Forever Romance Presents: Nacho Figueras' Ride Free + Giveaway

27416039Title:  Nacho Figueras Presents: Ride Free
Series:  (The Polo Season #3)
Author:  Jessica Whitman
Review Format:  Print
Length:  320 pages
Publisher:  Forever Romance
Rating: 5 Stars


 World-renowned polo player and global face of Ralph Lauren, Nacho Figueras dives into the world of scandal and seduction with the Polo Season, set in the glamorous, treacherous world of high-stakes polo competition.

Antonia Black has always known her place with the Del Campo family-a bastard daughter. And it will take a lot more than her skill with horses to truly belong within the wealthy polo dynasty. In fact, she's been shuttled around so much in her life, she doesn't even know what "home" means. Until one man shows her exactly how it feels to be safe, to be free, to be loved.

Enzo Rivas knows Noni is way out of his league. After all, he's the stablemaster, and she's the boss's sister. But he can't see the hurt in her eyes and not want to protect her. And he can no longer deny the electric tension jumping between them. Yet just when he's ready to risk it all and change their relationship forever, a secret from her past makes him question everything he thought he knew about her...


When Sunny started crow-hopping, Enzo Rivas didn’t worry. The big mare had always been hot, and it wasn’t out of character for her to occasionally get a little bored and try to test her rider.

But when Sunny started to buck, Enzo knew something was seriously wrong.

The pony threw her head down, kicked out her legs, and whinnied fearfully, almost sending Enzo out of the saddle. He pressed his knees against the saddle, grabbed the reins, and battled to pull her head back up. She fought him, flinging her head down again and heaving her back legs into the air.

For a moment, he thought he was going to be thrown, and his body automatically tensed, preparing to hit the ground, hard.

It wouldn’t have been the first time Enzo lost his seat to an unruly horse. It was part of his job, after all. Nobody trained horses and didn’t occasionally get thrown. But that didn’t mean he wouldn’t fight it.

Sunny came back down onto all four legs again, and Enzo, sensing a split second of opportunity, yanked the reins sharply to the right, forcing the pony’s head so far over that her nose touched his knee. She screamed in outrage and spun in a circle, but she was powerless to kick her hind legs from this position.

Enzo kept her in that stance, letting her spin as many times as she wanted, speaking to her softly in Spanish, until he could feel her temper start to ebb and her muscles soften, one by one, under him.

He relaxed the reins and let the pony’s head back up. As they cantered forward, he noticed a large, bald-faced hornet floating away from them.

“Ah. Poor girl,” he said, “you got stung.”

Sunny snorted complacently as if in agreement, then reared up, threw Enzo backward into the grass, and bolted, riderless, down the pitch.

Enzo lay there for a moment, the breath knocked out of him, staring at the cloudless Florida sky. It had not been a bad fall, as falls went, and he knew that once he could breathe again, he’d be fine. But he was also pissed, and he knew it would be better to get his temper under control before he chased down the errant horse. It never helped to be mad when dealing with ponies.

“Rivas?” came a distant voice that made him close his eyes and smile ruefully. Of course she would find him like this.

“Enzo, are you okay?”

She was closer.

He struggled to a sitting position, still a little winded but determined not to be on his back when she reached him.

“I’m fine,” he said, and then almost fell over again, he was so dizzy. Damn that horse. He bent his head to his knees and closed his eyes.

“You don’t look fine. You look like you got knocked on your ass.”

He slowly turned his gaze up toward Antonia Black and felt his heart speed up in a way that had nothing to do with his fall.

It was getting worse. He could hardly look at her anymore without being filled with an almost paralyzing ache of attraction.

She reached out her hand, her dark eyes twinkling with amusement, and after a beat of hesitation, he took it and let her help him to his feet.

For a moment after he stood, he let his hand linger in hers, allowing himself the luxury of feeling the tingling heat that seemed to generate from her skin into his. But then he dropped it, remembering the runaway horse.

“Did you see where Sunny went?” he asked.

She laughed. “She pranced right into the barn. I’m sure one of the grooms has her by now.”

He nodded and winced, already sore from the fall. “She got stung,” he said.

“Oh,” said Noni, “I know. I saw the whole thing.”

He smiled and rubbed his neck. “Hot horse,” he said ruefully.

She smiled back. He felt his chest squeeze in response. “Hot horse,” she agreed. She looked him over. “You sure you’re all right?”

He nodded. “I’ll probably be sore, but nothing is broken.”

“Good,” she said.

They gazed at each other for a moment.

“Are you going to Hendy’s party tonight?” he finally said, needing to break the tension.

Her mood suddenly changed. She frowned, and a red flush touched the creamy skin of her cheeks and chest. “Yeah, I guess,” she said in an abrupt tone. “Anyway, if you’re really okay, I’m going to head on home.” She quickly turned to go. “I’ll see you at the party.”

He watched Antonia walk away, heading for her truck. He had the impulse to call out, stop her, ask her what was wrong. But before he could act, Noni swung up into her truck, her platinum blond hair streaming behind her, slammed the door with a bang, and was gone in a cloud of dust.

He clenched and unclenched his fist, reminding himself that every time she slipped away, it was better for both of them. Less complicated, safer.

Nothing good, he reminded himself sternly for the ten millionth time as he started back toward the barn, could come from anything happening between us.

She is my boss’s sister. She is a Del Campo. I would only end up hurting her.

The words were his litany, but lately they were starting to lose their power.

He shook his head. Being stern with himself wasn’t working anymore. He could feel that he was starting to weaken. Being around her at work, being her friend and confidant, without ever hinting at his real feelings, had begun to exhaust him.

It was a part he knew he could not play much longer. All his good reasons for keeping his distance, all the rules of the barn and vows to himself that he had clung to over the years had started to feel weightless compared to his growing feelings for this woman. The many times he had repeated to himself that it was unprofessional, that he wasn’t fit to be in a relationship, that he didn’t deserve her, that she was too fragile… it was all beginning to feel as insubstantial as a fairy story. A cautionary tale he’d heard as a child, meant to keep him away from gingerbread houses and wolves in the woods.

Because she was different these days. She was stronger and happier and more stable. And her happiness made her all the more irresistible.

And maybe, he thought, I’m different, too…

He turned back around at the barn door, watching the lingering trail of dust that her old blue truck had left behind. He thought of a moment in the barn earlier that day, when he had held the head of a pony for her while she bent over its hind leg, hammering in a new shoe. For just the quickest second, she had looked up and met his eyes, and a devilish smile had danced over her mouth. It had been the kind of carefree grin he would never have imagined on her face when he had first come to know her. It seemed to prove that she was finally mended. Certainly, she was a changed woman from the one he’d met all those years ago.
 
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My Thoughts
When it comes to Ride Free, it is indeed true that Nacho Figueras saved the best story for last.  In world where blood seems to run gold, rather than blue. Pedigree and lineage mean everything.  But when you are the love child of Carlos Del Campo, you learn very quickly that there are a great many ills that not even the Del Campo blood can overcome.

Antonia Black has always known that she was destined to be the 'odd one out' in the gleaming polish of the Del Campo family set.
She has always been too fair, too rough around the edges, too other.
Accepted and adored by her brothers, she has never been able to be more to her step-mother, Pilar, than a painful reminder of her late husband's indiscretions.
Even after 8 years as a member of the Del Compo household, and having taken her place as farrier for team La Victoria.

