When someone frames Gina Rizzo for murder, there’s only one person who can help her—the man who broke her heart years ago.
For Marine Cole Hanson, staring down death is easier than facing the woman who stole his soul and then betrayed him. But when Cole sees Gina in handcuffs, old feelings flare. Even though he doesn’t trust her with his heart, he willingly steps up as her alibi.
Now Gina’s life is threatened. As Cole assumes the role of her protector old feelings resurface. Can their love survive in the presence of evil?
Excerpt: The change in Mountain Pine had started months ago with the unsolved murder of the bank’s previous president.
Gina’s appetite vanished as her stomach rolled. Cole continued to scoop bite after bite. She dropped her spoon and it clanked against the bowl. “How can you think there was someone lurking around outside, who you might need to kill, and still eat like there was no tomorrow?”
“Because I’m hungry.” He held up four fingers with his free hand while he continued to spoon with the other. “That’s four questions.”
“Will you knock that off? I’m serious.”
His thumb popped up. “Five.”
She grabbed his hand intending to hurt him for being so nonchalant and continuing to play the stupid question game, but Cole’s fingers tightened around hers, and Gina’s center turned to liquid while the rough pad of his thumb stroked the sensitive skin on the back of her hand. Her heart thumped against her ribs and echoed through her soul. Cole’s smothering gaze made her wonder if he heard it too.
“What is it you really want to know, Gina?”
She couldn’t breathe while imagining what she wanted from Cole, one night, in his arms. No questions. No promises for a tomorrow. Her throat was dryer than a November milkweed. “I’d ah—”
He raised her hand to his warm lips and softly brushed them across her fingertips, sending crackling charges to her womb. “You know what I’d like, Gina.”
She shook her head and croaked, “No.”
His black lashes did little to mask his desire. “I’d like to get to know you all over again.”
Review: Cole Hanson and Gina Rizzo, well-matched in wit and determination, provide the perfect protagonists for this face-paced tale of inexplicable evil. Set in a small town with a limited yet fascinatingly diverse cast of characters, Ms. Jordon’s story unmasks villains throughout yet saves the real heart-in-mouth action for the last few chapters—always a good ploy in romantic suspense.
As the town of Mountain Pine unravels—five murders in just a few months—former foster-child-turned Marine Cole Hanson shows up again to tie up the loose ends in his own life—namely, Gina Rizzo, the girl he loved and left behind. The underhanded moves to keep them apart a dozen years earlier, however, are nothing compared to what they face now.
One just knows it will be happily-ever-after for Cole and Gina now—that is, if they can stay alive long enough to claim their future.
In the Presence of Evil is a book to be read at one-sitting on a long weekend—or to hurry back to if it must necessarily be set aside.
Spoiled New York rogue Royce Mc Arthur lives a charmed life. He sees no reason to settle down, until his mother issues her decree that he must grow up, find a wife and produce some grandchildren, preferably before she dies of old age. But his choices are quite limited considering the only women of his acquaintance are ones of ill repute.
Meeting the beautiful Evelyn DeJarlias at a ball gives him hope he may have found the one. Her southern blue collar outspokenness and lack of refinement draws him like a moth to a flame. Unfortunately, she does not find him nearly as endearing — consistently refusing his lavish gifts and his attentions, she poses a challenge he simply cannot ignore.
When his mother and her widowed father begin to keep company together secretly, it provides the perfect excuse for him to spend time with Miss DeJarlias. But figures from Royces past threaten to destroy the blossoming love between the couple. Evelyn must decide if she is willing to trust the man or hold his past indiscretions against him.
Review: Take four outrageous characters, place them in a setting somewhere in the past (think carriages and balls), concoct an absolutely unbelievable plot told with pithy, sparkling repartee, celebrate the clever intimations of passion without the graphic descriptions, sigh in relief as no ‘language’ assaults your eyes—and you have arrived at the brilliant sum of An Unlikely Alliance.
Evelyn De Jarlias: beautiful, resourceful, independent—and nouveau riche—is not about to let rakish Royce McArthur add her to his string of conquests. The problem is—he doesn’t want to seduce her. He wants to marry her instead and not just because his widowed mother orders him to get married within the impossibly short time frame of FOUR MONTHS!
Stuart De Jarlias—charming country bumpkin (but don’t discount his savvy side)—meets Royce’s mother on the same night Royce falls head over heels in love with Evelyn—and begins his own courtship. It’s obvious the two courtships are preceding apace, but who’s chaperoning who? And who will live happily ever after?
Rachel Van Dyken has written a rollicking read for everyone who loves a fast-paced, smile-eliciting entertainment. Not one blush on a single page!
