24 March 2017

Tour & Giveaway: A Second Chance by Alexis A. Goring



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A Second Chance by Alexis A. Goring.
Audience/Genre: Contemporary, Romance.
Publication: January 25th 2017 by Forget Me Not Romances, a division of Winged Publications.
Newly single food critic and newspaper reporter Traci Hightower is done with dating. After the man of her dreams left her at the altar on their wedding day and ran off with the woman she thought was her best friend, Traci resolves to focus on work and resigns herself to being a bachelorette for life.

Marc Roberts is a political reporter who is known as Mr. Nice Guy, the one who always finishes last. However, Marc’s compassion and kindness is of invaluable help to his newly widowed sister Gina Braxton who is trying to raise her two kids in the wake of her firefighter husband’s death.

Traci and Marc may be the perfect match, but they don’t know it yet. With God’s guidance and the help of Gina’s matchmaking skills honed by her career as a bestselling romance novelist, there is hope for a happily ever after for these two broken hearts.


Chapter 1
Knee-deep in debt from wedding expenses, Traci Hightower sighed as she filed through the credit card statements. She should be married now, back from her honeymoon in Bali, and settled into her new home with her husband.
Happy.
Not single and broke.
She slapped an envelope against the desk. Five months of struggling to survive and pay off the debt. Her meager, entry-level journalist salary didn’t stretch far enough. She’d been paying her dues for seven years. She rubbed her temples. The numbers on the credit card statement blurred in front of her eyes.
The doorbell rang. A little thrill rushed through her. She stood from her cross-legged position on the floor and hopped over the mess of papers and laundry that decorated her living room. “Who is it?”
“The woman who gave you birth.”
For the first time today, Traci smiled. She opened the door and reached for a hug from the one person who never left her hanging. “Hi, Mom.”
Her mom returned her daughter’s embrace, then dragged her suitcase inside. She glanced around. “Oh, my.”
Traci locked her door, then turned and shrugged. “I’m so glad you’re here. I’ve been looking forward to this. Can’t you stay for more than two days though?”
Mom stopped picking up the bills from the floor and faced her daughter. “No, honey. I’m sorry, but I need to return home by Wednesday morning. Dad and I have an important meeting later that day.”
Traci’s heart dipped. Mom paused and placed the bills and the stack of paper she’d picked off the floor on Traci’s kitchen counter. “Oh, sweetie.” She cocooned her daughter in another embrace.
Traci snuggled close. She inhaled the familiar scent of her mother’s favorite perfume. It smelt like coconut and lime.
“You always were a cuddler.” Mom stroked her hair. “Still up to your eyeballs in debt?”
Traci nodded.
“Why don’t you let me and your father help?”
Traci took a step back and made eye contact with her mom. “We’ve been through this. I got myself into this mess. I’ll get myself out.”
Mom smiled. “Your father and I were talking. We hate to see you struggling.”
“You don’t exactly live in a palace either. I know you want to retire soon, and I won’t have you dipping into that money.”
Mom reached into her purse. “Living in the nation’s capital area is expensive.” She rummaged through her handbag’s contents. “Have you considered moving home?”
“I can’t do that. I don’t ever want to live anywhere else. My life and career are here.”
“How’s that going for you?”
Traci picked at her fingernails. “It could be better.” Better boss, better pay, better office space. The works.
Mom nodded as she retrieved one sealed envelope from her purse. She looked toward Traci’s kitchen. “Can we make some tea? I’d like to talk with you.”
“Sure. Come with me.” Traci reached for the box of peppermint tea bags and got a bottle of honey from her refrigerator. As she put the kettle on to boil, her mom settled into a wobbly kitchen chair. She smoothed the creased edges of the envelope.
Traci poured the hot water over the tea bags in each mug and the scent of peppermint filled the air. “Everything okay?”
“Just thinking, honey.”
“About what?”
“Have a seat.”
“Sure, just let me allow the tea to steep.” After she placed a plate over each mug and set it aside, she settled into the chair across from her mom. “What’s up?”
“I never did like Greg.”
Traci traced a ring stain on the table. “Do we have to talk about my ex-fiancé?”
“Yes, because your grandfather always trusted my judgment.”
“So, Grandpa didn’t like Greg either?”
“I inherited my instincts of discernment from him. Speaking of discernment, here.” She pushed the envelope within Traci’s reach.
She frowned as she picked it up and tried to flatten its wrinkles. “What’s this?”
“Open it. Read it, and I’ll bring our tea to the table.”
Traci turned over the letter-sized, manila-hued paper that was addressed to her. She drew out the paper.