Now, on the eve of the birthday that will unlock the millions that  are her birthright.  Jacob, a man from her past, and the little boy she loves are back in her life.  Jacob was a man, a hurt, that Antonia thought that time had healed.
Leaving her free to explore the budding attraction that she feels to her best friend Enzo.  But just when she feels the truth of the desire that exists between herself and the gentle and caring man who has been her person since day one.

She finds herself at the center of emotional manipulation.
The pawn...
The sweet little boy with a head full of copper blond curls.
The key to her heart and her fortune for his fugitive father.  The same man that ran from her so many years ago. Jacob.

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But the woman that stands before him now, has become as strong as the metal that she so lovingly crafts into horseshoes.  She is not one to be bent or broken.  But one to stand strong...A Black and a Del Campo.  Able to draw strength from the two half of what is an exquisite whole.
A whole that Enzo Rivas will do anything to keep that way.  Even if doing so could cost him his life.

Ride Free is by far the most emotionally charged of the trilogy.  With both Antonia and Enzo living under the very real cloud of unhealed hurts allowed to fester.  While our leading lady is looking for love.  Our leading man is hiding from its possibility.  Convinced that his decision to leave a loveless marriage and all the material trappings that it offered.  In favor of the honesty and simple existence that his present now allows.
Enzo is a man afraid to wish for more.  Afraid to believe that he is worthy of love, and all the joy it brings.

Because so much of what happens to and around both Enzo and Antonia come from a place of pain.  She is the one that readers will want to fight for.   Blessed with an angelic inner innocence that makes her outer beauty shine all the more.  Antonia proves time after time that she is diamond in the rough. Ready to shine with a unparalleled luster all her own; after the gentle polish that only love can provide.

About Nacho Figueras:
Argentine polo player Ignacio “Nacho” Figueras has become one of the most recognizable and talented polo players in the world.  He is currently the captain and co-owner of the Black Watch polo team.  In addition to playing polo, Nacho has been featured as a face of Ralph Lauren and its Black Watch clothing and watch collection since 2000. In June 2009, he was voted the second most handsome man in the world by the readers of Vanity Fair and has appeared on numerous television shows, such as Oprah and Chelsea Handler. Nacho currently splits his time between Miami and Argentina with his wife, Delfina and their four children, Hilario, Aurora, Artemio, and Alba.

Social Media Links:
Twitter @nachofigueras
Instagram @nachofigueras
Facebook.com/NachoFigueras
                       Add Ride Free to your shelf on Goodreads: http://bit.ly/22PzatA
                      Share the giveaway for Ride Free: http://bit.ly/29hV3y3

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Feel The Fire Of Nacho Figueras' "Wild One"

27170159 Title:  Nacho Figueras Presents: Wild One
Series:  (The Polo Season #2)
Author:  Jessica Whitman
Review Format:  Print
Length:  301 pages
Publisher:  Forever Romance
Rating: 5 Stars 

Kat Parker thought she'd finally escaped being known as the housekeeper's daughter in the class-obsessed polo town of Wellington, FL. With her first blockbuster screenplay, she'd become the Hollywood It girl-until with one flop suddenly she wasn't. Heading home is her only option.

Kat knows she can write another hit...if only she can find the right story. What she finds instead is the drop-dead gorgeous celebrity athlete Sebastian Del Campo, who's just as well known for his tabloid exploits as he is for his prowess on the polo field.

For Sebastian, everything in life has always come easily-wealth, sports, women. But the perennial party life is starting to feel a bit stale. Especially after meeting Kat. Her easy laughter and candid attitude make him aspire to something more meaningful for the first time in his life.

As Sebastian tells Kat stories of his grandmother Victoria, a woman who could be dripping in diamonds one moment and tearing up the polo field the next, Kat's inspiration fires and soon the pair are back in Hollywood, working on a film together that could make or break both of their careers. And though the chemistry between the two is building, the film's irresistible star has other ideas...



EXCERPT: WILD ONE
Kat and Sebastian took off their shoes and walked along the edge of the sea. The sand was wet and warm, and the water hissed in and out over their bare feet as the tide came in. The beach was empty, and the moon was bright, and when she looked at him, her gray eyes gleamed silver in the pale light.
She was, thought Sebastian, even more than he had imagined she would be. She was beautiful, of course, but in an effortless way. The beauty mark above her lip, the 2-inch scar on the inside of her elbow that gleamed silvery-white against her smooth, tan skin (a childhood accident, she told him, trailing her finger over it self-consciously), the way that her glossy black curls sprang out around her head like an unruly corona in the Florida humidity, the faint laugh lines that appeared around her pretty eyes every time she smiled…
And she was smart, and funny, and she told him scandalous, gossipy, hilarious stories about Hollywood and made him laugh so hard his belly ached. And when he flattered or flirted, her cheeks would flush pink and her eyes sparkled, but at the same time, if he went over-the-top, he knew that she did not buy his bullshit. Not even one little bit. Because nothing got past this woman. Nada.
And now she walked alongside him, laughing and chattering about this and that in her husky, honey-sweet voice. Her legs were long enough that he barely had to adjust his stride, and her swinging hand kept grazing his arm and sending little shocks of pleasure through his body.
He caught her hand and pulled her toward him. “Besame,” he said softly.
She blinked. “Forgive my rusty Spanish, but doesn’t that mean-”
He cut her off by gently placing his mouth upon hers.
Her lips were soft and warm, and he searched them slowly, first with his own lips, and then with his tongue, just barely touching the outline of her mouth until she exhaled and stepped closer to him.
He loved kissing a woman this tall. He didn’t have to bend to her mouth at all, and it was so easy to pull her even closer and go deep. She tasted amazing, like sweet lime and champagne and a trace of salt, and she smelled of that same intriguing bittersweet caramel fragrance he had noticed the first day they met. He went deeper still, and she pushed up against him and made a soft, warm sound in the back of her throat, and suddenly he was flooded with an electric hunger so sharp that he felt that he might lose control.
And so he did what he had been fantasizing about doing all night. He led her away from the water and laid her down upon the warm sand and covered her body with his own.
She broke off kissing him. “Do you think,” she said hoarsely, "that we should find someplace more private?”
He pushed himself up and looked around. The beach was deserted. The only light from the restaurant was far behind. “I think we’re alone.” he said.
He gently kissed her face, and thought to himself that she felt so good, so right, and that he never wanted to be anywhere else. That he would stay here forever if she let him…
And then he laughed softly, because he really had never felt these things before. And honestly?
It kind of scared the living hell out of him.

My Thoughts
Nacho Figueras introduces his readers to a world of polo, ponies, power plays, and film production; in this, the second offering of  The Polo Season series.
But based on the free spirits which seem to guide both leading lady, Cat Parker and leading man, Sebastian Del Campo, toward trouble at every turn.  It is hard to know to which Wild One, the book's title is alluding at any given time.

When a pride sore Kat is called home to Wellington, Florida, after her father suffers a stroke.  The last thing that the once A-List director thinks that she'll find is love.
But as readers learned in the first volume of this saga of fate and fortune.  In the cases of ponies and passion, what you get is often the farthermost thing from what is expected.

