Friday, October 2, 2015

Virtual Tour & #Giveaway for In the Shade of the Almond Trees by Dominique Marny

Welcome to my stop on the Virtual Tour, presented by France Book Tours, for In the Shade of the Almond Trees by Dominique Marny.  Please leave a comment or question for Dominique to let her know you stopped by.  You can enter her tour wide giveaway by filling out the entry form below.  You can follow all of the stops on Dominique’s tour by clicking on the banner above.  The more stops you visit, the better your odds of winning.

In the Shade of the Almond Trees
By Dominique Marny

Publisher:  Open Road Media
Release Date: September 29, 2015
Genre: Historical Fiction
Length:  280 Pages
ISBN:  978-1480461178

Buy Links:  Open Road Media | Amazon | B&N   


In the aftermath of World War I, a family estate hangs in the balance.

For generations, the Barthélemy family tended to the olive trees of Restanques, a sprawling property in Cotignac whose olive oil and almonds were as incredible as the countryside that produced them. But all that changed when war came to France. Robert Barthélemy never returned from the trenches, and without him, the farm is beginning to die. His widow has lost the will to live, and only the fierce efforts of their daughter, Jeanne, have kept the creditors at bay.

Jeanne is spending an afternoon at home with the family’s grim financial statements when a handsome stranger appears on the front steps. His name is Jérôme Guillaumin and he is a brilliant botanist about to embark on a journey around the globe. From the moment they meet, Jeanne is struck by feelings she never thought possible: feelings that could save her life or destroy everything she has ever known. 

Dominique Marny was raised in a family that loved art, literature, adventure, and travel.  In addition to being a novelist, she is a playwright and screenwriter, and writes for various magazines.

Visit the author ‘s website (in French)
Follow her on Facebook

Tuesday, September 29
Review + Excerpt + Giveaway at Unshelfish
Wednesday, September 30
Review at French Village Diaries
Thursday, October 1
Review + Giveaway at The Fictional 100
Friday, October 2
Review + Giveaway at Queen of All She Reads
Saturday, October 3
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Spotlight + Giveaway at Words And Peace
Sunday, October 4
Review + Giveaway at LibriAmoriMiei
Monday, October 5
Spotlight + Giveaway at View from the Birdhouse
Tuesday, October 6
Review + Excerpt + Giveaway at Musings of a Writer & Unabashed Francophile
Wednesday, October 7
Review + Giveaway at History from a Woman’s Perspective
Thursday, October 8
Review + Giveaway at I’m Shelf-ish

Is there anything more beautiful than the French countryside?  I certainly don’t think so based on Dominique Marny’s descriptions and cover for In the Shade of the Almond Trees.  A book set during the period between the World Wars in Europe, In the Shade of the Almond Trees focuses on one family’s quest to restore their farm and move on after the death of their husband and father in the trenches.  Filled with colorful characters, the beauty of the countryside, the changing social structures and a young woman’s discovery of love, this is a book romance lovers will enjoy.

Ms. Marny does a good job introducing the reader to the Barthelemy family as they begin moving on after the war.  Living at Restanques, a large and once very prosperous estate, the family now consists of Martha, the family matriarch who thinks her life is over because of her husband’s death, Jeanne, the family’s only daughter, who is determined to keep their creditors at bay and make the farm successful again and Laurent, the family’s only son whose dreams of traveling the world are drawing him away. 

While the story mostly focuses on Jeanne’s efforts to restore the farm and her transition into adulthood, we do get to know both her mother and brother and their strengths and weaknesses.  I easily connected with Jeanne but had difficulty liking her mother and brother, who seemed only to think of themselves.  Jeanne is hard working, level headed, and really devoted to her family’s heritage through her love of the land.  She was willing to do what had to be done in order to keep her family financially afloat.  Something her mother and brother either couldn’t or didn’t want to understand or really help with. 

While it did take a little while to get used to Ms. Marny’s voice as an author, the story is told in omnipresent third person, I did eventually get drawn in and fell in love with both Jeanne and the French countryside.  While I would have liked to dip further into Jeanne’s mind, and the thoughts of her mother and brother, this form of storytelling’s appeal is that you don’t wallow in too much emotional angst.  I also think it affected the story’s flow and pace, which was occasionally slow and a little difficult to follow – although that could have been a result of the story’s translation from French to English. 

Will Jeanne and her family manage to keep Restanques and restore it to its pre-war prosperity? Will Jeanne get the chance to discover true love as she works selflessly to restore her family’s financial position?  You’ll have to read In the Shade of the Almond Trees to find out.  I enjoyed it and look forward to reading more of Ms. Marny’s work. 

My Rating: 3 out of 5 Crowns

Global Giveaway

Open Internationally
2 participants will each win a copy of this book.
Print/digital format for US residents and Digital for all other residents

FTC Disclosure:  I received a complimentary copy of this book as a part of a tour for a fair and honest review, which had no influence on my opinion of the reading material provided. 

Release Blast & #Giveaway for Dances Under the Harvest Moon by Joanne Rock

Welcome to my stop on the Release Blast, presented by Tasty Book Tours, for Dances Under the Harvest Moon by Joanne Rock.  Please leave a comment or question for Joanne to let her know you stopped by.  You can enter her tour wide giveaway, where one (1) randomly drawn commenter will win a Jet-Setter Prize Pack, by filling out the Rafflecopter form below. 

Heartache, TN #3
Joanne Rock
Releasing Oct 1st, 2015
Harlequin Superromance

Heartache—the best place to heal

Chance of a lifetime

It’s finally Heather Finley’s moment. After spending years looking after her mother in the tiny town of Heartache, Tennessee, Heather’s about to follow her dream of singing country music. She can nearly hear the audiences hollering…until the town’s handsome mayor, Zach Chance, comes to her with troubling questions about her late father’s past. Once again, Heather has to choose: protect her family or chase her heart’s desire? Zach is determined to help, and to convince Heather that she belongs in Heartache—with him. But is he just another distraction? Or could he be the one to show Heather how a small-town love can make her big-time dreams come true?


