Monday, July 13, 2020

A Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee

ABOUT A SWEET MESS:

Korean-American author Jayci Lee delights with A Sweet Mess, a delicious and light-hearted romantic comedy that readers will devour and ask for more. 

Aubrey Choi loves living in her small town nestled in the foothills of California, running her highly successful bakery away from the watch of her strict Korean parents. When a cake mix-up and a harsh review threaten all of her hard work and her livelihood, she never thought the jaded food critic would turn out to be her one-night stand. And she sure as hell never thought she’d see the gorgeous Korean hunk again. But when Landon Kim waltzes into her bakery trying to clean up the mess he had a huge hand in making, Aubrey is torn between throwing and hearing him out. 

When she hears his plan to help save her business, Aubrey knows that spending three weeks in California wine country working with Landon is a sure recipe for disaster. Her head is telling her to take the chance to save her bakery while her heart—and her hormones—are at war on whether to give him a second chance. And it just so happens that Landon’s meddling friends want them to spend those three weeks as close as possible...by sharing a villa.

When things start heating up, both in and out of the kitchen, Aubrey will have to make a choice—to stick it out or risk her heart.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

JAYCI LEE writes poignant, sexy, and laugh-out-loud romance every free second she can scavenge and is semi-retired from her fifteen-year career as a defense litigator. She loves food, wine, and travelling, and incidentally so do her characters. Jayci lives in sunny California with her tall-dark-and-handsome husband, two amazing boys with boundless energy, and a fluffy rescue whose cuteness is a major distraction. She is the author of A Sweet Mess.


