Review: When the Rogue Returns (The Duke’s Men, Book 2) by Sabrina Jeffries

When the Rogue ReturnsHero: Victor Cale just recently learned of his wife’s whereabouts after she abandoned him and said their marriage was a mistake. She left him to face the consequences of the crime she and her family colluded to and executed so effortlessly under his nose. He plans to confront her and seek justice for all the injuries they and she inflicted on him through their perjury. His broken heart is at the top of that list.

Heroine: Isa Cale, hiding under an assumed name, Sofe Franke, is angry and frightened when her husband shows up in Edinburgh ten years after he deserted her. Why is he there? Why now? What does he want? Does he know of their child? Does he want to trick her or force her into illegal activities again? Well, he’s about to find out that Isa is not the timid little mouse he married. She’s got teeth and she’s willing to do what it takes to protect her daughter.

Review: It’s clear from the beginning that the hero and heroine are laboring under a big misunderstanding. A decade spent apart and a series of lies has torn their fledging marriage into two and two hearts are grieving for the loss of a love they both thought was true. Their double-speak when they first meet again is quite entertaining. Victor’s reaction to Isa’s feelings, about the pet name he gave her, is particularly heart-wrenching. He did not realize he’d been so misunderstood! He’s quick to come up with an alternative. Both are unique to the heroine and I love that. What great about this novel is that Sabrina Jeffries knits both hearts, both characters, slowly back together. Trust is a big issue for them both and it’s a delight to see them work through the fabrications and make amends for back judgments in the past. It’s also nice to know that even while they trust, they did both still have doubts and had to fight to overcome them time and again. It made for a realistic read. I also enjoyed that the story took place outside of the usual London setting. Not a book to be missed!

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: When the Rogue Returns (The Duke’s Men)

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Review: Magic Moment by Angela Adams

Magic Moment by Angela AdamsReviewed by Cara Lynn

I liked this book a lot and rate it 5 out of 5 stars. Romantic suspense, my favorite genre. Warning: near rape.

The book opens with Laura Roberts being hauled in for questioning by two FBI agents who will stop at nothing to get the information they need. They are very intimidating, and it isn’t clear if they really are FBI agents, considering how they take her away and how quickly they flash id which cannot be read. I thought she was less than smart in going with them without a lawyer, even though Chase Donovan had tried to intervene.

She is a bookkeeper in Chase and his father’s warehouse business. She has been quietly doing her job.

Next thing you know, the next morning she resigns from her position. Then things get violent and gruesome when she is drugged in the back of a limo, overhears what two thugs have planned for her (violent rape, then death), and they begin to make ‘good’ on their threats.

Chase is a complex character whose mother was sweet and loving, and whose father is anything but. He appears to be only a playboy, spending money, gambling, multiple women, but there is more to him than what appears.

On a night when his father has invited him to dinner, he decides to go to his boat to get away from the life he is leading — and there he stumbles across the two men with Laura. Lucky for her.

It is clear someone wants her dead so she cannot inform on them to the FBI. She has no idea what it might be that they are after. She knows that it is Chase’s father who has set her up for the assault.

The why and wherefore is the book’s story. The reader has to suspend belief in some instances, but not to the point of the ridiculous. The characters are well drawn and believable. I liked the character of Chase’s aunt. One wonders sometimes why they were able to stay safe, as they don’t take some of the precautions that I thought of. But Chase knows what would make his father hesitate, and it is a good solution for both of them and provides for some almost-misunderstandings along the way, as well as some misunderstandings.

It’s considered a sensual novel, but it is not crude, and the sex is within a loving relationship, not erotica.

P.S. The near rape scene is as violent as I would ever want to read, even moreso. Because it is not in a military or spy situation, but just a regular woman, it is more gut wrenching, because you know she doesn’t have any super powers up her sleeve, yet at the same time since the genre is romantic suspense you don’t expect her to be killed — and you hope she isn’t raped. You also know that Chase is already on the way, unsuspecting, and you are pretty sure he will get there in time, but it is touch and go.

This book was given to me in digitally to review for LRP.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: Magic Moment

Review: Down and out in Beverly Heels by Kathryn Leigh Scott

Down and out in Beverly HeelsThis was a fun book to read and very well written. I read an ARC provided by LRP. There were a few mistakes, but not many, and it didn’t detract at all from the story. It is considered a romantic comedy. Not to mention it has a clever title!