Sebastian Del Campo is a man who comes by things naturally.  Charm, looks, athleticism, money, and most of all...woman.
The one thing he can't seem to come by however, is the trust and respect of his family.  Considered a slacking playboy by all who know him.  Sebastian is a man determined to turn over a new leaf.  After one last ill fated drink.

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When his last night of excess finds him on the losing end of a brawl that he didn't start, and unable to play polo while his broken wrist mends. Sebastian Del Campo has no idea that a mission of mercy, as his mother's delivery boy, will put him on a collision course with a soul whose fire burns just as brightly as his own.

Wild One is a story about people who choose to live and love in ways that defy convention.  For Kat, that means refusing to be cowed by one failure in her career, and daring to give her heart to a man who is able to share every part of himself but that.
For Sebastian, it means striving to be more than who and what people expect.  Exploring alternate options for his life and his heart. Choosing to love the one woman that his mind and body won't let him be without.

The story of Kat and Sebastian is one of two beautifully broken halves coming together to create an unstoppable creative force that takes both the world, and Kat and Seb themselves by storm.
And the woman who inspires it all...Victoria Del Campo.

Wild One is also the story that has the least to do with the Del Campo family in terms of their sport.  Instead focusing on those members of the family who, for better or worse, give the family its life, energy and flair.  Sebastian and Victoria...and Kat, the one woman strong enough to bring his heart and her legacy to life.

Readers will thrill in seeing the give and take in all aspects of Kat and Seb's relationship.  Just as hearts will surely crumble, when mistrust, insecurities, and egos are allowed to get in the way.
Both Sebastian and Kat are people trying hard to both understand their place in the world, and be understood.
Who know that the discovery of Sebastian's grandmother's diaries would be their key to accomplishing both.
But the couples' quest to bring the great lady's story to the silver screen could spell the end of their "happily ever after" before it begins.
As well as dashing any hopes that Kat has of box office redemption.
Unless these two are able to think their way out of the devious boxes of others without extinguishing the spark that make each able to see the other for who and what they are now...and are destined to become together.

This is the kind of read that make one believe that there is a round hole for every square peg.
Even you!

*Reviewer's Note:  This is the first novel in a loosely related companion series that may be read in any order.
**This review contains only the honest opinions of the reviewer, and is based on the review copy provided.


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Love, Passion, And Forever Take The Triple Crown In Nacho Figueras' "High Season"

27110147Title:  Nacho Figueras Presents: High Season
Series:  (The Polo Season #1)
Author:  Jessica Whitman
Review Format:  Print
Length:  351 pages
Publisher:  Forever Romance
Rating: 5 Stars 

World-renowned polo player and global face of Ralph Lauren, Nacho Figueras dives into the world of scandal and seduction with a new fiction series set in the glamorous, treacherous world of high-stakes polo competition.

Georgia never wanted to be a jetsetter. A plain old country vet was fine for her. But one distress call from her best friend and the next thing she knows she's neck deep in the world of polo's most elite international players--complete with designer dresses, fine champagne and some of the most gorgeous thoroughbreds she's ever seen. Some of the most gorgeous men too...

Alejandro Del Campo needs his team to win the season's biggest polo tournament or else he's not sure how much longer they're going to be in business. What he doesn't need is some sassy new vet telling him how to run his business--and distracting him at every turn. But as they come closer and closer to the championship match, it soon becomes clear that Alejandro wants to win Georgia just as much as the tourney trophy. But can he ever convince her his world is where she truly belongs?


Alejandro glanced across the room at the sound of his brother laughing and tried to see whoever he was talking to. He got a glimpse of a pretty face, animated by conversation, before Rory moved to loom over her and obscure the view.
He realized his audience were waiting for a reaction and smiled and nodded at the ring of people around him, trying to concentrate on the story that the socialite in the tight turquoise dress was telling and hoping he was hiding how claustrophobic he felt.
He hated these press events. Every which way he turned, someone waited to talk to him, touch him, demanding his attention. He knew it was part of the job – and he tried his best to satisfy – but the longer he stood, grinning like a fool and saying the same polite and predictable things over and over, the more horrifically restless he became.  The mandatory mingling was bad enough when his team had won; but forced jollity after a loss like today’s added serious insult to injury.
Sebastian laughed even louder, and Alejandro turned his head again. He saw Sebastian break away to get a refill on his drink.  Fantastic – just what he needed – Sebastian on the rampage.
Alejandro took that as his cue, quickly excusing himself before he was caught up in another round of unbearably inane conversation.
He wound his way through the crowd, past women sporting spray-on dresses and customer service smiles and sought out his teammates.
He strode over toward his brother, laid one hand on his shoulder, and took the champagne from his hand. He spoke to him in quick, low Spanish. “Che, hermano, I thought we agreed not to drink during the season?”
Sebastian shrugged, then smiled and answered him in English.  “I’d never let free champagne go to waste.”  He plucked the drink back from Alejandro’s hand and drained it.
Alejandro shook his head.  Sebastian had more natural talent than any player he knew but sometimes seemed ready to piss it away with partying. But after another defeat, with all eyes on them, someone had to set a standard.
Apparently Sebastian recognized the look in his brother’s eyes and cut off the lecture before it began. “Before you start in on family honor, big brother, let me introduce you to some friends.” Sebastian turned toward the group. “You know Beau, of course, and this is Billy.”
Alejandro nodded as the sleek, dark-skinned man on Beau’s arm shook his hand.
“And this is Billy’s friend Georgia.”
Alejandro felt his breath catch in his chest. The woman smiling up at him was not Sebastian or Rory’s typical stick chick. In fact, Alejandro had never seen anyone like her in Wellington before. In a room full of women working their surgically enhanced assets to the max, she stood out in her simplicity.  Tawny, golden brown hair was pinned up in messy curls, warm, hazel eyes met his with intelligent curiosity. Her skin appeared to be free of makeup, except for a faint hint of red on her full lips. She wore a simple tank and wide-legged trousers. He almost smiled to see that, instead of the expensive wedge sandal or designer riding boots, she wore a pair of little red sneakers on her feet.
“Pleased to meet you, Georgia.” He said the word with the Spanish inflection, “I am Alejandro Del Campo.” He took her small hand in his and felt his whole body tighten in response to her fingers against his own.
Her pale cheeks flushed a delicate, petal pink. He looked at her eyes, trying to decide if they were dark green or hazel.  They seemed to change with the light.
“I know,” she said, and blushed even deeper.



My Thoughts
International polo sensation and the face of Ralph Lauren, Nacho Figueras, ushers readers into a world where polo reigns and money rains.  A place where fortunes are won or lost to the beat of horse hooves, and refined manners give way to untamed hearts.

For Georgia Fellows, life has narrowed to days spent between helping her father treat the animals on their dilapidated family farm, and assisting the local village vet.  An excellent veterinarian in her own right; Georgia is fully aware that she should aspire to more.  But scars from her mother's abandonment of her and her father, when Georgia was just a teen, have yet to completely heal.  Leaving a very road wary woman in their wake.