Dear Traci,
If you’re reading this, it means I’ve passed away, and your mother kept her promise to give this to you at the right time. As you know, I like to cut to the chase first and explain later. So here it is, plain and simple: I left an inheritance for you. It’s enough for you to make a solid and secure living, for it will cover more than what you need for the rest of your life.

Traci dropped the letter, her hands shaking. This could be the answer to her financial struggles and give her what she always dreamed of. Her own bookstore. The thought stole her breath for a moment. She envisioned the words on the sign out front. Hallee’s House. Just like she promised her cousin Hallee before she passed away from cancer. Tears welled in Traci’s eyes.
Forcing herself to take a deep breath and will the emotional waterworks away, she picked the paper off the floor and continued reading.

But you cannot receive the money until after you are married, and before you are, your mother must approve of the man you want to wed. Why? Because your mother inherited my sense of judgment and discernment between right and wrong when it comes to people. She can spot someone who’s going to break your heart from a mile away. I trust that you will listen to your mother now that I’m gone and can no longer advise you. So there you have it, dear. You have an inheritance. Sounds like a movie, right? Only it’s not. It’s better, because it’s now part of the story of your life.

After you’re married, you and your husband need to visit my lawyer, Chadwick Morrison. Provide him with the original copy of your marriage certificate, and he will give you your inheritance.
Your grandmother and I loved you. We wanted nothing more than for you to find the type of love that we had during our lifetime. Now, I trust that you will allow yourself to be guided by God, your mother’s love, and your father’s protection.

With love, your grandfather,
Henry Allen Fort

P.S. Take this seriously. Don’t marry the wrong man just to get the money. Let love happen. There’s no deadline. My will said you had to be married first. It didn’t say when.

“Let love happen.” Traci snorted as she folded the letter and placed it into the envelope. “The last time I let love happen, I was left at the altar with nothing more than a pile of bills.”
Mom placed her mug on the table. “It’s time for you to move on and trust God.”
“I trusted God to bring me a husband. He brought me Greg. Remember? The man who left me on my wedding day and ran off with my best friend?”
“Honey, I know it hurts, but that was months ago. You shouldn’t allow Greg’s actions and wayward heart to tarnish your future. Be glad he showed you his true colors before tying the knot. Honestly, look at this as a blessing. God protected you from a lifetime of heartache.”
Traci focused on her I Love Maryland mug.
Mom touched her hand. “Your grandfather just wanted to see you happy in a committed romantic relationship like he and your grandma had. Like your father and I have.”
Traci sipped her tea.
“Keep the letter.” Mrs. Hightower pushed her chair back. “Do you want me to stay here or at a hotel?”
“Here, Mom, of course. You can stay in my room. I’ll sleep on the couch.”
“Alright then. I’m going to put my luggage in your room. After that, we’ll clean your apartment.”
Traci picked up the mugs while her mind ran a marathon. Forgive her ex-fiancé and move on? Trust God?
Impossible.


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Alexis A. Goring is a passionate writer with a degree in Print Journalism and an MFA in Creative Writing. She loves the art of storytelling and hopes that her stories will connect readers with the enduring, forever love of Jesus Christ.






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23 March 2017

Tour & GIveaway: Shattered Pack (Alpha Girl #6) by Aileen Erin



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Shattered Pack (Alpha Girl #6) by Aileen Erin.
Audience/Genre: YA Paranormal Fantasy.
Publication: March 28th 2017 Ink Monster Books .
Meredith Molloney never thought she’d find a mate, let alone someone like Donovan Murry—one of the most powerful Alphas alive. Now that she’s no longer cursed and the evil Luciana Alvarez has been taken care of, she thinks life will finally settle down. Boy, has she never been so wrong.

In the middle of the night, Donovan gets a call telling him that his pack has gone to pieces. The news that his second in command has been found brutally murdered has Donovan packing his bags for Ireland, but the last thing Meredith wants to do is leave Texas. She’s heard about how the Celtic Pack are with outsiders. And Donovan has more than a few exes in the pack that will be less than friendly.