Author website: https://jaycilee.com/
Author Twitter: @authorjaycilee

A Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee. Excerpt

Excerpt from A Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee. Copyright 2020 by the author and reprinted with permission from St. Martin’s Griffin.
“How’s this?” He’d chosen a small table at the back corner. When Aubrey nodded, he pulled out her chair and took a seat across from her.
Their proximity and relative privacy made the air between them hum with electricity. Their knees brushed every time either of them shifted in their seat, sending bolts of desire through him. A sharp intake of breath and a parting of her lips revealed Aubrey wasn’t immune to their magnetic attraction.
Landon had dated his fair share of beautiful women. There was no reason to act like a gawky teenager, but his roaring heart and churning stomach said otherwise. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt nervous around a woman. Her hand was resting less than four inches away from his, but he broke out in a cold sweat working up the nerve to brush his knuckles against it.
He started when Aubrey traced her fingers across the back of his hand with a shy smile. “So, Landon from out of town, what’s your dream?”
His blood had gone south at her touch, leaving nothing for his brain, but he was even more dumbstruck by her question. The woman threw him off balance on all fronts.
“Not big on making small talk, are you?” He managed to keep his voice steady despite his spinning head and hardening body.
“If I’m going to have a chat with a complete stranger, I might as well have an interesting one.” A deep blush stained her cheeks, and her lashes fluttered to hide her eyes. “Besides, you’re leaving tomorrow. I was hoping we could pack a lot into tonight.”
Landon sucked in a sharp breath. Her shy and earnest declaration moved him, and he fought the urge to pull her across the table to kiss her senseless. Instead, he lifted Aubrey’s hand and brushed a kiss on her pale inner wrist. A wolfish grin spread across his face when she gasped at his touch.
“My dream was to open my own restaurant.” To his shock, the truth stumbled out of him. A truth he’d refused to face for the past decade. Maybe he was desperate to give her an interesting conversation. A memorable one. “Someplace spacious and comfortable where people can enjoy a delicious meal without pretense or a six-figure salary.”
“That sounds amazing. What kind of food are we talking about?”
“Whatever inspiration strikes me. If I had to label it, New American–slash–Korean fusion will have to do.”
“I love Korean food. I would totally eat there.” Aubrey sat forward, her eyes round and sparkling. “So you’re Korean? I am, too.”
“Yes, I’m Korean, and you would be more than welcome to eat at my restaurant.”
“Are you a chef?”
“No, but I trained to be one. Have you heard of the CIA?” 
“The Central Intelligence Agency? You learned to cook for undercover agents while dodging bullets and jumping out of airplanes?” She cocked her head to the side and gazed at him with solemn interest.
“I . . . um.” Landon was fairly certain she was messing with him, but insulting her wouldn’t be the best way to seduce her. “It’s . . .”
Aubrey’s pale skin turned from pink to crimson before she erupted into laughter, her frame trembling like a 6.8 earthquake. She held up a finger, gripping her side, pantomiming she needed a minute. He crossed his arms over his chest and leveled her with a steely glare, which wasn’t an easy feat considering her infectious mirth.
“I’m s-sorry, but you had to see your face. You couldn’t decide whether a small-town girl like me knew about the Culinary Institute of America or whether I was pulling your leg.”
Mischievous little fox. He needed to get her back for that. “Actually, that’s incorrect.” He drew closer to her, his lips close to her ear, and lowered his voice to a deep, gritty whisper. “I was debating whether or not I should tell you the truth, because if I did, I’d have to terminate you.”
Aubrey stared at him in silence for a second, and then a delighted grin spread across her face. “This is fun.”
“Yeah, it is.” Landon was surprised to find he meant it. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had fun. He certainly had pleasant and interesting times, but fun times? No, this felt alien.
His earlier hesitation forgotten, he ran his knuckles down the side of her face, relishing the feel of her warm, silky skin. Aubrey leaned lightly into his hand, and her eyes slid shut. She was so responsive to his touch. Landon’s mouth went dry, and all he could think was more. He wanted to make her laugh again. He ached to make her fall apart in his arms with her swollen lips calling out his name.
“You’re beautiful,” Landon murmured, unable to look away from her.
“So are you.” Aubrey’s lips curved into a barely there smile that squeezed his heart.
He’d gone to the brewery for a pint to wash away the bitter taste of his sorry day, but he’d discovered something far more intoxicating—something potent enough to tip him off-balance. Aubrey made his blood sing and his rational thoughts melt away. The floor seemed to grow solid and strong, and his body settled heavily into his seat like he’d dropped anchor across from her—as though she had a gravitational pull all her own and he was helpless against it.
He’d led a nomadic life for a decade. He didn’t know how to stay still for long. The smart thing to do would be to run the hell away from this woman, whose mere proximity made it unimaginable to even leave the table.
But smart wasn’t part of his vocabulary at the moment. Greedy, feral, and desperate passion overwhelmed all else. He stood abruptly from his seat, and Aubrey’s mouth parted in surprise. Then he grasped her hand and raised her to her feet.
“Do you want to get out of here?” His eyes bored into hers, his desire and urgency displayed for her to see.
“Yes.”

