✍🏻 Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward’s Well Played is HERE. If you love some forbidden love mixed with single parent tropes, then you should GRAB Well Played NOW. ✍🏻

Title: Well Played
Authors: Vi Keeland & Penelope Ward
Genre: Standalone Contemporary Romance
Release Date: October 25, 2021
BLURB
It all started with a bet.

When my young son inherited half of his great grandfather’s historic inn, I decided to move us both to the place where I grew up.
Notice I said half of the Inn. The other half now belonged to Levi Miller, the famous quarterback who had other ideas about what we should do with the property.
We won’t mention that I accidentally injured him during our first meeting, causing him to get eight stitches.
You could say we got off on the wrong foot.
We bickered a lot as we both moved into the property while we figured things out.
He wanted to unload the rundown place which, admittedly, needed a lot of work.
I wanted to restore The Palm Inn to its original beauty and re-open it as a bed and breakfast.
We couldn’t agree on anything. So Levi made me a proposal. One he thought I would surely lose. If I could sell out the place by the time he had to leave for training at the end of summer, he would back off and let me run it.
But in the weeks that followed, we got more than we bargained for while we were living under the same roof.
Levi and I got closer, and before I knew it, my nightly fantasies about the brawny Adonis became a reality. Not to mention, he was so great with my son.
We were in over our heads in more ways than one.
Because not only was he the last man on Earth I should be falling for because of our deal, but Levi was also my ex’s older brother.
And now the inn was the least of my problems.
PURCHASE LINKS
AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU
Free in Kindle Unlimited
VI KEELAND
Vi Keeland is a #1 New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling author. With millions of books sold, her titles have appeared in over a hundred Bestseller lists and are currently translated in twenty-five languages. She resides in New York with her husband and their three children where she is living out her own happily ever after with the boy she met at age six.
PENELOPE WARD
Penelope Ward is a New York Times, USA Today and #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling author of contemporary romance. 
She grew up in Boston with five older brothers and spent most of her twenties as a television news anchor. Penelope resides in Rhode Island with her husband, son, and beautiful daughter with autism.
With over two million books sold, she is a 21-time New York Times bestseller and the author of over twenty novels. Her books have been translated into over a dozen languages and can be found in bookstores around the world.
OTHER BOOKS BY VI & PENELOPE
AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU
Free in Kindle Unlimited
ALSO AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK & AUDIO
AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU
Free in Kindle Unlimited
ALSO AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK & AUDIO
OTHER BOOKS BY VI
AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU
AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU
OTHER BOOKS BY PENELOPE
AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU
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✍🏻 If you love insta-love, a seriously intelligent heroine, and a sullen, albeit smart hero, then you will ADORE Avery Flynn’s Neanderthal, the next book of her Last Man Standing series. ✍🏻

 

Neanderthal by Avery Flynn is now live!

So I may be in the Last Single Man Standing competition with my cousins, but five minutes around Kinsey was all it took to take myself out. Who cares about bragging rights when you’ve just found the woman you’re going to marry? Sure, she may work for my biggest competitor. Sure, she’s not dating right now. Sure, she’s my sister’s best friend and I’ve been sworn off her. But somehow she agrees to go on six fake dates to help me save face in this competition.

What does the guy who never uses his words have to say to convince the girl of his dreams that they’re perfect for each other?

Download today!
Amazon: http://mybook.to/neanderthal
Apple Books: https://apple.co/3BLEXrZ
Nook: https://bit.ly/3zDSkJa
Kobo: https://bit.ly/3BIHB1O

Start the Last Man Standing series today!
http://mybook.to/mamasboy

Goodreads: https://bit.ly/3zCc5R7

Meet Avery Flynn

When Avery Flynn isn’t writing about alpha heroes and the women who tame them, she is desperately hoping someone invents the coffee IV drip. She has three slightly wild children, loves a hockey-addicted husband, and has a slight shoe addiction. Find out more about Avery on her website, follow her on Twitter, like her on her Facebook page, or friend her on her Facebook profile. Also, if you figure out how to send Oreos through the internet, she’ll be your best friend for life. Contact her at avery@averyflynn.com. She’d love to hear from you.
 
