Thursday, June 30, 2016

From IndieReader: If You Liked "The Nest," You'll Love...



NestThis article was originally published by IndieReader. If you are interested in learning more about indie publishing, check out their site.

 

From IndieReader: If You Liked "The Nest," You'll Love...

By Keri English

 

Every family has its problems. But even among the most troubled, the Plumb family stands out as spectacularly dysfunctional.

Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point on an unseasonably cold afternoon in New York City as Melody, Beatrice, and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly released from rehab. Months earlier, an inebriated Leo got behind the wheel of a car with a nineteen-year-old waitress as his passenger. The ensuing accident has endangered the Plumbs' joint trust fund, The Nest, which they are months away from finally receiving. Meant by their deceased father to be a modest mid-life supplement, the Plumb siblings have watched The Nest's value soar along with the stock market and have been counting on the money to solve a number of self-inflicted problems.

Melody, a wife and mother in an upscale suburb, has an unwieldy mortgage and looming college tuition for her twin teenage daughters. Jack, an antiques dealer, has secretly borrowed against the beach cottage he shares with his husband, Walker, to keep his store open. And Bea, a once-promising short-story writer, just can't seem to finish her overdue novel. Can Leo rescue his siblings and, by extension, the people they love? Or will everyone need to re-imagine the futures they've envisioned? Brought together as never before, Leo, Melody, Jack, and Beatrice must grapple with old resentments, present-day truths, and the significant emotional and financial toll of the accident, as well as finally acknowledge the choices they have made in their own lives. If you enjoyed Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney's bestselling debut, check out these awesome indies.

We Could Fall by Kate Moschandreas

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We Could Fall is the story of one pivotal month in the life of Emmy, a 42-year old mother and married psychotherapist. A month in which she learns that her husband doesn't want the divorce Emmy thought they'd agreed to. Meanwhile, the famous Australian actor, Duncan Grier falls in love with her. Duncan struggled with his past and has found better days since becoming Emmy's therapy client. Surprisingly, she may be in love with him too.

The book details two relationships, but also focuses on what Emmy wants for herself. She must choose very carefully how to proceed in her marriage, but in addition, Emmy examines her life and delves into choices she thinks she wants that will change her entire existence…hopefully for the better.

Unraveled by Nancy Rhea

I2

In 1985, returning to her childhood home on the Philadelphia Main Line—a wealthy enclave of glamour and privilege– Professor Hillary Sherman wakes up the first night home to find that her usually proper mother, Dolly Scott, has been arrested for trespassing on her former estate; which is now a country club, claiming she is desperate to find a treasure trove of jewelry she buried over three decades ago. Dolly now lives in the gatehouse of the estate after her husband had run off with her money and his mistress. She is celebrating her 75th birthday and a family reunion as this all transpires.

The story reaches back to the 1950s and examines a family rife with parental neglect, love and inevitably, deaths. As we explore Dolly's life, we get a glimpse through her daughter Hillary's eyes as well, and a startling introduction to the youngest son who has been committed to a sanitarium. So where is the box of jewelry Dolly searched for? Did her former husband make off with it? The son in the institution? Read on as Hillary tries to solve the puzzle.

The Frayed Ribbon by R.W. Hart

I3

Gail Rollins is in the hospital with a high-risk pregnancy under doctor's orders for bed rest when several car crashes cause the ER to be overrun with severely injured victims. In an effort to help, Gail befriends a lonely young girl named Lexie. Gail cares for Lexie and even calms her screams at night. They become attached, especially when Lexie's parents disappear.

In an effort to comfort the now panicked Lexie, Gail gives her a stuffed dog with a frayed ribbon to cuddle while she sleeps. Soon, though, Gail is released from the hospital—a birthday gift from her doctor. She comes back later to check on Lexie only to find the little girl gone. She tries desperately to locate Lexie but runs into privacy laws and red tape. For years, every one of Gail's birthdays act as a reminder of the girl she failed to protect. Having exhausted all avenues that might lead her to Lexie, Gail's hope never diminishes. Will she ever find Lexie?

