Spotlight & Excerpt – The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

Genre: Paranormal Romance / Women’s Fiction

Release Date: August 23, 2022

Publisher: Berkley

I’m currently reading this heart warming, magical read and I am loving it! Minka Moon is a witch who is also part of the very secret society of irregular witches – a group of witches who occasionally meet and discuss how magic seems to be affecting their lives.

Minka is used to being alone and not really having any friends. So when she decides to create an online account where she pretends to be a witch – she doesn’t think there’s any harm in that (also it’s a secret from the other witches). When she is contacted about her witchraft and tasked to helping three young witches control their magic – Minka is befuddled. Who is taking care of these witches? How are they all together – it’s a rule to keep witches apart as their magic can be powerful when combined? And most importantly who is Jamie – the temperamental librarian at Nowhere House and why is he so distrustful of Minka?

I can’t wait to dive back into the book. I am loving all of the secondary characters as well as Minka’s self discovery and her prickly relationship with Jamie.


A warm and uplifting novel about an isolated witch whose opportunity to embrace a quirky new family–and a new love–changes the course of her life.

As one of the few witches in Britain, Mika Moon knows she has to hide her magic, keep her head down, and stay away from other witches so their powers don’t mingle and draw attention. And as an orphan who lost her parents at a young age and was raised by strangers, she’s used to being alone and she follows the rules…with one exception: an online account, where she posts videos pretending to be a witch. She thinks no one will take it seriously.

But someone does. An unexpected message arrives, begging her to travel to the remote and mysterious Nowhere House to teach three young witches how to control their magic. It breaks all of the rules, but Mika goes anyway, and is immediately tangled up in the lives and secrets of not only her three charges, but also an absent archaeologist, a retired actor, two long-suffering caretakers, and…Jamie. The handsome and prickly librarian of Nowhere House would do anything to protect the children, and as far as he’s concerned, a stranger like Mika is a threat. An irritatingly appealing threat.

As Mika begins to find her place at Nowhere House, the thought of belonging somewhere begins to feel like a real possibility. But magic isn’t the only danger in the world, and when a threat comes knocking at their door, Mika will need to decide whether to risk everything to protect a found family she didn’t know she was looking for….



Berkley Trade Paperback Original | August 23, 2022


When the spellwork part of the meeting was complete, Primrose cleared her throat. “Finally, does anyone have any news they’d like to share?”

“It’s okay to say it’s time to gossip, Primrose,” Mika said merrily. “We all know that’s what comes after the spellwork.”

“Witches don’t gossip,” sniffed Primrose.

This was patently untrue, however, because gossiping was precisely what they proceeded to do.

“My ex-husband wanted to get back together last week,” said Belinda Nkala, who was in her forties and never had time for anyone’s nonsense. “When I turned him down, he informed me that I am apparently nothing without him. Then he left,” she added calmly, “but I fear he’s going to be suffering from an inexplicable itch in his groin for a few weeks.”

Several witches laughed, but Primrose set her lips in a thin line. “And have you been playing such petty tricks lately, Mika?”

“Oh, for the love of fucking god, Primrose, what does this have to do with me?”

“It’s not an unreasonable question, precious. You do like to take risks.”

“For the millionth time,” Mika said, irked beyond belief, “I post videos online pretending to be a witch. It’s just a performance.” Primrose raised her eyebrows. Mika raised hers right back. “Hundreds of people do the same thing, you know. The whole witch aesthetic is very popular!”

“Witchcore,” Hilda said, nodding wisely. “Not quite as popular as cottagecore or fairycore, but it’s up there.”

Everyone stared at her.

“I didn’t know fairies were real!” shouted Agatha Jones, who was almost as old as Primrose and tended to believe all young people needed to be shouted at lest they miss the import of her pronouncements. “Whatever next!”

“You see, Primrose?” said Mika, ignoring this interruption. “People call themselves witches all the time. I’m not putting myself or you or anyone else at risk. Nobody who watches my videos thinks I’m actually a witch.”

It was unfortunate for Mika, then, that at that precise moment, over five hundred miles away, in a big house in a quiet, windy corner of the Norfolk countryside, a skinny old man in a magnificent rainbow scarf and enormous fluffy slippers was saying exactly the opposite.

“Absolutely not!”

This came from Jamie, the scowling librarian, who was not in fact the skinny old man in the scarf and slippers. That was Ian. And the third person in the library was Lucie, the housekeeper, a chubby, round-cheeked woman in her fifties, who sighed as if she knew exactly how this argument was going to go. (She did know, and she was right.)

Ian smoothed down the tail of his scarf and replied, in the deep voice that had charmed audiences in many a small theatre over his eighty-odd years, “Don’t be difficult, dear. It doesn’t become you.”

Jamie was unmoved by this criticism. “You can’t seriously be considering bringing that”-and here he jabbed a finger at the dewy, sparkly face on the screen of Ian’s phone-“into the house?”

“Why not?” Ian asked.

“Well, for one thing, there’s no way she’s a real witch,” Jamie said irritably. This was not unusual. Most of the things Jamie said were said irritably. “What kind of witch would show off her magic on a platform with millions of viewers?”

Mika would have been immensely gratified to hear this, had she been there, but it looked like her double bluff had not hoodwinked Ian.

“She’s a real witch,” he insisted.

“How the hell can you possibly know that?”

“I have excellent observation skills. Just watch part of the video.” Ian wiggled his phone like he was dangling a lollipop in front of a toddler. “A minute. That’s all I ask.”

Jamie’s glare stayed firmly in place, but he crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back against his desk to look over Ian’s shoulder. Gleeful, Ian tapped the screen and the video started to play.Excerpted from The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna Copyright © 2022 by Sangu Mandanna. Excerpted by permission of Berkley. All rights reserved.


Spotlight & Excerpt of I’m So (Not) Over You

I’m So Not Over You by Kosoko Jackson

Genre: Contemporary Romance/LGBT

Release Date: February 22, 2022

Publisher: Berkley

When Kian gets a text message from ex-boyfriend Hudson, he’s not quite sure what to expect. He definitely does not expect for Hudson to ask Kian to be his fake date to Georgia’s wedding of the season. Soon their fake dating starts to feel all too real – will they keep up the charade or move to make their relationship real? Really looking forward to reading this fake dating/second chance romance!