Connect with Avery
Website | http://averyflynn.com
Goodreads | https://bit.ly/3wAEneb
Amazon | https://amzn.to/3cVovLo
Facebook | https://bit.ly/2PZlBfH
Instagram | https://bit.ly/2PZlwZr
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Bookbub | https://bit.ly/3mvJdoy

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 5 ⭐️ Review: Hope Ellis’s Before and After You ✍🏻

Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

“Love, real love, requires you to have both hands open so you can receive it. It’s surrender, not control that opens us up to all the possibilities of what could be.”

To be vulnerable and open to love is difficult. It requires laying down a self-imposed shield so that another being has the opportunity to inhabit one’s soul. In doing so, people open themselves up to being hurt, but on the other side, they can manifest a soulful love beyond explanation. In much of romancelandia, whether you’re reading smut or articulate, intentional romance with a social conscience, this is the crux of the stories. It’s also the struggles we encounter in everyday love relationships. 

In Hope Ellis’s next book of The Leffersbee Series, Before and After You, this idea is underscored, highlighted, and evoked through the love-to-hate relationship of Leigh and Walker. This is Ellis’s second contribution to the SmartyPants Romance series, and it’s another impressive offering. I fell hard for Hope Ellis with her first book in this series, Been There Done That, the story of Nick and Zora (Walker’s sister and Leigh’s best friend and roommate). That book tugged at my heart and showcased the storytelling capabilities of Hope Ellis who had been a new author to me. At the end of that story, I was ready for Walker’s book, given his playboyish ways. For me, taking a character who is equal parts gentleman and f’boy and making him lovestruck is my FAVORITE characterization. However, Ellis adds Leigh to the mix: a warrior of a woman, ready to fight for what is right, but also who sports soul bruises from her former marriage. This means a story where both characters will have to overcome their baggage in order to find their happy ending. Usually, with this type of story, the love is fated and its depth is profound, and Hope Ellis’s Before and After You is a perfect representation of this; it’s heady, funny, and a representation of the best of BIPOC authorship. We need more stories from Hope Ellis and other authors like her. 

What did I love about this story?

*For one, I adore a woman who fights for others. She tends to be the perfect mixture of sensitive and stalwart. Leigh absolutely embodies these traits, and her journey is an important one, as she must allow herself to become vulnerable with Walker in order to find her happy ending. Ellis has easily sculpted her into this story in ways that make her character sing across the page. 

*Walker is easily my favorite Leffersbee at this point. Don’t get me wrong. I still adore Zora, but Walker’s older brother leadership, his willingness to sacrifice his personal happiness for his family tradition, and his want to love Leigh well to his own detriment make him a hero who you can’t help but adore. 

*The familial connections of Walker and Leigh add more dimension to this story. I LOVE Pops and Leigh’s sister and brother-in-law. Her family adds compiclation to the story, and my heart hurt for her as my own similar hurts were embodied in Leigh’s story. 

*Even more important is the importance of stories from BIPOC authors such as Hope Ellis. It’s essential that they pervade romancelandia because a book such as Before and After You pulls back more of the curtain of the experiences of POC. The more we can read these stories, the more we can understand, and the more we can become better humans responding with empathy and care. Hope Ellis’s inclusion into the SmartyPants Romance is the best thing to happen for this brand.

Look, in a nutshell, Before and After You is a delight. It’s steamy, soulful, and holds a depth of character development and storytelling that spotlights the brilliance of Hope Ellis’s storytelling. If you haven’t grabbed this story yet, it should be the next book in your reading arsenal. 

In love and romance,


Professor A

✍🏻 The next book of The Leffersbee Series is LIVE. Like the first book of the series, Before and After You is delightful. ✍🏻

Before and After You, an all-new heartfelt small town romance from Hope Ellis, is LIVE in Kindle Unlimited! 

Leigh D’Alessandro is a fighter. She fought to escape her dysfunctional family, to end a soul-killing marriage, and to build a new life in a small Tennessee town.  When the fate of the community hospital she works for is threatened, she’s primed and ready for battle. What she can’t fight any longer is her unshakable attraction to her best friend’s brother, who has a notorious reputation and triggers all her worst fears about trust and betrayal.