Three-time RITA nominee Joanne Rock has never met a romance sub-genre she didn't like. The author of over seventy novels enjoys writing contemporary romance and medieval historicals alike, recently exploring Young Adult romance under a pseudonym. An optimist by nature and perpetual seeker of silver linings, Joanne finds romance–in all its forms-- fits her life outlook perfectly. When she's not writing, Joanne enjoys travel, especially to see her favorite sports teams play with her former sports editor husband and three athletic-minded sons.

Book Beginnings & Friday 56 - #3

Book Beginnings on Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Rose City Reader. Every Friday we share the first sentence (or so) of the book we’re currently reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

My Book Beginning:  

The Madness of Lord Westfall (Order of the M.U.S.E.)

The defining moment of my life occurred when I was eight years old and fell from the topmost limb of an oak tree.  I remember naught about the incident.  They tell me my head struck several branches on the way down.  I was insensible for the better part of a sennight, which was a mercy because it allowed the doctor to set my broken arm without my being aware of the agony he inflicted.  For the injury to my brain, he did nothing. 

My Thoughts:  This lets me know that the speaker is talking about whatever it is that makes him/her different from the rest of mankind.    

What do you think?  Don't forget to leave your book beginning below and to link-up at RoseCity Reader.  


Friday 56 is a weekly meme hosted by Freda’s Voice on every Friday.

To Play along here are the Rules:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader (If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.
*Add your post below. 
*Don’t forget to add your post URL (not your blog url) at Freda’s Voice.  
*It's that simple.

My 56 (Also from The Madness of Lord Westfall ): 

     Nora didn’t know why she’d ridden this way.  It wasn’t her usual route through the woods surrounding Albion Abbey.  But when she’d learned that the Duke of Camden had a hunting lodge nearby, she was drawn to see it, as surely as a lodestone to true north.  There was no logic to it.

About The Madness of Lord Westfall by Mia Marlowe

He thought he knew madness... until he met her.

Pierce Langdon, Viscount Westfall is mad. Everyone knows it. He fell from a tree when he was a boy and woke to hear strange voices. When the voices grow stronger as he grows older, his family commits him to Bedlam. But what he hears are the thoughts of those around him-a gift to be used in service to the Order of the M.U.S.E. Until he falls again...this time for a totally unsuitable woman.

Lady Nora Claremont hides her heartbreak behind the facade of a carefree courtesan. Viscount Westfall is the most confusing man she's ever met. He seems to know exactly what she wants...and what she's thinking.

Which is a dangerous thing, because what Nora wants is Pierce. And what she's thinking could expose her as a traitor to the crown...

Don't forget to post your meme's and link up at both host locations.  

Have a great Friday! 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Blurb Blitz Tour & #Giveaway for What Matters Most by Dianne Maguire

Welcome to my stop on the Blurb Blitz Tour, presented by Goddess Fish Promotions, for What Matters Most by Dianne Maguire.  Please leave a comment or question for Dianne to let her know you stopped by.  You can enter her tour wide giveaway, where Dianne will award one (1) digital copy of What Matters Most to three (3) randomly drawn commenters, by filling out the Rafflecopter form below.  You can follow all of the stops on Dianne’s tour by clicking on the banner above.  The more stops you visit, the better your chances of winning. 

What Matters Most
By Dianne Maguire

Publisher:  AUS Impulse (HarperCollins0
Release Date:  April 1, 2015
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Format: eBook
Length:  345 Pages (1059KB)
ISBN:  9781460705490

Buy Links:  Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Google Play | iTunes    

About the book:

There is good love and bad love. Good sex and bad sex. And sometimes it's hard to know the difference.

Paediatrician and mother Mia Sandhurst is scraping to keep her marriage together after her husband of 25 years breaks her heart. Finally facing reality, Mia embarks on a series of outlandish new behaviours to make startling discoveries about herself, love and life.

But the lies and betrayal Mia endures are nothing compared to those of her 15 year old patient, Rachel Hooper.

Set on the magical coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula, What Matters Most is a story of love, family, misplaced loyalty and how our choices shape who we are.


It was well after 4.00pm by the time Mia plodded down the concrete steps into the car park. The flash and beep from her car as she pointed the remote always gave her a discernible burst of joy because it meant she was on her way home. On this particular occasion she also realised she had not had time all day to think about her own family. Tossing her bag onto the passenger seat before sliding behind the wheel and turning the key in the ignition, she resolved to ring Adam after dinner. In the meantime, she thought, there was a more irksome task to be dealt with. She rummaged through her bag, dug out her phone and slipped it into the hands-free carrier. She eventually found the number and dialled, the rings at the other end echoing through the car as she emerged from the car park into the fading light.

‘Leila Anderson,’ a voice answered as Mia accelerated onto the street, still shining with evidence of the day’s persistent early-spring showers.

‘Hello, Leila, it’s Mia Sandhurst,’ she said, pulling up at the traffic lights, the indicator clicking like a metronome as she waited for a young couple with a pram to saunter across the pedestrian crossing before she could turn left.

‘Hello, Mia.’ Leila’s voice registered surprise. And there was something else that was indecipherable in her tone as well.

‘I’m really sorry to intrude on your Sunday, but Eric isn’t responding to my calls. I’m a little worried. Have you heard from him?’

A brief silence was followed by hesitant, deliberate intonations — the type of response one would expect from a witness on the stand in a courtroom, or someone giving evidence to a Royal Commission. ‘Well, no … not really. Only a few emails with attached reports and letters he wanted me to type.’

