Any minute now, a van would drive up and Ashton Kutcher would slide the door open, laughing hysterically at my melodramatic performance on the front porch.
But nothing happened.
The words on the page jumbled into a toxic mess my brain refused to comprehend, much less accept.
Please consider this letter as a formal request to arrange a paternity test (DNA).
I barely remembered Chelsea Airy.
That wasn’t true—we’d gone out once, and we’d been friends for a while after. But I hadn’t heard so much as a peep from her since I’d gotten married. I’d reached out a
handful of times, but she’d quit responding and fell off the face of the earth. There hadn’t been a text, an email, a phone call, not even a Facebook message, much less a stork in the last five years.
My wife could forgive a lot, but she’d never wanted children—much less another woman’s.
Wow. Just wow! This is one of the best books that I have read this year. And yes, I read a lot but I haven’t given out tons of 5 Harlie’s lately. Lots of 4.5 but not 5’s. This one is definitely a 5. I’ve read Ms. Walls before (Girl Crush is hilarious and one of my top 10 this year) and with each book she just gets better and better. She writes with such emotional depth with her characters and just when you think that you have things figured out, she throws a curveball or two at you. There are many curveballs in this book but they are definitely worth the swing. None of them are misses. Just pure, OMG in the sense that they make you appreciate certain characters more later in the book than you did when they appeared earlier.
Don’t let the blurb give you the sense that there is cheating in the book. I hate a cheater but *spoiler* there is no cheating. They broke up for a couple of years. Trust me, this book starts off when they are in high school and continues until they are adults. Ms. Walls takes her time letting you get to know Cora and James (Carp) throughout the book. They are not perfect by any means and are products of their upbringing but on the flipside, they are very grounded. I loved how we really get to know these characters throughout the book. Each has some growing up to do and yes, even to the last page. *sniff*
This book does not have the angst that you would think that a YA/NA/Adult book would have. It’s about redemption, true love, second chances, and long-buried secrets that affected many of the characters that have long-reaching consequences. Cora and Carp are wonderful separately and together. Yes, they broke up for a bit but it was necessary for their character growth and of course, the child to be conceived. Chelsea is such a wonderful character. Seriously, I just loved her and she was exactly what Carp needed during his time awhile from Cora. He realized that he could have a friendship with a woman that wasn’t based on sex and she really helped him when it came to Cora in the long term.
I would be remiss to not talk about the secondary characters. Neil and Hannah are the perfect friends that Cora and Carp need during the story. They have a story, too but it doesn’t overshadow theirs. Carp’s parents and Gwendolyn/Dottie are great, too. They add the needed wisdom when Cora and Carp need it the most in the end. The secrets that revolve around Chelsea, Cora, and Dottie are just…OH MY. Never saw it coming and I really cried for Chelsea and Cora at that point. They would have been great friends with each other. Plus, then there is the child. I won’t go into a lot with the child but the child isn’t stupid. Chelsea made sure of that. Dottie, too. The child MAKES the story. And yes, Cora never wanted any children but once she realizes that she can truly help him through his grief and the child through hers, she’s a goner.
I usually don’t recommend a book that runs the gammet of emotions. Swooning, laughing, crying, cheering for characters and overall, just loving everything about a book but this is one of those rare treats that a reviewer lives for. I hated to see the story end. I was sad but the ending couldn’t have been more perfect. Or Promised. *wink*
Stephie Walls is a literary whore – she loves words in all forms and will read anything put in front of her. She has an affinity for British Literature and Romance novels and an overall love of writing. She currently has six novels out, four short stories, and two collections; all provocatively written to elicit your imagination and spice up your world.
Title: Guarding Erin
Author: Nicole Flockton
Genre: Adult, Special Forces Romance
Published: November 7, 2017
Page Count: 166 Pages
When Carlos “Italy” Porcelli helped a former SEAL brother, he never expected to come face to face with his high school sweetheart, Erin Furlan. The second he finds out her life is in danger from her former mob boyfriend, he will do everything in his power to protect her and keep her safe. Guarding his heart from remembering the past and wishing for a future will take all his steely SEAL resolve.
Erin Furlan believed her life was back on track after her mob boyfriend got arrested when the family he worked for got taken down. How wrong she was. Now he’s back and wanting retribution. What she never expected was Navy SEAL and former sweetheart, Carlos Porcelli, to swoop in and save her. As she tries to break away from her ex’s hold, she’s drawn closer to Carlos. Erin’s not sure her heart can take another beating, as she’s certain Carlos is going to walk away from her again.
