The first thing Sara Cleff, a hard-edged, shower-singing rock music critic, wants to do after following a band on tour is crawl into her nice comfy bed in her well-appointed, optimally
located vintage apartment. But before making it home, she learns her roommate-slash-boyfriend has apparently broken up with her while she was away on assignment and sublet their apartment out from underneath her. Ouch!
When her key no longer fits in the lock, the last person she expects to find on the other side of the door is Andrew Benet, a wickedly gorgeous music director from a nearby church.Something about the brash music critic strikes a chord with Andrew, and he offers her the chance to stay on one condition—she has to join the choir at his church. While Andrew may hold the lease on Sara’s apartment, does he have the key to unlock her heart?
Up as usual at the crack of dawn, Andrew trudged to the bathroom, almost forgetting to close the door behind him before he spotted Sara’s bangles on the counter next to the sink. Reaching over, he shut the door and locked it.
Fifteen minutes later, he was showered, clean-shaven, and ready to go, except he didn’t have to be at the church until four-thirty that afternoon.
Unplugging his phone from an outlet in his room, he brought it with him into the kitchen, transferred Sara’s clothes that she had washed the night before into the dryer and poured himself some coffee. He sat on a barstool, debated
throwing a sweatshirt on over his plain, blue, short-sleeved T- shirt to ward off the chill, but started scrolling through his email instead. His eyes, however, kept drifting over to Sara, out like a light on the sofa sleeper.
While most of her was wrapped in the blankets like a human burrito, with the sun starting to break through the bare branches of the ancient oak tree blocking the expansive bay window, he could see her face quite plainly. Without all that the heavy dark makeup, he noted, she looked younger.
And kinda sweet, actually.
But then again, she wasn’t talking. Still, he was glad he invited her to stay the night before. But what
about tonight? And tomorrow night? And the night after that? While he mulled the possibilities, she rolled over and stretched, arching her back and groaning as she did.
Resuming her curled-up burrito pose, she opened her eyes and mumbled, “How long have you been sitting there?”
Looking at his watch, he admitted, “About a minute. Or five. Maybe ten.” His cheeks suddenly felt a lot warmer.
With a loud yawn, she sat up. “I slept so good.” Patting the thin mattress with her hand, she added, “So comfy.”
The words hung in the air between them.
Sarcasm before coffee. Great.
Still, the sight of her in his pajama top seemed to lobotomize him. All he could do by way of a reply was nod.
With a shrug, she added, “Seriously, on a sleeper sofa—who knew?”
Snap out of it.
With no small amount of effort, he turned and glanced at the dryer.
“Your clothes should be ready in about twenty minutes.”
At that, Sara took a deep breath and yanked the covers back, revealing two impossibly long bare legs as she flung her feet to the floor. Knowing full well that the sudden blast of heat he felt was not delivered by way of the gilded vents along the floorboards, Andrew got up to check the thermostat on the wall next to the upright piano anyway, mumbling, “Gotta love old buildings.”
Let me tell you a story. I’m a sucker for the “opposites attract” trope. Yep, goner. Throw in the town of Chicago and music. I love the city of Chicago. I like it better than New York and I’m a huge music fan. Of yes, can’t live without the tunes but can live without a television. Plus, I sang in our church choir and sadly don’t do that anymore. I miss it, especially after reading Sara and Andrew’s story. 🙂
What makes this story so special is the slow build of their romance. They first have to learn how to be roommates, then friends, then maybe something more. Its cute but no sappy. Its nice when an author lets the characters find their footing within themselves and then the other person last. Ms. Valentin nailed it with Andrew and Sara. Another she did was letting the secondary characters be in the background and only come to the surface when needed. Oh and my favorite secondary character, by far, is Claire. She rocks! She’s Sara’s rock in the story and their scenes are priceless. I wish I had a friend like Claire sometimes.
Andrew was awesome. Never preachy and no this isn’t an inspirational book at all. Yes, Andrew works at a parish and there are some Catholic references but it works. Some of the scenes with Marge were spot on when it comes to “the meddling but means well choir member”. 🙂 Oh and the scene at the bar was some kind of special, too.