It’s been months since aspiring journalist Kian Andrews has heard from his ex-boyfriend, Hudson Rivers, but an urgent text has them meeting at a café. Maybe Hudson wants to profusely apologize for the breakup. Or confess his undying love. . . But no, Hudson has a favor to ask–he wants Kian to pretend to be his boyfriend while his parents are in town, and Kian reluctantly agrees.

The dinner doesn’t go exactly as planned, and suddenly Kian is Hudson’s plus one to Georgia’s wedding of the season. Hudson comes from a wealthy family where reputation is everything, and he really can’t afford another mistake. If Kian goes, he’ll help Hudson preserve appearances and get the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the biggest names in media. This could be the big career break Kian needs.

But their fake relationship is starting to feel like it might be more than a means to an end, and it’s time for both men to fact-check their feelings.


I’M SO (NOT) OVER YOU by Kosoko Jackson

Berkley Trade Paperback Original | On sale February 22, 2022


Chapter One

The first rule, and only rule, of getting over your ex is not to answer your ex’s messages. This can be done in many different ways, depending on the person.

One, change his contact to read: DO NOT ANSWER.

Two, block his number.

Three, glue a horrible weave to your scalp, so you look and act like a completely different person.

Four, restart your life as the owner of a mom-and-pop shop in rural Indiana and call it a day. That’s one I’m particularly partial to.

All of those are good and valid options. Do what you need to do-no judgment.

And yet, somehow I found a way to break this simple rule. Not just break it, burst it wide open. Shatter it, if you will.

Because it’s one thing to open a text and answer it, but it’s another to decide to follow through with your ex’s request.

Look up Bad Idea on Google, and our helpful search engine will bring up, Did you mean: Kian Andrews’s choices whenever they involve Hudson Rivers?

My phone in my pocket vibrates once. My heart skips a beat. Maybe Hudson will cancel. Or maybe he’ll realize the past three months apart have been a mistake and he’s going to confess he’s still madly in love with me? Maybe . . .

Nope, just Divya.

DIVYA EVANS: Let the record show this is a horrible idea.

“Of course you’d say that,” I mutter, forgetting she can’t, you know, hear me. And she may be right, but that’s not the point.

When I got the text from Hudson a week ago, asking me to meet him at the Watering Hole, Divya was not amused. She scrunched her nose, like she tasted something rancid in the air, which wasn’t entirely off.

Because to her, that’s exactly what my relationship with Hudson was: rancid. Which, sure, everyone says that about their ex because it makes them feel better.

KIAN ANDREWS: You’ve said that-multiple times.

DIVYA EVANS: And yet, you still refuse to listen. Remind me, who is getting their law degree from Harvard?

KIAN ANDREWS: Wow . . . we went . . . 12 hours without you bringing up your Harvard degree. That’s a new record!

DIVYA EVANS: But seriously, K. This is a bad idea. Closure is not as good as you think it is.

As a lawyer-in-training, she should understand why I need to meet with Hudson: to process what happened, to close that chapter of my life, and to seal it shut with a glue made of truth. The memory of us breaking up is an open wound that never healed. It was a volatile separation, ending with me blocking him on every social media account possible and drinking myself into a stupor that made the two weeks after the breakup a blur.

Maybe that’s why Divya’s a prosecutor and not a defense attorney.

Another vibration, another text.

DIVYA EVANS: I’m only a few blocks away if you need me.

KIAN ANDREWS: What are the chances of that happening?

Pretty high, if I’m being honest. Divya has always been my rock, no matter what. Whether keeping me from embarrassing myself when I started crying in the club two weeks after my breakup, making sure I got my worthless self out of bed so I didn’t lose my partial scholarship, or even finding some men with absolute dump-truck asses to help me get over my head-over-heels obsession with Hudson, Divya has been that ride-or-die friend for me.

So it’s reasonable to assume that when I’m about to go through another major, traumatizing Hudson experience, Divya Evans is the big guns I have on speed dial. What’s that expression? Behind every great gay guy, there’s a badass woman?

Again, my phone pings. I pull it out of my pocket without looking, expecting another (well-deserved) quippy barb from Divya. But instead, an e-mail stares back at me.



SUBJECT: RE: Investigative Journalism Fellowship Application | Andrews, Kian

I stare at the screen for so long, the colorful background of one of the many lighthouses on the North Carolina coast. I want to savor this moment. Hold on to it, keep it in its box, and put it on the top shelf somewhere out of the way. When I’m a famous journalist, with sources sliding into my DMs, begging me to write Pulitzer-winning stories, and I’m giving a guest lecture at Northeastern, they’ll ask me, How did you get started in this competitive, cutthroat business?

And I’ll say, I got my first job at Spotlight. Will Spotlight be around twelve years from now? Probably not. News websites cannibalize themselves like bacteria. But it’s the hottest place to work in journalism right now. Getting an Investigative Journalism Fellowship here would change my life. It’s like . . . do not pass Go; instead, get Park Place on your second turn.

I tap the screen, bringing it back to life. Still, the e-mail alert taunts me. Maybe it’s an interview request? Maybe my pitch on the lack of education programs in Appalachia and how it’s setting students back several grade levels that I spent all last week making really did impress them, and they are going to offer me a position sight unseen. That’s not unreasonable. It happens to white guys all the time. And I have good-no, fucking great credentials.

Like Divya says, they would be lucky to have me.

But at the same time, as my journalism professor said, Journalists are a dime a dozen. Why should they pick you over anyone else?

Which takes us back to Divya Evans, and her exact words: You’re a goddamn star, Kian Andrews.

I wish I had the same level of confidence as her. I do a good job faking it when I’m around her, at least I think I do. But now? Alone in this cafŽ? Doing something stupid like waiting for the boy who broke my heart-who is now seven minutes late-and staring at the e-mail that could change my career? That confident facade is pushed far back into the closet; a place I haven’t been since middle school.

And I promised I’d never go back there again.

Without overthinking it, I tap on the screen one more time, and then enter my passcode before I can change my mind. One more tap, and the e-mail fills the screen.

Dear Mr. Andrews,

Thank you for your application for the Investigative Journalism Fellowship at Spotlight’s Boston branch. At this time, we’ve decided-


There’s no need to read any more. I could do a CTRL-F in my inbox, search for “we’ve decided,” and bring up more than a dozen results. This is no different, despite how badly I want it to be different.

I’m halfway through a text to Divya, informing her about the rejection from Spotlight, which will undoubtedly result in her replying with drinks on me tonight, when a baritone clearing of a throat behind me causes my fingers to stop. The deep voice cuts through the low sensual tones of the Esperanza Spalding cover artist serenading us in the Watering Hole, even if it is as out of place as a Black guy in Boston-aka Me.

