Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Author Jadie Jones On Tour: Talks About Georgia

**HAPPY NOTE: MOONLIT is FREE on Amazon through Wednesday. Be sure to take this opportunity to get this intriguing story to read.**

It is was great pleasure that I welcome ‘new-to-me’ author Jadie Jones here today as part of her WOW (Women on Writing) Virtual Book Tour for her release, MOONLIT

I discovered that Jadie is not only a horse enthusiast, but also a Georgia author residing not too far from me as the crow flies (as we southerns say).

MOONLIT is a YA fantasy published this month by WiDo Publishing. Here’s a brief synopsis of it:

    Eighteen-year-old Tanzy Hightower knows horses, has grown up with them on Wildwood Farm. She also knows not to venture beyond the trees that line the pasture.
    Things happen out there that can't be explained. Or undone. Worse, no one but she and the horses can see what lurks in the shadows of the woods.
    When a moonlit ride turns into a terrifying chase, Tanzy is left to question everything, from the freak accident that killed her father to the very blood in her veins. Broken and confused, she turns to Lucas, a scarred, beautiful stranger, and to Vanessa, a charming new friend who has everything Tanzy doesn't.
    But why do they seem to know more about her than she knows herself? Is she really Tanzy? Or someone new? Was she ever Tanzy? And how will she choose between the many realities she’s coming to know?

Jadie joins us to tell y’all ‘Something About Georgia.’

I have to admit that this topic: tell me something about Georgia, threw me for a loop. I have plenty to say about Georgia. Don’t I? And I do. I’m just not sure how to break Georgia down into a category - favorite places or sayings or memories. So instead, I’ll tell you my Georgia story. 

I was born and raised here. And as soon as I could, I made a dash for the state line and didn’t return much for five years. 

I traveled to North Carolina, Oregon, and Virginia. Went to school. Graduated. Worked as a farm manager, an intern speech writer for a state office, and a waitress. The scenes would change, the faces, the weather. But one thing was constant and growing: an aching loneliness that I denied with every bone in my body.  I tried my best to fill with chocolate and late nights and a boyfriend who said he loved me more when we were apart (yes, seriously.)But all they made me was nauseous and tired.

Then one day it hit me: I needed to go home. Because there is something about Georgia. Sweet tea and red clay and epic traffic. Atlanta’s diversity and north Georgia’s humbling vastness. The charming, quiet coastline. Phrases like “y’all come back now. ”Catching fireflies. The unnerving chatter of coyotes moving through the woods. The spring-time thunderstorms that seek out Georgia’s quartz-filled floor like a moth to a light. Backyard gardens, front porches, and family.

And, most importantly, that fighting spirit that once hummed in JadieBookCovermy veins and made me dare to push a little harder. I’d lost it somewhere along the way. I’d lost myself. Who I was. What I wanted. Apathy and complacency had made a home in its absence. And Georgia is about as far from apathetic and complacent as you can get. Georgia is hot-blooded, and stubborn. It’s our fatal flaw, but it’s also what dreams are made of: passion and an unwillingness to quit. I knew those traits had lived in me once, driven me and made me believe. And I knew I had to come home to find them again.

So I returned to Georgia. This time, when I sunk my fingers into the red clay, they turned into roots. Slowly, old goals resurfaced. A need to create grew in my heart, my mind, and my hands. Things I wanted to do turned into things I WOULD do, come hell or high-water. And publishing a book claimed the number one spot on that list.

Will I ever leave Georgia again? Probably. I’ve got a gypsy’s soul, and I’m convinced there’s a little beach bungalow somewhere along the gulf shore with my name on it. I’d like to see more of the world. Greece and Australia. Vermont and Kentucky. But no matter where I take my mail, Georgia will always be home. I know that should I lose my way again, she will always remind me who I am and how to fight for what I want.

Jadie, thanks so much for joining us today. I think you covered Georgia nicely. There is so much about it that it’s hard to summarize. I do like the backyard gardens, front porches and family. Georgia is definitely home.

Now, let me share a bit more about Jadie. She has been dreaming about being an author since she wrote her first book in the seventh grade – in a black and white composition tablet, of course. But life happens…jobs, husband, baby. 

Jadie has that magical time known as nap-time to thank for MOONLIT. Because, when all was quiet in the house (with the exception of the washer humming in the background) Jadie could hear Tanzy, who she thought she had long ago relegated to past dreams, calling to her. And one day Jadie pulled out a pen and answered. The result was MOONLIT.

For more on Jadie and her writing, visit her website and her blog, and find her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest

Also visit her WOW Virtual Book Tour Page for more on her tour. In addition, stop by both of the following tour sites for a chance to win a copy of MOONLIT:
Bookworm Lisa on Wednesday, May 1
CMash Reads on Saturday, May 4

Thanks so much for stopping by today. Is there a place that draws you back no matter how many times you leave?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Miss Julia And A Giveaway

It’s a happy dance Monday at Thoughts in Progress. Why you ask? Well, I’m sharing my thoughts on the latest installment in one of my favorite hilarious series. And to make it even better, Catherine and the great folks at Viking/Penguin are giving a copy of the book away to a lucky visitor (more on that at the end of the post).

I first became aware of this series in 2000 when I came across the first installment (MISS JULIA SPEAKS HER MIND). Since it featured a Southern heroine, I couldn’t resist and have been hooked every since. Now for the latest (#14) installment in the funny series by talented author Ann B. Ross.

coverMiss Julia…a prime, proper southern lady with a strong well, a stern exterior and a force to be reckoned with. But underneath, a heart of gold who would do anything (and has) for the people she loves.

What starts out as a seemingly calm autumn day in Abbottsville, NC, with Miss Julia enjoying her yard and newly remodeled house (well, three rooms at least), quickly turns to chaos. Her friend Hazel Marie’s housekeeper falls down the stairs and winds up bedridden. This leaves Hazel Marie to tend to him, care for her newborn twin daughters, manage the household, and cook (when she can barely boil water) all while her husband, Mr. Pickens, is away on private investigation business.

Miss Julia steps in with a plan. She recruits the ladies of Abbottsville to not only share their recipes and a covered dish (as any southern lady would do during illness), but also teach Hazel Marie how to prepare the recipe. All is going according to plan until Hazel Marie’s greedy uncle, Brother Vern, an itinerant preacher shows up claiming sickness and needing his family (Hazel Marie) near. To make matters worse, Mr. Pickens has been seen driving different women around town while he was suppose to be working.

Miss Julia has her hands full as she tries to bring calm and order back to the lives of her friends and her family.

This time around Miss Julia’s adventure is more of a home-bound type without some of the crazy antics she has pulled in the past. However, author Ann B. Ross gives a fun look at how quickly everyday life can turn upside down and become a snowball-effect of trouble. Miss Julia continues to give advice with a sharp-tongue, but more of her tender spirit comes through this time.

Ross has created a fun protagonist in Miss Julia readers can’t help but love. She may be prime and proper, but she’s had difficult times and overcame them with dignity giving readers laugh-out-loud moments along the way. All of the characters are well-developed and realistic with their flaws and emotions. Ross continues to evolve her characters with each installment keeping fans of the series anticipating the next development.

MISS JULIA STIRS UP TROUBLE moves at a swift pace with the story flowing smoothly. Readers are also treated to the delicious recipes the ladies of Abbottsville provide Hazel Marie as Miss Julia receives them. The notations included with each are a cute reminder that Miss Julia is in charge.

This is the 14th installment in the Miss Julia series and can be read on its own. However, I would recommend reading the series in order to fully appreciate Miss Julia and how the various characters have grown throughout the series. If you can’t read the series in order, at least try to read the first installment first to completely understand where Miss Julia began and what makes her who she is. 