Meredith’s never let a few angry wolves stop her, and she’s not about to start now. She’s faced down much worse the past few months. But when she gets there, she finds that it’s not just a few exes who stand in the way between her and her Full Moon Ceremony with Donovan.

Meredith is thrust in to a deadly game of pack politics, one the fey have happily joined in on. When the dust settles, she knows she’ll either have everything that she wants or lose it all.

Meredith’s Shattered Pack Playlist...

I always have trouble figuring out what to pick for these playlists, so instead, I picked songs that Meredith loves. She’s an upbeat, funny, fun-loving girl. When life has gotten tough for her—and boy has it been bad at times—she always turns to what she loves, working out. Sparing. Running. Yoga. She loves it all. Below are a few songs from her favorite playlist. The one she listens to when she needs a pick-me-up. When she wants to get moving. When she’s ready to fight. Run. Get pumped.

1. Katy Perry – “Firework”
2. Calvin Harris – “Summer”
3. Jamiorquai – “Canned Heat”
4. Avicii – “Wake Me Up”
5. Daft Punk – “One More Time”
6. Missy Elliott – “Get Ur Freak On”
7. Pharrell Williams – “Happy”
8. David Guietta – “Titanium”


Snippets....

 "No pair of shoes was worth this massive pain in the ass. Not even Louboutins."

 "When you’ve reached your darkest hour, the coin will warm. Grab hold of it and be safe.Well, that’s ominous."

 "The door’s hinges are ripped in two. You’re putting up a big show for only being a little annoyed."

 "I wasn’t about to sit idly by and watch him suffer. Not while I had air enough to breathe.Pain ripped me from sleep. Not physical pain, although for a split-second, I thought someone was tearing out my heart."


Giveaway


Aileen Erin is half-Irish, half-Mexican, and 100% nerd--from Star Wars (prequels don't count) toStar Trek (TNG FTW), she reads Quenya and some Sindarin, and has a severe fascination with the supernatural. Aileen has a BSin Radio-TV-Film from the University of Texas at Austin, and an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She lives with her husband inLos Angeles, and spends her days doing her favorite things: reading books, creating worlds, and kicking ass.






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21 March 2017

Pink - Episode 1,2 and 3 by J.B. Cantwell

Pink - Episode 1 by J.B. Cantwell.
Audience/Genre: Adult, Dystopian.
Publication: January 30th 2017 by J. B. Cantwell.
Riley Taylor, a girl living in 2095, underwater Brooklyn, is leaving her abusive home and hoping that a spot in the military will provide enough cash to last her several years on her own. The service is always looking for new recruits to fight the many wars the United States is involved in. Trouble is, only 20% of those who enter the service will survive the three year term and collect the handsome stipend waiting for them at the end. She's willing to take the chance, but once she gets in, she finds that all the normal rules of society don’t apply. With no escape, she has no choice but to hang on and fight for her life.

Pink is a serial read, which means that several shorter segments will be released about once a month. This is a clean read for ages 13+, but it deals with some heavy issues too mature for the crowd below 13.

Release schedule:
Pink - Episodes 1 and 2
Available Now!

Pink - Episode 3
February 21, 2017

Pink - Episode 4
March 20, 2017

Pink - Episode 5
April 17, 2017

Pink - Episode 6
May 15, 2017

Reviewed by Kelly.

How frustrating! I am totally into the book and it ends way too soon. I need the next installment NOW!

It is the future and life isn't good for much of anybody. Being rich is rare. Being in the military lands most people dead. You are given an implant at a very young age that tells you what other people's names are and if they are a good person or a bad person and given news feed on it as well. Food is mostly a nutrition bar type of thing that seems kind of disgusting!

Riley's dad died in the military and her mom was a drunk and hit her. So when Riley is of age she decides to go into the military knowing her odds of surviving aren't good. But living with her alcoholic and abusive mother isn't good either.

The writing is amazing. I was sucked right into this world. I understood Riley's feelings. Her hair is pink because of a mistake when doing her hair. Now while at the sign up station, everyone who saw her before her hair was shaved off called her Pink.

The ending isn't exactly a cliffhanger but it is sort of a tease to leave it like that!

If you like short installments of a book, military, pink hair, running away from abuse, then you might like this book!




Pink Episode 2's synopsis:
Riley Taylor has successfully passed the many tests it takes to enter into the U.S. Service. But the whole thing feels strange. Chambers, the doctor at the intake building, is going to be expecting something from her in exchange for his favor. But what?