Bowl of Fruit (1907) by Panayotis Cacoyannis

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Leon Cheam's past is a labyrinth of truths, half-truths and untruths – not one story but many different stories at once, which Leon has been trying to put behind him. But ghostwriter Anna Tor knows much more about his history than he does, and when Leon reluctantly agrees to meet her, as they begin to trace together the two converging courses of their separate lives since their birth on the same September morning in 1973, the devastating secrets of the past are revealed one by one to bind them ever closer together.

Leon is a talented painter in the vein of Picasso, and has a slight obsession with Kafka's The Metamorphosis. As the story takes place over 24 hours, Leon and Anna discuss the past and come to some major revelations about a shared history. A beautifully written tale that finds the characters tracing roots back to a Chilean dictatorship in 1973.

Random Lucidity by Dave Adair

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Struggling literary agent Reggie Hatcher believes he hits it big when he discovers a Jerry Travers, a mentally challenged man scribbling a world-class murder mystery into ragged notebooks in the park. Ignoring all of the red flags about this man and his all-too-real story, Reggie signs a contract with Jerry's unstable caretaker, Rita.

Reggie risks all he has to bring that story to the masses, not the least of which is his relationship with the stunning Meghan James. Reggie's life and the murderous rants of a troubled man are on paths that are destined to intersect. However, now Reggie is faced with impossible choices regarding his professional and personal life as he deals with demanding Rita, and attempts to save his relationship with Meghan. Will Reggie make the correct decision as everything boils over one crucial night?

A Family Affair (Truth In Lies: Book One) by Mary Campisi

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When Christine Blacksworth's larger-than-life father is killed on an icy road in Magdalena, New York, a hundred miles from the 'getaway' cabin he visited every month, she discovers a secret that threatens everything she's always held to be true. Her father has another family which includes a mistress and a daughter.

Determined to uncover the truth behind her father's secret life, Christine heads to Magdalena, prepared to hate the people who have caused her to question everything she thought she knew about her father. But what she finds is a woman who understands her, a half-sister who cherishes her, and a man who could love her if she'll let him. The longer she's around them, the more she questions which family is the real one. If you enjoy A Family Affair, this is the first in a series of twelve books!

We all have stories about our families, sometimes they're tragic, sometimes they're hilarious (and often they're a little of both). Reading about other people's experiences can be the best form of therapy.

-- Keri English

 


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Best Books of the Year So Far: Biographies and Memoirs



Amazon Book Review: Pumpkinflowersin looking for the best books of (every) month, we read as much as we can. But let's face it: every month there is a mountain of new titles, and sometimes we overlook something deserving. That's what happened with Matti Friedman's Pumpkinflowers: A Soldier's Story, published in May. I might have been dissuaded by the title, which belies the weight of it--it's no The Things They Carried, Unbroken, or even Homage to Catalonia. But upon opening the book, we learn that Pumpkin refers to an isolated hilltop outpost in southern Lebanon, one link in Israel's line of defense against Hamas to the north, and as it turns out, directly below. Flowers is code for casualties, many of which befell a unit called the Fighting Pioneer Youth during a nighttime raid on the garrison, seemingly conducted more for recruitment material than strategic gain. The attack resonated throughout Israel, undermining the standards of clear-cut victory and the assumption that strength equals safety, setting a template for the two (and counting) decades that followed. Friedman was one of those kids on the Pumpkin that day, and his account of the events, the soldiers stationed there, and its far-reaching aftermath is all the more harrowing for its clear-eyed examination of postmodern warfare and all of its absurdities--Catch-22, but without the jokes.

See more of the our picks in Biographies & Memoirs, and browse all of the Best Books of the Year So Far.


