The end … A Beginning

Thank you to everyone who followed, read, commented on, and supported this blog. Due to various circumstances, Cupcake’s Book Cupboard has shut down.

Please consider following my new book review blog, Vox Libris.

Thank you again, and please keep reading!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Review: The Abduction


The Abduction (The Carnivia Trilogy Book 2)
by Jonathan Holt
Published by Harper
464 pages
Genre: mystery
4.5 / 5

Summary from Goodreads:

An unlikely trio must form an alliance to save a kidnapped young girl and untangle a nefarious plot that reaches back decades.

Second Lieutenant Holly Boland is an intelligence analyst trained to look for clues ordinary investigators miss. When a U.S. army officer’s daughter is kidnapped from an American base in Venice, Holly is sure that the mysterious abductors want more than a ransom.

Venetian police captain Kat Tapo has found a webcam feed embedded in the encrypted website, a virtual Venice. It streams video of a terrified teenage girl, hooded and tied to a chair. A strand of text scrolls across the screen: “Sensory deprivation is not torture.” Is the girl the missing daughter of the American military officer? Who is behind the cryptic message?

Daniele Barbo, the genius webmaster and creator of Carnivia, has never let the government access his servers, and finding the missing girl is not his problem. But then secrets from Italy’s dark wartime past begin to surface-revelations that could put them all in danger. To save his own skin, Daniel must decide how far he’s willing to let them in.

In a race against time, Holly, Kat, and Daniel must find the shocking truth . . . or watch as more than one innocent life is sacrificed.

My Review:

At the end of Holt’s The Abomination, the first in the Carnivia trilogy, Kat Tarpo and Aldo Piola have faced the fallout of their affair, and Kat has decided to file charges of harassment against her boss and lover. American Holly Boland has helped them crack a case, and the three go about their lives.

The Abduction picks up a few months afterwards. Kat has been ostracized by her coworkers, blamed for accusing the beloved Piola of any impropriety. She was a willing participant, wasn’t she? How can she charge him with anything when she was fully aware, all along, that he was (a) married and (b) her superior? Kat is nothing if not hard-headed, though, and she resists questioning her decision.

When a new case falls to her, she attacks it as she does everything in her life: with no inhibition and full belief that she will be successful.

As the daughter of a high-ranking US military official stationed in Venice, teenaged (and sheltered) Mia is an easy target. She’s anxious to break free from her father’s watchful eye and experience life. That the Italians are none too pleased to have an American military presence completely escapes her, as it would most teenagers. She wants to smoke, drink, and maybe have sex. She yearns to just be free.

Similarly, Holly craves freedom, even if she doesn’t know what form it should take or even from what she wants to be free. She’s a proud American who was raised in Italy. She’s staunchly patriotic, yet she acknowledges her country’s faults in Italy. Yes, she loves being in the military, but she feels constrained. While she enjoys abiding by military precision, she wants something … different.

Also returning is Daniele Barbo, a kidnapping and torture victim who has created interactive website Carnivia. When Mia goes missing, Kat and Holly ask Daniele for help, and the three are reunited. Also, meanwhile, pursues an apparently unrelated case of a skeleton found on the base.

What is fascinating about this book is the way Jonathan Holt takes the American treatment of POWs and uses it to propel his story. He also makes a point about what is torture and what isn’t, but we’ll get to that in a little bit. His primary focus is on Mia’s kidnapping, taking us from one “experience” to another. Her kidnappers are intent on showing just how cruel Americans are, not just in how they treat their prisoners, but in how they are treating Italy. One begets the other.

The bad guys go step-by-step through the interrogation manual (so to speak) that guided how the US military handled prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. Mia is waterboarded, sleep deprived, nearly starved, and struck harshly. Her abductors videotape each, airing the tapes through Carnivia. As Mia reacts to each ill treatment, we get a deeper, more affecting understanding of how torturous non-torture can be.

As Kat, Holly, Daniele, and Aldo race to free her, the mystery deepens and widens. Who is behind Mia’s abduction? What is their purpose? What do they hope to achieve? Can she be saved?

Holt writes with taut precision, keeping you riveted and turning the pages. There is quite a bit of history here as well, which helps us better understand the Italian (and international) perspective of US military encroachment and intervention. There is also some background on the Catholic church and its role in world events and wars.

I love – and I do mean love – the way Jonathan Holt writes. I can’t wait for the third installment, and the romantic in me wants Kat reunited with Aldo. Both of his books cast an unflattering eye on the United States military (and political) machine, and I wondered if Holt wasn’t making a point about that as well. So I did what any curious reader would do: I sent him a message, asking him about casting Americans as the bad guys and if he was concerned about a perceived anti-American bias.

Mr. Holt kindly replied, and here is what he said:

When I started writing the Carnivia trilogy I really didn’t know a lot about US Cold War foreign policy, other than that in Italy there had been some kind of secret anti-communist army called Gladio that was set up by NATO. It sounded like good background for a conspiracy thriller, so I stole it. But as I did more research, I became more and more amazed by the things the US had done in Italy in order to keep the communists out of government. From letting the mafia out of the prisons where Mussolini had put them, to creating and bankrolling newspapers and political parties, to recruiting or bribing government ministers or Vatican officials, there was almost nothing they wouldn’t do.

So on one level, I was just thinking ‘Wow, this is great material’. But on another, I was genuinely surprised by the extent of the US’s interference in the democratic process of a sovereign country.

Now, you could argue that Italy was already so chaotic, and so corrupt, that it needed to be interfered with. Or you could argue that the chaos and corruption partly stemmed from the interference.

I try, as a thriller writer, not to take sides in the debate, only to milk it for drama… and of course, the parallels between ‘the war on communism’ and ‘the war on terrorism’ also make for some thought-provoking plotlines.

All of which is a longwinded way of saying that I really hope my books don’t come across as anti-US, just as interesting and topical. THE ABDUCTION actually ends with one character admitting to another, an ex-CIA agent, that he jumped to an anti-American conclusion at one point which turned out to be wrong. But where I find a good fact that reveals how the most powerful country in the world operates, I use it.