Friday, May 15, 2020

Excerpt This Is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf


This is How I Lied Excerpt
Maggie Kennedy-O'Keefe
Monday, June 15, 2020

As I slide out of my unmarked police car my swollen belly briefly gets wedged against the steering wheel. Sucking in my gut does little good but I manage to move the seat back and squeeze past the wheel. I swing my legs out the open door and glance furtively around the parking lot behind the Grotto Police Department to see if anyone is watching.
Almost eight months pregnant with a girl and not at my most graceful. I'm not crazy about the idea of one of my fellow officers seeing me try to pry myself out of this tin can. The coast appears to be clear so I begin the little ritual of rocking back and forth trying to build up enough momentum to launch myself out of the driver's seat.
Once upright, I pause to catch my breath. The morning dew is already sending up steam from the weeds growing out of the cracked concrete. Sweating, I slowly make my way to the rear entrance of the Old Gray Lady, the nickname for the building we're housed in. Built in the early 1900s, the first floor consists of the lobby, the finger printing and intake center, a community room, interview rooms and the jail. The second floor, which once held the old jail is home to the squad room and offices. The dank, dark basement holds a temperamental boiler and the department archives.
The Grotto Police Department has sixteen sworn officers that includes the chief, two lieutenants, a K-9 patrol officer, nine patrol officers, a school resource officer and two detectives. I'm detective number two.
I grew up in Grotto, a small river town of about ten thousand that sits among a circuitous cave system known as Grotto Caves State Park, the most extensive in Iowa. Besides being a favorite destination spot for families, hikers and spelunkers, Grotto is known for its high number of family owned farms – a dying breed. My husband Shaun and I are part of that breed – we own an apple orchard and tree farm.
 "Pretty soon we're going to have to roll you in," an irritatingly familiar voice calls out from behind me.
I don't bother turning around. "Francis, that wasn't funny the first fifty times you said it and it still isn't," I say as I scan my key card to let us in.
Behind me, Pete Francis, rookie officer and all-around caveman grabs the door handle and in a rare show of chivalry opens it so I can step through. "You know I'm just joking," Francis says giving me the grin that all the young ladies in Grotto seem to find irresistible but just gives me another reason to roll my eyes.
"With the wrong person, those kinds of jokes will land you in sensitivity training," I remind him.
"Yeah, but you're not the wrong person, right?" he says seriously, "You're cool with it?"
I wave to Peg behind the reception desk and stop at the elevator and punch the number two button. The police department only has two levels but I'm in no mood to climb up even one flight of stairs today. "Do I look like I'm okay with it?" I ask him.
Francis scans me up and down. He takes in my brown hair pulled back in a low bun, wayward curls springing out from all directions, my eyes red from lack of sleep, my untucked shirt, the fabric stretched tight against my round stomach, my sturdy shoes that I think are tied, but I can't know for sure because I can't see over my boulder-sized belly.
"Sorry," he says appropriately contrite and wisely decides to take the stairs rather than ride the elevator with me.
"You’re forgiven," I call after him.  As I step on the elevator to head up to my desk, I check my watch. My appointment with the chief is at eight and though he didn't tell me what the exact reason is for this meeting I think I can make a pretty good guess.
It can't be dictated as to when I have to go on light duty, seven months into my pregnancy, but it's probably time. I'm guessing that Chief Digby wants to talk with me about when I want to begin desk duty or take my maternity leave. I get it.
It's time I start to take it easy. I’ve either been the daughter of a cop or a cop my entire life but I’m more than ready to set it aside for a while and give my attention, twenty-four-seven to the little being inhabiting my uterus.
Shaun and I have been trying for a baby for a long, long time. And thousands of dollars and dozens of procedures later, when we finally found out we were pregnant, Shaun started calling her peanut because the only thing I could eat for the first nine weeks without throwing up was peanut butter sandwiches. The name stuck.
This baby is what we want more than anything in the world but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I'm a little bit scared. I’m used to toting around a sidearm not an infant.
 The elevator door opens to a dark paneled hallway lined with ten by sixteen framed photos of all the men who served as police chief of Grotto over the years. I pass by eleven photos before I reach the portrait of my father. Henry William Kennedy, 1995 - 2019, the plaque reads.
While the other chiefs stare out from behind the glass with serious expressions, my dad smiles showing his straight, white teeth. He was so proud when he was named chief of police. We were all proud, except maybe my older brother, Colin. God knows what Colin thought of it. As a teenager he was pretty self-absorbed, but I guess I was too, especially after my best friend died. I went off the rails for a while but here I am now. A Grotto PD detective, following in my dad’s footsteps. I think he’s proud of me too. At least when he remembers.
Last time I brought my dad back here to visit, we walked down this long corridor and paused at his photo. For a minute I thought he might make a joke, say something like, Hey, who's that good looking guy? But he didn't say anything. Finding the right words is hard for him now. Occasionally, his frustration bubbles over and he yells and sometimes even throws things which is hard to watch. My father has always been a very gentle man.
The next portrait in line is our current police chief, Les Digby. No smile on his tough guy mug. He was hired a month ago, taking over for Dexter Stroope who acted as the interim chief after my dad retired. Les is about ten years older than I am, recently widowed with two teenage sons. He previously worked for the Ransom Sheriff’s Office and I'm trying to decide if I like him. Jury's still out.
Excerpted from This is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf, Copyright © 2020 by Heather Gudenkauf 
Published by Park Row Books

