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Buzz Reviews: In the Middle of Somewhere & Out of Nowhere: Roan Parrish


In the Middle of Somewhere
(Middle of Somewhere, #1)
Roan Parrish
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Released July 10, 2015
Buy Dreamspinner | Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Kobo

Daniel Mulligan is tough, snarky, and tattooed, hiding his self-consciousness behind sarcasm. Daniel has never fit in—not at home in Philadelphia with his auto mechanic father and brothers, and not at school where his Ivy League classmates looked down on him. Now, Daniel’s relieved to have a job at a small college in Holiday, Northern Michigan, but he’s a city boy through and through, and it’s clear that this small town is one more place he won’t fit in.

Rex Vale clings to routine to keep loneliness at bay: honing his muscular body, perfecting his recipes, and making custom furniture. Rex has lived in Holiday for years, but his shyness and imposing size have kept him from connecting with people.

When the two men meet, their chemistry is explosive, but Rex fears Daniel will be another in a long line of people to leave him, and Daniel has learned that letting anyone in can be a fatal weakness. Just as they begin to break down the walls keeping them apart, Daniel is called home to Philadelphia, where he discovers a secret that changes the way he understands everything.


Back in March 2016, about the time the honeymoon period accompanying my starting to read M/M romances was coming to an end, I decided to join a Facebook group of an author I liked specifically to ask others for recommendations. Even though the book had been out for eight months by then, Roan Parrish’s debut novel, In the Middle of Somewhere, was still getting so much praise that I gave it a shot. I remember being wowed then, and when I picked it up for a reread the other day in order to write a review in anticipation of the release of the third book in the series, I was reminded again what makes this one of my favorite M/M books I’ve read to date.

Daniel Mulligan may be a tough, inked-up guy with a sharp tongue on the outside, but it’s a cover for his insecurities brought on by a lifetime of not fitting in, particularly with his family. When he lands a job as an English professor in a rural town in northern Michigan, a place where everyone knows everyone else, it’s just another place where he’ll be an outsider, especially since he has never been willing to hide the fact that he’s gay. But it’s most likely a stepping stone toward something bigger and better anyway. After interviewing for the position six months earlier, though, an accident that stranded him in the middle of nowhere introduced him to Rex Vale, a strapping flannel-clad man with a kind demeanor who took Daniel’s breath away. When their paths cross again, their chemistry is explosive, but if they’re ever going to be together, they both must let down their guard and take the chance.

During both readings, the thing that stood out most for me was the fact that the writing is amazing. It’s flawlessly smooth, sharp, poignant, and simply beautiful prose, the sort of thing I would expect from a well-seasoned author, regardless of the genre. So the fact that this is the author’s first release makes it all the more remarkable. When I read it the first time, I had not realized how much longer this book is compared to the average romance. It’s a testament to just how good the story and writing are.

The story is told completely in the first-person point of view of Daniel, so it isn’t long before the reader has a pretty good impression of how his past has turned him into the man he is now. After his mother died when he was a child, he was left with his auto-mechanic father and his three older brothers. It’s already a contentious situation by the time Daniel comes out to them, and of course that only creates more tension between him and his family. Despite the fact that he’s intelligent enough to have earned a doctoral degree in English, his insecurities and ingrained defensiveness color all of his interactions, including those with Rex.

As Daniel and Rex begin to forge a relationship, it doesn’t take long to feel the connection they share. Rex really is nearly perfect boyfriend material: he’s kind, attentive, caring, and physically sexy as hell, just to make a short list. He’s just the sort of character that’s easy to cast as your next book-boyfriend. But he too has some insecurity which results in him being a loner. What we learn of Rex comes slowly as the book progresses, and the timing for when these things are revealed amplifies the growing feelings they have for each other. Like so much of the writing in the book, their attraction leaps off the page.

While Daniel and Rex do have a couple of bumpy spots in their developing relationship, the biggest source of angst in the book accompanies the strife between Daniel and his family. The blurb for the book hints at a truth revealed back home that comes as a big shock to him. I’m not going to add any detail to that, but I will say that the family drama fits perfectly explains much about Daniel’s personality. The situation is far from resolved in this book, though. Having already read the second book, I can tell you that it is handled there too, so you have something to look forward to.