And thank goodness he does.

If you enjoy a gripping mystery and exceptional writing, you will love The Carnivia Trilogy. And you will join me in anxiously awaiting the third one. You may even join me in hoping that Aldo and Kat realize they belong together (that’s a hint to Jonathan Holt, by the way).

Light up the comments and let me know what you think of this fantastic series.

Leave a comment

Filed under mystery, really really GOOD literature!

Review: Crossing the Line

crossing the lineCrossing the Line

by Megan Hart
Published by Cosmo Red Hot Reads
80 pages
Genre: erotica
1.5 / 5


5 Rules for Sexy Play in the Workplace!

1. Know the company policy;—You just got an opportunity to finally snag that sweet corner office. The last thing you need is a wicked distraction….

2. Don’t date your boss—Sure, Jamison Wolfe has a smile that could send a woman into instant orgasmic joy. But more important, he’s your strict, control-freakish boss. Your hot, sexy, control-freakish boss.

3. Keep PDA out of the office—Okay, so you slipped up. Once. It was just the temptation of having Jamison at your complete naked mercy.

4. Prepare for the worst—This can’t go anywhere. You know it, he knows it. So why stop now?

5. Be discreet—Even when it gets more intense. Even when you push every limit you both possess…


My Review:

I have enjoyed Megan Hart’s books for a while. The Every Part of You serious? Loved it. Flying? LOVED IT. The FavorTempted? Loved them all!

Alas, I do not have much love for this one.

Hart takes our typical, Christian Gray-esque notions of BDSM and turns them upside down. This time the domme is a woman, the sub a man.

Caitlyn has inherent Dominant traits, although she does not exhibit them in the work force. She’s a fairly content employee doing the bidding of her boss Jamison. He, on the other hand, is an Alpha Male and is always in charge, always in control, always telling others what to do. Always taking care of others.

When he and Caitlyn develop a sexual spark, Jamison realizes that he found someone who allows him to be the one taken care of, to not have to make decisions or be in control.

He likey.

He likey a LOT.

But what he doesn’t like is anyone else knowing about it, because then he’d appear all weak and everything.

The headboard rockin’ is quite hot, as is typical in Megan Hart fare. But the story is exceedingly blah and uninteresting. You see every plot twist coming from about 500 paces, which makes the scant number of pages a very good thing. I didn’t find Caitlyn or Jamison compelling – at all – so hot as their couplings may be, they didn’t hold my interest because Caitlyn and Jamison didn’t hold my interest.

There are hotter Megan Hart books out there. Go read one of those. In fact, go read Flying and give this one a pass.



Leave a comment

Filed under erotica, Hot Headboard Rockin' but not much else

Review: Before He Was Famous

before he was famous

Before He Was Famous

A Fool’s Gold Romance
by Becky Wicks
Published by Becky Wicks Books
279 pages
Genre: romance, new adult
4 / 5


From International Bestselling HarperCollins Author, Becky Wicks, comes a new adult romance that will leave you starstruck.

***Warning: this book contains graphic language, sex, and mature situations. Not intended for young adult readers.***

One guy, one girl. One in the spotlight. One in the shadows.

Falling in love with your best friend isn’t always a great idea, especially when he’s Noah Lockton – the sexiest, most famous new talent on the planet. When 21-year-old small-town photographer Chloe Campbell is offered the chance of a lifetime – to join her celebrity childhood friend Noah on tour as an exclusive blogger for a New York magazine – she’s certain both have put what happened four years ago behind them. But his eyes still burn; his voice is still a jackhammer to her heartstrings; all his songs are about her. Is it possible that that night still haunts them both?

The music industry is a machine, spinning hype and rumors as much as his records. It’s not just Noah’s girlfriends who’ve got it in for Chloe (there’s no stopping the Twitter-obsessed, cat-loving pop-star Courtney Lentini for starters). Pretty soon, the jealousy and media frenzy surrounding these so-called-friends takes a life-changing turn and it seems making love means making enemies at every turn. When tragedy threatens to pull the final curtain on their relationship, both Chloe and Noah must make a choice. As much as this world leaves them starstruck, is living their dream really worth living without each other?

A story of lifelong friendships, love and hope, set in a world of celebrity, fame and social media gone very, very wrong.


My Review:

Let me just say that any book that has a cat named The Great Catsby must be okay reading. Right?

Now, the fact that the cat’s owner seems a bit too dim-witted to have conjured up this name with any literary allusion is something we will overlook. Because the cat? Is named THE GREAT CATSBY.

The rest of the book has a sort of nostalgic sweetness to it, along with some super hot headboard rockin’.

Noah and Chloe had that one night together, after which their friendship took a slight hit. She wanted comfort, he wanted her, and despite the fact that she had a boyfriend and that she and Noah had been friends forever, they rocked the – er – tree house together.  Quite magnificently, in fact.

But Chloe is nothing if not tentative and cautious when it comes to making any sort of romantic commitment. She has a boyfriend, but his gainful employment might just be of the illegal variety. And he isn’t very nice.

Chloe and Noah’s friendship, though, is rock solid, and the scenes of the two of them together pre-romance are some of the strongest in the book. That isn’t to say that the romance is weak; it’s hot and exactly what New Adult lit is all about. But the core friendship is so nicely written that it helps overcome some of the novel’s weaknesses (the contrived problems that arise in the romance would be Exhibit A for weaknesses).

As Noah’s career takes off, he’s able to bring Chloe along to document his travels. She gets to watch her best friend ascend to fame, if not quite fortune, pursuing something he loves to do. It’s a rough time for her, although her sunny disposition keeps most of the ill will at bay. The scenes with Noah’s struggles to be his own person in the face of a music industry fame machine are interesting and will make you look differently at those who win American Idol and its ilk.

As for The Great Catsby … well, you need to read to find out about him.



