what I try to imbue in each of my books, whether the characters are wizards, vampires, shifters, undead pirates—or completely human!

About the Author:
Suzanne-Johnson-Susannah-SandlinSusannah Sandlin is the author of the award-winning Penton Vampire Legacy paranormal romance series, including the 2013 Holt Medallion Award-winning Absolution and Omega and Allegiance, which were nominated for the RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice Award in 2014 and 2015, respectively. She also writers The Collectors romantic suspense series, including Lovely, Dark, and Deep, 2015 Holt Medallion winner and 2015 Booksellers Best Award winner. Her new series Wilds of the Bayou starts in 2016 with the April 5 release of Wild Man’s Curse. Writing as Suzanne Johnson, Susannah is the author of the award-winning Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series. A displaced New Orleanian, she currently lives in Auburn, Alabama. Susannah loves SEC football, fried gator on a stick, all things Cajun, and redneck reality TV.Web:
Twitter: @SusannahSandlin


As part of this tour, Susannah is giving away one(1) $50 Amazon gift card and five (5) $10 Amazon gift cards to lucky participants in this tour!

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Review: Fighting Dirty by Lori Foster + Cover Spotlight + Giveaway

Review: Fighting Dirty by Lori Foster + Cover Spotlight + GiveawayFighting Dirty (Ultimate, #4) by Lori Foster
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance, romantic suspense, sports romance
Series: Ultimate #4
Pages: 384
Published by HQN Books on February 23rd 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

He's the hottest MMA fighter in the game, but one woman is ready to try out a few steamy moves of her own in an unforgettable new novel from New York Times bestselling author Lori Foster...
With the life he's led and the muscles he's gained, Armie Jacobson isn't afraid of anything. Except maybe Merissa Colter's effect on him. It's not just that she's his best friend's little sister. Fact is, she deserves better. Women pursue him for one night of pleasure, and that's all he wants to offer. Until rescuing Merissa from a robbery leads to the most erotic encounter of his life.
Good girl meets bad boy. It's a story that rarely ends well. But Merissa is taking matters into her own hands. No matter how he views himself, the Armie she knows is brave, honorable and completely loyal. And as past demons and present-day danger collide, they're both about to learn what's truly worth fighting for…

My Review:

Considering that this looks like the last title in Foster’s Ultimate series, both the title and the story are very, very fitting.

no limits by lori fosterIn every book in the Ultimate series, starting with No Limits (reviewed here) there is always someone who is fighting very, very dirty, and it isn’t the hero. Each of the stories in this series has a villain who starts out as a nasty piece of work and only gets worse as their story goes on – until they get their head figuratively handed to them and they get handed over to the law to get their just desserts.

It’s always icing on that cake that the law officers who cart the bad guys away are the heroes of Foster’s previous series, Love Undercover. Which, if you are interested, starts with Run the Risk (reviewed here).

Bringing up that Ultimate spun off of Undercover is also fitting, because at the end of Fighting Dirty the author gives a sneak peak at the series that will spin off from Ultimate Body Armor – starting in November with Under Pressure.

It’s always fun to jump into one of her series and see how everyone from the earlier series is doing!

If the title of Fighting Dirty is appropriate, the story is even more so. Through the entire series, the author has teased us with hints of Merissa Colter’s long-standing interest in Armie Jacobson, and Armie constantly running away from Rissy. It’s so obvious that he cares, and equally obvious that he’s decided that Rissy can do better than him. While it is equally true that he is being an idiot and not asking her what she thinks or wants, his reluctance is not completely far-fetched.

Rissy is Cannon Colter’s sister. Cannon is Armie’s best friend. If Rissy and Armie try a relationship and it doesn’t work, there will be no getting away from each other unless one of them gives up the circle of people they both call “family”. Additionally, and we’ve seen hints of this all along, there is something nasty in Armie’s past that he has been successfully keeping under wraps – and it’s a secret that he’s sure will kill both any chances he has with Rissy and any chances he has to be a success in the SBC.

tough love by lori fosterBut at the end of Tough Love (reviewed here), Armie finally gives in and signs with the SBC. The powers-that-be in the SBC, Jude, Havoc (Havoc’s story is in Causing Havoc, the first book in her SBC Fighters series) and Simon, whose story is Simon Says, the second book in that series, are going to back Armie every step of the way in fighting that long-ago mess. Which turns out to be a bogus rape charge that everyone, including the cops, knew was a lie, but that was backed by a lot of threats from the liar’s rich and powerful daddy.

The interlinking series are lots of fun. And clearly a continuing theme.

So the story here is Armie finally letting Rissy into his heart and into his life. The danger turns out not to be from that old rape accusation, but from something much more recent, and all, unexpectedly, on Rissy’s side of the table.