Being in close confines, their past filters into their present and when Erin is kidnapped, Carlos will do anything to save the woman he’s falling for. He only hopes he reaches her in time.
Exhaustion bit at her heels. It had been a shit of a day. A computer software problem had all their reservations jumbled up tighter than a pair of stockings in a washing machine. The last thing she wanted to do was go to dinner, but she really needed a girl’s night.
She turned the light off and closed her office door. At the end of each day a sense of pride filled her with all she’d accomplished in the past four years. Hard work and determination had gotten her to the position of General Manager quicker than she ever imagined possible.
Before she left, she stopped at the registration desk. “If any issues crop up overnight, call me. No matter what the time.”
The clerk smiled. “Certainly, Erin. Hopefully, I won’t have to. Have a good night.”
“Thanks.” Secretly, Erin prayed her phone wouldn’t ring. After dinner she planned to go home and fall into bed. Between the stress of Bryan turning up in her life again, and today’s work drama, a solid eight hours of sleep sounded like an unreachable dream.
She skipped down the stairs, glad to be outside and absorbed everything that made New York, New York. The sounds of taxi drivers sitting on their horns, the aroma coming from the hotdog stand on the corner, the flow of people streaming out of the subway stations.
Shocked at hearing Carlos’s voice, her foot slipped and she missed the bottom step. Instead of finding herself kissing the sidewalk, warm, strong arms closed around her. Without thinking, she laid her head on Carlos’s chest. She breathed deeply and the aroma of hotdogs was replaced with a tangy citrus smell that was intoxicating. She inhaled again.
He chuckled. “Did you just smell me?”
Erin came to her senses and pulled away from him. Surprise made way for embarrassment. “What are you doing here?”
If she thought her terseness would put him off, she was living in a fantasy world. Instead of putting distance between them, he grabbed her hand again.
“I got your text message and I was worried.”
“What text message?” Confusion colored her thoughts. She knew she’d sent him a text last night, but she hadn’t asked him to travel up to New York to see her. She expected him to call.
His hand went to his pocket and pulled out the phone, all the while he maintained his hold on her. Her skin sizzled from the connection, drawing her back to the first time they’d kissed when they’d been sixteen. At the time, she’d thought her reaction to his touches and kisses had been because he was her first boyfriend. A crush that had turned into juvenile love. Now she had to wonder.
After the first couple of dates with Bryan, her body had never flared to life like hers was doing right now. They were only holding hands for goodness sake.
“This message.” A phone was shoved under her nose.
“I didn’t send …” She re-read the message and then it hit her. This was the message she’d started to send to him while on the subway and then she’d had second thoughts. “I, um, I didn’t mean to send it to you.”
“Right. Who were you sending it to.”
She could fabricate that she was sending it to a friend. Somehow she didn’t think he would buy it. “You.”
“Well you didn’t respond to my message last night and then I didn’t know what to say.”
Everything she’d told him was the truth. The only problem was she still didn’t know what to say to him. For a brief second on the train she’d wanted to ask him for his help with Bryan. She’d helped him, he could help her. But could she ask that of him though?
“I was out last night, and didn’t see your message until I checked my phone this morning.”
“Uh huh. Well,” she looked at their connected hands and then at the crowd bustling around them. “I’ve got plans, so I’d better get going. Good seeing you, Carlos.”
She went to pull her hand out of his grip, but he tightened his hold on her.
“What’s going on, E? And don’t tell me nothing. I know you. I can see the tension in you.”
Anger rippled through her and she yanked her hand out of his grip. “You don’t know me at all now. You were the one who walked away from me. From us. And yes, I’m tense. After the shit day I had, you’d be tense as well. Now, if you’ll excuse me I’ve got places to be. Real friends to catch up with. Goodbye, Carlos.”
I loved this story so much. Yes, loved it. Second chance, childhood friends to lovers tropes that I love. Ms. Flockton is superb at writing it. Her knowledge of her characters, the backgrounds of them and the secondary characters in the book are on point. Keep in mind that this is a Kindle World book so knowing the details of other members of the team is key and Ms. Flockton knows her stuff.
What’s refreshing about the book is that Erin and Carlos in how they lived their lives apart from each other but had a deep understanding of how the other one lived. I know it sounds confusing but they both knew that the other one had grown up since they left each other all those years ago. They still are hot for each other and in love with each other. I loved how Erin reached up to the other women and asked how they dealt with what their husbands do for a living. That’s never really discussed in a military book before. Ice cream and wine. Ha Ha! Again, it’s refreshing. Plus, Carlos knew why most of his friends were single even if he didn’t like being single at all.