Leave a comment

Filed under hot headboard rockin', New Adult lit, romance

Review: An American Girl in Italy

american girl in italy

American Girl in Italy

by Aubrie Dionne
Published by HarperImpulse
182 pages
Genre: romance, women’s fiction
2.5 / 5


An Italian paradise is the last thing she wants… but the one thing she needs!

Surely any girl would kill for the chance to tour Italy’s most famous cities for the summer? To experience the warmth of the Tuscan sun, the culinary delights of the pizzerias and cafés and to stroll along the cobbled streets of the City of Love itself…

Any girl apart from ambitious oboist Carly Davis that is! For her, the Easthampton Civic Symphony’s latest European tour is one massive inconvenience. She can’t even put her smartphone down long enough to snap a picture of the Coliseum.

Only, there’s one Italian attraction that Carly hadn’t quite expected to be a part of the tourist route…

Tour guide Michelangelo is as dark and delicious as Carly’s morning espresso. And when she needs a few lessons in the language of love to land her an important gig, he’s a more than capable tutor.

But with her promising career back in Boston, can Carly really afford to lose her heart in Italy?

My Review:

Well ….

The good news is that it is a short, quick read. And Dionne peppers the book with references to Italian culture and food and that sort of thing. Oh, and Michelangelo is gorgeous and swarthy, just like I like my Hot Heroes to be.

It’s just that Carly is so insipid that I ceased caring about whether or not she was happy, and I even started hoping that Michelangelo would find someone else. She worries, for a bit, that he did, but in truth Michelangelo is distracted by some family financial problems, the existence of which leads him to the tour guide job in the first place.

I did enjoy reading about the orchestra and Carly’s playing, and of course I enjoyed reading about Michelangelo. The rest of the book sort of fell flat for me. Maybe it’s because I really really wanted it to be good. I tend to enjoy books set in Italy, and I was looking forward to this one. I wanted my Hot Hero to have some Hot Headboard Rockin’, and I wanted to like the heroine.

I read this book a few weeks ago, and I can’t remember if there is any Hot Headboard Rockin’, so that ought to tell you something right there.

Still, though, it’s a cute, quick read. Not my particular flavor, but it has its merits.


Leave a comment

Filed under blah romance, boring heroine

Review: Before We Kiss

before we kiss

Before We Kiss

A Fool’s Gold Romance
by Susan Mallery
Published by Harlequin
368 pages
Genre: romance, women’s fiction
4 / 5


New York Times bestselling sensation Susan Mallery returns to Fool’s Gold, California, where it’s true that sometimes you have to kiss a few frogs…

Former pro-football kicker Sam Ridge has notoriously bad luck with women—from cheaters to fame chasers. Still, the gorgeous brunette at the bar in Fool’s Gold looks harmless—until she takes him home and he discovers a room devoted to securing a man, for life.

Dellina Hopkins never guessed that storing gowns from a friend’s bridal boutique would chase away her first and only fling. After her parents died, she skipped her “wild youth” to raise her sisters. She doesn’t want forever from Sam, but one night—all night—would’ve been nice.

His clean getaway gets messy when his firm hires Dellina to plan an event. As long hours lead to late nights, the two succumb to temptation again. Has Sam’s luck finally changed? Or this time, will Dellina be the one to run?

My Review:

Susan Mallery’s books are just fun to read. Yes, there is some headboard rockin’, but there is also an enjoyable story with characters you get to know. They make you feel like love is possible for anyone.

In this case, Dellina and Sam are clearly meant to be, even if he hightails it out of her home quicker than you can say, “I booked the reception site.” The second he sees all of those wedding gowns and a whiteboard that lists out steps for getting a man to propose, fear of commitment grips him tighter than Super Glue.

Up till that point, he and Dellina had enjoyed a lovely evening (indeed), so when he sees her again, memories of their encounter get his blood stirring. Hers, too. The two of them are skittish, though, when it comes to matters of the heart. Sam’s been burned by trusting the wrong women, and Dellina’s life is all about Responsibility. The one time she decides to have fun, the guy runs away.

As they push and pull their relationship, they get to know each other, and those passages are fun to read.  The supporting case of characters is quirky but not in a silly or demeaning way. For instance, Dellina’s sister – the one desperate enough to get her fiancé to propose that she has a “How To” board – is annoying and frustrating, but in that way that sisters are. She knows her behavior is ridiculous, but she can’t stop herself. Steely-eyed Mayor Marsha shows us that there is more to her than coordinated business attire. In fact, I think I’d like to see someone come in and whisk her off for some hot headboard rockin’ of her own.

This is the fourteenth in Mallery’s Fool’s Gold series, and you will recognize some of the characters. Jack, that scalawag, is still avoiding anything other than one-nighters, and I look forward to seeing him fall hard for someone. I suspect I know who it will be …

I enjoyed the heck out of this book, largely because I enjoyed Sam and Dellina so much. Mallery has a way of creating characters you want to be friends with and situations that are believable and relatable, while still being romantic and, yes, hot.


Leave a comment

Filed under romance, women's lit

Blog Tour & Review: The Hurricane Sisters

The Hurricane Sisters

The Hurricane Sisters

by Dorothea Benton Frank
Published by William Morrow
336 pages
Genre: women’s literature
3.5 / 5


Hurricane season begins early and rumbles all summer long, well into September. Often people’s lives reflect the weather and The Hurricane Sisters is just such a story.

Once again Dorothea Benton Frank takes us deep into the heart of her magical South Carolina Lowcountry on a tumultuous journey filled with longings, disappointments, and, finally, a road toward happiness that is hard earned. There we meet three generations of women buried in secrets. The determined matriarch, Maisie Pringle, at eighty, is a force to be reckoned with because she will have the final word on everything, especially when she’s dead wrong. Her daughter, Liz, is caught up in the classic maelstrom of being middle-age and in an emotionally demanding career that will eventually open all their eyes to a terrible truth. And Liz’s beautiful twenty-something daughter, Ashley, whose dreamy ambitions of her unlikely future keeps them all at odds.