The story: Meg Barnes used to have it all. An actress at the top of her game with a long running TV show in which she played a detective, she is now reduced to living out of her car, literally. She has lost it all, because her second husband has more or less faked his own kidnapping and disappeared after bilking many, including friends, out of a great deal of money in a real estate scam.

Of course there is more to it than that.

The book starts with a prologue where we feel Meg’s pain, fear, and confusion when she gets the phone call from her husband saying he was kidnapped.

The main characters: Meg is a delightful heroine, spunky, honest, forthright. The only thing she hides is that she is homeless, even though she does have good friends who look after her and would house her. Even they do not know she is homeless. She moves her car around so she isn’t caught; sleeps sometimes in what seems to be a safe garage; finds ways to shower and eat… And now she has to pre-audition before she can even audition.

Enter Donna, a fellow volunteer at Meals-on-Wheels who offers her a bedroom and friendship. Donna treats her like family, doesn’t admit she realized she was homeless, and has plenty of spunk on her own.

The two team up against the odds to have a new life and find Meg’s husband who turns out to have more flaws and a different past than he has let on.

Love: FBI agent Jack Mitchell is pretty sure Meg is innocent, but even he wants to know if she knows where her husband is. He would like to take her to dinner, but she’s not sure that is a good idea. Lucky for her, he knows his job. And by the book’s end, it is clear they will be a couple. It’s a love story of sorts, but heavier on the mystery solving, and only a few kisses and that is after the case is solved.

Humor: Most of the humor is how Meg looks at things and the comments she makes about the fresh-faced youngsters now running the industry. And it is funny — and I expect funnier if you really were on the inside of this industry. Scott knows what she is writing about. She is known for having starred as the doomed fiancee of Barnabas Collis in the TV series Dark Shadows. She has written other books.

My take: It is well written, fast paced; has quirky characters, some great lines, including a couple that give clues to the ending; and a surprising and dangerous conclusion.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: Down and Out in Beverly Heels

What Drives a Highland Laird to Kidnap and Why Do We Read It?

HighlandersPrize

Guest Post by Mary Wine, author of The Highlander’s Prize

Good Morning Folks!

This isn’t the first time I’ve addressed the topic of kidnapping in romance novels. Honestly, it’s one of my favorite themes to read. Why? Well from the stand point of entertainment, I think we all love stories about someone rising above overwhelming odds. I just saw the Hunger Games and really enjoyed it but let’s face it, the story is really extreme.

From a historical stand point, possession was nine tenths of the law in these periods. Among nobles it was common to foster children with other nobles and that wasn’t always done because the parents thought the other family would do a good job of raising their children. Many people were summoned to Court simply so they could be kept watch over. Kidnapping, wasn’t the same sort that we think of today. In the case of history, it was more a situation of having a reluctant guest.

In ‘The Highlander’s Prize’ my heroine Clarrisa is already being used as a pawn. She’s in Scotland because her family sent her and the law gives them the right. That doesn’t mean she’s happy about being kidnapped but it is a relief at the time that my hero takes her away from her arranged marriage.

Today, we’re shocked by the idea of arranged matches but in times past, they were the best means of survival. If your family could make a deal with another family that had wealth, you took the intimate part of the marriage in stride because starving was a blunt reality in these times. If you married poorly, winter might just be your last season.

But that’s all beside the point. Really, we just love to indulge ourselves in a moment of knowing that some handsome hunk is interested only in us and that he’ll challenge anyone or thing to have us. That’s the draw in kidnapping stories. The hero so always noble and kind and hunky…and hunky, did I say that part? Kilts allow for a lot of hunk-ness admiring.

I hope you’ll all enjoy my little highlander tale. ‘The Highlander’s Prize’ is on sale now. Please come over to my FaceBook author page and like it.

Cheers!

Mary Wine

Marywine.com

Excerpt from The Highlander’s Prize

“Ye sleep like a babe. Unconcerned as though the world is a peaceful place. Maturity should have taught ye differently, but I suppose I can nae be expecting any royal offspring to know much about life’s harsher edges.”