‘Has he called you?’ Mia asked, her concerns curdling to suspicion, purely due to Leila’s obvious wavering.

‘No … no calls. Look, I’m sure he’s fine, Mia. He has a pretty packed schedule this trip.’

Mia turned into her street, the energetic, almost cheerful clicking of the indictor at odds with the anxiety, edged with anger, that swirled in her gut. Of course, it was Leila’s job to protect her boss, but it was not her place to shield him from his wife. ‘Mm, that’s part of the problem, I think. I didn’t get his schedule for this trip. I wonder if you would email me a copy, please.’

There was another awkward pause before Leila said, ‘Sure. I don’t see why not. And if I do hear from Eric, I’ll have him call you.’

‘Excellent — thanks, Leila. Enjoy the rest of your day. And sorry again for disturbing you, but I feel so much better now we have spoken …

‘… not,’ Mia said through clenched teeth, stabbing the end button and accelerating into her undercroft. Within seconds, she was pounding her way up the stairs and charging through the back door into her kitchen, ignoring the beep from within her bag, which signalled the arrival of a text to pour herself a large glass of chilled white wine.

Soothed by a few velvet sips, Mia slammed her palm onto the gas fire, bringing its flames to life with a deep puff, shoved a section of pre-cooked Peking duck into the oven and made an Asian salad, then took a long hot shower. Rummaging to the back of her wardrobe she dragged out her comfort clothes — elephant-sized track pants and an equally large windcheater. She relished their sense of freedom and warmth and padded in bare feet back to the kitchen where aromas of cooked duck filled the space and teased her appetite.

It was when she was taking the first sip of her second glass of wine that she remembered the text message and lifted her phone to see that there were actually two messages awaiting her.

The first was from Maggie Malloy: Rachel’s cardiac tests clear. Still refusing to engage with psych. Will be discharged tomorrow in the am. Have reported my concerns to Child Welfare.

Mia’s brow furrowed. ‘Oh no, Rachel. What is really happening in your life? Should we be worried or should we simply leave you alone?’ She resolved to visit Rachel one last time tomorrow, before she was discharged from hospital.

The second message was from Eric: Singapore deal successful. Sorry haven’t been able to return calls. Will be home Tuesday, but have another appointment that evening so no plans pls. E. His blisteringly terse tone seemed misplaced and unwarranted, especially after days of silence. ‘How astounding, Eric, that you have chosen to message me less than one hour after I phoned your secretary. What is going on?’ she muttered, her appetite immediately leaving her.

 AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Dianne Maguire is a social worker turned novelist with over 20 years' experience in child welfare and protection.

She has won the Pauline Walsh Prize in the Eastwood/Hills Regional Annual Literary Awards and in 2010 she co-wrote a collection of non-fiction short stories, It's About Time, for children's charity Time for Kids.  Her articles have been published in state and national newspapers and magazines.

Although Dianne lives in Adelaide with her husband Jerome, she does most of her writing on the Fleurieu Peninsula. What Matters Most is her debut novel.

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Blog Tour & #Giveaway for The Ludzecky Sisters Series by Kathryn Shay

Welcome to my stop on the Blog Tour, presented by Enchantress Design & Promo, for The Ludzecky Sisters Series by Kathryn Shay.  Please leave a comment or question for Kathryn to let her know you stopped by.  You can enter her tour wide giveaway by filling out the Rafflecopter form below. 

Begin Again 
(Ludzecky Sisters #1)
by Kathryn Shay


BEGIN AGAIN tells the story of Paulina Ludzecky who, since her husband died three years ago, runs a contracting business with her twin, Antonia. She’s ready to dip her toes in romance, when she meets Adam Armstrong, the architect on the new music hall her company is building.

For Adam, opposites attract and he’s drawn to this no-nonsense, down-to-earth girl next door. She’s equally interested in him though he’s too different from her to settle down with. But alpha male Adam has other plans for Paulina and isn’t about to let her go, even when Paulina has trouble with committing to him. Sex, yes! Love, no! This second chance at love story will tug on your heartstrings.

Available for purchase at 



From the way Adam looked at her when they were seated on the bench, Paulina knew he was going to kiss her, so she tried to leave the backyard. But once he’d stopped her, there was no escaping—because she didn’t want to be anywhere else. His mouth touched hers lightly, brushed over her lips, and she savored his taste—coffee and a hint of peppermint, which was soon eclipsed by the essence of him filling her head. After a few seconds, he slid his arms around her and drew her close.

She went easily, willingly and fell deeper into the kiss. His tongue explored her mouth, and she allowed it, welcomed it, returned it. His body aligned perfectly with hers, and he pressed his hips in close. He was hard, and she was going damp, and she wanted to weep with the sensation. She missed the scent of a man, his flesh and bones, his unyielding frame. She inhaled him, crooked her head so he could get better access.

She had no idea how long the embrace went on. All she knew was that at some point, they were both stepping back, breathing hard, staring at each other.

“Well!” he said, raking his hand through his hair. She took pleasure in his loss of composure and consequently wasn’t embarrassed by hers. “That was unexpected.”

“Really? You started it.”

“That’s not what I mean.” He arched a brow. “Besides, you wanted it.”

“I’m not denying that.”

“What I meant was, the contact was intense. Right away, without warning. I’m shocked by my reaction.”

Her hand touched her lips as she savored his taste, still on her. “I enjoyed it. But if you didn’t, that’s okay.” Once more, she started away. She didn’t have time for games, and if he was rebuffing her again, she didn’t want to stick around and get her feelings hurt.

“Hold on!” This time he caught her hand, pulled her around and didn’t let go. “Why do you keep running away?”

She took in a deep breath. “I guess because I can’t read you. You flirted, asked in an email if we should meet, then said never mind.”