But the voice is unmistakable. Even after a year of avoiding everything related to Hudson, the way he speaks effortlessly from the depths of his diaphragm still sends shivers down my spine. And the way his boyish grin plays off his chiseled jaw makes me want to melt.


I do my best to turn slowly. Eagerness isn’t a good look on anyone, especially around your ex when you’re trying to act like you’ve moved on and are living your best single twentysomething life.

But my God does he look nice.

No, not nice.


“Hey,” he says while smirking. “Thanks for coming.”

From I’M SO (NOT) OVER YOU by Kosoko Jackson, published by Berkley, an imprint of The Penguin Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2022 by Kosoko Jackson.

Spotlight & Excerpt of Ramón and Julieta

Ramón and Julieta by Alana Quintana Albertson

Genre: Contemporary Romance/Retellings

Release Date: February 1, 2022

Publisher: Berkley

In this Romeo & Juliet inspired retelling, Ramón and Julieta find themselves in the middle of a family duel. What’s even worse is that they hooked up on the Day of the Dead without realizing who each other was…whoops! Soon Ramón is about to overtake Julieta’s taqueria only to realize that the taco recipe his family uses was stolen from Julieta’s mother. In this enemies-to-lovers romance, will love find a way to conquer it all?


When fate and tacos bring Ramón and Julieta together on the Day of the Dead, the star-crossed pair must make a choice: accept the bitter food rivalry that drives them apart or surrender to a love that consumes them.

Ramón Montez always achieves his goals. Whether that means collecting Ivy League degrees or growing his father’s fast-food empire, nothing sets Ramón off course. So when the sexy señorita who kissed him on the Day of the Dead runs off into the night with his heart, he determines to do whatever it takes to find her again.

Celebrity chef Julieta Campos has sacrificed everything to save her sea-to-table taqueria from closing. To her horror, she discovers that her new landlord is none other than the magnetic mariachi she hooked up with on Dia de los Muertos. Even worse, it was his father who stole her mother’s taco recipe decades ago. Julieta has no choice but to work with Ramón, the man who destroyed her life’s work–and the one man who tempts and inspires her.

As San Diego’s outraged community protests against the Taco King take-over and the divide between their families grows, Ramón and Julieta struggle to balance the rising tensions. But Ramón knows that true love is priceless and despite all of his successes, this is the one battle he refuses to lose.


Sometimes, Ramón envied his carefree younger brothers. They worked hard, but they played harder. Even so, Ramón struggled with that work-life balance. For Ramón, a self-proclaimed perfectionist, to give anything less than one hundred percent was unacceptable. It explained his bachelor’s degree in Economics with a minor in English from Stanford University, and his MBA from Harvard.

He read over the numbers on his computer one more time. The only thing that mattered to Ramón was the bottom line. And the bottom line was that the Montez Group wanted a piece of Barrio Logan and a Taco King front and center on the main drag.

His cell buzzed.

Ramón answered on the first ring. “Apá. ¿Qué tal?”

“Good, Ramón. Good. I called to check on the Barrio deal. How’s it going?”

Ramón smirked. It was like Papá could read his mind.

“Great. I’ve finalized the numbers for the offer. I’m ready to bid tomorrow.”

“Ah, good.” Papá hesitated. “You know, I could always check those figures, and-“

“Apá, isn’t it time you retired? I’m the CEO now. You should be relaxing, kicking back with a beer on the beach tomorrow, not heading to a meeting.”

Papá sighed as if he wasn’t quite convinced. “I know, but I am chairman of the board.”

Ramón sighed. There was no use arguing with Papá. “I’m confident we have this in the bag.” And he was-extremely confident.

Papá exhaled. “I believe in you, mijo. I can’t wait to close this deal. I’ve wanted a holding in Barrio for years, but it was never the right time . . .”

His wistful tone needed no explanation. There was a damn good reason why the Montez Group had never secured a property in Barrio Logan.

It was clear.

They weren’t wanted.

Papá had been accused of being a sellout, which was just plain ridiculous. His father was a proud Chicano man who always gave back to his community. So what if he catered to the tastes of non-Hispanics? Sure, the restaurants served mild salsa, and the tortillas weren’t made from scratch. Still, Papá had created jobs for Latinos and given to countless charities. And that was what mattered.

But Ramón understood the sting of not always being accepted by his community. He’d grown up rich and privileged and hadn’t faced the struggles that many others had. He felt Mexican in his soul but wasn’t always perceived as a real Latino. His cousins used to call his brothers and him coconuts-brown on the outside, white on the inside. Ramón’s heart soared when mariachi music played but sank every time he spoke in Spanish to fellow Mexicans and was answered back in English. He had to constantly prove to his company and to his culture how Mexican he was. And he hated being called not just a gentrifier, but even worse: a gentefier.

But, as painful as it was to admit, he was one.

“Don’t worry about it, Apá. I got this.”

“I’m proud of you, Ramón. You remind me of myself at your age-young, passionate, full of ambition. But you have to remember to take a break sometimes. You know my work cost me my marriage to your mother.”

Yup, Ramón was well aware of his parents’ horrible marriage. His mother reminded him constantly. Though lately, she was too busy with her new love interest, a boy toy Ramón’s age, to bother with her sons.

Ramón zoned out at his computer screen, which had a screensaver of Cabo San Lucas. The turquoise water rimmed around the natural rock arch. “After this deal closes, let’s take a vacation.”

“I’d like that.” Papá paused. “I have one more favor to ask of you.”

“Sure. What is it?”

“Would you stop by the party in Old Town? There will be reporters there and the mayor. I think since we are going to try to acquire in Barrio, we need to be present at cultural events to show we support our community.”

“The Día de los Muertos party? ¿En serio?” The Day of the Dead party in Old Town was hands down the best fiesta for the holiday in San Diego, if not the state. Family fun, bro bashes, and cultural classes were all part of the event. There was something about the quaint, historic neighborhood that added genuine authenticity to the holiday. San Diego, which neighbored Mexico, was a true border beach town. With twenty percent of San Diego’s 1.5 million population Hispanic, politicians were usually found circulating at these bicultural celebrations. Old Town was literally the oldest settled town in California-a place that could be the set for the next Zorro adaptation. Now it was a tourist mecca that consisted of sarsaparilla shops and tasty taquerías.