Alejandro Del Campo is one of the reigning princes of polo.  As one of the heirs of the Del Campo polo dynasty, sporting the physique of a Latin Adonis, and captain of the champion polo team, La Victoria; he appears to have it all.
Appearances however, can sometimes be deceiving.
Never more so than in the case of Mr Del Campo.
Still riddled with guilt over the accidental death of his wife, Alejandro lives a life apart.  A life far removed from the natural passions that should fire his blood and heat his loins.  A life lived by a strict code of honor, responsibility, and duty.
His only freedom found on horseback.

Until one touch from a certain beautiful veterinarian, from a small town in upstate New York, gives 'the man who has everything' something to want.
Her!

Though this first novel in The Polo Season series is set in a world of utter opulence. Its author is careful to temper said grandeur with very down-to-earth and approachable characters, and a plot spotlighting the universal search of one heart for its corresponding beat.
In the case of Alejandro Del Campo and Georgia Fellows.  Theirs is a love which is both complimented and hampered by their love for the noble horses to whom they are both master and servant.

When what was as simple getaway to Florida compliments of her best friend Billy, turns into the opportunity of a lifetime for Georgia.  After her quick action and keen eye leads her to diagnose a hidden ailment in Alejandro's prized mare McKenzie.

The bounty that accompanies Georgia's new role as the Del Campo's number 2 vet, comes with quite the price.  The man that has stolen her her heart.  The undeniable intensity of their attraction to each other, when juxtaposed against their shared respect for decorum and duty, makes for a natural tension that makes the reader anticipate interaction between Georgia and Alejandro on even the most mundane levels.

You can rest assured however, that when these two forces of nature come together; the results will be earth-shattering.  The perfect blend of all things emotional and carnal.  The love scenes between Alejandro and his lady are the stuff of romantic dreams.

The heat burning its way through the pages of this read burns just as hot outside the bubble of our lovebirds' desire than in.  With Georgia meeting opposition at every turn.  Whether it be the cold shoulder and blatant disrespect of her direct superior, Gus.  Or, the sharp tongue and distrust of Alejandro's teen daughter, Valentina.  The drama just keeps coming for Georgia.  But then again...so does Alejandro.

This is the perfect read for those who long to be swept away by heart stopping romance, tossed about by the seas of fate, and rescued by true love...on a horse, of course.

Reviewer's Note:  This is the first novel in a loosely related companion series that may be read in any order.
This review contains only the honest opinions of the reviewer, and is based on the review copy provided. 
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"Dark Matter" Is A Shining Star In The World Of SciFi

27833670 Title:  Dark Matter
Author:  Blake Crouch
Review Format:  eARC
Length:  352 pages
Publisher:  Crown
Rating:  5 Stars

“Are you happy with your life?” Thoseare the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious. Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits. Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable--something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.  -Goodreads


My Thoughts
Jason Desson is a man content. At least as content as one can be who is conscious of the fact that he could have been someone else.  Someone more.  Someone different.


Someone other than the married, Quantum Mechanics professor, teaching introductory level coursework at a mid-level college in Chicago.

Until the night when someone else becomes this someone.  Sending Jason Desson and everything that he thought he knew about himself, his world, and his reality on a journey that will take him across multiverses. Showing him versions of his life and the lives of those he loves, that he could never dare imagine... let alone live.

We've all done it.  Sat back and wondered how our lives would be different if...
There is always that one moment.  That one marker on the road of life that will forever stand as your personal fork.
For Jason, that fork is his fifteen year old son, Charlie, and wife, Daniela  The choice, to turn his back on science, on the accolades, discoveries, and fortune. For a currency of a different kind.  One made up of smiles, hugs, and togetherness. One spent on time, love, and the building of the family that he now stands to lose forever.

Author, Blake Crouch, takes readers on a scientifically fueled thrill ride.  Where principles of quantum superposition are manipulated, and one man's world of possibility suddenly becomes his reality in every universe in which he exists.

But...

The real fun for readers and the adventure for Jason begins after he hears the words "Are you happy with your life?" Just before he finds himself thrust into that of another.  Jason.
One who has everything that Jason does not.  Except the one thing that he does... family.

And readers get a front row seat to every minute of the mind bending action, suspense, and wonder of it all.  Crouch writes in a way that makes the complexities of his novel both understandable and accessible to his reader.  In effect making his audience a part of Jason's world.  Able to see what he sees, feel what he feels, and know what he knows.

Not grand or overt in any sense of the word.  The twists in this plot are always well timed, unexpected, and very profound.  The suspense created within the story is never forced or contrived. Functioning as a naturally occuring situational element.

The real star by far however, is Jason Desson, himself.
A man coping with the knowledge that he has truly become his own worst enemy.  In a very real way!
Making him realize that sometimes the real value of the possibility of what could be, lies in the appreciation of what is.
An 'is'... that he will defy every law of physics to protect.
As he answers the question...

Are you happy with your life?







About Blake
Blake Crouch
Blake Crouch is a bestselling novelist and screenwriter. He is the author of the forthcoming novel, Dark Matter, for which he is writing the screenplay for Sony Pictures. His international-bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy was adapted into a television series for FOX, executive produced by M. Night Shyamalan, that was Summer 2015’s #1 show. With Chad Hodge, Crouch also created Good Behavior, the TNT television show starring Michelle Dockery based on his Letty Dobesh novellas. He has written more than a dozen novels that have been translated into over thirty languages and his short fiction has appeared in numerous publications including Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Crouch lives in Colorado with his family.
Find Him:  Web / Facebook / Twitter


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Book-Tube-A-Thon Days 4 & 5 Update!




Days 4 & 5 were all over the place for me reading-wise.
Although, I am of two minds about having finished the audio of my beloved
RIVERKEEP.


25883016
The Danék is a wild, treacherous river, and the Fobisher family has tended it for generations—clearing it of ice and weed, making sure boats can get through, and fishing corpses from its bleak depths. Wulliam’s father, the current Riverkeep, is proud of this work. Wull dreads it. And in one week, when he comes of age, he will have to take over.
Then the unthinkable happens. While recovering a drowned man, Wull’s father is pulled under—and when he emerges, he is no longer himself. A dark spirit possesses him, devouring him from the inside. In an instant, Wull is Riverkeep. And he must care for his father, too.
When he hears that a cure for his father lurks in the belly of a great sea-dwelling beast known as the mormorach, he embarks on an epic journey down the river that his family has so long protected—but never explored. Along the way, he faces death in any number of ways, meets people and creatures touched by magic and madness and alchemy, and finds courage he never knew he possessed.






27833670“Are you happy with your life?” Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious. Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits. Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable--something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.



15783514
Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.


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Experience The Dramatic Lover's Taboo That Is "His Royal Secret"

29485840 Title:  His Royal Secret
Series:  (His Royal Secret #1)
Author:  Lilah Pace
Review Format:  eARC
Publisher:  Intermix
Rating:  4.5 Stars

The first in an enchanting new male/male romantic duology from Lilah Pace, author of Asking for More and Begging for It ....

James, the handsome, cosmopolitan Prince of Wales, is used to being in the public eye. But he's keeping a king-sized secret...James, next in line for the throne, is gay.