I can’t say enough good about In the Middle of Somewhere. Not only is the quality of the story a wonderful surprise to have come from a debut novel, but the quality of the storytelling is right up there among the best I’ve read. This is easily one of the best books I’ve read in the genre. I felt that way when I read it the first time, and I still feel that way now that I’ve read it again.


Out of Nowhere
Roan Parrish
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Released February 29, 2016
Buy Dreamspinner | Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Kobo

The only thing in Colin Mulligan’s life that makes sense is taking cars apart and putting them back together. In the auto shop where he works with his father and brothers, he tries to get through the day without having a panic attack or flying into a rage. Drinking helps. So do running and lifting weights until he can hardly stand. But none of it can change the fact that he’s gay, a secret he has kept from everyone.

Rafael Guerrera has found ways to live with the past he’s ashamed of. He’s dedicated his life to social justice work and to helping youth who, like him, had very little growing up. He has no time for love. Hell, he barely has time for himself. Somehow, everything about miserable, self-destructive Colin cries out to him. But down that path lie the troubles Rafe has worked so hard to leave behind. And as their relationship intensifies, Rafe and Colin are forced to dredge up secrets that both men would prefer stay buried.

Immediately after finishing In the Middle of Somewhere back in March, I picked up the second book of the series, Out of Nowhere. As with the first novel, Roan Parrish’s writing is a thing of beauty in this story. In contrast to its predecessor, though, this story is quite a bit grittier and has much more angst than the first. It also has a big challenge to overcome, justifying why those of us who read book one should even remotely care about the point-of-view (POV) character of this story.

Before I get further, it’s important to understand something about the structure of the story being told in the first two books of this series. In theory, Out of Nowhere could be read and enjoyed as a standalone, but I strongly recommend reading In the Middle of Somewhere first. The stories being told in the two books run parallel to one another, though for the vast majority, they are told from some 800 miles apart. When the individual stories cross geographically, this novel gives us an alternate perspective, so I think having the view from the first book is beneficial prior to reading this story, mainly because I think this context is important in order to have a proper appreciation—or, more likely, a proper revulsion—for the POV character in the second story.

Because the two stories overlap so much, I’m going to try my best not to spoil important details from either book, though one surprise from the first book is impossible not to mention here. So if this bothers you, trust me and go read the first book, then come back to this one. I’ll also mention here that if active cutting scenes are a trigger for you, you have been warned.

The character to whom I’ve been referring with disdain is Colin Mulligan, one of the older brothers of the narrator of the first book, Daniel. To say that Colin treated him badly for much of their lives is an understatement. Much of Daniel’s anxiety and insecurity, as revealed in the first book, has been caused by how his family treated him after the death of his mother, but the worst of it comes from Colin, especially after he discovers Daniel on his knees in front of one of Colin’s high-school friends. Colin’s behavior would be bad enough on its own, but toward the end of Daniel’s book, he discovers that Colin is gay also, a fact that makes Colin’s awful behavior all the more inexcusable. Of course, there is an explanation. Daniel represents everything that Colin feels like he can’t have. Instead, he’s deeply buried in the closet, he’s stuck in a cycle of self-loathing and resentment, and his coping mechanisms are largely self-destructive behaviors. One of these is hooking up in dark alleys with strangers he picks up in bars. But when one of these hook-ups turns into a vicious beating, he is rescued by Rafael Guerrera.

Rafe, too, has secrets from his troubled past that he would rather keep hidden, but now his life has a purpose. He volunteers with several organizations and works for a nonprofit group that offers a safe place for LGBTQ youth, and he’s got a positive, supportive family. All of this keeps him so busy that he doesn’t have time to date, but something about Colin, even when he’s at rock bottom, makes Rafe want to explore the attraction and to try to help Colin through his troubles. As their relationship develops, we learn that Colin isn’t just an asshole. He’s got good in him, but whenever his family is a part of his thought process, especially Daniel, the attitude and resentment rush to the forefront.