The residents of Abbottsville are entertaining characters you will want to visit time and time again. Miss Julia is someone you’d like to live next door to as long as you had a book of proper etiquette handy at all times. 

MISS JULIA STIRS UP TROUBLE is a delightful read that will have you smiling from the opening page to the last paragraph.

Author Ann B. Ross’ website is www.missjulia.com
Miss Julia Stirs Up Trouble by Ann B. Ross, Miss Julia Series #14, Viking Adult Publication, @2013, ISBN: 978-0670026104, Hardcover, 368 Pages

FTC Full Disclosure - This book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.
Now for the giveaway guidelines. To enter, send me an e-mail (mcbookshelf@gmail.com) with the subject line, “Win MISS JULIA.” Your message should include your name and mailing address. The contest is open to residents of the U.S. only and no post office box addresses can be accepted. Just so you know, I don’t share this information with anyone other than the publisher nor use it for any other purpose. The deadline to enter this giveaway for a chance to win a copy of MISS JULIA STIRS UP TROUBLE is 8 p.m. (EDT) on Tuesday, May 7.

Thanks so much for dropping by today. Hope your Monday is off to a good start. Do you know any prime and proper southern ladies that sound like Miss Julia? Have you read any of the Miss Julia books? Is so, what’s your thoughts on Miss Julia?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sunday Salon: Sea of Crises by Marty Steere

Here we are once again at the last Sunday Salon of AWR914681pril. The time has past quickly in some respects and taken forever in others. Many have seen the first signs of spring only to be reminded that winter wasn’t quite ready to leave. We’ve seen tragedy and triumph strike our nation, as well as other countries around us. Through it all, many of us turn to our loyal companions - books - to keep us calm, help us relax and lose ourselves for a few minutes before we tackle life again.

The book I’m sharing today isn’t one I would really call relaxing, but one you will definitely get lost in and I recommend you check out. For those of you growing up in the height of the space program, you will understand the heart-pounding rush the book causes.

Sea of Crises by Marty Steere

The Apollo space missions have always held mystery for many of us coverwho wonder…how can they travel to the moon…what happened why they were there…did they really go there?

Author Marty Steere gives us reason to wonder even more with his conspiracy thriller, SEA OF CRISES. As you read, you’ll have to keep reminding yourself this is fiction.

During Apollo 18’s first moonwalk in September 1976, all communications with the crew is lost. The last words heard from Commander Bob Cartwright were ‘That shouldn’t be here.’ Mission control attempted to re-establish contact to no avail. Three days later a rescue mission is being prepared when the command module returns on schedule still cloaked in silence.

When the hatch is open, however, divers find a gruesome sight. The three astronauts are burned beyond recognition due to a failed heat shield. Now no one will ever know what Cartwright meant by his last transmission and what really happened during those three dark days.

Fast forward 30-plus years and Cartwright’s three sons discover the returned capsule was not their father’s and the body they buried was not him. The more they discover, the more in danger they become from a group that wants everything to remain quite, deadly quite.

Steere has created realistic characters and placed them in a plausible setting that will have you on pins and needles. The characters are well-developed and likable, with bad guys you love to hate. The adrenaline-driven story will hold you spellbound as the heart-pounding plot plays out with twists and turns.

SEA OF CRISES will leave you breathless in anticipation of what will happen next. Steere blends a mixture of real and make-believe together in such a way it all seems genuine. His extensive research comes through in his eye for detail in this explosive tale of mystery, murder, treachery, family love and determination.

Author Marty Steere’s website is http://www.martysteere.com/
Sea of Crises by Marty Steere, Penfield Publications, @2012, ISBN: 978-0985401405, Paperback, 314 Pages

FTC Full Disclosure - This book was sent to me by the author in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.
Thanks so much for stopping by today. I hope you’re enjoying a pleasure day of relaxing, reading and having fun. Did you ever wonder about any aspects of the space program?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Rage: the Faces of Evil Series & A Giveaway

Author Debra Webb returned to traditional publishing last year when her previously self-published series, FACES OF EVIL, was re-Webb_Rage_MMpublished by Forever Yours. The latest installment in that USA Today bestselling series, RAGE, is slated to be released Tuesday, April 30.

OBSESSION, IMPULSE, and POWER (Books 1, 2 and 3) were released in paperback in March. RAGE (Book 4) comes out this month. Then in July, REVENGE (Book 5) will be released and RUTHLESS (Book 6) in August. The last three will be released in digital and paperback simultaneously! Be sure to visit www.thefacesofevil.com and sign up as a person of interest to keep up-to-date on the series.

Thanks to Marissa and the great folks at Grand Central Publishing, I have an amazing giveaway for one lucky visitor to this post - the first 4 books of the series (OBSESSION, IMPULSE, POWER and RAGE). Please see the end of the post for the guidelines.

The Faces of Evil series is a romantic suspense series featuring 42-year-old Deputy Chief Jess Harris, a former profiler for the FBI. After more than two decades away, Jess is back in Birmingham, Alabama, working with the only man who ever broke her heart, Chief of Police Dan Burnett. They work together to find a serial killer known as “The Player”. 

Webb once again delivers compelling characters and brilliant storytelling in the latest installment, RAGE:

    When Jess Harris moved back to her Alabama hometown, she thought she'd left her past behind her. But the blood bath the new Major Crimes deputy chief finds at a murder scene is beyond even the savagery of Eric Spears, the serial killer who now haunts Jess's life with terrifying text messages. Amid eerie echoes of the Charles Manson massacre, Jess investigates the dismemberment of a cop's wife while her baby lay sleeping down the hall.
    The discovery of two more headless victims makes Jess wonder if it's a gang-related slaying, a personal vendetta . . . or something else. And the sudden reappearance of her ex-husband makes her question her future with Chief of Police Dan Burnett. Now as the net widens to include a shocking suspect, Jess realizes that the identity of the killer may lie with an autistic eight-year-old boy.
    With inner-city tensions at an all-time high and the community calling for blood, Jess must race to save an innocent child-and prevent a final, horrifying act of rage...

Webb_Obsession_MMIn OBSESSION, Book 1: She thought she'd left the murders-and his obsession-behind . . .

    Special Agent Jess Harris has spent more than a decade studying the many faces of evil. In her determination to stop a serial killer, she broke the rules, and it cost her everything. With her career in need of resuscitation and her love life dead and buried, Jess jumps at a chance to advise on a case that has the top detectives of Birmingham, Alabama, stumped. But the case forces her to confront all the reasons she put her hometown-and her first love-in her rearview mirror. 

    Four young women have gone missing, and Police Chief Dan Burnett will do anything to find them before it's too late-even if it means asking for help from the woman who has spent a decade avoiding him. Jess agrees to lend a hand and welcomes the diversion of a new case, a new life to save to make up for the victims she's lost. But then the unthinkable happens: the crazed serial killer from her past follows Jess to Birmingham. The situation is becoming increasingly desperate-and time is swiftly running out . . .

In IMPULSE, Book 2: Her nightmare isn't over yet . . .

    The Player is a master in the art of torture and murder. No one had ever gotten close to capturing him until Special Agent Jess Harris targeted him with her relentless determination. Jess's actions may have cost her a job with the bureau, but the Player still wants his vengeance and he'll make Jess pay in ways she never imagined. The first victim is Jess's friend-and the killer won't stop there. With each new death Jess becomes more certain that the only way to stop the Player is to give him what he really wants: her.
    Chief of Police Dan Burnett is determined to give Jess her confidence and her life back. With an offer on the table, a position as deputy chief of a new division, can Jess risk staying in her hometown and putting those around her in more danger? Or will she walk away to protect everyone she loves-including Dan, who just may want her back in his arms? The stakes are high, and a single impulse will determine who survives the Player's final, deadly game . . . 

Webb_Power_MMIn POWER, Book 3: Agent Jess Harris is back in another thrilling installment of Debra Webb's Faces of Evil series.