He’s been able to hide his sexual orientation with the help of his best friend and beard, Lady Cassandra. Sometimes he feels like a coward for not coming out, but he daren’t risk losing the crown. If he did, the succession would fall on his deeply troubled younger sister, Princess Amelia. To protect her, James is willing to live a lie.

While on holiday, he meets Benjamin Dahan—a rugged international reporter with a globe-trotting, unattached life—who catches far more than James's eye. And when Ben is transferred to London, it seems fate may finally be smiling on James.

But what began as a torrid fling grows into something far more intimate and powerful. Soon James will have decide who he is, what he wants from life and love, and what he’s willing to sacrifice for the truth...  -Goodreads


My Thoughts
Falling in love should never be hard...
But for James, the very young, very handsome, and very closeted  Prince of Wales.  Falling in love can be dangerous.

Benjamin Dahan is a man who's life is lived in freedom.  The freedom to travel the world in his career as a financial reporter.  The freedom to drift causally from one lust filled hook-up to the next...without worry or consequence.  The freedom to look beyond the pomp and circumstance of courtly decorum, wealth, and title, to the man.
A man that he desires.  A man who, thanks to a rainstorm, a spontaneous holiday, and fate; Benjamin finds himself alone in a room with, for what become the most life altering hours of his existence.

James knows that the last thing that he should do is to involve himself with anyone outside of his very tight inner circle.  Least of all, the tall and darkly sensual reporter.  But even after personal tragedy suddenly strikes the royal family, and James is suddenly called home. He can't seem to forget the man or the passion that is Benjamin Dahan.
  
For Ben, information such as the secret that the prince is carrying would undoubtedly make his career.  But he also knows that revealing such information would destroy the man...and possibly the monarchy.

Saddled with the greater responsibility and closer public scrutiny in his new role as Prince Regent. James and the world can only wait and pray that his father is able to retake the throne after a sudden and devastating stroke.  Meanwhile, left to face the challenges of both his personal and public existances, and with the literal weight of his world resting squarely on his shoulders. It is imparitve that James steers clear of scandal of any sort.  Most of all, that surrounding who he may or may not be sleeping with.  But try as he might...James just can't seem to escape his desire for the one man who, because he once held his body in his arms.  Now holds his fate in his hands.

Lila Pace's fictionalized version of "life behind the crown," makes both James and Ben relatable to readers.  In effect, stripping them down to lovers, brothers, friends, and people.  Because of this, you as the reader cheer for every stolen kiss, every successful rendezvous, and every torrid coupling between these two gorgeous men.

Making things even more complex for James, and further endearing him to his audience the fact that his secret is not the only one he's keeping.  His younger sister, Princess Amelia, suffers in silence from a debilitating anxiety disorder, which makes her afraid to leave her home.  A disorder that she has resorted to self harm in a order to deal with.

James is also a man tormented by guilt.  A guilt that he feels anew each time that he looks into the face of the one woman, apart from his sister, that he loves most in the world.  His best friend and supposed fiancée, Lady Cassandra.  Who finds herself the object of public scorn and redicule after making the mistake of being seen kissing the man with whom she is secretly in love.

Through the skillful crafting of each of the dramatic building blocks that this review references, and a great many more besides.  Readers are ushered into a world where the most privileged, are yet the most deprived.

But as the passion between Ben and James grows into something so much more than either of the two a prepared for.
The questions must be asked.

Can they really have it all?
And...if so.
At what price?

Reviewer's Note:  This book is the first in a consecutively related duology.
As such, it is highly suggested that you read the much anticipated follow up novel, His Royal Favorite.

*The above review was provided in exchange for the galley received from the Intermix Publishing, a division of Berkeley Romance and Netgalley.









About Lilah

 Lilh Pace is a pseudonym for a New York Times bestselling author, so she can’t give away too much about herself here, but she has lived everywhere from Italy to the United Kingdom before putting down roots in the American South.
She’s addicted to Diet Coke, loves her dog, and daydreams about several British movie stars (though usually no more than two at a time).
And while it took her a long while to get up the courage to write books, now she hopes she’ll never stop.
Find Her:

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InkSlinger PR Presents: The Secret Language Of Stones Review and Giveaway!


   

THE SECRET LANGUAGE OF STONES is a stunning historical gothic romantic suspense published by Atria, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, releasing on July 19th. Written to be a total and complete standalone novel, THE SECRET LANGUAGE OF STONES is the second title in M.J. Rose’s The Daughters of La Lune Series. Sexy, compelling, and seductive, be sure to grab your copy today!

    MJ TSLOS - HiddenRomanov-teaser    
M.J. Rose’sTHE SECRET LANGUAGE OF STONES – Review & Excerpt Tour Schedule:
July 11th
What the Cat Read – Excerpt
Deluged with Books Cafe – Review & Excerpt
Fiction Adventures – Excerpt
July 12th
Mes Livres – Review
Adventures in Writing – Excerpt
The Book Hammock – Review & Excerpt
July 13th
Hart's Romance Pulse – Excerpt
Novel Addiction – Excerpt
July 14th
Brooke Blogs – Excerpt
Vagabonda Reads – Review & Excerpt
I Read Indie – Excerpt
July 15th
Zach's YA Reviews – Review
A Brit and a Yank – Excerpt
The Book Sirens – Excerpt
July 16th
Roxy's Reviews – Excerpt
Gaga Over Books – Review & Excerpt
Kick Back & Review – Excerpt
July 17th
Only One More Page – Excerpt
Fly Away on the Wings of a Book – Review & Excerpt
July 18th
Okie Dreams Book Reviews – Review & Excerpt
KT Book Reviews – Excerpt
Vampire Book Club – Excerpt
July 19th
Romance Book Nerd – Excerpt
Rachel's Rambles – Review & Excerpt
July 20th
My Fictional Escape – Excerpt
Literaria – Review
July 21st
WTF Are You Reading? – Review & Excerpt
Love Affair With Fiction – Review & Excerpt
July 22nd
G & T's Indie Café – Excerpt
Rebel Heart Bookshelf – Review & Excerpt
With Love for Books – Review
BCS reviews – Review & Excerpt
   

"The most powerful book I've read this year! Seductive, compelling, and beautifully written." ~New York Times bestseller Melissa Foster

 