Luckily for Ashley, her wonderful older brother, Ivy, is her fierce champion but he can only do so much from San Francisco where he resides with his partner. And Mary Beth, her dearest friend, tries to have her back but even she can’t talk headstrong Ashley out of a relationship with an ambitious politician who seems slightly too old for her.

Actually, Ashley and Mary Beth have yet to launch themselves into solvency. Their prospects seem bleak. So while they wait for the world to discover them and deliver them from a ramen-based existence, they placate themselves with a hare-brained scheme to make money but one that threatens to land them in huge trouble with the authorities.

So where is Clayton, Liz’s husband? He seems more distracted than usual. Ashley desperately needs her father’s love and attention but what kind of a parent can he be to Ashley with one foot in Manhattan and the other one planted in indiscretion? And Liz, who’s an expert in the field of troubled domestic life, refuses to acknowledge Ashley’s precarious situation. Who’s in charge of this family? The wake-up call is about to arrive.

The Lowcountry has endured its share of war and bloodshed like the rest of the South, but this storm season we watch Maisie, Liz, Ashley, and Mary Beth deal with challenges that demand they face the truth about themselves. After a terrible confrontation they are forced to rise to forgiveness, but can they establish a new order for the future of them all?

Frank, with her hallmark scintillating wit and crisp insight, captures how a complex family of disparate characters and their close friends can overcome anything through the power of love and reconciliation. This is the often hilarious, sometimes sobering, but always entertaining story of how these unforgettable women became The Hurricane Sisters.

My Review:

The eponymous “hurricane” barely makes an appearance in this book, which means we need to look deeper and figure out what the storm really is.

In the case of the Waters women, only one actually battles physical elements. The rest fight off storms of the emotional, psychological, and internal variety.

The matriarch, Maisie, is one of those crotchety old gals who says what she means because, really, the clock is ticking. She’s just turned eighty, so why put off till tomorrow what you can say today? Her typical target is her younger daughter Liz, a former model (she appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition!). Maisie isn’t all that thrilled with Liz, although Liz has never done anything wrong. It’s just that she isn’t what Maisie wanted. Liz is a critical mother, not encouraging daughter Ashley’s artistic sensibilities, and even – in a moment Liz herself admits was misguided – sending her gay son to a “conversion” camp. Maisie is very much one of those steel magnolias who rules with an iron fist and a blunt mouth.

For her part, Liz approaches her fifties knowing that her current life isn’t quite what she thought it would be. Husband Clayton spends the weekdays in New York, a situation that suits Liz until she begins to wonder if it’s all that healthy for her marriage. Her children are grown, but she and Clayton subsidize Ashley, something Liz thinks could – and should – stop. But so long as Ashley earns a meager $10 an hour working for an art gallery, Liz and Clayton help her financially. Then there is the matter of Liz’s life’s calling. It isn’t modeling, certainly not now. She’s been working for an organization that helps battered women, and it gives her purpose, even if it draws heavily on her emotional resources. Clayton doesn’t understand why she bothers, but Liz tells him, pointedly and somewhat plaintively, that she wants her life to have a purpose.

However much Ashley deplores needing her parents’ financial handouts, she refuses to give up her dreams of being an artist. She and her best friend Mary Beth live in a family beach house, and each woman also faces romantic obstacles. Ashley finds herself drawn to a charismatic, good looking state senator who exudes a predatory dominance.

As the book summary asks, where is Clayton? Well, he’s in New York, entangled in an affair. He is not just physically absent from the home, but – more critically – emotionally.

The telling of these women’s (and Clayton’s) stories is told with Frank’s typical wit and breezy Southern charm. But it doesn’t feel fulfilling like some of her previous books. Clayton’s story arc resolves particularly quickly and without the messiness you expect. Other than providing a stock character presence, Maisie is also incidental. She passes judgment – both good and bad – but even the advice she dispenses is mediocre.

Where Frank’s book finds its heart is with Liz and Ashley. Their mother-daughter dynamic is thinned to the breaking point, with Ashley’s financial dependency just one point of contention. Liz bears several grudges against her daughter, but Frank draws Liz in such a way that we don’t blame her for those. We empathize. Liz is a woman who has provided for everyone in her family, both in good ways and bad, and now she seeks something for herself, not the least of which is a faithful husband.

Ashley, too, is a character we understand. She’s out of college, with a degree in something she loves but unable to make a living doing it. Mary Beth finds herself in the same position, and Frank is frank when it comes to forcing us to confront what happens to college graduates in today’s economy. These are intelligent young women who want to work and earn a living, but circumstances have forced them to work for hourly pay. That Ashley is attracted to the senator is almost expected. He’s almost an exotic figment in her artistic mind. But here is where Frank’s story becomes not so much weak as disappointing. The unfolding of Ashley’s relationship is not well done by Frank at all. After learning what we do through Liz, we deserve better than how Frank handles Ashley’s romance.

That titular storm, meanwhile, hovers over the story, offering a potential threat. The thing about hurricanes is that they can be forecast. You can see when one is forming. Its track may be unpredictable – maybe it will veer off at the last minute – but you still prepare for it. You still have to fortify yourself and be ready to survive. And such it is with these Hurricane sisters. They see the storms forming; it’s just a matter of preparing and surviving them.


LINKS:Dorothea Benton Frank

tlc tour host


Filed under book tour, women's lit

Review: Is This All There Is?

is this all there is

Is This All There Is?

by Patricia Mann
Published by Booktrope Editions
180 pages
Genre: women’s literature
3 / 5


Beth Thomas’ seemingly perfect life is about to take a detour. At thirty-five, she’s married to her college sweetheart, has two adorable kids, and finds fulfillment teaching part time at the local university.

But when a friend persuades her to go dancing on a rare night out, a chance meeting with a handsome former student changes the course of her life. Loud music, too much to drink, and the thrill of feeling young again lead to an unforgettable kiss that was never supposed to happen. Beth feels wanted again, listened to, cared for, but she knows it’s wrong.