    Jess is ready to start the next chapter in her life as the new deputy chief of Birmingham's major crimes division. But with her first love, Chief of Police Dan Burnett, acting as her new boss, it looks like Jess won't be able to put the past behind her that easily.
    Jess has decided to focus all of her attention on work when a celebrated ballet instructor is found dead by one of her students. Though Jess's instincts tell her otherwise, the death is ruled an accident, and the case is assigned to another division. Still, Jess can't shake the feeling that there's more to the story, and her investigation leads her into the worlds of Birmingham's gang culture and its powerful elite.
    Now Jess's investigation has dug a little too deep, and there's a target painted on her own forehead. Will she be able to solve the crime before her own life is in jeopardy?

To read an excerpt from POWER and from RAGE, check out Webb’s books on Goodreads.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: For those who haven’t meet Debra Webb before, here’s a little background on her. Born in Alabama, Webb wrote her
Author Debra Webb
first story at age nine and her first romance at thirteen. It wasn’t until she spent three years working for the military behind the Iron Curtain—and a five-year stint with NASA—that she realized her true calling. A collision course between suspense and romance was set. Since then she has penned nearly 100 novels including her internationally bestselling Colby Agency series. 

Her debut romantic thriller series, the Faces of Evil, propelled Webb to the top of the bestselling charts for an unparalleled twenty-four weeks and garnered critical acclaim from reviewers and readers alike. For more on Webb and her fascinating and chilling series, visit http://thefacesofevil.com, find her on Facebook and on Twitter.

Now for the giveaway guidelines. To enter, please send me an e-mail (mcbookshelf@gmail.com) with the subject line, “Win The Faces of Evil Series.” Your message should include your name and mailing address. The contest is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only and no post office box addresses can be accepted. And, just so you know, I don’t share this information with anyone other than the publisher nor use it for any other purpose. The deadline to enter this giveaway for one winner to receive all four books in the FACES OF EVIL Series is 8 p.m. (EST) on Sunday, May 5.

Thanks for stopping by today. Hope everyone is having a fun and sunny Saturday. When I find a new series I like, I tend to collect all the installments in it even if I can’t read them right away. How about you?

Friday, April 26, 2013

On Tour With Hallie Ephron’s There Was An Old Woman

I’m delighted to participate in the Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tour for author Hallie Ephron’s latest release, THERE WAS AN OLD WOMAN.

As part of the tour I’ll also be sharing an excerpt of this suspenseful novel and a brief bio of the author.


The last thing Evie Ferrante wanted to do was go back to her
childhood home and deal with her alcoholic mother. But when her mother is hospitalized, it falls to Evie to do just that.

When she arrives at her mother’s home, she finds that her mother has become a hoarder. The house is in chaos and it appears her mother hasn’t thrown anything away in a long time. While cleaning up, Evie renews a friendship with her mother’s elderly neighbor Mina.

Mina has her own problems and secrets. Her nephew Brian is trying to get Mina to move into a senior care community. As Evie gets to know more, she finds that deception and madness abound. There is much more going on in the neighborhood than it first seems.

Author Hallie Ephron has created realistic characters that will tug on your heartstrings. The characters are well developed and will probably remind you of people you know. Her eye for detail places the reader in the middle of the scene and among the action. The historical aspects of the story are also intriguing.

This is a compelling story that will have you on the edge of your seat anticipating the next move. There are twists and turns that will keep you in suspense until the end. While this story may not be filled with heart-stopping action, it will hold you mesmerized until the suspense grabs you without warning.

THERE WAS AN OLD WOMAN shines a new light on how the elderly manage and why. Once you begin reading this fascinating story, you’ll be entangled and unable to let go until you know the outcome.

There Was An Old Woman by Hallie Ephron, William Morrow, @2013, ISBN: 978-0062117601, Hardcover, 304 Pages

FTC Full Disclosure - I requested this book as part of the author’s virtual book tour. The book was sent to me as part of the promotion in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.

THERE WAS AN OLD WOMAN can be found  on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.


