Will "Stealing His Heart" Take Yours As Well?

Stealing His Heart (Shillings Agency, #2)Title:  Stealing His Heart
(A Shilling Agency Novel)
Author:  Jen McLaughlin
Format:  ERC
Length:  250 pages
Publisher:  Entangled/Brazen
Rating: 3 Stars

A sexy category romance from Entangled publishing's Brazen imprint…

Shillings Agency employee Jake Forsythe is not happy to discover that the thief who he has to track down is none other than his ex-partner from his past. Now he’s forced to blackmail her into submission…or throw her in jail.

Tara Harris steals from the rich and corrupted, returning objects to their rightful owners one case at a time. When Jake shows up in her life, at first, she’s thrilled. But then when she finds out that she has to help the man she stole from or go to jail…it’s the choice between two evils.

These two can’t deny the burning passion between them, but when push comes to shove, they’ll have to lay their hearts and their lives on the line.  -Goodreads

Excerpt from
Stealing His Heart
by Diane Alberts
Copyright © 2014 by Diane Alberts. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.

Chapter One
Tara Harris slipped into the shadows of the trees, her breath coming fast. For a second, she was sure she’d been had. There was a shout, followed by some scuffling from inside the house. She’d been worried the door would open, and she’d be caught in her black jeans and sweatshirt on the jerk’s front porch.
But the door remained closed. All signs of possible discovery from within had silenced. Her careful calculations hadn’t failed her…yet.
She hunkered down behind the overgrown plant, peeking around it cautiously. Right on schedule, the door opened and out came her target. He wore an expensive suit, and had his arms slung over two half-naked women. Mistresses vying for a new provider, more than likely. They must be desperate if they were trying to catch him on their hook. He had a reputation for being more of a dick in bed than he was out of it.
And that was saying a lot.
As the threesome passed, she held completely still, not daring to so much as breathe. This was the crucial moment. It was the small span of time where she could be seen, if she’d been even a centimeter off in her calculations. The chauffeur opened the door for them, and the group slid inside. Within seconds, they were gone. And she was alone.
Thank God.
She took a shaky breath, allowing herself a moment of victory before she moved her focus back to the house. Lurking behind the shrubbery, she made sure no one turned on the lights. One could never be too careful when it came to breaking and entering, after all. A few assignments back, she’d entered a house immediately after her target left and walked in on a celebrity’s husband, naked and handcuffed to the bed.
He’d assumed she was the dominatrix he had ordered, come to bring him pleasure laced with a healthy dose of pain. She’d sent the real dominatrix away. Retrieved the item from his home she’d come to steal back, and left him for his wife to find. The next day, the tabloids reported he was in rehab for “personal issues.”
Seemed silly to go to rehab for enjoying sex, but who was she to talk? She wasn’t exactly an expert in the S&M department. She wasn’t the type to relinquish control to a man, whether it be in the bedroom or out of it, so she might not be the best fit for that lifestyle…no matter how much she liked reading about it in books.
When the interior of the house remained still and dark, she pulled the hood of her sweatshirt over her head and crept to the door. Since she’d done her homework beforehand—
obviously—she already knew it would take mere seconds to disarm the security system. It was ridiculously easy. Too easy, really. She almost wished the idiot had gone to greater measures to keep a thief like her out. Almost.
But then again, it was rare she encountered a challenge anymore.
Although…she had struggled with a code last week. In fact, it had almost beaten her. But in the end, she’d prevailed. She made it inside that asshole Soltese’s house, and the British earl who had flown all the way to the United States for her help had his heirloom vase back in his country estate where it belonged.
She’d get the same results tonight, too.
Glancing over her shoulder, she wired her phone into the system and waited for the code to pop up. When the six-digit encryption lit her screen, she keyed it in. The green light flashed twice, and she grinned. Easy as taking candy from a baby—not that she did that. She had to draw a line somewhere.
She entered the same digital password into the front- door system. People always thought that it was safer to use these electronic locks. What they didn’t realize was any hacker worth their salt could easily break in. And once they had the code…they could get anything they wanted. And she wanted that painting.
She’d get it, too.
Slowly, she opened the door, wincing when the hinges creaked. After shutting it behind her, she shoved her phone into her pocket and headed left toward the family room. According to her source, that’s where the artwork would be. It was. The expensive piece hung over the fireplace in the
opulent room. The muted hues of the meadow were more striking in their simplicity than she’d ever believed possible. She took a second to admire it. The piece of work had been completed in 1547, and had been in the royal family until the early nineteen hundreds. After that, it had mysteriously been sold to an unknown buyer. After years of obscurity, it had shown up deep inside the Viotollo mob. The head of the crime family had stolen it from a wealthy American CEO when the man refused to sell it to him, and she had every
intention of returning it to him.
She wished she could hang it over her fireplace for a
little while. It would go nicely with her Monet. But this one wasn’t for her. It was for her employer, and she wouldn’t steal from a good person like him. It was against her code.
Even thieves like her had rules.
She took a step toward the framed piece, flexing her gloved fingers. When she was halfway across the room, the hair on the back of her neck stood up. A hushed footstep and a small shift in the air alerted her to the presence of another person.
Someone was watching her.
She tried to spin around as quickly as she could, but she was too late. Within seconds of her sensing another person in the room with her, she was pinned face-first against the wall. The arms that closed around her were strong and solid, yet the man’s grip was gentle.
Something slammed across her mouth, effectively cutting off her cry—and her breath, too. She kicked backward, desperate to strike out at her attacker in any way she could, but she didn’t hit anything. If anything, the arms encircling her squeezed tighter.
Jesus, who was this guy? The freaking Rock?
“Shh.” Her captor pressed his cheek against her temple, his hot breath washing over her ear. For some reason, her body responded to his touch. As if it knew him already. What. The. Hell? “Don’t move. I’m going to uncover your mouth, but if you make a sound, you’re done. Understand?”
Aaaand that explained her body’s reaction.
She knew that voice. She would know it anywhere. Jake Forsythe, the man she’d had a crush on all throughout her teenage years…and then some. What was he doing here? Was he up to his old ways?
Last she’d heard, he was in Iraq fighting the war against terror. Right before he left, they had shared one glorious night together, where they’d been thisclose to sealing the deal, but something held him back. He’d left her naked on her bed, and they hadn’t spoken since.
She didn’t know he’d returned to the country, let alone Maine.
“If I let go, will you stay quiet?” he asked, his voice raspy. “Will you obey me?”
Obey him? That sounded oddly sexy coming from his lips. As if he was demanding she succumb to him in more ways than this. She shivered and nodded obediently, though she wanted to flee now more than ever.
He slowly lowered his hand, but didn’t release her. “Be a good girl…”
Carefully, she kept her head turned away, on the off chance he hadn’t seen her face yet. She licked her parched lips. “I’ll leave, and I won’t come back. I came into your house by accident. My mistake, sir.”
“Nice try, Tara.” He rested his chin on the top of her head. He was pressed so tightly against her that she could feel every inch of his body…even the parts she’d tried so hard to forget about. “I knew who you were before you stepped on that porch.”
She lowered her lids and took a shaky breath. Her traitorous heart sped when his arms flexed around her, and she’d swear he pushed his hips against her even though he hadn’t moved. “Can’t blame a girl for trying, can you? It’s been years since I last saw you.”
She refused to mention what they’d been doing the last time they’d seen each other. It was better left unsaid.
“I suppose it has been, but you’re pretty damn memorable. I mean, you’ve grown up and all…” He lifted his head off of hers, and she could sense him looking down at her. “But you still look the same to me. If I let go, will you behave yourself?”
“Do I ever?” she asked lightly.
“That doesn’t exactly make me want to let go of you,” he said without a trace of amusement in his voice. If anything, he sounded annoyed. “Will you be good, or not? What’s it gonna be?”
She didn’t move. “It’s been a while since I had a man pressing me up against a wall. I’m cool like this if you are. Feel free to move around a bit, too, if you’d like. Could be fun—for old times’ sake.”
Instead of the laugh she expected out of him, he sighed. Man, the Marines had stolen his sense of humor. A couple of tours probably did that to a guy. “I’m serious. Will you remain where you are?”
“Fine. I’ll be good,” she promised.
“All right.” He let go of her instantly, stepping back enough to allow her breathing room. “It’s been a while.”