“I did.”

No hedging. No denial. She liked that. “Why?”

“Because I wasn’t sure we should…do anything like this.”

“Adam, it was only a kiss.”

His expression said it was much more than that.

“But I liked it,” she continued. “Still, don’t worry. I’m not asking you for anything.”

Jamming his hands in his pockets, he rocked back on his heels. “What if I want something?”

“Damn it, Adam, just say what you mean. What you want. I don’t have time for or interest in being coy.”

“Let’s go out.”

She watched him.

“You’ve dated since your husband died, right?”

“No, but recently I made a decision that I wanted to get into the…the swing of things.
I’m seeing someone tonight for supper and a movie.”

His brows knit together. “Is it serious?”

“I met him on first base.”

“Excuse me?”

She laughed at her expression. “At a softball game. I got a hit, and he…never mind all that.”

“So, you’re a free agent, so to speak.”

And would probably stay one. But she’d like to see this man. “I am, but I’m not interested in anything serious. Just some fun.” Some hot sex. She didn’t say that aloud, thank God. Though she knew one thing: she was attracted to him big-time.

“Have dinner with me this weekend.”

“Sofia’s taking the boys on Sunday for the day. I could do an early dinner.”

“All right. I’ll pick you up at five.” He added, “Wear something nice, but no ball gowns.” 

Did he think he had to tell her what to wear? What was all that about? Maybe it was nothing. She just wasn’t used to this dating scene. Had never really been in it. He was probably being thoughtful.

“Hey, Paulie, you back here?” Frank’s voice came from the end of the yard.

She said, “I have to go.”

He grasped her arm again. “Would you wear your hair down Sunday?”

“Maybe. Let’s wait and see.” 

Primary Colors 
(Ludzecky Sisters Series, #2)
by Kathryn Shay


In PRIMARY COLORS, Nia Ludzecky Pettrone is stuck in her grief and can’t find a way out of her sorrow over the untimely death of her beloved husband. Then she meets famous modern artist Rafe Castle, and she’s intrigued by his gentle demeanor and lack of arrogance. When he shows interest in giving her son the confidence and skills to nurture his budding art talent, she starts falling for him. Still, she finds it hard to leave the past behind and embrace love after loss.

Rafe is definitely interested in a relationship with Nia. If he has his way, she’ll come to love him and he vows to be patient. But when she rejects him in the most elemental of ways, can he control the comparison to past hurts she resurrects for him?

Available for purchase at 



“And the winner of the first grade prize for Excellence in Art is Salvador Pettrone.”

Simultaneously, Ben and Tommy jumped up, fists in the air. “Yes!” 

Sal sat demurely in his little first grade chair and blushed.

From the gathering of parents and guests off to the side, Nia watched her son, wishing he was outgoing like his cousins but loving him to pieces anyway.

“Sal.” The deep male voice of the man at the microphone was filled with excitement. “Come up and get your prize.”

Rafael Castle gave a megawatt smile, making Paulina take in a breath. From beside her, Adam Armstrong leaned in. “Watch it, girl. You’re taken.”

Paulina laughed. “Yeah, but not dead.”

She’d been so happy all summer, now that her relationship with Adam was blossoming. They’d met when their company, Pettrone and Ludzecky Builders, had gotten the bid on a music hall that he’d designed. Surprisingly, Nia had taken a liking to the man despite the fact that he lived in a different world from the family. It seemed that every time she saw him and Paulina together, they were closer. And he’d treated Sal just like Paulina’s boys—kind and gentle, always calm.

Making his way to the front, Sal stood before Rafe Castle, looking up and now smiling broadly. Nia had heard a lot about the man who’d come to Benjamin Franklin Elementary School as an artist in residence for two weeks. She’d voted at the PTA meeting for him to be chosen because his artwork seemed so alive. 

Sal talked about him often…

Mom, he said I got talent.

Mom, he used my picture as an example.

Mom, he loves my work.

She’d been so grateful to the artist for helping bring her son out of his shell, for making him feel good about himself, even before she’d gotten an email from him: Dear Mrs. Pettrone, Your son Sal is one of the most talented artists of a young age I’ve ever seen. After the Art Fair, can we talk?

Responding in the affirmative, Nia was thrilled, and anxious to hear what he had to say.

The grades were separated in the large gym, and Sal watched as the other winners were awarded their prizes. And he cheered heartily for them. He’s such a nice kid, she thought for the hundredth time. Peter would have been so proud. Though her husband had been a jock, he’d have celebrated his son’s success in art, where Sal had inexplicably shown both interest and talent. It had been one of the many things she’d loved about Peter. Sometimes, at events like this, the hole in her heart became a gaping chasm and she struggled against the emotion.

When the formal part of the presentation was over, Rafe said, “Now mingle, everybody. See what stellar work your classmates have done.” Displays of student art lined the walls. “And parents, please browse, too. Congratulations to them all.”

The groups disbanded, and three little dark-haired, dark-eyed boys ran to where the Ludzecky family had gathered.

Sal threw himself into Nia’s arms. “Mommy, I won!”

“I know, sweetheart. Congratulations.”

Sneaking around his mother, Ben went up to Adam and gave him a high-five. 

“We didn’t win. Mom told us last night we have other talents.”

“But we’re glad Sal won,” Tommy put in. “I like his drawings.”

Adam ruffled Sal’s hair. “We’re happy for you, kid.”     

Nia glanced up to see Rafe Castle approaching them. Before he greeted any of them, he knelt down so he was eye-level with Sal. How thoughtful. “You did good, Salvador. Just like your namesake.”

“What’s a namesake?” Ben asked.

Sal announced proudly, “Who you’re named after.”

“Our Uncle Salvador?”