     Mina Yetner sat in her living room, inspecting the death notices in the Daily News. She got through two full columns before she found someone older than herself. Mina blew on her tea, took a sip, and settled into her comfortable wing chair. In the next column, nestled among dearly departed strangers, she found Angela Quintanilla, a neighbor who lived a few blocks away.    
     Angela had apparently died two days ago at just seventy-three. After a “courageous battle.” Probably lung cancer. When Mina had last run into Angela in the church parking lot, she’d been puffing away on a cigarette, so bone thin and jittery that it was a miracle she hadn’t shaken right out of her own skin. Mina leaned forward and pulled from the drawer in her coffee table a pen and the spiral notebook that she’d bought years ago up the street at Sparkles Variety. A week after her Henry died, she’d started recording the names of the people she knew who’d taken their leave, beginning with her grandmother, who was the first dead person she’d known. Now four pages of the notebook were filled. Most of the names conjured a memory. A face. Sometimes a voice. Sometimes nothing—those especially upset her. Forgetting and being forgotten terrified Mina almost more than death. 
     Mina found lists calming, even this one. These days she couldn’t live without them. Some mornings she’d pick up her toothbrush to brush her teeth and realize it was already wet. She kept her Lipitor in a little plastic pillbox with compartments for each day of the week, though sometimes she had to check the newspaper to be sure what day it was. 
     Now she started a new page in the notebook. At the top she wrote the number 151, Angela’s name, and the date, then she opened the drawer to tuck the notebook back in. There, in the bottom of the drawer, were her sister Annabelle’s glasses. Mina picked them up. 
      The narrow white plastic frames had seemed so avant-garde back in the 1960s when Annabelle had decided she needed a new look. She’d worn them every day since. It was probably time—good heavens, past time—to throw them away, along with Annabelle’s long nightgowns, flowered cotton with lovely lace collars that she used to order from the Nordstrom catalog. Mina preferred short gowns that didn’t get all twisted around her legs when she turned in her sleep. 
      It was odd, the things one could and couldn’t throw away. She’d kept Henry’s New York Yankees cap, the one he’d worn to Game 5 of the 1956 World Series when Don Larsen pitched a perfect game in Yankee Stadium, and she wasn’t even a baseball fan. 
     And then there were the things you had no choice but to carry with you. She touched the side of her face, feeling the scar, raised numb flesh that started at her cheekbone and ran down the side of her neck, across her shoulder blade, and down into the small of her back. Mina tucked Annabelle’s glasses back into the drawer along with her catalog of the dead. She picked up her cane and stood carefully. 
     What she really didn’t need was to fall again. She already had one titanium hip, and she had no intention of going for a pair. She knew too many people who went into a hospital for a so-called routine procedure and came out dead. 
     She carried her tea outside to the narrow covered porch that stretched across the back of the house. After an icy, miserable winter and a soggy spring, it was finally warm and dry enough to sit outside. Her unreplaced hip ached, and the old porch glider screeched an appropriate accompaniment as Mina settled into the flowered cotton cushions she’d sewn herself. She took off her glasses to rub the bridge of her nose, and the world around her turned to a blur. She was legally blind without her glasses, but she’d been secretly relieved when the doctor told her she was far too myopic for that laser surgery everyone talked about. 
      “Oh, shush up,” she said when Ivory gave a plaintive mew from inside the storm door. “You know you’re not allowed out here.” 
      She put her glasses back on, and the porch and the marsh beyond snapped into focus. Mina rocked gently, taking in the view from Higgs Point, across the East River and Long Island Sound, and on to the Manhattan skyline. As a little girl, she’d watched from this same spot behind the house where she’d lived all her life as, one after the other, Manhattan’s skyscrapers had gone up. When the Chrysler Building poked its needle nose into the sky, she’d imagined that her bedroom was in the topmost floor of its glittering tiara. Then up went the Empire State, taller and without all that frippery at the top. It had been a dream come true when Mina, single “still” (as her mother so often reminded her) and just out of school, got her first job there. Mina remembered wearing a straight skirt with a kick pleat, a peplum jacket, a crisp white collared shirt, and a broad-brimmed lady’s fedora that dipped down in the front and back, thinking that was all it took to make her look exactly like Ingrid Bergman. Movies, the war, and where you could find cheap booze were all anyone talked about in those days. 
     Two years later, the dream turned into a nightmare. For years after, the roar of an airplane engine brought the memory back, full force, and yet there she had been living and there she remained, right in the flight path of LaGuardia Airport. It was only after the long days of even more terrifying silence after 9/11 that the waves of sound as airplanes took off, one after the other, had become reassuring. All is well, all is well, all is well. 
     Right now, what she heard was a buzz that turned into a whine, too high pitched to be an airplane. Probably Frank Cutler, her across-the-street neighbor. Installing marble countertops or a hot tub. Making a silk purse or . . . what was it they called it these days? Putting lipstick on a pig. 
     At least he wasn’t rooting around in her trash or practicing his golf swing again. The last time she’d asked him to please, please stop using her marsh as his own personal driving range, he’d grinned at her like she’d cracked a particularly funny joke. 
     “Your marsh?” he’d said. Then added something under his breath. And when she politely asked him to repeat what he’d said, he told her to turn up her hearing aid. Ha, ha, ha. Mina’s eyesight might be fading, but her hearing was as sharp as it had ever been. The buzz grew louder. Perhaps he was using a band saw. When he got around to adding dormers to the second floor, maybe he’d find the front tooth she’d lost playing under the eaves with Linda McGilvery when they were five years old. Linda, who’d been fat and not all that bright but awfully sweet, and who’d died of leukemia, what, at least forty years ago, though it still seemed impossible to Mina that she could remember so clearly something that happened so long ago. Insidious disease. Mina had been a bridesmaid at Linda’s wedding. Awful dress—The sound morphed into a whinny, and then into whap-whap-whap, yanking Mina from a billow of pink organza. It was a siren, not a saw. And it was growing louder until she knew it had to be right there in her neighborhood. On her street. 
     As Mina hurried off the porch and up the driveway, the sound cut off. An ambulance was stopped in front of the house next door, its lights flashing a mute beacon. Sandra Ferrante lived in that house, alone for the past ten years since her daughters moved out. Two dark-suited EMTs jumped out of the ambulance and hurried across grass that hadn’t been mowed in months, pushing their way past front bushes that reached the decaying gutters and nearly met across the front door. 
     A third EMT—a man in a dark uniform who nodded her way—opened the back doors of the ambulance, unloaded a stretcher, and wheeled it up to the house. Had the poor woman finally managed to kill herself? Because as sure as eggs is eggs, drinking like that was slow suicide. 
     Mina stood there, hand to her throat, waiting. Remembering the ambulance that had arrived too late for her Henry. It didn’t seem possible that that had been thirty years ago. He’d died in his sleep. By the time she’d realized anything was wrong, he was stone cold. Still, she’d called frantically for help, as if the medics who arrived could restart him like a car battery. A massive pulmonary embolism, the doctors later told her. Even if he’d suffered it at the hospital, they said, he wouldn’t have survived. That was supposed to make her feel better. Finally Sandra Ferrante was wheeled out. A yellow blanket was mounded over her. Mina found herself drifting closer, trying to overhear. Was she alive? Coherent? 
     Sandra lifted her head and looked right at Mina. She raised her hand and signaled to her. Asked the EMT to wait while Mina made her way over. 
     Up close now, Mina could see that the whites of her neighbor’s watery eyes were tinged yellow, and she could smell the sour tang of sweat and urine mixed with cigarette smoke. 
     “Please, call Ginger,” Sandra said. Ginger? Then Mina remembered. Ginger was one of the daughters. 
     Sandra grasped Mina’s hand. Mina gasped. Arthritis made her fingers tender. 
     “Six four six, one . . .” 
     Too late, Mina realized Sandra was whispering a phone number. Mina tried to repeat the numbers back, but they wouldn’t stick. The EMT pulled out a notebook, wrote the numbers down, tore out the page, and handed it to Mina. She’d also written Bx Met Hosp and underlined it. Bronx Metropolitan Hospital. 
     “Please, tell Ginger,” Sandra said, pulling Mina close. “Don’t let him in until I’m gone.”

Tour Stops:

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April 30 Review by Fenny @ HotchpotchBlog


Author Hallie Ephron
An award-winning mystery reviewer, Hallie Ephron is the author of Never Tell a Lie (a Mary Higgins Clark Award finalist that was also made into the Lifetime Movie Network film And Baby Will Fall) and the Edgar- and Anthony Award-nominated Writing and Selling Your Mystery. Ephron lives near Boston.

 Websites & Links:

Thank you to Harper Collins, Hallie Ephron and Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for generously offering this book to me for review. If you'd like to join in on an upcoming tour just stop by their sites and sign up today!

Thanks everyone for stopping by. Do you enjoy a suspenseful story that leaves you breathless from the fast pace and/or one that is a bit slower keeping you on the edge of your seat wondering?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Man With The Glass Heart by Shelly Reuben

Not having read a fable since my youth, I wasn’t quite sure what to THE MAN WITH THE GLASS HEART - Cover - Finalexpect when I began Shelly Reuben’s THE MAN WITH THE GLASS HEART.

What I found was a well crafted story with beguiling characters and a fantasy world that drew me in and made me want to believe. I found a book that held me spellbound from beginning to end.

Panache is a delightful road gypsy on her merry way to the mountains. Along the way she encounters Benjamin Pencil, the Man with the Glass Heart. Benjamin has never been to the mountains and sees no use for them. His only concern is guarding his glass heart.

In time he agrees to go with Panache to the mountains. On their journey they come upon some very intriguing characters. They meet the Woman with the Breeding, who collects hearts; the Man who Laughs, who creates fear and kills dreams; and Panache’s father, who is unreliable, but irresistible. They also encounter Melody, a melodious laughing bird, that lures Benjamin into an Arabian Nights world that changes everything.

Reuben does an excellent job weaving this fable with a mixture of make-believe and life’s lessons. The story flows smoothly, is easy to follow, and the characters are enchanting.

THE MAN WITH THE GLASS HEART is a story of love and loss, hopes and dreams, and living and experiencing life. To summarize it more, I think would be difficult. This is the type of book where each reader will encounter their own unique experiences and each take away something a little different.

To lose yourself in a world of possibilities, take a journey with Panache and THE MAN WITH THE GLASS HEART.

Author Shelly Reuben’s website is http://www.shellyreuben.com/wordpress/

The Man With The Glass Heart by Shelly Reuben, Bernard Street Books, @2012, ISBN: 978-0988418103, Paperback, 218 Pages

FTC Full Disclosure - This book was sent to me by the author in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.
Thanks everyone for stopping by today. Many of you may remember author Shelly Reuben visited us here at Thoughts on March 24. If you missed her post, click here and she what she had to say about writing this book and the beautiful cover. When was the last time you read a fable?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Author Joanne DeMaio: Blue Jeans and Coffee Beans

It’s a pleasure to welcome the multi-talented, award-winning author Joanne DeMaio here today to talk about her second book, BLUE JEANS AND COFFEE BEANS.

I meet Joanne early in my blogging through her blog, Whole Latté Life. Who could resist checking out a blog title like that? She has since changed to her website and has gone the path many authors are choosing - self publishing. By doing so, she has given readers the delightful WHOLE LATTE LIFE: A NOVEL and now BLUE JEANS AND COFFEE BEANS.