She tries to put the memory behind her, but he pursues her, drawing Beth back to temptation. As she travels deeper into Dave’s world, Beth struggles to choose between what her mind says is right and what she truly craves.


My Review:

There is something about the sort of miasma that afflicts women, especially those whose lives are taken up by children, husbands, household managing. It happens, and how the woman reacts to it dictates the rest of her life. She can’t see it, of course; she can’t see that one small movement will hold her hostage to that decision forever.

Such is the case with Beth. It isn’t that she is unhappy or discontented or any of those things. She is a mother, she works part-time as a professor, her husband isn’t abusive or demanding. He may not notice her the way she would like, and the passion may be gone from their relationship, but that will improve, right? When the kids get older?

When Beth goes dancing, everything changes. Her former student clearly has a massive crush on her, and he wants to claim her as his own. Beth doesn’t recognize that his obsession with her makes no sense. Instead, she is flattered. He appeals to the parts of her she thought were dead or nonexistent. He makes her feel good when no one else in her life does.

But of course the kiss they share does not occur in isolation. It isn’t so much that Beth kisses this man as it is that there are reasons for it, and those reasons will not go away. They in fact become exacerbated and intensify. Beth begins to look around and wonder if, really, this is all there is for her. Or does the student represent the possibility of what might be?

In her more lucid moments, she does realize that whatever she shares with this boy may not withstand the test of time. She ponders how passionate their union would be if she had to clean up after him in the bathroom. Those sparks of reality help make Beth less annoying, because otherwise, I wanted to knock some sense into her.

Yet I can understand her wanting to be wanted. Desire is a powerful urge, both to feel it and to feel it directed toward you. Beth makes mistakes, sure, but her reasons for them are very real.

I did not like the ending, only because I felt like there was a tremendous build-up and then it sort of petered out. I also didn’t like Beth a lot because she is so caught up in herself that she fails to see how she affects the lives of those around her. But then again, being a mother – always putting your children before you – is why Beth is in the place she is.

It’s an interesting book and will make you think. I just wish the ending had been as powerful as the rest of the book deserves.



Leave a comment

Filed under women's lit

Blog Tour & Review: Come Home Again

come home again button


Anything can be fixed with a little Duct Tape and sass…

At least that’s what celebrity fixer, Delilah Donovan, used to think. She prides herself on being able to handle anything. But when she’s asked to fix the new CEO of Synth Games, she never dreams she’ll come face to face with the only man to ever break her heart.

The past can’t always be fixed…

When a friend calls in a long ago favor, reformed hacker, Nate Williams, worries that his shady past will come back to haunt him. As acting CEO of Synth Games, he needs to make the world believe he’s CEO material.  Too bad the one person who can help him is the one woman he had to leave behind.

Will Nate bury his demons for good or will his past dictate his future? Can Delilah rise to this challenge or will Nate shatter her heart…again.


My Review

You can tell by looking at the book cover that this novel features an interracial romance. But you know what’s so good about it? The skin colors of the lovers is never directly stated. BECAUSE IT DOESN’T MATTER.

Delilah is a woman I want to have as my friend. She’s sweet, hard working, intelligent, snarky, and unbelievably loyal. She’s even loyal to Nate, who abandoned her all those years ago, breaking her sixteen-year-old heart. Sure, he had his reasons, but what he did was pretty awful. If nothing else, he owed an explanation to Delilah’s parents, who rescued Nate from near death, helped him heal, and gave him a warm, loving home.

The fact that he bolted right after Delilah professed her love? That lowers him even more.

Nana Malone doesn’t want you to dislike him too much, though, because otherwise, we don’t buy in to the romance. When Nate presses Delilah up against the wall for their first kiss, you will feel it in your toes. So it’s important that we like Nate in that moment. We don’t want to feel that he’s taking advantage of Delilah.

There is some intrigue in this book involving Nate’s biological brother and the company for which Nate is stepping in as temporary CEO, but the intrigue takes a backseat to the romance.

Delilah and Nate make you believe in soul mates, and they even made my cold hard heart believe that nothing can keep soul mates apart. Their chemistry ignites on each page, and there is some hot headboard rockin’.

The weaknesses are all in the subplots. There is just too much predictability in those stories to make them compelling. Sure, we know that Nate and Delilah will wind up together, but they are interesting, engaging characters and we want to see them together. The brother thing? The gaming company thing? Meh.

As far as hot summer reads go, it is enjoyable nonetheless. And when you finish this book, if you don’t want the Donovans to adopt you, I thank you because that means my chances for them adopting me just got better.


Excerpts (not just one, but FIVE!!!)

Excerpt 1

“I’m a compulsive gambler. I’ll be heading to an upstate rehab facility tomorrow. My interim CEO has a month to convince the board that he has the chops, or I’ll lose my company to one of the vultures on the board.”

What? Delilah clamped her jaw tight to keep it from hanging open. He was worth half a billion dollars. She slid a gaze to Jake, but he nodded at her, encouragingly. When she finally was in control again, she asked. “My first question is, how long will you be in rehab?”

Chase met her gaze directly. “Sixty days inpatient, then a thirty day outpatient.”

“What prompted the need to check yourself in?”

He hesitated, but she prompted. “If we’re to protect your interests, I need to know what I’ll have to deal with. What prompted the rehab?”

He sighed, and for the first time, she realized how weary he looked, as if he’d been up all night. “Last night, some associates of a bookie thought it would be nice to tune me up.” His glance shifted to the man at the window.


“I’d been a week late with a payment of half a million dollars.”

Delilah blinked. Why would he owe anyone that kind of money? She cleared her throat. “And this bookie, who is he? Is this an establishment that will come out and attempt to tarnish your reputation?”

A frown marred his handsome face. “A back room game in the city. Invite only. Hole in the wall place. He won’t be going public with anything. It’s not in his interest to do so.”

Jake piped in. “They’ve been paid in full and will not come after you in the future?”