    The Secret Language of Stones



Outside I found quiet. No sirens, few cars. The streets of Paris were eerily unwelcoming, but at least everything existed in three dimensions. Walking on cobblestones, looking above me at the stars, I focused on the facts of the world around me, not the fantasies I kept crafting in my little room. The buildings loomed large in the moonlight; footsteps of one other late-night pedestrian echoed in the still night. Glancing over I saw a lasciviously dressed woman hurrying in the opposite direction. Crossing rue Royale, I walked under the archway and into the Louvre’s courtyard and kept going until I reached the quai du Louvre. I descended the wide stone steps down to the path running along the river, the quai des Tuileries, and made my way as close as I could get to the water.
But this was nothing like walking by the sea in Cannes. I missed the scent of salt, the sound of the waves crashing, the give of the sand underfoot. Instead, the swiftly flowing river smelled cold and slightly metallic; the stones underfoot were uneven and unforgiving. Only the moon was the same. At that very moment, the same moon was shining down on the beach at home. And the soldiers in the field. And the tombstones in the cemetery.
The path appeared empty. I was alone. With no destination in mind, I just kept moving forward, hoping I might walk into proof that my mind wasn’t infected. Or even proof that it was. I just wanted an answer.
If I could just know I wasn’t insane, I could live with the discomfort. I could withstand the bittersweet romance with a lover whom I knew I would lose one day. I could tolerate the noise. But this lack of proof? This uncertainty? That’s what I couldn’t endure anymore. Were the voices in my head or in some other place? Was I making up Jean Luc, or was he a trapped soul communicating with me?
And if Jean Luc was real—if any ghost could be real—then this love affair was doomed, wasn’t it?
I’d reached the oldest bridge in Paris, the Pont Neuf, and stood underneath it. Water swirled in eddies around the bridge’s piles. So many had walked across its span since it had been built in the sixteenth century. How many times had my ancestor, the original La Lune, traversed it? Had she stood here and stared down at the water, missing her lover, wondering how she could live with the mistakes she’d made in trying to recapture what she’d lost, what she’d destroyed? Had she ever stood here and wondered if the river would welcome her and offer her the release she so badly wanted . . . freedom from longing, from loneliness?
Despondent, I climbed the stairs to the street level. I meant to turn away, not to walk out onto the bridge. But I did. I walked halfway out, stood at the railing, and stared down.

My Thoughts

It is very rare that a second novel in a series can equal or surpass the excellence of its predecessor.  But authoress, M. J. Rose, has managed to do just that, with the second offering in her acclaimed Daughters Of La Lune series.

Told from the viewpoint of Opaline Duplessi.  The daughter of   The Witch Of Painted Sorrows' Sandrine and Julien.  The Secret Language Of Stones is the story of a young woman struggling to come to terms with a family legacy that she can neither escape, nor deny.

Opaline's alchemical bloodline has bestowed upon her the gift of lithomancy.  Or, the ability to read the energy of stones.
As WWI rages around her, Opaline sets upon the task of righting a perceived wrong in her young life. By crafting exquisite mourning talismans for grieving loved ones of fallen soldiers.

Now living in Paris, far from the dark influence of her mother's communion with the spirit of La  Lune.  Opaline is wary of what fully embracing her burgeoning gift could mean for her life. Until the day that a very special commission her puts her soul to soul with the one love that not even the bonds of astral distance are strong enough to tether.

M. J. Rose leaves no stone unturned in her quest to bring her epic second novel to life.  From her vivid descriptions of a war-torn Paris; to her references to both literary and artistic masters.  Ms. Rose crafts a story that lives and breathes with an inspired and utterly magical mix of history, intelligence, passion and the occult.

Whether watching as our heroine carefully chooses stones for her latest creation, or trailing her in her unlikely quest to aid the dowager czarina of an imperiled Russian dynasty.  Readers are left to always listen for that next haunting whisper, fleeting glimpse, or lingering taste of life in the world of The Daughters Of La Lune.

 

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | IndieBound

 As World War I rages and the Romanov dynasty reaches its sudden, brutal end, a young jewelry maker discovers love, passion, and her own healing powers in this rich and romantic ghost story, the perfect follow-up to M.J. Rose’s “brilliantly crafted” (Providence Journal) novel The Witch of Painted Sorrows.

Nestled within Paris’s historic Palais Royal is a jewelry store unlike any other. La Fantasie Russie is owned by Pavel Orloff, protégé to the famous Faberge, and is known by the city’s fashion elite as the place to find the rarest of gemstones and the most unique designs. But war has transformed Paris from a city of style and romance to a place of fear and mourning. In the summer of 1918, places where lovers used to walk, widows now wander alone.

So it is from La Fantasie Russie’s workshop that young, ambitious Opaline Duplessi now spends her time making trench watches for soldiers at the front, as well as mourning jewelry for the mothers, wives, and lovers of those who have fallen. People say that Opaline’s creations are magical. But magic is a word Opaline would rather not use. The concept is too closely associated with her mother Sandrine, who practices the dark arts passed down from their ancestor La Lune, one of sixteenth century Paris’s most famous courtesans.

But Opaline does have a rare gift even she can’t deny, a form of lithomancy that allows her to translate the energy emanating from stones. Certain gemstones, combined with a personal item, such as a lock of hair, enable her to receive messages from beyond the grave. In her mind, she is no mystic, but merely a messenger, giving voice to soldiers who died before they were able to properly express themselves to loved ones. Until one day, one of these fallen soldiers communicates a message—directly to her.

So begins a dangerous journey that will take Opaline into the darkest corners of wartime Paris and across the English Channel, where the exiled Romanov dowager empress is waiting to discover the fate of her family. Full of romance, seduction, and a love so powerful it reaches beyond the grave, The Secret Language of Stones is yet another “spellbindingly haunting” (Suspense magazine), “entrancing read that will long be savored” (Library Journal, starred review).

    MJ TSLOS - EscapeIntoReading-teaser    

A dazzling mix of history, mystery and mystical arts . . . Rose's paranormal historical bewitches from start to finish. Her amazing ability to make her story line believable and her extraordinary protagonist relatable result in an unforgettable psychic thriller." (Library Journal (Starred review))

"An exciting mix of adventure, intrigue, and romance in this thrilling historical tale." (Booklist)

“Haunting, spellbinding, captivating; Rose's story of the power of love and redemption is masterful. More than a romance or ghost story, this is a tale of a young woman learning to embrace her unique qualities...So carefully crafted and beautifully written, readers will believe in the magical possibilities of love transcending time.”  (RT Magazine (Top Pick))

“Rose follows up The Witch of Painted Sorrows (2015) with Sandrine’s daughter’s story, set against the tragic yet exquisite canvases of Paris, the Great War, and the Russian Revolution, and offers fascinating historical tidbits in the midst of bright, imaginative storytelling and complex, supernatural worldbuilding. A compelling, heart-wrenching, creative, and intricate read.”  (Kirkus Reviews)

 

WitchPainted_Rose

And Don’t Miss the First Book in The Daughters of La Lune Series, THE WITCH OF PAINTED SORROWS!


Daughter of La Lune Pendant
 Giveaway!

We're celebrating the release of THE SECRET LANGUAGE OF STONES by giving away a beautiful Daughter of La Lune pendant. Designed by Cadsawan Jewelry, the silver pendant contains a labradorite, a magical stone excellent for awakening one's own awareness of inner spirit, intuition, and psychic abilities.

 
MJ Rose - HeadshotAbout M.J. Rose:
New York Times Bestseller, M.J. Rose grew up in New York City mostly in the labyrinthine galleries of the Metropolitan Museum, the dark tunnels and lush gardens of Central Park and reading her mother’s favorite books before she was allowed. She believes mystery and magic are all around us but we are too often too busy to notice… books that exaggerate mystery and magic draw attention to it and remind us to look for it and revel in it.
Rose’s work has appeared in many magazines including Oprah Magazine and she has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, WSJ, Time, USA Today and on the Today Show, and NPR radio. Rose graduated from Syracuse University, spent the ’80s in advertising, has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and since 2005 has run the first marketing company for authors – Authorbuzz.com
The television series PAST LIFE, was based on Rose’s novels in the Reincarnationist series. She is one of the founding board members of International Thriller Writers and currently serves, with Lee Child, as the organization’s co-president.
Rose lives in CT with her husband the musician and composer, Doug Scofield, and their very spoiled and often photographed dog, Winka.