Here’s a brief synopsis of BLUE JEANS AND COFFEE BEANS:

    What do a denim designer, a cherished New England beach and a dusty reel of an old home movie have in common? All get the story brewing in Blue Jeans and Coffee Beans.
    Returning again to the sandy shores of Long Island Sound, the story follows a group of beach friends reuniting after a decade apart. But can these friends ever be who they were to each other one long-ago summer? Now one of this beach circle is dead; another unemployed and struggling in a tenuous marriage; another regretting a fateful decision; while one is missing a mother, ever seeking a connection she longs for.
    To the backdrop of shingled cottages and a boarded-up beach hangout, to the soundtrack of whispering lagoon grasses and a vintage jukebox, Blue Jeans and Coffee Beans asks if we can really design our own lives or if our fate lies somewhere in the stars.

Joanne has graciously answered some questions for me about her writing and her latest release.

Mason - What were the advantages and disadvantages to writing a second book?

Writing is what I do; it’s a part of my every day. So I can honestly say that there were no disadvantages to writing my second book. It was a natural progression. When I set out on the publishing journey, I considered it my career and planned ahead of time for a schedule of upcoming book releases. You often hear the best advice to new authors is to write that next book … it’s hard to understand the reasoning until you do it. But I’ve found that my readers are anxious for the next story, and the next. So the advantage to publishing a second book is that it opens new doors, while growing an audience.

Mason - Can you tell us some things about your lead character, Maris Carrington, that can’t be found in the book?

I wanted BLUE JEANS AND COFFEE BEANS to be closely tied-in with themes of the sea. What readers might not realize is the meaning behind Maris’ name. It’s fully connected to the sea, and here’s how. Her first name Maris is derived from Latin, meaning “of the sea.” Her last name Carrington is actually the name of a cottage-lined beach road from the little beach that I base Stony Point on (Point O’ Woods in Connecticut).

Mason - How did the title, BLUE JEANS AND COFFEE BEANS, come about?

It was a very organic process. I knew from the beginning that my main character would work with denim, as I see blue jeans as 9781479262779_p0_v1_s260x420being a symbol for the casual beach life. At the same time, I love bringing coffee to my stories. Some of the best talks happen over a fresh cup of java. Think of all the lattes you've enjoyed with friends, how much life you've mulled over in a local coffee shop or in a cottage kitchen with a fresh-brewed pot. Coffee connects women, life and our stories. After much brainstorming with coffee and denim terms, and many notebook pages filled, I kept coming back to BLUE JEANS AND COFFEE BEANS; it spoke to me.

Mason - The cover of BLUE JEANS AND COFFEE BEANS looks so relaxing and inviting. Did you design it or help in the design?

Thanks so much, I’m glad it draws you. Behind the scenes of production, I work very closely with my daughter Mary. Together we designed everything you see on the cover from selecting the beach image to the typography. We knew from the get-go that the story would best be captured with a seaside visual and had several stock photos in mind, but fell in love with this one. My publishing team fine-tuned the original photo to further connect it with the title. I love being hands-on with the cover design for all my books, as it is the readers’ first look at the story.

Mason - Being a published author, what has been the biggest surprise (good or bad) with the entire publishing process?

There have been several surprises … receiving thoughtful Facebook messages and emails from readers telling me how touched they were by my work, learning that my books are in libraries from San Francisco to Brooklyn to New Zealand. It’s surprising how far a story travels.

But the biggest surprise came last June, when my debut novel WHOLE LATTE LIFE was awarded First Place in the 2012 Discovery Awards at Book Expo America. As a new author, it was as thrilling as it was validating to every choice I’ve made along the way.

Mason - What can readers look forward to next from you?

A new novel set in WHOLE LATTE LIFE’s fictional town of Addison, Connecticut, where one sunny spring morning, lives are forever changed by an unexpected tragedy. 

Thanks for hosting me at Thoughts In Progress, Mason. I enjoyed chatting with you and your readers today … Coffee cheers.  ~ Joanne

Joanne, thank you for visiting with us and sharing this behind-the-scenes look at BLUE JEANS AND COFFEE BEANS. There is something about the cover and the title that just draws you to pick up the book. You know it’s going to be a fun read (which, by the way, it really is…I’ll share my review next week).

Now a bit of background on Joanne for those who haven’t meet her yet. She is the award-winning author of BLUE JEANS AND COFFEE BEANS and the bestselling novel WHOLE LATTE LIFE, which won First Place in the 2012 Discovery Awards and was named a Kirkus Reviews Critics' Pick. It has also been featured in USA Today, The Huffington Post and other outlets. 

Joanne lives with her family in Connecticut and is currently at work on her next book. She enjoys connecting with readers on Facebook and her website.

Everyone, thank you so much for stopping by today. Do you find a story with a beach-theme makes you feel like you’re at the beach relaxing with a good book?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Author Cate Beauman: Bodyguards of L.A. County On Tour & Giveaway

It’s my pleasure to welcome author Cate Beauman here today to talk about FALLING FOR SARAH and FOREVER ALEXA, two installments in her best-selling series The Bodyguards of L.A. County.

Here’s the back cover blurb for the romantic suspense novel, FALLING FOR SARAH:

    Widow Sarah Johnson struggles to pick up the pieces after her life was ripped apart.  After two years of grieving, she's found contentment in her thriving business as photographer to Hollywood's A-list and in raising her angel-faced daughter, Kylee... until bodyguard and long-time friend Ethan Cooke changes everything with a searing moonlight kiss. 
    Sarah's world turns upside down as she struggles with her unexpected attraction to Ethan and the guilt of betraying her husband's memory. But when blue roses and disturbing notes start appearing on her doorstep, she has no choice but to lean on Ethan as he fights to save her from a stalker that won't stop until he has what he prizes most.

Here’s a brief blurb for the soon-to-be released FOREVER ALEXA:

    First grade teacher and single mother Alexa Harris is no stranger to struggle, but for once, things are looking up. The school year is over and the lazy days of summer are here. Mini-vacations and relaxing twilight barbeques are on the horizon until Alexa’s free-spirited younger sister vanishes.
    Ransom calls and death threats force Alexa and her daughter to flee their quiet home in Maryland. With nowhere else to turn, Alexa seeks the help of Jackson Matthews, Ethan Cooke Security’s Risk Assessment Specialist and the man who broke her heart.
    With few leads to follow and Abby’s case going cold, Alexa must confess shocking secrets if she and Jackson have any hope of saving her sister from a hell neither could have imagined.

The Bodyguards Of L.A. County is scheduled to be a six part series. Books one (MORGAN’S HUNTER), two (FALLING FOR SARAH), and three (HAILEY’S TRUTH) have been released with book four (FOREVER ALEXA) coming in May and book five (WAITING FOR WREN) releasing this fall. The name and release date of book six is unavailable. Readers love the fact that the characters from each book continue through the series even though each book can be read as a stand alone and in any order the reader chooses.

Thanks to Cate, I have three eBook copies of FALLING FOR SARAH to giveaway to three lucky visitors. Please see the end of the post for the giveaway guidelines. Now Cate has graciously answered some questions for me.

Mason - What was the very first book you remember reading that you really enjoyed and why?
I used to hate to read until a co-worker handed me a copy ofFalling-For-Sarah-2240-for-Amazon-and-Smashwords Homeport by Nora Roberts. I reluctantly promised my friend I would give the novel a try, and I’m so glad I did. From the first page I was hooked and have loved reading ever since. I have a veracious appetite for anything Nora but I’ll try any novel with a romantic suspense plotline.

Mason - Of your books, do you have a favorite or do you have a favorite character from each?

This is a hard question to answer. All of my novels and characters hold a special place in my heart. The men of Ethan Cooke Security have a few things in common. They’re all muscular hotties with a dangerous job, but that’s where the similarities stop. Hunter is tough and wounded where Ethan’s intense and smart. Austin is incredibly sweet with just a touch of bad boy thrown in, and Jackson is laid back, funny, and dedicated to his job. The women they pair up with compliment them well, even if they don’t know it at first.

