Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel by James Luceno

Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel (Star Wars)Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel by James Luceno
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lauded Star Wars author James Luceno returns to pen an intense tale of ambition and betrayal that sets the stage for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

War is tearing the galaxy apart. For years the Republic and the Separatists have battled across the stars, each building more and more deadly technology in an attempt to win the war. As a member of Chancellor Palpatine’s top secret Death Star project, Orson Krennic is determined to develop a superweapon before their enemies can. And an old friend of Krennic’s, the brilliant scientist Galen Erso, could be the key.

Galen’s energy-focused research has captured the attention of both Krennic and his foes, making the scientist a crucial pawn in the galactic conflict. But after Krennic rescues Galen, his wife, Lyra, and their young daughter, Jyn, from Separatist kidnappers, the Erso family is deeply in Krennic’s debt. Krennic then offers Galen an extraordinary opportunity: to continue his scientific studies with every resource put utterly at his disposal. While Galen and Lyra believe that his energy research will be used purely in altruistic ways, Krennic has other plans that will finally make the Death Star a reality. Trapped in their benefactor’s tightening grasp, the Ersos must untangle Krennic’s web of deception to save themselves and the galaxy itself.

Catalyst is a brilliantly universe-expanding story and an excellent addition to Star Wars canon. The book is set during Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith but focuses a new group of characters who view the war from a different perspective. The story centres on Galen and Lyra Erso and their infant daughter, Jyn as they travel across the Galaxy engaging in scientific research, hoping to find a way of providing free, renewable energy to the poorest Planets in the Galaxy. The second storyline is that of Orson Krennic, who is a young, ambitious officer within the Republic who wishes to further his career by exploiting his long-time friendship with Galen Erso.

The novel spans a period of roughly five years during which the Republic transitions in to the Empire. The detail given and the new information provided in regards to the formation of the Empire is pleasing to those of us who felt it was rushed in the films. The main story focuses on the creation of the Death Star and how the Empire manages to conceal it from so many people whilst deceiving others into designing and building it for them. The rich text introduces us to many new worlds and species, whilst also touching base with recognisable characters such as Tarkin and to a lesser extent Saw Gerrera.

Catalyst is the perfect companion piece to the up-coming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story film. It introduces us to several characters that will feature in the film and also provides them with a back story. Although I found the first twenty or so pages hard to get into, mainly due to a lot of technical jargon, the story quickly picks up and concludes with a thrilling cat and mouse chase through the streets of Coruscant between the main characters. I was pleasantly surprised with the ending as, even though I was convinced I knew how it would end, I was wrong. It answered many questions that the promotional material for Rogue One raised and yet has made me ask many more questions that I need answering.

James Luceno has done his job very well, a very good novel in its own right, but now I cannot wait for Rogue One to hit cinemas so I can finish this story.

4.5 out of 5

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Tony and Susan by Austin Wright

Tony and SusanTony and Susan by Austin Wright
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The novel that inspired the 2016 major motion picture Nocturnal Animals, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams, is a dazzling, eerie, riveting thriller of fear and regret, blood and revenge.

Many years after their divorce, Susan Morrow receives a strange gift from her ex-husband. A manuscript that tells the story of a terrible crime: an ambush on the highway, a secluded cabin in the woods; a thrilling chiller of death and corruption. How could such a harrowing story be told by the man she once loved? And why, after so long, has he sent her such a disturbing and personal message...?

This is a story within a story; after 15/20 years of no contact with her ex-husband out of the blue Susan receives a copy of his manuscript asking her to read and review it as she was always her ex-husbands best critic. She reads this over a 3 day period while her husband Arnold a doctor is away at a conference. As the story unfolds Susan becomes fascinated by the drama and this is interspersed with her reactions and flashbacks of her life with her ex-husband Edward and comparisons of her present marriage to Arnold.

Edward comes across as a weak and selfish man, he expected his wife to work while he 'found himself' as a writer but we get the impression that he doesn't have much talent and that Susan becomes bored with his self obsessed vanity as a writer while she has to work to keep their heads above water. While he was busy feeding his fantasy of being a great author she was lonely and took solace in the arms of a neighbour who's own marriage was falling apart due to his wife's illness. When she confesses to Edward he seems devoid of all emotion and they eventually divorce and go their separate ways.

Marrying Arnold seems to me something that Susan just did and as the novel progresses we find her questioning just why she did marry him. It seems that Arnold has been having an affair for some time and though she knows about it she appears to accept it. She seems distressed that after all this time Edward has got in touch and wonders why he sent her the manuscript especially since he said something is missing but he's sure she will know what.

Tony (in Edwards' novel) is an academic who cannot or will not come to terms with the death of his wife and daughter and his cowardice on the night of the incident when he was unable to fight for them both. It seems that Edward is telling Susan that he could not or would not fight for her until it was too late. For her part, Susan is beginning to wonder why she chose cheating Arnold and questioning whether she should have stayed with the weak and unemotional Edward.

The novel within a novel moves along at a fairly good pace in the beginning but then looses impetus and for me held few surprises and had a weak ending. The story of Susan, Edward, Arnold triangle though interesting didn't really go anywhere, the ending was a damp squib and I felt that I had invested time to read it and felt a bit cheated when there was no satisfactory conclusion in either 'story'.

The characters were a bit flat, of course we don't get to 'know' the wife and daughter as they are killed off early and I didn't warm to weak Tony, arrogant Arnold or really with indecisive Susan so the only thing really keeping me going was a curiosity as to whether the murderers were caught and what happened to them but again this was really not very satisfactory. It was also a little dated, this was first published in 1993 when mobile phones and such technology was not around and this really does show in modern day readers expectations, I found myself thinking 'why doesn't he just call the police on his mobile'.

It was different and to a point interesting but for me it lacked a killer punch and it was not really the thriller genre it was billed as. It's soon to be made into a motion picture and perhaps it will translate better as a movie, as a novel it just seems to be lacking and I can only give this a 3 star rating. The characters were so hollow that I really didn't care towards the end.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart

Fly on the WallFly on the Wall by E. Lockhart
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

At the Manhattan School of Art and Music, where everyone is unique, Gretchen Yee feels ordinary. It doesn't help that she's known as the shy girl who sits alone at lunch, drawing pictures of her favourite superhero, just so she won't have to talk to anyone.

It's no surprise that Gretchen isn't exactly successful in the boy department. Her ex-boyfriend is a cold-fish-sometimes-flirty ex who she can't stop bumping into. Plus, she has a massive crush on a boy named, Titus but is too scared to make the first move. One minute he seems like a sensitive guy, the next, he's a completely different person when he's with his friends. She can't seem to figure boys out!

Gretchen has one wish: to be a fly on the wall in the boy's locker room. What are boys really like? What do they talk about?

This is the story of how one girl's wish came true.

When I heard e.lockhart had another one of her books rebranded by Hot Key books and it was one I hadn't read I couldn't wait to get my teeth stuck into it. My favourite has been We Were Liars of hers and to be honest I haven't read another that has come close yet. Unfortunately this doesn't make it into the same league of that book either.

I thought this sounded really interesting 'fly on the wall' scenario, when has anyone not wished they could be a fly on the wall at some time in their lives. This was just that though, the story was split into three sections. To be honest I found it difficult to link these all together and how they fit together. The first section we learn about Gretchen, who is a normal girl who goes to an artsy school, she knows little about boys and is always falling out with her friends. Gretchen makes a wish to be a fly on the wall and for some reason this actually comes true. This is the major issue for me, it is completely unbelievable, which would be fine if this was explained as to how this happened and for me this was a big fail.

The whole middle section is about Gretchen being this fly on the wall, the things she sees and hears on the wall of the boys locker room. Some of this is amusing, however some of the language used to describe parts of the anatomy I found was very immature.

The third section links a little more with the first but we still didn't know exactly how this all happened. This was a very short read at just over 170 page. I read this in a couple of hours and it did pass the time. I would not recommend this to older teenagers as I think they may find it a little irritating.

This book was O.K and only O.K I wouldn't be reading this again, which is a shame as I loved e. Lockharts We Were Liars, I am still trying to find another of hers, which holds up to this.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review. 

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Twenty Four Days to Christmas by Fred with guest post

Twenty Four Days to Christmas

Poppy is in agony - it is the First of December and she has twenty-four days to wait until Christmas and she is convinced that she will not be able to contain her excitement and impatience: How can she possibly wait so long for Santa to arrive? Poppy's parents put their heads together and come up with a cunning plan that has Poppy completing a different, Christmas themed activity every day, to keep Her busy until Christmas (and Santa) finally arrives. Twenty-Four Days to Christmas is an Advent Calendar of a book, which can be read one day at a time, or as a complete story, and centres on Christmas, family and the magic of the Christmas season. Purchase from Amazon UK - amazon

Twenty Four Days to ChristmasTwenty Four Days to Christmas by Fred Arthur

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love Christmas so was pleased I had the chance to read and review this. This is a story about Poppy and the 24 days leading up to Christmas. This is a picture book and there are images on every page, which would keep children really engaged.

I absolutely loved this book, it is told through a poem, it is cleverly written and rhymes in most places. We get taken on Poppy's journey leading up to Christmas, the days are filled with Christmassy things as she becomes impatient for Santa to arrive, being in the nativity, writing letters to Santa and getting the Christmas tree.

The illustrations really make this book, I thought they really brought the story to life. This picture book is going to become one of my firm favourites in my classroom and I will be sharing it with my class every year.

This is a real gem of a Christmas book to share with children, if you are looking for a sweet story this year, I recommend you choose this one.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.

Fred Arthur’s Top 9 Christmas Foods

1. Home made Christmas pudding and brandy sauce - Need I say any more?

2. Christmas day lunch (Except for Brussel Sprouts) - It is the central part of the family day!

3. Home made Mince Pies - Warm or cold; with or without cream!

4. Christmas party tea, cold meats, sandwiches, sausage rolls, crisps, peanuts, yule log, Christmas Cake - A child’s paradise, more crackers, jokes

5. Home made Christmas Cake - Eaten the Yorkshire way, with a slice of cheese

6. Home made chocolate eclairs – Just Heaven

7. Tangerines - Lovely and sweet, and Santa always leaves one in Fred’s stocking!

8. Hot chocolate with marsh mallows - You can’t beat this after a good walk around the park in the cold air.

9. Quality street and Roses - It’s not just the sweets, it’s the smells; they bring back so many happy memories – Christmas isn’t Christmas without them

About Fred Arthur

Fred Arthur is the combined pen name for friends Pincher Martin and Mike Dineen who met working in the Royal Navy. Leaving school at the age of fifteen Pincher Martin entered the Royal Navy as an Able Seaman and now holds the rank of Commander. Living with his family in Plymouth but working in Portsmouth writing creative emails and text messages to his young daughter has become part of his daily life. Mike Dineen graduated from St Andrew’s University before joining the Royal Navy, and he too holds the rank of Commander. Mike lives with his wife in Pickering, North Yorkshire and works in Scotland. Both are keen sportsmen and qualified life coaches. Their goal is to become successful authors, so that when the Royal Navy finally forces them to retire, it will enable them to fulfil their shared desire to support local schools and libraries, satisfy their passion for writing and foster a belief in the importance of reading and imagination for children of all ages. 
Fred Arthur on Twitter -

Monday, 21 November 2016

The Treasure Map of Boys by E. Lockhart

The Treasure Map of Boys (Ruby Oliver #3)The Treasure Map of Boys by E. Lockhart
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Noel, Jackson, Finn, Hutch, Gideon-and me, Ruby Oliver From E. Lockhart, author of the best-seller We Were Liars, and the highly-acclaimed The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, comes this hilarious and heart-warming series. Things are looking good for Ruby Oliver. It's the thirty-seventh week that she's been in the state of Noboyfriend. Ruby's panic attacks are bad, and her love life is even worse, not to mention the fact that more than one boy seems to be giving Ruby a lot of their attention. Rumours are flying, and Ruby's already not-so-great reputation is heading downhill. Not only that, she's also: * running a bake sale * learning the secrets of heavy-metal therapy * encountering some seriously smelly feet * defending the rights of pygmy goats * and bodyguarding Noel from unwanted advances. In this third instalment to the Ruby Oliver series, Ruby tries to pin down two important things: real friendship, and true love - if such a thing exists.

I have read the others in this series and I am glad I have as I think I got more out of the novel, however I think you could have read this as a stand alone as we do get a brief catch up at the beginning of the book.

Ruby does seem to begin to get a bit more of a brain in this book, perhaps she is beginning to grow up, slightly? This is the book she finally realises how awful Jackson is and manages to stick to her guns.

I feel a lot happens to Roo in this book, she looses her job, falls out with friends (again), gets a new dog called Polka - Dot and is still obsessed with boys. Although a lot of these are teen related issues that personally I felt I couldn't relate to, she does seem as if she is beginning to grown up, especially towards the end of the book.

This is not my favourite series and I would not say I love it, but I will be reading the final installment, hoping that finally Ruby sees things for what they are and grows up.

I would recommend this series to younger teens.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, 18 November 2016

The Paris Secret by Karen Swan

The Paris SecretThe Paris Secret by Karen Swan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not every door should be opened . . .

With stunning locations and page-turning tension, The Paris Secret is an intense and gripping tale from bestselling author Karen Swan.

Somewhere along the cobbled streets of Paris, an apartment lies thick with dust and secrets: full of priceless artworks hidden away for decades.

High-flying fine art agent Flora from London, more comfortable with the tension of a million-pound auction than a cosy candlelit dinner for two, is called in to assess these suddenly discovered treasures. As an expert in her field, she must trace the history of each painting and discover who has concealed them for so long.

Thrown in amongst the glamorous Vermeil family as they move between Paris and Antibes, Flora begins to discover that things aren't all that they seem, while back at home her own family is recoiling from a seismic shock. The terse and brooding Xavier Vermeil seems intent on forcing Flora out of his family's affairs - but just what is he hiding?

Well written with good atmospheric passages which transport the reader into the heart of Paris, Vienna, Antibes and London.

After a property has been broken into in Paris a long-forgotten apartment is discovered that contains priceless artworks dating back to Vichy France. The building is owned by the Vermeil family who had no idea of the apartments existence until they are informed that the building has been broken into. Madame Vermeil is anxious to know what is in the apartment.

We are introduced to Flora a fine art adviser and auctioneer who is sent to Paris to verify artworks that might be in the apartment, clearly these art artworks seized during the Nazi occupation which is why they were hidden away for so long. Flora has to authenticate the artworks but can only trace them back to Franz von Taschelt, a Jew who appears to have swindled fellow Jews out of their collections during Nazi rule. Of course, under these circumstances no one wants to touch the paintings so the collections in terms of selling on is worthless.

Flora is set up in Vienna in one of the Vermeil family homes to start cataloguing the collection and meets Xavier the owners son a brooding mysterious character who despite herself Flora is attracted to.

Well written characters, good story subject that takes us back in time to WW11 and the German occupation and secrets that span decades waiting to be discovered along with a romance thrown in for good measure. Lovely introduction to the art world that would be good holiday reading material. A well deserved 4 stars from me.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Brand by Sierra Cartwright blog tour

Published by Totally Bound, 17th November 2016 , £7.99
Available in paperback original for the first time

He wants her subject to his will. She's scared she may never want to get away.

The first time Sofia McBride meets the strong and determined Cade Donovan, he warns her to keep her distance. She tells herself to heed his words, but she's stunned to realise her depth of attraction to this intimidating man. She knows she should stay away from him, but try as she might, she's unable to resist him or his sexy, erotic demands. The deeper she becomes ensnared, the more she realises she may never want to escape.

All his life, enigmatic rancher Cade Donovan has chosen women who don't expect too much from him. But when a storm strands him with Sofia, his lovely, won't-take-no-for-an-answer event planner, all his dominant and protective instincts flare. Cade wants everything she has to offer, but he soon discovers Sofia's beauty hides a determination he hasn't counted on. Her untamed responses send him on a journey that will banish his demons and change them both forever.


Brand by Sierra Cartwright

Chapter One

“He’s a fucking badass. A hot fucking badass. But still, a fucking badass.”

“Who?” With a scowl, Sofia McBride looked up from her clipboard and glanced at her assistant.

“Cade Donovan.”

She followed the direction of her assistant’s gaze.

Sofia wasn’t the type to swoon, but…

He was standing next to the registry station near the front door of the country club and was dressed in an athletic-cut black tuxedo that emphasized his broad shoulders and trim waist.

Rather than a typical bow tie, a sexy Western bulldogger tie was fastened around his throat. Intricately crafted leather cowboy boots were polished to a shiny gleam, and he wore a black felt cowboy hat.

Even from down the hallway, she noted his rakishly appealing goatee.

Though she’d never met him, she’d grown up in Corpus Christi, less than fifty miles from the Running Wind Ranch. Because his last name was Donovan, he was local royalty, and she’d heard of his exploits—fast cars, bull-riding championships, women—all the privileges money could buy.

He was mouthwatering. Given how tempting he was, no doubt he’d earned every bit of his reputation.

The woman at the front pointed toward the Bayou Room where Sofia and Avery were putting the finishing touches on the preparations for Lara and Connor Donovan’s wedding celebration. Cade touched the brim of his hat with old-world charm.

“He’s heading this way,” Avery said unnecessarily.

“You need to get going.”

“How about we switch jobs for the evening?” Avery suggested. “You can go to the

Oilman’s Ball, and I’ll stay here.”

“No chance.” Sofia’s answer had nothing to do with Cade and everything to do with her friend Lara, who’d just married into the family.

Even though there would only be a couple of hundred people at this evening’s reception and the country club was one of the best venues to work with, Sofia planned to be there for her friend.

“But, but… That’s Cade Donovan.” Avery exaggeratedly stuck out her lower lip.

And Sofia wanted to meet him. At dinner last week, Lara had mentioned that Connor was a Dominant. And Sofia was curious to know if the other brothers were as well. “I’ll take care of him.”

“You never were good at sharing, boss.”


“If you need anything, anything—”

“Good luck with Mrs. Davis.” Honestly, Sofia needed Avery’s skills at the Oilman’s Ball.

Five hundred people were on the guest list, and press would be in attendance.

Zoe, Sofia’s sister, had been at a downtown Houston hotel all afternoon, overseeing the setup of the challenging event. Mrs. Davis, the ball’s chairwoman, was notoriously demanding, and she’d been making changes to the plans for the last month. Avery’s ability to say no while keeping the client happy was a skill Sofia had yet to master. “You’re a cruel, cruel boss.”

“You might meet a rich oil baron.”

“There is that,” she conceded with a cheeky grin. Avery was twenty-nine, and she’d set a goal of being married by the time she was thirty. She didn’t lack interest from men, but she wouldn’t settle for just any man, insisting she wanted a man who could keep her in very expensive shoes and give her a monthly purse budget to match.

After gathering her belongings, Avery headed for the back exit through the kitchen.

Sofia straightened her shoulders and walked toward the front of the room to greet Cade, who had paused inside the doorway. His gaze locked on her. He didn’t blink, didn’t look away.

Instead, he perused her as if she were the only person on the planet.

It was discombobulating and heady.

Her sensible black skirt suddenly felt a bit tight, her patent leather heels a little too tall.

Still, she strove for professionalism she suddenly didn’t feel. “Mr. Donovan.” She gave him her best smile. “I’m Sofia McBride. Lara’s friend and the event coordinator.”

“I’m early.” He offered his hand.

Because it was the polite thing to do, she accepted.

His hand was so much larger than hers. All of a sudden, his presence seemed to consume her. His scent was leather laced with strength. He was exceptionally tall with a chiseled jaw, and it appeared that his nose had been broken, maybe more than once.

She had to look up a long way to meet his gaze, and when she did, she saw that his eyes were a chilly gunmetal. His posture spoke of a confidence bordering on arrogance, and he wore power as comfortably as he did his tuxedo jacket.

The air around Cade all but crackled with intensity, and part of her felt as if she’d been swept into some sort of vortex.

Last week, when she’d met up with Lara, her friend had confessed that she and Connor shared a BDSM relationship. The news had momentarily left Sofia speechless. She had read books and seen a couple of movies about the subject, but other than the fact sex was kinky, she hadn’t known much about it, and she’d never known anyone who was into it.

Once she’d gotten past the initial shock, Sofia had started asking questions. Lara had responded quite matter-of-factly, sharing enough information that Sofia was more intrigued than ever. When she’d gone home that night, she’d powered up her computer and done an

Internet search. Some of the things she’d seen had made her flinch, but the idea of being tied up had starred in a few of her recent fantasies.

Now, she wildly wondered if Cade was also into BDSM, and she had a disturbing, naughty image of being over his knee while he spanked her.

With a little shiver—part apprehension, part curiosity—she pulled back her hand. “We’re just putting the finishing touches on before Connor and Lara arrive,” she said, probably unnecessarily. Because the couple had married a few weeks before, the order of the evening was a bit unusual. The family was planning to meet at five for pictures, and the cocktail hour was scheduled for six, with dinner following at seven.

“Anything I can do to help?”

The offer caught her off guard. “Thanks, but I think we’ve got it covered.”

“If there’s anything you need, let me know.”

She questioned if she’d imagined a slight emphasis on the word anything.

The photographer shouted out a cheery hello as she arrived, and Sofia was grateful for the interruption. “There’s a bar near the restaurant, if you’d be more comfortable waiting there?”

A hint of a smile teased his mouth. Rather than softening his expression, it only made him look all the more dangerous.

“Are you trying to get rid of me, Ms. McBride?”

Yes. The man definitely unnerved her. “I just want you to be comfortable.”

“Can I get you anything while I’m there?”

“Thank you.” She shook her head. “But I don’t drink while I work.”

“Do you always follow the rules?”

Though his tone was light, the question sounded serious. “I like rules,” she replied.

“Do you?”

“It helps keep my life in order.”

“That’s a good thing?”

“Isn’t it?” she countered. Even as she answered, she wasn’t sure why she was having this conversation, why she was revealing parts of herself to a stranger.

“Have you ever been tempted to say the hell with everything and explore all that life had to offer?”

“When it comes to business, yes.”

“And everything else?”

“No.” But honestly, she was now.

The photographer placed her backpack on a chair then moved toward them, sparing Sofia from further discussion.

Sofia introduced the pair, then excused herself to greet the DJ and show him where to set up.

Over the next ten minutes, three generations of Donovans began to arrive, and Connor and Lara took her aside.

“We need your help with something,” Lara said.


“Julien Bonds RSVP’d about ten minutes ago. He’s an old friend of Connor’s.”

Only professionalism kept her from dropping her jaw. There were a number of highprofile Texans on tonight’s guest list, including one senator, but Julien Bonds? The man’s genius was legend. She’d waited in line several hours to buy his latest wearable device at the opening of his newest flagship store, and he’d been at the event for a short time. He’d left only minutes before she would have gotten to meet him.

About two years ago, she’d written to the company, wanting an app that allowed her to do more impressive business presentations. Surprising her, one of Bonds’ engineers had responded. Within two weeks, two of her favorite programs had been fully integrated. The difference it had made in her success had been phenomenal, and she’d always wanted to tell him.

“He’s requested no pictures,” Lara continued.

“I see.” And since almost every person in attendance would have a cell phone, that presented a challenge. “We can ensure Heather won’t take any professional shots,” she said.

“How would you like me to handle the other guests?”

“I was hoping you’d have ideas.”

“That’s what I was afraid of.” Especially when she, herself, wanted a photo with him. She nodded, hoping to convey confidence she wasn’t feeling.

“He won’t be arriving until nine.”

She checked her schedule. By then, the alcohol would have been flowing for a couple of hours. “Will he have anyone with him?”

Lara and Connor exchanged glances.

“Like security?” Sofia clarified. “An entourage?” He’d had about half a dozen people surrounding him at the store opening.

“Not to my knowledge,” Connor said.

“Can you find out?” People blocking views would probably be the best hope.

Connor stepped to the side to make a call.

“How are you doing?” Sofia asked Lara.

“Fine. Happy. Nervous.” She said it all in the same breath.

“I’ll be your designated worrier.” Sofia squeezed Lara’s hand reassuringly. “Your job is to enjoy the evening. I’ll be nearby if you need anything.”

Lara smiled.

“You look beautiful,” Sofia said. “The perfect Mrs. Donovan.” Lara radiated elegance and sophistication in her short, form-fitting, cream-colored lace dress. “Marriage is obviously still agreeing with you.”

“More than I would have imagined.” Her friend flushed and fingered the stunning gold choker around her neck.

A series of diamonds descended from the metal to snuggle against the hollow of her neck. Because of their discussion, Sofia knew it was more than a piece of jewelry. The necklace was an outward symbol of Lara’s submission to her husband.

Sofia didn’t quite understand it, but she couldn’t argue that Lara seemed happy, satisfied in a way she had never been before. Even when Sofia had asked, Lara had said she wasn’t sure whether the feeling came from being married, from the strength of her new husband’s business acumen, or from submission. After a glass of wine, she’d mused that it was probably the combination of everything.

“It’s been a whirlwind, and I couldn’t have managed this without you,” Lara said.

“I wouldn’t have let you,” Sofia replied. “Please let me know if there’s anything you need.”

Connor returned and lightly touched his wife’s shoulder. “Julien will have two men with him. And it’s my understanding he’ll only be here a short time. Mostly he’s coming by to gloat.

He thinks he had a hand in making the relationship work, and he does enjoy feeling as if he’s a genius.”

“And did he? Have a hand in the relationship?”

“He’s a good friend with good advice,” Connor replied.

“I’ll talk to the DJ. I’m thinking he can play a song that will engage a lot of people. The twist, perhaps. Other than that, I’ll contact the country club personnel and security to see what we can do. Maybe we can bring him in the back way. Keep him on the patio or something.”

“You’ll work it out,” Connor said, his voice holding no trace of doubt.

She asked for a contact number for one of Julien’s people. “I’ll do the best I can,” she promised.

The photographer signaled she was ready for the bride and groom, and Lara and Connor excused themselves.

While the couple was busy, Sofia went in search of the country club security team.

They agreed that bringing in the Bonds entourage through the patio was the most feasible option and suggested she have a look for herself.

She greeted other arriving family members then confirmed the schedule change with the DJ and asked for his help in keeping the focus away from Julien.

“Not a problem,” the man assured her. “We can do some things with lighting and announcements about the photo booth and video greeting cards for the couple.”

“There’s a reason I like working with you, Marvin.”

“It’s the voice.” He dropped his tone until it sounded like honey drizzled over a jagged knife.

“You should have a radio gig,” she told him. “Nights, on an all-romance, all-the-time station.”

“I have the face for it.”

“You’re fishing,” she said.

“Yeah.” He shrugged.

“I’ll bite, though. You’re a handsome man.”

He straightened his tie, preening. Then, professional that he was, he made notes on his schedule as she walked away.

Before leaving the room, she couldn’t help but sneak a peek at Cade. Even though he stood next to his handsome brothers, he didn’t completely fit. His smile wasn’t as genuine as theirs, and his Western-style tux and hat set him apart. He was taller, broader, more… She considered herself pragmatic, but the only word she could think of was brooding.

After shaking her head, she went to check that everything was perfect for the cocktail hour in the other room.

The quartet was in place on a platform, and they were tuning up. Two servers stood behind an open bar. The banquet manager confirmed that hors d’oeuvres would be served at ten minutes after the hour. All the centerpieces and decorations were perfect.

Finally, she went outside to check the patio.

Right now, it was too hot and humid to be pleasant. The overhead beams had pendant fans hanging from them, their blades seeming to slog through the thick air.

Later, though, the lights off the bayou and the view of downtown Houston, combined with cooler temperatures, would make this an ideal spot.

She ordered a sparkling water from the bartender, enjoying the last few minutes of peace that she was likely to get for the next couple of hours.

“Lemon? Lime?”

“Lime, thanks.” After she had the drink in hand, Sofia walked around the patio. She found a gate that led to the side of the building. There was gravel there, with pavers. That could be the best way to get Julien into the party with as little disruption to the festivities as possible.

She paused at the back of the patio near a massive potted palm. If she could get some workers to move the plants around, they could block part of the area from view.

Cade emerged from inside. Without hesitating, he headed directly toward the bar.

Sofia told herself that he hadn’t followed her, but she couldn’t be sure.

The woman wrapped a napkin around a beer bottle and handed it to him.

Sofia watched as he dropped a bill into the tip jar. Judging by the bartender’s wide-eyed expression, it had been a good one. If she hadn’t already liked him, she would have changed her mind in that instant.

Then he turned toward her.

If she’d had any doubt that he’d followed her, it was erased.

He remained where he was.

Heat and feminine response chased through her. She shouldn’t be attracted to him, but damn it, she was.

Maybe she should have handled the Oilman’s Ball and left Cade to Avery. Even as the thought flashed through her mind, she banished it. No matter how badly he unnerved her, he ensnared her. Intuition told her to run before she couldn’t. Yet her body refused obey her mind’s orders.

She curved both hands around her glass as he approached.

“I would have gotten that for you,” he said, indicating her drink.

“I think as the event planner, it’s my job to make sure you’re taken care of.”

“Always the duty of a man to make sure a woman’s needs are met.”

He hadn’t said anything provocative, so why was she responding as if he had? “Thank you. But I’m pretty accustomed to taking care of myself.”

She noticed him glance toward her left hand.

“By choice?” he asked.

“That’s nosy, Mr. Donovan.”

“It is,” he agreed.

But Cade didn’t relent. Instead, he seemed genuinely interested in learning more about her. How long had it been since that had happened? Months? Maybe years? Then the truth hit her. She’d never had a man be so inquisitive and not back down when she called him out on it. He was unique among the men she’d known. That, more than anything, was what encouraged her to respond. “My mother was abandoned by my alcoholic father when I was very young.”

He winced.

“I had to take care of my little sister. As soon I was able, I was helping my mother bake cakes and pies for local restaurants. Sometimes she’d stay up all night. I really don’t know how she did it. She remarried a wonderful man a number of years later, but I learned some important lessons early, and I’ve never forgotten them. I went to school on a scholarship. And I worked my ass off to buy my mom’s business and expand it.” Traces of irritation buzzed through her. “So it’s hard to say that anything was by choice. I’ve done what I needed to from necessity.”

“It appears you’ve done a fine job.” He never looked away. Instead, he tipped his beer bottle toward her in silent salute.

“I grew up in Corpus Christi,” she admitted. “I know of your reputation.”

“Yet you’re still talking to me.”

“Some of it was good,” she replied.

“That surprises me.”

“We come from very different backgrounds.”

“Do we indeed?”

There was something in his voice, an ache maybe. Pain, perhaps.

Because of his approval, the expression of his own angst, something went out of her. The fight? The need to explain, justify, defend the way she’d grown up? It hadn’t taken long for

Cade Donovan to have an impact on her.

Her text message alert sounded, and she put her drink on the waist-high adobe wall while she took her phone from her jacket pocket. It was the country club manager, as she’d guessed.

“Duty calls?” Cade asked.

“Afraid so.”

“I hope to see you again later.”

She didn’t reply. The words sounded more like a promise than a statement, and a secret part of her hoped he was serious. She wanted more time with the darkly mysterious Donovan brother.

He went inside. After collecting her wits, she asked the manager to meet her on the patio.

She offered her suggestions, and the manager nodded and summoned a few members of the banquet crew. They brought out a hand truck to move around the big pots, creating a secluded area not far from the gate.

Once she was satisfied with the result, she informed Julien’s team of the plan then found Connor to update him.

The only part she disliked was the fact that once again she wouldn’t get to meet the elusive Julien Bonds and get his autograph on her cell phone case. What could be better than his signature right below the Bonds logo?

* * * *

Shortly before nine o’clock, she received news that Julien’s car had arrived.

After signaling the DJ and receiving Marvin’s nod in reply, she went outside to the gate to greet the party.

A beefy-looking man—security if the earpiece was anything to judge by—had a quick look around before nodding at her and speaking into a microphone on his lapel.

A moment later, Lara and Connor joined them in the makeshift meeting area.

The security guard positioned himself between the bar and the plants. She couldn’t have been more pleased with how the plan worked.

Sofia ordered another soda water. The sound of Lara’s laugh drew her attention, and

Sofia couldn’t resist taking a peek.

Julien wore a loose-fitting jacket, a white shirt and a skinny little tie that was knotted loosely. His trademark athletic shoes were an obnoxious magenta color, and the yellow laces quite literally glowed. He’d taken his tacky footwear to a whole new level yet he still pulled off the casual style that he’d become known for.

A woman, tall and willowy, with blonde hair cascading halfway down her back, stood next to him. She wore an electric-blue dress that flared around her in a style Sofia associated with Marilyn Monroe.

Sofia hadn’t heard that he was dating anyone, but the way his arm was draped around the woman’s shoulders and the way she leaned into him hinted that this was something more than casual.

The bartender handed Sofia the drink, and she turned to see Erin heading toward the private area.

Since she was the groom’s sister, Sofia didn’t try to stop her, and she nodded to the security guard to let him know that Erin should be allowed to pass.

“Let me know if you need anything,” she said to the security guy.

He nodded curtly but didn’t respond.

Sofia went inside and stood near the back wall, surveying the festivities. More people than normal were on the floor, showing off their moves, and some were even snapping selfies.

How they managed that, she wasn’t sure.

It was less than two minutes later when Erin returned, a pained smile on her face, her shoulders slumped a little.

Sofia thought about seeing if there was anything she could do for Erin, but the woman headed straight out of the front door.

Other than that, Julien and his date’s visit went smoother than she’d anticipated, but she still breathed a sigh of relief when the country club manager let her know that a limousine had whisked away the Bonds party.

Several times during the next couple of hours, she caught Cade watching her, and she had to force herself to concentrate on her job and not the wild, crazy things he did to her


* * * *

“When is it your turn?”

In the waning hour of the reception, with strains of music spilling from inside the country club, Cade thumbed back his cowboy hat and turned to face his younger sister. Half-sister, really. But the fierce and loyal Erin Donovan would protest that distinction. In her mind, as well as those of his half-brothers Connor and Nathan, they were family, no arguments.

Cade loved all of his siblings, but Erin most of all. Ever since she’d been a toddler, she’d been a pest, smothering him with adoration and love even when he didn’t want it or deserve it. “My turn?” he repeated, stalling.

“Don’t play dumb. When is it your turn to get married?”

“Not happening,” he replied, even though he knew she would push the point. Erin worried about him living all alone on the ranch. As far as she was concerned, there was nothing but cattle, deer, horses and wilderness in South Texas. It didn’t matter to her that he employed dozens of people, many of whom he interacted with on a daily basis. He also traveled more often than he would like. He drove to Corpus Christi at least once a week, flew to Houston almost every month for family business meetings, and he spent more time in the nearby town of Waltham than he cared to.

“Are you at least finally seeing someone?” she pressed.

“You know the answer to that,” he responded.

“I keep hoping.”

His father’s death had devastated him, shattering his sense of self in ways he was still trying to comprehend. It was almost as if that event had divided the old Cade from the new

Cade. In his late teens and early twenties, he’d been a bit reckless. The whispers about him, the way he didn’t deserve the life of privilege he’d ended up with, had gnawed at him. He’d set out to banish the voices as well as to prove himself. He’d lived hard, tried to make his mark on the world, taken unnecessary chances bull riding, racing motorcycles then eventually, cars.

When Jeffrey Donovan had been buried, Cade had resolved to be a better man, to live up to the expectations placed on him. He’d thrown himself into his responsibilities and obligations, letting them consume him as he attempted to redeem himself.

He’d shut himself off from distractions, including dating. At one time he’d been active in the local BDSM community. Until this evening, when he’d walked through the door and met the curvy, sexy Sofia McBride, he hadn’t had much interest in women lately. His attraction to her had jolted him and he wasn’t sure he liked it. Hell, it had been at least three months since he’d attended a leather party, even longer since he’d hosted a submissive at the ranch.

Penance was a bitch.

Realizing that Erin had rested her fingers consolingly on his wrist, he shook off the melancholy. Tonight was supposed to be a celebration of love, of marriage, of the future. He wouldn’t be the one to bring it down. “How about you?” he asked, redirecting the conversation.

“Me? Seeing someone? Are you kidding me?” She dropped her hand. “I’m too busy helping Julie get the corset shop going in Kemah. And trying to find someone to run the foundation. I’m pinch-hitting for now, but…”

“You’re exhausted,” he guessed.

She shrugged. “It’s a lot of hours.”

As head of HR for Donovan Worldwide, Erin didn’t have an easy job. Filling high-level vacancies was difficult at best, and their aunt’s decision to spend more and more time with her younger beau complicated matters. The Donovan Foundation had always been run by a member of the family, but now they would have to look to an outsider to fill her position.

And, in spite of their youngest brother’s objections, Erin had gone ahead with plans to assist a friend in opening a fancy lingerie shop. When the woman had admitted she didn’t have the funds to open the store, Erin had supplied that, as well. No matter the challenge, she accepted it.

“How are plans coming for the centennial celebration?” she asked, changing topics to one Cade hated only slightly less than the subject of his non-existent love life.

The Running Wind Ranch, which had been in the family for five generations, was going to be celebrating its centennial in early fall. He would have pretended it wasn’t happening, but his grandfather, the Colonel, had recently announced that he wanted the family to host a gala, inviting neighbors, friends, vendors and business associates. Many of them had never been to the ranch. Others remembered a time the Colonel and Miss Libby had hosted grand events, the last one about twenty-five years ago. It was a headache Cade didn’t want, but a duty he knew he’d fulfill. “My mother said I personally have to check out the caterers.”

Erin grinned. “Excellent idea.”

“Not sure why she couldn’t do it.”

“You really expect Stormy to take the blame if the food is awful?”

“Well said.” Around Erin, he freely spoke about his mother. Neither Connor nor Nathan had ever said a negative word about her. On the other hand, none of them had ever discussed her involvement in the business, either. The Colonel had spoken fewer than a hundred words to her in over thirty years, and Stormy said she preferred it that way. When Cade’s father had gotten her pregnant, she’d been offered a significant amount of money to go away quietly. If she’d been the type to do that, no doubt his father wouldn’t have fallen in love in the first place.

“Do you have anyone lined up yet?”

“A new bakery opened in town, a couple of doors down from the pharmacy. So I stopped in.”


He’d never felt more helpless. Give him a complex piece of machinery to repair or a steer to brand and he had complete confidence. But when two women had started smiling and shoving food at him, flipping through pictures of weddings and birthdays, offering him tiny plates filled with bizarre concoctions, he’d been overwhelmed and speechless. “Buffalo chicken wing cupcakes?”

“Were they good?”

“I don’t know. I couldn’t bring myself to pull it out of the frosting. How the hell do you eat something like that?”

“I see your point. I guess she was going for something sweet and savory in the same bite.”

“Cupcakes should be sweet,” he said.

“The whole world isn’t black and white, big brother.”

“I have rules, Erin.”

She grinned. “Got it. Cupcakes are sweet. Women are spicy?”

“Don’t you have someone else you can bother?” he asked pointedly.

“Seriously, Cade, you don’t have time to put an event together. You need a company to manage it, invitations, decorations—”


“Absolutely. Flags. Bunting. Maybe a take-home memento, like a Christmas ornament or something.”

He blinked.

“Flowers,” she continued. “And entertainment. Perhaps a band. Live music is always good. People will come just for that. Oh, and a bounce house for kids. Margarita machines, for sure. You’ve only got a few months.”

Until now, he’d figured he’d need about ten minutes to put it together. Throw some burgers on the barbecue, smoke some brisket, maybe get some of the ranch hands to roast a pig… But with the scowl on Erin’s face, he saw he’d made a huge miscalculation.

“Have you sent out a save-the-date announcement?”

“To whom?”

“Seriously?” She rolled her eyes. “Ask Granddaddy and Grandmother for their guest lists, and Connor. Better yet, ask Connor and Thompson. Thompson has Connor pretty well organized. He’ll know who’s who. Don’t forget Nathan. My mother may want to invite a few of her friends.”

He hadn’t considered that. But it made sense. Though he’d never spent much time with Angela, she had been married to his father.

“Do you want me to ask her?”

“That’s thoughtful of you. But no. I’ll do it.” Or find someone else to do it.

“I have a few people I’ll want to invite. And we’ll need to contact the cousins.

Granddaddy’s the best person for that, too.”

“Are you sure all of these people have to come?”

“You’ll be haunted to the grave if you forget anyone. No matter what you say, who you apologize to, it will be taken as a personal affront. You’re welcome to run the whole thing by me. We probably do need to limit it at some point.”

“To a hundred?” he asked hopefully.

She scowled. “I was thinking a thousand.”


“And horses.”

A cold frisson of panic clutched him. “What?”

“People, Cade. A thousand people. I was joking about the horses. Tell me you’ve at least decided on a date?” she persisted.

“I was thinking about October, maybe November. I don’t suppose you—”

“Oh, hell and no. No chance. I can help you find someone, but I can’t handle everything from a distance.”

“What about Miss Libby?” He’d heard rumors that their grandmother used to host some of the best parties in South Texas. And she’d hosted many of them at the ranch.

“It’s been too many years. She can give you pointers, but she doesn’t know the companies down in that area any longer.”

“Your mother?” he asked desperately.

“Again, too far away. You’re welcome to meet with both of them, but your event person may want to do that.”

“I see.”

“I’ll try to have some people for you to interview by the first part of the week.”

He nodded. A runaway train was easier to stop than Erin. This time, he was grateful.

“You’re going to be fine.”

He’d rather climb on the back of a roaring, snorting sixteen-hundred-pound bull than deal with a guest list.

Inside, the DJ announced that it was time for a line dance, and Erin gave a quick excuse then hurried off.

He went to the bar and ordered his second beer of the evening. Other guests were reaching for glasses of champagne, but he preferred to drink Santo, a rich, thick brew that suited his personality.

Because of the heat and late spring humidity, there weren’t a lot of people outside, but he still wandered to the far side of the courtyard and leaned against the outer adobe wall. In a crowd of any size, he tended to seek out quiet corners.

Now that the toasts and obligatory pictures were out of the way and the party was in full swing, he loosened his bulldogger tie and unfastened the top button of his Western shirt. He took a deep drink and glanced toward the clubhouse.

Inside, his new sister-in-law was also participating in the line dance. He wasn’t sure what radiance looked like, but Lara had to come close. She and Connor had gotten married in a private ceremony weeks before. He’d only met her the previous evening, but he’d instantly seen why his brother had been attracted to her. She was witty, beautiful and elegant, a fitting partner for the ruler of the Donovan empire. Connor was clearly besotted, if the fact he couldn’t keep his hands off Lara was any indication. When she’d briefly left the room, he’d followed her movements and momentarily lost track of the conversation.

Until he’d seen the two together, Cade had been a bit skeptical of love. To him, it seemed like an emotion that fucked with people’s common sense, something with the power to be dark and destructive.

No doubt his father had loved his mother, but he hadn’t been strong enough to tell his own father to fuck off so he could be with the woman he loved. Instead, he’d married Angela

Meyer. She was obviously a fine woman, if his half-siblings were anything to judge by, but

Cade had seen the way Jeffrey looked at Stormy up until the day he died.

Love for a man she could never have had kept Stormy stuck, and it wasn’t until a year ago that she’d even gone on a date.

But watching Connor opened Cade’s jaded eyes, just a little.

A few minutes later, champagne in hand and a stupid smile on his face, Connor wandered over.

“Congratulations,” Cade said.

“Glad you could make it.”

“Wouldn’t have missed it,” he replied. He’d talked to Connor when Lara had approached him with her bold proposal to save her family’s business. Cade had offered his support, but he’d urged his older brother to exercise caution. He’d sacrificed a lot to take the helm of Donovan Worldwide. He should have had years to travel, learn the business, date. But he’d never complained. He’d simply done what he’d needed to. All without blaming Cade for anything. “You look…happy.”

Connor grinned like a fool. “I am.”

“Here’s to many joyful years together.” He lifted his beer bottle and Connor tapped the rim of his glass against it.

“You’re going back in the morning?”

“Figured I’d head out after breakfast. Get in a half-day’s work, at least.” Cade didn’t have to explain. More than any of his half-siblings, Connor understood him, his need for solitude, to roam the land in endless search of healing. His grandfather, behaving more like a general than the colonel he was nicknamed after, often insisted that Cade needed to spend more time with the family, so it fell to Connor to cover and make excuses. Cade appreciated it. “I’m told I need to ask you for a guest list for the centennial.”

“That’ll take some thought. I’ll try to remember to ask Thompson.”

“Since you’re technically on your honeymoon starting tonight, I’ll get with him. He’s here tonight, isn’t he?”

“Somewhere. But wait until Monday. This is supposed to be his day off.”

“I forget.”

“It’s a Donovan curse.”

Cade nodded. Their father had always told them it was their responsibility not to fail.

And none of them wanted to be one to let down the previous five generations. “Speaking of work…”

“I should have guessed.”

“When you’re back from your honeymoon, I could use some time to discuss some ideas for the ranch.”

“What are you thinking?”

“Ah. You mentioned something about this being your reception?”

They exchanged shrugs.

Connor glanced back inside, evidently to ensure his wife was occupied. “Make it quick.”

“I’m thinking of offering limited tourism. Maybe seasonal.”

Connor took a drink and regarded Cade. “On the whole section?”

He shook his head. “Just section one.”

“That one’s yours. You don’t need to run anything past me unless you’re looking for a second opinion.”

“It’s your heritage, too. But there are fiscal aspects to consider. Could make money. Could lose it.”

“What are the net benefits?”

“More people get to enjoy it. It provides employment opportunities for people living in town. Considering allowing tubing on the river. Horseback riding. That sort of thing. If it makes money, we could consider expanding the conservation area into section one.”


“Because I live there, it could mean some loss of privacy. Increased insurance premiums. Environmental impacts, for sure. We’d need parking, restroom facilities, vans or some way to move people around.” They already offered hunting, fishing and birding trips. But those were on the southernmost portion of the land. “There have to be another dozen things I haven’t considered.”

Connor nodded. “Have you consulted with Ricardo?”

Ricardo was the foreman of that section. More than anyone, he would know some of the pitfalls. “I was going to do that next.”

“Good plan. Then have him contact Nathan. Nathan can work on a feasibility study, work up a cost analysis.”

“You don’t mind me asking?”

“Why the hell would I mind?”

“He’s got real work to do for Donovan Worldwide. This would be a distraction.”

Connor’s eyes, so similar to Cade’s, narrowed. “Don’t make me knock some sense into you in front of the family.” Connor’s voice held shards of ice.

“I’m still bigger than you,” Cade reminded him.

“But I’m more pissed. And you’ve fucking had it coming for a long time. Five years, at least.”

Cade took a swig of his beer, considering. Connor was right. Something raw and nasty gnawed in Cade’s gut. Guilt. Anger at the unfairness of it all. Part of him wanted Connor to take a swing. Maybe it’d give him some fucking release.

Nathan strolled over.

The tension between Cade and Connor continued to roil, just beneath a polished veneer.

“Private party?” Nathan asked.

“Brotherly love,” Connor returned. “Welcome to the brawl.”

“Damn. We haven’t had one of those in what, seven, eight years?”

Cade remembered the fucking miserable summer night in Corpus Christi. Middle of

August. Eighty-something degrees, ninety percent humidity, making the air as suffocating as a wet blanket. Only two things had been moving, rattlesnakes and tempers.

“What are we fighting about?” Nathan sounded interested.

“Same thing as last time,” Connor replied.

“More or less,” Cade agreed. Back then, Cade had been in college, and Connor had recently graduated from high school. Though their father had insisted Cade receive a good education, it had been clear that Connor would inherit the majority of the family’s money and interests. Cade hadn’t objected. After all, he’d had no desire to move to Houston. He’d liked his life the way it was. All he’d needed was the rodeo, his ridiculously fast cars and motorcycles and a place to stow his gear.

None of them had known that it would be the last time they’d all be together with their father still alive. The four had spent the day on the land. Their father, Jeffrey, had told them the history of ranch, shared his memories, the dreams he’d had for it. And they’d all heard the regret in his tone. He’d loved the ranch, and that he wasn’t able to devote time to it had bothered him.

Connor had said that Cade would make it all happen. Cade, feeling like the outsider he was, hadn’t wanted something that rightfully belonged to his brother. He’d said he’d be moving along after he’d earned his degree.

Later that night, Connor had sought him out, called him a quitter and told him he had the same obligations as any other Donovan.

All his life, Cade had heard the whispers. He was a bastard, an imposter.

His frustration at being told to step up and behave like a member of the family had made him furious, and he’d thrown the first punch.

Connor had gone down, but he’d grabbed Cade’s ankle and yanked him off balance, slamming him to the ground. He might have been bigger than Connor, more accustomed to barroom and street brawls, but he had been dazed, and Connor had taken advantage of that.

He’d still been pummeling Cade when Nathan had joined them and pulled Connor away and stayed between them until the tensions had eased.

“I’d prefer not to spill any of this mighty fine cabernet. But if necessary…” Nathan put down the glass on a nearby table. “Whose side am I on? Or am I just supposed to separate the two of you?”

“Your choice, big brother,” Connor said to Cade. “You can continue to be a jackass or you can lose the chip on your shoulder and realize no one objects to you owning section one.” He narrowed his gaze. “Or the house. If you want to burn the thing down or sell it, turn it into a bordello, that’s your right. You owe us nothing.”

“A bordello?” Nathan asked. “Now there’s an idea.”

“Whether you like it or not, we’re brothers,” Connor persisted. He didn’t even bother to direct his gaze toward Nathan. “If you have a personal business idea, we sure as hell should be the people you turn to first, for advice, feasibility studies, financing. It’s what family does.”

He got that Erin, Nathan and Connor did that for one another. But Cade spent the majority of his time alone. Always had. “What’s it going to be, Cade?” He put down his champagne glass. “You going to take the help? Or are you going to continue to be an asshole with some fucked-up version of reality in your head?”

The laughter and revelry from the reception spilled around them, yet the tension continued to draw and stretch. Cade had no doubt Connor was serious. He’d fight for family, even if Cade didn’t think he deserved it. And Connor threw a wicked punch. He’d go for a quick one-two to the gut then the jaw. Cade was fast and big. Both had reserves of anger to draw from. But on principle, Cade wouldn’t hit as hard. He wasn’t sure he wanted to drive back to the ranch with a dislocated jaw.

In the end, it was Nathan, as always, who defused the situation. “My jacket is brand new.

I’d hate for my biceps to tear it.”

“Your biceps?” Cade repeated, feeling some of the tension begin to ease from his gut, even though Connor still looked pissed.

“Been keeping myself fit so I have the energy to shoot down the ideas that everyone else thinks will make millions of dollars,” Nathan said.

He was damn good at it. Not only did he have the patience to drill down on the most mundane details, he had a sixth sense when it came to evaluating a company’s place in the market.

“Takes talent to thrash the wheat from the chaff.”

“True,” Connor conceded.

“Let me at it,” Nathan continued. “You can email me or I could come down.”

A few seconds stretched, the silence tenuous.

“That’d be good. It’s been a while,” Cade agreed.

The angry tension drained from Connor’s face, and the knot inside Cade began to dissipate. He was smart enough to realize that he didn’t deserve the family who so lovingly accepted him.

“I’ll email you on Monday and set up a time,” Nathan said. “Maybe stay a couple of days.”

“You’ve got a room waiting.” More like a wing, and if he wanted even more privacy, there were an additional three guest cottages on the property. Eighty years ago, the size of the house had made sense. Now it stood mostly as a museum.

No matter what the will or Connor said, Cade believed it belonged to his siblings every bit as much as him.

“Lara and I might come down, too,” Connor said, as if Cade hadn’t just been on the edge of fracturing their relationship. “When he was here, Julien mentioned he may want some time to ride horses.”

“Bonds gets his prissy ass on a horse?”

“Inconceivable,” Nathan added.

Connor shrugged.

“He’s welcome. I’ll keep a guest house ready.” The ranch had a short landing strip and a helicopter pad, making it easy in and out for a notorious recluse.

Any lingering emotional strain was shattered when Cade saw Lara and Erin heading toward them. Erin’s hand was firmly clamped around Sofia’s wrist.

Well, well.

The evening was looking better every moment.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

An Animal ABC by Alice Pattullo

An Animal ABC by Alice Pattullo


This is a stunning art and reference book for children, and adults, to pore over. This Animal ABC features the dazzling A is for Armadillo and G is for Grizzly Bear, O is for Okapi and V is for Viper. This strange menagerie of animals will delight with its curious selection of creatures in wonderful popping colours. With a lovely rhyme running throughout, this will delight children of all ages. Printed on extra-thick paper and with very high design and production values, this is a truly wonderful ABC to treasure.


This is a stunning book. Each page is a letter of the alphabet and has an illustration of an animal beginning with that letter. What is really lovely and unique about this book is the fact it has the English name for the animal and what I believe maybe the Latin name for it also.

As an adult I loved going through the book, there were some animals in there that I had never heard of, I really liked that the author didn't necessarily choose the obvious animals for that letter. The artwork is in printed form, it reminded me of the work of Warhol in that respect with bright colours and almost a screen print effect.

This book would be prefect for a child who loves to discover new animals or is an animal fanatic. There will be lots they could learn from this and share with others, names of unusual animals or perhaps try to remember the Latin name for a few.

I would recommend this book to children and adults. We spent a good hour going through the book, the paper is of high quality and the cover being hardback will protect for many years to come.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Truth Will Out Blog tour with extract

Today is my stop on the Truth will Out blog tour, I have bought an extract today for you to enjoy before you rush out and grab the book, it does sound amazing!

At its heart are a mother and daughter, snatched on their drive home from a family day out. The crime has a number of chilling similarities to a cold case professor Nick Fennimore has been lecturing on, and when he begins to receive taunting messages, he wonders if he's being targeted by the kidnapper.

Meanwhile, a photograph anonymously sent in an email could bring him closer to discovering the fate of Suzie, his own daughter, now missing for six years. He seeks help from his old friend, DCI Kate Simms, who faces a fight with the police bureacracy and red tape to join him on the case as the lives of a mother and her child hang in the balance ...

Atmospheric, chilling, and full of suspense, the dynamic pairing of A. D. Garrett’s acclaimed duo, Fennimore and Simms, delivers a pulse-pounding plot that will keep you guessing until the very end.


Fennimore showed them images of the fragment side by side with post-mortem photographs of Gail’s torn fingernail. It was a good match. ‘The fingernail had viable DNA under it . . .’

The camouflaged man sat up straight.

‘. . . Gail’s DNA,’ Fennimore concluded, and the man settled back in his seat, mirroring the posture of the man next to him: one leg bent at the knee, the other stretched out.

‘It now looks like Gail was abducted and murdered in her own car.’

The camouflaged man picked up a pen and began doodling on the notepad in front of him.

‘If only police had checked Killbride’s claim that he dropped Gail off at the roadside . . .’ Fennimore said. ‘But all that tosh about highly aggressive XYY “super-males” quite turned their heads. They stopped looking – stopped even thinking.’

He went to the final slide: a newsprint photograph of a pale but smiling Killbride standing next to his barrister on the steps of the Supreme Court. The headline: KILLBRIDE INNOCENT.

‘You got Tom Killbride off, but Gail Hammond’s killer is still out there.’

Fennimore located the questioner in the middle of the second row. A student, he guessed, but not one he recognized.

‘You’re right,’ he said, ignoring the confrontational tone. ‘There are no happy endings in such sad tales; all we can hope for is justice. Tom Killbride found justice because of the hard work of people who didn’t even know him. Gail Hammond still waits for hers.’

‘The murderer made fools of the police,’ the student said.

‘They made fools of themselves,’ Fennimore corrected. ‘They decided that Killbride was guilty and then systematically set out to make the facts fit.’

‘The killer cleaned up after himself – he’s smart – forensically aware,’ the questioner said.

‘What makes you think that?’

‘Essex Police say they have no new leads in the case.’

‘They’re being modest,’ Fennimore said. ‘Justifiably so. But they now have the green cord fibres – which they didn’t have before. The killer thinks he knows what the CSIs are looking for: DNA and fingerprints. So he cleans up before he leaves. But it isn’t all about DNA – it’s about having the determination to keep looking, even when it seems there’s nothing to look for. The evidence doesn’t go away. It will still be there, waiting for someone to come along who is lucky enough or smart enough to see the stupid mistakes he made.’ He checked himself – this was sounding too personal; he could almost hear Kate Simms’s voice, mocking, gently chiding: Listen to the ego talking. This isn’t about you, Fennimore, this is about Gail. He began again.

‘The murderer missed the rope fibres. He missed Gail’s broken fingernail – beginner mistakes – amateur mistakes. He was lucky three times over – in the botched police investigation, in the

dishonesty of the prosecution, and in Killbride, who made such a plausible stooge. But now we know the real killer is out there. People are looking for him, and he will foul up – even if he never attacks another woman in his sorry life. Even if he never so much as wolf-whistles after a woman in the street. Because these types are impulsive and narcissistic; he’ll lash out at someone who injures his fragile ego, or he’ll drive too fast on a bellyful of booze; he’ll steal, or stalk, or swindle – and he will reveal himself.

Monday, 14 November 2016

The Beautiful Dead by Belinda Bauer

The Beautiful DeadThe Beautiful Dead by Belinda Bauer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There’s no safety in numbers . . .

Eve Singer needs death. With her career as a TV crime reporter flagging, she’ll do anything to satisfy her ghoulish audience.

The killer needs death too. He even advertises his macabre public performances, where he hopes to show the whole world the beauty of dying.

When he contacts Eve, she welcomes the chance to be first with the news from every gory scene. Until she realizes that the killer has two obsessions.

One is public murder.

And the other one is her . . .

Really enjoyed the roller coaster ride of this novel; it moved along at a fast pace and was never boring or heavy going. I read this in 2 days cover to cover.

Good engaging characters, loved Eve the TV crime reporter and Joe her photographer from the start. Eve is struggling to cope with her father who has progressive dementia and hold down her very stressful job as a crime reporter for a demanding news network. Trying to juggle her responsibilities to her father, come to terms with the harsh reality of dementia and her emotions she is equally very aware of the need to keep one step ahead of the other networks to maintain her position at the top and to secure her job from younger, fresher reporters coming up behind her. Constantly battling to be first with the next sensational scoop she is desperate to get off this merry go round of 'meat beat' (homicides) and move on to less pressurised reporting. While working on a homicide she becomes the focus of the psycho killer and becomes entangled in his warped world.

Great characters with good plot and all ends tied up nicely make this a really good read, I enjoyed every page and found I came to connect with Eve on all levels, she was sympathetic, brave, funny and vulnerable, loved the secondary characters and Dad despite his illness Belinda Bauer still managed to show the person Eve knew and loved before he started to 'disappear'.

Have to give this one 5 stars for its beauty, artistry, and its execution.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Mistletoe on 34th Street by Lisa Dickenson

Mistletoe on 34th StreetMistletoe on 34th Street by Lisa Dickenson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Olivia has never experienced a snow-covered, 'traditional' Christmas before. Having grown up in a family that chose winter sun over decking the halls, she's not sure what all the fuss is about. So when she and her colleagues are stranded in New York after a work trip, Olivia is perfectly happy spending the holiday season in the Big Apple.

Jon, Olivia's friend, on the other hand is desperate to get home in time for his big family get-together. Nevertheless, determined to make the best out of the situation, he sets out to show Olivia how enchanting Christmas in New York can be. And when handsome New Yorker Elijah is added to the mix, could the magic of the season finally be working its charm on Olivia? As 25 December draws closer, Olivia suddenly finds herself with a decision to make: who does she really want to kiss under the mistletoe this Christmas?

I love Lisa Dickenson's novels, they are lighthearted and have a wonderful feel to them. When I knew she was releasing a new Christmas book, I couldn't wait to get started.

Right from the beginning Lisa has a way of drawing you into the book. You feel like the characters are old friends and you are joining them on a journey throughout. This book is no different to her others. Olivia is a bit of a scrooge when it comes to Christmas, she blames this on the fact she has never really had a traditional one, as her family prefer to enjoy their Christmas' soaking up the sun. Olivia welcomes the time off from work and loves Christmas for that reason but enjoys spending some time alone.

This year, the same as many others she needs to head to New York for a conference, she needs to try and gain interest in the company from across the pond to help it go international. Her boss has broken her leg so can't fly so puts Olivia in charge of the operation and is counting on her to get the company off the ground out there.

While she and her colleagues are out there, the U.K seems to have been hit by a freak snow storm and the snow doesn't seem like it is getting any lighter, due to this the airports are closed and there is on way of them getting back any time soon.

There are a few of Olivia's colleagues with her and although they have a part in the story most of them you know little about. To be honest Abigail I found incredibly annoying and immature, she spent the entire time going on about how she wouldn't be back in time to see her boyfriend. Towards the end I was actually growing tired of her.

Overall I loved this book, just as I have done with all Lisa's others and this will be a firm favourite on my shelf. I really liked the mix of work and pleasure there was in this story and there was quite a bit of humour. I was actually quite surprised it was quite emotional towards the end of the book. I rarely feel things like that in books but it did bring a tear to my eye when they were leaving to go to the airport.

This has to be the perfect Christmas read, snow, New York and Christmas all in one book. From previously visiting New York I was able to relate to places they were in the book and really visulise them which I thought made the book even realer for me.

Lisa Dickenson has really done it again with this cracking read. She is firmly one of my favourite authors, whose books I look forward to getting. I only wish they lasted a bit longer! Reading them in one sitting is a complete fail!

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.