“Yeah.” She closed her eyes for a second, steeling herself for the way she’d feel when they locked eyes once more. All grown up and ready to take on the world. “Too long. You should’ve called.”
Her whole body throbbed with excitement and desire now that he was back here with her—which wasn’t fair. Last time she’d seen him, before he’d made her come and run off before she’d been able to return the favor, he’d promised to write to her. She’d promised to behave. Turned out they sucked at keeping promises.
Especially him.
“I know.” He cleared his throat. “Life’s been busy.”
She turned around to face him, but splayed her hands
against the wall on either side of her hips as she did a quick once-over of the man she’d once been crazy about.
Holy. Crap. He was hotter than she’d dreamed.
Like, much hotter than he’d been back when he was a scrawny eighteen-year-old leaving for war. Back when they shared their almost-night together. He’d just been starting to become the man he was today. And that man? He oozed confidence and raw, dirty sex.
Really, really dirty sexy.
She swallowed hard, her heart quickening. He had a few lines around his brows and mouth, probably from squinting in the desert sun, but his moss-green eyes spoke of things he’d seen that she would never begin to understand. Without a doubt, he’d gotten hotter.
More dangerous.
She ran her gaze down his body, taking all of him in. His
biceps were huge and rock-hard, and she’d bet he sported a six-pack under that shirt of his, too. “You were busy for eight years?”
He lifted a shoulder. “It happens. But you were a hell of a lot easier to lure than I thought you’d be, all things considered.”
“You didn’t lure me here. I’m on a case for—”
“Mr. Washington.” He bowed. “Nice to meet you officially, Ms. Harris.”
“No. You didn’t.”
He laughed, the sound both annoyingly cocky and intensely attractive all at once. “Oh, I did. How’s it feel to be duped by an old friend?”
She forced her attention back to his face—and the conversation. When she locked gazes with him, she drew in a deep breath. While she’d been watching him, he’d been watching her. And now his eyes held a new darkness in them. Her insides quivered in response.
Shaking the unwelcome feelings off, she asked, “Wait. Are you saying you tricked me into coming here tonight?”
“Are you feeling okay? You’re really slow tonight.” He cocked a brown brow. “Are you really that surprised I could outthink you? I’ve done it before.”
She crossed her arms. “That’s up for debate.”
“Which part? The part about you being slow tonight, or the whole me-tricking-you-before thing?”
“The latter.” She stared him down, trying to regain her equilibrium in the face of the landslide that was Jake. “I’m never slow, and you know it.”
“Let me count the ways I’ve tricked you.” He held out his hand and counted off as he said, “The high school dance.
Graduation. The night I tied you to a tree and made you—” “Okay, okay. I get the point,” she cut in impatiently, her cheeks going hot. “That’s not what I meant, though. I meant
why would you want to lure me in?” “Why not?”
She canted her head. “You haven’t exactly been trying to get a hold of me since you went off to fight for freedom and country. You left your past in the past, though you swore you’d write to me once you got there. Obviously, I was part of that past you wanted to forget.”
It had been as if he was afraid if he ever contacted her again, he’d have to finish or something. Instead of risking it…he’d easily cut her out of his life.
It had hurt.
He glanced away and shifted his weight on his feet. “I didn’t want to forget you, Tara. I just …” He broke off, rubbing his jaw. “I was a kid. So were you.”
“I know.” She stared him down. “But you could have written. You broke your promise to me.”
Something flashed through his expression, but it left quickly. “You broke your promise to me, too. You’re still a thief.”
Not really. She wasn’t one of the bad guys anymore. “I don’t steal anymore, not like I used to. Now, I—”
“I know what you do,” he pointed out. “I hired you, remember? But stealing is stealing…and that’s what you’re doing.”
She clamped her mouth shut, stealing another glance at him. His brown hair was disheveled, his eyes were icy, and the hard line of his mouth told her more than words ever could how he felt about that. He was hot when he was angry.
“Are we really going to play catch-up in a house we’ve both broken into?”
He crossed his arms. His light green gaze slid down her body, and back up, sending shivers through her body. Freaking. Shivers. Over the years, he’d apparently developed a way of looking at her that fooled her mind into thinking he’d done more than simply look. “I didn’t break in. You did.”
“What? Wait a second. Are you a…?” She did another quick glance down his body, not letting herself get distracted this time. He wore a gun on his hip, and since he’d always liked to prepare for all eventualities, he more than likely had another strapped to his ankle. He also had something in his pocket.
A badge, maybe?
He rocked back on his heels. “Am I a what? I’m dying of anticipation.”
Ignoring him, she continued on her thought process. She didn’t think he’d become a cop. Even he couldn’t have gone that clean. Which left… “Let me guess. Private security?”
He laughed. “Your creepy Sherlock-ian powers of observation are still as strong as ever, I see.”
“Did you expect any different?”
He sighed. “No. It’s actually why I wanted to see you.” She had the insane urge to run her thumb over his chin
dimple, like she used to ache to do. She’d been too scared to make a move back then. Even on that night. Too much of a girl and not enough of a woman. But she wasn’t that little girl anymore.
Maybe he was counting on her still being that little girl, and he was hoping to take advantage of her childhood crush
to lure her into some scheme of his. She shook her head slightly and took a sideways step toward the entry. Time to walk away from him and all the troubles he’d brought to her door.
“Whatever you’re selling, I’m not buying.”
“Wait.” With one diagonal step, he blocked her escape with his hard, lean body. God, when had he gotten so freaking big? “We need to talk, Tara.”
She frowned at him, irritated at his insistence despite the way her pulse leaped at his proximity. “Not in here. You want to talk? Come with me. You’ll have my undivided attention outside of this house.”
“We’ll be fine here. The owner won’t be back until tomorrow morning.” He dragged his fingers through his brown hair, making it stand on end. “We’re quite alone, and you’re not going anywhere without hearing me out first.”
“Fine.” Her temper rose, but she forced herself to remain calm. Outwardly, at least. “What do you want?”
He curled his hands into fists. “I need your help with a project.”
She laughed. Did he really think she would pick up where they left off? Happily go on another mission with him, acting as his sidekick? Hell no. She wasn’t anyone’s helper anymore. She worked alone. “I’m not interested. We’re not even friends anymore, let alone thieving buddies. And I don’t work with men I don’t trust. Remember?”
His jaw tightened. He was so uptight and wound up. When had he become so serious? “Yeah, but you have to help me anyway. I’m not asking you. I’m telling you.”
No one told her what to do anymore, but she’d play along to get more information out of him. She fought back the
snappy remark that flew to her tongue at his condescending attitude, trying to act as if she weren’t alarmed in the slightest by his reappearance in her life. “I can’t think of a possible reason why I would want to help you.”
He stared her down with a hard, stony glint in his stare. “Because you don’t have a choice.”
“I always have a choice.” She took a step to the left, focusing on the door. Her heart beat a rapid staccato. “And I choose to walk away from you right now.”
He stepped in her way. Again. “Okay, you’re right. You do have a choice.”
“I know I do. Now if you’ll excuse me…” She scooted to his left, but he blocked her for the millionth time. Anger surged in her veins, finally killing off any lingering lust she’d been feeling earlier. She fought the urge to throat-punch him. Barely. “I’m not afraid to kick you in the nuts. Get. Out. Of. My. Way.”
He pulled out an iPhone, not even slightly concerned about the safety of his nuts, and started punching in his pass code. “Sorry. No can do. Now…about those choices. Here are yours. While you were busy watching the people leaving the house, I was busy watching you.” He stopped with his fingers hovering over the screen and his gaze locked on her. “And you can bet your ass that I have a video feed of you breaking and entering this house. Trust me. I got a clear shot of your face.”
No. Just…no.
This couldn’t be happening.
“Show me the proof,” she snapped, her stomach roiling.
If he’d caught her…she was screwed. “Where’s the footage?” He turned the phone her way, the video of her breaking
in already playing on the screen. When she looked directly at the hidden camera, giving him the perfect view of her face, her heart quickened so fast it hurt. “Seriously? You’re going to narc on me?”
“Yes. I am. Unless…” He returned her stare, and the heat of his stare scorched into her. But on top of that, she could read a hesitance in his gaze. Maybe even a little bit of shame, too. “…you help me.”
She pressed her lips together. “Screw you. I can’t believe you’re doing this to me.”
“I don’t have a choice, unlike you. You will do exactly what I tell you to do, or go to jail for your crimes. Your choice.”
Son of a bitch.
My Thoughts
Tara Harris is a very spirited and principled character who is the making of this emotionally charged tale.  It is her part in the story, that makes the most sense plot-wise.  Though Jake makes a very hunky emotional touchstone with his story of lost love and being wounded.  His gruff and closed manner and dominant attitude in bed seems a little overdone, and clashes wildly with the "take no prisoners" style of his  lady love.