Mason - How did you come to write a series about the Bodyguards Of L.A. County?
When I first started writing Morgan’s Hunter (Book One), I had no intention of creating a series, but then Ethan and Sarah, Hunter’s friends, wanted their own story. As ideas for Ethan and Sarah began to surface, so did a plot for Sarah’s daughter’s nanny, Hailey. After I completed the Morgan’s Hunter manuscript, the idea of sharing the lives of more of Ethan Cooke Security’s close protection agents became the goal. The Bodyguards Of L.A. County took off from there.

Mason - With FALLING FOR SARAH’s release, as you look back what was the biggest surprise that occurred in writing the story?
Without a doubt it was the ease with which FALLING FOR SARAH came together. Writing is a very hard and painful process. Often times I struggle to get my ideas from my brain to the laptop, but not with this story. The ideas, dialog, and character development came together beautifully.

Mason - How have things gone with the writing of FOREVER ALEXA?
Jackson and Alexa’s story certainly wasn’t as easy to write as Forever Alexa 2240 For Amazon Kobo Apple and SmashwordsEthan and Sarah’s. Although all four novels are part of a series, I try really hard to give each book a different feel. When I read for pleasure, I like for authors to mix it up a little, so I try to do the same. My novels will always have a happy ending, but I want my readers to wonder how the characters will work through the dangers and conflicts they face to get to where they want to go.

Mason - What can readers look forward to next from you?
I’ve just begun my research for the fifth novel in The Bodyguards Of L.A. County series, WAITING FOR WREN. I’m not exactly sure where I’m taking Wren Cooke, Ethan’s interior designer sister, and Tucker Campbell, former detective and current bodyguard, but I like that the possibilities are endless. We’ll have to see what my imagination comes up with!

Cate, thanks so much for joining us and sharing how this delightful series came to be. I like how the characters have to be heard for their own stories.

For those not familiar with Cate, she currently live in Tennessee with her husband, two boys, and their St. Bernard, Bear. She recently resigned from her day job to concentrate on the thing she refers to as ‘My Dream Come True’ career!
Cate sees herself as a pretty lucky girl - “One day I woke up and my entire life changed. I saw the light, so to speak, and decided I was going to be a writer. Now, two years later, I’m working on the fourth novel in my best selling romantic suspense series, The Bodyguards of L.A. County.”

For more on Cate and her writing, visit her website or find her on Facebook, Amazon and Goodreads.

To tempt your reading taste buds, Cate is sharing a first chapter excerpt from FALLING FOR SARAH.