Now Riley must focus on making it through boot camp without being sent to the burning plants where methane is manufactured to provide fuel for the country. She is only just hanging onto the bottom run of the infantry, and if she can’t make it through with an infantry designation, she’ll have to spend the next three years at the Burn.

And Alex. She’s only seen him a couple of times, but his body is changing rapidly, expanding at an exponential rate. He seems more and more desperate each time they meet, and Riley’s beginning to wonder if she’ll ever be able to break through his training and have her friend back again.

Pink is a serial read, which means that several shorter segments will be released about once a month. This is a clean read for ages 13+, but it deals with some heavy issues too mature for the crowd below 13.

Kelly's review of episode 2...

This installment has you on the edge waiting and worrying over her struggle in boot camp. Nothing is as it seems. She finally sees her friend, Alex, in another unit and he is different. Like he is massively bigger. Then Pink has Lydia on her and wondering if she is gonna hit her. Which is a no no in this Military. If you can't perform well you lose points and get rankings to work in the Burn, which you would slowly die from. It's so much going on and I need more now!!!

The world building is absolutely incredible! Life would be absolutely horrible!

If you like action, military secrets and experiments, survival of the fittest, dystopians, then this might be for you!



Pink Episode 3's synopsis:
Seventeen-year-old Riley Taylor has finally made it through boot camp, and now she’s on her way to the base where United States soldiers battle the Canadians for water resources. But before she gets there, she gets a taste of what it will be like for those who have been sentenced to serve out their term in the military at the burning plants. She starts to wonder if she might have been safer with a job in the plants instead of going to war.

But she is going to war.

When she arrives at the base, she learns that this battle is not as simple as one-on-one violence. In order to thwart the enemy, she and her fellow soldiers will need to come up with tactics not just to kill the Canadian fighters, but to outwit them as well.

But when Riley finds Alex on the same mission, she must decide which side she wants to be on, and if she’s willing to leave him behind to make a new life, a life much different than the one that she’s imagined for so many years.

Kelly's review of episode 3...

Now she is getting out of boot camp and into the journey to the fighting. First she gets on a boat with the filth of the water surrounding them. They collect it take out the live fish (with the mutated fish as well) and throw the rest to the bottom to be burned for fuel. One would think the author is maybe saying we are heading into this situation? I don't know. But it's a disgusting thing they are doing. The words the author wrote even made me want to vomit!

Anyway, this installment has her working on Alex, trying to get him out of this brain washing, but he is a super soldier called Prime and they don't seem to have a will of their own. They just do the movements. And Lydia is recruiting Pink to help stop the government and all this madness around them. Riley (Pink) is confused. But, she is getting stronger everyday. Her every move is watched and things are about to get ugly and I have to wait for the next installment! Gah!





J. B. Cantwell calls the San Francisco Bay Area home. In her writing she explores coming of age in an imperfect world, the effects of greed and violence on all, and the miraculous power that hope can have over the human spirit






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20 March 2017

Blitz & Giveaway: Petals by Laurisa White Reyes

Petals by Laurisa White Reyes.
Audience/Genre: Young Adult.
Publication: March 15th 2017 by Skyrocket Press.
Some memories refuse to stay buried…
On Christmas Eve, a horrific car accident leaves Carly Perez without a mom. After a year of surgeries and counseling, Carly’s life is nearly back to normal—except for the monsters—vague, twisted images from the accident that plague her dreams. When her father insists on spending their first Christmas alone in Guatemala with a slew of relatives Carly has never met, she is far from thrilled, but she reluctantly boards the plane anyway.

That’s where she first spots the man with the scarred face. She could swear she has seen him before. But when? Where?

In Reu, the Guatemalan town where her father grew up, Carly meets Miguel, her attractive step-cousin, and thinks maybe vacation won’t be a total waste after all. Though she is drawn to him, Carly’s past holds her back—memories that refuse to be forgotten, and a secret about the accident that remains buried in her subconscious. And everywhere she turns, the man with the scarred face is there, driving that unwelcome secret to the surface.

For ages 14 & up


​In sixty seconds, Mom would be dead.

We’re driving down Telegraph Highway, the two of us, a wrapped gift box on my lap. It is rectangular, maybe fifteen inches tall, in red foil paper with a white bow on top. We were lucky to find the drug store still open on Christmas Eve.

Mom is pleased. She’s humming along with the radio, which is playing a lively fifties holiday song. Her thumbs tap out the tune on the steering wheel. Her car keys sway in the ignition, jingling like bells.

Outside, the sky is dark. Through the storm, the road ahead looks like a long tunnel.

Snow is falling.

It happens so fast there is no time to react. Bright lights hurtle toward us on our side of the road. Mom’s arms brace against the wheel. She thrusts her foot against the brake, but the road is slick with ice. The car swerves.

I hear a car horn blaring. I hear the crunch of metal, the pop of glass shattering. A powerful force shoves me against the car door as everything suddenly whirls in the wrong direction. I feel pain. I scream.

And then it’s over.

When I blink open my eyes, everything is white.

Snow is falling.


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Laurisa White Reyes is the author of the 2016 Spark Award winning novel The Storytellers, as well as The Celestine Chronicles and The Crystal Keeper series. She lives in Southern California where she teaches English at College of the Canyons.






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19 March 2017

Tour & Giveaway: Unexpected Love: A Marriage of Convenience Anthology by Heather Chapman, Mandi Ellsworth, Paula Kremser, Ashtyn Newbold



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Unexpected Love: A Marriage of Convenience Anthology by Heather Chapman, Mandi Ellsworth, Paula Kremser, Ashtyn Newbold.
Audience/Genre: Adult, Anthologies.
Publication: March 1st 2017 by Sweetwater Books.
Around the turn of the century, matches were made for all sorts of reasons--whether to keep a family together or simply to make ends meet. But love has a way of turning up in the most unexpected places! With four historical romance stories in one, this fun anthology will sweep you from the dance floors of aristocracy to the hearths of country living, leading to love through the most unusual circumstances.

Reviewed by Kelly.

I first wondered if I made the right choice to review the book. You know if you've read one marriage of convenience you've read them all. I was totally wrong. These stories have very different circumstances but all with the same ending - finding real love!

Each of the stories were so cute. I kind of enjoyed how each woman had totally different personalities that made the book so much better. Some difference in the time period as well.

I highly reccomend this book to read anytime, read one story between books and then pick up the next or just hunker down and feel love growing 4 times all at once! It leaves you relaxed and with a sigh. I am kind of partial to the spit fire woman! That one was so funny! If you read it you will know exactly who I am referring too! The last one left me a little tearful as it brought together a blind man and a woman who was burned. I will be reading this book again and again!




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Heather Chapman: Being the youngest of four sisters (and one very tolerant older brother), Heather grew up on a steady diet of chocolate, Jane Austen, Anne of Green Gables, Audrey Hepburn, and the other staples of female literature and moviedom. These stories inspired Heather, and she began writing at a young age. After meeting and marrying her husband Mark, Heather graduated magna cum laude from Brigham Young University and settled down in a small farming community with her husband and four children. In her spare time, Heather enjoys volleyball, piano, the outdoors, and just about anything creative.

Mandi Ellsworth: Mandi is an avid reader, a slow jogger, and disinterested in board games of any kind. She lives in Utah with her husband, three children and no pets.

Paula Kremser: Paula Kremser focused on a career in science for a few years after graduating from Brigham Young University. Several years later when she moved with her young family to England, Paula seized the opportunity to focus on her love of the Regency Era. The enchantment of the aristocracy and the fascinating stories from every stately home she visits have been both research and inspiration for her first novel, “Sophia,” and second, “To Suit a Suitor.”

Ashtyn Newbold: Ashtyn Newbold discovered a love of writing early in high school. Inspired by regency period romance, she wrote her first novel at the age of sixteen. Because she can’t vacation in her favorite historical time periods, she writes about them instead. When not crafting handsome historical heroes, she enjoys baking, sewing, music, and spoiling her dog. She dreams of traveling to England and Ireland. Ashtyn is currently studying English and creative writing at Utah Valley University. She lives in Lehi, Utah with her family and is the author of “Mischief and Manors.”






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17 March 2017

Tour & Giveaway: Courting Carrie in Wonderland by Carla Kelly



Courting Carrie in Wonderland by Carla Kelly.
Audience/Genre: Historical Romance.
Publication: March 1st 2017 by Sweetwater Books.
Struggling through college and balancing her summer job in Yellowstone Park with the Wylie Camping Company, Carrie McKay simply doesn't have time to consider romance. Spanish American War Veteran Sergeant Major Ramsay Stiles also isn't looking for love, busy with his own complicated affairs. But as the magic of Yellowstone starts making its way into their hearts, both begin to see love move up their priority list.

Reviewed by Kelly.

I have to admit I almost stopped reading the book at the beginning. I found that it couldn't keep my attention and I didn't understand what was going on. But I read on and I really am glad I did! Carrie is a caring, stubborn and more of a modern girl from those times. Ramsey is a good man who does what is right and follows through whatever he believes in.

The relationship between Carrie and Ramsey was just right in the timing, neither too fast or too slow. They fit together perfectly. They love serving others and keeping busy. They have good people that they surround themselves with and both have had bad experiences in the past and have come through them without pity, self loathing or withdrawing from the world. That made them stronger!

I loved learning things of the Yellowstone Park while reading this. I've never been there but it made me want to go. Carla Kelly writes information after the book about this time and where alot of her information comes from and more on it. I loved reading that too!

If you like wolves, bridges, military, heroes, magic tricks, singing, President Roosevelt, cherry pies, Yellowstone Park, doing what you know is right then this might be for you!




Void where prohibited

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Carla Kelly is a veteran of the New York and international publishing world. The author of more than thirty novels and novellas for Donald I. Fine Co., Signet, and Harlequin, Carla is the recipient of two Rita Awards (think Oscars for romance writing) from Romance Writers of America and two Spur Awards (think Oscars for western fiction) from Western Writers of America. She is also a recipient of a Whitney Award for “Borrowed Light,” “My Loving Vigil Keeping,” and “Softly Falling.”






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16 March 2017

Blast & Giveaway: Arizona Forever by Jaclyn M. Hawkes

 



Arizona Forever by Jaclyn M. Hawkes

Dr. Jessie Benn has everything—except Mr. Right.
There’s only one problem.
The one guy who intrigues her is completely wrong.
She’s a veterinarian specializing in horses with a thriving practice nestled between her family’s Arizona ranches, looking for a nice, dependable guy who can take her to the eternities.
He’s a visiting Australian business tycoon who’s just a touch bitter, a touch wild, and way more than a touch fascinating.
What’s a girl to do?


What Readers Are Saying About Jaclyn’s Books:

Jaclyn M Hawkes ROCKS!

I love all of her books! This was another great story that had it all; great characters, fun, happiness, love, suspense, sadness, triumph, family, and joy.

I'm not worried about letting my teenage daughters read anything Jaclyn writes.

Thanks for another great read and please keep them coming! Karen



Fantastic as always!

Fantastic, magnificent and beautifully written.



Amazing!

I have never read a book before that had me captive from the beginning. I cried, have laughed and felt her deep grief and confusion. What a wonderful book and a wonderfully exceptional writer. I can't wait to read more of Jaclyn Hawkes books! Lorraine



I love the way she writes!



I love it!

A fun read that warms your heart and makes you feel just as awesome as the characters!

 

Jaclyn Hawkes was delightful!

A love story with depth and characters you want to meet.

I find myself reading halfway into the night if I don't set a reminder to stop and sleep when I get her new books. Janie

 

Be sure to read Jaclyn’s other books

Journey of Honor A love story

The Outer Edge of Heaven

The Most Important Catch

Healing Creek

Rockland Ranch Series

Peace River

Above Rubies

Once Enchanted

For Joey

Warrior’s Moon

The Sage After Rain

After The Wind

Wildflowers And Kisses

 


Excerpt - Arizona Forever

Prologue

 

Six year old Jessie Benjamin did what she always did when she was afraid—she ran to her big brothers. Hurrying, she went two doors down the hall to Josh’s room where her other brothers, Brennan and McCade, would most likely be as well. It was where the four of them usually met whenever there was something wrong. Only this time, she knew something was really wrong because her brothers didn’t smile and tease her before they gathered around her like they usually did. They swallowed her into their jostling group hug, but this time there was the same scary feeling here in Josh’s room that she could hear in her parents’ raised voices coming from their room further down the hall.