There also seems to be a rather pronounced disconnect between the urgency of Tara finding the information that will save her, and she and Jake spending most of their time together in sexier ways.
As things between the pair heat up, the initial reason for them being together seems to almost become an after thought.

All in all this is a sweet, quick, read.  The plot could use a good tweaking, but the chemistry between Tara and Jake is great.

HFVBT Presents: Shadow On The Highway

Please join Deborah Swift as she tours the blogosphere with HF Virtual Book Tours for Shadow on the Highway (The Highway Trilogy, Book One), from August 25-September 15, and enter to win your own copy!

01_Shadow on the Highway
Publication Date: July 15, 2014
Endeavor Press
Formats: eBook, Paperback; 200P

Series: The Highway Trilogy
Genre: Historical Fiction/YA (14+)

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May 1651. England has been in the midst of a civil war for nearly ten years. The country has been torn in two, and the King is getting ready to make his last stand against Cromwell’s New Model Army.

Abigail Chaplin, a young mute girl, has lost her father to the parliamentarian cause. But with her family now in reduced circumstances, she is forced to work as a servant at a royalist household - the estate of Lady Katherine Fanshawe.

Abi is soon caught up in a web of sinister secrets which surround the Fanshawe estate. The most curious of which is the disappearance of Lady Katherine late at night.

Why are her husband’s clothes worn and muddy even though he hasn’t been home for weeks? How is she stealing out of the house late at night when her room is being guarded? And what is her involvement with the robberies being committed by the mysterious Shadow on the Highway?

‘Shadow On The Highway’ is based on the life and legend of Lady Katherine Fanshawe, the highwaywoman, sometimes known as ‘The Wicked Lady’. It is the first book in ‘The Highway Trilogy’.

Praise for Deborah Swift

"There is no greater compliment than 'Give me more!'" - Author Susanna Gregory

"realistic dialogue, an author’s obvious love for history, and characters that leap off the pages" - Romance Reviews Today

"genuinely engrossing… with characters you can get interested in" - The Mum Website

Buy the Book

Amazon US
Amazon UK

My Thoughts
This book is truly a case of "What the mistress doesn't know...the servants will never tell her."
The story of young Abigail, and her time of service to Lady Katherine Fanshawe,
is engrossing from word one.
While it is true that Abigail's being deaf does serve to tie one to her in a rather protective fashion early in the read; Abigail soon proves herself so capable of surmounting the challenges put before her, that her deafness becomes little more than a detail.

What does stand out however, the oppressed nature of Lady Katherine's existence.  Living as little more than a well kept prisoner, and in constant fear of the return of her husband and sadistic father-in-law.  Katherine cuts quite the sympathetic figure in spite of her escapades and "lady of the manor" airs.
It is no wonder that when the opportunity is afforded her to masquerade as Kate, a simple ladie's maid; she all but jumps at the chance.

As much as her deception and the resulting romantic entanglement with Abigail's brother, Ralph, is painful to watch.  It is equally as gratifying to see Kate/Katherine take her place in the fight of the common man.
When one later learns that Lady Katherine, has herself been the victim of the unscrupulous practices of her husband's hired overseer, Mr. Grice, the point that tyranny is no respecter of person, is most eloquently made.

This book is a wonderful look into the life of one young woman.  Part drama, part edge of your seat action, and part historical hodgepodge.  Shadow On The Highway is a read that is sure to entertain, intrigue, and inspire.

About The Author

Deborah SwiftDeborah Swift used to work in the theatre and at the BBC as a set and costume designer, before studying for an MA in Creative Writing in 2007. She lives in a beautiful area of Lancashire near the Lake District National Park. She is the author of The Lady’s Slipper and is a member of the Historical Writers Association, the Historical Novel Society, and the Romantic Novelists Association.

For more information, please visit Deborah’s website. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Shadow on the Highway Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, August 25
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Tuesday, August 26
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Book Blast at Princess of Eboli

Wednesday, August 27
Guest Post at Reading the Past
Book Blast at Broken Teepee

Thursday, August 28
Review at WTF Are You Reading?
Book Blast at Peeking Between the Pages

Friday, August 29
Book Blast at Passages to the Past
Book Blast at What Is That Book About

Monday, September 1
Review at The Maiden's Court
Book Blast at Reading Lark

Tuesday, September 2
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, September 3
Review at A Bookish Affair

Friday, September 5
Book Blast at Curling Up By the Fire

Saturday, September 6
Book Blast at A Book Geek

Monday, September 8
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Review at Historical Fiction Obsession

Tuesday, September 9
Review at Brooke Blogs
Book Blast at CelticLady's Reviews

Wednesday, September 10
Review at Unabridged Chick
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Thursday, September 11
Review & Guest Post at Just One More Chapter
Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick
Book Blast at Luxury Reading

Friday, September 12
Review at The Musings of ALMYBNENR
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Monday, September 15
Review at Historical Tapestry
Book Blast at A Bibliophile's Reverie


To win a Paperback or eBook of Shadow on the Highway please complete the Rafflecopter giveaway form below. Five copies of each are up for grabs. Giveaway is open internationally.

Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on September 15th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
Winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter on September 16th and notified via email.
Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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Learn Unforgetable Lessons In Love From "Taming His Tutor"

Taming His TutorTitle:  Taming His Tutor
Author:  Natalie Anderson
Format:  ERC
Length:  250 pages
Publisher:  Entangled/Brazen
Rating:  4 Stars

 Computer guru Abbi Hayes needs to kick her sex life into overdrive—and she’s designing the perfect App to make it happen. Thanks to all of the self-help bedroom tips she’s accumulating, she’ll be able to go from boring and passive to own-him-now vixen with a couple of swipes of a touch screen. And when former NBA basketball star Joe Fuller offers to help her test out her ‘product,’ how can she say no?

Joe can’t quite believe this temptress-in-training is his formerly shy, geeky ex-math tutor. If Abbi wants to discover her inner vamp, he’ll happily be her how-to guide. But it only takes few face-to-face lessons to realize that underneath the talk, there’s a truly passionate woman begging to be claimed by someone strong. Someone like him.  -Goodreads