September 24, 2010 

    Sarah Johnson turned the key and opened her front door. She crossed the threshold, breathing in the familiar scent of fresh-cut flowers and the hint of low-tide blowing in from the Pacific. “It’s so nice to be home. Welcome home, sweet baby girl.” She stared at her sleeping newborn, smiled, brushed her lips over the soft skin of the baby’s forehead. 
    “Look out, coming through,” Ethan Cooke said, loaded down with balloons and vases overflowing with cheerful blooms. “I had no idea bringing a baby home from the hospital required movers.” 
    Sarah stepped aside, chuckling. “I know. Kylee has quite a fan club already. Let me help you with some of this stuff.” 
    “I’ve got it. You gave birth yesterday, for God’s sake. The nurse told you to take it easy.” Ethan set the vase on the entryway table, released the balloons to the ceiling as he dropped the diaper bag from his shoulder to the floor. “Besides, Jake would kick my ass if he knew you were hauling things in.” 
    Sarah’s smile widened as she thought of her husband. “Yes, you’re probably right, but I also know he would be grateful you were able to help me out. My mother wasn’t expecting to run her shop today. Dana called in sick, so that was that.” 
    Ethan moved closer to her side, stared down at the baby. “I’m happy you called. I wanted to come visit you ladies again last night, but things got a little crazy while I was on duty.” He brushed a finger down Kylee’s tiny nose. “She really is beautiful, Sarah. She looks just like you.” 
    Sarah’s blue eyes twinkled. “Thank you, but I definitely see some of Jake in her too.” She wrapped her free arm around Ethan’s waist. He returned her embrace and she rested her head against his muscled shoulder. “I’m so happy right now, Ethan, so absolutely happy. Twenty-nine more days and my family will be whole again. I can’t wait to hug Jake and watch his face when he holds her for the first time. I could tell he wanted to crawl through the video conferencing equipment yesterday and touch her tiny fingers and toes.” She looked down at Kylee. “No more deployments for your daddy. He’ll be all ours.” 
    “He’ll be mine too.” Ethan grinned, wiggled his eyebrows. “I’ve been waiting just as eagerly for Jake’s return. It took me two years to convince him to join my firm. Now I need to get Hunter on board, and the crew will be together again.” 
    “Getting yourselves into as much trouble as ever, I’m sure. You’ll have to wait a little longer for your new security expert. He’s not leaving my side for at least a week.” 
    “I think I can live with that.” Ethan kissed her forehead before he started for the door. “Let me get the rest of the stuff from the truck. Then I’ll set up Jake’s surprise.” 
    “Oh, I can’t wait for him to see it. I’ve nixed the big screen TV idea for so long, I’m pretty sure he’s stopped hoping for one.” 
    “It’s a beauty, all right. He’ll love it. I’ll have everything hooked up in no time.” 
    “Great.” Brimming with joy, Sarah kissed her daughter again as Ethan opened the door and went outside. 
    Sarah took the baby to the nursery she had painstakingly painted on her own. The pale yellow stripes looked wonderful with the touches of pink scattered about the room. She put Kylee to her breast, listening to the door open and slam shut as Ethan brought their items in from his Range Rover. She smiled when she heard him rummage through the cupboards in the kitchen. If he was anything, it was always hungry. 
    Kylee’s mouth went slack as she fell back to sleep. Sarah fastened her nursing bra, fixed her shirt. She settled Kylee against her shoulder, walked out to the kitchen while she rubbed her daughter’s back, burping her. 
    Ethan stood in front of the open refrigerator, mumbling his excitement about her stocked shelves. He glanced up, grinned, and she itched for her camera. “Hey, I’m going to make myself a sandwich before I get started on the TV. Want one?” 
    “No thanks. Do you want me to make it for you?” 
    “Nah, you don’t have to do that.” 
    “Why don’t you let me? I have another favor to ask of you. ” She smiled. “The least I can do is make you something to eat.” 
    Ethan went to the pantry, grabbed a loaf of bread. “Why don’t you tell me what you need?” He pulled open a cupboard, took out a plate. 
    “A shower.” She smiled again and nibbled at her lip. 
    Ethan’s eyes zeroed in on Kylee, and he took a step back. “Geez, I don’t know, Sarah. I’ve never held a baby before. What if I drop her?” 
    A laugh bubbled in her throat at the sheer horror in Ethan’s eyes. Even after he’d helped her through hours of labor, watched her deliver Kylee, and cut the cord in Jake’s honor, he’d refused to hold her. Sarah walked to where he stood. “You’re not going to drop her. Fold your arm like this.” She held her arm out, bending at the elbow. 
    Ethan cleared his throat and followed her lead. Sarah placed Kylee in the crook of his rigid arm. He grabbed her hand when Kylee squirmed. “She’s moving, she’s moving. She’s going to fall. Shit, Sarah, I really think this is a bad idea.” 
    “I think it’s a great idea. Trust me on this one.” She adjusted the baby slightly, moved his arm closer to his body, making sure his hand held Kylee under her diapered bottom. She backed away from them, grinning at the discomfort and mild panic she read all over Ethan’s face. “You’re a natural. Look at you two. I need my camera.” 
    Ethan groaned as she moved to the pile of bags outside the kitchen door and grabbed her case, pulling her Nikon D3 from the bag. She held the camera up, looked through the lens. For a test shot, she focused on Ethan’s arresting face. Sharp cheekbones and straight black eyebrows accentuated long, thick eyelashes and bold gray eyes. She zoomed in on the clear gray pools surrounded by dark, smoky rings, pressed the shutter closed in rapid succession. His firm, full lips and muscular torso showcased a man perfectly comfortable with his masculinity. She tightened her focus on his big hand holding Kylee’s little body, clicked away again, moved in closer, snapped more, getting lost in her passion for pictures. 
    “Sarah, do you want that shower or not?” 
    She pulled the camera back, focused on Ethan’s raised brow and lips pressed firm in annoyance. “Sorry. I got a little carried away. You two make excellent subjects. The camera loves your face.” 
    “So you’ve told me more times than I can count.” 
    She placed the Nikon back in the bag, zipped it closed. “You’re doing a great job with her.” 
    He glanced down at Kylee. “I guess this is okay.” 
    “See? I’ll be quick. She just ate, so she should sleep. Here’s the burp cloth, just in case she spits up. “Sarah draped the cotton towel over Ethan’s shoulder. 
    As she backed out of the kitchen, Ethan took a step forward. “Wait. Um, what if she starts to cry?” 
    Amused by his distress, Sarah couldn’t help but smile. The man standing before her dealt with the scum of the earth every day, yet a seven pound infant brought him to his knees. “Just jiggle your arm a little bit. She’ll fall right back to sleep.” She turned and walked toward the bathroom, called over her shoulder, “Oh, and relax. Babies feel tension.” 
    Alone and mildly terrified, Ethan stared down at the pretty little bundle snuggled against him. Her serene face, a miniature of Sarah’s, was so perfect. She smelled of baby powder and weighed next to nothing. 
    He began to wiggle his arm, just in case. “I guess this isn’t so bad. Let’s make a deal. If you keep sleeping until your mom comes back, I’ll talk her and your dad into a really kickass swing set for the backyard. It’ll be my present to you.” 
    Kylee’s lips made a sucking motion as she continued to sleep. 
    “Okay, I guess that means we have a deal.” 
    Relaxing with more confidence, Ethan turned back to the counter, attempting to make his sandwich one-handed. He finagled the twist tie from the plastic as Kylee curled closer against him. Startled, he dropped the bread. He bent at the knees to pick up the loaf and Kylee grunted. Seconds later, a small, wet explosion sounded in her diaper. Ethan stopped dead, still crouched. Kylee nuzzled herself against his chest and slept on. 
    “That couldn’t be good.” He stood, walked toward the bathroom, desperately hoping Sarah was finished. The radio played beyond the closed door as water sprayed into the bathtub. 
    The baby began to stir and fuss. He jiggled his arm from side to side, but Kylee’s fussing turned into a lusty cry. Panicked, Ethan almost forgot the rules of friendship and rushed into the bathroom. With his hand on the knob, he stopped himself. Christ, pull it together, Cooke. You’ve got this. 
    He headed to the pale pink and yellow bedroom, glancing back at the bathroom door wistfully. “Come on, Sarah. Hurry up,” he muttered. 
    Kylee turned a deep pink as she cried harder. Ethan stared at her mouthful of smooth, toothless gums and tiny fists curled tight as they moved about. “Okay, kid. I guess we don’t have a choice here. Let’s get you changed.” He glanced around the cheerful room with stuffed animals piled next to a rocking chair, zeroed in on the pine changing table. Stacks of diapers and wipes lay tidy on the shelf above. 
    He awkwardly lay Kylee down on the soft white pad, found a package of unopened diapers, quickly scanned the directions. As Kylee continued to cry, he pulled a diaper off the shelf. “My God, look at these things. My hand’s bigger than this.” He located the sides with the tape, put it down next to her, just like the picture showed. He unbuttoned her sleeper and the white onesie buttoned at her crotch. “How many layers are you wearing?” He pulled the diaper tape next, blew out a breath. “Here goes nothing.” 
    Ethan eased the diaper away and swore. “Jesus, this isn’t right. It’s black and yellow. I think we need to take you back to the hospital.” He focused on the browning raisin protruding from her stomach. “And look at that thing on your belly button. It didn’t look like that yesterday.” Completely flustered now, he pulled a wad of wipes from the bin, knocked the diaper cream to the floor. 
    Kylee’s short gasping cries shrilled louder. 
    “Shh, shh, shh, it’s okay, kid. I’m trying my best here. You’re all right.” Ethan took the wipes, moved them over the baby’s bottom. “This stuff’s like cement. Man, I’d rather be in an alley with three UZIs pointed at my head.” 
    With Kylee’s tiny baby butt clean, Ethan clumsily placed the new diaper under her. He swore again when the tapes faced her stomach. Her legs moved about in her outrage, making it hard to flip the diaper around. “You’re not exactly helping me out, kiddo.” He adjusted the diaper and fastened the tapes. 
    “There.” Ethan buttoned the onesie, muttered a curse when he mismatched the snaps. “Screw the pink outfit. This will have to do. You’re worked up. I’m worked up.” He placed his hand under Kylee’s neck and head, scooped her bottom up with the other, like he saw Sarah do earlier. Kylee’s cheek rested against his heart and her cries turned to whimpers before they stopped. 
