Tuesday, 19 June 2018

New Release Spotlight: Rainy Day Friends by Jill Shalvis

Following the USA Today bestseller, Lost and Found Sisters, comes Rainy Day Friends, Jill Shalvis’ moving story of heart, loss, betrayal, and friendship.

Six months after Lanie Jacobs’ husband’s death, it’s hard to imagine anything could deepen her sense of pain and loss. But then Lanie discovers she isn’t the only one grieving his sudden passing. A serial adulterer, he left behind several other women who, like Lanie, each believe she was his legally wedded wife. Rocked by the infidelity, Lanie is left to grapple with searing questions. How could she be so wrong about a man she thought she knew better than anyone? Will she ever be able to trust another person?  Can she even trust herself?

Desperate to make a fresh start, Lanie impulsively takes a job at the family-run Capriotti Winery. At first, she feels like an outsider among the boisterous Capriottis. With no real family of her own, she’s bewildered by how quickly they all take her under their wing and make her feel like she belongs. Especially Mark Capriotti, a gruffly handsome Air Force veteran turned deputy sheriff who manages to wind his way into Lanie’s cold, broken heart—along with the rest of the clan. Everything is finally going well for her, but the arrival of River Green changes all that. The fresh-faced twenty-one-year old seems as sweet as they come…until her dark secrets come to light—secrets that could destroy the new life Lanie’s only just begun to build.

Barnes & Noble: https://bit.ly/2LJd5uu
Books-A-Million: https://bit.ly/2LDlAY5

Chapter 1

Anxiety Girl, able to jump to the worst conclusion in a single bound!

Most of the time Karma was a bitch, but every once in awhile she could be surprisingly nice, even kind. Lanie Jacobs, way past overdue for both of those things, told herself this was her time. Seize the day and all that, and drawing a deep breath, she exited the highway at Wildstone.
The old wild-west California town was nestled in the rolling hills between the Pacific Coast and wine/ranching country. She’d actually grown up not too far from here, though it felt like a lifetime ago. The road was narrow and curvy, and since it’d rained earlier, she added tricky and slick to her growing list of issues. She was already white-knuckling a sharp turn when a kamikaze squirrel darted into her lane, causing her to nearly swerve into oncoming traffic before remembering the rules of country driving.
Never leave your lane; not for weather, animals, or even God himself.
Luckily the squirrel reversed direction, but before she could relax a trio of deer bounded across the road. “Run, Bambi,” she cried, hitting her brakes, and by the skin of their collective teeth, they all missed each other.
Sweating, nerves sizzling like live wires, she finally turned onto Capriotti Lane and parked as she’d been instructed.
It took a moment for her pulse to come down from stroke level. She’d been taught anti-anxiety techniques, but she’d never quite figured out how to make any of them work while in the actual throes of an anxiety attack.
It’s all good she told herself but because she wasn’t buying what she was selling, she had to force herself out of the car like she was a five year old starting kindergarten instead of being thirty and simply facing a brand new job. Given all she’d been through, this should be easy, even fun. But sometimes adulthood felt like the vet’s office and she was the dog excited for the car ride -- only to find out the real destination.
Shaking her head, she strode across the parking lot. It was April, which meant the rolling hills to the east were green and lush and the Pacific Ocean to the west looked like a surfer’s dream, all of it so gorgeous it could’ve been a postcard. A beautiful smoke screen over her not-so-beautiful past. The air was scented like a really expensive sea-and-earth candle, though all Lanie could smell was her forgotten hopes and dreams. With wood chips crunching under her shoes, she headed through the entrance beneath which was a huge wooden sign that read:
Capriotti Winery, from our fields to your table…

Her heart sped up. Nerves, of course, the bane of her existence. But after a very crappy few years, she was changing her path. For once in her godforsaken life, something was going to work out for her. This was going to work out for her.
She was grimly determined.

New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold and visit her website, www.jillshalvis.com, for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.

Facebook: @JillShalvis
Twitter: @JillShalvis

Release Day Spotlight: Stray Magic by Kelly Meding

Shiloh Harrison was hoping for a few days off to recover from a particularly nasty assignment, preferably with the help of the talented hands (and, well, the rest of his body too) of her sexy boyfriend, Vincent. But when a group of vampires takes an entire trailer park hostage, there’s nothing to do but make her apologies and get to the scene.

Such is the life of a Federal Marshal in the Paranormal Investigators Unit.

Yet this isn’t like her typical track-and-nab case: something is going on that has vampires scared, and it takes all her strength not to imagine what could frighten such powerful creatures. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have that option. Her boss is MIA, someone is snatching vampires, and there’s a ticking clock that can only end one way: a bloodbath.

Unless she can stop it.

Here’s what Publishers Weekly has to say about STRAY MAGIC:
“An impressive new warrior arises in Meding’s spellbinding urban fantasy series launch … Meding has created a fast-paced story that weaves the mundane and magical together with unparalleled ease, all while dropping intriguing bread crumbs for tales yet to be told. This new world of wishes, magic, and high-stakes action is sure to be popular.”
You can read the full review: here 

Born and raised in Southern Delaware, Kelly Meding survived five years in the hustle and bustle of Northern Virginia, only to retreat back to the peace and sanity of the Eastern Shore. An avid reader and film buff, she discovered Freddy Krueger at a very young age, and has since had a lifelong obsession with horror, science fiction, and fantasy, on which she blames her interest in vampires, psychic powers, superheroes, and all things paranormal.