Carlos and Erin have insane chemistry. It just leaps from the pages but they still have some things to overcome for it to all work out in the end. Plus, Bryan is a real piece of work but I really loved how the action in the book didn’t happen until the end. It was intense but palpable. In some action/suspense scenes, its just over too quick but Ms. Flockton takes her time and sets it all up. I was holding my breath the entire time. Plus, poor Rocket, too. Knowing that there is something going on with Erin’s friend and she is kidnapped, too. In fact, Nicole when can we read their book?! Seriously.
This isn’t my first book by Ms. Flockton and won’t be my last. I love her voice, how deep her characters are and let’s face it…her sexy as hell heroes and the strong women that she pairs them with.
Bestselling author Nicole Flockton writes sexy contemporary romances, seducing you one kiss at a time as you turn the pages. Nicole likes nothing better than taking characters and creating unique situations where they fight to find their true love.
On her first school report her teacher noted “Nicole likes to tell her own stories”. It wasn’t until after the birth of her first child and after having fun on a romance community forum that she finally decided to take the plunge and write a book.
Apart from writing Nicole is busy looking after her very own hero – her wonderfully supportive husband, and two fabulous kids. She also enjoys watching sports and, of course, reading.
Christmas at Cade Ranch (Rocky Mountain Cowboys #1) by Karen Rock
Paperback & ebook, 384 pages
November 7th 2017 by Harlequin
The Christmas they never had.
James Cade has one priority: keep the family ranch running smoothly in the wake of his younger brother’s death. With Jesse’s ex, Sofia Gallardo, and her young son, Javi, stranded at Cade Ranch over Christmas, this task just got a lot harder. The longer Sofia and Javi stay, the harder it is to imagine the ranch without them. James couldn’t save his brother from his inner demons, but he can give his nephew a secure future. Maybe more—if he can figure out how to trust Sofia, and stop feeling like he’s betraying Jesse. Because trying to stop thinking about beautiful, determined Sofia is impossible.
Excerpt Four: (Be proud of your struggles, your failures. They make you who you are, a better, stronger person. – Teaser)
“Honey, you’ll always be an addict.” Sofia cringed inside the down jacket Joy patted. “One of my biggest regrets with Jesse was how I always tried carrying on like normal, thinking if I gave him the same loving home as always, he’d come to his senses and become himself again.”
Sofia startled. Wasn’t that what she was trying to do with her own life? Portland would give her a chance at a normal existence without reminders of who she’d been.
“You loved him, Joy.” She blinked her eyes against the stinging rush rising inside them.
“Yes. But he also needed my understanding. My unconditional love. He needed me to love and support him for who he was, not who I wanted him to be. I never accepted that side of him, and he must have felt so lonely.”
“You were doing your best,” Sofia murmured, thinking of herself and how lonely she’d been as an addict, a sensation she could only escape with the next hit. Would she feel lonely again when Javi grew up and moved out? Would her addiction return to fill the void without, as James put it, Javi to stay sober for?
Joy pressed the end of her scarf to each eye while her other hand kept pat-pat-patting away at any part of Sofia it could reach.
“I was being selfish, honey. Jesse had changed and I wouldn’t change with him. I lied to myself and acted like his time in rehab was just him leaving home for a spell. And when he was passed out, I told myself he was sick and made him soup. When he came home, I never asked any questions. The less said, the quicker we could move on. Pretend like it didn’t happen. Stuck my head right in the sand and lost my baby because of it.”
Joy dropped her head in her hands and her shoulders shook.
“Oh, Joy. No. No. It’s not your fault.” Sofia wished for a safe spot to pull over but the road’s shoulders were piling up with snow right out into the lane.
“It is my fault. I’m his mother and I failed him. There just isn’t anything worse you can do in life than fail your own children.”
The air in the car pressed humid and close. “Jesse wouldn’t blame you, Joy.”
Joy lifted her head and pressed her scarf to her damp cheeks. “He wouldn’t. But that doesn’t make it any less true. But now that you’re here, I have a second chance to get this right.”
Sofia’s heart thumped. Javi had brought Joy out of her grief. Would she fall back into her depression when they left for Portland? And what about her own feelings? She hated thinking about leaving a place, a group of people that were becoming more and more dear to her…a family.