Maybe it’s time to teach his former teen fantasy a few tricks of his own…

Excerpt from
Taming His Tutor
by Natalie Anderson
Copyright © 2014 by Natalie Anderson. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Chapter One
The ‘vixen’ is irresistible to men. Full of allure, culture, mystery, she’s utterly magnetic. With some practice you can be—”
Oblivious to the people on the sidewalk beside her, Abbi Hayes touched the forward arrow on her cell. She had the definitions down already; she wanted the sexual nitty- gritty—what moves she needed to make a man’s eyes squeeze tight as he shouted with pleasure, all control abandoned as a cataclysmic orgasm shafted through him. How she could be the best he’d ever had
Okay, it wasn’t her ultimate ambition in life, but it was the one currently dominating her thoughts, because being dumped hurt. Especially over something as personal as sexual performance. Her ex Scott had awarded her the “Most Boring in Bed” title as his parting gift. She told herself he
was just being a jerk, but the doubts had niggled. And then the veracity of his words had been proven by her first post- breakup one-night stand. Her only one-night stand. Disaster was too mild a word for that encounter.
Abbi hated performing poorly in any aspect of her life, but this?
So private. So crushing.
But she was on it. As with any other area in her life, her tried and tested formula for improvement was to research extensively, then put together and present her counterargument. She refused to fail again. Never again.
Except beneath her fighting talk, fear curdled. How exactly was she going to magic up some kind of inner sexual power? Like, really?
Research, that was the way.
And right now, Sasha Fox, X-rated silver-screen icon and author of the best-selling e-book Foxy Files, was on hand, or rather in Abbi’s ear, instructing her in some of the more risqué skills she wanted to acquire.
Abbi upped the volume as she walked the last few minutes from the cable car to her office.
Discovering his most erogenous zones. These are his nine instant-response hot spots. Touch him in any of these places and I guarantee he’ll—”
This was more like it. Abbi picked up her pace, fitting in a quick tightening of her pelvic floor muscles as she started to cross the road with barely a glance either way. She wanted to learn at least one useful maneuver before spending the day on the IT upgrade—though her boss wouldn’t mind her keeping the audiobook on as it was a Saturday. The vixen research had a double-pronged purpose anyway. Personal
up-skilling aside, she was building a value-added app for Gloss, the women’s lifestyle magazine she was IT manager for. It had to be ready for the magazine’s big third birthday bash just under a fortnight away. The app was slated to be a key giveaway at the A-list-only event. Ironic, given those A-listers were hardly going to be in need of the advice, but Abbi hoped her app would go beyond being a party favor. Once available for download, it’d be a click-by-click guide for the shy, single girl on how to get her guy—enabling even the most awkward woman to garner some positive male attention. Not just sex tips, but dress tips, self-confidence tips, exercise tips…
But sure, it was the sex tips Abbi was working on first.
As Ms. Fox explained the sensitive areas on a man’s neck, Abbi pondered a catchy app name the marketing bods would love—“Vixenator” wasn’t it.
Entice? Ensnare? Ensla
A sudden blaring sound drowned out the sex star’s sultry tones, and in the same second someone seized Abbi’s upper arm—hard. In a heartbeat she was hauled the last few paces over the road. Gasping, she tried to run, but hell—were her feet actually touching the ground?
“Hey!” Startled, Abbi squeaked as she bumped hard against one very large, immovable object. She stumbled up onto the sidewalk, regaining balance. One earbud fell as she quickly twisted to pull her arm free from that large, strong grip. “What are—”
“Honey, you’re gonna land your sweet ass in a whole lotta trouble if you don’t start paying attention to your surroundings.”
Land her what in—what?
Abbi stared up at the guy who’d called her out. Stunned, breathless, she lost brainpower the second her gaze locked on his. It didn’t help that in the microsecond it took to look all the way up to his eyes, she absorbed his astounding particulars. Ultra-tall, ultra-broad shoulders, ultra-gorgeous…the man had “superathlete” stamped all over him. He’d just single-handedly, literally, yanked her three meters and wasn’t batting an eyelid…
Oh, those eyes. They gleamed like emeralds, sucking her in. The guy was totally fanfic worthy.
“What’s with the jaywalking?” he asked, a smile softening his rapid speech. “You nearly got yourself hit. You didn’t hear that guy slam on the brakes? The horn?”
Abbi blinked. Horn?
Do not look down. Do not look down and check him out again. Not his neck or his chest or his…horn.
Her damn peripheral vision kept updating her anyway. Blue jeans. Faded red tee. Tan on that lickable neck. Thick dark hair, a little on the long side. Stubble. That smile—the sort that made a woman’s toes curl with sexual awareness. And she couldn’t help but wonder if that horn would be as ultra as the rest of him?
But as Abbi oh-so-determinedly focused on his green eyes, recognition hit.
She knew him.
Oh. My. Where had her brain been hiding?
In the same instant, he frowned. His head tilted as he
looked even more intently at her. “Don’t I know you…?” Where was the rock to go crawl behind when you needed it? Abbi’s heart sank. Most of her classmates would never recognize her—not because of some dumb new dress, but
because they’d never bothered to look at her at school long enough to remember her now. Dispiritedly she couldn’t help starting a mental count…
One, tw
“Abigail Hayes.” He pointed at her.
She couldn’t believe he’d figured it so quick.
“Abigail ‘Math Champ’ Hayes,” he clarified, blinking a
couple of times.
Then his smile reappeared, bigger, more irresistible—
the smile that had always made her toes curl back in high school.
“Hello Joe ‘Basketball Champ’ Fuller,” she replied, amazed she sounded as collected as she did. Because this was Joe “So Freaking Sexy” Fuller, and he was even more freaking sexy now that he was a decade older and had fully filled out the potential of that height and those shoulders.
Then again, rumor had it he’d been fulfilling fantasies every which way back in high school, too. The crude stories the cool girls like Elle Manning had shared when they thought no one was around to hear? Given Abbi had been “no one,” she’d overheard Elle tell how huge he was and how she’d nearly choked going down on him.
Elle Manning had been one of many girls who’d hit their knees for Joe Fuller, and she’d let her friends know just how much stamina he had. One by one they’d lined up, eager to find it all out for themselves.
Abbi’s only surge of popularity at school had been three months prior, when she’d had to tutor new-to-school Joe in the math he’d missed out on because his revolving-door foster home placements had meant too many schools in too short of a time.
It had taken only six sessions for him to catch up. Joe Fuller wasn’t stupid.
Elle and her gang had ditched Abbi the second they realized she had no insider info to offer. It wasn’t like she and Joe ever talked anything other than math. He’d been utterly focused on coming to grips with equations, definitely not with getting a grip on her. Not that she blamed him. Back then she’d worn a sloppy scarf-and-sweater combo, had braces on her teeth, and had hidden behind her overlong bangs. With the math brilliance bit, she’d hit all the nerd- alert buttons.
She’d been invisible.
And within weeks he’d had the likes of Elle to amuse himself with.
So yeah, Abbi was stunned he’d recognized her at all today. But he seemed equally stunned.
“What’ve you been doing this last decade?” He faced her square-on in the middle of the sidewalk, apparently not giving a damn that someone might want to pass. He just asked the question, real casual, in that that low-slung, sexy way. “You look really great.”
Oh. She remembered. She’d followed the dress tips of her own app and had her clothing made-to-measure. Her workmate Nadia had sent her to her favorite seamstress a month ago. Today was the first day Abbi had braved wearing one of the dresses she’d had made. She’d wanted to get over how self-conscious she felt wearing it and had figured that a Saturday was the perfect day to try as she was less likely to see someone she knew. She’d figured wrong. And while the dress covered—up to her collarbones, down to just below her knee, with three-quarter-length sleeves—it clung to her
  1. They were the real reason she needed personalized
  2. “Thanks,” she answered, quickly clearing her throat to
be able to add, “You too.”
That was no mere courtesy response. He did look great.
Fucking great. He always had. And she’d always been lost for words around him. Words other than math instruction that is. Uh-huh, she was that pathetic.
“It’s been a helluva long time,” he said, still not moving from his place bang in the middle of the path.
“Yeah.” Nine years since they’d spoken, though less since she’d seen him. But he didn’t need to know about the couple of times she’d been in the crowd to watch him play basketball. NBA stars had enough groupies, right? Given Joe had been young, hot, and successful girls-wise before he hit the big time, he’d surely had more than his fair share. He’d gone to college on a sports scholarship, only to leave at the end of the first year to go into the draft. He’d been a first-round pick and catapulted into the millionaire bracket just like that.
“You’re living here?” he asked.
“Yeah,” she muttered. In central San Francisco. A while away from the refined, leafy suburb where they’d been at school, but this city was her home now. She nodded, pulled herself together enough to answer more. “Working down the street.”
“On a Saturday?”
Was he teasing or pitying? She lifted her chin. “Not so bad—I like my job. You?”
“Love it. Work all the time,” he answered with an
amused glint—and genuine tone.
That made her smile. “Even Saturdays?”
“And Sundays.” He nodded piously. “You impressed?” “No.” She chuckled. “So what are you working at all the
“I’ve got a fitness center, in the process of opening
It figured he’d still be doing something mega-sporty
despite his NBA career ending after the hideous on-court accident that broke his leg.
“You’re not still playing?” she asked, wincing as her voice skidded into husky territory. He looked it—fit enough to run back-to-back marathons, strong enough to scoop her up without breaking into a sweat. Agile enough to—
“Playing?” His voice dropped in a playful imitation of hers. But his expression was more than playful, it was wicked. Abbi’s throat closed. Oh hell, she hadn’t meant it like that. Flustered, she stared up at him, lost in his intense expression. How could she say anything more when he looked at her like that? Right into her eyes, as if he could see through to the way her brain was frying in his presence?
“You really do look amazing,” he murmured.
Oh, the guy knew his power. And relished it.
Abbi swallowed hard. Every article she’d read so
far talked about confidence being key. Ha. Cultivating confidence wasn’t easy when your bedroom style had been shredded. But she couldn’t stand here floundering like some pathetic fish on a hook. Damn it, she did have some assets, even if she knew they couldn’t be relied on for anything but initial attention. Maybe she ought to try the “fake it ’til you make it” tip?
She pulled her shoulders back, letting her curves thrust out a little more, and tried to engage her supposedly genius brain. Surely she could act a part for a minute? It wasn’t like she was going to see him again anytime soon. If she fluffed it, it wouldn’t matter, right?
He shook his head slowly, his eyes still glued to hers. “I think it’s your hair—”
“It’s the pole dancing,” she cut him off. Half sassy, half piqued. She might as well go wholly out there.
His entire body snapped, he lifted another inch in height, his biceps bunched, and now those melt-me emerald eyes sharpened to lasers. His gaze dropped to her chest before it quickly flickered back to her face. “That’s what you’ve been doing?”
Pleasure rippled within her at his reaction. “Best form of exercise I’ve found.”
His brows lifted and he slowly shook his head. “Second best,” he said softly.
“To basketball?”
That had been the guy’s number one priority. Nothing came before the game. Certainly not relationships. That’d meant misery for all the girls he’d played at school.
He paused, his lips curving. “I like to basket some balls, sure.”
His answer was pure auditory tease. Yeah, he was the same cocky player and slayer, only even more potent what with the years of experience.
“You always liked to play any chance you got,” she said.
“Whereas you were the more cerebral type back then.” He angled his head, studying her all the more intently—as impossible as that felt. “But now you’re all geared up for the
She let her brows lift a little in a mirror of the teasing
look he’d given her just before. “Seems so.”
Was she actually doing it? Talking flirty with a guy for
the first time in her life? With the guy who worked hard and—rumor had it—screwed harder than anyone she’d ever known?
He stepped closer. “How physical?” he asked.
Her gaze was locked in his. Ensnared. He was so damn tall. Suddenly her mind absolutely blanked. She couldn’t think, speak, move.
She gazed up at him. His words hit her like bullets over the rushing thud of her heart.
“We’re talking sweaty?” he asked, soft but so lethal. “Fast?” He moved another step closer. “Rough?”
Ooookaaay. Uh. Yeeeeaah.
She had to tilt her chin higher to keep her focus on him. The cool morning breeze brushed her neck. A shiver whispered down her spine. She lowered her gaze a few inches to his mouth. His wide, full lips were ripe for nipping.
“How hard do you like things to get, Abigail?”
“I—” Can’t think.
She touched her tongue to her dry-as-dust lips. Her
nipples were harder than titanium right now, and frankly hurt. They needed soothing to take the ache away. Some kind of hot, wet soothing. She stared some more at his mouth. Touched her tongue again to her lips without thinking, only wanting to feel.
“Excuse me. Sorry.” A random pedestrian jostled past.
Dazed, Abbi briefly glanced after the passerby; actually, there were three of them, taking up all the sidewalk…
Finally she snapped out of that insane sensual haze.
She looked back at Joe, stunned again as she absorbed her own reaction. Since when did she want like this? So fast and hot and crazy. She’d never felt this for Scott. Never ached to rip his clothes off and rub herself against his abs—and below. Certainly not within five seconds of laying eyes on him. She’d never wanted to press herself forward like some kind of sexual offering. This total insta-lust wasn’t normal, was it?
She froze. Maybe it was? Maybe this was why Scott had said sex with her had sucked? Because she’d never wanted him like this?
“How hard do you want me to get?”
Joe’s words ricocheted through her body, stoking the fire that had so swiftly flared. Her focus shot back to his eyes. She felt branded. From skin through to bone, desire burned. But she was paralyzed—her brain, body, every bit of her.
Too hot. Too crazy.
Damn. She hated being unable to think. Hated being rendered speechless. It rarely happened; she rarely let it happen. Because it wasn’t her—she wasn’t literally dumb in this way.
“You shouldn’t say things like that,” she muttered jerkily. Why had she thought talking sexy would be a good idea? Too much. Too soon. She was on a learner’s license—she shouldn’t be trying to drive a Ferrari.
He laughed. “You started it.” Amusement danced in his face—tangoing with something a touch more sinful. “We’re both adults. No age of consent issues now.”
Her jaw dropped. As if there’d been any age of consent
issues back then. She might have been ten months younger than the rest of her class, but he’d never noticed her like that. “Anyway.” He winked at her. “What’s so fascinating you
don’t stop to look for traffic?”
Before she could stop him, he picked up the earbud
hanging down over her breasts.
With her brain still frozen and her body still on lockdown,
she didn’t even think to hit the pause icon. Instead she tuned in—Sasha Fox had been instructing this whole time.
The easiest access spots are above the neck. Start with his lips, because the nerve endings are very sensitive there. Rub your nipple between them but ban him from sucking or licking. He’ll be craving a taste in seconds—”
My Thoughts
As head if IT for the women's magazine Gloss, it is very safe to say that Abbi Hayes knows her way around a hard drive.
What becomes more than apparent to our gigabyte guru, when trying to build an app for the lifestyle savvy reader.  Is that she has a lot to learn when it comes to tech support of a sexual sort.
Enter Joe Fuller, former NBA basketball star and high school crush.
According to Joe, the tutoring help that Abbi gave him in high school deserves to be paid back with six sexy lessons.