Walker Leffersbee is a lover. At least that’s the reputation he’s built in his hometown. Scion of a prosperous Tennessee banking family, he’s a known ladies’ man and a confirmed bachelor. His hands are full as he juggles competing demands from his family’s bank and his growing property renovation business. The last thing he needs is to give in to his long-standing craving for his sister’s headstrong and hot-tempered best friend. Especially because she’s the only one who knows the secret that threatens to upend his life.

When a home renovation project brings them too close for comfort, they both struggle to withstand the growing heat. As they grow closer helping each other navigate family minefields, Walker learns that love is not a four-letter word, and Leigh realizes that some battles are meant to be lost. 

But Walker’s secret is the one thing that could keep them apart, unless they both decide to fight for the love they never looked for but now can’t live without.

‘Before and After You’ is a contemporary romance and can be read as a standalone. Book #2 in the Leffersbee series, Green Valley Chronicles, Penny Reid Book Universe.

Grab your copy TODAY!

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/3CMBcmK

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/3yUr4Gc

Amazon CA: https://amzn.to/3AZu1WL

Amazon AU: https://amzn.to/3k7jp13

Goodreads: https://bit.ly/3klssvE

About Hope Ellis

USA Today bestselling author Hope Ellis is a health outcomes researcher by day and writes romances featuring sexy nerds by night.  She hopes to one day conquer her habit of compulsively binge-watching The Office.

Find Hope Ellis online

Facebook: http://bit.ly/2PszyQ6

Twitter: http://bit.ly/3c6Awey

Instagram: http://bit.ly/2w6WttF

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2I2xDxK

Connect with Smartypants Romance

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Website: https://smartypantsromance.com/

Newsletter: https://smartypantsromance.com/newsletter/

✍🏻 Are you ready for another story from Emma Chase? Getting Real is OUT on audio TODAY! ✍🏻

Getting Real by Emma Chase is now live in audiobook!

A sexy, hilarious, emotional, new romance from New York Times bestselling author Emma Chase.

Connor Daniels never thought he’d be starting over at dating square one. His career as a successful doctor, and his three boys, are everything to him. It’s not exactly a setup conducive to a scorching social life—but he’s giving it a shot.

ER nurse Violet Robinson never intended for Connor to find out she’s had a crush on him forever. It was a dirty little secret only meant for her dirty dreams. Her heart trips every time he’s around—and so do her feet.

When Connor sees Violet coasting across the grocery store parking lot—and she falls on her face—he starts falling for the gorgeous, young nurse right back.

Dating can be tricky. And life can be beautiful and crazy and unpredictable. But when it gets real, you discover what matters most . . . and the one person you want loving you through it all.

Start listening now!

Amazon: https://amzn.to/303LgsL

Narrated by Zachary Webber & Andi Arndt

Included in Audible Plus!

Audible: https://adbl.co/3AdODtm

Releasing in ebook & print January 31, 2022

Pre-order your copy!

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3e6sVzw

Apple Books: https://apple.co/3r4zWpq

Nook: https://bit.ly/3ALqw6Z

Kobo: https://bit.ly/3k7yS2U

Goodreads: https://bit.ly/3z2cw7j

Meet Emma


Emma Chase is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance novels filled with humor, heart and heart. Her stories are known for their clever banter and sexy, swoon-worthy moments. Emma’s novels have been translated in over twenty languages around the world.

Emma lives in New Jersey with her amazing husband, two awesome children, and two adorable but badly behaved dogs. She has a long-standing love/hate relationship with caffeine

Connect with Emma

Website: https://authoremmachase.com/

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/AuthorEmmaChaseGR

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Zyj4c0

Facebook: http://bit.ly/AuthorEmmaChaseFB

Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EmmaChaseSexySwaggers/

Instagram: http://bit.ly/AuthorEmmaChaseIG

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Bookbub: http://bit.ly/AuthorEmmaChaseBB

✍🏻 Well Played by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward is coming NEXT WEEK. Want a little sneak peek? Check out this excerpt. You don’t want to miss this one. ✍🏻

Title: Well Played
Authors: Vi Keeland & Penelope Ward
Genre: Standalone Contemporary Romance
Release Date: October 25, 2021
Excited about Vi Keeland & Penelope Ward’s upcoming release, Well Played? 
Check out this SNEAK PEEK!
Presley
Harper picked up the notebook that contained my to-do list from the table and opened to a fresh page. Clicking the pen open, she scribbled across the top.