Chase shook his head. “No. I’m covered. But I understand your job will be difficult. Synth is already drawing a lot of media coverage because of the release of the new game.”

Delilah sat forward. “It’s timed with the movie release, right?”

Chase nodded. “Yes. Normally this wouldn’t be such a big deal, but the game and movie combined are projected to do a hundred million in the first week of release.”

Jake nodded enthusiastically. “We’re on it, Chase. We know how important this is.”

Delilah quickly made a note for Willow before looking back up. “We’ll do what we can to keep your recent run-in out of the news. We’ll populate some misdirecting stories if anything should arise. In the meantime, we’ll also start to draft the releases about your temporary step down. They’ll go to the majors. We should also plan for your return and the interviews following. We’ll want the important morning shows and outlets, like Anderson Cooper and Piers Morgan. I have a contact at Oprah’s Network too. We’ll see if we can get you on one of her shows.”

Quickly and efficiently she went through the plan for keeping his recent run-in with meaty fists out of the media. She also ran through the plan of communication to the public and shareholders. Of course, every part of the plan boiled down to the final most important piece. “And what do you plan to do about your company while you’re away?” She glanced briefly to Lachlan.

Chase leaned forward. “We’ve called an emergency board meeting for tonight. I can suggest a replacement, and the board will choose. With the voting members present, it should be no problem making sure it goes my way. The crux is, in another thirty days, the board can keep or replace.” He glanced around. “It is in my best interest if the CEO I pick stays.”

Delilah studied the man seated next to Chase. Lachlan Murphy was great CEO material. Honestly, this job would be a walk in the park with him. There wouldn’t be much to do. “I assume you’ll be stepping in as Mr. Channing’s CEO, Mr. Murphy?”

Lachlan’s eyes widened. “Me? Uh, no. And call me Lach. There would be a conflict of interest with my other business interests. I will only be acting in an advisory capacity, that’s all.”

Jake frowned. “I don’t understand. Who will be your replacement?”

Chase gave them a sheepish smile. “I’d hoped he’d be here by now. He was taking care of a quality assurance problem with one of our games. He’ll be here shortly.”

Delilah chewed her bottom lip. What were the chances that whoever Chase had picked would be as easy to mold and work with as Lachlan Murphy? She slid a glance at Jake. His lips were pressed into a thin line.

She licked her lips. “Okay, then. What will we need to know? Where will we need to focus my attention? What’s his background, what are his strengths?”

Chase and Lach exchanged a quick glance. Lachlan spoke first. “He’s loyal.”

Chase continued. “He actually designed a good portion of our games, so he’s familiar with the technology.”

Delilah read between the lines. Games programmer usually meant awkward nerd type. She’d have to roll up her sleeves on this one. “What else?”

“He has an MBA, he’s smart, and he’ll keep my company afloat.”

Delilah studied Chase carefully, unsure how to get the honest truth out of both men. They were giving her the guy’s resume not the overall feel of him. She sat back and asked, “What are we missing here? What is it you don’t want to tell us? We need to know what deep dark skeletons we’re going to have to incinerate so the public never finds them. Or at least doesn’t find them until you’re back in your rightful seat and your profit margins are up.”

Chase squirmed in his seat. Lachlan wouldn’t meet her gaze and suddenly seemed to find his phone very interesting. Abruptly, Chase sat straighter. “Looks like he’s here. You can ask him yourself.”

Through the opaque glass of the conference room, a tall figure loomed at the door. Broad shoulders. There was an air of confidence about him. She could work with that, but even as she stood, the fine hairs on her arms stood at attention.

When the door swung open, Delilah catalogued him in an instant. She caught sight of his Nike Air Force Ones first, then dark jeans. His hands were big. Like they were made for playing basketball, not coding video games. But they were unadorned with jewelry. His leather jacket was expensive, well made and well worn. He didn’t wear it for fashion, rather for necessity. Under it, he wore a black T-shirt that stretched over a well-defined chest.

Oh hell yes. She could certainly work with this.

Her long dormant libido woke up and stretched languorously. It wasn’t until she managed to drag her eyes from his defined pectorals that her brain stuttered. A shadow of blond hair dusted his chin and strong jaw. Longish blond hair curled at his nape. Lips shaped like a bow with a fuller lower lip. High cheekbones. A slightly crooked nose that had been broken at least once. Deep-set, aquamarine eyes framed by thick, sooty lashes.

A face she knew well. One that had haunted her for seven years.

All air whooshed from her lungs as if she’d been hit in the solar plexus.

Chase’s voice sounded like a distant echo. “Jake, Miss Donovan. Allow me to introduce you to Nathanial Williams. He’ll be stepping in as CEO while I’m gone.”

Oh. Hell. No. Her heart hammered, and her lungs refused to operate properly. This is not happening to me. Not him. Anyone but him.

Her gaze collided with the man she’d thought she once loved, and her stomach pitched. The last time she’d seen Nate was her sixteenth birthday. The night he’d betrayed her family and broken her heart.


Excerpt 2

“I’d have to trust you to help, and I don’t.”

He stalked over to her, crowding her personal space. “You think I don’t remember that last night I saw you? You think my decision to leave doesn’t haunt me most nights? I had to leave. You, and your folks—the last thing I wanted to do was hurt you. I shut the door on that part of my life when I left. Trust me when I say I never thought I’d be seeing any of you again. But here we are. And it doesn’t change the fact that I need your help.” He backed off again and leaned back against the wall.

Blood simmered under her skin, scorching her flesh from the inside. “And what happens after I help you? You vanish without a trace again? And you know what? Stop calling me Lila. You lost the right to call me that when you left.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t do that.” Softly he added, “I remember everything about you.”

His voice, low and husky, had heat pooling in her center and her body vibrating with longing. She hated that he could do that to her with simple words. “God, you know, you are such a bullshit artist.”