Abbi and Joe's story is very light-hearted and fun, but gets off to a rather awkward start due to the fact that:
1.  Abbi reads just a little too old, driven, and smart to play the ingenue.
2. Joe seems to be trying so hard to get Abbi to like him that he gets in his own way.

It is not until we dispense with all the unnecessary foreplay that is the first quarter of the read, that the magic happens.  This is when Joe and Abbi calm down and fire up.
The chemistry between these two is off the charts, and when you couple that with the easy banter and fun scenarios in which the two find themselves; the read is fabulous.

Of course, there is some well placed and well played drama at story's end.  Just enough to keep the heart a flutter.  
If you are in the mood for a fun and flirty passion party, than this read will definitely make the grade.

"The Duke of Snow and Apples" Offers Romance With a Bite of Fairy

The Duke of Snow and Apples
Title:  The Duke of Snow and Apples
Author:  Elizabeth Vail
Format:  ERC
Length:  250 pages
Publisher:  Entangled/Select
Rating:  5 Stars

Frederick Snow, first footman, is the perfect servant: efficient, hardworking, and completely bereft of emotion. Unbeknownst to his employers, he’s the lost Duke of Snowmont, on the run from a suspicious stepfather and a powerful magic he can only control by burying his passions beneath his frosty demeanor. He's managed to hide behind his carefully ordered life until an impertinent miss arrives and challenges everything he thought he wanted.