This is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf

THIS IS HOW I LIED
Author: Heather Gudenkauf
Publication Date: May 12, 2020
Publisher: Park Row Books
Buy Links: 
Social Links:
Twitter: @hgudenkauf
Instagram: @heathergudenkauf
Author Bio: 
Heather Gudenkauf is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of many books, including The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden. Heather graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in elementary education, has spent her career working with students of all ages. She lives in Iowa with her husband, three children, and a very spoiled German Shorthaired Pointer named Lolo. In her free time, Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading, hiking, and running. 
Book Summary:
With the eccentricity of Fargo and the intensity of SadieTHIS IS HOW I LIED by Heather Gudenkauf (Park Row Books; May 12, 2020; $17.99) is a timely and gripping thriller about careless violence we can inflict on those we love, and the lengths we will go to make it right, even 25 years later.
Tough as nails and seven months pregnant, Detective Maggie Kennedy-O’Keefe of Grotto PD, is dreading going on desk duty before having the baby her and her husband so badly want. But when new evidence is found in the 25-year-old cold case of her best friend’s murder that requires the work of a desk jockey, Maggie jumps at the opportunity to be the one who finally puts Eve Knox’s case to rest.
Maggie has her work cut out for her. Everyone close to Eve is a suspect. There’s Nola, Eve’s little sister who’s always been a little... off; Nick, Eve’s ex-boyfriend with a vicious temper; a Schwinn riding drifter who blew in and out of Grotto; even Maggie’s husband Sean, who may have known more about Eve’s last day than he’s letting on. As Maggie continues to investigate, the case comes closer and closer to home, forcing her to confront her own demons before she can find justice for Eve.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

The Final Deception by Heather Graham

THE FINAL DECEPTION
Author: Heather Graham
Publication Date: March 31, 2020
Publisher: MIRA Books
Buy Links: 
Social Links:
Twitter: @HeatherGraham
Author Bio: 
Heather Graham is The New York Times and USA Today best-selling author sold her first book, When Next We Love, in 1982 and since then, she has written over two hundred novels and novellas with about 60 million books in print in categories of romantic suspense, historical romance, vampire fiction, time travel, occult, and Christmas holiday fare. Graham earned high praise for her New York Confidential series, including a starred review from Library Journal which called it, “Intricate, fast-paced, and intense, this riveting thriller blends romance and suspense in perfect combination and keeps readers guessing and the tension taut until the very end.” For more information, visit her at TheOriginalHeatherGraham.com.
Book Summary:
Witness the thrilling conclusion to the beloved New York Confidential series, in THE FINAL DECEPTION (MIRA Books; March 31, 2020; $26.99). Kieran and Craig are about to take on their most chilling case yet as they hunt for a deranged serial killer who has escaped from prison to satisfy his need to kill again.
When criminal psychologist Kieran Finnegan was released from her responsibility of counseling the brutal serial killer known as The Fireman, once he was incarcerated, she was relieved to escape the tendrils of his twisted inner world. The chill she received from her sessions with him has stayed with her despite trying to leave him in the past. However, some demons refuse to remain behind bars. When her FBI agent boyfriend Craig is called to a gruesome crime scene that matches The Fireman’s MO, news begins to spread that he’s escaped from prison.
And he remembers Kieran...
Amid a citywide manhunt, Kieran and Craig need to untangle a web of deceit, privilege, and greed. They suspect that those closest to the killer have been drawn into his evil, or else someone is using another man’s madness and cruelty to disguise their crimes. When their investigation brings the danger right to the doorstep to the once safe haven of Finnegan’s Pub, Kieran and Craig will have to be smarter and bolder than ever before, because this time it’s personal, and they have everything to lose.