“Yes, I am. I’d go myself, but you are the face of the company, Mr. People en Espa–ol’s sexiest eligible bachelor.”

Ramón groaned. That title had been nothing but trouble. All the gold diggers had placed a target on his back. Those women didn’t like him for who he was, but instead for what he was worth. He’d never wanted to be the face of the company; he was proud of his work but craved anonymity. He’d gladly give that role to his youngest brother, Jaime, who was a model, influencer, and director of the company’s social media platforms.

“Not sure that matters, because if I went, I would have to wear face paint.”

Papá laughed. “Just go for a few hours, check in with some reporters and the mayor, take a few pictures, and leave. You never know-you could meet a nice young woman there. When I was your age, I always made time for the ladies.”

Ramón exhaled. Papá’s wild youth was no secret. As a little boy, Ramón loved listening to Papá’s stories about hitchhiking through Mexico and surfing along the Baja coast. But Ramón’s favorite story was about the spring break love affair his father had had with a señorita in San Felipe. It was there that Papá had first tried fish tacos.

Ramón had no trouble meeting women, usually through dating apps, if he ever managed to take a day off work, which was rare. He had no time to even think about starting a serious relationship with someone. And after his parents’ nasty divorce, marriage no longer held any appeal for him.

Even so, sometimes, after he closed a big deal, he wished he could celebrate his success with someone. Toast champagne on his ocean-view rooftop deck or spend a romantic weekend in Paris. It would be nice to meet someone who was actually interested in him and not his money. But he doubted he could find such a woman, and he didn’t even want to try. Women were a distraction-a fun one, but nothing more.

“Seriously, Apá. Can’t Jaime do it? He will be posting his every waking minute anyway. And they look great in their outfits-they’ll get so much press. He and Enrique just left.”

“No. You know them. They will both be drunk and spend the night hitting on women. Definitely in no state to schmooze. There is nothing left to do on the Barrio deal. Take the night off. Please, do it for me.”

Ramón had no choice but to agree. “Okay, I’ll go. But only for a few hours.”

“That’s my boy. Do you have something to wear?”

Ramón exhaled. He did, but nothing like his brothers’ new threads. “Yeah. I think my old charro suit still fits.”

“Wonderful. Have fun. I love you. I’ll see you in Barrio, mañana.”

“See you tomorrow. Love you, too, Apá.”

Ramón hung up, saved all his work, and shut off his computer. Papá was right; the best thing he could do for the Barrio deal was to go schmooze.

Ramón walked out of his office, through the long hallway covered with family photos and framed magazine articles, and strode over to his fully stocked rustic bar in the game room, where he took a shot of his stash of Clase Azul Reposado Tequila. Hits the spot. It was smooth, and it took the edge off the day perfectly. He filled a flask with some more and placed it by his keys and wallet.

Then he went to his bedroom closet. He searched in the back and found his charro suit from when he’d played guitarrón with the Mariachi Cardenal de Stanford. The ingrained scents of dried tequila and stale smoke from the fabric brought back memories of his college years performing, which were the happiest times of his life.

The suit fit, surprisingly, even though Ramón had bulked up. His daily workouts running on the beach and flipping tires in his custom gym were his one outlet for stress.

Ramón went to Jaime’s bathroom in their beachfront bachelor pad, which, sure enough, had face paint strewn all over the white marble countertop. Their maid, Lupe, would not be pleased. She worked hard and fast, with a smile on her face, and Ramón always made sure to clean up after any parties he and his brothers threw so she wouldn’t have to do any extra work.

Ramón had played at plenty Day of the Dead parties in college, so he knew how to do the face paint. He shaved his face with a fresh razor blade, used a white eye pencil to outline his eyes and nose, and then spread white paint over his face. Black eye makeup and a spiderweb on his forehead came next. The perfect combination of beauty and macabre-life and death. To complete the look, he drew black stitches over his lips to indicate that he was dead.

Papá was right—appearing at the event would be good for business. Ramón might even have a good time.

He quickly put the makeup away and wiped down the countertop.

Ramón secured his sombrero on his head. A final glance in themirror, and he was satisfied with what he saw—a man who would doanything to close the deal.

He removed his guitarrón from the stand on the wall. One strumof the brittle strings and the music beat through his heart and awakened his soul. When the notes sprung back to Ramón’s head, he was relieved that he hadn’t forgotten how to play. He’d sung to crowds of women when he performed. Ramón loved being onstage, playingmusic, and singing love songs. He’d been a hopeless romantic, just like Papá.

But there was no time for women or music now.

He had a company to run.

Spotlight & Excerpt of Payback’s a Witch

Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Series: The Witches of Thistle Grove #1

Release Date: October 5, 2021

Publisher: Berkley

After returning home, Emmy discovers that the man she has been seeing has also been leading on her best friend Linden and dark magic badass Talia. Is Emmy up for revenge and what happens when she starts falling for Talia? I am looking forward to this paranormal F/F romance with plenty of smoke and magic.


Chilling Adventures of Sabrina meets The L Word in this fresh, sizzling rom-com by Lana Harper.

Emmy Harlow is a witch but not a very powerful one—in part because she hasn’t been home to the magical town of Thistle Grove in years. Her self-imposed exile has a lot to do with a complicated family history and a desire to forge her own way in the world, and only the very tiniest bit to do with Gareth Blackmoore, heir to the most powerful magical family in town and casual breaker of hearts and destroyer of dreams.

But when a spellcasting tournament that her family serves as arbiters for approaches, it turns out the pull of tradition (or the truly impressive parental guilt trip that comes with it) is strong enough to bring Emmy back. She’s determined to do her familial duty; spend some quality time with her best friend, Linden Thorn; and get back to her real life in Chicago.

On her first night home, Emmy runs into Talia Avramov—an all-around badass adept in the darker magical arts—who is fresh off a bad breakup . . . with Gareth Blackmoore. Talia had let herself be charmed, only to discover that Gareth was also seeing Linden—unbeknownst to either of them. And now she and Linden want revenge. Only one question stands: Is Emmy in?

But most concerning of all: Why can’t she stop thinking about the terrifyingly competent, devastatingly gorgeous, wickedly charming Talia Avramov?


As soon as I crossed the town line, I could feel Thistle Grove on my skin.

That I was in my shitty beater Toyota made no difference; maybe the town could sense one of its daughters coming home, even after almost five years away. A swell of raw magic coursed into the car, until the air around me nearly shimmered with potential, bright and buzzy and headier than a champagne cocktail. As if Thistle Grove’s own magical heart was pulsing eagerly toward me, welcoming me back. No hard feelings about my long absence, apparently.