The air changed around them, and Delilah shivered. She knew what was coming before he even moved, but there was no bracing for it. He gently tugged her against him, giving her every chance to pull back, but no matter the commands her brain gave, her body refused to comply.

Nate slid his arms around her. His lips were gentle, but demanding. A spike of the electricity flared between them, scorching her lips when his tongue dipped in. With a low groan, he shifted their angle, kissing her deeper and ripping a moan from her as her whole body started to melt.

She didn’t have the defenses to fight off those long dormant feelings. Somewhere in the far recesses of her mind, alarm bells rang, starting as a low buzz, but quickly intensifying to a sharp clang.

He dragged his lips from hers and stared at her. His muttered curse echoed her own feelings.

The elevator dinged at the ground floor, and the doors slid open. She shook her head in an effort to kick-start her brain. “What the hell was that?”

Nate’s heated gaze met hers. “That was something I’ve been thinking of doing for seven years.”

Immobilized, she watched him walk out. Her lips tingled, and her body was too limp to move. After all this time, he still had the power to stun her.


Excerpt 3

She met his gaze directly then. “Why does it matter?”

That was his Lila. Never had let him off easy. “Because I can’t stop thinking about how you taste.”

Her breath came in shallow pants, and with every lick of her lips, he almost begged her for mercy.

“Nate, I can’t do this. Our history. And not to mention this is against the rules. I never should have let that kiss in the elevator happen. I could lose my job.”

Now that, he didn’t want. He knew what it meant to her. But he also couldn’t help wanting her. “I would never let that happen. No one would have to know. All I want is a taste.” He gently slid his hands to her waist, tugging her closer so her body fit against his. “To prove it was an illusion.”

Delilah swallowed hard. “Nate…”

“If you don’t want me to do this, say the word, and I’ll let you go.” And he would. No matter what it cost him.

But she didn’t move. Instead, her gaze drifted to his mouth in silent invitation.

Nate dipped his head to kiss her, at first lightly brushing their lips together. Her lips parted for him, and his tongue slid in to taste her. Spicy, with a hint of sweet.

For several torturous seconds, she didn’t respond, just stood tense in his arms. But then he sucked on her bottom lip, and she moaned, meeting his tongue with her own and lazily looping her hands around his neck. She threaded her fingers into his hair, and he groaned against her mouth. She was so soft. His thumbs traced over her hipbones, and she shivered. Angling his head and deepening their kiss, Nate kept up the teasing until she panted and breathed out a soft whimper.

Just as his hands slid up over her belly, there was a knock at the door. He tore his lips from hers and dragged in a ragged breath. “Just a second,” he called out.

Delilah stumbled backward and blinked up at him with a heavy-lidded gaze. “What was that?”

Me being a masochist. “That was something I intend to do again.”

Her breathing eventually slowed, and she took another deliberate step back. “Don’t you need me as a willing participant?”

He ran a thumb over her bottom lip and watched in fascination as her pupils dilated. “Are you willing?”

And though he held onto a sliver of hope, her answer was a surprise.

“I don’t know.”


Excerpt 4

His brows drew down. “Have you told them about me?”

She sat up with a start, and the bed sheet slipped. His eyes immediately dipped to her breasts, and her nipples hardened. She ignored him and slid the sheet more securely under her arms. He would not distract her with sex again. “No! God no. I mean, what could I have said, honestly?”

He flattened his lips. “What are you going to say now?”

She stared at him. “Still nothing. Look, you made it clear that you didn’t exactly want the reunion thing, and I heard you, so I’m not saying a word, okay?” She slid out of bed. Now where the hell were her clothes? She scanned the floor. Was it undignified to crawl under the bed looking for her thong?

His next question surprised her. “And if I wanted you to say something?”

She turned to face him slowly. “You’re kidding, right?”

He slid out of the bed too, except he didn’t bother with a sheet. Her mouth watered. Fantastic. Even on a verge of an argument she wanted him. She needed to do some hard time on a psychiatrist’s couch. “And if I’m not kidding?”

“What—I’m supposed to go home and say, what? Hey, guys, I found Nate. Do you have any idea what that would do to Mom?”

A vast silence extended between them. “Somehow, I don’t think it has anything to do with your mother or how anyone else will react. You don’t trust me.”

A fist wrapped around her heart and squeezed. “How can you say that?”

“I can say that because I see it written all over you. You’re already trying to run.”

“I’m not running!” Liar. “I have shit to do.”

“Okay fine. You have shit to do. But I’m not just talking about today. Since I’ve seen you again, you’ve been running from me, from this. Which is bullshit because we obviously are pretty fucking explosive together.”

Desire spiked through her. Easy does it. “And what about you? You were the first one to point out that this thing is only temporary. I’m not the only one running. You made it clear you wanted nothing to do with your past. And now you’re changing your mind. What happens when you change it again and pull one of your disappearing acts? I’m not picking up the pieces again. You don’t get to do that to my family again, so no, I’m not exactly eager to tell them that I found you.”

He flinched as if she’d struck him. Immediately, she wanted to take the words back, but she knew she couldn’t. Besides, it was the truth. It was one thing to enjoy Nate. To indulge every fantasy that sixteen-year-old her ever had about him. But getting close and attached was not a good idea. He would hurt her again.

“So it all boils down to that?” His voice was soft.

“That’s all there is. Fundamentally, that’s who you are. You’ll stick around for a while, but then you’ll leave. I’m an adult now. I can handle it. And when you’re bored, or move on, or whatever, I’ll be ready. But I’m not dragging everyone else through that. I’m not letting them love you again only to get their hearts broken.”

Excerpt 5

A buzzing numbness washed over Nate as he trudged into his office. His every secret might be out there for the world to see, but he was done hiding. Besides, he had a job to do. Even if it was only temporary.

First thing on the agenda—get a hold of Trent. He’d been an idiot to think giving his brother what he’d asked for would be the end of it. His stomach took another sickening roll even as his hands curled into fists. Of all the emotions tumbling around in his skull like bowling pins, the foremost was anger. Particularly for what they’d said about his relationship with Delilah.