The Final Deception by Heather Graham (excerpt)

PROLOGUE
CRAIG FRASIER BREATHED IT IN BEFORE HE COULD STOP himself; the bloodcurdling scent of burning flesh.
Human flesh.
Flames still skittered over the body—an accelerant had been used. As he stood there in the small dark alley, he heard others rushing in: Mike Dalton, his partner, and patrol officers. He heard the sirens; the fire department was coming.
But there was no saving this victim.
Craig was already tamping the fire out; an extinguisher would make the work of the medical examiner more difficult.
But he knew what the medical examiner would find.
The victim had been strangled, then the tongue had been cut out. And then the eyes had been gouged out. Death had occurred, mercifully, before the fire had been set.
The corpses haunted his dreams. Burned shells, some flesh and soft tissue remaining, charred and clinging to the bones, mummy-like. The mouth in the blackened skull was agape, and those empty, soulless eye sockets seemed to be staring up, as if they could still see, as if they stared at him in reproach…
Why hadn’t they caught the killer sooner?
He heard a rustling sound. Looking across the alley, Craig saw a shadow moving. Leaving the corpse to others, he took off like a bullet. He pursued the moving shadow at a run…running and running for blocks. The city was a blur around him.
He reached apartments on Madison, with a coffee shop and a dress store on the first floor, just as the gate at the street entry to the residential units above was closing. He caught the gate, and he reached the elevator in time to see what floor it stopped on. He followed.
And again, as he arrived, a door was just closing; he didn’t let it close.
And there he was: the Fireman, still smelling faintly of gasoline, ready to sit down to a lovely dinner with his family. About to say a prayer before the meal…just a husband and a father, and a man who looked at Craig and calmly said, “So, my work is over. But I have obeyed the commandments given me, and I will go with you.”
Why did you take so long? The corpse again! In Craig’s dreams, the corpse was back, animated, flying at him like a ghostly banshee, issuing a silent scream.
Craig opened his eyes.
He didn’t awake screaming or startled—he didn’t jerk up. It was almost as if he always knew it was a dream, reliving the day the Fireman had gone down.
He’d had the dream several times before. But, now, it seemed as though it had been a long time. Weeks. He’d thought he’d ceased experiencing it altogether. He’d been doing all the right things: quietly seeing a Bureau shrink a few times, following their advice. He hadn’t told Kieran Finnegan, his fiancĂ©e, about his recurring nightmare, and while she was a criminal psychologist working with two of the city’s finest criminal psychiatrists, he’d made a point of not telling her or her bosses.
He’d thought he’d settled it on his own. It was a little strange and sometimes intimidating being in love with someone who studied the human psyche, and he hadn’t wanted Kieran worried about him or trying to analyze him.
Why the hell had the dream come back?
He felt Kieran shift against him. He pulled her into his arms and she rolled, crystal eyes opening wide when she realized that he was awake.
And aroused. Kieran’s tangle of auburn hair was a wild mass around her face, emphasizing her eyes and the quick smile that came to her lips.
“Ah!” she murmured, feeling his arousal against her.
“Your fault,” he accused.
“Well, thankfully. What time is it?” she asked with a soft whisper.
He laughed. “Quickie time, or time for a quickie,” he said.
Her smile deepened, and there was something so sensual about it that it never failed to increase whatever he had begun to feel.
In her arms, in the liquid burn of kisses here and there strategically placed, in the swift—and intense—blaze of arching and writhing and thrusting, all else faded.
After, Craig headed for the shower. He was an FBI agent in the Criminal Division of New York City’s branch of the FBI. He could be satisfied in having brought down several killers. But there would be more; a sad fact of the world and humanity. He was blessed to have his job, his vocation, and it was time to go to work.
He shoved the dream into the back of his mind.
Whatever his day held, he’d already seen the worst that this world could offer.
Little did he know.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

BOUND IN FLAME by Katherine Kayne


AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEWS
Contact: Sarah Miniaci
Sarah.Miniaci@smithpublicity.com

Interview: Author of Fall 2019’s Must-Read Romantic Fantasy Debut on:
FEARLESS HEROINES, HAPPILY-EVER-AFTERS, AND THE 
COMPLEX AND FASCINATING CULTURE & HISTORY OF HAWAII

A former CEO, cancer survivor, avid collector of vintage muumuus, and self-professed bad dancer (and helluva bartender), like most people, Katherine Kayne “adulted for more years than I could count.” But through it all, somewhere deep inside of her, the childhood voice  brimming with love for horses and poetry and magic and happily-ever-afters  remained.