Release Day Spotlight: Left, a love story by Mary Hogan

A Love Story
by Mary Hogan
On Sale: June 19, 2018
Trade Paperback ISBN:9780062678379; Price: $15.99
Ebook ISBN:9780062678386; Price: $10.99
Digital Audio ISBN:9780062850515; Price: $17.99

It started as a dream vacation in Spain, with Fay and Paul Agarra enjoying all the delights of a European holiday. A respected New York City judge, Paul has always been the man Fay can rely on, no matter what. When he inexplicably disappears from a Barcelona street corner, Fay knows something is terribly wrong. Once reunited, Paul shrugs off the episode as a simple misunderstanding—but Fay suspects her almost perfect life has taken a dark and sudden turn.

Soon there are more signs that Paul is beginning to change. Bouts of forgetfulness lead to mistakes in the courtroom. Simple tasks cause unexplainable outbursts of anger. Fay’s worst suspicions are realized when she learns her husband—her rock, her love, her everything—is succumbing to the ravages of dementia. 

As her husband transforms before her very eyes, Fay copes with her fears by retreating into a fantasy life filled with promise instead of pain. In Fay’s invented world, she imagines herself living a glamorous life free from heartache, with a handsome neighbor she barely knows rescuing her from a future she can’t accept. 

Poignant and beautifully crafted, Left is an unforgettable tale about life’s aching uncertainties—and a woman who discovers that somewhere between hope and reality, an unexpected future will find its way forward.

“A touching novel. The book poignantly portrays Faye’s struggle to come to terms with…uncomfortable yet necessary questions about the conditions of love.”—Publishers Weekly

“Hogan (The Woman in the Photo, 2016) does a good job of mixing humor and heartbreak in this sharply observed novel, drawn from her own experience.”Booklist

I’d pushed for sightseeing. Of course. Málaga—the birthplace of Picasso—is an artist’s dream. Color everywhere. The Persian blue Mediterranean Sea, butter yellow high-rises, marmalade rooftops, basil green mountains, air the color of honey. Paul would have been happy relaxing at the cottage, puzzling over words like “spork” in the New York Times crossword. Not me. I needed to see color the way other women needed to eat chocolate.
Orange.” It’s what John—Paul’s teenage son—had answered when I’d asked him what color he wanted to paint his bedroom.
Carrot, pumpkin, or cantaloupe?” My face was as inscrutable as Mona Lisa’s. Back then, John was in a Trainspotting phase. Peroxided hair, black turtlenecks, Lou Reed, heroin
chic. He liked to test us. In those early days, I was a young stepmother learning on the fly.
Stupidly, Paul and I bought a run-down duplex apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side when we were newlyweds. Marriage, I learned quickly, was hard enough without Sheetrock dust all over your clothes. Still, the moment I set foot in that space, I knew it was my home. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a bricked garden on the ground floor. And, its own special gift: a sunny nook for my easel. It was everything I ever wanted. Worth our sweat and tears.
Every other weekend, Paul’s son lived with us. When it came time to paint his room, he smirked when he replied,
Paul weighed in from behind a newspaper. “N.O.”
It’s my room!” All teenage grimace and pimply flush, John stamped his foot like a child.
In my apartment,” said Paul.
Our apartment,” I gently reminded him. “And it’s John’s room. Why not let him pick the color? It’s only paint.”
Paul shot me a dark look; I helped him lighten up.
In the paint store, John chose a sickening nacho color. Paul opened his mouth to protest, but I silenced him with a tented brow. What did it matter? John was a good kid. A teenager, yes—moody, slouchy, occasionally reeking of hormonal funk—but tolerable. He chuckled when I said, “We should get two dogs named George and Ringo. You know, round out the band?” I loved him for not groaning. When John was with his dad, Paul, I’m sure he heard comments like that all the time.
Seriously, I could have done worse. Paul could have had a daughter.
It’s not like he’s doing heroin,” I quietly told my brand-new husband.
In the screech of a Primal Scream CD, the three of us painted the walls—and ceiling!—of John’s bedroom. Afterward, sitting on the floor eating pizza, Paul’s son looked around and said, “This is the ugliest room I’ve ever seen.”
We all got a good laugh out of that.
John is a coder now. He lives in Boston with a beautiful wife and amazing daughter. Like I said, it was only paint.
Fay is wise beyond my years.” It’s Paul’s favorite quip. Or was. Whenever he said it, he threw his head back and howled at his own cleverness. My husband’s laugh was an invitation to join his party. What I wouldn’t give to hear that sound one more time.
Grilled sardines on the beach in El Palo?” I suggested on our cottage patio, in Spain’s afternoon light.
Too many Speedos.”
A trek up Gibralfaro?”
So darn uphill.”
How about a stroll along Calle Larios in central Málaga?”
Watch every Latin lover ogle my wife?”
Spoon and fork!” he yelped, filling in the crossword. Then he set the puzzle aside and joined me in touring Málaga. Because he loved me.
I loved that city. It felt like warm bread to me. Irresistible. The sort of city a person could devour when she felt cold or empty.
Each day, Paul and I strolled the avenidas. Leisurely, like Spaniards. We left our New York pace at home. In the nave of La Manquita, we blessed ourselves with holy water and sat in dark pews to soak up the angelic rays slanting down from the heavenly stained glass windows. My husband lassoed me into the crook of his arm, pressed a kiss on my temple, and whispered, “Seeing you in this light is worth the trip.”
I grinned, blissful. Wrapping my arm around Paul’s soft waist, I quietly leaned in to kiss the baby skin under his chin, the spot I owned. My body fit so snugly into his I almost heard a click as we interlocked. In Paul Agarra’s devouring hug, the world and its perils were safely caged away.
Our life is a postcard, I thought, clueless. With a contented smile, I rested my cheek against my husband’s strong shoulder.
Love as it should be.
Not once, not ever, did I regret my choice. Not after our first anniversary or our last one: our twenty-second. In the early days of our marriage, I raised my right hand in the air and vowed, “I, Fay Agarra, do solemnly swear to allow my husband to be exactly who he is.” Paul promised, too. Our word to each other. We’d never expect the other to be older or younger. Paul wasn’t my dad; I wasn’t his midlife crisis. In the shower, Paul sang obscure blues songs about somebody doing somebody wrong. I danced the Macarena in our living
room. I added blond streaks to the front of my brown hair; Paul let his temples go peppery gray. I tolerated his Tom Selleck mustache (for a while); he patiently waited for me to blow-dry my “Rachel.”
After two miscarriages, my husband consoled an inconsolable me. He softly said, “Okay, love,” when I refused to try again. After my mother, my brother, my dad, I couldn’t bear to lose anyone else.
Men my age seemed like boys, heads bent over their cell phones as if the present moment was never riveting enough. Eyes roaming the other tables in a restaurant; brows cocked when a woman asked a waiter, “Do fries come with that?”
Paul is different. He’s a grown man. Words of commitment never get trapped behind overly bleached teeth.
I love you. You’re mine. We’re us.
Yeah, it shouldn’t have worked. Yet it did. Until it didn’t.

Amazon UK      Amazon      IndieBound      Barnes & Noble     Books-A-Million     iBooks     GooglePlay

MARY HOGAN is the bestselling author of Two Sisters and the historical novel, The Woman in the Photo. Previous novels include the young adult titles, The Serious Kiss, Perfect Girl and Pretty Face (HarperCollins). Mary lives in New York City with her husband, actor Robert Hogan, and their Catahoula Leopard rescue dog, Lucy. Find out more at MaryHogan.com  

“A must read for everyone who longs for a page turning novel that holds you in its tender, often hilarious
and poignant grip from page one. Loaded with emotion, laughter, surprise and ultimately the message of
the fragility of life, Two Sisters will burn through the sisterhood of book clubs like a fever.”
—Adriana Trigiani, bestselling author of The Shoemaker’s Wife
“A mesmerizing journey into the secrets that can split apart brothers and sisters, children and their
parents. It’s the perfect read for anyone who knows the way families can hold you up while breaking your
heart.”—Lauren Grodstein, author of Our Short History, on Two Sisters
“Gripping and thought provoking, Two Sisters digs deep into emotions getting to the heart of family
dynamics.”—New York Journal of Books
“A fascinating tale of two women, generations apart, who defy expectations to find their own paths to
happiness and purpose. Awash in historical detail, this book is a real page-turner.”—Melanie Benjamin,
New York Times bestselling author of The Swans of Fifth Avenue, on The Woman in the Photo
“A fascinating snapshot of two women separated by time—each compelling in her own right—who
together make for a novel so appealing you can’t stop reading. Well-researched history and modern
intrigue, original and heartfelt.”—MJ Rose, New York Times bestselling author on The Woman in the Photo
“There is no doubt that The Woman in the Photo is a beautiful work of historical fiction…Hogan does a
brilliant job at weaving their two stories together to make one fabulous novel about growing up and

discovering who you are in more ways than one.”—New York Daily News

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Monday, 18 June 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week.  It's a great post to organise yourself. It's an opportunity to visit and comment, and er... add to that ever growing TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started with J Kaye's Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date. And here we are!

Right Now!
It's the end of the school year for my son tomorrow and my parents are arriving from the UK on Wednesday so I'm in full cleaning and preparing mode. Last week I managed to read three books and have all of my blog posts are at least planned for the coming weeks, so I should have plenty of opportunities to read the many arc's I've committed myself too. There are my writing projects which are not getting the love they should, but once the visitors have gone, my son's birthday out of the way, I'm looking forward to a relaxing summer of reading and writing…that's the plan. After having an unseasonal heat wave for six weeks, the weather is unsettled as we are now getting the rain we desperately need. I prefer the cooler temperatures but hope it gets sunnier again in the coming weeks.

This past week, I've read:

Her Super-Secret Rebound Boyfriend (arc) by Kerri Carpenter

The Billionaire Bride by Marquita Valentine

Today I am reading Arlette's Story (arc) by Angela Barton

One woman’s struggle to fight back against the enemy in order to protect the ones she loves.
When Arlette Blaise sees a German plane fly over the family farm in 1940, she’s comforted by the fact that the occupying forces are far away in the north of the country. Surely the war will not reach her family in the idyllic French countryside near to the small town of Oradour-sur-Glane?
But then Saul Epstein, a young Jewish man driven from his home by the Nazis, arrives at the farm and Arlette begins to realise that her peaceful existence might be gone for good …

Thoughts so far:
It is a début historical novel set in France during WWII. I'm at chapter seven and so far I've been introduced to how life was like in this part of the country before the Germans arrived. So far I'm enjoying the narrative and am looking forward to seeing how Arlette's story progresses as the war takes its toll on herself and the community she lives in.

What's next?

The Letter-Kitty's Story by Eliza J Scott

Murder Girl by Lisa Renee Jones

Want to Know what others are reading today? Head over to Book Date to find out.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Review: When You Knew by Jamie Beck

WHEN YOU KNEW by Jamie Beck
Montlake Romance
On sale June 26, 2018
Paperback ISBN: 978-1503902503 | $9.99 US | 380 pages | Ebook ASIN: B077GSHCH9 | $4.99 US

Lake Sandy, Oregon, is a town made for second chances. It’s the perfect place for the Cabot siblings to take stock of their lives and take a chance on finding—or fixing—love, even after heartbreak. Jamie Beck’s emotional, gripping, yet ultimately uplifting series confronts the realities of modern families and marriage, and explores the sacrifices it can take to sustain them. From loss, betrayal, and broken dreams come heartwarming stories of new beginnings and deeper bonds.

Gentry Cabot’s rebellious life comes to a screeching halt when a one-night stand leads to a sobering new reality: motherhood. Exhausted and overwhelmed, the former wild child struggles to raise an infant on her own. After a lifetime of feeling like the odd Cabot out, Gentry knows that what her son needs most is family. For his sake, she plans to rebuild bridges with them, but first she needs a little help on the home front. Humanitarian worker Ian Crawford has devoted his life to service. Forced to temporarily return stateside, he’s eager to head back to Haiti to expand the nonprofit he just founded in his late father’s honor. He can’t do that without money, so when Gentry offers a hefty paycheck for a short-term gig as a live-in nanny, he can’t afford to say no. Ian expects to deal with a barrage of privileged problems. What he doesn’t expect is how quickly being a makeshift father transforms him. Despite his growing attachment to Gentry and her child, Ian still has his dreams, and Gentry wants a full-time dad for her son. When the baby’s father reenters the picture, will Gentry and Ian embrace the family they’ve formed or end up worlds apart?

Praise for Jamie Beck’s Cabot Series “Beck leads the reader on a multilayered and tightly plotted journey that’s sure to tug at the heartstrings." —Publishers Weekly on Before I Knew
"If you like contemporary romance that involves believable problems and family relationships with all their confusing, sometimes contradictory emotions as well as the promise of happiness for the central couple, I think you will enjoy All We Knew as much as I did." —The Romance Dish About

There was a huge pull for me to read Gentry Cabot's story after I read All We Knew. I'm always drawn to characters who don't naturally conform to how people expect them to act and behave. However, underneath her rebellious nature is a young woman looking for what most of us want in life; a happy settled and loving family life.

One night in Portland is all it takes to change Gentry's life as she knows it forever. A son born to a man she knows only as 'Smith' is all the information she knows about her baby's father. Still, life goes on; albeit with pressure from her family to bring up her child as they think fit. When her tiny tot is unwell, an unlikely hero walks into her life and agrees to help her out for a short time, only the arrangement impacts them both far more than either would have predicted.

EMT and humanitarian worker Ian Crawford only flew back from Haiti to remove his belongings from his ex-girlfriend's home. When he gets a call from a friend of his mom's, he's happy to help out. With the additional opportunity to earn some money; to buy his flight ticket back to continue his aid work. It's a lucky and mutually beneficial arrangement. Only, his time spent looking after baby Colt and getting to know his mom makes him review his life choices when he's confronted about the reasons for doing what he does.

As different as chalk and cheese, Gentry and Ian are an unlikely couple, but they are well matched and thrive together. Both have difficult issues to deal with yet somehow manage to help one another to come to terms with their past by offering contrasting viewpoints even when the outcome could be detrimental to the one giving advice. They are far from perfect, but who are? Seeing Gentry take control of her life and looking at the bigger picture with regards to her son's upbringing; I applaud her decision to track down the father of her baby against the advice of her own mother. The Gentry we see at the end is unlike the woman who unintentionally hurt her brother and sister-in-law. She's matured as her family all realise how their intertwined pasts have had a negative impact not only on Gentry but themselves too.

As always, Ms Beck offers a truly inspiring and well-written novel with heartfelt emotions. Any mum will totally understand and empathise with Gentry as she stubbornly tries to juggle the responsibility of caring for her newborn. It's cringe-worthy, funny and an honest reading. The reader is instantly enveloped within the narrative as the protagonists from contrasting worlds meet. Gentry and Ian are supported by equally realistic and relatable secondary characters. Those who have read the other novels in the series will be reunited with those they have met previously. However, this novel can be read as a standalone but I highly recommend reading these too.

A wonderful finale to the Cabot Trilogy.

***arc generously received courtesy of Montlake Romance via NetGalley***

About the Author National bestselling author Jamie Beck’s realistic and heartwarming stories have sold more than one million copies. She’s a 2017 Booksellers’ Best Award finalist, and critics at Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist have respectively called her work “smart,” “uplifting,” and “entertaining.” In addition to writing, she enjoys dancing around the kitchen while cooking, and hitting the slopes in Vermont and Utah. Above all, she is a grateful wife and mother to a very patient, supportive family. Fans can learn more about her on her website: , which includes a fun “Extras” page with photos, videos, and playlists. She also loves interacting with everyone at .  

Friday, 15 June 2018

New Release Spotlight & Review: Her Super.Secret Rebound Boyfriend by Kerri Carpenter

Her Super-Secret Rebound Boyfriend by Kerri Carpenter
Series n/a; standalone
Genre Adult Contemporary Romance
Publisher Entangled: Lovestruck
Publication Date June 11, 2018

It wasn’t shy librarian Lola McBride's idea to crash someone else’s high school reunion. Her best friend made her do it, insisting that having a little fun with a super-hot rebound would make her forget about her recent breakup. That’s when she meets the hottest guy she’s ever seen.

Architect Luke Erickson had no idea attending his ten-year reunion would turn out to be so fun. He catches the sexy brunette in a lie, and he counters with a proposal—He’ll keep her secret if she helps get his family off his back by pretending to be his girlfriend at an upcoming family reunion.

From one reunion to another, Lola and Luke are suddenly spending a lot of time together. Good thing they're only pretending, or this super-secret relationship could get really complicated.

Kobo      Barnes & Noble      Google Play     iBooks      Entangled Publishing 

Her Super Secret Rebound Boyfriend
by Kerri Carpenter
Copyright © 2018 by Kerri Carpenter. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Chapter One
Crying is for plain women. Pretty women go shopping.”
-Blanche Devereaux
Everything you need to know about life you can learn by watching The Golden Girls.”
Lola raised an eyebrow at her best friend and roommate. Frankie meant well, but sometimes it took a little time and patience to figure out exactly what she was talking about.
I’m serious,” Frankie said after she snagged the carton of double-chocolate fudge ice cream they were currently sharing.
One carton, two spoons, a Ryan Gosling movie marathon with your best friend. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday getting over a breakup. Of course, a better way to spend a Saturday would be hanging out with your boyfriend. Well, if he didn’t just dump you for someone younger, prettier, and more fun.
I know you’re serious, Frankie, and I am well aware of your love affair with reruns of The Golden Girls. But I thought we were talking about me and all my lameness.”
You’re not lame, Lola. I wouldn’t be friends with you if you were. You got dumped.”
Thanks for reminding me.” She shoveled a large spoonful of ice cream in her mouth.
Let me finish. You got dumped and The Golden Girls are going to help you feel better. Trust me. Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia know all.”
Lola rolled her eyes. She couldn’t help it. “Oh really. And just what would they say to make me feel better about Mark?”
Mark is a douche. And anyway, it’s not what they would say to you. It’s what they would do. They have all the answers to the problems of the world.”
Curious, Lola put her spoon and the now empty ice cream carton on the coffee table and turned to give her friend her full attention. After she paused Crazy, Stupid, Love first, of course.
Always dramatic, Frankie sat up straight, flipped her curly auburn hair over her shoulder, and took a deep breath. “Okay, so, think about it. The Golden Girls know how to live life. Number one. Get a great roommate.”
Frankie shimmied her shoulders and made a kissy face. Lola laughed.
Obviously, you already have that one down,” Frankie said. “Next,” she said, holding up two fingers, “cheesecake makes everything better. Third…”
If you tell me to start dating every guy I meet like Blanche or your next sentence starts with ‘Picture it…Sicily’, I’m going to throw up.”
It was Frankie’s turn to laugh. “No. Although, Blanche may have been on to something. She loved her body, she was confident, and she enjoyed dating. Hmm, all things you don’t possess.”
Shut up.” Lola threw a pillow at her.
She did enjoy dating. Lola preferred being in a committed relationship to randomly hooking up. As a homebody, her preference was to spend the night with her boyfriend cooking together and binging Netflix rather than getting hammered at a bar and making idle chitchat with some douchey guy who smelled like beer and wore too much aftershave.
Frankie, on the other hand, loved going out. She was always the first to try a new bar or get them VIP passes to the hottest club. Frankie was an expert flirter, and men always seemed to flock to her. If she wanted, she could be out with any of the twenty guys who’d snapped her in the last week. All she had to do was bat her pretty eyelashes. Even when she broke up with someone, he was still enamored with her. She was almost to the friend limit on Facebook. Basically, she was Lola’s polar opposite.
Although…there was something covetable about Frankie’s love life. Lola saw it as almost freeing. Frankie was always smiling and laughing. Everyone loved her, and she was the life of the party. Not that Lola didn’t have friends and a life. She did. It was just a small, quiet life.
She glanced at Frankie and saw the determination on her face. Lola wasn’t getting out of this conversation.
I’m sure there’s some point to all of this,” Lola said. “Why don’t you just get to it?”
My point is that you are bummed because Mark dumped you.”
I know this already, Francesca.”
Frankie stuck her tongue out at the use of her full name. “Mark was a loser, and you need to get back out there and have some fun. Life is too short. You’re young, you’re smart, you’re totally gorgeous.”
Lola caught a glimpse of her reflection in the window behind the couch. Her long brown hair probably needed a trim, although she liked how her bangs had grown out to that perfect length and touched the tip of the black glasses she absolutely needed to wear. Frankie always said her light-blue eyes were so pretty and how she should lose the glasses. But Lola had tried contacts, and glasses were more comfortable. Besides, as a librarian, she was constantly staring at books and computer screens. Contacts tended to dry up and become itchy by the end of the workday.
I know what you’re thinking, Lola Susan McBride. You’re going to tell me that you’re not gorgeous, even though you have the body of a Victoria’s Secret model. Damn you,” she added for good measure.
Oh please,” Lola said with one last look at her reflection. She was plain and boring. If she really resembled a model, Mark wouldn’t have broken up with her. Well, probably not.
And it’s time for you to take that bangin’ body out there, dress it up in provocative clothes, have some fun, and find a super-hot rebound guy.”
You know I’m not going to do any of that. Besides, I wouldn’t even know how. Or where to go.”
Frankie’s eyes were practically sparkling. “Well…you could do speed dating.”
Lola scrunched up her nose.
Frankie laughed. “Okay, that’s out. We could barhop next weekend. Ooh, you could go back on Tinder or Bumble.”
Lola groaned. Like most single people, she’d tried online dating. She’d been on a fair amount of dates and even had a relationship with someone from OKCupid for a couple months. But she’d also been stood up twice, suffered through a date with a man she was pretty sure was batting for the other team, and received three dick pics.
The idea of returning to that Pandora’s box of fun? No thank you.
Lola, you have to put yourself out there. It’s a numbers game. The more men you meet, the better your chances of finding someone.”
But I don’t know how to do that,” Lola whined.
I do,” Frankie said in a singsong voice. “And so do Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia.”
Are we back to that?”
We never left. Didn’t you see the episode where they crashed someone else’s high school reunion?”
Because of Frankie’s love of The Golden Girls, Lola had seen pretty much every episode at least three times. “Doesn’t Dorothy become…wait a minute. You’re not suggesting we crash a high school reunion?”
Frankie’s grin spread from ear to ear.
Lola jumped up and shook her head. “No, no, no.”
Frankie joined her off the couch. “Yes, yes, yes. And I know just the high school.”
It better not be one of the high schools here in Arlington.”
As a matter of fact, Kennedy is having their ten-year reunion tonight.”
Nope, uh-uh.”
Kennedy is the perfect school. There were like two thousand kids in each class. No way did everyone know each other. We’ll wait until the reunion has started, grab a nametag off the table, and then blend right in.”
Don’t those nametags belong to alums attending their reunion?” Not that Lola was actually considering this ludicrous plan.
Frankie shook her head. “I know someone on the reunion committee at Kennedy.”
Of course she did.
They said they print out badges for every classmate whether they’ve RSVP’d or not. Come on, Lola. There’s nothing to lose.”
How about my respect? My dignity?”
Who cares about those things? We are going to live it up and find you a hottie.” Frankie clapped her hands excitedly. “You’re going to have so much fun. Especially after the makeover I’m about to give you.”
Um, I haven’t said yes yet.”
When Lola took in Frankie’s determined expression, she knew it didn’t matter. Whether she liked it or not, she was going to a reunion. And it wasn’t her own.
Two hours later, they stood outside Kennedy High School. Lola had been plucked, teased, and made over in every way imaginable. She was wearing one of Frankie’s blue dresses that was about six inches too short, although Frankie insisted she show off her legs. She had to admit that her makeup did look good. The colors Frankie used brought out the blue in her eyes, and she loved the pink lipstick from Frankie’s collection.
You look amazing, Lola. There’s still time to lose the glasses though.”
No way.” That was the one place where Lola had to put her foot down.
Fine, the glasses just add to the whole sexy librarian vibe.”
Lola groaned. “You know I hate that stereotype. It’s clichéd.”
And true. I mean, my God. Look at you. I’d totally make out with you in the stacks.”
Shut up.” But she laughed as she said it.
They turned to take in the large high school. People were milling about, and they could already hear music filtering out from the gym.
Looks like our reunion is in full swing.” Frankie wiggled her eyebrows. “Let’s go Bears!”
Lola rolled her eyes. “They’re the Bobcats.”
Oh, whatever. I can’t wait to get inside and see all of our friends from high school.”
Lola shook her head as Frankie linked their arms and dragged her toward the door. “You are ridiculous.”
Lola sighed. She had a feeling she wasn’t going to like this. Even if Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia had been there with her. She wasn’t going to like this one bit.
Luke had a feeling he wasn’t going to like this.
Going to his ten-year high school reunion wasn’t his idea of a good time, but he’d promised some friends he would make it. Since he’d recently returned to Arlington, Virginia, after stints in both San Francisco and New York, he had no excuse. His old high school was only four miles from his current condo.
It wasn’t like he hadn’t enjoyed high school. In fact, Luke had a great time playing baseball, being goofy with his friends, and, of course, dating. He’d been one person in a very large class with his pick of beautiful dates.
He pushed through the front doors and made his way toward the gym. Ten years later and he could still navigate these hallways with his eyes closed. The place smelled the same, like pencil erasers and heavy-duty cleaner. Although, everything seemed smaller somehow.
Right outside the gym, he saw a long table set up with about a million nametags. He smiled at the two women manning the table, found his nametag, and made his way into the gym.
Already a good number of people were on the dance floor, moving to a song from their senior year of high school. Luke imagined the whole night would be filled with old-school songs and memories of yesteryear. Fine by him. While this wasn’t exactly his favorite way to spend a Saturday night, he was looking forward to catching up with some of his friends. Speaking of, he saw one of his buddies making his way toward him.
Ryan, great to see you.” The two grabbed hands and pulled each other in for a brisk man-hug.
You too, man. Wasn’t sure you’d make it. You seemed kind of down on the reunion.”
Luke shrugged. “You know how it is. It will be great to see the old crew. But the rest of these people…” He gestured around the gym that was becoming more packed by the second.
I hear ya. Who the hell are all these people?” Ryan laughed.
They caught up for a few more minutes and were joined by more guys from their crew, Tyler, Jamal, and Oliver, who brought beers for all of them. Luke had to admit that it was nice to catch up. He was already laughing more than he had since returning to Arlington.
So, what made you move back?” Jamal asked.
He missed me so much he just had to come home,” Oliver said.
Oliver had been his best friend since kindergarten. And he had missed him over the years, not that he’d admit that out loud.
Luke tipped his beer back and took a long slug. “Got a great job.”
Luke Evans, architect. Who would have thought it?”
Yeah,” Tyler added. “What happened to that whole professional baseball career?”
Dick.” Luke punched him on the arm. “And what happened to your dream of being a ballerina?”
Now who’s the dick,” Tyler said, and the other three guys all laughed.
Language, language.”
Luke turned to see a petite blonde saunter over with a big smile and eyes that were clearly only made for Tyler. She wrapped her arm around him.
Everyone, this is my fiancé, Lacey. Lacey, these are the guys.”
Ah yes, the guys. Of course.” She smiled. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”
I saw it on Facebook and I read your group text, but I still can’t believe you’re taking the plunge,” Luke said.
You should try it. Water’s nice and warm. It’s not a bad life. Having someone to come home to every night.”
Oliver snorted. “Yeah, right. It’s only been ten years since high school and already you forgot how averse Luke is to dating.”
Hey, hey, hey. I am not averse to dating. I love dating. I love women. I just don’t do commitment. Never have. Never will.”
As the guys laughed, Luke took a moment to peruse the gym. He recognized a person here or there. He liked that the reunion committee had blown up different photos from their high school yearbook and hung them around the room.
His phone vibrated in his pocket. Pulling it out, he rolled his eyes at the text message from his sister Mia.
Why haven’t you asked Gretchen out yet?