She couldn’t tell what they were fighting about. She only heard a word here or there, her mother’s voice loud and angry, while her dad’s had calmed down to sad and almost pleading. This bickering had been going on for a couple of days now, but nothing like tonight’s fighting. It was so strange. Her mother got fussy pretty often, but her dad never got like this. Ever. He was typically calm and soft spoken. Even when someone did something big, like when Brennan broke the garage window, he never got too riled. Whatever this bortion thing was her mother was hollering about had made him truly upset.

Jessie looked up into the serious faces of her brothers and hid her own face against Josh’s chest. She wished her mother would calm down. That shouting couldn’t be good for the baby in her mom’s tummy. They’d just found out she was expecting. Jessie was praying it was a girl and couldn’t have been more excited for anything! Ever since she was little, she’d imagined she had this little blonde sister named Jennifer who did everything with her. She’d even dreamed about her and it felt like she’d waited forever. Even a baby brother would be wonderful!

The fighting spilled out of their parents’ room into the hallway and her father almost seemed to be begging as he said, “Please, Clara, don’t do this. Just hang in there four more months. Even three and a half. Then you can leave and won’t ever even have to see it. I know it’s your body, but please . . . It’s my baby too.”

Storming past Josh’s bedroom door, her mother shouted something they all clearly heard, “I’ll do what I want! It’s my body! In four months I’ll have missed the two biggest shows of the season. I missed shows for years to get the four we have. They’re plenty. It’s too much to ask that I do it again. This was your mistake, Ken—not mine! I shouldn’t have to pay for it and you can’t make me!”

The front door slammed and a moment later Jessie heard a car squeal away and then there was only silence. For some reason, that scared her more than the arguing. Finally, her dad went into his office and stayed on the phone with someone for a long time and when he came out, he actually looked like he’d been crying. Of course, that couldn’t have been true. Dads didn’t cry. But he looked like it.

That night, after everyone else was gone to bed, Jessie snuck into Josh’s room and sat on his bed and whispered, “Josh, what are they fighting about? What does bortion mean?” He was almost ten. He would know.

At her question, Josh began to cry. He pulled Jessie into a gentle hug. When he could finally speak, he said so softly and so sadly that Jessie could hardly hear the words that shattered her world into pieces, “Dad says it means Mom’s going to have the baby taken out of her tummy and then it will die, Jessie.”

 

 

Chapter 1

 

21 years later

 

Jessie slid onto the bench on the edge of the soccer field beside McCade and gave an exaggerated sigh of exhaustion as she began to unlace her cleats and said, “Man, you schooled me out there this morning, Muck. I thought I had you until that sweet juke before the half and then I was toast. My calves are killing me!”

McCade smiled and batted at her blonde ponytail. “That’s what you get for working too much and playing too little. Juked by the king of jukage!” He reached a hand over her head to fist bump Brennan who sat on the other side of her sucking on a water bottle. “She’s getting old and slow, Bren. Adulthood’ll do that to ya if you let it!”

Brennan stopped drinking and squirted her in the face with the water bottle. “I don’t know. She’s still got some moves of her own. You forget she scored on me like I was standing still. She even got around Suki. And you know she’s got some moves.” Brennan winked at his wife Suki and McCade rolled his eyes.

Jessie opened her mouth to catch some of the water Brennan was squirting, then smiled and said, “Twice. That would be twice I scored on you, bro. And that second one was world class. Christiano himself would have been jealous. Old and slow? I may be overworked and under played, but I’ll always be younger than the three of you. And we did win. I love this deal where the winners get taken to breakfast.” She pulled off her socks and wiggled her toes. “It’s already insanely hot out here. You two seem to be buying a lot lately. I’m having blueberry waffles. Think they’d care if I walked into the Wagonmaster bare footed? My feet can’t face shoes yet. They need air.”

As if on cue, all three of her brothers held their noses and Josh’s wife, Lucy, laughed from where she was standing beside the bench. “Just ignore them, Jessie. They’re only sore losers. Nice toenails, by the way. Love the polka dots.”

Jessie stretched her foot out to admire her pedicure. “They are cute, aren’t they? Ryley did them for me yesterday while I was finishing my patient log. You have a very artistic son.”

Josh turned to her from the other end of the bench with a look of horror. “You let my son paint your toenails? Jessie!”

Jessie laughed. “What? He did a great job for a three year old. Well, once I’d showered the excess polish off my skin. For awhile there it looked like I’d been attacked by an ax murderer with a foot fetish. But he did much better on his own toes. I think mine gave him some practice. His didn’t look nearly so gory.”