Laird MacNicols was a giant. He was poised on his hunches, the edges of his plaid just brushing the ground. She gained a glimpse of his well-made boots with antler horn buttons running up their sides before he muttered something to Shaw in Gaelic.

Fear twisted through her because Shaw’s eyes were icy and she recalled clearly what the other Highlander wanted to do with her.

Shaw was leaning against a rock, his long sword cradled across his lap. “She’s the one, sure enough. The only other was wearing a wimple and well past her prime. Saw them both get out of that wagon meself. There were nae any other females.”

The laird had blue eyes—startling with how intense they were. His hair was fair but streaked with hints of red. It hung down to his shoulders, with a section of it braided to keep it out of his eyes. There was an uncivilized way about him that had nothing to do with the common clothing he wore. It was in his eyes and the corded muscles so clearly visible on his arms and legs. He was not a man who had others do his bidding.

But his sword was fine. The pommel was clearly visible beyond his left shoulder and the rising sun illuminated the gold hilt. A blue sapphire winked at her from where it was set into a crest that included a rampant lion—A noble creature, only men with noble blood could use such an animal on his belongings. It meant he was more than just a clan laird. He had blue blood flowing through his veins.

The sight sent her struggling away from him, but the fabric still bound her. His lips twitched up, amusement sparkling in his eyes.

“Now, why the hurry to place distance between us, Clarrisa of York? Did I nae see to yer comfort quite nicely?”

“Your man wants to slit my throat. Why wouldn’t I want to be away from you?.”

He shrugged. “Shaw believes it a necessary thing, since yer kin seem to think we need their troubles spreading here to Scotland.” His grin faded. “Something I am nae in favor of either.”

“Neither am I.”

Surprise flickered in his blue eyes. “The way I heard it, ye were fixing to wait on our king like some fat pasha from the Far East.”

There was thick disapproval in his tone and he stood up. He was dismissing her—condemning her, actually. She struggled and sat up in spite of the fabric binding her.

“You understand naught.” She sputtered. “It was a ruse, to delay him.”

He returned his dark blue gaze to her, but there was a slight mocking arch to one eyebrow now. “Well then, lass, I’m listening sure enough. Why do nae ye explain to me what ye’re doing in me country and with me king?”

Why was she begging?

Because she wanted to live.

Heat stung her cheeks because she was ashamed at just how easily she had been reduced to whimpering. It wasn’t the first time she’d had no one to depend upon except herself. She drew in a deep breath and tried to collect her courage.

“I was sent here by my family. The ruse enacted to gain me freedom from the tower room your king intended to use to breed me like a mare.” The sting in her cheeks doubled as she spoke. “So…you see…we desire the same thing.”

He bent his knees so he was able to scrutinize her once more on the same level. He had his share of arrogance but what surprised her was the amusement lurking in his eyes.

“Do we now?” He muttered softly. “I have to doubt ye on that, since ye turned to flee from me.”

“I couldn’t willingly go with you when one of your men wants to kill me.”

He shrugged again. There was enough light from the rising sun now to show her thick muscles bulging along his arms and chest. His lips parted and his teeth flashed at her when he grinned at her. “I told ye it would nae be happening and I am laird.” His expression hardened. “But ye are still the natural daughter of Edward the Fourth of England and might well be accomplished in the art of twisting words.”

“I am hardly the only child he is rumored to have fathered outside his marriage.” She struggled against the fabric binding her again, feeling too helpless by far caught in its folds.

“I hear Edward acknowledged ye, which means a great deal, considering how rare noble blood is becoming due to yer war of the roses.”

He reached out and grabbed the fabric beneath her chin. A moment later she was on her feet. Her feet shifted, her balance unsteady because her toes had gone numb sometime during the night.

“Henry Tudor has wed Elizabeth of York. The War of the Roses is finished now because York and Lancaster are united.” She explained.

“But Henry has nae had her crowned queen and ye are here, brought under cover of darkness to a lone tower where James of Scotland sneaks away to meet with ye. Now that is suspicious, lass, and no mistake. But it is also dangerous for me and my clan, for we have enough troubles without ye giving James a son with York blood. Ye tried to flee when I offered ye freedom, which means ye might well be intent on becoming a powerful Queen through yer son.”

“I told you why I tried to run.”