Made one of us, I guess.

The onslaught of magic after my dry spell was so intoxicating that I hunched over the steering wheel, taking shallow breaths and wondering a little wildly whether you could overdose on magic after having gone cold turkey for so long. From the passenger seat, Jasper cast me a glinting, concerned glance from beneath his silvery fringe and shoved a clumsy paw onto my thigh.

“I’m okay, bud,” I murmured to him through a thick throat, reaching over to stroke his warm neck. “It’s just . . . a whole lot, you know?”

That was the thing about growing up with magic. Until you left it behind for good, you had no idea how incredible it felt just to be around it.

And it wasn’t only the air that seemed different. Through my spattered windshield, the night sky had changed, snapping into Ÿber-focus like a calibrated telescope. Above Hallows Hill, the unlikely little mountain the town huddled up against, a crescent moon hung like a freshly whetted sickle. Waning crescent, my witch brain whispered, already churning up the spells best cast in this phase. Its silhouette looked like it could carve glass, impossibly perfect and precise, the kind of moon you’d see in a dream. The constellations that surrounded it like a milky spill of jewels were arranged the same as on the other side of the town line but better somehow, more intentional, clear-cut and brilliant as a mosaic set with precious gems. So enticing, they made me want to pull the car over and tumble out, head hinged back and jaw agape, just to watch them glitter.

This fucking town. Always so damn extra.

With an effort, I resisted the temptation. But when the orchards that belonged to the Thorns appeared on my left, I gave in just enough to roll down my window.

The night air gusted against my face, smelling like an absolute of fall; woodsmoke and dying leaves and the faintest bracing hint of future snow. And right below that was the scent of Thistle Grove magic, which I’ve never come across anywhere else. Spicy and earthy, as if the lingering ghost of all the incense burned by three hundred years of witches had never quite blown away. A perpetual Halloween smell, the kind that gave you the good-creepy sort of tingles.

And fallen apples, of course. The Thorns’ rows and rows of Galas, Honeycrisps, and Pink Ladies, sweet and cidery and indescribably like home.

It all made the part of me that used to adore this place-oh, cut the shit, Emmy, the part of you that still does, the part that will never, ever stop-throb like first-love heartache. My eyes welled hot with sudden tears, and I knuckled them clear more violently than necessary, angry with myself for sinking into nostalgia so readily.

Sensing my mood plummeting, Jasper gave an aggrieved snort, tossing his regally mustachioed snout at me.

“I know, I know,” I groaned, dragging a hand over my face. “I promised not to get too in my feelings. I’m just tired, bud. From now on, it’ll be all business till we can get out of here.”

He huffed again, as if he knew me much too well to buy into my stoic crap. I might be back here only because Tradition Demands the Presence of the Harlow Scion, but nothing in Thistle Grove was ever that simple. Especially when it came to the heir of one of the founding families.

Ten minutes later, I pulled into my parents’ oak-lined residential neighborhood, rattling onto their cobbled driveway. My chest clenched at the sight of my childhood home, fisting tight around my heart. It was a perfectly nice house, though not all that impressive as founding family demesnes go. The Blackmoores had their palatial Tintagel estate, the Thorns had Honeycake Orchards, and the Avramovs the rambling Victorian warren of a mansion they insisted on calling The Bitters, because they thrived on such old-world melodrama.

And we, the Harlows, had . . . lo, a house.

A stately three-story colonial almost as old as the town itself-though you wouldn’t know it, to look at its magically weatherproofed exterior-Harlow House has never had a fancy name, thereby upholding the timeless Harlow legacy of being both the least pretentious and least relevant of the founding families. As always, a candle burned in every window; thirteen flames, for prosperity and protection. The flying owl weather vane spun idly in the night breeze, and the dreamcatcher windchimes hung by the front door clinked delicately against one another. A plume of smoke coiled from the brick chimney in a curlicued wisp before vanishing into the velvety dark above.

It looked like a storybook house belonging to your favorite no-nonsense witch-which, come to think of it, sounded like both my parents.

And it was all like I remembered, except that the thought of going inside made me feel painfully stripped of breath. There was an invisible moat of hurt surrounding my former home, years of unanswered questions. Restless water, teeming with the emotional equivalents of piranha and stinging jellyfish.

I couldn’t do much about the hurt, and “because Gareth Blackmoore ruined this town for me” still seemed like a shitty answer to the question all the others boiled down to, which was: Emmy, why haven’t you come home all this time?

So I turned the car off and just sat with my head bowed, listening to the ticks of the engine settling and Jasper’s low-grade whine, focusing on my breath. When I’d collected myself about as much as I was going to, I lurched out of the car on travel-stiff legs and let Jas out to baptize the quiet street, then hauled my battle-scarred suitcase and gigantic duffel bag out of the trunk. By the time he came loping back, I’d managed to wrestle everything up onto the columned porch with an admirable minimum of cursing.

I still had my key, but it seemed horribly rude and presumptuous to use it after a five-year absence, so I knocked instead. When the door swung open, I managed to flinch only a little, blinking at the warm light spilling from within.

Spotlight & Excerpt of Along Came a Lady

Along Came a Lady by Christi Caldwell

Genre: Historical Romance

Series: All the Duke’s Sins #1

Release Date: August 24, 2021

Publisher: Berkley

Lady Edwina is hired to teach Rafe – the illegitimate son of a Duke – how to interact in polite society. In this opposites attract romance, Rafe is not interested in joining the Gentry and Edwina will do whatever it get Rafe there! The longer Edwina and Rafe are in each others company, the more their attraction grows. Will Edwina be able to get the job done as their mutual attraction grows? Find out in this new series from Christi Caldwell.


The brooding, illegitimate son of a duke meets his match in the determined woman hired to transform him into a gentleman from USA Today bestselling author Christi Caldwell—perfect for fans of Bridgerton.

Rafe Audley lives to thwart his father, the Duke of Bentley. The ne’er do well who abandoned his children claims he wants to make up for his failures, but Rafe only cares about protecting the people of his mining community and providing for his three siblings, who’ve been his sole responsibility since childhood. So far, Rafe has turned away the duke’s man of affairs, solicitor, and other interlopers, until the clever duke sends the unlikeliest of people to convince Rafe to join English High Society—a bold and intriguing woman.