To do with Levi

I chuckled. “Are we making a dirty to-do list?”
She wiggled her eyebrows and put the pen to the paper. “We certainly are.” “Tell me one thing you fantasize about doing with him.”
Yep, I was definitely drunk, because sober me wouldn’t have participated in this. Though, even in this state, I felt my cheeks blush. “Well, every day he goes out back and does pull-ups in that big oak tree. Sometimes I imagine he’s naked while doing them, and then I walk out naked, too. I wrap myself around him like a koala and he’s a tree, and he keeps doing the pull-ups. Hoisting us both up and down.”
Harper smirked. “Nice start.” She then jotted down koala pull-ups. “What else you got?”
“Well, I also have this running fantasy that I’m watching him do the pull-ups from my bedroom window with binoculars, and then I lie down on the bed and…you know…go to town on myself. And when I’m just about to orgasm, I look up at the window and see Levi with the binoculars. He’s watching me masturbate from outside.”
“Oooh… I like that one.” Harper wrote down voyeur masturbation.
For the next half hour, we polished off our spiked lemonades, laughed a lot, and added more than a dozen sexual to-do tasks to my list. It was the most fun I’d had in ages. But Harper had to fly home in the morning, and I didn’t want her to have a raging hangover. So rather than make another pitcher of spiked lemonade, I grabbed her a water bottle and some Motrin and told her to drink up before going to bed.
But as I walked around and shut off the lights, another fantasy hit me. “That peach cobbler we had for dessert at the restaurant was orgasmic, wasn’t it?”
“It sure was.”
I pointed to the notepad. “Sit on Levi’s face while eating that pie.”
Harper had been drinking water and spit it out all over the place. “Oh my God. That is most definitely going on the list!” She picked up the pen and spoke while jotting something down. “Double orgasmic peach cobbler.”
We started to crack up, but a knock interrupted our laughter. At least it interrupted mine. I looked up to find Levi standing in the doorway to the living room.
My eyes widened. “Levi… What are you doing here?”
His brows lifted. “I own half the place.”
“No, I meant I didn’t know you were back.”
He looked between Harper and me and seemed to smirk. “Oh, I’m back.”
My palms started to sweat. “I didn’t hear you come in. How long have you been…standing there?”
Levi tilted his head, and his smirk elevated to a cocky smile. “Not too long.”
Oh my God. I wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out. What if he heard? I suddenly felt pretty damn sober. “Umm…well, this is my friend Harper. She’s leaving early tomorrow, so we were just going to bed.”
He nodded. “Nice to meet you, Harper.”
Harper stood and hiccupped. She covered her grinning mouth. “Nice to meet you, too. Your family’s inn is beautiful.”
“Thank you.”
Her eyes shifted to me. “Although there’s a lot to do around here. Presley and I made a list. You might want to take a look at it and get going on some of the new to-do tasks we added.”
My eyes nearly bulged out of my head, and I lunged for the notebook on the table.
Levi squinted at me. “Everything okay, Presley? You seem stressed.”
“I’m fine!”
He nodded slowly. “Right.”
“Alright….” I grabbed Harper’s arm and tugged. “We’re going to bed. Welcome home.”
Levi never moved from the living room doorway as he watched me drag my friend out of the room.
Harper waved over her shoulder. “’Night, Levi. Enjoy your to-do list!”
Somehow I managed to get Harper to her room without her yelling anything too obscene. But for the next half hour, I lay in my bed with my heart pounding. What if he’d heard us? What if he’d been standing there listening the entire time? Oh my God. I covered my face with my hands. The things I said I wanted to do to him. My head began to ache, and tomorrow’s hangover hadn’t even started yet.
After another twenty minutes of lying there freaking out in the dark, my mouth was so parched that I needed a bottle of water. But there was no way I wanted to run into Levi again. So I cracked open my bedroom door and listened for any sounds of someone moving out in the common area. Finding it quiet, I snuck down the hall and peered around the corner to see if any lights were still on. They weren’t, so I breathed a sigh of relief and went to the kitchen for a drink.
I guzzled half a bottle of water before turning to slink back to my bedroom. But I froze at the sight of Levi standing in the kitchen doorway. My hand flew up to cover my racing heart. “Oh my God. You scared me.”
“Sorry. I was just going to head out to grab a bite to eat.”
“Oh…there are leftovers from lunch in the fridge, if you want. I made chicken pot pies this morning.”
Levi held my eyes for a moment. “Thanks, but I think I’m going to go out.” He walked over and leaned down to whisper in my ear. “I have a real hankering for peach cobbler.”