He chuckled, but it wasn’t a pleasant sound. “Am I to trust ye, then?” He stepped closer, maintaining a firm grip on the fabric to keep her in place. “Will ye offer to bathe me with yer delicate hands, Clarrisa? To show me how adept ye are at common chores? From what the young maid told me, ye claim to have more practice at polishing men’s weapons. Mind ye, I am no’ saying I would nae enjoy ye proving yer gratefulness in such a fashion.”

Her jaw dropped open but the sound that emerged was a snarl. Full of rage and frustration, she actually lowered her chin and tried to bite the hand securing her in front of him.

“I shall not! You’re a blackard to suggest such a thing.”

He laughed at her, jerking his hand away before she sunk her teeth into his flesh. She stumbled and would have landed on her backside, but someone caught her floundering body from behind and her face burned bright red as she listened to his men enjoy her shame. Someone yanked the length of wool off her and she spun around like a child playing in a spring meadow. When the last of the wool plaid fell away she was dizzy. Her captor gripped her wrists while she struggled to maintain her balance and wrapped a length of leather around them. He knotted the ends firmly before giving a satisfied grunt.

“I am Broen MacNicols and ye will be leaving, lass, but ye will be traveling with me to the Highlands where I can be sure ye are nae adding to the troubles in me country. Give me men any frustration and I’ll let them keep ye bundled like a babe.”

“Brute.” She accused. “Uncivilized… Highlander.”

Buy: The Highlander’s Prize

From Angel to Vampire and Everything In-between…

Guest Blog by Tes Hilaire, author of Deliver Me from Darkness

“Paladin?” Karissa asked sharply, gaze lifting from the meal Logan had made her.

Logan’s eyes narrowed. “How much do you know about us?”

She pushed away the messy remains of her uneaten sandwich in exasperation, folding her arms across her chest. “I have no idea what you are talking about. I thought Paladin were some sort of elite warrior back during the Crusades or something.”

He shook his head. “The name was hijacked. The first Paladin came into being centuries before the Crusades started.”

“Came into being?”

“Created, by the one God. Each Paladin warrior was chosen from volunteers who stepped forward from His ranks of angels. They were given various gifts and sent to earth to protect His children from the evils seeping into the world.”

Whoa. God? Angels? Karissa fidgeted on her stool, unable to make eye contact. He was waiting for some sort of answer though, so she gave him the only one she could. “That’s…I don’t know.”

“Hard to take in?”

Excerpt from Deliver Me from Darkness © Tes Hilaire, Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2012

Oh yeah, I’ll say, and harder still for Karissa to learn that Roland, her “kidnapper” and a vampire, had once been one of these elite warriors. The only person who may have been more surprised by these revelations was perhaps me. No really, when I started writing Deliver Me from Darkness I had no intention of writing a warrior story. Nor did I have any thoughts whatsoever that my vampire hero was in fact a fallen angel. At that point I was merely trying to iron out who my protagonists were and at the very beginnings of my brainstorming for Deliver Me from Darkness all I had was a vampire hero, Roland (badly in need of redemption) and a heroine, Karissa (who, though spunky, hadn’t yet made it beyond her basic role of typical damsel). It wasn’t until I’d made it through the first couple chapters that I came to terms with the fact that though my hero and heroine sizzled on the page, the actual story wasn’t going to go anywhere without help.

Luckily I’d already inserted within the pages the one thing that had the ability to create the conflict I needed: Logan, Roland’s honorable best friend and the one man who’d stuck by my hero’s side after Roland became a vampire. I hadn’t considered Logan all that important before, and had even considered cutting him from the pages though thankfully hadn’t as he quickly became the focus of those driving questions that kicked my plot in gear. See, what if Logan had done more than “stick by” Roland? What if Logan was some sort of hunter whose life goal was to eradicate the likes of his best friend from the world? What if Roland had also been one of these hunters? And, oh, better, what if Logan had been assigned to kill Roland after he was turned, but hadn’t because Logan believed in his friend’s inherent goodness? What if that loyalty was now challenged because of the arrival of our heroine Karissa? My story was coming together with all kinds of potential for conflict. Now all I had to do was to hammer out the details, which meant, ugh, research.