If Charlotte Erlwood wants to land a wealthy, titled husband at her great aunt’s house party, she has to stop losing her temper – especially with inordinately handsome footmen. Perhaps if she recruits Frederick for her matrimonial schemes, she'll be able to direct her attention toward suitable single noblemen and away from inappropriate dalliances. But Frederick’s frigid control is no match for Charlotte’s irrepressible spirit, and her passionate kiss could summon the darker side of his magic...or wake his heart from its frozen sleep.  -Goodreads

Excerpt from
The Duke of Snow and Apples
by Elizabeth Vail
Copyright © 2014 by Elizabeth Vail. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Chapter One
Charmant Park, Allmarch
20th Day of the month of Soil, year 556 after the fey
“Time is short, Freddy, and you’re the only man who can help us.”
Frederick Snow, standing to attention before Mr. Lutter’s desk, gave a brusque nod.
“Do you know how long her ladyship has been waiting for this day? Ten years. Too long, my boy.” Mr. Lutter looked up, his eyes full of intent. “This is your task now. You are our first, our best, and I expect you to act like it.”
Frederick nodded again. Trepidation trembled somewhere in the back of his throat, but he did not let it show on his face. “I will, sir.”
“Very good.” With a sigh, the portly house steward abandoned his melodramatic air and collapsed back into his seat, causing the wood to creak in protest. “One of these
days her ladyship’s house parties will be the death of me.” Normally the house steward ruled justly over an ordered kingdom of paper, leather, dust, and glass, but today his kingdom looked to Frederick like it had undergone a very messy and disorganized coup. His desk overflowed with paperwork and open ledgers, and his every movement threatened to send another few sheets fluttering to the floor. Here and there the feathered end of a lost quill stuck out
from the pile like a pagan burial marker.
“Cook’s threatened to quit twice already, and if our
Salaman thinks I haven’t noticed how much gin he imbibes before summoning salamanders to heat the extra guest rooms, then he’s very much mistaken.”
“Of course,” said Frederick. He understood the language of work, the steady cadence of labor that thrummed in the calloused palms of his hands and the tense cords of his back.
“Now that her ladyship’s cherished grandniece, Miss Erlwood, has decided to attend—her first visit after a very long absence—Lady Balrumple wants to ensure the girl receives the utmost in service and care. This includes a personal footman assigned to her side. We need our very best footman, and that would be you.”
What could Frederick do other than nod? His scalp itched under his powdered white wig.
Mr. Lutter paused. “This is a very great responsibility. I don’t think I need to tell you how much we’ve appreciated your years of service, so just let me say that patience and hard work are always rewarded at Charmant Park.”
Frederick nodded again, his chin brushing against the folds of a cravat that suddenly seemed tighter than usual. When Mr. Lutter looked at him, he might see a young man
of five-and-twenty eager to move out of livery and boot polish and into the upper responsibilities over silver and plate. How could Frederick convince him otherwise? Livery was simpler. Frederick preferred simpler.
Before Mr. Lutter could add anything further, someone tapped at the door. It opened to reveal the small figure of the steward’s room footman, who darted in and handed a sealed note to Mr. Lutter. “It came by sylph, sir.”
“Excellent!” Mr. Lutter cried. He opened and scanned the slip of paper. “Miss Charlotte Erlwood has arrived at the coaching inn.”

Frederick leapt off the footman’s platform at the back of the carriage after it pulled to a stop outside the Fire and Feather inn. Once inside the snug building, he paused to absorb the wine-spiced warmth before proceeding to the inn’s tidy parlor.
Miss Charlotte Erlwood, her ladyship’s grandniece, perched in an armchair by the fire, emanating waves of affront like a princess left in a pigsty. She wore a muted, dove-colored pelisse and her honey-brown hair pulled into a tight knot at the back of her head. On a small table in front of her lay the remains of a small luncheon and an uneaten apple. Behind her, an exasperated-looking manservant stood at attention.
Upon Frederick’s arrival, she turned toward him, revealing a pinched mouth and a pair of thundercloud eyebrows riding low over narrowed eyes. She scanned him from the top of his wigged head to the bottom of his boots,
and her frowning lips stretched and tightened, her brows descended lower, and a slight blush reddened her cheeks.
She looked angry.
She looked spoiled.
She looks in need of a good teasing. Somewhat surprised
with the mischievous turn of his thoughts, Frederick squashed it and kept his face neutral, his mouth set in a straight line.
“Miss Charlotte Erlwood?”
“Oh no.” She shook her head. “No, not you.”
Frederick blinked. “I beg your pardon?”
“You’re not here for me. You’re here for somebody else.” “Are you not Miss Charlotte Erlwood?”
The girl gave a hard, bitter laugh. “Of course you’re here
for me. I don’t know why I expected any different.”
An old, moth-eaten shade of indignation rose up in Frederick’s mind, a remnant from when he still felt insulted
by anything. “Have I done something to displease you?” Charlotte released a melodramatic sigh. “You’re blue.” “I beg your pardon?”
“Look at you!” she said, waving an arm at his livery.
“Blue coat, blue jacket, yellow waistcoat. You’re positively sunny. A happy, sunny bluebird, all sparkling and cheerful. Does nobody in Allmarch care how I feel?”
Frederick’s well of rational responses ran dry. Behind Charlotte, her manservant shrugged.
Charlotte seemed to take his silence as agreement, and jabbed an accusing finger out the window, at a picturesque view of Charmant village shops in the chill autumn sunlight. “Look out there! Isn’t it the most beautiful day we’ve had in Soil month? Today, of all days! It’s unfair. It’s unseemly.
“Pardon me, miss, but what would be seemly?”
“A rainstorm,” she said. “A choking blizzard that keeps everyone shivering at home in their beds. Clouds, gloominess, something that isn’t bloody sunny!”
That mischievous quiver at the back of his mind tickled him, and he caught himself before he uttered an apology for the weather’s rudeness.
“Your carriage is ready,” he said.
“I gathered that,” she said, with poor grace.
This was the long-lost grandniece Lady Balrumple was
excited to see? The girl treated a visit to her loving relation with all the excitement of a tooth-pulling.
Miss Charlotte rose, pocketed her apple, and dismissed her manservant. After Frederick led her outside and handed her into the carriage, he signaled to Shipley, the coachman, that he needed help with the lady’s luggage. Shipley slid a glance over his shoulder at Miss Charlotte and rolled his eyes, and Frederick almost smiled. Almost. He’d trained himself too well to give into emotions around his betters.
When Shipley and Frederick returned from the inn carrying the last heavy trunk, they discovered Charlotte standing beside the carriage, favoring them once again with her unpleasant mood. She held her apple, now with a crisp, white bite taken out of it, and passed it from hand to hand.
“Tell me,” she said to Shipley. “How does it look like the weather will fare?”
“Last time we summoned the sylphs, the wind-sprites said we’s to have fine weather all week,” said the coachman, cheerful and oblivious. “Uncommon fine. Clear and sunny.”
Charlotte’s hands clenched, her fingernails cutting pale half-moons into the apple’s red peel. Frederick’s throat tightened—not from stress, but rather an urge to laugh. He
coughed instead, hoping the girl wouldn’t notice.
As he turned back to help secure the last of the luggage, something hard and round struck the back of his head and bounced to the ground. Pain blossomed at the base of his skull. Frederick lost his grip on the trunk, and dropped it
with a heavy thunk.
He whirled around, but there was no one by the carriage
except for Miss Charlotte. Her hands dangled nervously at her sides while she stared off in another direction, wearing an expression of innocence marred by a fiery blush.
He should have kept his head down and said nothing. Upperfolk were entitled to whims and fancy. However, the combination of the schooled blankness of Miss Charlotte’s face and the pain throbbing at the back of his head sent something hot and misguided up and out of his throat.
“Did you just hit me with a rock?”
“No,” said Charlotte, avoiding his eyes.
“Did you just hit me with a rock?”
“You hit me with a rock!”
“It wasn’t a rock!” Charlotte brought her wandering
gaze back to his. Fortifying herself with a haughty sniff, she said, “I hit you with an apple.”
Sure enough, a few feet away lay a dusty, browning apple, significantly bruised on one side.
After an awkward pause, she sniffed again and held out her hand. “I would like to get back into the carriage now.”
Wordlessly, thanks to a complete lack of understanding rather than proper footman etiquette, Frederick took Charlotte’s hand and helped her up into the carriage. As she settled in on the squabs, she sniffed again. Her nose was red.
Funny how Frederick had missed that before.
“Are you in need of a handkerchief?” he asked.
“No, thank you.” She produced one from her reticule, a
crumpled, damp square of fabric. Sniff.
Guilt jabbed, sharp and surprising, behind his rib cage. “May I get you anything? A blanket? A hot salamander-
“A salamander-bottle, if you please.”
Frederick went around to the boot and gingerly took
out a sealed earthenware jar. With a few sharp jerks, he shook it, and felt the vibrations inside the jug as the tiny fire-elementals quivered to wakefulness, and the jar grew warm in his hands.
As Frederick went back around the side of the carriage, a fancy struck him. Normally, his professional duty was to dodge fancy and sentiment and maintain a respectful demeanor. Perhaps the blow from that apple had slowed his instincts, for one such fancy caught him in the heart, making the palms of his hands itch and an unprofessional idea take root in his brain.
He knocked on the door of the carriage and helped settle the hot salamander-bottle under Charlotte’s feet. Then he fished into his pocket and deposited a large, grayish-brown stone in her lap.
Charlotte stared.
“Should it please you to hit me with something harder,” said Frederick.
After a long pause, Charlotte said, “Thank you—it would have been most inconvenient to bend down and pick up one myself. The road is so dusty.”
And then she laughed.
It was like watching a military fortress open its gates at the end of a long and bitter war, the portcullis rising, windows opening, light and air and music leaking out. Charlotte’s thundercloud eyebrows flew upward, leaving her wide eyes, the color of warm brandy, sparkling and undefended. Her lips, released from their tight frown, curled naturally up at the edges like old paper. Her laugh, melodic and surprisingly loud, overpowered the carriage’s cramped interior.
The change in Charlotte’s appearance struck Frederick into stillness, even as long-ignored, dusty sections of his heart started squirming and shifting, woken into movement. Frederick’s gaze dropped to her lips and noticed one corner quirked up higher than the other. He felt a surprising clench in his gut as his mind narrowed down to the single, focused thought that if he kissed that one corner enough it would shift back in place and behave… The idea sent ribbons of heat and music spiraling into his brain to burn behind his eyes.
“Are we all right to go, then?” Shipley called.
Frederick jerked up and caught Charlotte’s glance for a startled instant, and he saw colors about her head, the last vestiges of angry red, sad violet, and a glimmer of cheerful green, before he yanked his gaze away, appalled. He scrunched his eyes shut, cutting off the flow of his power. He hadn’t meant to let it out.
Pull it back, he willed. Pull it all back. He imagined snow and cold and silence, and he tried to distract himself with the immediately physical—the irritating weight of his wig, the pull of his gloves, the crunch of dead leaves beneath his boot. With a coldly professional demeanor, he bowed to Miss Charlotte and closed the carriage door. He let the
dangerously tempting heat of his power draw back from his eyes, and he slowly regained control.
“You all right?” asked the coachman.
“I’m fine.” Frederick clambered back onto the footman’s platform at the back of the coach, letting the cold autumn wind wash over him, giving him a physical shiver to match the quivering in his gut. Careless, stupid, what was he doing? Dropping his guard in front of a girl, a spoiled-fruit-throwing miss, a woman he barely knew. A girl whom he would have to shadow for the rest of the house party, waiting on her every whim.
It was going to be a very long week.