The question is whether Armie can get out of his own way to protect Rissy from the slimeball in her own past, and whether Rissy can forgive him from being a self-sacrificing idiot before it’s too late.

Escape Rating B+: As you can probably tell from the above comments, I generally enjoy Foster’s series. Even though I don’t have reviews for all of them, I have read all of the series listed in the above text, and several others. She’s a go-to contemporary romance author for me.

At the same time, because I like her stuff, I also have quibbles. One of themes that runs through the Ultimate series is that the heroines always end up in jeopardy and the fighters rescue them, with or without their participation or consent. Also, with or without those heroines willingness to admit that they need protection. I don’t mind the rescuing, it’s the lack of participation and/or consent on the part of the heroines.

Rissy’s situation was kind of in the middle of that spectrum. Her spidey-senses are tingling, so she’s aware that there is trouble, but the bad guy starts out fairly subtle, and he isn’t an expected bad guy. In fact, his evil came from pretty far out in left field for this reader. His motives didn’t quite seem plausible, even though his evil was obvious to the reader early on, but only because we saw scenes that Rissy didn’t.

This reader, and I suspect many others, was incredibly glad to see that Armie and Rissy got their story before the series wrapped. This one has been brewing for a long time, so it was great to see it resolve before the story moves to the next series.

As a personal comment, I will say that once the reader discovers the whole of Armie’s backstory, his reluctance to be in the spotlight or enter into a relationship make sense. However, I wish that the cause had not been a fake rape charge. There are too many tropes in the media about how many women pretend to be raped for whatever reason, when in fact the numbers are minuscule. I wish this had been something else, because that’s a beast I don’t want to see fed in any form.

I liked both Armie and Rissy a lot. We’ve seen their characters throughout the series, and it was good to see them finally get a happy ending with each other. Armie’s outrageousness is a ton of fun, and Rissy does a great job walking a fine line between being independent and letting her brother look after her a bit because he needs it, not because she does.

All in all, a good wrap to a fun series. I can’t wait to see Leese’s story in Under Pressure. He’s turned out to be a great guy after a rocky start, and deserves his own happily-ever-after.

Cover Spotlight: No Limits by Lori Foster

Want to know what goes into making a sexy, MMA-themed cover? Read on to find out more about the cover art for Lori Foster’s No Limits, the first book in the Ultimate series, as well as the book itself.

lori foster ultimate covers

Here’s what Art Director Kathleen Oudit had to say:

“Illustrations for Lori Foster books are always focused on a dramatically lit, strong male physique/character. For the entire “Ultimate” series we will depict men with fighter’s physiques, and subtle cues from the MMA environment such as hand wraps, simple gym clothing etc. But, we will always use these props “lightly” and we have deliberately kept the background non-recognizable–we are subtly directing the viewers emotion to the hero’s character and romantic journey–rather than his “matches”. It is important to skirt this line carefully or we risk making Lori’s covers look like a men’s health magazine!”

Lori FosterAbout the author: Since first publishing in January 1996, Lori Foster has become a USA Today, Publisher’s Weekly and New York Times bestselling author. Lori has published through a variety of houses, including Kensington, St. Martin’s, Harlequin, Silhouette, Samhain, and Berkley/Jove. She is currently published with HQN. Visit her online at


Lori is giving away the entire Ultimate series to one lucky entrant!

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Valentine’s Day Blog Tour: Guest Post by Edie Harris + Giveaway

Harlequin 2016 Valentine's blog tour image_800-x-400

As part of the Valentine’s Day Blog Tour, I’m hosting Edie Harris, talking about the latest book in her Blood Money series, the very appropriately titled Crazed. Because the characters, the plot and the adrenaline-drenched story are all crazed, as a man discovers that the wife he thought was dead is alive, well, a DEA informant and about to marry a drug-kingpin in Medellin. The story is a thrill-ride a minute, and adds even more danger to the series.

How do I know? I reviewed Crazed for Library Journal, and I was thrilled form beginning to end. You will be too, especially if you start he series at the beginning with Blamed.

A Wilder Love Story

A guest post from Edie Harris, author of Crazed: A Blood Money Novel

Every time the brutally cold Chicago wind blasts me in the face as I walk to my corporate office, I have the following thought: If Laura Ingalls Wilder could survive The Long Winter with no electricity and no grocery stores, so can I. Every single time.

You’d be surprised at how much of my Midwestern life has been shaped by Laura Ingalls Wilder from the Little House on the Prairie books. I started reading the fictionalized-yet-autobiographical Little House books with my mother when I was in kindergarten. We read most of the titles together, until I was old enough to manage the narratives solo. When I reached These Happy Golden Years–the story of Laura’s courtship to Almanzo Wilder–I had no idea I was reading a romance; all I knew was that the description of Almanzo’s attentive yet subtle wooing of Laura made me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

I was ten years old. The next year, I would read my first two romance novels, both set in the American frontier: My Darling Melissa by Linda Lael Miller and Legend by Jude Deveraux. In fact, my first full-length romance novel was a western, Wild Burn (2013), and to-date, as an author, it remains “the book of my heart”…and it’s a romance that, indirectly, owes much to the Wilder love story.

Almanzo Wilder, who’d saved their small town during The Long Winter by traveling miles to buy wheat for starving settlers during a blizzard, was already a local hero in 15-year-old Laura’s eyes. At age 25, he began driving her from her teaching job home to her parents every weekend. Teaching ends, sleigh rides begin, followed by outings in his horse-drawn buggy…followed by calling cards, handmade valentines, and social outings. After three years of charged glances and exciting hand-holding, he offers her an engagement ring and finally, finally, they kiss.

Be still my fluttering pre-adolescent heart! As young as I was, I imprinted on that type of hero. The steady, capable man, whose quiet but unwavering love and support of his woman strengthens her in all her endeavors. The man you can’t shake or tempt away, but whom you can always, always depend upon.

My current series with Harlequin’s Carina Press is a thrilling, action-adventure romantic suspense, and, on the surface, nothing like Wild Burn–or These Happy Golden Years, for that matter. But deep down, each hero I write mirrors stalwart Almanzo in the most basic of ways, and for that, I must thank Laura Ingalls Wilder, buggy rides, and kisses on the prairie.

About the book: 

crazed by edie harrisCrazed: A Blood Money Novel: Casey Faraday was a soldier before he was a spy, but family always came first, no matter what.

When a member of the Faraday clan is snatched off the streets and dragged halfway across the world, it’s Casey who follows the kidnappers’ trail to South America. Thrust into the heart of the cartel he barely escaped during an undercover assignment four years earlier, he’s unprepared for the shock awaiting him on Colombian soil.

Ilda Almeida—the only woman to ever tempt Casey into madness, the beautiful wife he’d mourned for years—is very much alive. And keeping a secret that will forever change life as he knows it.

Casey can’t control his hands—or his heart—around Ilda, but neither can he abandon his rescue mission. When cartel violence turns the jungle into a bloodbath, he can only protect one family: his.

edie harrisAbout the author: EDIE HARRIS is the author of cinematic, compelling, James Bond-esque romantic suspense. She studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Iowa. During the day, she does corporate things and subsists on caffeine and pastries. Her nights, however, belong to the world of romance fiction. Edie lives and works in Chicago.


Harlequin is graciously giving away a prize pack of ALL the books featured in this tour, plus a limited edition Harlequin notebook and a $50 Apple Gift Card to one lucky contestant.
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Naughty or Nice Winter Blog Tour


Welcome to my stop on this holiday Naughty or Nice Winter Blog Tour. While the tour features six lovely holiday book treats, my special guest today is Nana Malone, the author of Mistletoe Mantra, half of the Wrapped in Red story bundle with Sherelle Green’s White Hot Holiday.

wrapped in red by nana malone and sherelle greenMistletoe Mantra is a terrific little holiday story that puts together some tried-and-oh-so-true romance themes and wraps them up in a red Christmas bow. This is story where, as Nana says in her guest post below, nice guys do not finish last. Not only that, but this particular nice guy has been hiding a big streak of naughty from his best friend for years and year. Because while Nomi Adams has never figured out it, she has always been Lincoln Porter’s “little redheaded girl”. Just like Charlie Brown, Linc has loved Nomi from the day she walked into his life, and he has loved her from the shadows, while she and his sister (and Nomi’s best friend) grew up and got even more beautiful right before his eyes. What Nomi discovers when she returns home after years away, is that Lincoln has had his own moment of transformation, and that the shy little boy she remembers has been replaced by a very hot and incredibly thoughtful man with some big secrets of his own. Including a secret that Nomi has come home to expose.

Guest Post by Nana Malone on Good Guys and Nice Girls

Good girl, beep beep…

Talking about a good, good girl…and guy. Well, maybe that’s not exactly how the song goes. But in a book world full of superalphas, I want to talk about the nice guy for once and his nice girl.

No, this isn’t your mother’s Mary Sue, and nice guys don’t have to finish last.
Okay, I get it. Inked, with a constant 5 o’clock shadow, alpha males are sexy and hot. They say what they think. They’re a little bit dirty. They flout authority. Having one as your book boyfriend keeps you on the edge of your seat and your heart racing. Because you never know when you’ll be on a train and they’ll slip a hand under your skirt…or maybe those are just my book boyfriends. LOL.