Oh.
My.
God.

My jaw dropped to the ground. I had no idea what to do or say.
Levi winked as he walked to the door. “Get some sleep. I wouldn’t want you to be too tired to work on that to-do list.”
★★★ 
Excited? We are too!
RELEASING
OCTOBER 25th!
Please note: There will not be an Amazon ebook pre-order, but it will be available on Amazon in Kindle Unlimited on release day.
Sign up for Vi and Penelope’s mailing list now and be the first one notified when it goes live!
Vi Keeland is a #1 New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling author. With millions of books sold, her titles have appeared in over a hundred Bestseller lists and are currently translated in twenty-five languages. She resides in New York with her husband and their three children where she is living out her own happily ever after with the boy she met at age six.
PENELOPE WARD
Penelope Ward is a New York Times, USA Today and #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling author of contemporary romance. 
She grew up in Boston with five older brothers and spent most of her twenties as a television news anchor. Penelope resides in Rhode Island with her husband, son, and beautiful daughter with autism.
With over two million books sold, she is a 21-time New York Times bestseller and the author of over twenty novels. Her books have been translated into over a dozen languages and can be found in bookstores around the world.

✍🏻 Xavier Neal’s Taming of The Crew is coming October 28th…Preorder it today! ✍🏻

TAMING OF THE CREW (The Hockey Gods Series #5) by Xavier Neal

Release Date: October 28th

Genre/Tropes: Sports Romance, New Adult/College Romance, Opposites-Attract

Series: The Hockey Gods Series – Complete standalone

PREORDER IS AVAILABLE!!!

https://amzn.to/2WcdiAA

Add to Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/59055822-taming-of-the-crew

Blurb:

Once upon a time, the Vlasta Vipers hockey team was so incredible — on and off the ice — they were almost mythical.

All the other college athletes across the country wanted to be them.

All the chicks who glided into their gazes were excited to bang them.

Their reputation was that of Gods who wore skates instead of sandals.

And thanks to a certain center’s constant leadership on the ice, they are true champions once again.

Captain Patrick Peck lives and breathes hockey, yet one glimpse at his head coach’s loud-mouth, full of life niece who has just moved to Vlasta, and suddenly, he wants more.

More days of watching old TV shows and less days of listening to hockey podcasts.

More nights of hearing her scream his name and less nights of scheduling extra practices.

More memories out of the rink and less memories of only being loved in it.

Will this overly focused center be able to balance hockey and love, or will he be forced to abandon one for the other?

About the Author:

Xavier Neal is a best-selling romance author who enjoys hopping from sub genre to sub genre like a game of Hopscotch she can’t resist.

In between writing, she loves to read (everything from romance to self improvement books), watch movies (old and new), eat too much Tex-Mex (her Chuy’s t-shirt collection is out of control), and watch AHL hockey games LIVE (preferably against the glass whenever possible).

She currently resides happily in Texas with her bearded husband “Lumberjack” and their two fur babies.