    “There you go, sweetheart. That was pretty awful, huh? I don’t know about you, but I think I’m going to have nightmares for weeks.” He walked to the rocking chair with Kylee and sat down. His big, callused palm played with the peach fuzz on her head as he moved the chair back and forth. “I think I was about to cry myself. Let’s keep that between us, okay?” 
    “Here you are.” Sarah peeked in the room with her mass of blonde hair twisted in a towel on top of her head. Her face was left unframed, showcasing big, exotic eyes, high cheekbones, and a lush Cupid’s bow mouth that smiled until she zeroed in on the mess on the changing table. “I see Kylee needed a change.” 
    “Don’t even ask. It was exhausting and traumatic for both of us.” 
    She chuckled. “Why don’t I take her?” 
    “Oh yeah, sure, now that the hard work’s done.” 
    Sarah reached down, took Kylee, leaving behind the floral scent of her soap. 
    “Sarah, I don’t know how to say this, but I think there’s something wrong with her.” 
    Frowning, she pulled the baby back from her shoulder, giving her the once-over. “What is it? What’s wrong with her?” 
    “Her umbilical cord is brown and her poop’s all gooey and yellow. Blackish stuff was stuck to her butt. I had a hell of a time getting it off.” 
    Sarah’s shoulders relaxed and her grin returned. “The umbilical cord is drying up and will fall off, the black stuff is meconium, and she’s breastfed. Everything’s perfectly normal.” 
    As if on cue, Kylee began to cry and root around. 
    “How do you know all this stuff? You’re so calm. I mean, you’re always calm, but my God, she’s so little and helpless.” 
    “When you grow up with an obstetrician in your house and your mother is obsessed with children in general, you learn. I’ve been around babies for as long as I can remember.” 
    Kylee whimpered and sucked on her fist. 
    “Do you mind if I borrow the rocker? I think she’s ready to eat again.” 
    “I thought she just did.” 
    “She’s establishing her milk supply.” 
    Ethan winced. “Jesus. Let me go take care of the TV for you.” 
    Sarah sat and began to unbutton her shirt. “Thanks.” 
    “No problem.” 
    He stepped into the hallway, stopped. 
    “Your sandwich is on the counter.” 
    He smiled. “Thanks.” 
    Ethan brought the sandwich and bowl of fruit salad to the living room. He took a huge bite of turkey, avocado, and tomato before he put the plate on the sturdy oak coffee table. He pulled the tape from the side of the massive box and prepared to set up Jake’s new TV. 
    While he leafed through the instructions, Sarah’s soft voice cooed to her daughter through the baby monitor. He glanced up from the booklet and around the homey living room, listening to Sarah. A flash of envy for what Jake had snuck up, surprising him. Shaking his head, Ethan looked back at the directions. Marriage and family weren’t for him. 
    He was screwing the plasma screen on its base when a car pulled up to the curb. “Hey, Sarah, someone’s here.” 
    “Hailey, the college girl from down the road, was planning on stopping by. She’s desperate to babysit Kylee. You can let her in,” she said into the monitor. 
    Ethan tightened the last screw, stood. He walked by the large picture window, expecting to see the short, brown haired co-ed. Instead he watched four military men, dressed in dark green and khaki, step from a black sedan. His heart hammered against his ribs, his stomach sank. “Shit, no. Oh my God, no.” He whipped his head around, making sure Sarah wasn’t coming. He yanked the door open, stepped outside, closed it behind him. 
    As the men approached, Ethan stood in their path as if that would somehow change the news he knew they were here to bring. “What can I do for you?” 
    The group stopped in front of him. “Is this the home of Mrs. Sarah Johnson?” 
    “Yes, it is. Is he dead? Is Jake dead?” 
    “I’m sorry, sir. We need to speak with Mrs. Johnson.” 
    Ethan saw the apology in the man’s eyes. The sudden grief knocked him back like a heavy blow. Jake had been one of his two best friends for years. 
    The men tried to move past him. He blocked their way again. As much as he wanted a moment to catch his breath, he needed to protect Sarah more. “Don’t take another step. I get that you can’t tell me, but you’re going to give me a minute to talk to her first. She just gave birth yesterday morning. This is going to crush her.” 
    “We’re here to offer any support we can, sir.” 
    Ethan opened the door, let them in before him. “Please, sit down. I’ll go get Sarah.” He walked from the room, started down the hall to the nursery. 
    Stopping outside the room, Ethan fisted his hands at his side, took a deep breath. Memories flashed through his mind, one after the other, and he braced his hands on the wall. He took another deep breath, trying to steel himself for what had quickly become the hardest moment of his life. He was about to watch Sarah’s life fall apart. 
    He stepped into Kylee’s room, stopped. Sarah had taken her hair from the towel. Wet ropes of smooth gold rested on her shoulders. Her eyes were closed while Kylee suckled at her breast. If this were a picture, it would be titled ‘Beautiful Serenity’. He was about to destroy it. He took another breath, walked to Sarah’s side, knelt down, took her hand. 
    Sarah’s eyes flew open, stared into his. “You startled me.” A smile played across her lips before it faded. “What’s wrong?” She sat up straight, broke Kylee’s latch with her finger. 
    Ethan tightened his grip on her hand, willing her to take all the strength he could give. “Sarah, there are some men waiting for you in the living room. They’re Marines.” 
    Sarah’s fingers clutched his like a vise before they went lax. The bright, bold blue of her eyes dimmed. “Oh, okay,” she said dully. She stood, covered her breast, pulled Kylee close, automatically burping her. 
    Ethan draped his arm around her shoulders, walking with her and the baby to the living room. The men stood as they entered and the officer stepped forward. 
    “Mrs. Johnson, I’m Commander Michael Driggs. I’m here to regretfully inform you that your husband, Gunnery Sergeant Jake Johnson, was killed in action today at 6:34 p.m., Afghanistan time. The United States Marine Corps is truly sorry for your loss and is proud of the service your husband provided our country.” 
    Sarah stared at the commander for several seconds before she slowly sat down on the couch. 
    Ethan sat beside her. 
    She spoke, her voice barely a whisper. “Jake’s gone? He can’t be. He hasn’t held Kylee yet. He’s coming home in twenty-nine days to hold Kylee. He watched me give birth yesterday. He said he was coming home in four weeks.” 
    Sarah’s face paled with grief. Ethan swore he heard her heart shatter while the commander spoke. Her bubbly vibrancy had been replaced with fragility. He was afraid that if he touched her, she would break into a million pieces. 
    Ethan glanced at the man who now sat on the other side of Sarah. “Sir, Gunnery Sergeant Hunter Phillips is in Jake’s company. Is there any word on his welfare? He and Jake are—” he closed his eyes on a fresh wave of pain “—were my childhood friends. Hunter is also very close to Sarah.” 
    “Gunnery Sergeant Phillips was wounded in action. He was shot in the shoulder. He’s out of surgery and is resting comfortably.” Commander Driggs looked at Sarah again. “Sergeant Phillips tried desperately to save your husband, Mrs. Johnson. Is there anyone we can call for you at this time?” 
    She shook her head. “I don’t know. I can’t think.” She looked at Ethan, lost. “I can’t think right now .I don’t want to do this. I want to be alone.” 
    He couldn’t stand to see her like this. He put his arm around her, pulled her close, pressed his forehead to her hair. “Okay, you don’t have to. I’ll take care of everything. Go lay down.” 
    The men stood when she took the baby and walked from the room. 
    “I’m sorry, Commander, gentlemen, but I’m going to have to ask you to leave. Do you have a card or a number I can take from you? I’ll have Sarah’s father call you as soon as I get a hold of him.” “Of course, sir.” 
    Ethan took the card, walked them to the door, shut it behind them. He went to the small desk, found Sarah’s parents’ number programmed into the phone, and called.  
    Sarah lay Kylee in her crib, covered her with a light blanket. Her daughter slept soundly in the center of the mattress, unaware that their lives were forever changed. She stared at the photograph of Jake hanging on the wall above the crib. She had taken the picture the day before he left to finish his deployment, before they were aware they’d made Kylee. His big, cheesy grin and smiling brown eyes filled the frame. Oh God, Jake. You’re gone. How can you be gone? I need you. I can’t do this by myself. 
    The dredges of shocked disbelief were melting away. Panic and dread quickly took their place. How was she going to live without him? Sarah glanced down at Kylee again as a thought circled through her mind. It brought such crushing pain she could hardly breathe. They would never meet. Jake would never touch the daughter he had helped create. Kylee would be robbed of ever knowing her father’s love. 
    Jake’s deep, infectious laugh echoed in her head and Sarah buckled. She would never hear it again. He would never kiss her or hold her again. Her breath shuddered in and out. 
    Ethan’s hands rested on her shoulders and she flinched. He turned her toward him. She stared into his eyes, saw the grief settled there, and a tear rolled down her cheek. “Tell me this isn’t real, Ethan. Please tell me this isn’t real,” she said on a sob. 
    He pulled her into his arms, holding her tight. “Come here.” He picked her up, sat with her in the rocking chair. Her long legs hung over the side, just skimming the floor as the chair swayed back and forth. Ethan cradled her close to his chest.   
    Finding comfort in the arms of her friend, Sarah wept as Ethan’s hand ran through her damp hair. “He’s really gone. I can’t believe he’s really gone.” 
    He lifted her chin as he spoke, choking on his own sorrow. “I’m making a promise to you right now, Sarah. You’ll never be alone through this. I’ll be here for you every step of the way, for as long as you need me.” 
    “I’ll always need you.” 
    “Then I’ll always be here.” He rested her head against his chest again as their tears fell, mixing together on the hands they held clutched together.

Now for the giveaway guidelines. To enter, just send me an e-mail (mcbookshelf@gmail.com) with the subject line, “Win Falling For Sarah.” Your message should include your name and the email address you’d like the eBook sent to. And, just so you know, I don’t share any of this information with anyone other than the publisher/tour promoter nor use it for any other purpose. The deadline to enter this giveaway for of three copies of FALLING FOR SARAH is 8 p.m. on Wednesday, May 1.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. Do you enjoy series or prefer stand alone books?