This time it was Lucy who was horrified. “You let him paint his own toes, too? Jessie! That’s a terrible thing to teach a little boy. You are never babysitting again!”

“Okay. Fine. I won’t do it again. Don’t ground me from your kids. They’re my favorite nephew and niece.”

“They’re your only nephew and niece.”

Jessie stood up and picked up her bag. “True, but they’re still my favorites.”She gave a wide smile. “So . . . Hustle up people. I’m starving and my fans are waiting. I have a 7:30. Justison is bringing in that boneheaded buckskin gelding of his with the speed index of 106.”

Josh grimaced. “Some fan. He’s likely to try to kick your head off. Justison thinks if they try to strike, they’re just feeling good and ready to run.”

McCade shook his head as they headed to their trucks. “There’s probably nothing wrong with the horse. Justison just needs an excuse to visit Doc Jessie again. Don’t take any of his crud, Jess. You know how he is.”

At the restaurant while they waited for their food, Josh began fooling with his phone. After a second, he gave a low whistle and then said, “Unbelievable! You know that guy from my mission, my friend Riordan Kane? From up in Brisbane? The one we taught forever and got to be such good friends with, but he would never join even though he basically agreed with all the principles. He’d had that LDS girlfriend who had played him so bad and he always said it all sounded great, but he’d already been baptized and didn’t need to do it again. Remember he came over for a visit a couple years ago? Elder Burton says the Wall Street Journal reported that he’s selling his company for $168 million dollars! Holy crud! That’s a hunk of dough! He’s only like twenty-nine years old! How does a guy do that?”

Brennan only shook his head as he built sugar packets into a cube. “Apparently very deliberately. You said he was a business machine. Didn’t you say he was ruthless? He was in software, right?”

“Oh, I don’t know about ruthless. Well, actually, yeah, he was pretty ruthless in business. But I don’t think he’d always been that way. He’s a nice guy. I think he started out developing the software of some of his computer geek friends, but somewhere along the way he became ruthless. Awhile back his girlfriend, who he thought he was going to marry, started sleeping with the enemy—literally. So he wiped the other guy out. Apparently his company was built on solid technology, mostly phone apps I think, and it snowballed.”

Brennan nodded. “Yeah. I’d say it pretty well snowballed. Why’s he selling?”

“Who knows why Riordan Kane does anything he does? You’d think he had it made, but he doesn’t seem very happy sometimes. Last time I talked to him he distrusted every woman on the planet. Talk about your disenchanted. He had tons of money, no smile, and no idea of his purpose in life.”

Brennan raised his eyebrows. “I’d say if you built a company to $168 million dollars before your thirtieth birthday that you had some purpose in life.”

“Well, that seemed to be his only purpose. Other than to fish. He does like to fish. I hope once the sale is final he throws himself into something else and doesn’t just go all billionaire playboy. That’s the last thing Riordan needs. He’ll never join the church.”

Lucy patted his hand. “Relax, honey. It’s hard to go all billionaire playboy with only a paltry $168 million. He can hardly do much damage on that pittance.” She smiled at him. “Didn’t you say he was coming to the National Stock Show and bringing his fancy reining horse?”

Josh put his phone away and grinned. “He is. He’s bringing a guy named Quinn something, who’s some famous goalie for a pro soccer team over there. Riordan got him into reining as well. He says Quinn is a maniac.”

Jessie accepted her plate of blueberry waffles from the server, smiled her thanks and then said sweetly, “Well, you’d better not have them stay at your house then. That’s all Ryley would need is an aunt who lets him paint his toenails and a resident maniacal pro soccer goalie for role models. My, but this breakfast bankrolled by the losers looks wonderful, don’t you think, Lucy?”

Lucy smiled just as sweetly. “Indeed it does, Jessie. Bon appétit, Bren.”

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Author Jaclyn M. Hawkes
Jaclyn M. Hawkes grew up in Utah with 6 sisters, 4 brothers and any number of pets. (It was never boring!) She got a bachelor’s degree, had a career and traveled extensively before settling down to her life’s work of being the mother of four magnificent and sometimes challenging children. She loves shellfish, pizza, the out of doors, the youth, and hearing her children laugh. She and her incredibly handsome husband, their younger children, and their happy dogs now live in a mountain valley in northern Utah, where it smells like heaven and kids still move sprinkler pipe.

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