A male chuckle from the artist. “Nope. I told him I bet he has roots going back to Salvador Dali, the famous twentieth-century artist.”

“Like you, Rafe.” Nia noticed Sal used his first name. “You said maybe you got roots to…who was it?”

“A painter from the Renaissance time period. Raphael Sanzio da Urbino.”

“Yeah, that’s him.”

Standing, Rafe turned his gaze to Nia. “Mrs. Pettrone?”

Nia cleared her throat. Though she’d seen pictures of him online since the school chose him for this position, his physical presence was daunting. Those navy eyes focused on her, increasing their effect. “Yes, I’m Sal’s mother.”

“You’re son’s very talented.”

“So you said.”


Castle’s brows rose. “Adam? Hello.”

“You know my teacher, Adam?” Sal asked.

“We’ve met. And I saw his show at the Mitchell Gallery. I bought The Dragon Within. His work is amazing. So individualistic.”

“What does that mean?” Ben wanted to know.

“That everybody gets something different out of it,” Adam explained.

Her sister held out her hand. “I’m Paulina Pettrone.”

When he got a look at Paulina, Rafe startled. “Wow, two of you? How do the men in the world stand it when you’re together?”

“Excuse me?” This from Nia.

“You must bowl them over.”

Paulina rolled her eyes. “It was a compliment, Nia. Say thanks.” She focused on the boys. “Let’s go see everybody’s art before we have to leave. Nia, take your time in getting back to work. No rush.”

“Could Sal go with you?” Rafe asked. “I’d like to speak to Mrs. Pettrone in private.”

Nia stepped back.

“It’s all positive stuff.”

The four of them left, and Nia folded her arms across her chest, watching Rafe Castle. His dark hair was long and curly, and he carried himself in the confident, masculine way that men who looked like him seemed to have. “What did you want to talk about?”


“I appreciated your letter.”

“I meant every word, and more. Did you notice how his paintings and drawings evolved the last two weeks?”

“Yes, I did. Some got more realistic. Some more abstract. I liked the latter best.”

His eyes glistened like sapphires, as if she’d said the right thing. “I have a proposal for you. I’d like to continue working with Sal. Free of charge.”

“Why on earth would you do that? Adam said you were hot.”

He winked at her. “I am.”

“Oh, I meant your reputation. But back to Sal.”

“He’s a prodigy. And that kind of talent needs to be cultivated.”

Feeling guilt take root inside her, she sighed. “I’ve thought about getting him art lessons, but we’re so busy…”

“I’ll come to your house. And yes, I’d expect an adult to supervise us, so you’d have to arrange that.”

“We live with my mother and sister. It wouldn’t be too hard to get coverage.” She raised her chin. “But I insist I pay.”

“Then I retract the offer.”


“I won’t take your money.”

“Mr. Castle, I might be a widow, but we have enough funds to live on.”

His gaze darkened. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know Sal’s father died. He’s only talked about you, but…please, accept my condolences.”

Nia could feel her face redden. “No, let me apologize. I jumped the gun. The boys told us some things they overheard people saying about them not having a dad, and I’m too sensitive.”

“I don’t think you can be too sensitive about your kids.” He cocked his head. “So, the lessons?”

“I’ll think about it.”

His brows rose, indicating surprise at her statement. “All right.” He took out a card and handed it to her. “Let me know.”

“One thing, Mr. Castle. Thanks for not asking in front of Sal.”

“Of course not. We’re buddies. He’ll want to do this. But it’s your decision. I respect that.”

“Do you have kids?”

“No, never married. So none yet.” A big male grin. “Someday, though.”

As he walked away, Nia stared at his long male stride. And okay, his butt, encased in soft denim, and his broad shoulders in a chamois shirt. But that wasn’t the matter at hand. Now, once again, she’d have to make the right choice for her child alone. She wished Peter was here to help with that and a million other things. Which was enough to worry about. But more pressing was the issue that Nia had not gotten beyond her grief enough to move on like Paulina had and that was as big an issue as the solo responsibility she now had.

Risky Business 
(Ludzecky Sisters Series #3)
by Kathryn Shay


Magdalena Ludzecky is a career woman extraordinaire. A child prodigy, she’s worked her way into a successful private equity firm by the time she was twenty-four. Seven years later, she’s still the gentle, good-hearted sister who hasn’t forgotten her roots, but in business she’s a force to be reckoned with. She’s a woman who has everything, including Logan Price, her coworker and her best friend outside of the family. They support each other through tragedy and loss, vacation together and make million dollar deals together.

But suddenly, they find attraction growing between them. And no, they both think, this can’t happen! They like the status quo. An office romance is unthinkable. It doesn’t seem to be up to them, though, as fate intervenes and brings them together as lovers. Yet fate can be cruel, too, and pulls them apart when Logan’s circumstances change dramatically. Does this friends to lovers romance have a chance or are Logan and Magdalena going to lose each other forever?

Available for purchase at 



Sitting back, she took a pillow and clutched it to her chest. She was shaky from his touch. Vulnerable. A sudden bolt of fear shot through her. “I don’t want to ruin things between us, Logan.”

“Are you sure we would if we took this further?”

It was her turn to shake her head. “I guess the question is, do we want to risk it?”

“Do you want to pursue this?”

“I think it should be a joint decision.”
“Based on?”

She arched a brow. “I don’t know. Probability of success? We spend our days assessing that at work.”

“Okay. Let’s figure this out logically, like the business people we are.”
Hunching over, he put his hands on the coffee table. His back was impossibly tense. “Sixty percent of all marriages end in divorce. Thomas is separated, by the way.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Workplace romances have dire consequences unless the people get married. Often, even then, their jobs go south.”

She grimaced. “That doesn’t sound very promising. I love my job.”

“I do, too. We have to set priorities.”

Magdalena stomach knotted. “What’s most important to me is to have you in my life, Logan. I don’t want to lose that.”

“Yeah, kind of like that saying you use. ‘Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.’”

“Right. Things are great now between us. I’m afraid that will change.”

Straightening, he faced her. “Then I don’t think we should let this go further. I don’t want to take the chance.”

The disappointment was almost overwhelming. Still she eked out, “All right.”

“You sure you agree?”

“I do, Logan. I promise, I’d tell you the truth about something so important. I am disappointed. More than. But this is the right thing to do.”

He stood. “I’m going to take a shower.” He shook his head. “A cold one. When I return, we start over. Let’s not ever mention what happened.” He held out his hand. “Deal, partner?”

“It’s a deal, Logan.” She meant it, though she held on to him a little longer than she should.

And as she watched him leave, she knew she hadn’t lied to him. She did think this was for the best. She just wished she didn’t feel sad about it.

The Way We Were 
(Ludzecky Sisters Series #4)
by Kathryn Shay


Ana Ludzecky had it all—a sexy husband, a beautiful daughter, her dream house and the best extended family in the world. Then, tragedy strikes them and her life turns upside down. Unable to bear the suffering of her sisters, she makes some bad choices that eventually lead to the dissolution of her marriage.

Dr. Jared Creswell, a professor at Mount Mary College, always believed he and Ana would last forever. He’s never loved anybody like he loved her. But a year after the tragedy, she’s still suffering because of the horrific events her family suffered. Jared weakens and makes the biggest mistake of his life.

When their daughter is stricken with a rare kidney disorder, both Ana and Jared must come together to see her through this difficult time. Will his and Ana’s past love be rekindled or have they put it out forever? You’ll root for these two who’ve been dealt a bad hand in life and are trying to find their second chance at love.

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“The dinner was awesome, Daddy.” Opal smiled at her father like she always did, as if he’d hung the moon.

“I’m glad you liked it, princess.”

“Mom does, too.” Her dark-haired, green-eyed daughter looked over at Ana. “Right, Mom?”

“Yep, my favorite of all your dad’s dishes.”

“Did you know, Opalinski­”—his Polish nickname for her—“that I made this meal for Mom the first Valentine’s Day after you were born?” Opal had turned ten in October.

“How come you didn’t go out for dinner?”

Ana steeled her heart against the story and transferred her gaze to the family room, where a fire blazed in the hearth and could be seen from the table in the kitchen. Jared had been living here because Opal had to have surgery in a week and he’d insisted he be close to her. Ana had nixed the idea of Opal at his house; instead, he’d moved into the home they used to share. But it was harder than she imagined it would be. These reminiscences were as difficult to listen to as much as rereading the notes Jared, a literary man, had written to her all their lives together.

“We had a babysitter all lined up—Aunt Magdalena. But when she got here, your mother started to cry.” His expression, when he turned to Ana, was the one he used to give her when he loved her. “She didn’t want to leave you on your first Valentine’s Day. So I went out to the store, got ingredients for this dish, and we ate at home.”

And, Ana thought, made sweet love that night. Memories of how good they were together devastated her, so she stood. “I’ll clean up.”

Jared’s gaze intensified. God, it wasn’t fair that he looked better at thirty-nine than when she’d met him. He had a touch of gray hair at his temples, but it made his eyes stand out like emeralds, even when he wore his glasses. “Does that have to be done right away?”

She pretended to inspect Opal. Both her height and her slender frame mirrored Jared’s more than Ana’s. And now her face was tense. “I think our daughter is tired.”

As if the suggestion made it so, Opal’s shoulders sagged. “Yeah, I guess.” She bit her lip. “I can’t wait till this is all over.”

Her rare kidney disorder made it necessary to move the ureter from the top to the bottom of her kidney, which would prevent the fluid buildup she was now suffering. Problem was, she’d lose most of the function in that kidney.

“I know this has been hard for you, honey.” Jared stood and kissed the top of her head. “How about if you get ready for bed, and you and I read some?”

“Will you do all those voices in Huckleberry Finn?”

“I’d love to.”

Their daughter left the room, and they heard her footsteps on the stairs. Ana crossed quickly to the sink with dishes in her hands. She began rinsing them, but the gravity of Opal’s situation hit her at the oddest times. Combined with Jared’s trip down memory lane, emotion welled up and clogged her throat. 

Please don’t let me cry.

Unaware of her emotional state, Jared began to clear the table. When he brought his and Opal’s plates to the sink, he stopped. She knew her body had begun to shake.

“Annie.” His pet name for her. He moved in close so his front, his heat touched her. His hands went to her shoulders. “You don’t have to suffer alone. Please, let me comfort you. Let’s comfort each other.”

Without her mind’s conscious consent, she leaned back against him. She couldn’t help it. Because she did that, he slid his arms around her waist and held her to him. His breath at her ear, he said, “We can get through this together. I promise.”

Though she knew he’d made a lot of promises he hadn’t kept, she let herself believe this one. She had to. She’d expended all her strength on getting through the past two weeks since Opal’s diagnosis.

This time, he kissed her hair.

Then, loudly, too loudly, she heard, “Dad, I’m done… What’s going on?”

Jared stepped away. Ana straightened. “Just helping Mom clean up.” He cleared his throat. “I’ll be right up.”

Ana could hear that Opal didn’t move. So she ducked out from in front of Jared and pasted a smile on her face. “You look cute in those new jammies Aunt Mags gave you.” Red and black, they had dogs on them.

“Yeah, to take to the hospital.” Again, she bit her lip. Looked as if Ana wasn’t the only emotional one tonight. Crossing to her daughter, she embraced her.
Ana wished she could keep her child close, not turn her over to doctors who would operate on her. But she couldn’t; she had to be strong. “I promise we’ll be there for you, Opal. You’re not alone in this.”

“Daddy, too?” she asked in a whisper.

Ana glanced at Jared. His face was taut and he’d gone stiff. She could tell he was as worried as she. “Yes, Daddy, too. I promise. We both promise.”

Handle with Care 
(Ludzecky Sisters Series #5)
by Kathryn Shay


Of all the Ludzecky sisters, Sofia is the calmest one. She’s had to be. Diagnosed with leukemia at sixteen, the disease has affected her entire life. When bad things have happened to her—her father’s death, her Secret Service sister and brother getting shot, the deaths of her brothers-in-law--Sofia has gone into herself and found the strength to help them out and also take care of herself. The easy going, laid back lifestyle suits her and she likes it. Her chosen profession is as a yoga instructor and owner of Serenity Yoga, which enhances this way of living.

Football Coach Max Walker doesn’t know what to make of this sweet, demure and pretty woman who is hired by his high school to teach yoga to students. But he’s part of the Physical Education department and has to deal with her every day. Soon he comes to learn how special she is, and though he steered clear of romance with another teacher, he’s drawn to her. But she shies away from him—big time. Why? Women usually flock to Max.

Little does he know that his outgoing personality, his rabid bent for competition and his boisterous athletic family upset her. Opposites attract is not true in her case. But Max wants her, and he’s always gotten what he wants.

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Sofia calmed herself with rhythmic breathing and stared out the window of Eastside High School’s faculty lounge. Snow covered the ground. Many people hated the weather at this time of year, but not her. She treasured every season’s dawn and end. When she was sixteen, she hadn’t thought she’d experience very many of them again.

From behind, she heard, “Sofia?”

Max Walker had returned. She’d come to the school for a meeting with him and the vice principal and encountered a fight they’d just broken up in the hall. Since she and Max had to wait for the VP to deal with the perpetrators, Max escorted her to the teachers’ cafeteria and detoured to get her tea. The respite from his presence had allowed her to even out her reaction to him. Now he was back.

Turning, she saw him there, this big jock who was probably intimidating to most people. She herself was thrown by the impact of his physicality and his machismo in, well, a feminine way. She nodded to the cup of steaming water he set down. “Thanks.”

They sat and she fished some herbal tea out of her purse.

“Always carry that?” he asked, extending out his legs as if his body required special accommodation most people didn’t need.

She, for example, perched on the chair, sat straight up, spine long, neck relaxed. “I do. I have to be careful of what I eat.”

He tried to stifle the snort. “No Garbage Grub for you, huh?”

At the mention of the fat-filled, bad-for-your-arteries popular dish, she shuddered inwardly. “No, none.” And changed the subject. “I’ve wondered how your staff is reacting to the yoga classes I’m teaching in the fall. As head of the Physical Education Department, you’d know by now.”

“Mostly positive. The female PE teachers especially. One guy is definitely not on board.”

“Let me guess, Mr. Cook.”

Dark brows rose. “How’d you know?”

“I was a student here and had him in class. He used to make snide comments about boys taking Home Economics or whatever they call it now.”

“Family and Consumer Sciences. I didn’t know you went to Eastside.”

“I did.” Though a lot of what she remembered was her illness. For her last two years, she’d struggled with the horror of trying to do schoolwork and not give up because of the cruel anxiety and physical side effects of the leukemia treatment. Thank God she’d found yoga after she’d had to give up dance.

“Not a pleasant experience?”

“Why would you ask that?”

“Your face. It’s expressive.”

“Ah. I was sick, but I’d prefer not to talk about that, Mr. Walker.”

The corners of his mouth turned up. His nice mouth. “Max. We’re gonna be working together.”

“You’re the football coach here, too, aren’t you?”

“Yeah, and I hope to keep the job for a while.”

“Aren’t you good?”

He winked. “Darlin’, I’m great.”

She rolled her eyes. “I meant how’s the team doing?”

“We had a losing season last year. A bad one. Most of the players on our winning teams graduated. It was like starting over. I’m praying for success this year, but they have to be in the right mindset.”

“There are ways to help that along.”

“Sure, I know. The kids are lifting weights with me all winter. And we have a football camp in the summer. Practice starts in August.”

“I didn’t mean your skill preparation or muscle building.”

“What did you mean?”

“Your players should do breathing exercises, centering meditations, in addition to stretches and isometrics.”

He laughed out loud, and heads turned to look at him. “That’s namby-pamby for us jocks, don’t you think?”

It was her turn to laugh—at him—though she was quieter about it. “Seriously? You still use words like that? It’s the twenty-first century.”

He scowled. “Words like what?”

“Let’s see. Pansy. Sissy. Not to mention the more hurtful ones that are feminist put-downs or gender-orientation slurs.”

His gaze turned glacial. “I’m not bigoted. I think yoga is too easy, no, not that, too tame for my guys.”

“And for you?”


She nodded to his leg. “As soon as we started talking about the team, your knee started bobbing. Fast.”

“Yeah, my mother always said it was a telltale sign of…” He trailed off. “I get it, you think I could use all that stuff you just mentioned.”

“Yes. Everyone can benefit from it. But I’ve been doing some research on yoga for high school kids. Athletes are the number one group they cite for needing yoga practice.”

“That can’t be true, lady.”

“You really should watch your language, Coach. You didn’t mean lady kindly.”


She sighed. “I’m sorry we’re getting off on the wrong foot, Max. All I was suggesting was that you and your team could be better if you did yoga poses and breathing exercises. I was hoping some of the guys would sign up for the fall session.”

“Ain’t gonna happen.”

“Obviously not, with you as a role model.”

He sat up straight and his fist clenched on the table.

Leaning in, she put her hand over it and felt the tension. She was surprised he didn’t snatch it back. “Again, I apologize. We have a difference of opinion on this. I won’t bring it up again.”

“Yeah, sure, that’d be okay.”

“On one condition.”

Now his gaze narrowed. “What?”

“Come to Serenity Yoga, my studio. Take a few classes. They don’t have to be from me. But we’ll do it free of charge. If your experience there doesn’t convince you that you’re not in as good shape as you think, I’ll be silenced till the end of time.”

As soon as she touched him, Max went off-kilter. He stared at their hands, her small one covering his big paw. Both strength and comfort transferred from her to him. He couldn’t explain it. He raised his head. It was a mistake. She wasn’t exactly pretty, though the long hair, hanging down her back in a braid, was probably stunning spread across a guy’s pillow. In her eyes, he saw…what the hell was that? Confidence. Security. Ah…peace. Which he longed for all of a sudden.


“Sorry. You’re disturbing me.”

“I don’t mean to.”

“No, that’s okay. So, let’s go over this again. You want me to take some yoga classes at the studio where you work. See if I think it can help my players, what? Be better at football?”

“Yes, they wouldn’t be the first.”

Cocking his head, he watched her.

“You know who Ray Lewis, Victor Cruz and Vernon Davis are?”

“Yeah sure. They play for the Baltimore Ravens, the New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers.”

Approval in her eyes. Hell, he couldn’t believe he liked it. Because he didn’t much like her.

“They all take or took yoga.”

“Seriously?” Though, even as he said the word, he remembered reading something about that.

“LeBron James and Shaquille, too. They’re athletes who turned to yoga to learn stretching, focus and body awareness.”

Max didn’t know what to say, so he shut his trap.

“The basketball coach from Duke did, too, and they recently won a NCAA championship. When asked how he stayed so calm, he said it was because he practiced yoga.”

Feeling at a disadvantage, he did what all guys do when put on the spot. He went on defense. “You came prepared for this little game, Ms. Ludzecky. I’m not in shape for the argument.”

“Sofia,” she said, mimicking his earlier reference to using his first name. “And yes, I came prepared.”

Max watched her. Suddenly, he realized having her in his department, even for a few classes a week, wasn’t going to be harmless like he’d thought. And the notion bothered him a lot. He looked down. Shit! His knee was bobbing again.

Love Story 
(Ludzecky Sisters Series #6)
by Kathryn Shay


Elizabeita Ludzecky is two different women: one the risk-taking, hip, wild child in the Ludzecky family. Her other side is the Rhodes Scholar and businesswoman who works at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The problem is she doesn’t know which is the real her. But what she does understand is the secret she carries inside her, and how it’s helped her survive a family fraught with tragedy.

Hardened cop Nick Casella decides to leave the NYPD because of his distaste for anti-police sentiment that developed after several high profile shootings were not prosecuted in the courts. But he’s asked to be part of a task force for the NYPD, an undercover unit specializing in unique crimes. He’s sent to the Met, ostensibly as a new employee do to set ups and other odd jobs. The famous museum has been besieged by odd emails, hackers and maybe even a stalker.

Nick works with Elizabeita when they put up a new exhibit and, at first, is not at all charmed by her winsomeness, her upbeat attitude about life or her sexy charisma. She’s a baby anyway, as he has more than a decade on her. But she’s getting the emails, too, and might be a victim, so he has to spend time with her. When she sets her sights on him, his first instinct is to run in the other direction. Soon, that changes dramatically. With secret and lies as the basis of a relationship, especially an older man/younger woman romance, does it have any chance of surviving?

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Elizabeita entered one of the conference rooms at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and took a seat in the back. Most of the Contemporary Art staff had already gathered, and she noticed a workman touching up some paint on the side wall. Its scent was strong but not unpleasant

“How’s everybody today?” Delores Martin, the head curator in charge of the division, asked. 

In addition to Dee, three assistant curators, three collections managers, one research associate and a variety of technicians completed their department. 

Sometimes, Elizabeita had to pinch herself to believe she’d actually gotten an assistant curatorship at this renowned museum three years ago.

Mumbles of good or okay or tired abounded. Elizabeita liked the people she worked with, including the two interns from the School of Art in Manhattan.

After some announcements, Delores zeroed in on her. “Elizabeita, I’ve got good news for you.”

“Seriously? We’re getting it?” She’d been working on bringing a touring exhibit of a comparison between Dali and Picasso to the Met.

“Yes, we are. A gallery in Chicago had to drop out because of a fire. We’ve gotten their slot at the beginning of November.”

“Hallelujah!” Success meant a lot to her.

“We don’t have much time to prepare for this, but I’m sure it will sell out in days. Publicity is already underway. You can expect the setup to begin as soon as the Matisse exhibit ends and is broken down.”

“Great. Will I still be going to the conference in California the week after next?”

“I don’t see why not.” She transferred her gaze to the person next to Elizabeita.

“Ellen, about your project. We didn’t receive a grant we expected from the city. It’s impossible to finance your exhibit before the end of the year.”

Also an assistant curator, Ellen Pratt frowned. “But you said it was on track to be accepted.”

“I thought it would be. I didn’t plan on the cut.”

Elizabeita knew how Ellen must feel. She’d experienced rejection at work, too. 

Then again, everybody did.

“Make an appointment to see me and we’ll talk.”

They covered other business, then Dee took off her glasses and leaned forward.

“We’ll end with something we need to discuss—the emails our department has been getting.”

For a while now, the staff at the Met had been receiving emails which consisted of a line or two about modern art. The missives had gone from innocuous 
statements about its lack of relevance, its nonsensical presentation to branding the style as pagan, blasphemous and sacrilegious. After studying the history of art at Oxford, Elizabeita knew about art fanatics.

“There might be cause for concern,” Delores went on.

“Why?” