Friday, February 22, 2019

New Release Review: Best Laid Plans by Lauren Blakely

 

What happens when the nice girl wants to give naughty a go?

Find out in BEST LAID PLANS, the brand new, sexy friends-to-lovers, lessons-in-seduction romance from #1 New York Times bestseller Lauren Blakely! And these lessons come with a twist!

Lessons in s-e-x-ploration

Friends falling hard

A charming, cocky, confident hero & a smart, clever heroine

A quirky small town full of fabulous characters

BEST LAID PLANS has it all! Get your copy of BEST LAID PLANS now!

 

✮✮✮BEST LAID PLANS is here! Grab your copy today! ✮✮✮

That time I had the brilliant idea to ask my good friend for lessons in seduction… 

Awkward? Maybe. But how else is a good girl going to find out if she likes being naughty? I might be sweet as cherry pie, but I'm also bold and damn curious. And Gabe is charming, trustworthy, aces at seduction (or so I hear) and—bonus!— willing to give me lessons. But to guarantee it won’t ruin our friendship, I have some specific requirements for his instruction. I want these classes to be hypothetical more than hands-on. So what if he’s hella sexy? I can handle that, no problem.

 *** 

I have it bad for Arden. She's bright, brilliant, insanely fun, and I want to take her home and spend all night together—and then spend the day with her, too. When she asks for my help, I see my chance to win her sweet heart by showing her how much fun we can have getting spicy. Trouble is, she has a different idea of what “bedroom exploration” should mean. Now I’m going to have to get really clever to win her over. Good thing I know exactly how to upend her best laid plans.

My review: 5 stars!There's no trope I love more than friends to lovers and Lauren Blakely is absolutely the master at it. Her characters are so damn likable- I always want to be in their friend group! Arden and Gabe were fabulous characters, had lots of fun witty banter, and off the charts chemistry. This was a slow burn romance well worth the wait. Side characters and settings were delightful. Best of all, Arden is a BOOKSTORE OWNER and Blakely threw in so many literary references and popular titles-- so fun to read! I enjoyed the epilogues and am so glad we will get Perri and Derek's story next in The Feel Good Factor.

ORDER YOUR COPIES HERE! 

Kindle US https://amzn.to/2EnvRGn

Amazon PB https://amzn.to/2QZi1Oc

     

✦The audiobook is narrated by Joe Arden and Erin Mallon! ✦ Audio ➜https://adbl.co/2BDDTJO


   

ADD IT TO YOUR GOODREADS TODAY!


“Best Laid Plans is hands down my favorite. This book is funny, sensual and has a heart of gold. It brought the friends-to-lovers trope to a brand new level.” - Becca at Wicked Quests of a BookNinja

   

“A fabulously sweet, sexy, funny and hot friends to lovers story.” - Melissa at Booked All Night

 

“This is my favorite Blakely book to date. I loved absolutely EVERYTHING about this story!!” -LittleJen on Goodreads

EXCERPT
~ARDEN~
I’m most definitely a planner, but I never planned to be a good girl.
Honestly, I didn’t even think twice about good girls versus naughty ones. I always figured with sex and love, you could have it all.
That’s what we’re taught as women, right?
You can be prim and proper during the day and wild and daring at night. Or the other way around. Whatever floats your banana boat.
But somehow over the years, I inadvertently landed on the “nice” half of the divide, so squarely in the good-girl camp I’m practically the poster child of oh-so-sweet, and I can’t seem to get a crack at the other side.
Only, I keep peeking over the fence, peering, wondering.
What if the grass is greener? What if I’m missing out on something better in the bedroom and, by extension, something better in life and love?
There’s only one way to find out.
Ask.
The trouble is, when it comes time to woman up and make a request for what I want to try at the ice cream stand of sexual flavors and favors, I wind up with so much more than I bargained for.
More than I’m ready for…
And with so much more to lose than I ever expected.
Guess I’m about to learn if it’s better to be naughty or to be nice.

✮✮✮Let us help you plan your day with this BEST LAID PLANS giveaway! ✮✮✮

The Ultimate Reader Package including a Kindle Paperwhite, $50 Gift Card to your Favorite Book Retailer,and a $50 Gift Card to your Favorite Beverage Retailer (wine, coffee, soda, etc.)!

https://laurenblakely.com/the-ultimate-reader-package-giveaway/

 
About Lauren Blakely:

A #1 New York Times Bestselling, #1 Wall Street Journal Bestselling, and #1 Audible Bestselling author, Lauren Blakely is known for her contemporary romance style that's sweet, sexy and witty. Her heroines are strong and smart and her heroes have hearts of gold and fantastic funny bones. She lives in California with her family, including her smoking hot and hilarious husband and her two brilliant and kind children. She has plotted entire novels while walking her dogs -- she might have four dogs, or maybe five. If she's lucky, she'll soon have six dogs. With fourteen New York Times bestsellers, her titles have appeared on the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestseller Lists more than 100 times, and she's sold more than 3 million books. In February she'll release BEST LAID PLANS, in March THE FEEL-GOOD FACTOR, and in May THE DATING PROPOSAL. To receive an email when Lauren releases a new book, sign up for her newsletter! laurenblakely.com/newsletter  




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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Cover Reveal: Diary of a Bad Boy by Meghan Quinn

     
Diary of a Bad Boy by Meghan Quinn
Release Date: March 7, 2019      
Dear Diary, 

I might have gotten myself into a wee bit of trouble—and I'm not talking about the "court mandated community service," or “therapy sessions from bashing a bloke in the head" kind of trouble. 

I wish it were that simple. 

Nope. I’m talking about the "falling in love with one of my client's daughters,” kind of trouble . . . 
The kind of problem I can’t talk my way out of when the truth gets out.

How I ended up with her phone is a long story—and when she called to get it back, I took things a bit too far. One innocent exchange wound up leading to so much more.

Fun, new, and totally immune to my charm, Sutton is different. And I had no idea she was the daughter of Foster Green. 

Blame it on the dark colored stout running through my veins, pushing me toward one bad decision after another. Pushing me toward her even though I know right from wrong; even though she's my client's daughter. 

Dating her might be the best or worst decision I've ever made. Only time, whiskey, and one more roll around the mattress with her will tell. 

       
      
  
 

ABOUT MEGHAN QUINN:
USA Today Bestselling Author, wife, adoptive mother, and peanut butter lover. Author of romantic comedies and contemporary romance, Meghan Quinn brings readers the perfect combination of heart, humor, and heat in every book. 

Facebook | Follow on Goodreads | Website | Amazon Author Page | Instagram | Follow on BookBub

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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

New Release Review: The Phoenix by Jillian Dodd

by Jillian Dodd
Release Date: February 19, 2019

A single sentence is muttered from the lips of an assassin dangling from a four-story building, “It starts in Montrovia.” That sentence led Black X to send a spy to protect Prince Lorenzo. And that sentence haunts Huntley as she realizes her time is running out.

When athletes from around the world descend on Montrovia for the Olympics, another group is coming together, its years of planning a new world order finally coming to fruition. A disease is released. People start dying. And, with rumors of an impending coup, the country falls into chaos.

Alliances are betrayed. Lives are lost. Loves are challenged. And hearts are turned.

Can Huntley stop what has started, or will Montrovia and the world fall?


My review: 4.5 stars!
This is such an amazing spy thriller series with lots of romance, and with each installment, so much is revealed and so much happens! Book 6, The Phoenix, leaves us with two major cliffhangers and I absolutely cannot wait to see it all tied together and wrapped up in book 7, The Echelon. I picture the author with a giant whiteboard in her writing room, with tons of boxes and arrows and details all plotted out! Huntley is just plain bad-ass- such a great heroine!

Jillian Dodd is a USA TODAY bestselling author who lives in a small Florida beach town, is married to her college sweetheart, has two grown children and two Labrador Retrievers. She loves to travel, shop, and paint.
Jillian's Website: http://jilliandodd.net
Jillian's Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JillianDodd1
Jillian's Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jilliandodd




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Monday, February 18, 2019

Cover Reveal: The Feel Good Factor by Lauren Blakely

 

That inked bad boy who’s been striking sparks with me since he rode into town? Turns out he’s my new housemate, which adds up to a super-complicated living situation and chemistry so hot it should be illegal.

THE FEEL GOOD FACTOR, a sexy new standalone romance from #1 New York Times bestselling author Lauren Blakely, will be releasing on March 25, 2019 on all retailers! A roommates-to-lovers romantic comedy, don’t miss the stunning cover below, and pre-order your copy today!

 
Photography by Wong Sim. Model is Sahib Faber. Cover Design by Helen Williams.

About THE FEEL GOOD FACTOR (Coming 3/25/2019):

I have a fantastic family, great best friends, a job I love…and now I’m up for a promotion to police sergeant. I need total focus—not a flirty, dirty, irresistible, tattooed hottie riding into my town on his motorcycle. Can I arrest him for being too good-looking? When he kisses me senseless in the back of a waffle truck, it’s criminal, the things he makes me think about hot syrup and melted butter. One order of hot, fluffy hookup to go, please.

But the next time I see him, it’s not for our date with benefits. He’s the guy who just rented the room above my garage.

I need the rent to pay my bills, not a man like Derek, who I soon discover to be strong, caring, generous, good with kids, and kind to puppies… If I’m not careful, he’ll be moving into my heart as well as my house.

***

A no-strings-attached fling with the fiery redhead who revs my engine? Why, yes, that does sound like a delicious perk of my new job in this new town, thank you very much. I’m coming off a bad relationship, and I have zero interest in anything serious. I’ve got all the serious I need helping my sister take care of her three little kids while her husband is deployed.

Except, surprise! Perri isn’t just my future fling. Turns out she’s my sexy, sassy landlord.

A lease definitely counts as “strings attached,” and as much as I’d like to get tangled in her sheets, I can’t let myself get tangled up in a relationship.

But as soon as we put the cuffs on our escapades, I learn over late-night conversations in the kitchen, that my landlord is so much more than the sexiest woman I’ve ever met– she has a quick mind and the biggest heart.

Once I’m in, I’m all in. And to convince her that we should see where this goes, I plan on turning up the heat—and not just in the kitchen.

   

PRE-ORDER YOUR COPY TODAY!

✦Amazon PB ➜ http://blkly.pub/AmazonFG

✦Apple Books ➜ http://blkly.pub/AppleFeelgood

✦Kobo ➜ http://blkly.pub/KoboFeelGood

✦Nook ➜ http://blkly.pub/NookFeelGood

✦Google Play ➜ http://blkly.pub/GoogleFeelGood

✦Kindle LIVE alert (via Lauren's newsletter) ➜ https://laurenblakely.com/newsletter

✦Goodreads ➜ http://blkly.pub/GoodreadsFeelGood

     

Love Audio Books? Get ready for one amazing listen with two Audie-nominated romance narrators!

Joe Arden and Erin Mallon team up to bring you Lauren’s latest standalone rom-com The Feel Good Factor!

And that’s not all! This audiobook also includes the bonus short story, STRONG SUIT!

Get the latest audio news from Lauren Blakely here: http://www.subscribepage.com/LaurenAudio


 
About Lauren Blakely: A #1 New York Times Bestselling and #1 Wall Street Journal Bestselling author, Lauren Blakely is known for her contemporary romance style that's sweet, sexy and witty. Her heroines are strong and smart and her heroes have hearts of gold and fantastic funny bones. She lives in California with her family, including her smoking hot and hilarious husband and her two brilliant and kind children. She has plotted entire novels while walking her dogs -- she might have four dogs, or maybe five. If she's lucky, she'll soon have six dogs. With fourteen New York Times bestsellers, her titles have appeared on the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestseller Lists more than 100 times, and she's sold more than 3 million books. In February she'll release BEST LAID PLANS, in March THE FEEL GOOD FACTOR, and in May THE DATING PROPOSAL. To receive an email when Lauren releases a new book, sign up for her newsletter! laurenblakely.com/newsletter  


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New Release Review: The Risk by Elle Kennedy

by Elle Kennedy
Release Date: February 18, 2019

Everyone says I’m a bad girl. They’re only partly right—I don’t let fear rule me, and I certainly don’t care what people think. But I draw the line at sleeping with the enemy. As the daughter of Briar’s head hockey coach, I’d be vilified if I hooked up with a player from a rival team.
 
And that’s who Jake Connelly is. Harvard’s star forward is arrogant, annoying, and too attractive for his own good. But fate is cruel—I require his help to secure a much-coveted internship, and the sexy jerk isn’t making it easy for me.
 
I need Connelly to be my fake boyfriend.
 
For every fake date…he wants a real one.
Which means this bad girl is in big trouble. Nothing good can come from sneaking around with Jake Connelly. My father would kill me, my friends will revolt, and my post-college career is on the line. But while it’s getting harder and harder to resist Jake’s oozing sex appeal and cocky grin, I refuse to fall for him.

That’s the one risk I’m not willing to take.

My review: 5 stars!
Many many years ago when I was in college in the early 90s, OKC had an actual ice hockey team that played in the CHL called the Oklahoma City Blazers. I knew nothing about hockey but we made the 90 minute trip up to see quite a few games, and I loved the atmosphere! Sadly, the team doesn't play anymore and I'm more of an MLB girl. Who knew that 25 years later I'd be obsessed with hockey romance novels! Elle Kennedy's Off Campus series drew me in to the world of college hockey a few years ago (Garrett, Logan and Dean.... SWOON), and I was so excited to see this spin off Briar U series. Brenna is my favorite kind of h- fiesty, fearless and sassy, and Jake was perfection- team captain, responsible, and a great guy. The chemistry and banter between these two was stunning.

π— π—˜: Did you seriously just slide into my DMs?
𝗕π—₯π—˜π—‘π—‘π—”: Unfortunately. Do you want to meet up?
π— π—˜: Are you asking me out?
𝗕π—₯π—˜π—‘π—‘π—”: In your dreams, Jakey.
𝗕π—₯π—˜π—‘π—‘π—”: I’m in the city and have about an hour before I need to go back to Briar. I was hoping we could meet up.
π— π—˜: Gonna need a lot more than an hour for our first time, babe. I mean, foreplay alone will eat up most of that time.
𝗕π—₯π—˜π—‘π—‘π—”: An hour of foreplay? Aren’t you ambitious.
π— π—˜: Not ambitious. Realistic.

I adore a good enemies-to-lovers, and coupled with a fake relationship, well, I'm a goner. The Chase was fantastic, and I cannot wait for the next Briar U installment.



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Sunday, February 17, 2019

Cover Reveal: Tumble by Adriana Locke


 
Tumble (Dogwood Lane #1) 
Author: Adriana Locke
Release Date: February 26th
Releases In: Kindle Unlimited, Paperback, Audiobook

From USA Today bestselling author Adriana Locke comes a witty romance about first love and second chances. This is a standalone, small-town, blue-collar love story.


Giveaway2 winners will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card from (Adriana Locke). 


                
After being burned by her dream job in New York City, sports journalist Neely Kimber suddenly finds herself jobless and paying a long-overdue visit to her hometown in Tennessee. Her plan? Relax, reset, and head back up the corporate ladder. There’s just one unexpected step. Neely’s back in Dogwood Lane for barely a day when she sees the man she ran from nine years ago: the bad boy next door who was her first kiss, her first love, and her first heartbreak.
Devoted single dad Dane Madden knows he hurt Neely in the worst way. He’s got a lot to make up for. And as passionate as their reconnection is, it’s a lot to hope for. Having her back in his arms feels so right. But falling in love all over again with a woman who wants to live a world away is bound to go so wrong.
What’s it going to take for Neely to give him—and Dogwood Lane—just one more chance?

Preorder Now for $3.99:       https://amzn.to/2zMEnOO

Ways to Save Money:          
If you preorder the ebook of Tumble, you can add the Audible narration for just $1.99.
If you preorder the paperback of Tumble, you can grab the ebook for 99 cents.

Audio Features:
Narrated by the talented Aiden Snow and Summer Morton, this audio will rock your socks!


Snippet:


Splat!

The sound of the hammer crushing my thumb—swung with more force than was necessary, to boot—ricochets across the front lawn. The tool falls from my hand, striking against the sawhorse, and flips into the soft grass with a gentle thud.

“Son of a...!” My hand shakes, the top of my thumb threatening to explode. I tilt my head to the sky and try to find some peace in the clouds.

I come up empty. “Matt!” I call to my younger brother. “I’m taking ten.”

He nods from halfway up the ladder leaned against the side of the house.

Wrapping my good hand around my thumb, I head toward my truck. Sounds of construction ring out behind me. It’s usually music to my ears, the lifeblood of the Madden name. But each cut of a sawblade, buzz of a power drill, and swing of a hammer feels like a distraction this morning. I have a throbbing thumb to show for it.

Beads of sweat cluster along my forehead. I remove my hat with my good hand and run the back of my forearm along my brow.

“Damn it.” Everything feels sticky. Mildly irritating. And the progress on the project that usually energizes me has failed me epically this morning. I just don’t want to be here. Not that I have a better place to be. Quite frankly, I have a lot of places I shouldn’t be, and with Neely, or thinking about Neely, is one of them.

I would’ve recognized her anywhere. Same gray eyes that glimmer like she’s about to tell you a secret. Full lips that spread into a smile so infectious you can’t help but feel your own mouth following suit. The hint of floral perfume, the golden hair that may as well be silk, and the aura about her that’s just as strong as the day she left Dogwood Lane and me—it’s all the same. It’s like time forgot to age her. She somehow has become more beautiful, sexier, stronger.

The world hates me. I’ve postulated this for a long time, but it’s obvious today.

The tailgate of my truck lowers. Scooping a handful of ice from the cooler in the bed into a bandanna, I wrap it around my injured digit. The relief lasts only a few moments.

“What are you doing down here?” Penn rests his forearms over the side of the truck, the tattoos carved in his skin like mini masterpieces on full display. He eyes my makeshift bandage. “What happened to you?”

“Hammer,” I groan, adjusting the ice.

“That’s interesting.”

“How you figure?”

“Never knew you to hit yourself with a hammer before. I find that interesting.”

“If that’s interesting, you need a hobby. Or you could work like I’m paying you to do . . .”

“I have a hobby, thank you, and you should’ve seen her last night,” he says, smacking his lips together. “Lord Almighty, she’s a—”

“Penn.”

“Yeah?”

The tip of my finger sticks out of the bandanna. It’s bright red and hot to the touch despite the ice packed around it. “All your escapades really sound the same at this point.”

“Is that jealousy I hear?” He cups his hand to his ear. “I thought so. Not my fault you’re in a dry spell.”

Leaning against the truck, I look at him. “Jealousy isn’t how I’d describe it. But if that makes ya feel good, go for it.”

“My hobby makes me feel good.” He moves his lips around, like he’s fighting the next words trying to pop out. He does this when he knows he shouldn’t say something but can’t quite convince himself not to. “From the looks of you, I’d say you’re more than jealous. I’d say you’re . . . tempted.”

My tongue presses on the roof of my mouth. “Tempted to what?”

He leans against the truck, too, the gold St. Christopher’s medal he’s worn since elementary school clamoring against the side. The corners of his lips nearly touch the corners of his eyes. He knows.

“Word travels fast, huh?” I say, prodding around to see if my guess is right.

He slow blinks. Twice.

“What?” I ask.

“That’s all you have to say about Neely being back in town? ‘Word travels fast.’ What’s wrong with you?”

We don’t have time for that conversation.

I sigh. “What do you want me to say?”

“I’d love to have been a fly on the wall for that little run-in.” Penn snickers. “Did you stutter around like I imagine? Or did you not manage to say an entire sentence?”

Working my jaw back and forth, I point a finger his way. “You better stop while you’re ahead.”

He reads me correctly, and his animation drops a notch. “Really, though. How’d it go? But before you answer that, let me toss out there that I heard sparks were flying all over the diner so hot Claire had to call the fire department.”

I shake my head. “Shut up.”

“Just telling you what I heard.”

“The firemen were there to order food, you idiot.”

He thinks he’s onto something. There’s a glee in his face that means only one thing: it’s going to be a long day around here.

“So, what happened?” he asks, resting his arms over the truck bed.

“You know, sometimes I think you should’ve been a girl with all the gossiping you do.”

“This isn’t gossip,” he contends. “This is Neely-freaking-Kimber, man. Every memory I have of my entire adolescence has her in it. She bailed me out of jail when I was too scared to call my dad and you and Matt were passed out on moonshine. Remember that?”

My chuckle is so hard, it causes my thumb to throb. “I forgot about that. She was pissed.”

“Neely came through, though. God, I miss her.”

Those last words echo through my mind.

I have shoved her out of my head for the last few years. Took over Dad’s business, took care of my business. Trudged forward without her because that was the only choice I had. I hardly even think about her anymore unless someone brings her up in conversation.

So why do I itch to crawl into the truck and hunt her down?



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Saturday, February 9, 2019

New Release Review: I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella

I Owe You One
by Sophie Kinsella
Release Date: February 5, 2019

“A smart lesson wrapped in a gem of a novel.”—Jodi Picoult, #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Spark of Light and Small Great Things
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Sophie Kinsella comes an irresistible story of love and empowerment about a young woman with a complicated family, a handsome man who might be “the one,” and an IOU that changes everything.


Fixie Farr has always lived by her father’s motto: “Family first.” And since her dad passed away, leaving his charming housewares store in the hands of his wife and children, Fixie spends all her time picking up the slack from her siblings instead of striking out on her own. The way Fixie sees it, if she doesn’t take care of her father’s legacy, who will?

It’s simply not in Fixie’s nature to say no to people. So when a handsome stranger in a coffee shop asks her to watch his laptop for a moment, she not only agrees—she ends up saving it from certain disaster. To thank Fixie for her quick thinking, the computer’s owner, Sebastian, an investment manager, scribbles an IOU on a coffee sleeve and attaches his business card. Fixie laughs it off—she’d never actually claim an IOU from a stranger. Would she?

But then Fixie’s childhood crush, Ryan, comes back into her life, and his lack of a profession pushes all of Fixie’s buttons. As always, she wants nothing for herself—but she’d love Seb to give Ryan a job. No sooner has Seb agreed than the tables are turned once more and a new series of IOUs between Seb and Fixie—from small favors to life-changing moments—ensues. Soon Fixie, Ms. Fixit for everyone else, is torn between her family and the life she really wants. Does she have the courage to take a stand? Will she finally grab the life, and love, she really wants?

My review: 4 stars!

Sophie Kinsella has been one of my favorite authors since the Confessions of a Shopaholic- so I'm always excited to see her have a new release. I Owe You One had everything I love in a her novels- flawed but fun characters, great dialog, and a unique premise. I enjoyed that this book was a bit more focused on an entire family and the setting of the family-owned shop was delightful.


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Thursday, January 24, 2019

Re-Release Review: Unbreakable by Emma Scott



Title: Unbreakable
Author: Emma Scott
Re-release Date: Tuesday, January 22, 2019
Tagline: The bank robbery changes everything…

Links: https://amzn.to/2MvJAgK

Unbreakable Blurb:

**Unbreakable has been edited and re-released with extended content and a new cover.

Alex Gardener has her life planned out, down to the smallest detail. She has a skyrocketing career as a litigation attorney, a close group of socialite friends, and is engaged to one of the most successful businessmen in Beverly Hills. Everything is just as she wants it: comfortable, predictable, secure…if lacking passion. Fire. 

Cory Bishop is a struggling working man, trying to make ends meet while fighting to keep custody his young daughter. He knows that working hard is the only way to achieve his goals, but lately it seems everything he wants hangs just out of reach.

The bank robbery changes everything.

Alex and Cory spend three harrowing days as hostages locked in a bank with fifty frightened people and six criminals who grow more desperate--and dangerous--by the hour. Alex and Cory find comfort and safety with each other and reveal their deepest hopes and fears and secrets, unknowingly building a bond forged out of desperation and fear, one that they can’t break, even once outside the bank’s walls.

Their lives are turned upside down, irrevocably altered, and they seek to move on and put the robbery--and each other--behind them.

But some bonds, once forged, cannot be broken.


My review: 5 stars!
I was so excited to see this title getting a re-release! I discovered Emma Scott when I read the Full Tilt duet as it was released, and although I have read and loved each and every title she has released since, I had not had a chance to go back and read her prior releases. As I suspected I would, I loved Unbreakable. The hero, Cory, was everything- just an all-around fabulous dreamy guy and perfect book boyfriend material. I cannot imagine going through the terrifying situation that Cory and Alex had to endure, but I felt that the author spun a believable tale, full of passion and feeling.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Unbreakable Excerpt:

Alex

I marched into the towering edifice of United One Bank, my shoes tapping over the marble floor. I managed a brief smile for the portly security guard but it quickly fell away when I saw that half of Los Angeles had decided to do their banking at lunchtime too.
“Damn.”
         I took my place in line behind a tall blond man in jeans and a rugged brown jacket. The whiff of perfume filled my nose as a beautiful, immaculately dressed young woman of Indian heritage stepped in line behind me.
         I settled in to wait, wondering if I should call my assistant, to make sure nothing was going haywire with any of my cases. But Abed knew me well: waiting until I came into the office to give me news was a bad idea. I checked my cell phone for messages and saw none. No word from my team, and nothing from the court’s clerk. No verdict yet.
I eased a sigh and then tightened up again when I realized I hadn’t filled out any forms—or whatever the hell it was I needed—to get the cashier’s check out of my firm’s expense account.
Isn’t all banking electronic by now? I wondered, irritation mounting.
         The line behind me had grown and the line in front wasn’t moving. I made a questioning motion to the young woman behind me to save my place. She nodded and waved a gold-ringed hand absently without interrupting her cell phone conversation. I hurried to a wooden bank of slips, grabbed one, and stepped back in line with a brief smile of thanks.
But I had nothing to write on. The man in front of me had a strong back.
Maybe he’d let me make a desk out of him.
 I smirked and admired the man’s physique from behind. Broad shoulders, narrow waist. His jeans fit him rather perfectly.
Nice ass, I thought and tingles of a very real, likely very bright blush colored my neck.
Oh, grow up, I laughed at myself.
I rummaged in my bag and pulled out a small stack of my engagement party invitations; the thick stationary would make a sufficient backing. I fished out a pen and started to fill out the little withdrawal form when woman behind me issued a sudden laugh and bumped my elbow. The little stack of envelopes flew out of my hand to scatter around my feet and that of the blond man in front of me.
         “Sorry, so sorry,” the woman muttered to me.
         “Honestly,” I muttered, and knelt to gather the envelopes. The blond man in front of me turned and knelt to help. “Thanks.”
         “No problem.”
         I looked up and might have gasped. I prayed I hadn’t but someone issued a sharp intake of breath, and my neck went beet-red again. I could feel the fire of it burning my pale skin.
         Hello, gorgeous.
The face bent close to mine was ruggedly handsome with a strong jaw, chiseled chin, broad mouth with full lips, and—most surprisingly for a man with lighter hair—rich brown eyes, which were sharply intelligent and soft at the same time. I smelled his crisp scent—aftershave and something like freshly chopped wood—and it seemed that scent settled into my chest and remained there, warm and clean.
Wow, you’re being extra ridiculous right now.  
         “Have I got something stuck in my teeth?” the young man asked, amused. His voice was deep, gravelly…
Sexy.
         I gave myself a mental shake and gathered the rest of the spilled envelopes. “No, I just…I thought I recognized you from somewhere. Are you an actor?”
         He made a face. “Not remotely.”
         “Oh. Well, you never can tell around here. And you look like you could be one. An actor.”
Or a model. Jesus, those eyes…
         He shrugged and smiled crookedly. “I think I look like me.”
         I smiled back. Good answer. I had never seen a man as good-looking—on screen or in real life—as this man in front of me. If I were a romantic sort—which I wasn’t—the word breathtaking would not be overstating it.
We both rose from the floor. His eyes were warm but he seemed to stiffen slightly as he took in my expensive suit, my jewelry, my bag.
He ran a hand through his unruly blond hair and handed me the envelopes he’d gathered. “Yeah, so. Here you go.”
         “Thanks,” I said.
         “Sure thing.”
         He turned his back to me and a small twinge of disappointment nipped at me.
Focus, Gardener, I admonished. The judge could call us back at any moment.
         The blond man in front of me sighed impatiently and checked his watch—a nice looking silver timepiece with a beat-up leather band. His head turned in profile to me.
          “Is it just me or has this line come to a complete standstill?”
         “It’s not just you,” I said, steadfastly ignoring the little tingle that sparked in my belly at the sound of his low, bedroom voice. I cleared my throat. “Looks like they’re short a teller or two.”
“Or ten. F%&# me,” he muttered, then eyed me apologetically. “Sorry for the language, but there isn’t a worse day for this kind of—”     
“Bullshit?” I supplied with a wry grin.
         He laughed, and some of the tension in his face relaxed. I tried my hardest not to stare. If he was breathtaking just standing there, there wasn’t a strong enough word for how he looked when he smiled.
         “I’m Cory Bishop, by the way.”
He extended his hand and I took it. Large, rough, calloused. Working man’s hands.
         “Alexandra Gardener,” I said. “Alex.”
         “Good to meet you, Alex,” he said, and it seemed his smile softened around my name.
I shouldered my bag to buy time for a response. No man—not even Drew, my fiancΓ©—had ever affected me this way, and I grew irritated with myself for letting it happen.
“It’s always busy when you’re in a hurry and traffic lights are always red when you’re running late,” I said. “Murphy’s Law.”
         “Is that your specialty?”
          “No, litigation. How did you know I’m a lawyer?”
He shrugged. “Lucky guess. Mostly lawyers and accountants around here. Or movie producers.”