After a bitter fight, Jenna Mosier’s pregnant sister ran away. Now, ten years later, Tanya is dead—murdered. A bloody note clutched in her hand pleads for someone to rescue her baby—a child Jenna must find to make up for not saving her sister. Former Marine Reed Adler thought he left danger behind when he retired from Special Ops command. But faced with a dead body and a terrified ten-year-old boy in his backyard—and a mesmerizing woman who’s tied to both—Reed finds himself pulled into his most complex mission yet. Ensnared in a dangerous mystery involving biogenetics research and children with no identities, Jenna and Reed must rely on each other for survival. Yet the closer they get to danger, the more intense their feelings for each other become. The cost of saving her nephew may be their hearts…and their lives.
Review: Maggie Jaimeson weaves heart-stopping action with the unique premise of biogenetic research. Reed Adler is by far the most believable character as he struggles with near-debilitating flashbacks as part of his PTSD, while still managing to use his considerable skills to stay alive as he fights to unravel the mystery surrounding Jenna, her sister, and her sister’s child.
Jenna, while exhibiting definite contrition about her part in her sister’s disappearance—and admirable tenacity in not making the same mistakes with her sister’s child—is more fragile and not quite a match for her counterpoint Reed.
The fast-moving story succeeds in keeping the reader turning pages. Several points do strain credulity, especially the quick determination of custody of ten-year-old David and the way that Reed and his ex-Marine buddies take the investigation into their own hands with little or no opposition from law enforcement in several jurisdictions.
For those who enjoy a true contemporary thriller interspersed with sizzling romance, Expendable will be a satisfying read.
Excerpt: Charlie straightened, his deep green eyes perplexed. “I said as much. John said something weird,something like ‘the knowledge of a thing is worth money in the bank.’ I didn’t know what he meant. I was more concerned about his allegations against Janelle. He made it sound like she was sleeping with me—that she got pregnant—in order to force me to get you to change your mind about Grandy’s inheritance and share with John.” He stopped, his mouth thinning into an angry line. “I almost hit him then.”
“I probably would have hit him,” Livvie said. “Long before that.” She regarded Charlie with exasperated affection. “You didn’t answer my question about marriage. Are you and Janelle getting married?”
“I asked her and she said no.”
I exchanged a look with Livvie. “Well, duh,” she said cheerfully. “Obviously she doesn’t want to marry you just because she’s pregnant.”
“I don’t know how to convince her I want to marry her anyway.”
“Do you?” I asked. “Or do you just feel obligated?”
He didn’t answer for a long minute then he looked me straight in the eye. “How do you feel about marrying Sam? Don’t you feel obligated to marry him after that accident last year? How will he get along without you?”
We stared at each other and I saw all my guilt, worry, and insecurity mirrored in his eyes. I loved Charlie and I loved Sam. What was I going to do?
Review: Meet the much-married, by-all-intents-and-purposes dysfunctional and totally fascinating Whittington family. Did I mention they’re also rich as Croesus? Cassie, the only non-Whittington-born member of the clan used to be married to Charlie, but now she’s in love with (or at least sleeping with) Sam Barlow. There’s something fishy between Sam’s ex-wife Sheila and Charlie’s brother John. When both of them end up murdered, almost everyone’s a suspect.
But life goes on, and so does sister Livvie’s wedding to T.J., the day after John’s funeral. It’s a cozy family affair, including Janelle (pregnant with Charlie’s baby but not yet married to him), and sister-in-law Diane and her brood—one of whom, the eldest son Matthew, is regarded as generally creepy.
And two murders, one funeral, and a wedding don’t stop Cassie from making the annual pilgrimage to open up the Whittington summer home (left to her by Charlie’s grandmother, along with fifteen million dollars). The question is, will she live to enjoy her windfall?
This fast-paced whodunit opens with a hot love scene and finishes with the ends neatly tied up—well, almost. Unless a third book is forthcoming, we’ll never know. (Music swells as we fade to black…)
The author does a great job of interweaving the back story throughout the narrative, but I discovered that Foxglove, Fancy Fungus, and Fatal Family Feuds is the book to read first just so you don’t have to sort out details as you tumble through the family’s nutty, non-stop antics.
Check out the books on Amazon for a ‘look inside’ both. You’ll leave with one or both in your Kindle or on the way by mail.
There are all kinds of ways for a relationship to be tested, even broken, irrevocably; it’s the endings that we’re unprepared for. My life has become a roller coaster ride, mixed with equal amounts of pure joy and exposed fear; and, sometimes, this unfathomable incredulity. This arrives in spurts, like adrenalin or injected heroin; well, how I imagine injected heroin would feel. That’s when I consider that change—change, its inevitability—is coming. And I can’t stop it.