Nowadays, in her “so-called retirement,” Kayne is reclaiming that voice and following the dream of her heart, culminating in the release of her debut novel Bound in Flame: Book One in the Hawaiian Ladies’ Riding Society series [Passionflower Press, October 28, 2019].

With the Hawaiian Ladies Riding Society, Kayne  who counts herself fortunate to live onHawaii Island part of each year, and otherwise resides on another magical island in Puget Sound  is writing the romances she only dreamed of reading as a girl. Her manifesto?

Hawaii makes every woman beautiful. 
Strength is sexy. 
You never outgrow a love for horses. 
Flowers are for wearing. 
Women don’t need to be saved. 
Men should dance more. Especially hula. 
Food is to be enjoyed. 
There just might be magic still in the world. 
The best dresses are long and flowing. 
Our men are lucky to have us
Happily-ever-after is always a possibility. 
A little paper umbrella in your drink makes all things better. 

Set in turn of the century Hawaii, Kayne’s literary debut is centered on the stories of the fearless horsewomen of the islands’ ranches (“Because who doesn’t love a suffragist on horseback? With a bullwhip? Wearing flowers?”) and sees her take great care with cultural sensitivity and bring a sharp eye to historical detail. 

“By the turn of the twentieth century Hawaii was a study in contrasts,” she shares. “Cowboys and kahunas, wild pigs and steamships, hula dancers and rickshaws, land barons and mail-order brides made up the stuff and substance of the islands’ colorful history. The rise of the sugar industry gave great fortunes to a few and bypassed the many. Hawaiians today still fight to right the wrongs of that era. Yet despite it all, those times evoke a great nostalgia.”

“It is during these times that my stories begin, Kayne continues. “Although these tales are pure fiction, I found inspiration in many wonderful pieces of Hawaiian history. Just as the colors are deeper, the smells sharper, and the sun brighter in Hawaii, the stories of the people carry richness beyond imagining.”
To promote the October 2019 release of Bound in Flame, Katherine Kayn who will be attending the Romance Writers of America Conference in New York City from July 24-27  has select availability for interviews, and can speak to a range of profound, inspiring, and incredibly fun topics, including but not limited to:

● Taking the leap in this “third chapter” of her life to follow her childhood dream of becoming an author
● The uniqueness, beauty, and complexity of Hawaii (which is so, so much more than just tiki drinks)
● Writing about Hawaiian culture and history as a white woman, and her experience in working with the Hawaiian community and a group of sensitivity readers, her story trust
● The suffragist movement in the early twentieth century (2020 will mark 100 years since women won the right to vote in the United States)
● The white-washing of history, and the end of the kingdom of Hawaii after it was annexed by the United States in 1898 
● Self-acceptance as the key to power
● True love in all of its messiness and magic
● And much, much more!


Katherine Kayne writes the sort of romantic fantasy she has always wanted to read in her own beach chair. With horses and hula and magic and flowers and happily ever after… with heroines to cheer for and heroes strong enough to follow their heroine’s lead. Pure aloha. She lives in Seattle and counts herself fortunate to live in Hawaii a part of each year.

Find Katherine Kayne on Facebook (@katherinekayneauthor), Twitter (@k2writesbooks), Instagram (@k2writesbooks) and her website https://katherinekayne.com.
Bound in Flame: Book One in the Hawaiian Ladies’ Riding Society Series [Passionflower Press] will be available in paperback and ebook formats as of October 28, 2019.

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