By this point I knew I wanted to find some sort of legendary group of men of which I could use to form the basis for my warrior/hunter culture, but other than that I was pretty much adrift. I’m not sure what started me on the crusades, other than it’s a bit of history that’s always fascinated me. Regardless, it was during my dredging of information that I stumbled upon The Song of Roland. One of the oldest surviving major works of French literature, the song romanticizes the 8th century Battle of Roncevaux Pass in which Roland, commanding the rear guard of Charlemagne’s army, is betrayed by Ganelon and ambushed by their enemies.

The song is embroiled in political and personal intrigue and paints none of the players as angelic visages or infallible warriors, but there was something of interest: It is the first literary work to mention the twelve Paladins. Twelve religious warriors, a number representative of King Author’s round table and the number of disciples in Christian scripture. I thought, what if these men had been in this battle, not as a product of political or cultural intolerance of the time, but on their own mission? What if they were taking orders directly from a higher power, their goal to keep religious artifacts (a coveted prize often at the foundation of the Crusades) out of the hands of true evil?  What if my Paladins were actually volunteer angels come down from Heaven to protect His children from Lucifer’s evil army?

I turned back to the song, reading again of Ganelon and his sense of jealousy, his paranoia that Roland had set him up to be killed. The character imperfections I’d originally been frowning over became useful rather than a detriment to my goal of creating a band of heroic warriors. For what is more heroic than a man who overcomes his faults? So my Paladins developed human foibles and emotions. And these human qualities—foreign to these volunteer angels until now, but necessary to understand the war of temptation that Lucifer wages—became one of the greatest challenges they face. And something that they must learn to embrace if they have hope of winning their war against evil and finding true love.

Deliver Me From Darkness - Tes Hilaire Cover

DELIVER ME FROM DARKNESS BY TES HILAIRE – IN STORES FEBRUARY 2012

A STRANGER IN THE NIGHT…

He had once been a warrior of the Light, one of the revered Paladin. A protector. But now he lives in darkness, and the shadows are his sanctuary. Every day is a struggle to overcome the bloodlust. Especially the day Karissa shows up at his doorstep.

COMES KNOCKING ON THE DOOR…

She is light and bright and everything beautiful—despite her scratches and torn clothes. Every creature of the night is after her. So is every male Paladin. Because Karissa is the last female of their kind. But she is his. He may not have a soul, but he can’t deny his heart.

Buy: Deliver Me from Darkness

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Daphne Award-winning author Tes Hilaire started creating whole new worlds to escape upstate New York’s harsh winters before finally fleeing to sultry North Carolina. Her stories are edgy, exciting, and bring a hint of dark fantasy to paranormal romance. And no one ever has to shovel snow. For more, visit www.teshilaire.com.

GIVEAWAY: I have 2 copies of Deliver Me from Darkness for 2 lucky winners from US or Canada. Enter by leaving a comment! Last day to enter: Feb 24, 2012.

Review: The Highest Stakes of All by Sara Craven

Heroine: Joanna Veron is somewhere around 19. In her father’s world she plays at being a high maintenance vapid beauty, but inside she’s really just a sweetheart looking for a way out of her father’s lifestyle (without having to go to her perfectly nice uncle) ever since a particularly bad incident when they were living in Australia where they swindled a youngish man named Peter out of a lot of money. She extracts a promise from her father to never use her in such a manner again, but of course Denys doesn’t hold to it for long.

Hero: Vassos Gordanis (I see his name and think vaseline) is somewhere in his 30s. He’s out for revenge against Denys and Joanna (though of course she’s clueless.) When he wins Joanna in a high stakes poker game he believes he has the chance to accomplish both punishments as he believes Joanna is Denys mistress. Obviously he’s not buying the “she’s my niece” they both claimed ever since Joanna joined her father on his jaunts around the gambling dens of the world. (Why does Joanna allow this? Gross.)

Favorite Moment: The first and second time they make love when he learns of her innocence (read virginity surprise!) and then tries to teach her about lovemaking which she tries so hard to hate … There’s flavors of Stockholm Syndrome in this, but honestly it worked for me because there’s also the play on the Persephone myth.

Missed Opportunity:
If I remember right they were talking about her real relationship to Denys, but it could also have easily alluded to her virgin state.

Vassos: Why didn’t you tell me?
Joanna’s answer should have been: Would you have believed me?