Website TwitterFacebook | Author Goodreads Novel GoodreadsNewsletterPinterest

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Book-Tube-A-Thon Day 3 Update (The Daughters Of La Lune Edition)

The third day has proven quite the surprise.
I had to cut my time with Riverkeep short.
Instead reading 
The Witch Of Painted Sorrows
and
The Secret Language of Stones
by 
M. J. Rose
 
 
Title:  The Witch Of Painted Sorrows 
(The Daughters Of La Lune #1)
Author:  M.J. Rose
Length:  384 pages
Publisher:  Atria Books
 
22608277 Possession. Power. Passion. New York Times bestselling novelist M. J. Rose creates her most provocative and magical spellbinder yet in this gothic novel set against the lavish spectacle of 1890s Belle Époque Paris.

Sandrine Salome flees New York for her grandmother’s Paris mansion to escape her dangerous husband, but what she finds there is even more menacing. The house, famous for its lavish art collection and elegant salons, is mysteriously closed up. Although her grandmother insists it’s dangerous for Sandrine to visit, she defies her and meets Julien Duplessi, a mesmerizing young architect. Together they explore the hidden night world of Paris, the forbidden occult underground and Sandrine’s deepest desires.

Among the bohemians and the demi-monde, Sandrine discovers her erotic nature as a lover and painter. Then darker influences threaten—her cold and cruel husband is tracking her down and something sinister is taking hold, changing Sandrine, altering her. She’s become possessed by La Lune: A witch, a legend, and a sixteenth-century courtesan, who opens up her life to a darkness that may become a gift or a curse.

This is Sandrine’s “wild night of the soul,” her odyssey in the magnificent city of Paris, of art, love, and witchery.


The Witch of Painted Sorrows

Paris, France APril 1894

I did not cause the madness, the deaths, or the rest of the tragedies any more than I painted the paintings. I had help, her help. Or perhaps I should say she forced her help on me. And so this story—which began with me fleeing my home in order to escape my husband and might very well end tomorrow, in a duel, in the Bois de Boulogne at dawn—is as much hers as mine. Or in fact more hers than mine. For she is the fountainhead. The fascination. She is La Lune. Woman of moon dreams, of legends and of nightmares. Who took me from the light and into the darkness. Who imprisoned me and set me free.

Or is it the other way around?

"Your questions," my father always said to me, "will be your saving grace. A curious mind is the most important attribute any man or woman can possess. Now if you can just temper your impulsiveness..."

If I had a curious mind, I'd inherited it from him. And he'd nurtured it. Philippe Salome was on the board of New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art and helped found the American Museum of Natural History, whose cornerstone was laid on my fifth birthday.

I remember sitting atop my father's shoulders that day, watching the groundbreaking ceremony and thinking the whole celebration was for me. He called it "our museum," didn't he? And for much of my life I thought it actually did belong to us, along with our mansion on Fifth Avenue and our summerhouse in Newport. Until it was gone, I understood so little about wealth and the price you pay for it. But isn't that always the way?

Our museum's vast halls and endless exhibit rooms fascinated me as much as they did my father—which pleased him, I could tell. We'd meander through exhibits, my small hand in his large one, and he'd keep me spellbound with stories about items on display. I'd ask for more, always just one more, and he'd laugh and tease: "My Sandrine, does your capacity for stories know no bounds?"

But it pleased him, and he'd always tell me another.

I especially loved the stories he told me about the gems and fate and destiny always ending them by saying: "You will make your own fate, Sandrine, I'm sure of it."

Was my father right? Do we make our own destiny? I think back now to the stepping-stones that I've walked to reach this moment in time.

Were the incidents of my making? Or were they my fate?

The most difficult steps I took were after certain people died. No deaths were caused by me, but at the same time, none would have occurred were it not for me.

So many deaths. The first was on the morning of my fifteenth birthday, when I saw a boy beaten and tragically die because of our harmless kisses. The next was the night almost ten years later, when I heard the prelude to my father's death and learned the truth about Benjamin, my husband. And then there were more. Each was an end-ing that, ironically, became a new beginning for me.

The one thing I am now sure of is that if there is such a thing as destiny, it is a result of our passion, be that for money, power, or love. Passion, for better or worse. It can keep a soul alive even if all that survives is a shimmering. I've even seen it. I've been bathed in it. I've been changed by it.

*********

Four months ago I snuck into Paris on a wet, chilly January night like a criminal, hiding my face in my shawl, taking extra care to be sure I wasn't followed.

I stood on the stoop of my grandmother's house and lifted the hand-shaped bronze door knocker and let it drop. The sound of the metal echoed inside. Her home was on a lane blocked off from rue des Saints-Pères by wide wooden double doors. Maison de la Lune, as it was called, was one of a half dozen four-story mid-eighteenthcentury stone houses that shared a courtyard that backed up onto rue du Dragon. Hidden clusters like this were a common configuration in Paris.These small enclaves offered privacy and quiet from the busy city. Usually the porte cochère was locked and one had to ring for the concierge, but I'd found the heavy doors ajar and hadn't had to wait for service.

I let the door knocker fall again. Light from a street lamp glinted off the golden metal. It was a strange object. Usually on these things the bronze hand's palm faced the door. But this one was palm out, almost warning the visitor to reconsider requesting entrance.

I was anxious and impatient. I'd been cautious on my journey from New York to Southampton and kept to my cabin. I'd left a letter telling Benjamin I'd gone to visit friends in Virginia and assumed that once he returned and read it, it would be at least a week before he'd realize all was not what it seemed. One thing I had known for certain—he would never look for me in France. It would be inconceivable to Benjamin that any wife of his could cross the ocean alone.

Or so I assured myself until my husband's banking associate, William Lenox, spotted me on board. When he expressed surprise I was traveling by myself, I concocted a story but was worried he didn't believe me. My only consolation was that we had docked in England and I had since crossed the channel into France. So even if Benjamin did come looking, he wouldn't know where I'd gone.

That very first night in Paris, as I waited for my grandmother's maid to open the door, I knew I had to stop thinking of what I had run away from. So I refocused on the house I stood before and as I did, felt an overwhelming sense of belonging, of being welcome. Here I would be safe.

Once again I lifted the door knocker that had so obsessed me ten years before when I'd visited as a fifteen-year-old. The engravings on the finely modeled female palm included etched stars, phases of the moon, planets, and other archaic symbols. When I'd asked about it once, my grandmother had said it was older than the house, but she didn't know how old exactly or what the ciphers meant.

The engravings on the finely modeled female palm included etched stars, phases of the moon, planets, and other archaic symbols. When I'd asked about it once, my grandmother had said it was older than the house, but she didn't know how old exactly or what the ciphers meant.