“I’m so grateful for everything you’re doing for Javi.” Sofia gently pressed the brake, careful not to lock up as the wind swept a wide swath of snow from one side of the road to the other.
“I wasn’t talking about Javi.”
Sofia flicked her a surprised sideways glance. “What?”
“You’re my second chance, Sofia. I can get this right by showing you that I care and accept you for who you are. Yes. Part of that person is an addict. And that might be the part of you I care about most since it’s the part that’s the hardest to love and the most deserving. If I’d loved Jesse—all of Jesse—that way, maybe he wouldn’t have hidden himself from me.”
Sofia felt a strange numb sensation begin in her feet, steal up her legs, then into her chest and heart, stopping it momentarily.
“You love me?”
No one had ever loved her for her…all of her.
“I do. And Javi does, too. Don’t ever hide any bit of yourself. Be proud of your struggles, your failures. They make you who you are, a better, stronger person.”
“I don’t always feel strong.” Her gut clenched at the admission. She needed to believe in her own invincibility. Never wanted to think of the chinks in her armor. She ran from anyone or anything that shone too bright a light on those weaknesses.
Yet he’d almost kissed her, and somehow, in that moment, she’d felt worthy of it.
Was she deserving of love? Acceptance?
What can I say? Another Karen Rock book that is a Harlequin Heartwarming and she hits it out the park for me. There is something about an author that can write emotional, at times raw, heartwarming romance like this and then funny young adult books. I couldn’t wait to dive into this book and dive I did.
This book is about addiction and the after effects that linger well past being clean. I wish I could have known Jesse Cade. Just listening to his mother and siblings, he sounded like a really good person. Even Sofia really couldn’t say a bad thing about him in the end. I’ve seen addiction in my own family. My brother still struggles every day with it so I could identify with the Cade family in that sense. I’m was glad that Sofia went to NA meetings. But it did bother me a bit that James was the one that told Javi about her.
There are a lot of issues that come to light throughout the book in regards to Jesse and how it greatly affected his entire family; not just Sofia and Javi. This is a family that will always grieve for Jesse but also needs to get some understanding of what he did and the why through Sofia. Sofia is a great character. I could see her strength when she didn’t; her ability to love even when she felt like she wasn’t lovable but more importantly, how she really was trying to be a better person and parent for Javi.
I didn’t like James in the beginning. Yes, I didn’t. Too controlling, at times self-righteous and basically a douche when it came to Sofia’s motives or lack thereof. When he finally started to warm to Javi, my heart melted a bit but it wasn’t until he realized that he was truly going to lose Sofia and Javi, that I fell for him. Stubborn man. Fiercely loyal to his family, it was almost like he resented Sofia for living instead of Jesse. Like I said, this book is very emotional, raw at times and deals with a lot of family issues. Sure there is a romance and it’s sweet but also swoon-worthy. It just takes a while for the true romance part to come to light. Not complaining. They had to work through it to get to that point.
I can’t wait to see what Ms. Rock has in store for the other Cades. I can’t wait to get an update on James, Javi, and Sofia. Plus, I must know about the feud and hopefully, Joy and Boyd will find some happiness in the end. Oops, I said too much. 😉
About the Author
In a quest to provide her ELA students with quality reading material, educator Karen Rock read everything out there and couldn’t wait to add her voice to the genre. In addition to her work as a Young Adult romance novelist, she’s now an author for Harlequin’s Heartwarming line and thrilled to pen stories that moms can share with their teenage daughters. She’s loved Harlequin books since she spent summers going through her grandmother’s Presents books that she passed along in paper grocery bags each year. As half of the writing duo J.K. Rock, Karen also pens young adult romance. When she’s not busy writing, Karen enjoys scouring estate sales for vintage books, cooking her grandmother’s family recipes, reinventing her gardens to suit her moods and occasionally rescuing local wildlife from neighborhood cats. She lives in the Adirondack Mountain region with her husband, her very appreciated beta-reader daughter, and two Cavalier King cocker spaniels, who have yet to understand the concept of “fetch” though they know a lot about love. For more information about Karen’s upcoming books, check out her website.
– 1 winner will receive a $50 Amazon gift card along with print copies of HIS KIND OF COWGIRL, UNDER AN ADIRONDACK SKY AND A COWBOY TO KEEP by Karen Rock, TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH by Elizabeth Lowell, THOSE TEXAS NIGHTS by Delores Fossen and FAMILY TREE by Susan Wiggs.
– US Only.
– Ends November 15th