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Sixty Meters to Anywhere by Brendan Leonard
Another one we (er, I) missed the first time around. Leonard's autobiographical tale recounts his years of chronic overindulgence and bad decisions, the uncertainty and loneliness of recovery, and a literal climb out of depression onto the peaks of Colorado and the West. Slim, unassuming, and completely affecting. "Is it more foolish to risk your life or risk wasting your life?" 
 
 

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The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero by Timothy Egan
Every book Tim Egan has written has been great. Here, the Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winner (The Worst Hard Time) tells the story of Thomas Francis Meagher and his journey from Ireland's Great Famine of the 1840s to New York and the Civil War to his role as territorial governor of Montana.
 

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Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway's Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises by Lesley M. M. Bloom
A book for everyone who once wanted to live the expat life of literature, poverty, salons, and bullfighting, but now understands how that's a little bit embarrassing, or maybe I just got old. So  pour out a bottle of Pernod for all of your fallen dreams, and read Lesley Blume's vivid and masterful story behind Hemingway's best book. (That's right: the best one.)
 

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Sunny's Nights: Lost and Found at a Bar on the Edge of the World by Tim Sultan
Generally, love stories featuring the romance between a man and bar fall toward the sad end of the dial. Not so with Sunny's Nights, Sultan's tribute to a unique watering hole, its larger-than-life barkeep, and the assorted nuts that called it home away from home. Sadly, Sunny's Nights inspiration, bartender Sonny Balzano, died in March, shortly after the book's publication.
 

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Jennifer Probst & Lauren Layne on the Writing Life and the Dreaded Deadline



Romance authors Lauren Layne and Jennifer Probst recently got together to chat about the writing life, the pressure of the looming deadline, the Property Brothers, Sex and the City, and much more.

Layne and ProbstThese are two top-notch writers—and funny to boot. Lauren Layne has two titles on our list of Best Romances of the Year So Far (Cuff Me and I Wish You Were Mine), and Jennifer Probst's Everywhere and Every Way was one of our top romance picks for June.

* *

Lauren Layne: Well, well, well. If it isn't the Jennifer Probst. Lauren Layne here! I'm a huge fan, and you should know…I just stalked you thoroughly and see that we both live in New York. Do you think that automatically qualifies us for BFF status?

Jennifer Probst: Lauren Layne! Hi, babe! And umm, yes, don't you know the code about New Yorkers? This city is grit and sass and we stick together, so I guess that does make us BFFs! Let's get real. I see you have a new series coming up called the Wedding Belles, which looks amazing. Tell me some behind-the-scenes mechanics of what inspired you to write this series or some other juicy secrets that readers are dying to know.

Lauren: You're so right on about New York. I love how the quickest of walks can take you from the over-the-top glitz of Fifth Ave to the sexy grit of Lower East Side! Which leads me right into your question about my upcoming series ...

On the scale of glam to grit, the Wedding Belles is definitely on the dazzling Sex and the City end of things. In fact, I've been describing it as Sex and the City meets The Wedding Planner. As far as my inspiration, I'm a little surprised I haven't written about wedding planners before, because although I've pretty much always known I wanted to be a full-time writer, my other dream job was wedding planner.

I always envisioned myself power-strolling around Manhattan in designer heels, a sexy pencil skirt, and a turquoise planner in hand, and I poured every bit of the glamour of those daydreams into the heroines of this new series.

Speaking of new series, you just kicked off a brand-new one about contractor siblings, right? How wonderfully fresh and sexy. How'd that come about? Any fun stories on the research that must have required?

Jennifer: Sigh. There's just something about weddings that get me every time. For the record, I'm a huge fan of both Sex and the City and the movie The Wedding Planner, so I know your book From This Day Forward is my next read!

As for me, I'm an HGTV addict and am kind of obsessed with the Property Brothers. I finally realized that to get enough of them, I'd have to write my own brothers in a new series, and I cannot tell you how excited I am about the release of Everywhere and Every Way. I love the idea of feuding brothers who are forced to work together in the family construction business. Of course, each brother brings something unique. Cal builds the houses, Dalton is the woodworker, and Tristan does the real estate and house flipping. Mix in a stubborn, sassy, southern heroine, a huge dark secret, and an array of sexy power tools, and I'm thrilled to introduce to readers this new series that I term my HGTV-inspired romance.

As for research, I included many of my own personal stories from when my husband and I built our house. I learned a lot—from how to pick out thirty light fixtures, what a flood can do to a timeline, what happens when the wrong supplies get delivered, and the consequences of your construction team catching food poisoning! In fact, it was so stressful, my husband and I promised we wouldn't get a divorce until after we had moved in and could tell if we still liked each other. Needless to say, we're very happy and it was all well worth it.

How about you, Lauren? Any wedding disasters or personal stories you used for this series?

Lauren: Oh, man! Now I remember why my husband and I rent. We're so not handy!

As for my own behind-the-scenes inspiration for the Wedding Belles series, I actually ended up relying solely on my imagination for this one. I married my high school sweetheart fairly young. I didn't really realize until after the fact that weddings were supposed to be stressful.

That said, while I wouldn't change the groom for anything, I do sometimes fantasize about what my wedding would be like if I could do it all over again. Writing the Wedding Belles series was a chance to plan out a bunch of different dream wedding scenarios. For example, my own wedding took place in December and had a very holiday-esque feel with over 200 people. I loved it, but it was so fun to reimagine my wedding day with a smaller, fancy summer wedding, with pale pinks and Tiffany blue color schemes. I hope my husband isn't reading this. He'd probably have a heart attack.

Okay, so I'm going to shift gears here a little bit, because it's not often I have the ear of the Jennifer Probst, and I'm dying to know…what does a typical day look like for you? Do you have one? Do you write every day, or do you tend to binge before deadline? What's a typical dinner? Tell me everything! :) 

Jennifer: I do write every day, and try to keep my weekends more flexible to hang out with my family. I have two amazing boys who are nine and eleven, and they are so much fun to be with, I don't want to miss a moment because they are growing up way too much. **insert mommy sniffle** I never complain about getting to finally reach my dream of writing full-time, so I put my boys on the bus, get my coffee ready, do email, and check in with social media first.

Then I get to work on my manuscript. Of course, I'm consistently juggling projects, so I'll have promotion to do for one project, edits on another, and be writing the new book. There's never enough time in the day to do everything. Sometimes, when my husband gets home from work, I'll say, "Ask me how many new words I wrote? Ask me!" Then, with fear in his eyes, he asks me. And I'll say, "Zero! Nada! NONE! I worked all day and got no new words written!" And then he proceeds to nod and ask what's for dinner. And my response is pretty much the same. "I don't know. What are you cooking?!"

So, then my husband will deal with dinner and we all eat together, then do homework, and then I'll try to squeeze in another two hours of work before collapsing.

Of course, this schedule is quite different around DEADLINE. That is when I realize I have to write most of the book in record time, because I got caught up watching too many Real Housewives or Property Brothers shows during my "lunch break" and I didn't write enough. I also call it survival mode in my house. My boys know the word deadline, and it's pretty much when I lock myself up, get real ugly, and write around the clock. It's a scary time in our household. Nothing gets done, and my husband has to make me shower and eat real food other than Funions and Dairy Queen Blizzards. Maybe I work better under pressure, because every time I swear I won't do that again, I'm staring at another deadline I'm behind on.

Okay, gorgeous. Your turn. Did you always want to write? What made you sit down and write your first book? How long was it before you got published? Tell me your writing journey.

Lauren: So glad to hear I'm not the only one that treats showers as "strictly optional" while on deadline. There's something so stressful and yet so invigorating about those last couple days before you have to hit "send" on your manuscript, right?

And yes, I absolutely always wanted to be a writer. I was a total bookworm as a kid, so whenever my parents' friends asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, it was always "An author!" That said, I'm also a pragmatic soul, and I had it in my head that in real life, writing wouldn't pay the bills. Most of my early to mid-twenties was spent in the corporate world, strutting around in high heels doing the nine-to-five thing.

Then at twenty-seven I hit the breaking point. I realized I was miserable, doing that thing where I spent all week awaiting Friday afternoon, and then all weekend dreading Monday morning. I started writing a book, this time with the intention to get it published.

Just as I was finishing the book, my husband got an unexpected job offer in NYC (we were living in our hometown of Seattle at the time). I said I'd be all for it, only if I could have three months of trying to turn my writing dream into a full-time gig. It ended up taking six months instead of the targeted three, but I did it! It's been an absolute roller-coaster ever since, and I've never been happier. If I'm going to be a total sap about this, my only regret is not trusting my gut and following my dreams sooner.

Okay, last question and then I'll let you get back to writing, and let all these lovely readers get back to buying Everywhere and Every Way and From This Day Forward. ;-) What's one thing you're most looking forward to this summer? Any glorious vacation plans? A book you're scheduled to write? Just enjoying sunshine?

Jennifer: Ah, summer. My absolutely favorite time of year. I still feel like my kids in summer—I adore sleeping late and not rushing to make lunches and race to the bus. I love the longer days that stretch into evenings by the pool or the fire pit, making s'mores. Most of all, I love vacations. My family and I always rent a house in Cape May, New Jersey, and it's just a laid back time where we go to the beach every day and truly relax. Then we do a trip to Sesame Place, Hershey Park, and Lancaster County in Pennsylvania for a week. I always give myself a bit of breathing room from deadlines so I can enjoy the kids too and not stress out about delivering a book. I also get to read. Is there anything better than lying in the sun with a cocktail and a book in hand?

Lauren: No, no, there is not. In fact, I think I know exactly what I'll be doing with the rest of my day.… *pours cocktail, grabs newest Jennifer Probst book.*  Cheers!

Jennifer: Cheers! I'm off to finish writing this new book, and I know my perfect reward: *From This Day Forward and a Sweet Hot Chris cocktail!*

 


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Proust or Pop: What's in Your Beach Bag?



Amazon Book Review: The DollhouseWhat constitutes summer reading? Like any open ended question, this one has plenty of answers. To my sister, as a teenager, it meant reading all of Proust – in French. (I know. That annoyed me, too.) To my son, it means manga, manga, and more manga, with a little anime thrown in just to complicate things. To me, well, "summer reading" depends on the week and the location.

Just to be perverse, even if I'm at the beach I skip the beach reads, except that I do remember very fondly a weekend years ago when I lolled around reading THE beach read of that summer: Scott Turow's Presumed Innocent. (Tony stuff by beach-y standards, I guess – but it was a more innocent time.) This summer I plan to finish the oeuvre of Elena Ferrante – I've got the Neapolitan Quartet covered, and a couple of the early books. (My favorite: The Days of Abandonment) But there are some beautiful paperbacks on my shelf from whatever-her-real-name is, so they're going on the top of the file. Some other plans: Caleb Carr's forthcoming novel, Surrender, New York, because I remember another summer engrossed in his first, The Alienist. And then, for fun, The Dollhouse, which is the kind of historical, New York-y novel I remember reading before I moved here; it's about the Barbizon Hotel for women, which (of course) is alive mostly in the memory of longtime New Yorkers.

Hmm. Two novels about New York City, past and present. I guess you can take the girl away from metropolis, but you can't... etc.

What do you consider the perfect kind of beach read? Are you city or country? Proust or pop? Whichever, Happy 4th!

See more in our Summer Reading Roundup.

 

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Surrender, New York: A Novel by Caleb Carr
The Alienist's Dr. Laszlo Kreizler returns in the latest historical thriller from the #1 New York Times bestselling author.
 

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The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante
A deeply absorbing and affecting tale of a woman and mother forced to confront the realities of her own life when her husband abruptly leaves.
 
 

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The Dollhouse: A Novel by Fiona Davis
"The Dollhouse.. . That's what we boys like to call it.... The Barbizon Hotel for Women, packed to the rafters with pretty little dolls. Just like you."
 

 

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Best Romances of 2016 So Far



Best romances of 2016 so farLooking back at the first half of the year, a few things stand out for me: The small-town romance is still going strong, like a brawny contractor determined to get the job done right. Billionaires and dukes remain on top (but don't mind being on the bottom either). Sports-focused romances continue to have a strong grip on readers' hearts. An increasing number of romances are using only first-person point-of-view from the heroine's side, mainly in the bit-older-than-New-Adult subgenre. And I'm seeing beards...lots more beards.

Below are ten of my picks for the best romances of of 2016 so far. I hope you find something you love!

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Hot in Hellcat Canyon by Julie Anne Long – Long's small-town contemporary made it to the top of my list because 1) it's not schmaltzy small-town, where everyone has a quilt shop or cupcakerie, and I needed that breath of fresh air; and 2) JT and Britt complement each other so perfectly in their flaws that they are the most complete couple of the year.
 

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Cuff Me by Lauren Layne – Layne's will-they-or-won't-they-admit-their-love? story of two NYC police detectives showcases Layne's humor and deft emotional touch. Longtime partners Vincent and Jill clearly care deeply for each other, but is it just friendship or something more? Neither is quite sure, heightening the tension. And in the meantime, they have a killer to find, too.
 

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The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana ZapataDirty author Kylie Scott mentioned that she loved this book, and, man, it sucked my heart out of my chest. Told in first-person, Zapata's story of the personal assistant to a huge, standoffish Canadian (and vegan) defensive end for an NFL-like team builds a new romantic relationship from the turf up. When Vanessa quits after two years of being taciturn Aiden's assistant to start her own graphic design company, Aiden chases her down with an almost unthinkable bargain that will help her pay off her enormous student loans.
 

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Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt – I can't rave enough about this historical romance in which the duke who was the merciless villain in the last few books becomes the hero—or at least as heroic as he's able to be, which isn't much. Still, Hoyt writes a story that has you rooting for the duke to turn himself around and learn to love again.
 

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Mercury Striking by Rebecca Zanetti – A disease has struck down most of the population in this near-future apocalyptic romance. Zanetti's alpha rebel leader Jax matches wits with scientist Lynne Harmony as she tries to convince him to help her find a cure even while they are under fire from other gangs.
 

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Troublemaker by Linda Howard – A rural police chief is blackmailed by her brother into bringing a former special ops soldier into her home to recover from an assassination attempt. Howard slowly weaves the emotional chain between Bo and Morgan, giving it an authentic grip, even as danger continues to prowl around the edges.
 

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Heart Breaker by Erin McCarthy - Former lovers and current country-music stars Jolene Hart and Chance Rivers have to create one more album together to fulfill their contract, but they can't do anything but fight. And kiss, too, when they can get past their differences and trust each other again.
 

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A Girl's Guide to Moving On by Debbie Macomber – Macomber's heartwarming story of a woman and her former mother-in-law who leave their husbands to find men more worthy of their love straddles the line between romance and women's fiction. Macomber shows off what she does best as she dives into the significant details that make or break relationships—and make or break who we consider ourselves to be.
 

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Wicked Sexy Liar by Christina Lauren – In the fourth Wild Seasons book, Lauren puts the reader so deep in Luke's and London's heads and souls that the pain of every wrong word and the pleasure of every right one are like sweetly sharp arrows to the heart. And if you drop the word "Liar" from the title, you get a good sense of the sizzle level of the sex involved.
 

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A Lowcountry Wedding by Mary Alice Monroe – Wedding bells are ringing for not one but two weddings, but a surprise visitor upends all plans. Still, family ties—the ones that bind as well as the ones that support—are Monroe's specialty, and this contemporary romance delights in exploring the complexities of relationships born into and made.
 

 To see the full list of all twenty books, please click here.

 

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