This story has much more angst than the first novel, not just because of Colin’s struggle but also because events reveal Rafe’s past as well, things that result in both of their lives spiraling down a painful path. Naturally, Colin’s self-destructive tendencies spoil things between them at the worst possible time. And to top it all off, it happens just before the event that causes Daniel to come home to Philadelphia for the scenes told in the first book. This time, we get to hear Colin’s thoughts during the shared scenes of familial strife, things that perhaps make his behavior more understandable if no less despicable. We also get to see the ramifications of these scenes on Colin’s relationships with his brothers, since unlike Daniel, Colin still lives and works with his family. It’s definitely not a pretty course of events, but out of everything in the book, the way the author handled this family issue was my favorite part of the book, and the lessons Colin and Rafe take from their ordeals set them back on the path to a happy future.

I had a lot of difficulty getting past my hatred of Colin as a character, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to say he redeemed himself by the end of the Out of Nowhere, the story did make him tolerable at least. While I didn’t enjoy it as much as its predecessor, mainly for that reason, I think having my initial negative mindset about Colin made for a unique reading experience. In all, this book once again indicates a promising future in the genre for Roan Parrish. I will definitely be looking for more good work from her in the future.

I purchased copies of both In the Middle of Somewhere and Out of Nowhere prior to starting my tenure reviewing at this site.

Where We Left Off (Middle of Somewhere, #3)
Roan Parrish
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Expected September 26, 2016

Leo Ware may be young, but he knows what he wants. And what he wants is Will Highland. Snarky, sophisticated, fiercely opinionated Will Highland, who burst into Leo’s unremarkable life like a supernova… and then was gone just as quickly.

For the past miserable year, Leo hasn’t been able to stop thinking about the powerful connection he and Will shared. So, when Leo moves to New York for college, he sweeps back into Will’s life, hopeful that they can pick up where they left off. What begins as a unique friendship soon burns with chemistry they can’t deny… though Will certainly tries.

But Leo longs for more than friendship and hot sex. A romantic to his core, Leo wants passion, love, commitment—everything Will isn’t interested in giving. Will thinks romance is a cheesy fairytale and love is overrated. He likes his space and he’s happy with things just the way they are, thank you very much. Or is he? Because as he and Leo get more and more tangled up in each other’s lives, Will begins to act like maybe love is something he could feel after all.

Roan Parrish

Roan Parrish is currently wandering between Philadelphia and New Orleans, drowning out her cat's complaints at riding int he car by singing along to the radio at ever-increasing volumes. A former academic, she's used to writing things that no one reads. She still loves to geek out about books, movies, TV, and music—now, though, she's excited to be writing the kind of romantic, angsty stories that she loves to escape into.

When not writing, she can usually be found cutting her friends' hair, meandering through whatever city she's in while listening to torch songs and melodic death metal, or cooking overly elaborate meals. One time she may or may not have baked a six-layer chocolate cake and then thrown it out the window in a fit of pique. She loves bonfires, winter beaches, minor chord harmonies, and self-tattooing.

Sign up here for her newsletter to receive updates about new reeases, works-in-progress, and bonus materials like sneak peeks and extra scenes!

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Blog Tour: An Evidence of Magic: Kris Michaels & Patricia A. Knight

An Evidence of Magic (Everlight #1)
Kris Michaels & Patricia A. Knight
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Released September 5, 2016
Buy Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Kobo

Forty-year-old, hard bitten, foul-mouthed, homicide detective, Hiro Santos, suspects the owner of the art studio committed the gory killing. Too bad. There are other things he'd like to do to the gorgeous young man than book him for murder. Worse, his sexy suspect is certifiable. The nutcase claims he's some kind of high wizard from an alternate reality and needs Hiro's help to save their worlds.

While the striking Sable Campion appears a youthful twenty-five, he’s endured over two-hundred lonely years as guardian of the portal between Everlight and Elysium. None of those centuries offered him any experience finding a vicious killer. That's where Hiro Santos comes in; but convincing the virile detective to trust Sable will take all his persuasive skills...and perhaps a bit of magic.

The magic they find in each other's arms will rock each of their realities.

Prior to developing my recent addiction to reading M/M romances, the vast majority of my reading for pleasure was in the form of novels broadly classified as speculative fiction—anything from science fiction and epic fantasy to dystopian societies and alternate universes. I’ve also mentioned before that I spent a good bit of my teenage years reading mystery novels. So, with An Evidence of Magic, I get a little bit of all three—a crime-procedural in an alternate reality featuring two guys who fall in love—as the start of a series that has a lot of potential to be interesting for other reasons too.