Connect w/Xavier:

Website: https://www.xavierneal.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/XavierNealAuthorPage

Twitter: http://twitter.com/xavierneal87

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Amazon: https://amzn.to/2KAOA4z

Bookbub: http://bit.ly/2KA7tEW

NL Signup: https://www.xavierneal.com/newsletter

✍🏻 Serious. Sultry. Sinful. Check out the cover for Lexi Blake’s The Man from Sanctum. Are you ready for this second chance romance? ✍🏻

The Man from Sanctum, the all new must read standalone in the Masters and Mercenaries: Reloaded from New York Times bestselling author Lexi Blake is coming March 8th, 2022 and we have the stunning cover!

A painful past

Deke Murphy and Maddie Hall should never have worked as a couple in high school. She was the class valedictorian and he the jock who took nothing seriously…except her. Together they formed an amazing team, and young love blossomed into something that strengthened them both. Until tragedy struck and Deke made a sacrifice that split them up forever.

An unexpected reunion

Seventeen years later, Maddie is living her dream working for a brilliant tech guru in the beauty of Southern California. She’s made a life for herself and it’s first class all the way. She rarely thinks of the jock who dumped her all those years ago. But when Maddie realizes her boss might be part of an international conspiracy, she can’t deny Deke might be her best bet to solve the mystery. Her one-time sweetheart works for one of the world’s premiere security and investigative firms. She’ll hire him and prove to herself their relationship could never have worked.

A dangerous future

As Maddie and Deke begin to uncover her boss’s secrets, they can’t deny the chemistry that has reignited. But before they can explore the connection growing between them, they must survive the deadly forces hunting them down.

Reserve your copy today!
Amazon: https://amzn.to/3FosegL
Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/ManSanctum
Apple Books: https://apple.co/3aehtPQ
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Kobo: https://bit.ly/3iCwaRn
Google Play: https://bit.ly/3uMxy8Q

Add The Man from Sanctum to Goodreads: https://bit.ly/3FqNcLV

About Lexi Blake
New York Times bestselling author Lexi Blake lives in North Texas with her husband and three kids. Since starting her publishing journey in 2010, she’s sold over three million copies of her books. She began writing at a young age, concentrating on plays and journalism. It wasn’t until she started writing romance that she found success. She likes to find humor in the strangest places and believes in happy endings.

Connect with Lexi
Amazon: https://amzn.to/3vTyQyb
Facebook: http://bit.ly/339Svf9
Twitter: http://bit.ly/2JGwnBn
Instagram: https://instagram.com/authorlexiblake?utm_medium=copy_link
Website: https://www.lexiblake.net

✍🏻 Key Change, a slow burn rockstar romance, is OUT NOW. Have you grabbed it yet? ✍🏻

Key Change, an all new slow burn rockstar romance from Heidi Hutchinson, is LIVE in Kindle Unlimited! 

Read my review HERE.

Before Hannah was a 9-5 working, dinner making, homebody, she was Ashton James: a paparazzi-stalked pop star with more enemies than friends.

These days she has one priority: keeping her sister safe and away from the public eye.

Hannah was doing a great job, until the pesky little brother of an ex-fling discovers where she is, and wants her help launching his career. 

Now she has to trust Johnny—whom she betrayed in more ways than one—to protect her whereabouts. Johnny may have an infuriating moral compass and the timing of a storybook hero, but is he immune to the temptation of revenge?

Johnny’s focus has always been his music business, and a bad influence like Hannah is the last thing he needs at work, or around his brother.

But some things are too powerful to be stopped. For someone like Hannah, second chances—in life and in true love—don’t exist. She didn’t think so, at least. 

Johnny is about to prove her wrong, and being wrong has never felt so right. 

‘Key Change’ is a full-length contemporary romance, can be read as a standalone, and is book #3 in the Common Threads series, Seduction in the City World, Penny Reid Book Universe. 

Grab your copy TODAY!

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/3jZIOcS

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/3CPEshm

Amazon CA: https://amzn.to/37MOVMd

Amazon AU: https://amzn.to/3AN2uHQ

Goodreads: https://bit.ly/3meb1j1

Audiobook:https://bit.ly/2ZXQtCm

Read the Common Threads series of standalones in Kindle Unlimited!

https://bit.ly/3iuTSik

Excerpt

“You’re a real piece of work. You don’t even remember me, do you?” Johnny said the words, knowing for years they were true but feeling that hurtful sting having to admit it out loud. He had been a nobody to her then. He needed to make peace with that.