Edwina Dalrymple has never failed a charge. She’s quite adept at successfully transforming young women of the gentry and daughters of newly minted lords to take their place in society. Taming a bastard son of a duke will be child’s play, plus this job promises to enhance her reputation within the ton. All she has to do is fetch the wayward Rafe and groom him to be presentable to Polite Society.

As the tenacious teacher and her domineering, stubborn, refuses-to-be-taught pupil engage in a fiery battle of wills, their chemistry ignites and the true lesson becomes clear: opposites attract and hearts must be heard.


“Are you going to drink it or cradle it?” he asked, changing the subject. Rafe lifted his tankard, clarifying his question.

Edwina raised the steel cup to her lips and inhaled. Her pert nose wrinkled, and her face pulled in a grimace, and with that, Rafe managed another smile since he’d caught sight of his brother in all his happiness. “It smells horrid.”

Holding his tankard out, he clanged the ring against hers in a mock toast; challenging her. 

He thought for a moment she intended to reject that challenge, he should have known better. 

Taking in a deep breath, Edwina raised a glass, tipped it back, and chugged. 


The long, graceful column of her neck moved rhythmically and quickly as she downed the contents of her drink. 

“Whoa, you are not supposed to consume it quite so quickly,” he instructed, hastily reaching across the table, and resting a hand on the fingers cradling her mug.

Edwina set it down with a little splat, and then ever so gingerly, dabbed at the corners of her mouth. “That is…rather horrid stuff,” her shoulders and chest lifted as she hiccoughed, and he grinned. 

Mr. Ward immediately reappeared and eyed Edwina’s empty tankard approvingly. “I knew I was right about this girl,” he said proudly. “Knows her spirits, she does.”

From over the top of the innkeeper’s hand, as he poured, Edwina caught Rafe’s eye. 

“Do not say anything,” she silently mouthed, perfectly annunciating each syllable.

“I wouldn’t dream of it.” Rafe followed that assurance with a wink.

“What is that, Mr. Audley?”

“I was just saying to the lady I couldn’t dream of a more splendid ale,” he expertly substituted, and the already tall innkeeper grew several inches under that praise. Bustling off, Mr. Ward went to refill the tankards of the table of nearby patrons.

“You’re not horrified.”

Her tankard still in her hands, Edwina dropped her elbows on the table and leaned across the small, cylindrical surface. “That was your intention and plan.”

Rafe’s cheeks went warm. 

Edwina’s eyes rounded. “Why…why…you are blushing, Mr. Audley.”

“That is p-preposterous,” he sputtered. “I would never do anything like… Like…”

“Blush?” she winged up an eyebrow and edged forward another fraction so that their elbows touched. “You needn’t worry,” she whispered. “Your secret is safe with me. The men and women who work for you will never learn about your blushing.”

And that brief good humor, ended with that reminder; the reminder of his brother’s new role. And their father’s determination to control Rafe’s life.

From ALONG CAME A LADY published by arrangement with Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2021 by Christi Caldwell.

Spotlight & Excerpt of Paws and Prejudice

Paws and Prejudice by Alanna Martin

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Series: Hearts of Alaska #2

Release Date: June 29, 2021

Publisher: Berkley

The second book in the Hearts of Alaska series, Paws and Prejudice follows Kelsey Porter, a proud mom to three huskies and the new brewery owner Ian who not only rubs Kelsey wrong but also doesn’t like her dogs! Paws and Prejudice is sure to be angsty and swoony! Read ahead for an excerpt.


It’s up to a trio of adorable rescue huskies to make two lonely hearts in a coastal Alaskan town realize that true love is worth too much to turn tail and run.

Glaciers have nothing on Kelsey Porter when she decides to freeze someone out. After getting burned once, she’s not about to let it happen again. And right now all that icy contempt is focused on one annoyingly attractive and entitled interloper: Ian Roth. Not only is he looking to take advantage of her quaint, coastal community, tainting the small-town charm of Helen, Alaska, but he has committed the one crime she can never forgive—he doesn’t like her dogs.

Unlike what Kelsey believes, Ian loves Helen’s charms as much as she does. That’s partly why he’s determined to open a brewery there, and he’s not about to let anything or anyone stop his dream from coming true. But he didn’t count on the beautiful, prickly woman getting under his skin. Or having to be within hand-biting proximity of her three huge huskies.

When Kelsey’s family conscripts her into helping Ian get his brewery off the ground, she finds herself caught between a rock and a hard . . . muscular . . . man who has a fear of dogs. But the longer they work together, the more she can feel herself begin to thaw. Now she’ll have to choose: let sleeping dogs lie to protect her heart, or mush head-on toward love.


Kelsey Porter had always feared that the lies she told would one day come back to bite her in the ass. She’d just never expected the bite would come in the form of work she had no business doing for a man she wanted nothing to do with. But lies were cruel. They built on themselves-words turning into sentences and sentences into paragraphs, until Kelsey had written a novel of falsehoods about who she was and what she did for a living. So when her father volunteered her labor to Ian Roth, Kelsey was triply screwed.

One, she wasn’t about to confess that her alleged work experience was a lie.

Two, she was already extremely busy.

Three, and perhaps most important, Ian was a jerk who didn’t deserve what little free time she had.

Despite never having spoken to Ian, Kelsey was absolutely positive of number three. The man had shown zero interest in her dogs, and that spoke of a cold, unfeeling heart.

Kelsey had tried convincing her father she was too busy to help Ian, but her reasoning had been brushed off as easily as the death glare she’d given him. That was no surprise. Kelsey’s glare had a tendency to make people, particularly male people, want to pat her on the head and tell her how cute she was. Cherubic, even. Being taken seriously was hard when you were short. Add in her blond curls and blue eyes and it was damn near impossible. Her twin brother, Kevin, who shared her general appearance, at least had the advantage of being male. No one thought Kevin was cute when he scowled at them.

And no question, her father wouldn’t have volunteered Kevin to do unpaid labor. That was the sort of BS demanded only of women. Her father hadn’t cared one bit that Kelsey had deadlines to meet and a house she was renovating. Making Ian happy had been more important to him.

“You know I’m right,” Kelsey said as she pointed out this last incontrovertible fact.

Josh had the good sense not to argue, which was why he was her favorite cousin. “You’re probably right, yes. But try not to be so negative. Ian doesn’t know your situation. It’s not his fault.”