I could go on and on about the book but I won’t. You need to read it to find out why I enjoyed it so much. It’s on my keeper shelf. In fact, I need to read Mattie and Claire’s books now. I can’t wait to see who she writes about next. I’ll be first in line to read it, too.
About the Author:
Barbara is an award-winning novelist and second-generation journalist. After spending a decade in maternity clothes, she has five boys to show for it and much fodder for her column, The Plate Spinner Chronicles, a long-running feature in the Chicago Tribune.
A member of RWA’s Windy City chapter, she still dreams of the day when her
to-do list includes “Send NY Times book critic thank you note” and
“Accept Godiva’s request to be a taste-tester.”
It can take a whole day to figure out what happened…that night.
On what was to be just another Monday morning at school, Luke’s girlfriend Jessica is nowhere to be found. Names like ‘psycho lover’ follow Luke to his locker, even from his best friend. Luke soon learns Jessica tried to kill herself at a party from the previous Saturday night, and she’s blaming him. With posts on FaceBook feeding the rumors of what happened that night, the school has to investigate.
Torn between worry, guilt, loyalty, priorities, and an urgency to clear his name and protect hers, he has to find her—he loves her no matter what. The teacher in the middle of the investigation is also the same one to provide academic and character references for Luke’s college applications due by the end of the week. Luke knows he’s not to blame, but with no contact from Jessica and everyone blaming him for what happened, he’s at risk of losing everything—Jessica and his dreams of being a mechanic—all because of what happened that night.
“Hey, man.” I nodded to Jeremy Waters as I started the long trek up the front lawn of the school. He nodded back but gave me a questioning stare as I walked past. Again, weird. What is with everyone today? I wondered.
I scanned the busy school grounds. Where was Jessica? I knew our break-up was inevitable, but I dreaded it. I still cared about her very much, but things were changing: me, her, and ‘us’––and I didn’t know what to do about it. Neither did she.
At first I didn’t notice anything off, but as I passed group after group of unusually silent guys and girls from all grades, I got that weird feeling, like I was being watched, like the whole school was focused on me or something.
Some of the guys pulled their buds out of their ears as I approached, their banter from moments before silencing as I passed. One guy shook his head as if in disgust. Another guy awkwardly picked at something on the ground with the toe of his shoe, as if he were avoiding something.
I kept going, trying to walk as normally as I could. Hard to do when you know you’re being watched.
Where was Jess? I checked my phone to see if there was anything from her: nothing.
I shifted my backpack and made my way up the path to the front steps of the school. With every footstep, uncertainty and foreboding gnawed at my gut.
A group of girls from Jessica’s drama club huddled on the front steps like a bunch of hens. They all gave me the once-over. One of them was crying and another gave me the finger.
That stopped me in my tracks. “What the hell?” I stared them down. “What was that for?”
“Screw you, Luke!” The one with the ornery finger spat. “Stay away from Jessica!”
What the…? Whatever. Bunch of gossips––they seriously need to get a life.
Jessica and I had been drifting apart for a while. Where she was involved in her drama club, her social life, I preferred being under the hood of a car, alone. But it wasn’t that I chose cars over her or anything. I cared about her very, very much. At one time I even contemplated the L-word thing with her. But lately, something had changed, and I couldn’t figure out what. I mean, I knew I wanted to be with her but it was like we were drifting towards each other, then away, then back towards each other again. Only to then again drift further away.
But I would never do anything to her, to earn me the middle finger from her friends. So why were they acting like that? What the…? I shook my head and kept going. I hadn’t done anything to provoke their reaction, so they could just go back to their pointless chatter about hair or whatever.
With fifteen minutes to go until the first bell, I wanted to catch up with Jess before classes started. She lived way on the other side of town, and as much I would have loved to pick her up every morning, her mom insisted on driving her. Her mom liked me, so it wasn’t anything against me personally, but Jessica said it was a ‘mom and daughter thing.’ And besides, we always met first thing at school and I would, at least, get to drive her home.