Ashton shook her head. “I don’t remember most things,” she said, and it had the kind of ring of truth that sounded too real. She rapidly scanned the interior of the townhouse and her gaze paused on his guitar resting in the stand in the living room.

He held his breath for a minute.

The guitar was the one he’d had when they’d first met. Its sound was on her first record.

It wasn’t fancy by any means, but it was and always would be his favorite. A black Gibson orchestra model. The years of wear showed the scratches and bruises of the life of a working musician.

He wondered if she remembered the night she’d sat in his bed, naked, holding that guitar and singing to him.

Because he thought about it all the time.

“I don’t remember you,” she said after a beat, her voice quieter. The admission hurt more than he expected. “But I know that it doesn’t matter. Going with the odds and how you’re looking at me, it was probably pretty awful.”

Johnny wasn’t sure why hearing that didn’t make him feel any better.

Just then the door opened, or it tried to, but it bumped into the bodyguard, who moved to the side and let Shawn in.

The facilitator of Johnny’s current problem.

Shawn frowned in confusion at the bodyguard, and then his gaze drifted to Ashton. All the color drained from his face, and his round eyes darted to Johnny.

“Oh my God,” Shawn whispered.

“Oh, He can’t save you now,” Johnny cautioned.

Shawn dropped his bag on the floor and his hands came up in a placating fashion. Though he couldn’t figure out which person to direct them to. He faced Johnny, then Ashton, then the bodyguard in quick succession.

“I-I-I can’t believe you’re here,” he finally spit out, obviously speaking to Ashton. He spun to Johnny. “It’s her. I told you it was her.”

Johnny ran his tongue over his bottom lip and nodded once.

Shawn shoved both hands through his hair, unable to conceal the sheer joy on his face. “Did-did you listen to it?” he asked Ashton cautiously.

For the first time since Johnny had opened the door, he saw a crack in her exterior as she looked at his younger brother.

“No,” she said after a beat. “I haven’t listened to it.”

Undeterred, and oblivious to the tension in the room, Shawn eagerly grabbed the envelope off the table and removed the thumb drive. “That’s fine. You can listen to it here and then I can get your reactions up close.”

“Shawn,” Johnny tried to get his attention.

“This is better, actually,” Shawn continued, a slight tremor in his voice, which was pitching a little higher. “I mean, I would have invited you over earlier today if I’d known you would say yes.”

“Shawn,” Johnny said louder and sharper.

It got his attention.

“Read the room, bud.”

Shawn’s hands dropped to his side and his shoulders dropped. “I don’t understand. If you’re not here about the music, then why are you here?” he asked.

“I think…” Johnny said with a slight grimace. “That she’s here to pay us to keep quiet? Did I get that right?”

Ashton glared at Johnny.

“Pay us?” Shawn repeated, confused and devastated all at once.

For a split second, guilt sliced through Johnny. But the sooner Shawn figured out who Ashton James really was, the better for him. In the long run.

Though watching him find out that the artist he looked up to was a lying, selfish, horrible person kind of hurt like hell.

Silence descended like a thick fog as Shawn stared at Ashton, waiting for a response.

Finally, she took in a deep breath and let it out. “Who have you told? I really need to know how far this goes. Please.”

Her tone was different than the last time she’d asked that question.

“No one,” Shawn replied roughly. “Just Johnny.” He waved a hand in that direction. “And he didn’t believe me until Saturday when he saw you at the school. Even then, he told me not to do anything about it.” He shrugged helplessly. “But I didn’t listen.”

Her eyes moved to Johnny, looking for honesty and verification.

He hadn’t told Shawn about helping jump her car. He didn’t want to have to answer any uncomfortable questions that he didn’t have the answers to. Like, why was she so different in that moment than the woman he remembered? And was it real? Or did she just get a lot better at faking things?

Shawn took a step toward her, speaking excitedly.