And don’t even get me started on the bad girls. You know the ones. They hang with the boys, wear killer stilettos and don’t seem to own a pair of panties.

But let’s face it, ladies. In every romance you’ve ever read, the tatted playboy changes for the heroine. Because of her, he becomes a better person.

I personally love a nice guy. You know, the one who thinks to bring you something when he comes home from a trip. The one who will walk your dog when you’re running a fever. But these guys can be super-sexy, too.

Just because they know how to open a door doesn’t mean in the bedroom, they can’t turn it on. Yes, I’m talking about the closet bad boys. The ones who are just a little bit dirty. The ones we get to muss up.

Who: the good guy.
Why he’s good: because he’ll always be the hero.
Why women miss out on him: because we think he’s boring or too stable.
Why he’s sexy: because he knows what you need before you do, and he knows how to give it to you.
Dirty little secret: he’s good with his words…in bed as well as out…

Can we just talk about the original good guy for a moment? Mmmmm, Mr. Darcy. Sure, he had his issues, but at the core of it, you could bring him home to Mama. LOL. He was respectful, kind and nowhere near being a rogue. But when it counted…whoo, that man was sexy.

Some of my favorites in books include Brody Lawson from Love So Hot, Josh Hudson from Can’t Shake You and even in my own books—Beckett from Sultry in Stilettos, Caleb from Sassy in Stilettos and let’s not forget Lincoln from Wrapped in Red.

Now let’s talk about my good girls. Nothing wrong with being nice. Jennifer Lawrence is nice, but she’s also hilarious. The trick is, no one wants their besties to be too nice, right? Nice girls these days aren’t like the ones from years ago. They might have a designer addiction like Becky Bloomwood from the Shopaholic series and my own Jaya from Sexy in Stilettos and Nomi. She could just be hopeless like poor Bridget from Bridget Jones’s Diary, but even the nice girl can be hot. The trick is, she can’t be Mother Teresa.

It’s all about the flaws. No one wants that bestie who is just perfect at everything and saccharine-sweet to boot. What makes today’s nice girls oh so sexy? They’re funny. They keep sweaters in their ovens, have addictions to shoes, chocolate, lingerie and books. They drink, they swear and gasp! get a little naughty in the bedroom. No more goody-goody nice girls who aren’t any fun.

Who: the good girl.
Why she’s good: because she’s fun and loveable, and everyone wants to be her bestie.
Why men miss out on her: because they think she’s too good and no fun.
Why she’s sexy: because she’s quirky and will try anything once.
Dirty little secret: she loves to role play…

So come on, who’s your favorite book nice guy and nice girl?

All About Nana:
nana maloneUSA Today Bestselling Author, Nana Malone’s love of all things romance and adventure started with a tattered romantic suspense she borrowed from her cousin on a sultry summer afternoon in Ghana at a precocious thirteen. She’s been in love with kick butt heroines ever since.With her overactive imagination, and channeling her inner Buffy, it was only a matter a time before she started creating her own characters. Waiting for her chance at a job as a ninja assassin, Nana, meantime works out her drama, passion and sass with fictional characters every bit as sassy and kick butt as she thinks she is.

Nana is the author of three series. The Love Match Series includes sassy contemporary romances: Game, Set, Match and Mismatch. The In Stilettos Series includes ultra-sexy and fun multicultural romantic comedies, Sexy in Stilettos, Sultry in Stilettos and Sassy in Stilettos . The Protectors series includes dark and sexy superhero romances, Betrayed (A Reluctant Protector Prequel), Reluctant Protector and Forsaken Protector.

The books in her series have been on multiple Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble best seller lists as well as the iTunes Breakout Books list and most notably the USA Today Bestseller list.

Until that ninja job comes through, you’ll find Nana working hard on additional books for her series as well as other fun, sassy romances for characters that won’t leave her alone. And if she’s not working or hiding in the closet reading, she’s acting out scenes for her husband, daughter and puppy in sunny San Diego.

Contact Nana at:


One grand prize winner will receive:
1 print copy of The Harder You Fall by Gena Showalter, White Wedding Christmas by Andrea Laurence, A Cowboy Under the Mistletoe by Vicki Lewis Thompson, Wrapped in Red by Nana Malone and Sherelle Green
1 eBook copy of A Copper Ridge Christmas by Maisey Yates and Under the Spotlight by Kate Willoughby
100,000 Harlequin MyRewards points
2 Harlequin Classics limited edition notebooks
1 Brenda Jackson Westmoreland limited edition notebook

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