But that day, even though I wasn’t exactly about to have ‘the talk’ with her right before class, I wanted to at least see her that morning to start the day––it was our ‘thing.’ A pang of regret fluttered in my gut. If we broke up, would we still meet in the mornings? She had become part of my day and I still wanted that.
I made my way through the doors of the school. The halls were already swarming with East Clark High’s student body. I searched for Jessica as I pushed and wove my way through the crowd. But I soon realized I wasn’t pushing past anyone, anymore. The constant buzz in the halls had all but died down, and people were stepping aside giving me a wide berth as I went.
What the hell was wrong with everyone? I frowned at everyone practically plastered up against the lockers, avoiding me like I was contagious or something. Did I smell like dog sh––
“Psycho!” A familiar voice hissed in my ear, cutting off my thoughts. Great––Mark. I stuttered to a stop but tried to keep going. I, along with everyone else, was used to his stupid ways, but I had to find Jessica. I didn’t want to waste time getting into it with him right then.
But he came at me again with, “Psycho-lover!” and that definitely had me coming to a full stop. I swear I felt spit on my cheek.
I refused to swipe it away, giving him the satisfaction of … I didn’t know what. Something. I glanced up to find his buddies chuckling while Mark, the idiot himself, contorted his face into what he assumed was the look of a crazy person.
He didn’t have to try very hard. It came naturally.
And I hoped his eyes stayed crossed like that.
I stared him down, and just when I turned away he was up against me, his face so close to mine his eyes looked crossed. “Jessica almost knocked herself off the other night. Whadidja do? Screw her over?” he hissed.
I stared at him in confusion. My face numbed. My neck heated. What was he talking about? What did he mean, ‘knock herself off’?
Has a book ever given you whiplash that you sit there afterwards wondering…what the heck just happened? I mean this in a good way. Finishing this book (*sniffs*) gave me that and more. And its a YA book. I know, right? YA books are supposed to be fluffy and teen with the made up teen angst that so many authors throw at us but oh no. Ms. McManus doesn’t do that. Nope..nada! She took an all too familiar scenario and turned it on its head.
Of course I’m talking about Facebook and social media. We’ve all heard about bullying on Facebook but this one takes the cake. I won’t go into detail about the “what” but I will tell you that it’s sickening. What Luke went through in that one day at school is sick. My heart went out to him and to Jessica, too. Neither one deserved what happened to either one of them.
What stood out was the dialogue in the book. You “are” Luke when you read this book. You are him and all of his emotions and thoughts. You want to run, throw things and beat the crap out of a couple of people. The twist about “how” it all happened was a doozy. I never saw that coming. I actually thought the person responsible was someone else so when it was revealed who it was I was thrown for a loop. I almost felt sorry for that person but in the end I didn’t. It didn’t have to happen but it did. The problem with that person had nothing to do with Jessica but everything with Luke.
Since I’m old and sat in the movie theater when The Breakfast Club movie came out, I’ve always said that every teenager should watch that movie, this book is the second thing that a teenager should read. It’s that relevant. One deals with the “classes” of teenagers and the other one deals with what happens when social media gets out of control.
I can not express how much I loved this book and even more impressed by the publisher, Evernight Teen, for publishing it. Its a fast paced, though provoking book that I will re-read again and again. Even the adults in the book are nicely written and are not heavy handed. Luke’s teacher is awesome and yes, he was doing his job but had Luke’s back the entire time.
Please, I beg you…please read this book, even if you don’t have teenagers. You will learn a lot and realize that Facebook is the “end all” that everyone seems to think. Personally, I can’t stand Facebook but its a necessary evil. *sigh*
About the Author:
Lisa McManus has been an avid reader since her teen years, and is inspired daily by her teenage boys and the forests and beaches of Vancouver Island, British Columbia where she lives. Along with writing for kids and teens, she is also multi-published with Chicken Soup for the Soul and numerous other magazines and anthologies. When she’s not writing, reading or refereeing her family, she is either hiking or out on the archery range.