Sable Campion is a high wizard and the protector of one of the four magical portals between his home world of Elysium and the parallel universe of Everlight. The other three guardians and three members of the White Council have been brutally murdered, and he’s been tasked to figure out who the killer is. He returns to his home in Everlight through the secret portal only to find someone else has been murdered. In his art studio and the police are already there. The latest gory crime scene is just another day for Hiro Santos, the tough, vulgar, forty-year-old Everlight City homicide detective who catches the case. Sable is his prime suspect, and the cockamamie story Sable weaves about being a wizard from an alternate reality? Yeah, the guy may be inhumanly attractive, but he’s obviously crazy and a killer. In order to save both their worlds, they will need to work together, a partnership that might work just as well in the bedroom too.

Regardless of the specific type of speculative fiction I’m reading, what pulls me into the story is the world the author builds. The story here takes place mostly in Everlight City, part of an alternate reality not that much different from our own. The rest of the scenes happen in Elysium, a magical parallel universe only structurally similar to either ours or Everlight. We don’t get to see much about Elysium in this book, and I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about it, but the dualism created with this first book of the series makes me hope the authors will delve into some of the social ramifications in future books, as these sorts of commentaries are what separates decent spec-fic books from really good ones.

The fact that there are portals between the two universes is not known to many people in Everlight, but the fact that the residents of the nearly utopian Elysium have no idea how to deal with violent crimes means Sable needs help, and Hiro is the perfect man for the job. This story isn’t a mystery so much as a police procedural, so don’t expect to be able to figure out who the culprit is until it becomes obvious to the characters. I mention this because I was reading it as a mystery instead, and while I haven’t allowed that to affect my rating, I was disappointed because I had been looking for clues that weren’t there. Looking at it after-the-fact as a procedural, it’s a straightforward story that’s easy to follow and interesting enough to have kept me turning the page.

The romance itself is fairly straightforward too, once Hiro realizes Sable’s abilities are not just a bunch of hocus-pocus slight-of-hand. It’s essentially an insta-lust/love story, but the dynamic between them is interesting for an unexpected reason. Hiro is your stereotypical 110%-alpha-male cop who doesn’t do relationships and, at forty, has been around long enough to be completely jaded about pretty much everything. What he doesn’t realize about Sable is that in spite of looking to be in his twenties, he’s actually much, much older… by a factor-of-ten. So Sable’s more than familiar with Hiro’s type. Sable’s magic also gives him the power of persuasion, though his powers seem strangely ineffective against Hiro. At any rate, the attraction is inevitable, but Sable knows he’s gotta let the alpha make the first move.

Once they do get together, it’s intense right from the start. Because of this, I was a little concerned about the remaining sex scenes in the book. I have read one book by Kris Michaels prior to this and had an issue with one of the characters that resulted from the initial sex scene. While I didn’t have a similar problem here, I did have a problem as the book progressed. Granted, there will be many readers who find the chemistry and resulting sex between them to be amazing in every single scene—and I’ll agree that the chemistry is quite good—but after the first couple of scenes, they started to feel overdone. There wasn’t much sexual tension in the book, and the insta-lust/love meant this isn’t a slow build. So add to that my impression of the sex scenes being over the top, and it made me a little less than thrilled at the end. Now all that being said, one of the scenes in particular—the magic-drunk scene—was quite hot indeed.

An Evidence of Magic is my second exposure to Kris Michael and my first to Patricia A. Knight. While I’m usually let down a little with romances couched in a second genre for the simple reason that the story isn’t long enough to do either facet justice, I was pleased with this story overall, a feat made all the more remarkable by the fact that there are two background genres in play here. It is the start of a series, and my fascination with the world the authors have built is enough to make me look forward to reading the next one. My only hope is that the romance in the next one will be a little more understated.

The authors generously provided me a complimentary copy of An Evidence of Magic in exchange for this fair and honest review.


Kris Michaels 

Kris Michaels is the alter ego of a happily married wife and mother who loves to write erotic romance with a twist of military flavor.