This is how the roller coaster ride story of Ellen Kay “Ellie” Bradford begins. Ellie—a successful editor, a doting mother, and a loving wife—discovers her perfect world has been rocked by her best friend Carrie’s betrayal with her husband Robert. Since college, it’s been the two couples: Robert and Ellie; and Michael and Carrie. Ellie’s world unravels even further when she learns that she has breast cancer from Michael, the brilliant surgeon determined to save her. With an unexpected pregnancy further complicating Ellie’s cancer treatment, Michael and Ellie marry, both intent on building another perfect life together with their blended families. But soon after, their extraordinary bond is tested like never before. Not to Us is an insightful look into one woman’s personal journey in discovering the only way to her one and only wish is to trust the ones that count, beginning with herself.
Review: Not to Us is crafted flawlessly in first-person present tense, a difficult mechanism. Ellie’s emotional journey is explored in depth; readers will recognize and identify with many of her thoughts and feelings. However, the overall plot strains belief.
Ms Owen writes well. The story has tremendous possibilities, but in the opinion of this reviewer the characters’ actions and reactions to the situations in which they find themselves seem unrealistic. The topics of surviving cancer, divorce, and personal tragedy are certainly relevant but call for a more balanced approach by mature adults. While people may feel they are on a rollercoaster, as rational (or even irrational) human beings, they are well aware of the necessity to traverse the ground below with some plan and purpose.
At this writing, the novel has received four five-star reviews at Amazon.com, so readers considering the book might want to check there for another insight.
An emotionally powerful debut about two sisters who reconnect after nearly forty years of estrangement.
Renowned painter Lilli Niles is at home in her North London flat when she receives an unexpected call from her elder sister, Bea, who’s at the family homestead in Whitehead, Massachusetts. Bea’s husband has just died, and she’d like Lilli to fly home to attend the funeral. There are reasons Lilli moved all the way to England to escape her older sister, reasons that have kept them estranged for decades. But something in Bea’s voice makes Lilli think it’s time to return to the stately house in New England she loved as a child, to the memory of the beloved younger sister they both lost. With Bea more fragile than Lilli remembered, maybe she can finally forgive Bea for a long-ago betrayal that has simmered between them for nearly forty years.
Review:Her Sister’s Shadow, Katharine Britton’s debut novel, will strike a familiar chord in the hearts of readers who have struggled through life hiding family secrets and nursing grudges and resentments that should have been put to rest years earlier.
Lillie Niles, third of four daughters of a widowed mother who cannot deal with the realities of her life, shakes the dust of White Harbor from her feet but not from her mind. Unable to view Bea, her oldest sister, as anything but controlling, she considers Bea’s marriage to the man she (Lillie) adores to be the final betrayal.
Guilt stemming from her own act of betrayal, as well as shattering tragedies for which she feels somehow responsible, sends Lillie spiraling upward to the pinnacle of lonely success. Forty years later, when a now-widowed Bea asks her to come home, Lillie makes a reluctant pilgrimage to a place where happy memories were too soon overshadowed by dark ones.
Ms. Britton has woven past and present into a seamless study of the human heart and its resilience in finding hope where none existed, understanding where a tangled web of lies prevailed, and strength to rebuild despite a determination not to do so.
Blurb: When Adam Fredrickson shows up at his sister’s California winery, footloose and carefree, looking for a temporary job and a chance to play his music, he doesn’t expect to meet the girl of his dreams. But the best things in life are usually unexpected.
Margaret Parker, a single mom, newly hired as Chief winemaker at Fredrickson’s, finds her simple world put to the test when her father is allowed an early release from prison, and the man who got her pregnant when she was fifteen, shows up from Italy wanting to play daddy nine years too late.
It’s crush time at Fredrickson Winery and everyone is working feverously to get the grapes in and ensure a great vintage. No one expects murder and kidnapping to be part of the joyous harvest season.
Review: Ms Brink sets up the suspense immediately and continues to up the ante throughout Crushed. Two parallel love stories add unexpected twists. The characters are well-drawn and believable, and the setting in the lush California Napa Valley is described with enough detail to bring the reader into it, but not over-written. The author weaves the details of wine making through the story narrative, providing bonus information to readers unfamiliar with industry.
Her villains are villainous enough for the most discriminating suspense reader—a father convicted of child molestation but released too soon from prison; an ex-lover who took advantaged of a rebellious teen struggling to get past her early years in a dysfunctional family. Her heroes and heroines are heroic enough for the most discriminating romance reader—a loyal brother and first-class attorney; a woman who has moved from victim to victor; a free-spirited young man searching for his place in life; a young woman who, as a single mother, has had to grow up too soon.