Two years ago, Isabella Harrington defied her parents and society, and ran off with her lover to Milan. They thought they’d conquer the world at the gaming tables. But her dream of happily-ever-after led to nothing but debts and a shattered heart.
Abandoned and left on her own in a foreign city with little but her wits and skill, Isabella managed to survive. Survive and thrive, commanding the cards until she won enough to send for a very particular matchmaker.
Isabella needed a way back into the society she shunned and what better way than through a proper, aristocratic marriage? And this matchmaker of note would be her key back home to England.
Traveling the Continent, Jonathon, Duke of Strathmore, agreed to meet the mysterious Miss Harrington. Wary of the rumors surrounding her, a woman who vanished from London with only scandalous tales left in her wake, he hadn’t counted on the intriguing Isabella to thoroughly capture his attention.
Will a game of cards change both their fates? Will she become a mistress or a duchess?
“I’ve observed you this evening,” he said as they stepped outside.
“I’m well aware,” she said with the control that so fascinated him.
He raised his eyebrow and bit back a smile. Oh, that restrained passion captivated him. “I’d no idea you were so skilled at the games,” he said instead, leading her carefully along.
Watching her, he had the feeling she knew his game and didn’t rise to the bait. Jonathon bit back another smile.
“You didn’t give me an opportunity to show you the other night,” she said with a small grin that was more pride in her talents than interest.
But her gaze remained steady on his, darker in the shadowed balcony. Miss Harrington stood straight, with none of the deference normally given a duke. And none of the deference a woman in need of a suitable match to return to England ought to show.
She fascinated him all the more.
“And if I’m ready now?” His voice lowered, and Jonathon didn’t fool himself when he saw her breath hitch.
Her smile turned predatory. “I wouldn’t mind relieving you of the coin from your purse.”
He leaned closer and lowered his voice again. He watched her, knowing she followed his every move and was not unaffected. “Money holds no interested as a wager.”
She raised her own eyebrow in question. “You wish to make it a more interesting evening, then?”
“What terms would you suggest,” he asked softly, his breath a caress along her cheek, “to make it more stimulating?”
Oh my how I loved this book. I don’t read a lot of historical romance and when I do, I have my favorite authors that I read. I don’t search out new authors in historical romance. I’m sure glad that I did with Ms. Reed. She writes with an emotional center in her story and she doesn’t weigh down the story with all the normal nonsense that most writers do. I don’t care about the ton, society, manners, etc. when it comes to historical romance. For me, it’s just clutter and the characters get lost in the story.
I loved, just loved Isabella. She’s a strong woman who was left to fend for herself when her ex-lover leaves her in a foreign country. She cried, she got over it and lived. Did she move on from the hurt and betrayal? You will have to read the story to find out. I liked how she grew more confident as a woman with Jonathon. She was his match and not just in bed but also in mind and spirit. I thoroughly enjoyed watching these two fall in love over the course of the story.
Jonathon was a great hero. It was heartwarming to see him fall in true love with Isabella. He had no intention of doing so but watching him go from liking her as a friend, to a lover, to loving husband was truly magical. He wasn’t your typical historical hero either. He wasn’t a rake, rogue or needing to be reformed in any way. I liked that in him.
Are there outside forces that want to tear these two apart? Nope but they do have some issues that they need to figure out and deal with before they can truly be happy. Oh…one of the ending scenes with Jonathon and Isabella’s mom is truly priceless. And yes, I read it twice because it was that good.
If you are looking for a straight forward, character driven historical romance than look no further. Ms. Reed is definitely an author to read and I look forward to more stories in this series.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Kristabel Reed lives on the East Coast and loves to explore the steamier side of historical romance. “There are so many sexy situations that didn’t just pop up in the 21st century and my goal is to burst the myth of the prim and proper debutante.” She loves romances of all sorts but currently writes Regency and Contemporary romances with curvy women. She also loves old movies, taking the dog for walks, and anything Cary Grant. And is always interested in talking about erotic romance, so drop her a line: email@example.com; or Tweet her @kristabelreed; find her blog: kristabelreed.blogspot.com