My Thoughts
It all starts with an apple...
Umm...O.K.  Let me clarify that.
An apple thrown by one very cheeky Lady Charlotte Erlwood, at the person of her very reserved footman, Fredrick Snow.

The Duke of Snow and Apples is a wonderful tale that is far less romance, and so much more about fantasy and fairy.  Young love and wedding and bedding take a definite, and very welcome back seat to auric colors, spells, and other gifts of the Fae that authoress Elizabeth Vail, pulls from her imaginative arsenal.

Though the attraction between the young gentle-woman and her handsome help is clear from the start; there is a very concerted effort made to keep things businesslike between the upper and lower stairs.  In fact, one could say that there is a rather pronounced Downtown Abbey feel to this book.
As one ventures farther into the story, and the chemistry, between Charlotte, and her hidden royal becomes more and more apparent.  (Still no hot and heavy sex action!)  This it seems is all about her fire magic calling to his ice.  The intensity of their secret relationship, his secret Dukedom, and their shared magical bond is enough to have readers tearing hair out for a conclusion.

Not to worry...there is one, and it is more than fit for the classic fairytale to which it pays homage.
This is a very fresh and fanciful approach to the adult fairytale.  One that doesn't take the sexy way out, but relies instead on the same elements of story and fantasy that make tales appealing to younger readers.  This book is a wonderful escape into fantasy for the adult who wonders if there is still any magic left in the "happily  every after" kiss.

"Just Call My Name" Is A Story That Is Hard To Put Down

Just Call My Name (I'll Be There #2)Title:  Just Call My Name
Author:  Holly Goldberg Sloan
Format:  ERC
Length:  352 pages
Publisher:  Little Brown & Co. BFYR 
 Rating:  4.5 Stars

The happily-ever-after of Holly Goldberg Sloan's acclaimed debut, I'll Be There, is turned on its head in this riveting, emotional sequel about friends, enemies, and how those roles can shift in a matter of moments.

Emily Bell has it all. She's in love with a boy named Sam Border, and his little brother has become part of her family. This summer is destined to be the best time of their lives--until a charismatic new girl in town sets her sights on Sam. Now Emily finds herself questioning the loyalty of the person she thought she could trust most.

But the biggest threat to her happiness is someone she never saw coming. Sam's criminally insane father, whom everyone thought they'd finally left behind, is planning a jailbreak. And he knows exactly where to find Emily and his sons when he escapes...and takes his revenge.  -Goodreads

My Thoughts
Reviewer's Note:  I must preface this review by stating that though I have since become aware that this work is the second in a series; all statements made here are based on my former belief that this book was a standalone.

Sam and Riddle Border have finally found their way to happy.
With their abusive father in jail, Sam in college, and the Bells planning to adopt Riddle...life couldn't be closer to perfect.
But no one knows better than the Border boys how flawed the illusion of perfection can be.

This is a story that grips one by the heart-strings from word one.  You want so badly for everything to work out for Emily, Sam, and Riddle, that closing the book before the inevitable downhill slide happens crosses your mind more than once.
Authoress Holly Goldberg Sloan writes foreboding and tension into her tale with an ease and precision that causes readers to feel that they are the one's being "overly sensitive or paranoid" about that evil that seems to be lurking just around the corner.
As time and pages prove however, a perceived evil is often rooted in malevolent intent.  
The surprise and "oooh gotta read it moments" come when readers find out the who's why's and WTF's of the peril, and the lengths to which depravity can drive the human soul.

Strangely, it is not any lack in the story that settles the rating for this book just shy of the 5 star mark.
It is a character,  Destiny, the bad girl drifter, bent on destruction of whatever is in her path.
Destiny is supposed to be a menace.
What she is in truth is the too loud, too drunk, too needy, girl at the party.
She does manage to redeem herself, but not before the damage is done.

This is a wonderful story.  A great end to a perilous and uplifting journey.


It Would Be A Real Shame To Miss Out On the Wicked Fun Of "His Lady's Disgrace"

The Lady's DisgraceTitle:  The Lady's Disgrace
Author:  Callie Hutton
Format:  ERC
Length:  250 pages
Publisher:  Entangled Scandalous
Rating:  5 Stars

A lady is nothing without her reputation. Jilted and humiliated by her once-betrothed, Lady Abigail Lacey is the laughingstock of London. Worse still, the humiliation is now reflecting badly on her family. Her brother, the Duke of Manchester, is desperate... until he finds a way to rescue his sister's damaged reputation, and remove her from the glare of disapproving society. He must marry her off. Quickly.
 When Rector Joseph Fox drops by the Lacey household, he certainly didn't expect to leave as a man engaged to a long-time family friend! Yet while he never could have aspired to have her, Lady Abigail always ignited a forbidden longing in him. But Abigail has one condition - their marriage is to be void of passion or physical pleasures, once she becomes with child. Faced with a platonic marriage of convenience, Joseph is determined to embark on a sensuous adventure with only one goal: to seduce his new wife...  -Goodreads

My Thoughts
The Lady's Disgrace, brings a welcome complexity to the "left at the altar scenario".
  Lady Abigail Lacey may have money and looks that stop the men of the ton in their "well heeled" tracks, but thanks to a fiance with a rather fickle heart, what she doesn't have is a husband. 
Not one to suffer the shame of fools, Abigail's brother, the Duke of Manchester, knows that if he has any chance of saving his sister's unfairly tainted reputation, and shoring up his families precarious perch on the London social ladder; there is some serious match-making to be done.