After standing at the door for a few moments without gaining entry, I lifted the hand and let it drop again. Where was the maid? Grand-mère, one of Paris's celebrated courtesans, hosted lavish salons on Tuesday, Thursday, and many Saturday evenings, and at this time of day was usually upstairs, preparing her toilette: dusting poudre de riz on her face and décolletage, screwing in her opale de feu earrings, and wrapping her signature rope of the same blazing orange stones around her neck. The strand of opal beads was famous. It had belonged to a Russian empress and was known as Les Incendies. The stones were the same color as my grandmother's hair and the highlights in her topaz eyes. She was known by that name—L'Incendie, they called her, The Fire.

We had the same color eyes, but mine almost never flashed like hers. When I was growing up, I kept checking in the mirror, hoping the opal sparks that I only saw occasionally would intensify. I wanted to be just like her, but my father said it was just as well my eyes weren't on fire because it wasn't only her coloring that had inspired her name but also her temper, and that wasn't a thing to covet.

It wasn't until I was fifteen years old and witnessed it myself that I understood what he'd meant.

I let the hand of fate fall again. Even if Grand-mère was upstairs and couldn't hear the knocking, the maid would be downstairs, organizing the refreshments for the evening. I'd seen her so many nights, polishing away last smudges on the silver, holding the Baccarat glasses over a pot of steaming water and then wiping them clean to make sure they gleamed.

Certainly Bernadette, if it was still Bernadette, should have heard the knocker, but I had been waiting more than five minutes, and no one had arrived to let me in. Dusk had descended. The air had grown cold, and now it was beginning to rain. Fat, heavy drops dripped onto my hat and into my eyes. And I had no umbrella. That's when I did what I should have done from the start—I stepped back and looked up at the house.

The darkened windows set into the limestone facade indicated there were no fires burning and no lamps lit inside. My grandmother was not in residence. And neither, it appeared, was her staff. I almost wished the concierge had needed to open the porte cochère for me; he might have been able to tell me where my grandmother was.

For days now I had managed to keep my sanity only by thinking of this moment. All I had to do, I kept telling myself, was find my way here, and then together, my grandmother and I could mourn my father and her son, and she would help me figure out what I should do now that I had run away from New York City.

If she wasn't here, where was I to go? I had other family in Paris, but I had no idea where they lived. I'd only met them here, at my grandmother's house, when I'd visited ten years previously. I had no friends in the city.

The rain was soaking through my clothes. I needed to find shelter.

But where? A restaurant or café? Was there one nearby? Or should I try and find a hotel? Which way should I go to get a carriage? Was it even safe to walk alone here at night?

What choice did I have?

Picking up my suitcase, I turned, but before I could even step into the courtyard, I saw an advancing figure. A bedraggled-looking man, wearing torn and filthy brown pants and an overcoat that had huge, bulging pockets, staggered toward me. Every step he took rang out on the stones.

He's just a beggar who intends no harm, I told myself. He's just looking for scraps of food, for a treasure in the garbage he'd be able to sell.

But what if I was wrong? Alone with him in the darkening courtyard, where could I go? In my skirt and heeled boots, could I even outrun him?






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Title:  The Secret Language Of Stones
(The Daughter Of La Lune #2)
Author:  M. J. Rose
Length:  320 pages
Publisher:  Atria Books
320
27274426As World War I rages and the Romanov dynasty reaches its sudden, brutal end, a young jewelry maker discovers love, passion, and her own healing powers in this rich and romantic ghost story, the perfect follow-up to M.J. Rose’s “brilliantly crafted” (Providence Journal) novel The Witch of Painted Sorrows.

Nestled within Paris’s historic Palais Royal is a jewelry store unlike any other. La Fantasie Russie is
owned by Pavel Orloff, protégé to the famous Faberge, and is known by the city’s fashion elite as the place to find the rarest of gemstones and the most unique designs. But war has transformed Paris from a city of style and romance to a place of fear and mourning. In the summer of 1918, places where lovers used to walk, widows now wander alone.

So it is from La Fantasie Russie’s workshop that young, ambitious Opaline Duplessi now spends her time making trench watches for soldiers at the front, as well as mourning jewelry for the mothers, wives, and lovers of those who have fallen. People say that Opaline’s creations are magical. But magic is a word Opaline would rather not use. The concept is too closely associated with her mother Sandrine, who practices the dark arts passed down from their ancestor La Lune, one of sixteenth century Paris’s most famous courtesans.

But Opaline does have a rare gift even she can’t deny, a form of lithomancy that allows her to translate the energy emanating from stones. Certain gemstones, combined with a personal item, such as a lock of hair, enable her to receive messages from beyond the grave. In her mind, she is no mystic, but merely a messenger, giving voice to soldiers who died before they were able to properly express themselves to loved ones. Until one day, one of these fallen soldiers communicates a message—directly to her.

So begins a dangerous journey that will take Opaline into the darkest corners of wartime Paris and across the English Channel, where the exiled Romanov dowager empress is waiting to discover the fate of her family. Full of romance, seduction, and a love so powerful it reaches beyond the grave, The Secret Language of Stones is yet another “spellbindingly haunting” (Suspense magazine), “entrancing read that will long be savored” (Library Journal, starred review).

Outside I found quiet. No sirens, few cars. The streets of Paris were eerily unwelcoming, but at least everything existed in three dimensions. Walking on cobblestones, looking above me at the stars, I focused on the facts of the world around me, not the fantasies I kept crafting in my little room. The buildings loomed large in the moonlight; footsteps of one other late-night pedestrian echoed in the still night. Glancing over I saw a lasciviously dressed woman hurrying in the opposite direction. Crossing rue Royale, I walked under the archway and into the Louvre’s courtyard and kept going until I reached the quai du Louvre. I descended the wide stone steps down to the path running along the river, the quai des Tuileries, and made my way as close as I could get to the water.
But this was nothing like walking by the sea in Cannes. I missed the scent of salt, the sound of the waves crashing, the give of the sand underfoot. Instead, the swiftly flowing river smelled cold and slightly metallic; the stones underfoot were uneven and unforgiving. Only the moon was the same. At that very moment, the same moon was shining down on the beach at home. And the soldiers in the field. And the tombstones in the cemetery.
The path appeared empty. I was alone. With no destination in mind, I just kept moving forward, hoping I might walk into proof that my mind wasn’t infected. Or even proof that it was. I just wanted an answer.
If I could just know I wasn’t insane, I could live with the discomfort. I could withstand the bittersweet romance with a lover whom I knew I would lose one day. I could tolerate the noise. But this lack of proof? This uncertainty? That’s what I couldn’t endure anymore. Were the voices in my head or in some other place? Was I making up Jean Luc, or was he a trapped soul communicating with me?
And if Jean Luc was real—if any ghost could be real—then this love affair was doomed, wasn’t it?
I’d reached the oldest bridge in Paris, the Pont Neuf, and stood underneath it. Water swirled in eddies around the bridge’s piles. So many had walked across its span since it had been built in the sixteenth century. How many times had my ancestor, the original La Lune, traversed it? Had she stood here and stared down at the water, missing her lover, wondering how she could live with the mistakes she’d made in trying to recapture what she’d lost, what she’d destroyed? Had she ever stood here and wondered if the river would welcome her and offer her the release she so badly wanted . . . freedom from longing, from loneliness?
Despondent, I climbed the stairs to the street level. I meant to turn away, not to walk out onto the bridge. But I did. I walked halfway out, stood at the railing, and stared down.


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