It seems like a perfectly standard response, but it never came up.

TSTL Ending: Why did the HEA have to include a flowery all is forgiven resolution between Joanna and Denys? What a crappy way to tie it off. Sometimes splitting family units is okay and in this case her dad is such a scumbag there’s really no way I’d buy his remorse and sudden “Oh shut up” speech to his new wife (whom he married right after Joanna was taken by Vassos to avoid his debts and to get the hell out of dodge, the bastard didn’t even look for her to get her back.)

Rating: ★★★★☆ – I know the rating seems incongruent with the story’s flaws, but I’m also factoring in the *guilty pleasure* I got out of it, because what worked, worked really well for me.

Buy: The Highest Stakes of All (Harlequin Presents)

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Review: The Goblin King (Shadowlands Series, Book 1) by Shona Husk

Reviewed by Sharon S.

Now, when I first saw this title I thought “Goblin, really?” but I liked the blurb. Boy, am I glad I took a chance! This was an original and dark fairy tale. And yes, a Goblin King can be sexy <G>. More on him later…

This is a paranormal romance, but Husk took the old tried and true PNR plot formula and chucked it out the window. You still have your tortured alpha male and your strong human female, but there is more to the story than a lover’s tale and the characters don’t behave in the predictable PNR fashion. There are secondary characters, like Eliza’s controlling fiancé Steve and Roan’s brother Dai that are as well developed as our hero and heroine. We even get their POV in the story. She also meshes a fairy tale like feel with the elements of a smexy PNR giving the story a wonderfully dark and desperate feel. If I had to choose I would say it could be compared to Beauty and the Beast.

I don’t know much about Goblin myths, but Husk took these and combined them with a magic twist to create a savage and unique world where Roan and his men live called the Shadowlands.

Roan, The Goblin King, is a delicious hero. He is fighting to keep his humanity for the sake of his men, even though he wants to give in. He is always putting others needs before his, even Eliza’s who he desperately wants. Even his appearance is a break from the normal PNR hero. What I wouldn’t give to hear those beads in his hair chime <G>. You will have to read the book to see what I mean 😉 I don’t want to give anything away about the book so I won’t go into plot, but if you have been looking for something a little different in the PNR genre then give this one a try.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: The Goblin King, The Goblin King (UK)

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Review: The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton (The Burgundy Club, Book 3) by Miranda Neville

Heroine: Kidnapped, Celia Seaton is no passive miss. At the first opportunity she gets out of the attic of a two story cottage wearing only her under clothes. Stumbling upon her worst enemy (who doesn’t even know he’s her enemy because she doesn’t register on his radar) conked out across the threshold of the house, Celia hesitates on what to do. When he wakes and doesn’t know who he is a brilliant idea takes shape.

Hero: Tarquin Compton is a rich fashionable dandy (but not gentry) who collects erotic books and books on poetry. When he gets lost in the moors he stops at a cottage for directions and gets knocked out by Celia’s kidnapper. When he wakes he suffers from amnesia and buys Celia’s story that he’s her fiance. Well he buys some of it anyway, there’s no way his name is Terence Fish, which makes him wonder if he tricked Celia about who he was in order to seduce her.

Favorite Moments: When she gives him her web of lies about who he is and what he means to her, the cauliflower incident, and when she gives herself to him.

Missed Opportunity: Tarquin immediately confronts Celia about her ill use of him after the return of his memories, instead of actively trying to be the man she created for him. I thought he was really falling for her at the time and would rather go undercover to discover if she really loved him or was just using him before his confrontation. But apparently he needed to get his head on straight before he could regret his harsh actions/words.

And heroine should have said once when he was still suffering from amnesia that she loved him… all of him even the parts he couldn’t remember, because she was darn near thinking it and that would have been sweet. It would also force Tarquin to come to terms with his idiocy sooner. Luckily she rejects his reluctant and insulting proposal to patch up her now ruined reputation.

Mystery: Why is an ex-fiance/governess who has been tossed aside/dismissed for moral turpitude kidnapped? Terence Fish wants to know and so should you!

Review: A fun romp with witty banter, a plucky heroine, an amnesiac hero, and cauliflower! You won’t regret running out to get this book for your collection.

Rating: ★★★★½

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