“I was just so happy to finally meet you. I never thought I’d get a chance to, and then one day, I saw you get off the train. I wasn’t looking for you. Ashton, you have to believe me. I would nev—”

“Please don’t call me Ashton,” she stopped him. She regarded both of them carefully. “I haven’t been Ashton James in a very long time. And I have no intention of being her again.”

About Heidi Hutchinson

Heidi Hutchinson creates funny, clever, slow burn romance for readers looking for a guaranteed happily ever after.

She hopes the stories she writes inspire her readers to take their hearts on one more adventure.

She lives in the Black Hills with her alarmingly handsome husband, their fearless child, and a rather large and spoiled dog. 

She is fueled by her unwavering and perfectly normal devotion to Dave Grohl and coffee. 

And a whole lotta love. 

Find Heidi online

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/heidirhutchinson

Website: https://www.heidih.net/

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✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 4.5 ⭐️ Review: L.B. Dunbar’s Love in A Pickle, a SmartyPants Romance ✍🏻

Overall Grade: 4.5 ⭐️

“She anchors me, and until this moment, I didn’t realize how untethered I’ve been.”

L.B. Dunbar’s Love in A Pickle, her newest title in the SmartyPants Romance world, is divine. Seriously divine. You might want to know why. I’m a huge fan of the redemption of a former “mean” character, and Scotia Simmons of Green Valley, Tennessee has terrorized this small-town in various Penny Reid and SmartyPants Romance stories. However, you have heard that people who “bully” others or speak ill of them do so out of insecurity or some type of pain. And the interrogation of those underlying influences makes for some of the best stories, stories such as Dunbar’s Love in A Pickle

To believe that Scotia is purely evil is to diminish and reduce her. In the first two books of this series, Love in Due Time and Love in Deed, Dunbar teases Scotia’s humanity as she steps in to support her sisters. The Queen of Mean shows her softer side in those books, and if you’ve been following the bouncing ball of Dunbar’s stories, then you have waited for Scotia’s story. 

And Dunbar’s book did not disappoint. I’ve seen other reviews, and it’s a resounding response that Dunbar deftly wrote a compelling character in Scotia that changes your perception of her. Very easily, it changes your opinion of her character. 

Without giving any details, let me talk around the parts of the story that simply work to cull  together a beautiful story of redemption and love:

  1. There are secrets in this book that should not be divulged in any review. You definitely won’t find it in this one, and it absolutely is one of the factors that turns your head towards Scotia. For me, it brought tears to my eyes. It connects directly to Scotia’s most vulnerable place.
  2. Her hero, Chet/Chester/Big Poppy, is a revelation, and I appreciate how much Dunbar works to craft a character who is much like Scotia while seemingly very different. Dunbar’s story plays with the idea of identities or the masks we wear for different situations. Interestingly, Dunbar also admonishes her reader with the double-standard of judgment between men and women. Chet can throw ugly at someone, and it seems more acceptable, while Scotia is judged and characterized with ugly names. 

Even more, Chet is a force of change. He challenges Scotia, while he falls in love with her. However, I wrote a note in the margins of my book around the 50% mark when I noted how much I wasn’t his biggest fan. One minute, Chet is beguiled by Scotia, wanting to protect her and encourage her to be a better person. The next minute, though, he pushes her away and cuts at her soul as she becomes more vulnerable. And this is the genius of Dunbar’s storytelling. It’s in these moments, along with Scotia’s other secrets, where Dunbar humanizes Scotia. It feels so calculated and necessary in order for people to accept a love story for Scotia Simmons.

  1. Ultimately, the camaraderie of the Winters sisters is the backbone of Love in A Pickle. Revisiting Naomi and Beverly while they support and encourage Scotia reminds us why these stories exist. They bring us back to Penny Reid’s Green Valley, Tennessee. 

I’m sad that these stories seem complete for L.B. Dunbar. Maybe we need the children of these women to have stories, something to keep us in their small circle of sisterly love. What I do know is I think Scotia’s story is my favorite of the three. To take the villain of Green Valley and turn her into a puddle of love is a testament to L.B. Dunbar’s writerly craftsmanship.

In love and romance,

Professor A