Category Archives: Random Posts

Naughty Or Nice Options For You this Holiday from St.Martin’s Press!

holidaystmartins
Have you been naughty or nice this year?

St. Martin’s Press has put together a sexy collection of naughty and nice books for you to choose from. There is a little something for everyone here!

There’s an even number of books on each list…  but that doesn’t mean you can’t be more naughty than nice 😉 ! Mix and match, pick and choose books from other publishers—but don’t you think everyone should have a Naughty and Nice book list this year?! I do!

 

Naughty…

onthenaughtyOn the Naughty List
by Lori Foster, Carly Phillips, Beth Ciotta, and Sugar Jamison

Four hot holiday stories, now in one great package, featuring two New York Times bestselling authors!
Lori Foster has two co-workers plan a Christmas party and discover a love worth celebrating in Christmas Bonus.

Carly Phillips explores a “mistletoe moment” when a lawyer intent on seducing her boss kisses his twin instead, in Naughty Under the Mistletoe.

In Sugar Jamison‘s Have Yourself a Curvy Little Christmas, wild child Dina Gregory returns home to find her young son’s father. Instead, she finds his stuffy brother, Ben. Ben admires her tenacity and bold beauty. Could it be that Dina has reignited his Christmas spirit?

Beth Ciotta brings two friends together at home for the holidays. They don’t have much in common anymore, but when they get stranded together during a blizzard, they might realize that true love was there all along, in Some Kind of Wonderful.

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dukeDuke and Miss Christmas
by Amelia Grey

A delightfully charming, wickedly sexy Regency-set Christmas romance novella from New York Times bestselling author, Amelia Grey!

Crispin, the Duke of Hurst, has never met a woman he couldn’t handle–until he’s hit over the head with a basketful of mistletoe by a young lady who mistakes his intentions. When he gets into a tussle with her–and she can hold her own–Crispin knows he has finally met his match. Miss Gwen Prim is mortified that she attacked a duke, but even more concerning is the way her resolve melts when she’s near him. She’s never felt this way about a London gentleman in her life. And with the magic of Christmas in the air, she may end up with a proposal she didn’t expect.

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xmasrancherChristmas with the Billionaire Rancher
by Mandy Baxter

A fabulously intense contemporary series, featuring sexy heroes and the sassy women they love in the Lone Star State.

There’s nothing Nate Christensen hates more than a golddigger. Nate wants to stay away from all the women who want his money. That is, until he meets the sexy, beautiful Chloe Benson, who lights a fire in his blood that only the most wildly passionate nights can ease… The only problem is, she needs Nate’s money. True, it’s for a very worthy charity, but is their passion enough to still Nate’s fears that she’s only wants him for the size of his bank account?

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hottoyHot Toy
by Jennifer Crusie

A fan favorite holiday novella, now available as a standalone e-book!

Mayhem ensues under the mistletoe as a determined shopper grabs the very last hot toy action figure off the shelf, only to find herself plunged into the middle of a real-life spy game and in the arms of a sexy secret agent…

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Nice…

homeholidayHome for Christmas
by Lily Everett

A heartwarming holiday romance about a wounded warrior who finds healing and love during Christmas on Sanctuary Island.

Magazine columnist Libby Leeds has made a name for herself sharing heartwarming stories from her perfect life on Sanctuary Island. There’s just one minor detail she’s left out: she hasn’t set foot on the island since her childhood. Now wounded war hero/single-father Owen Shepard is returning to Sanctuary Island, and Libby’s editor insists she cover the story. But the sweet, reclusive writer is more intriguing, and more tempting, than Owen could have imagined. Decorating trees, and warming up by the fire it’s the closest Libby has come to love and family since she was a child. Will the Christmas spirit enable them admit what they feel for one another?

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xmasevergreenChristmas at Evergreen Inn
by Donna Alward

Sparks fly in this fun, festive holiday novella when a small town cop gets snowed in with the proprietor of the local inn.

When a December Nor’easter roars up the eastern seaboard, Jewell Cove cop Todd Ricker spends his day off being a Good Samaritan to stranded holiday travelers. But when the roads close and Todd can’t make his way home, he discovers that the Evergreen Inn is full up. That is, until another Lainey Price opens her doors and offers him a place to stay in her tiny cottage. While the two are stormed in for a wintry evening by the fire can Todd convince Lainey to open her heart to Christmas?

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snoflakwishesSnowflake Wishes
by Maggie McGinnis

A magical and enchanting holiday romance from USA Today bestselling author Maggie McGinnis.

Noah Drake was that guy–the one always on the lookout for his next adrenaline high, so it was no surprise when he took off across the world, seeking adventure as a travel writer. But one thing he could never escape was Piper Bellini, the girl who got away–the girl he let get away, a fact he’s never let himself forget. When he returns to Echo Lake to see if there’s any chance the flame between them can be rekindled, he never expects to spend the night holed up with Piper in a roadside diner while a blizzard rages outside. Noah may have been handed a Christmas miracle, and he intends to make all Piper’s wishes come true…

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heartstringscottageHeartsong Cottage
by Emily March

Fall in love with this heartwarming new romance in the New York Times bestselling Eternity Springs series.