A chance meeting and immediate friendship with an established author propelled Kris into a world where her lifelong fantasy of publishing romance novels came true! Her vivid imagination and erotic fantasies evolved into the Kings of Guardian Series now under contract to be published with Troll River Publishing.

Kris believes in meeting life head on…as long as there is an ample supply of coffee, whiskey and wine! She believes love makes this crazy life worthwhile. When she isn’t writing Kris enjoys a busy life with her husband, the cop, and her two wonderful sons.


Patricia A. Knight 

Patricia A. Knight is the pen name for an eternal romantic who lives in Dallas, Texas surrounded by her horses, dogs and the best man on the face of the earth – oh yeah, and the most enormous bullfrogs you will ever see. Word to the wise: don’t swim in the pool after dark.



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Cover Reveal: The Complete Explosive Series: Tessa Teevan


Title: The Complete Explosive Series
Author: Tessa Teevan
Cover Photo by Eric Battershell Photography
Cover Model: Andrew Cleveland
Cover Designer: Robin Harper at Wicked by Design
Release Date: Oct 18, 2016
For the first time ever, all five stories in the Explosive series have been packaged into one hot box set and will only be available for a limited time. Pre-Order for just 99 cents! The price will increase on release day, so don’t miss out on the sale!

Fall in love with the entire gang in the Explosive series! Each standalone romance contains saucy heroines, sexy heroes, and a whole lot of love between the pages. Enjoy five incredible stories whose pages are loaded with passionate love, burning desire, and a whole lot of steam! Second chance romance, friends with benefits, surprise pregnancy, marriage of convenience, and laugh out loud friends to lovers, what more could you want?

Ignite, #1
Alexa Sullivan-Tate, a young widow, and Jace McAllister, her first love, reconnect in this passionate second-chance romance. But when love has slipped through your fingertips before, how can you trust it will once again remain? They loved and lost before, but can they dispel the ghosts of the past and discover a new future?

Incinerate, #2
Sparks fly and tempers flare when Charlie Davenport, a feisty brunette, crosses paths with wounded warrior, Knox Wellington. Their chemistry is undeniable, but the chip on his shoulder threatens to destroy any hope of him wooing the sweet, southern volunteer send to help with his rehabilitation. Head butts, patience is tested, and flames of passion ignite as they dance around their mutual attraction, both jaded from broken pasts. Will they finally be able to get over the pain of the past or will their relationship be reduced to ashes before it can actually begin?

Inflame, #3
For sexy soldier Kale Montgomery and sweet, sassy schoolteacher Lucy Dawson, love was never in the cards. Their relationship, though unconventional, is mutually beneficial. One fateful night changes their lives forever in ways they could never imagine, giving them the push to admit that maybe, just maybe, they want more than they let on. Will Kale and Lucy realize what they’ve been waiting for is each other, or will the whirlwind of their romance cause the passion to burn out too quickly, causing it all to go up in smoke?

Intoxicate, #4
Kalli Montgomery never expected to propose to Xavier Cruz, even though she’s been in love with the sexy, single father for as long as she can remember. He never expected to accept, but when circumstance threatens to take his daughter from him, he’ll do whatever it takes, even if it means marrying a woman he doesn’t love. This marriage of convenience has one rule: absolutely no falling in love. Easier said than done. Throw together a girl who believes rules are meant to be broken, and a man whose entire career revolves around following orders, you get a recipe for disaster. What could possibly go wrong?

Fusion, #5
Where do babies come from? The question every parent dreads hearing has finally fallen from the lips of six-year-old Ava Banks, the curious, precocious daughter of high school sweethearts, Jeremy and Sierra. Normally blunt as can be, they find themselves struggling to find the right words to answer her. So instead, they rewind sixteen years to that one fateful day where a game of Seven Minutes in Heaven inevitably led to life-long romance filled with laughter, love, and many, many mishaps along the way.

Falling in love with your best friend? It's the most incredible thing in the world. As long as it lasts. When the world comes crashing down around you, can even the strongest relationship withstand great tragedy?
Tessa is a twenty-something book junkie who’s obsessed with sports and cycling. She’s been married to her own book boyfriend for nearly ten years whose traits often show up in her books. If she’s not writing or looking through tons of photos of hot men, all in the name of research, then you can probably find her curled up with my Kindle, ignoring the rest of the world. She loves my sports almost as much as she loves her books. Her other obsessions include red wine, hot men, country music, and all things Grace Potter.
  
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Teaser Blitz: The Trouble with Mistletoe: Jill Shalvis


   
From New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis comes a captivating story of love, second chances and new beginnings...

THE TROUBLE WITH MISTLETOE - cover


The Trouble with Mistletoe
A Heartbreaker Bay novel
Pre-Order: Amazon | iBooks | Kobo| Barnes & Noble
Add to your Goodreads

Releasing 9/27/2016

If she has her way…

Willa Davis is wrangling puppies when Keane Winters stalks into her pet shop with frustration in his chocolate-brown eyes and a pink bedazzled cat carrier in his hand. He needs a kitty sitter, stat. But the last thing Willa needs is to rescue a guy who doesn’t even remember her…

…He’ll get nothing but coal in his stocking.

Saddled with his great-aunt’s Feline from Hell, Keane is desperate to leave her in someone else’s capable hands. But in spite of the fact that he’s sure he’s never seen the drop-dead gorgeous pet shop owner before, she seems to be mad at him…

Unless he tempers “naughty” with a special kind of nice…

Willa can’t deny that Keane’s changed since high school: he’s less arrogant, for one thing—but he doesn’t even remember her. How can she trust him not to break her heart again? It’s time to throw a coin in the fountain, make a Christmas wish–and let the mistletoe do its work…

  ttwm-teaser-5_teaserblitz      
He opened the passenger door for her but caught her before she could slide in. “You’re cold.”

Actually, she was freezing. “I forgot my jacket this morning—No, don’t give me yours,” she said when he made to take his off. 
So instead he spread it open and wrapped as much of it around her as possible. Chest to chest, thighs to things…and everything in between mashed up against each other all cozy like. 
Except it didn’t feel cozy. 
It felt…sexy as hell. 
It would’ve taken more control than she held to keep her hands to herself. He wrapped herself around him, letting her fingers trail up the sculpted muscles of his back. 
At her touch, his gaze met hers, dark and heated. Oh boy. She was in trouble here, and she forced herself to back away and get into her seat. 
A minute later, he’d rounded the front of the truck and slid in behind the wheel. He craned around to eyeball Pita like she was a pissed-off rattlesnake. 
Willa laughed and Keane turned all that concentrated hotness on her. “What?” 
“I’m picturing Petunia coming back from the dead to haunt you.” 
With a small smile, he leaned in close and slid his fingers along her jaw. “You think that’s funny?” 
“I’d do the same thing.” 
His mouth quirked. “Revengeful, huh?” 
“Absolutely.” 
His fingers still on her jaw, he let his thumb slide lightly over her lower lip, making it hunger for a touch. 
His touch. 
No, make that his mouth. She wanted his mouth on hers and wasn’t that just annoying as hell. “This isn’t happening,” she said out loud, because surely that would make it true. 
“What isn’t?” he asked. “Dinner with me despite you saying that the devil himself couldn’t drag your cold, dead corpse out on a date with me, even if I was…how did you put it? Hot as balls?” 
“I didn’t say that!” She felt her face flush. She was doing her best to desperately hold on to her resentment over their past, but even she could admit she was quickly losing the battle here, to curiosity. 
And lust. 
“If you’re going to eavesdrop,” she said with as much dignity as she could, which wasn’t much, “at least get your facts straight.” 
He just laughed, a sexy sound that woke up all her happy spots, damn him. And he knew it too. She sunk in her seat a little, crossed her arms over her chest and looked out the window. “Be amused all you want, I’m holding firm.” 
He didn’t look worried. 
Which in turn worried her. 
And don’t miss the first novel in Jill Shalvis’ Heartbreaker Bay Series, SWEET LITTLE LIES, now available! Grab your copy HERE!

SWEET LITTLE LIES - cover
Jill Shalvis - headshotJill Shalvis

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s sexy contemporary and award-winning books wherever romances are sold and click on the blog button above for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.


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