This novel is one of those stories that you enjoy most— short enough to promise a quick resolution, long enough to provide all the action (romantic and suspenseful) that satisfies the reader’s soul.
Judy: The Showboat Affair is the story of prominent attorney and long-time widower Nick Cameron and Jean Kingston, recently dumped by her unfaithful husband after thirty-three years of marriage. Nick is ready to love again, and Jean is attracted to him but determined to reinvent herself as an independent woman before she enters any new relationship. Her adult daughter and his law-partner can’t accept that their parents might actually be interested in romance. Worse, a series of near-misses convinces them that someone is determined to keep them apart, even if it means killing one or both of them.
Jen: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.
Judy: I was born with a #2 pencil in my fat little fist. Actually, I wrote a story that my mother submitted to a children’s magazine, but they refused it (even back then!) because of it’s ‘religious leanings’. So I turned to crime and wrote “Fish Net”. (Dum-de-dum dum). Mostly, I wrote for my own entertainment, but after I retired, I decided it was now or never. Where Is Papa’s Shining Star? and the sequel, Finding Papa’s Shining Star were released by The Wild Rose Press’s Vintage Rose line in 2010.
Jen: Describe your writing in three words.
Judy: Realistic, hopeful, heartfelt
Jen: How do you approach your writing? Do you plot or go with the flow?
Judy: I like to do a certain amount of planning, which includes careful research, but once the story gets started, it just sort of goes where it wants to. Once the first draft is finished, I do a lot of revising and rewriting.
Jen: What is it about the romance genre that appeals to you?
Judy: Well, ‘they’ say that ‘love makes the world go ‘round.’
Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Judy: I had visited Branson, Missouri, where the ‘sizzling’ part of the book takes place, but I needed to go back and check the details, especially about the hotel where I hadn’t stayed but where Nick and Jean enjoy a blissful week together. I verified locations in Houston, Texas, where the rest of the action happens, with travel guides and maps.
Jen: Do you become attached to your characters and have a hard time letting them go, or are you happy that their story is told and you can move on?
Judy: I’ve posted a poem about that on my website on The Reading Room page. Yes, I end up very attached to some characters and want to continue inventing events in their lives. I’ve been able to let go of Nick and Jean—not sure why—because I really, really like both of them.
Jen: Do you have a favorite character or one you most identify with?
Judy: I’m working on a series of six cozy mysteries—and I think Penelope Pembroke is going to be my all-time favorite character. When I was in grade school, my firm ambition was to be a ‘lady detective’, so Penelope is doing my sleuthing for me—or I’m doing it vicariously through her.
Jen: What five authors or people, from the past or present, have been important to you as an author? What question or comment have you always wanted to say to them?
Judy: I’d have to name my sophomore English teacher, Geneva Van Orden, who encouraged my writing with her generous comments while still holding me to the rules; my mother, who listened patiently to my typed tales; mystery authors like Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt, who drew me into their worlds and made me want to stay; and Grace Livingston Hill, a Christian romance author whose prodigious number of books taught me that you can always put a new spin on an old idea. What would I say to all them? Thank you.
Jen: Do you do anything special to celebrate a sale, new contract, or release?
Judy: I smile a lot!
Jen: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your books?
Judy: “When I finished the first book, I certainly was glad there was a second!”
Jen: What do you do in your free time?
Judy: If I could find some, I’d tell you! I got rid of television, so I read, research, travel, chat with friends far and wide, and spend time with my granddaughters, Hanna (3 ½) and Aubrey (10 months). I’m honestly busier than when I worked full time!
Jen: What’s next for you?
Judy: Champagne Books recently contracted a romantic suspense; edits begin in July. I have another vintage romance submitted to a publisher, but that’s just in the consideration stage. And, I’m working on the Penelope Pembroke cozies and researching possible markets.
Jen: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Judy: What makes a romance stand out? Leave your answer to this question on the poll at my website, if you like. I’ll turn the answers into a blog.
Jen: I understand you have a contest for our readers. Judy: Yes—visit my website and read the first chapter of The Showboat Affair by clicking ‘Excerpts’ and leave a comment. I’ll draw for a print copy of the book (in the continental US, pdf if outside). I’d say age 18 and up is appropriate—but then, I’m old-fashioned, I guess!
Thanks for having me here today! I’ve enjoyed it—and I love reviewing for Romancing the Book!
Readers, you heard Judy. To enter the contest, go check out the excerpt (also available here) and then leave a comment with your email address. The winner will be chosen on Sunday, May 1.