So...when long-time family friend and mild mannered rector, Joseph Fox, unwittingly stumbles into the situation, it appears that the Duke's prayers just may have been answered.

With every rose...
And this one comes with some particularly "thorny" conditions for poor Mr. Fox.
While Abigail has no objection to being wedded by Joseph, it appears that she has more than a few thoughts on the matter of being bedded by Joseph.
Add to that the fact that she is also bound and determined not to even broach the subject of adding her heart to the mix, and it seems that those pesky roses have turned into stink-weed.

His Lady's Disgrace does a very good job of tricking the reader into believing it to be "just another gotta get her to love me" romance.  At least for the first third of the book.
Readers soon find however that there is more than a little mystery and a whole lot of mayhem tucked in with life at the rector's.
 That's right, it appears that Abigail's bid to eschew wagging tongues and pointing fingers of London, just might prove deadly.
Readers will enjoy working out the clues of this country whodunnit, while watching Abigail and Joseph's relationship bloom.
This is a very endearing read that gives credence to the notion that "love really does conquer all".


An Interview With Jeaniene Frost + Giveaway

The Beautiful Ashes (Broken Destiny, #1)

Buy The Book:
In a world of shadows, anything is possible. Except escaping your fate.

Ever since she was a child, Ivy has been gripped by visions of strange realms just beyond her own. But when her sister goes missing, Ivy discovers the truth is far worse—her hallucinations are real, and her sister is trapped in a parallel realm. And the one person who believes her is the dangerously attractive guy who's bound by an ancient legacy to betray her.

Adrian might have turned his back on those who raised him, but that doesn't mean he can change his fate…no matter how strong a pull he feels toward Ivy. Together they search for the powerful relic that can save her sister, but Adrian knows what Ivy doesn't: that every step brings Ivy closer to the truth about her own destiny, and a war that could doom the world. Sooner or later, it will be Ivy on one side and Adrian on the other. And nothing but ashes in between…  -Goodreads

As readers wait with baited breath for her newest release, a New Adult story entitled The Beautiful Ashes.  WTF Are You Reading? was lucky enough to snag a bit of best selling author Jeaniene Frost's time for the chat below.

WTF:  What made you venture into the world of New Adult while at the same time embarking on a new series?

Jeaniene:  Back in 2007, when I first got the idea for The Beautiful Ashes, the New Adult (NA) genre didn’t exist. All I knew was that my heroine, Ivy, was too old for high school, yet too young to fit the “adult” mold that existed at the time. I ran into a similar issue back in 2006 with Halfway To The Grave. In my original draft, Cat was nineteen, but I was told by my agent that I had to age her up to sell.  Thus, in the published version, Cat was twenty-two, which was still far younger than many heroines in the adult market. With Ivy in The Beautiful Ashes, however, her age wasn’t really flexible. At twenty, Ivy is old enough to make adult decisions and deal with very adult situations, but she’s still finding herself on the inside. The fact that Ivy has to find herself while being thrown into a war between angels and demons, not to mention having a supernatural destiny that she’s unaware of, makes things that much more complicated.

WTF:  Do you find it easier/harder to write NA versus Adult?

Jeaniene:  NA eclipses the time frame between high school and “real” adulthood, or around the 18 – 25 range. So many significant things happened to me during that time period (moving out, first job, getting married, first death of a friend, etc) that I think it’s rife with emotional tension and significance. I didn’t find much difference between writing NA and Adult, actually. Perhaps it’s because, as I mentioned above, my heroine from my debut series was almost the same age as Ivy in The Beautiful Ashes. I do think NA provides a great way to explore all the drama of first loves, first heartaches, and being on your own for the first time, all while not being quite sure if you can handle everything that life throws at you. Who can’t relate to that?

WTF:  Where were you when the inspiration for The Beautiful Ashes struck?

Jeaniene:  Where I usually am when I get my best ideas – asleep. Seriously, ever since I was a child, I’ve had vivid, detailed dreams.  As I teenager, I used to write them down and make little stories out of them. Later, when I turned thirty, I took a vivid dream about a half-vampire woman arguing with a Master vampire man about why she’d left him years ago and turned it into the Night Huntress series.  With The Beautiful Ashes, my dream was about a girl who could see realms just beyond our own, but of course, everyone told her she was crazy.  When she ended up trapped in one, she found out all her “hallucinations” were real and that the other realms she’d glimpsed were inhabited by demons.  I switched things up a bit with that dream to make Ivy’s sister the one who’s trapped in the demon realm.  That way, the setting wasn’t stationary, and it gave Ivy motivation to go looking for a weapon that could take down demons. Of course, the only person who can help Ivy find this weapon is Adrian, a man with ties to the demons and a destiny that’s in direct opposition to Ivy’s.
WTF:  What is your favorite part of the writing process?

Jeaniene:  My favorite part is discovering more about my characters.  When I write, I have a sparse, general outline, much like you get with Mapquest directions.  Those might tell you where to go, but they don’t tell you what you’ll see, feel or experience along the way.  That’s how my writing process is. When I start out, I know the direction I’m headed in, but all the details come to me as I write, not before I write. That makes the journey fun, exciting and surprising for me.

WTF:  You seem to have a love affair with the written word.  When and how did it begin?

Jeaniene:  When I was twelve years old and I read my first romance novel!  Before anyone judges me, there was no YA genre back then.  You had Sweet Valley High, Judy Blume or Nancy Drew, and that was pretty much it. I wanted books with more depth, more emotional highs and lows, and romance novels gave that to me.  Then, I wanted to write something that would make other people feel the same way I had felt when I was reading them. It took me a while, but I hope that I finally did it.

WTF:  Do you concentrate on one project at a time, or are you working on several at once?

Jeaniene:  I have the writing equivalent of tunnel vision, so I concentrate on one project at a time.  Granted, I may have to do revisions on Book C while still writing Book B because with my release schedule, overlaps are unavoidable.  But I don’t write two new stories at the same time. I get very involved with my characters, when I write, so it’s too hard for me to split my attention between different stories/characters except to do the necessary edits.

WTF:  Have you ever solved an issue that you had with one story line while writing another?

Jeaniene:  No, probably for the reason I stated above. When I write, I am fully absorbed in the story in front of me.  I love those characters the most, I love that world the most, and I don’t even want to think about other stories. Then, when I’m done with that book, I move on to the next set of characters/story and abandon the one before it. Call me a literary two-timer *wink*.

WTF:  How does it feel to know that people are now having love affairs with your characters and your stories?

Jeaniene:  It is such a cool thing! Writing sometimes feels like forcing the voices in my head to earn their own living, so knowing that other people connect with these characters the same way that I do is a wonderful feeling.  Otherwise, I’m just a borderline schizophrenic who makes up different adventures for people who only exist in the dark recesses of my mind. I’d much rather call myself an author instead :).

About Jeaniene
Jeaniene Frost Jeaniene Frost is the New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author of the Night Huntress series, the Night Prince series, and the upcoming Broken Destiny series. To date, foreign rights for her novels have sold to twenty different countries. Jeaniene lives in North Carolina with her husband Matthew, who long ago accepted that she rarely cooks and always sleeps in on the weekends. Aside from writing, Jeaniene enjoys reading, poetry, watching movies with her husband, exploring old cemeteries, spelunking and traveling – by car. Airplanes, children, and cook books frighten her.

For information on Jeaniene's books, reading the first 20% of each book free, book trailers, deleted scenes, creature mythology, and more, please visit: www.jeanienefrost.com

The Giveaway! 

Jeaniene is giving away two copies of 
The Beautiful Ashes
If you would like the chance to win,
leave a comment with a valid email address below telling us
your favorite Jeaniene Frost Book or Character.

This Giveaway Ends 8/26/2014