         “Or actors, but we’ve already established you’re not one of those,” I said lightly.
         Cory’s smile tightened. “Nope. Just in the area for work, and in need of a bank before I get back. Looks like I picked the wrong one.”
He rocked impatiently in his work boots, his hands jammed in the front pocket of his jeans. I thought the conversation was over but he was still half-turned to me.
Nothing wrong with small talk. Passes the time.
A good excuse. Plausible. No objections. But the simple fact remained that I wanted to talk to Cory, to keep looking at his handsome face, and prove I could do so without melting into a puddle.
 “So what line of work are you in?” I asked.
         “I’m in construction. A journeyman.” Cory said. “It’s sort of like an apprentice to a general contractor,” he said, answering my confused look. “You have to pile up a bunch of hours doing that first before you can become a contractor yourself.”
         “Never heard that term before, journeyman,” I said. “Sounds rather exotic. Nomadic.”
         “Yeah, well, it’s neither. Not unless you consider driving to job sites nomadic.”
The line moved ahead by one person. I noticed that Cory and I were now standing side-by-side.
“What exactly does a litigator do?” Cory asked. “Litigate…that’s argue, right?”
“Yes. I’m a trial attorney. I specialize in personal injury, and some medical malpractice.”
He scratched the light stubble on his cheek. “You don’t happen to do family law on the side?”
“No, but there’s an attorney in my firm who does.” I cocked my head, studying Cory’s troubled expression. Do you need his number?” I asked softly.
Cory looked as if he were about to say something, changed his mind, and said instead, “Nah. I’m good, thanks.”
The line inched forward and a silence fell between us. For lack of something better to do, I checked my phone for any news from Abed. Nothing.
“No news is good news, right?” Cory said, watching me return the phone to my bag.
“Not this time,” I said. “A short jury deliberation usually means a guilty verdict.”
“You’re in the middle of a trial right now?”
I nodded. “Just finished closing arguments today.”
“Well, if you get the call and have to bail, I’ll hold your place in line. It probably won’t have moved anyway.”
I laughed. “Probably not.”
He smiled and I smiled back. The bank’s air conditioning was working overdrive against the Los Angeles summer heat, but I felt warm all over. And good. It felt nice to stand beside this handsome man and bask in his smile. I did yoga four times a week to keep the stresses of my job from wrapping me tight and squeezing. Talking to Cory Bishop for all of five minutes had the exact same effect.
We stood in a comfortable silence, and I glanced here and there before venturing to make eye contact again. I caught him watching me, filling his eyes with me, and then he grinned and rubbed the back of his neck, sheepish and charming and beautiful.
He’s beautiful, I thought again. No argument there. Case closed.
I blinked and realized Cory’s dark eyes were holding mine intently, and my heart stuttered in response.
“Hey, listen—” he started to say then stopped. Froze. Whatever he had been about to say was lost forever. His eyes widened at something over my shoulder. I started to turn but he grabbed my shoulders—hard—and shoved me roughly behind him.
I stumbled in my heels. “What the hell are you doing…?”
The glass doors of the bank shook on their hinges and I turned to watch with a shocked, detached fascination as six or so men streamed inside. They wore dark, non-descript clothes, their faces hidden behind different Halloween monster masks. Each had a huge, black, automatic weapon strapped around their shoulders and gripped in gloved hands.
A scream—the first that set off a chorus—echoed in the cavernous heights of the bank as one man drove the butt of his weapon into the security guard’s midsection.
Time slowed, and it felt as if some spell had been cast turning summer to winter. I’d been suddenly submerged in ice-cold gelatin. My heart crashed hard against my chest like a wrecking ball, and I clutched Cory’s arm in a vise grip. I could feel the coarse denim of his jacket against my skin. Tangible. It helped to battle the surreal scene that was unfolding before me.
Cory turned to me. I saw fear spark bright in his dark eyes, but they held a grim determination too.
 “Get down!” he shouted, breaking the strange slow-motion spell. “Get down, now!”
Time shot forward and I heard screams, tromping footsteps, and cries. But I couldn’t move. I felt rooted in place. Cory grabbed me and suddenly I was on my stomach, my face pressed to the cold floor, my hand still clutched around his arm. My heart was now pounding so hard I could hardly distinguish one beat from the next.
In seconds, I felt warped by a terror I hadn’t thought it possible to feel. I sucked in air to calm myself as above me and around me, armed men infiltrated the bank, brandishing their enormous weapons, shouting, swearing, and striking people who didn’t move or obey fast enough.
“Ladies and gentleman,” said one, shouting through his vampire mask in order to be heard while pacing among the masses of cowering people. “In the event you have any lingering confusion, this is a f&*#ing robbery.”


Author Bio:

Emma Scott is a bestselling author of emotional, character-driven romances in which art and love intertwine to heal, and in which love always wins. If you enjoy thoughtful, realistic stories with diverse characters and kind-hearted heroes, you will enjoy her novels. 

Where to Find Emma:
Websitewww.emmascott.net
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EmmaScottwrites Twitter: @EmmaS_writes
Instagram: @EmmaScottWrites
Amazon: http://bit.ly/EmmaScott


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