So that was who the nagging Be nice voice in her head sounded like. She’d been telling it to shut up since her father had dropped this bomb on her yesterday, and Kelsey turned the full force of her glare on her cousin. It was a combination of displeased, dismissive, and disgusted that on another face might have been lethal. “Excuse me?”

Like her father had, Josh ignored the glare. Freaking men.

They had embarked on their semi-regular afternoon ritual, walking their combined six huskies around the park in downtown Helen. Kelsey had given Josh his three dogs when he moved here a couple of years ago, and they mingled with hers-Romeo, Juliet, and Puck-as they made a circuit around the park’s perimeter.

What a difference a few weeks made. Helen hadn’t entirely shut down for the winter yet, but the number of tourists had so rapidly declined, it was like someone had shut off a spigot. The park, just a couple of weeks ago, had been a maze to navigate with six dogs, but now it was an easy stroll. That was good, because the chillier weather made Kelsey want to keep a faster pace even as she delighted in the scent of the wet grass and salty bay water. Anything smelled better than the drywall compound she’d been inhaling all morning.

Well, almost anything. She was supposed to meet with Ian at his brewery in an hour, and Kelsey assumed the place would smell like beer. She hated beer. Even if she did have experience writing marketing materials, which she most certainly did not, she still would be the worst person in the world to help Ian.

“I’m not saying it was cool of your father to volunteer you,” Josh said as he attempted to detangle a couple of leashes. “But how long can it take you to write some stuff for the brewery’s website?”

“It’s not only the website. It’s also press releases, and a puff piece for the local paper. Maybe even a longer article to submit to some travel zines.”

“And that.” Josh winced, and Kelsey hoped it was dawning on him why she was being so negative.

Lies-spinning them for a living was called fiction. Living them was turning out to be a pain in the ass. Everyone in town, including Josh, believed Kelsey was a freelance writer, and they all had their own ideas as to what that meant. She’d never bothered to correct them, since it hadn’t mattered. Until now.

Kelsey hadn’t the faintest clue what the website work might entail, but she did have an idea how much time it took to write for the Helen Weekly Herald, because she did it on occasion. It helped keep her cover and paid for the occasional new doggie toy, but she hated it. The only thing Kelsey enjoyed writing was novels. Steamy paranormal romance novels about a pack of husky shifters living in the Alaskan bush, to be 100 percent precise, because romance readers knew exactly what sort of stories they wanted, and Kelsey aimed to provide them for the ones who liked hers. It wasn’t what she’d planned to do with her life, but she enjoyed it, was apparently good at it, and had gotten extremely lucky to be able to support herself with it.

And there was no way in hell she could tell anyone in Helen about it. Thank goodness for pen names.

Cover Reveal – Roommate by Sarina Bowen

Roommate Square.jpg



Wanted: One roommate to share a 3-bedroom house, split the rent, and ideally not be the guy I can’t stop thinking about.

I’m a man with too many secrets, so the last thing I need is a new roommate with a sexy smile and blue eyes that see right through me. Eight years ago, Roderick left town after high school. We’re not friends. I owe him nothing. But back then, I let one of my secrets slip, and he’s the only one who noticed. 

Part of me knows I should run far, far away. But the other part wants him to come upstairs and spend the night. But if I let him in, I could lose everything.

Seeking: a room to rent in town. I’m tidy, have no pets, and I will feed you homemade bread. 

I should probably add: Gay AF, and has no filter. It’s no wonder my new landlord is so wary of me. 

A smarter man would ignore those hot glances from Kieran Shipley. The broody lumberjack wants more from me than another fresh-baked pretzel. But if I push my luck, I’ll end up back on the street.

Too bad I’ve never been smart with my heart… 


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I’m so excited to read Sarina Bowen’s new stand alone MM romance and can’t wait for 2021!!

Spotlight and Excerpt of Lies & Lullabies


Summer nights and star-crossed lovers! From USA Today bestselling author Sarina Bowen.

Once upon a time, he gave me a summer of friendship, followed by one perfect night. We shared a lot during our short time together. But he skipped a few crucial details. 

I didn’t know he was a rock star.

I didn’t know his real name.

Neither of us knew I’d get pregnant.

And I sure never expected to see him again.

Five years later, his tour bus pulls up in Nest Lake, Maine. My little world is about to be shattered by loud music and the pounding of my own foolish heart.

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I watched Kira ride off, wondering what the hell had just happened. Sure, she probably guessed that I wrote that song about her. But she’d only heard the first few bars before sprinting away like I was the devil himself.

Spinning around, I located the lodge’s bike shed. I rolled a bike out and hopped on. The seat was too low for me, so I had to stand up on the pedals. 

But no matter. I rode off after Kira, my first time on a real bike in years. 

The road curved around to the left, and Kira’s house soon came into view. She was sitting on the front steps. She didn’t look all that surprised to see me biking toward her, but the look of pain on her face was so vivid that I could feel it in my gut. Something was wrong, and I still didn’t know what.

“Feel any better?”

She shook her head, and I thought I saw fear in her eyes.

“Kira,” I said softly. “I know you want me to leave you alone right now, but I can’t—our conversation isn’t over. In twenty-four hours I’ll be back on that bus. Honestly, you’re scaring me. When I last saw you, things seemed like they were on the upswing for you. When I said I think about you all the time, I didn’t mean to be a creeper. I meant that I was picturing a happy ever after for you.”

“Mama!” a little voice called from beyond the screen door.

At the sound of it, Kira’s whole body went rigid. And then tears spilled down her cheeks.

I heard little footsteps pounding onto the screened porch. And then a small set of hands became visible against the door just behind Kira. Quick as a flash, Kira leapt to her feet and spun around, darting through the door. It closed with a bang behind her.

“Whoa,” a man’s voice said. “Deep breaths, Kiki. What did he say?”

The hair stood up on my neck. I dropped the bicycle and covered the distance to the stoop in three paces. Leaping up, I opened the screen door. A little girl stood there, with fair, curly hair and blue-green eyes. I was no good with kids’ ages. She wasn’t an infant, but she wasn’t school-aged either. There was a babyish fullness to her face. She was three? Four? Five? I looked up at Kira.

“I’m so sorry,” she squeaked.

That’s when I finally understood. And I almost couldn’t draw breath to speak again. “I… She… What the fuck, Kira?” 

“That’s a very bad word,” the little girl said, accusation in her voice.

“Sorry,” I said automatically. I raised my eyes to Kira’s. “You… She…” 

I couldn’t think. There was pressure in my ears, and my pulse was ragged. Dizzy, I thought, absently, putting one hand on the door jamb for support.