Luke stifled the sigh that wanted to surface. He had three sisters. All three of them had jobs and busy lives, and yet they really seemed to enjoy spending their time trying to set up him. Coupled with their mother, the whole family wanted to see Luke married off.
He quickly typed back, I’ve been busy at work.
Mia made quick work with her reply. If you had a serious girlfriend you wouldn’t work so much.
Luke loved work. He loved to date, too. What he didn’t love was being pressured to ask some woman out who would then expect him to fall into a serious relationship. Before he knew it, he would be spending his Saturdays shopping for window treatments. There would be Sunday brunches in Adams Morgan and game night with other couples. He’d have to plan a Virginia winery trip and a weekend at a bed and breakfast in Annapolis. Next would come meeting the family followed by sharing holidays. Next thing he knew, he was married, tied down, getting a dog—not that he would mind the dog—and then came two-point-five children and a minivan. Luke did not do minivans. No thank you.
At the same time, he hated men who played with women, so he made a point of being as upfront as possible. He always explained that he wasn’t looking for anything serious. Luke thought this was an admirable trait. Apparently, when word made it back to his sisters, they just tried harder to fix him up with someone new.
He rolled his shoulders. He didn’t want to think about his sisters or their feeble attempts to penetrate his casual, carefree existence. Luckily, he spotted a large table with food in the back of the room. He excused himself from his friends and made his way toward it. Just as he was about to pop one of those delicious little Swedish meatballs into his mouth, he froze.
At the table next to him, he spotted the back of a gorgeous brunette in a super-short blue dress. The reunion committee was already hard at work raising money for their fifteen-year reunion—something he couldn’t even wrap his mind around—by holding a raffle. There were baskets and items throughout the gym. The hot brunette was checking out a basket with a bunch of old-looking books in it.
She was probably about five-four or five-five, with long, shapely legs that disappeared into the short hem of that killer dress. From the back, she had a perfect hourglass figure. His mouth watered more than it had when he’d spotted the meatballs. Plus, all that long hair.
Her friend sauntered up to her then and noticed him checking her out.
Uh-oh, busted.
Luke tried to appear interested in the food once again, as the hot brunette’s friend elbowed her and then whispered something. He pretended to study the large bowl of spinach artichoke dip while he strained to overhear the women’s conversation, which seemed to be a bit of an argument. The only words he caught were hot guy, over there, give me, and he thought glasses. Then he was absolutely positive he heard one of them say The Golden Girls.
But before he could process that, the hot brunette spun around. It seemed like she may have been pushed. He didn’t care, though, when he took in her gorgeous face. Pouty lips painted a vibrant pink, high cheekbones, and flawless skin. Plus, he was a sucker for women who had those bangs. There was something intriguing and mysterious about it.
She eyed him shyly, a blush coloring her cheeks. “Um, hi,” she said, taking a step toward him.
He grinned. “Hey there.”
Now that she was closer, he couldn’t miss the crystal blue hue of her eyes. Beautiful. Luke had been around his share of gorgeous women over the years, but there was something different about this one. Something…genuine, he decided. At the same time as she was approaching him, she seemed nervous, as if this wasn’t something she did often.
He had a thought. Maybe he knew her. Maybe they’d gone out in high school? Surely not. He’d remember someone who looked like this.
Can you believe we’re already having our ten-year reunion?” he asked.
What? Oh, right. Yeah. I mean, no.” She laughed. “I mean, no, I can’t believe it’s been ten whole years.” She quickly averted her eyes.
She was adorable.
He stuck out a hand. “I’m Luke Erickson.”
She shook his hand. “I’m Lo…” She glanced down at her nametag as if she needed a reminder. “I’m Kelli Martingale. Nice to meet you.”
I see you’re interested in that basket over there.”
She smiled, and the gesture lit up her whole face brighter than the overhead fluorescents that used to illuminate the hallways. Her eyes sparkled, and Luke sucked in a breath. If he thought she was hot before, he didn’t even know a word to describe what he was seeing before him now.
At the mention of the raffle basket, Kelli became animated, her arms gesturing wildly. “Oh yes, I would give anything to win that. I know, it’s probably dorky, but I’m totally—”
Her words were cut off when she stepped forward, hit the side of the table, shaking all the contents on it. Luke jumped to save a particularly wobbly red Jell-O dessert. He picked up the plate holding the dessert and turned to Kelli.
Phew, that was a close one.”
The words had just left his mouth when Kelli took another step, ran into him, causing most of the Jell-O mold to mold right onto his favorite white shirt.
Kelli gasped. “Ohmigod. I’m so sorry.”
While he wanted to offer a huge fuckkkkk, he could tell that she felt horrible. So he shrugged as she quickly tried to help him clean up. Together, they got as much of the Jell-O off his shirt as they could. Then she grabbed a mound of napkins and began running them over his chest.
He shivered. Actually fucking shivered. What the hell? This Jell-O must be extra cold. Kelli must have felt it, too, because she paused, hands plastered against his chest, as she met his gaze. Her mouth fell open and formed an O.
Suddenly, it wasn’t his shirt he was worried about; his pants began to feel a tad too snug. He wrapped his hands around her wrists and tried to offer a smile. Although, with the new, um, pain he was experiencing in his lower half, it probably came out as more of a grimace.
I think I have it from here.”
A red blush tinted her cheeks. “Of course. But I really am so sorry.” She swore under her breath. Somehow, he could tell that she wasn’t a big curser because as soon as the word left her lips, she scrunched up her nose and seemed surprised with herself. “I’ll totally pay for dry cleaning.”
No worries.”
Then she dug in her purse and pulled out a pair of thick black glasses.
I’m not usually a klutzy person,” she explained as she put the glasses on. “My roommate thought I looked sexier without my glasses, so she forced me to take them off. But I’m blind as a bat without them.”
He took her in, and if he thought his pants were feeling tight before, he was pretty sure that all oxygen was leaving his body now. All he could say about the glasses was…holy fuck.
Her roommate thought she was sexier without them? Hells to the no. Definitely wrong on that one. The bombshell dress plus the thick sex kitten hair plus the gorgeous face plus the most seductive glasses in the history of eyewear equaled a speechless, hard Luke.
See, if Kennedy High taught him one thing, it was how to do math. Another equation was already becoming clear.
Kelli plus Luke was going to equal one hell of a reunion.

This novel was so much fun and perfect as a holiday read by the pool or at the beach.

When her very persuasive friend manages to convince Lola McBride to gatecrash a school reunion, she reluctantly agrees. Pretending to be someone else is fine until a gorgeous guy calls her out when he realises the woman he's talking to isn't a past girlfriend. To make amends, she agrees to go on a fake date with Luke Erickson. Only his family party awakens Lola's feelings for something and someone who will disappear out of her life.

The hot woman he's talking to seems different to what he remembers from high school until his best friend jogs his memory. Realising this reunion is far more fun than anticipated due to the mystery woman he is chatting to, he takes advantage of her and asks her to accompany him to a family reunion. In exchange, he won't expose her as a fraud. It should be simple to trick his family about his 'date', only their reaction and his own feelings make him realise he doesn't want their fake relationship to stop.

Entertaining and heart-warming, the narrative kept my attention one hundred percent as the adorable protagonists realise their fake relationship means more to them than either could have imagined. Their tentative relationship is honest and heartfelt as we discover how the past has shaped their lives. Whilst the overall mood of the novel is both light-hearted and humorous, the author manages to weave heartbreaking details in an uplifting way; the backstory for Lola's parents is beautiful. 

This is my first Kerri Carpenter novel and will definitely seek out more of her titles. Although this is a standalone novel, plenty of opportunities to further develop key secondary characters are present and I sincerely hope this will happen. Overall a quick and enjoyable book with a satisfying happy ever after.

***arc generously received courtesy of Entangled Publishing via NetGalley***

Award-winning romance author Kerri Carpenter writes contemporary romances that are sweet, sexy, and sparkly. When she’s not writing, Kerri enjoys reading, cooking, watching movies, taking Zumba classes, rooting for Pittsburgh sports teams, and anything sparkly. Kerri lives in Northern Virginia with her adorable (and mischievous) rescued poodle mix, Harry.

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