Haunted by the loss of his wife and son, Daniel Garrett left the police force to devote his life to finding missing children. But he still hasn’t found a way to mend the wounds of his past-until he attends a wedding in the small mountain town of Eternity Springs…and meets a beautiful, intriguing woman who offers a glimpse of something Daniel thought he’d never have again. She restores Victorian cottages for a living, but will the life she restores in Daniel’s heart be enough when danger comes knocking at her door?

“Emily March’s stories are heartwrenching and soul-satisfying. For a wonderful read, don’t miss a visit to Eternity Springs.”
Lisa Kleypas, New York Times bestselling author

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I hope you have a fantastic holiday season!
Stay warm. Stay safe. Read lots of book!

Happy Holidays from my little corner in sunny Puerto Rico!

The Fabulously Festive Giveaway Blog Hop‏ *Giveaway*

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Happy Holidays everyone and welcome to the first ‘Fabulously Festive Christmas Giveaway Blog Hop’

LeAnn’s Book Reviews will be giving away (2) $5 Amazon Gift Cards so don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the bottom of the post.

There are an amazing group of blogs participating and plenty of great giveaways to enter, so be sure to visit everyone =D

Monday 15th
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Wednesday 17th
Thursday 18th
Friday 19th

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

~~~~~

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LeAnn’s Book Reviews has moved!!!

Hello!

This is the new website for LeAnn’s Book Reviews formerly at http://shirleyfrancesbooksandmore.wordpress.com.

Please bare with me while I make the necessary updates and changes to the previous posts.

Thank you for your support and understanding. Happy Reading!!!

Spotlight: My Hot Series by Isabella Johns *Series Review*

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My Hot Series
by Isabella Johns

An Erotic Romance Stories
From Island Programs, Inc

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My Hot Quartet

quartetMy Hot Quartet is the complete, steamy collection of Volumes 1-4 of the “My Hot…” series.
What happens when a single working mom in her forties meets her dream erotic buddy with benefits?….My Hot Fireman!

What happens when a woman in her twenties unlocks the secrets of her body thanks to two very sexy men?….My Hot Menage!

What happens when a woman turning thirty gets engaged and has an off-the-charts, sizzling tryst with the most anonymous, hottest man she ever met?….My Hot Stranger!

And what happens when a woman in her fifties, completely empty-nesting, embarks on the “ride of her life” with her domineering, leather-clad motorcycle instructor?….My Hot Biker!

Four decades of women, each with her own personal conflict, who meet the hottest men on the planet, who get in touch with their carnal side, shed society’s norms and expectations, throw caution to the wind, and express the true deep passion, lust, and desire within them….

My Hot Quartet!
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My Hot Teacher

https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1402336566l/22448581.jpgWhat happens when a college senior finally meets the man of her dreams and he happens to be her new, young, totally hot English professor?

Celine vows that senior year will be different…when she finally reinvents herself as someone secure, sophisticated, and sexy! After encountering the exquisite fineness of Professor Beard, she’s sure that this will be her time.

With an unusual boldness, Celine sets in motion a journey of erotic self-discovery with her new teacher, who is not only handsome and kind, but masterful and seductive, a man, not a college boy, someone capable of releasing the smoldering passion that has been buried within her for so long.

But Celine also needs a man who can love her back with the same intensity she feels for him. Is the Professor the one? Their burning connection gifts her with the confidence to go for it in a way she never thought possible.

An epic, romantic journey of lust, love, and bliss…My Hot Teacher!

 

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Series Review

3-5 stars

 

Like the name states, My Hot Quartet. is a set of four stories that center around women who find themselves taking part in steamy encounters that change their life one way or another.

In My Hot Fireman the heroine is a divorced mother who fantasizes about a fireman she watches from her window. One thing leads to another and she finds herself taking a tour of the station where she schedules a tour of her own for a later time. And what a tour it is! As fantasies go, this one was plenty hot.

With My Hot Menage we find a woman who struggles to achieve orgasm. Thankfully, she has a man who is willing to help her find what she needs to finally achieve ultimate pleasure. And did he deliver! I loved their connection and the way Art went about solving the problem. A very pleasant experience indeed!

In My Hot Stranger a woman has a passionate encounter with a stranger in an alley. Through that one encounter she learns many things about herself. Mainly that her life was lacking passion and spontaneity. I loved the concept of an encounter with a stranger and how the author went about bringing it to the page.

My Hot Biker is about a married woman that’s ready to try something new–learning how to ride a motorcycle. This story had BDSM elements that I’m not that keen on, so for me it wasn’t that great a story. Although it was not my favorite it still had that hotness factor that I came to expect from the author.