“Breathe, man,” the guy behind Kira said. He wore a bright pink polo shirt and an expression of concern. “Sit down. Seriously, before you crash.”

I bent over and grabbed my knees. “Oh my God.” The only thing I could hear was my own ragged breathing and Kira’s choked sobs.

“Mama!” a little voice said, full of alarm. “Don’t cry!”

The scary moment stretched on, until I heard yet another bicycle approaching outside. A moment later, another male voice called out, “Knock-knock!”

The pink-polo-shirt guy answered him, his voice full of false cheer. “Hi, Luke!” Under his breath he added, “Wow. It’s raining men.” Then he scooped the little girl up in his arms, stepped around me, and walked out the screen door. It closed behind him with a bang.

I just stood there, staring at my shoes, trying to catch my breath. Kira’s shoes moved into my visual field, but I wasn’t ready to talk to her yet. Not until my head could clear. Which would probably be sometime next week. 

We stood here, awkward and quiet for a couple of long minutes. There was some low-key chatter outside, and then I heard the sound of the bicycle departing. 

The guy in the polo shirt came back inside, alone. 

“You’re her brother.” I coughed, trying to reconstruct the world into a rational place.

“Yup,” the guy said. “Uncle Adam.”

“Where is Vivi?” Kira asked, her voice raw.

“Luke is taking her for a little bike ride. There may be ice cream involved.”

“Really, Adam?” Kira moved quickly to peer through the screen. “But that’s awkward.”

“Oh, honey. We have first class tickets on the HMS Awkward today. And the ship has sailed. Luke even had a pink helmet for her, Kiki. Just go with it, okay? I told him you were having a moment.”

I straightened up. “She’s having a moment,” I spat out. “Is that what this is?” My pulse was still pounding in my ears, but now from anger instead of shock.

Kira was as pale as a sheet. “I was going to tell you today.” She pulled a photo out of her pocket. “Here. I was trying to find a way.”

I snatched the picture from her hand. “She’s, what, four?” The photo shook as I tried to look at it. The little girl smiled up at the camera, a stuffed animal in her hands. It was purple. Somehow this detail made it all the more real. The little girl in the photo was clutching the purple cat I’d won at the fair all those years ago.

Cover Reveal – I Promise You by Ilsa Madden-Mills

I Promise You, an all-new swoony sports romance from Wall Street Journal bestselling author Ilsa Madden-Mills is coming October 12th!

Synopsis of I Promise You by Ilsa Madden-Mills

Dillon McQueen: Babe. I promise. You want me.

Serena Jensen: Um, who are you?

There’s a legend at Waylon University: the first girl you kiss freshman year at the bonfire party is the one you’ll never forget. She’ll crawl under your skin and never leave. She’ll spark a passion so fierce you’ll burn the world down to possess her. 

You might even put a ring on it. 

As in all things with fate, timing is everything. That kiss can go horribly wrong. She might run in the opposite direction. And boy, did Serena run.

Dillon is Waylon’s hotshot quarterback with something to prove. All he wants is to graduate and make it to the NFL. What he doesn’t need is to finally meet the mystery girl he kissed at the bonfire freshman year. Isn’t it enough that she’s haunted his dreams for more than a thousand nights? 

Fate laughs in his face when he runs into the quirky girl at the Piggly Wiggly. Surrounded by his entourage, he’s got all the Oreos in his cart; she gets revenge by buying every six-pack of his favorite beer.

Obviously, that legend is a curse. She’s not his type and hates him. Worst of all, how can she not remember him when she left a Serena-shaped hole in his heart for the past three years?

So why can’t he stop trying to win her?

Will this quarterback score the girl or make the biggest fumble of his life?

Add I PROMISE YOU to Goodreads: 

Cover Designer: RBA Designs

Photographer: Wander Aguiar 

Model: Kaz

About Ilsa Madden-Mills 

Wall Street Journal, New York Times and USA Today best-selling author Ilsa Madden-Mills is best known for her angsty new adult romances and romantic comedies.

Eight of her eleven novels have placed in the Amazon Top 10 Best-seller List: Dirty English #1; Fake Fiancée and I Dare You #2; I Bet You, Filthy English, and Very Bad Things #6; Boyfriend Bargain #8; The Last Guy, her collaboration with Tia Louise, #4. 

A former high school English teacher, she adores all things Pride and Prejudice, and of course, Mr. Darcy is her ultimate hero. 

She’s addicted to frothy coffee beverages, cheesy magnets, and any book featuring unicorns and sword-wielding females. Feel free to stalk her online.

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Teaser – Tempted by Love by Melissa Foster

Tempted by Love by Melissa Foster

Series: The Steeles at Silver Island #1

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Release Date: September 9, 2020

PR Company: Tasty Book PR

An emotionally riveting story about a man who has lost it all and carries a torturous secret, a divorced single mother who has everything to lose, and the little girl who helps them heal. Enjoy heart-meltingly beautiful and toe-curlingly sexy romance in TEMPTED BY LOVE, the first in the ALL-NEW Steeles at Silver Island romance series by NYT bestseller, Melissa Foster. Pre-order today!

Years ago, bestselling author Jack “Jock” Steele lost his girlfriend and baby in a horrific accident that drove a wedge between Jock and his family, keeping him from sharing a devastating secret. An aging philanthropist saved him from the brink of despair, and for a decade Jock cared for his ailing friend who became his family. Now his friend has passed away and left him a fortune—on the condition that he publishes another book. Jock is floundering, unsure how to rebuild the life he’d walked away from, much less find his muse, have another relationship with a woman, or even think about having a family of his own. But he can’t get his sweet, sexy new friend, single-mother Daphne Zablonski out of his head, and her adorable toddler must know something he doesn’t, because she wraps her tiny fingers around his heart and won’t let go.

Daphne has been through the wringer with her ex-husband and doesn’t believe true love is in the cards for her. Friends she can handle, but letting a man see her mom bod naked? Especially someone as strikingly handsome and unbelievably sexy as Jock? No, thank you. Besides, she has a toddler to chase after and enough fictional boyfriends to fill her lonely nights. If only her book boyfriends could make her body tingle the way one look from her mysterious neighbor does.

As Jock and Daphne’s friendship turns to something too tempting to deny, their lives take an unexpected turn. Can a man who has lost everything find redemption with a woman who has everything to lose? And then there’s that secret…

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