It was one thing to print the lies about him. It was another thing entirely to lie about Delilah or the Donovans. He deserved every ounce of vitriol that came his way. But she didn’t need this kind of mess. Especially not from him.

Every instinct in his body told him to run. Pack up. Go. Like he’d done before. Go with nothing. Start all over. But he had people who were counting on him. He had a company to hold afloat. Besides, if he ran again, he’d be leaving Delilah to deal with this whole mess on her own. And it wasn’t her fault. She’d tried to turn him into a metaphorical silk purse, and it had backfired on her.

A knock at his door dragged him out of his reverie. “Yeah, who is it?”

Steven strolled in, every bit the smug, cocky asshole, and Nate had to resist the urge to hit him. While it would feel incredible, it also wouldn’t change anything. His world would still be crumbling around him. “What do you want?”

“A bit touchy, aren’t you? Must have been a hell of a morning already. I can’t even imagine what’s it’s been like for you. What with the paparazzi camped out on your doorstep.”

Nate narrowed his eyes. You will not hit him. You will not hit him. You will—fuck it. He could do the time in lockup for the assault and it really would feel good. But he stayed seated. “I assume I have you to thank for this mess.”

Steven grinned and shrugged. “Maybe. Maybe not.”

Nate sat back. “Was it all worth it to you? I don’t give a shit what you say about me, but you should have left Delilah out of it. She never did anything to you.”

“Oh, yes, the love interest. I mean, you do come across as nothing more than a common thug, but to be doing the daughter of the family that took you in, that’s low, even for you.” He narrowed his eyes. “When I told you I would do everything in my power to take care of this place and keep it out of your low-class hands, I was serious. Whatever it takes.”

“No matter who you hurt in the process? Tell me something, Taraby. How does it feel to never have your ideas recognized?” Nate stood. “You’ve never had that one good idea that could have propelled you from simply mediocre to truly brilliant. You’ve gone after this company because you don’t have the skill or talent to build on your own, not because you love this place. I warn you that many people have underestimated me in my life. They’ve all ended up on the losing side. You’ll just be another one to add to the pile. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

Taraby glared at him, but made no move to leave. “The board will unseat you.”

“They are welcome to give it a shot, but until Chase returns, the only way to get me out of this office is to kill me.”

Steven Taraby narrowed his eyes. “That can be arranged.”

Finally. A direct challenge. He knew exactly how to handle this particular kind of snake. He wasn’t going anywhere. Not at least without annihilating this asshole first. “You’re welcome to try.”


About Nana Malone

USA Today Best Seller and iTunes Breakout Books author, Nana Malone’s love of all things romance and adventure started with a tattered romantic suspense she borrowed from her cousin.

It was a sultry summer afternoon in Ghana, and Nana was a precocious thirteen. She’s been in love with kick butt heroines ever since. With her overactive imagination, and channeling her inner Buffy, it was only a matter a time before she started creating her own characters.

While she waits for her chance at a job as a ninja assassin, in the meantime Nana works out her drama, passion and sass with fictional characters every bit as sassy and kick butt as she thinks she is.






Leave a comment

Filed under book tour, romance

Review: Goodnight June

goodnight june

Goodnight June
by Sarah Jio
Published by Plume
320 pages
Genre: fiction; women’s fiction
4 / 5


The New York Times bestselling author of Blackberry Winter imagines the inspiration for Goodnight Moon

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (Goodnight Songs) is an adored childhood classic, but its real origins are lost to history. In Goodnight June, Sarah Jio offers a suspenseful and heartfelt take on how the “great green room” might have come to be.

June Andersen is professionally successful, but her personal life is marred by unhappiness. Unexpectedly, she is called to settle her great-aunt Ruby’s estate and determine the fate of Bluebird Books, the children’s bookstore Ruby founded in the 1940s. Amidst the store’s papers, June stumbles upon letters between her great-aunt and the late Margaret Wise Brown—and steps into the pages of American literature.

My Review:

Sarah Jio has a formula, and she sticks to it: a woman in the present must discover herself by uncovering and understanding secrets from the past.

Goodnight June does not deviate from the script.

Returning to Seattle is NOT on June’s “To-D0” list, yet she is compelled to go because dear Aunt Ruby has passed away and left June the bookstore, a place where June feels she truly grew up. She leaves behind a job that she likes but certainly does not fulfill her. She helps close down struggling businesses, and it’s as if she’s closed herself down, too. June is struggling, as much as any small business. Rather than open herself up to possible success, though, she’s put a “foreclosure” sign on her heart. This doesn’t just extend to men – she shuts out her mother and sister as well.

When she meets Gavin, the good looking and kindhearted owner of the Italian restaurant next door, she is reluctant to trust him, but she slowly does. This coincides with her discovery of a scavenger hunt of sorts, left her by Aunt Ruby. It consists of letters exchanged between Aunt Ruby and Margaret Wise Brown, the woman who wrote Goodnight Moon, amongst other childhood favorites.

June is entranced and determined to put together the puzzle that increasingly is becoming Aunt Ruby. One of the “sub plots” of the letters is sisterhood. Both Margaret and Ruby have difficult, challenging relationships with their sisters, just as June does with hers. The more she reads about the women’s attempts at reconciliation, though, the less inclined June is for her own rapprochement. She is convinced that she was the wronged party and as such her sister is persona non grata.

In fact, her refusal to even listen to her sister’s side of the story is one of June’s less flattering attributes. Without it, though, she would be almost unlikable because she’s almost too perfect. She needs the flaws in order to get us on her side.

This is an enjoyable book, and June is an enjoyable character. You can see the plot twists coming, which perhaps is because Jio’s stories do tend to stick to that formula. If you’ve read Violets in March, Morning Glory, or Blackberry Winter, you know to expect certain zigs and zags. Still, though, Jio can write a compelling story with characters who seem just like us yet who allow us to escape being us, even if just for a little while.


Leave a comment

Filed under fiction, women's lit