In My Hot Teacher we find Celine, a college student, who hasn’t had any luck in the romance department. From the very beginning we get a clear picture of how bad her attempts at sex and romance have become. Some were funny and other were just ridiculous. Poor woman, no wonder she went after the professor!

Mind you, Professor Beard is a fine, hot man. He engages in a sexual relationship with Celine until emotions come into play to muddle the situation–for both of them.

I loved the concept behind the story and although it has been done before, the author took it one step further by adding a little twist to it. I liked that Celine grew more confident as the story progressed, I just wished she wouldn’t ramble so much. Her thought process was at times too much. But at least I knew what she was thinking and the state of her emotions, something I would have loved to see from the Professor.

Needless to say that there was sex in the story and that it was very good. The passion never lacked and although I would have appreciated some more dialogue and development of their connection, Celine and the Professor still had something more than physical attraction between them.

All in all, a hot, steamy collection of stories that will leave you fantasizing about one of all of these men.

*I received these titles in exchange of my honest opinion.

 

About the Author

Isabella Johns
Okay, let’s be honest, marriage can sometimes be a mixed bag…and so can dating…and so can being alone.

Perhaps like me you find yourself staring at every hot fireman, policeman, tennis pro, personal trainer, lifeguard, handsome stranger…and wondering what if?

What if somehow he was interested in me and we had a chance to start a mind blowing bonfire, sparks everywhere, body coming alive again?

I catch myself ogling and wondering far too often, with desire and need that continue to grow as my thoughts take on more intensity, lust, kink, and downright dirtiness. I’m sure that if I don’t get the real thing soon I’m going to burst. My salvation? Putting hands to the keypad (at least it keeps my fingers occupied).

So I hope MY HOT FIREMAN gives you one enjoyable variation on my theme, and the many stories to come in the MY HOT… series add even more titillating variety. I’ll be most pleased if they inspire in you, as they have for me, a little joyous relief, a splendid break from the carpooling, food shopping, dinner planning, commuting, annoying boss, boring partner, or demanding children.

I’ll be most thrilled if these trysts, these steamy encounters, these vulnerable expressions of pure intimacy—that are so vivid in my mind, in my heart, and a few choice other places—seem as deliciously real and true for you.

WE DESERVE IT!

Enjoy.

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Summer Series by C.J. Duggan *Reviews*

The Boys of Summer (Summer, #1)An Endless Summer (Summer, #2)That One Summer (Summer, #3)

The Summer Series
by C.J. Duggan

Mature Young Adult Romances

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The Boys of Summer (Summer #1) 4 stars

 

It seemed only natural to nickname them the ‘Onslow Boys’. Every time they swaggered in the front door of the Onslow Hotel after a hard week’s work, their laughter was loud and genuine as they settled onto their bar stools. I peeked through the restaurant partition, a flimsy divider between my world and theirs. I couldn’t help but smile whenever I saw them, saw him … Toby Morrison.

Quiet seventeen-year-old Tess doesn’t relish the thought of a summertime job. She wants nothing more than to forget the past haunts of high school and have fun with her best friends before the dreaded Year Twelve begins.

To Tess, summer is when everything happens: riding bikes down to the lake, watching the fireworks at the Onslow Show and water bomb fights at the sweltering Sunday markets.

How did she let her friends talk her into working?

After first-shift disasters, rude, wealthy tourists and a taunting ex-boyfriend, Tess is convinced nothing good can come of working her summer away. However, Tess finds unlikely allies in a group of locals dubbed ‘The Onslow Boys’, who are old enough to drive cars, drink beer and not worry about curfews. Tess’s summer of working expands her world with a series of first times with new friends, forbidden love and heartbreaking chaos.

All with the one boy she has never been able to forget.

It will be a summer she will always remember.

Warning: sexual references, and occasional coarse language.

 

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The Boys of Summer (Summer, #1) is currently FREE until July 16th!

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Tess is dreading having to spent her summer working part-time at the pub, but her friends promise to be there for her every step of the way so she relents. Of course, the job start awful but thankfully she gets into the zone and manages to make it work for her. It helps that she has to get her act together if she wants to impress one of ‘The Onslow Boys’. 😉

She’s had a crush on Toby from the moment she laid eyes on him and years later it’s still holding on strong. Now that she has found herself spending time with the boys and more one on one time with Toby she can’t help but think of what could happen between them. But Toby has a girlfriend, so Tess goes on with her summer – working, hanging out with her new-found friends and hoping.

I didn’t know what to expect with this book, so I was hesitant about it at first. It’s been a while since I’ve read a story like this one, but I liked it. It was sweet, refreshing, light and funny.

I enjoyed Tess’ voice and her way of handling things. Although she wondered and hoped, she never assumed and always kept her feet on the ground. She was sweet, smart and very funny. I liked her wicked sense of humor and her sassy comebacks.

There were a lot of characters introduced in this story and they all added something to it. Be it Sean with his sense of humor and the witty banter he exchanged with Tess. I loved him! Through those exchanges I got to see a different side of Tess – flirty, fun and confident. So different from the quiet girl from I had met at the beginning of the story. Then there was Adam, Tess’ best friend, with his caring side and his loyalty. He kept Tess grounded even from afar. Of course, I enjoyed Toby too. He managed to bring out the most change in Tess. She was able to let go of some her shyness and be her quirky, sweet self without feeling judged. I loved watching the transformation she underwent. She grew from a shy quiet girl into a young, matured woman who admitted to her mistakes and still showed great strength even at times when she was hurting inside.

All in all, a surprising good story about first love, growing up and accepting yourself.

 

 

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An Endless Summer (Summer #2) – 4 stars

Sean looked out over the lake, squinting against the sunlight. He turned to me, his expression sobering as his eyes flicked over my face in a silent study.

“Come on Amy, I saved you once, I’ll save you again.”
I met his stare unflinchingly. “I don’t need saving.”
A wicked grin formed slowly. “Don’t you?”

After a rebellious summer night that almost claimed her life, Amy Henderson – the Onslow publican’s only daughter – is sent away to suffer a fate far worse than any other punishment:

Boarding School.

Three years on, a now nineteen-year-old Amy returns to Onslow for the summer. What once was a cauldron of activity with live bands, hot meals and cold beers, the Onslow Hotel now lies dark, deserted and depressing. All fond childhood memories of loitering on the hotel stairs and eavesdropping on customers’ colourful conversations are in the distant past.

How had her dad let it come to this?

With the new threat of putting the Onslow up for sale, Amy reluctantly turns to a local tradesman for help: Sean Murphy, the very same Onslow boy who saved her life all those years ago. With his help and that of some old friends, the task is clear: spend the summer building the hotel back up to its former glory or lose it for good.

In an endless summer, Amy soon realises that sometimes in order to save your future, you have to face your past, even if it’s in the form of a smug, gorgeous Onslow boy.

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Sean, Sean, Sean. I need me more of him! He was too much at times, but I couldn’t get enough.

Amy is the daughter of the owner of the Onslow Hotel, so she knows what transpire there and its patrons – she especially remembers ‘The Onslow Boys’. So when she returns from the city to visit Onslow on her summer break, she’s heartbroken at what she encounters. The hotel that held so many memories for her and what her father worked so hard for is in shambles. She’s overwhelmed by the amount of work that has to be done and by the gorgeous man that she encounters wherever she goes.

Sean continues to be his flirty, easy-going self and his attention seems to be directed solely on Amy. She knows that the only way she can get the place back to its past glory is by trusting Sean. Now if she can get her pesky attraction to him under control, this would be a whole lot easier on her nerves.

I loved it! I mean what’s there not to love? We have a feisty heroine who’s determined to fix her home, a sexy, alpha-male that’s both sweet and funny, the Onslow boys and the rest of the crazy crew.

Once again, Duggan delivers a sweet, romantic coming-of-age story with a kick. Amy is one determined girl and when she went toe-to-toe with Sean it made for some fantastic moments. I enjoyed their banter, their honest interactions and their easy camaraderie. Of course, I enjoyed their chemistry too! It was always under the surface – in the way they interacted, looked at each other and bickered. And when the emotions came into play, it was even more amazing.

I don’t want to compare this story to the previous one because the characters are so different, but I did notice some of the same elements I enjoyed previously in this one too. I liked how Amy grew into a matured young woman but still kept her feisty side. She stood for what she wanted and I admired her for that. The humor was present too. Although Amy was not as funny as Tess, her snarky comments and sarcastic remarks were top-notch. She gave as good as she got and I enjoyed it thoroughly, especially when she gave them to Sean. Amy kept him on his toes, even when she gave into the connection that was growing between them.

All in all, a fantastic addition to the series. A story about sticking to your guns, being yourself and starting anew. I loved it!

 

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That One Summer (Summer #3) – 4 stars

 

Loving Chris Henderson would be wrong. Diabolically disastrous. I mean, what is there about him to love? He’s moody, bossy, brooding, a control freak, and that’s on a good day … but there was one achingly obvious fact that haunted my every thought, every minute of every day …

He sure could kiss.

As the countdown to the new millennium begins, there is one thing everyone agrees on: no one wants to be in Onslow for New Year’s Eve.

So that can only mean one thing: road trip!

No longer the mousey, invisible, shy girl from years ago, Tammy Maskala is finally making up for all those lost summers. A new year with new friends, which astoundingly includes the bossy boy behind the bar, Chris Henderson.

She likes her new friends (at least most of them), so why does she secretly feel so out of place?

After chickening out on the trip, a last-minute change of heart sees Tammy racing to the Onslow Hotel, fearing she’s missed her chance for a ride. The last thing she expected to meet was a less-than-happy Onslow Boy leaning against his black panel van.

Now the countdown begins to reach the others at Point Shank before the party is over and the new year has begun. Alone in a car with only the infuriating Chris Henderson, Tammy can’t help but feel this is a disastrous start to what could have been a great adventure. But when the awkward road trip takes an unexpected turn, Tammy soon discovers that the way her traitorous heart feels about Chris is the biggest disaster of all.

Fogged up windows, moonlight swimming, bad karaoke and unearthed secrets; after this one summer nothing will ever be the same again.

 

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Oh wow! So there I was starting this story and wondering if I would like it as much as the previous one. Ha! joke’s on me. This is my favorite so far and I will tell you why.

  • There was hot, broody Chris that happened to have a sweet and caring side too.
  • A sweet and adorable Tammy that felt overwhelmed by all her new-found friends.
  • Toby and Tess.
  • The Onslaw Boys.

Add to that the fact that this is a New Years Eve camping trip welcoming the new millennium, there are secrets and revelations, funny moments, tender moments and an easy camaraderie between them all.

I thought it would get to be a bit too much to have them all in one place, but I actually enjoyed the hell out of the ‘holiday’. It was nice to get out of the hotel and just explore and have new adventures in unexplored territories. I loved that the author kept the pace constant and the humor abound. There some emotional moments, some intriguing moments too and some surprises, but she managed to maintain that ‘light and airy’ feeling I have come to expect from her stories.

I enjoyed the having the crew back together and seeing how far they’ve come as people. Of course, I still love Sean. Toby, Tess and Amy were wonderful to see again. Now I’m intrigued about Adam and Ellie, but I am especially anticipating Ringer’s story. He has always been there in the background and I’ve grown curiouser and curiouser about him.

All in all, a wonderful installment in the series and one you wouldn’t want to miss, especially if you  have come to love and care for these characters. And if you’re new to the series, don’t worry, you can also experience this amazing story without having to read the previous installments. But my recommendation? Read them all and get to know the characters better so you can get the full experience!

 

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Forever Summer (Summer, #4)

Coming Soon!

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About the Author

C.J Duggan is an Australian author who lives with her husband in a rural border town of New South Wales, Australia. The Boys of Summer is Book One in her Mature Young Adult Romance Series.

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Available for Pre-Order: Perfect Imperfections by Cardeno C.

perfect imperfections preorder

Title: Perfect Imperfections

Author: Cardeno C.

Expected Release Date: May 5th 2014

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance

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Synopsis

Hollywood royalty Jeremy Jameson has lived a sheltered life with music as his sole focus and only friend. Before embarking on yet another international concert tour, he wanders into a bar in what he considers the middle of nowhere and meets a man who wins him over with his friendly smile and easy-going nature. Accountant slash bartender slash adventure-seeker Reg Moore has fun talking and drinking with The Jeremy Jameson and can’t say no when the supposedly straight rock star makes him a once in a lifetime offer: keep him company on his tour by playing the part of his boyfriend.

Listening to music, traveling the world, and jumping off cliffs is fun. Falling in love is even better. But to stay with Jeremy after the stage lights dim, Reg will need to help him realize there’s nothing pretend about their relationship.

Pre-Order

perfect imperfections

Dreamspinner

 

About the Author

Cardeno C. – CC to friends – is a hopeless romantic who wants to add a lot of happiness and a few “awwws” into a reader’s day. Writing is a nice break from real life as a corporate type and volunteer work with gay rights organizations. Cardeno’s stories range from sweet to intense, contemporary to paranormal, long to short, but they always include strong relationships and walks into the happily-ever-after sunset. Cardeno feels that characters write their own stories and just hopes to find enough time to get those stories on the page.

Cardeno’s Home, Family, and Mates series have received awards from Love Romances and More Golden Roses, Rainbow Awards, the Goodreads M/Romance Group, and various reviewers. But even more special to CC are heartfelt reactions from readers, like, “You bring joy and love and make it part of the every day.”

You can learn more about Cardeno’s writing at www.cardenoc.com.

Cafe Risqué ~ Shared Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Email

Other Books by Cardeno

~ Home Series

home series

He Completes Me

Home Again

Just What the Truth Is

Love at First Sight

The One Who Saves Me

Where He Ends & I Begin

Marriage – A Home Series Celebration

Walk With Me

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~ Family Series

family

Something in the Way He Needs

Strong Enough

More than Everything

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~ Mates Series

mates

Wake Me Up Inside

Until Forever Comes

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Sneak Peek: Make it a Double (Last Call, #2) by Sawyer Bennett *Excerpt*

SNEAK PEEK into

Make it a Double (Last Call, #2)

By USA Today Best-selling Author

Sawyer Bennett

 

make it a double

Release Date: April 21, 2014

Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance

 

Brody Markham has endured a nightmare, spending the last five years in prison and losing everything that was dear to him. Now he’s back home, trying to survive in a world he doesn’t recognize anymore. While his family and friends desperately try to reach through to him, he shelters himself further and further away from their love.

Alyssa Myers has worked her entire life to distance herself from the luxurious and privileged lifestyle in which she was raised. Running her non-profit agency, The Haven, she is content to spend her days helping abused animals find sanctuary, which fulfills her in a way that money just can’t buy.

Maybe it’s that she recognizes in Brody some of the same characteristics she sees in her homeless wards, but Alyssa is powerless to stop her personal quest to make Brody whole again.

While Brody struggles to surface from the darkness, Alyssa tries to protect her heart in case he’s not willing to accept the light that she offers him.

*MAKE IT A DOUBLE can be read as a stand-alone*

 

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Excerpt

I put the last of my groceries away, fold up the brown paper bags, and tuck them in the space between my refrigerator and the kitchen wall. Turning around, I observe my little studio apartment. I see it all in just a quick glance, because it’s about the size of a postage stamp.

While I just helped Gabby move into Hunter’s house, I certainly didn’t need to ask them to reciprocate the favor. The only things I own are my clothes, and those were gifts to me from my mom. She had taken me out shopping the day after I got home from prison, outfitting me with an entirely new wardrobe. I mean… new as opposed to wearing prison garb for five years. I felt ashamed that my mom had to buy her twenty-eight-year-old son clothes because he didn’t have a dime to his name.

Past my clothes and some basic toiletries, I have no other possessions. The car I’m driving is courtesy of my parents… on loan, of course. It’s an old Chevy Malibu that had been sitting under a tarp, which Dad used to drive. They don’t use it, but it runs fine. Mom and Dad tried to give it to me, but I wouldn’t accept it. Instead, I capitulated only by agreeing that I was borrowing it until I could save up enough money to buy it from them.

Luckily, this studio apartment came completely furnished, and the kitchen was stocked with dishes, pots, pans, and utensils. I had all the basics that I needed to survive, because let’s face it… it wasn’t too fucking hard to boil some Ramen noodles for dinner, and that was a huge step up from the prison food I’d been eating.

So with my duffel bag filled with clothes purchased by my mom, I drove my old Chevy borrowed from my parents to the grocery store and stocked up on some basic provisions. Then it took me all of five minutes to move into my new home.

A knock on my door has me glancing down at my watch.

Right on time.

In three regular strides, I’m from one side of the apartment to the other and opening the door. There stands my parole officer, Jimbo Peaks. He is six-foot-six of solid muscle, his neck as thick as a tree truck, and his biceps the size of smoked hams. With skin darker than midnight, his light hazel eyes are spooky

as shit when he looks directly at you, in that contemplative sort of way I’ve come to know over the last two months since I’ve been home.

“What’s up, Brody?” he says with a huge grin on his face, sticking his hand out for me to shake.

I take his hand, and it freaks me out how mine is dwarfed by his. I mean… I’m not a small man myself, almost as tall as Jimbo, in fact. But when comparing my muscle mass to his, I feel downright puny and I kept myself in pretty decent shape while in prison. Other than reading, working out was about the only thing that was a resourceful use of my time.

“Come on in,” I tell him as I step back so he can enter.

Jimbo walks into my humble abode and turns around once. Yup… he’s seen everything. A small kitchen on one side that merges right into my living room that abuts one wall. A double bed takes up the other wall, and the bathroom takes up another. It’s four hundred and fifty feet of cozy living, situated right above Mabel Fisher’s three-car garage.

Miss Mabel is older than Methuselah but has been a friend of our family’s since I was a baby. She’s eccentric, rich as hell, and loves to thumb her nose at polite society.

And by polite society, I mean those people here on the islands that look at me in disdain because I killed someone.

Not Mabel though. She was at my parents’ house within forty-eight hours of my return home, giving me a hug and a papery kiss, then making me sit down while she drank tea and filled me in on all the Outer Banks’ gossip for the past five years. She’s a trip… a breath of fresh air, and one of the few around here willing to give me a chance. When she offered to rent this apartment to me for a ridiculously small amount, I couldn’t say no.

“Nice digs man,” Jimbo’s deep voice rumbles. “All moved in?”

“Yup. Bag of clothes and some groceries. I’m settled.”

Jimbo chuckles and moves to my small kitchen table that seats only two people. Sitting down, he motions to the other chair so I do the same. “How does it feel to be out of your parents’ house?”

I crack a small smile and tap my fingers on the kitchen table. “It’s good. I mean… I love my parents, but it was time for me to get my own place.”

“Heard that,” Jimbo agrees, and then transitions into his next question. “How’s work going?”

“Going great,” I tell him, because it is. I enjoy working at Last Call, and I’m thankful as fuck I have a job. Most parolees struggle to find work, or get shit jobs that scrape the bottom of the barrel. When they can’t find work because no one will take a chance on them, they go back to a life of crime. If I had a nickel for every repeat offender I met in prison, who was there just because they couldn’t make an honest living, well… I’d be buying Mabel’s house from her rather than renting this apartment.

Jimbo doesn’t seem satisfied with my short answer, so he delves a bit more. It’s his job to make sure I can acclimate to life on the outside, so I’m not bothered when he asks, “Any problem being around the alcohol?”

“Nah,” I tell him genuinely. “No desire to drink at all.”

“That’s good,” he says with a smile. “Seeing as how that’s a condition of your parole.”

“Look, man… doesn’t matter if it’s a condition or not, there is nothing on this earth that could get me to drink a drop of alcohol.”

“And why is that?” he asks, but he knows the answer.

I tell him anyway.

“Because it shattered my life. Because it killed a man. It left a mother without a husband and a little boy without a father. Need any other reason?”

“No,” Jimbo says quietly, staring at me with those light eyes. “That’s a good enough reason.”

I hold his gaze, waiting for the next question. We’ve had this same meeting on five other occasions since I came home, but today it’s being done at my new home so he can check it out. As a parole officer, his role is part jail keeper, part counselor. It’s his responsibility to keep me on the straight and narrow, but to also do what he can to make sure my head is clear when I’m making my choices. So that involves talking… a lot. Just to make sure that the emotional and psychological toll of reentering the real world doesn’t cast me in a downward spiral.

Yeah, I talk a lot to Jimbo. He knows more of my internal struggles dealing with life on the outside than my family does. For whatever reason, I’ve been able to open up to him—somewhat—in a way that I just haven’t with my family. I suppose that boils down to the simple fact that Jimbo asks me questions… asks me how I’m feeling and how I’m coping. My parents, my identical twin Hunter, my baby sister, Casey… while they love me more than the air they breathe, well… they’re just not sure what is open to talk about and what may be taboo. So they walk on eggshells.

“Tell me some of the problems you’ve had adjusting?” Jimbo leads in.

Heard this question before too, and my answer the last time was, Not anything to tell.

I start to tell him the same thing, but the look on his face stops me. It says, And don’t hand me any bullshit, either.

I suppose I can skirt the real issues only so long before Jimbo is apt to put me in a headlock and beat the information out of me. Taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, I decide to go ahead and lay it out. “I wake up at five AM every day, no matter what time I get to sleep the night before. It’s because I’ve been getting up at the same time every morning for the last five years… because I had no choice but to get up every morning at five AM. I don’t even know how to have a leisurely morning where I sleep in. When I go to sleep at night, I can hear metal cots squeaking and my cell mate rubbing one off while he tries to stifle his groans into the two-inch piece of flimsy foam that’s called a pillow. I hear the newbies crying, and I hear the lifers telling them to shut the fuck up. When I’m awake… out in the real world, I can’t walk around a blind corner without my palms sweating, because I’m expecting someone will be there waiting to jump me. I was always on alert… I’m still always on alert. The air smells too fresh, the food tastes too good, people talk too loud, and I’m having a hard time letting people touch me. It’s overwhelming and that’s just for starters, Jimbo. So yeah,” I say with some sarcasm as my eyes drop to the table. “I’m having a bit of an adjustment problem.”

“How does all of that make you feel?”

My eyes slowly rise to meet his. “I’m pissed off. All the time. I’m withdrawn, moody, and restless. I have all this wide-open space available to me, yet I’m having a hard time straying too far from the things that are safe to me. So I go to work, and I go home. That’s it.”

Jimbo gives me that contemplative look, and I can see the wheels turning inside his head. I’m prepared for him to launch into a pep talk, about how I have a chance to make something with my life… to atone for my mistakes and put the past behind me. Instead, he says, “You know… there’s something odd about you.”

My eyebrows shoot up and, for a moment, I consider being affronted by that statement, but then I just mentally shrug my shoulders. Odd is one of many things that I am.

“How’s that?” I ask.

“I’ve been doing this work close to twelve years now… and I can count on one hand the amount of parolees I’ve had that don’t try to convince me that they didn’t do it… or they were framed… or hell, even if they did do it, they blame a corrupt system for sending them away.” He pauses, his green-gold eyes flickering back and forth between mine. “But not you. You accepted responsibility and never once tried to blame someone or something else for your lot in life. It just makes you… odd.”

Shrugging my shoulders, I lean back in my chair. “No one to blame but myself.”

“That’s right,” Jimbo says with a nod. “No one to blame but yourself, and you’ve done a remarkable job accepting responsibility. In fact, you’ve done such a good job at it… some might say that it would help you have a clear conscience.”

“What’s your point?” I ask, genuinely curious as to where he’s going with this.

“My point is that if you truly took responsibility and had a clear conscience, then you should have some measure of peace.”

I scratch my chin absently, pondering his words. I did the time. I took my lumps and accepted my punishment. Should that give me peace?

Jimbo’s probably right. In those circumstances, maybe my soul should feel a little lighter… more free. If I truly was remorseful for what happened, and I truly had done my penance, I shouldn’t be struggling the way I am.

Except… my circumstances aren’t exactly the way Jimbo describes it. He sees my sorrow and guilt, but he doesn’t see past that. Because there’s a whole lot more that makes up Brody Markham’s fucked-up world than just the after effects of a few years in prison. My issues started before I even got sent away.

 

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About the Author

USA Today Best-Selling author, Sawyer Bennett, is a snarky southern woman and reformed trial lawyer who decided to finally start putting on paper all of the stories that were floating in her head. She is married to a mobster (well, a market researcher) and they have two big, furry dogs who hog the bed. Sawyer would like to report she doesn’t have many weaknesses but can be bribed with a nominal amount of milk chocolate.

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Book Spotlight: Missing in Somerville by A.J. Raven *Excerpt*

Missing in Somerville

Title: Missing in Somerville

Author: A.J. Raven

Publication date: December 13th 2013

Genre: YA, Mystery, Bisexual

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Synopsis

The beautiful young bride of the town’s wealthiest man has been missing for several months and rumors of her whereabouts are rampant. Some speak of murder at the hands of her husband. Others claim that the young beauty died at the hands of a jealous ex-boyfriend. She could have run away, but why would a woman throw away a life of luxury? When a group of friends begin to search for her, they quickly discover that their lives are in danger by those determined to keep the woman’s whereabouts unknown.

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Excerpt

It took me a few minutes to realize that I was bound to a chair. “People know that I’m here,” I yelled at him.

He didn’t seem to listen and gently stroked Devona’s long blonde hair. I looked around the attic. Jars filled with red liquid lined the wall behind Devona. I noticed my cell phone near her chair smashed into pieces.

“Why?” I asked as I tried to loosen my hands.

“Devona is special,” he said, and I watched him pick up a syringe from a table. “My master told me that.”

“Who is your master?” I asked. He has gone totally crazy.

“Shut up!” he yelled at me. “Do not speak of my master with your filthy mouth.”

I tried to move my feet, but they were bound as well. I turned my head. There wasn’t anything sharp in my reach either. I needed to escape from him.

“It was my master’s doing,” he said, pouring the blood into a jar.

I noticed that the attic door behind me was open. If only I could move the chair a little. I slowly began to push the chair toward the attic stairs.

“Stop!”

I was grabbed by my hair and couldn’t catch my balance.

“You imbecile!” he yelled. “My master will be proud to hear that you are dead,” he said, and I saw him raise the knife.

Spotlight: The Baby Arrangement by Samantha Chase

The Baby Arrangement

Title: The Baby Arrangement

Author: Samantha Chase

Release Date: February 9th 2014

Genre: Contemporary Romance

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Synopsis

What do you do when a baby is dropped on your doorstep and you’re not sure if the father is you or your wayward brother? If you’re Derek Sloan you freak out as your perfectly organized world suddenly becomes filled with chaos. With his brother nowhere to be found and fatherhood is suddenly thrust upon him, Derek is desperate for any help he can get.

What do you do when the man you’ve been crushing on suddenly has a need and you are the only one he wants to fill it? You do a little happy dance and pinch yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming! For five years Kayleigh Mitchell has longed for her boss to notice her and now that he has, she can only hope that he’ll come to see her as more than a temporary solution to his problem, but someone that he wants around for the long haul.

This is a Valentine’s Day SHORT STORY of approximately 27,000 words.

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About the Author

New York Times and USA Today Bestseller/contemporary romance writer Samantha Chase released her debut novel, Jordan’s Return, in November 2011. Although she waited until she was in her 40’s to publish for the first time, writing has been a lifelong passion. Her motivation to take that step was her students: teaching creative writing to elementary age students all the way up through high school and encouraging those students to follow their writing dreams gave Samantha the confidence to take that step as well.

Her second book, a holiday novella titled “The Christmas Cottage” hit #10 on Amazon’s Overall Best Seller List on Christmas Eve. It was a great Christmas gift! Watching the numbers rise and fall is a daily roller coaster ride but definitely an exciting one! And on February 25th, she released the follow up novella – “Ever After”.

In March 2013, “The Christmas Cottage” was nominated for two Indie Romance Convention Award – Best Indie Romance Novella and Best Indie Contemporary Romance while Samantha was nominated for Indie Author of the Year! In August 2013, the video trailer for “Wait for Me” won an Oscar for Indie Author Book Trailer!

More titles quickly followed: “Catering to the CEO”, “Wait for Me” (Montgomery Brothers book 1), “Trust in Me” (Montgomery Brothers book 2), “In the Eye of the Storm”, and “Stay With Me” (Montgomery Brothers book 3) which hit the USA Today bestseller list upon it’s debut. “Catering to the CEO” was included in the romance bundle “Loving the CEO” – a five-book package – that made the New York Times and the USA Today Bestseller list.

When she’s not working on a new story, she spends her time reading contemporary romances, blogging, playing way too many games of Scrabble on Facebook and spending time with her husband of 24 years and their two sons in North Carolina.

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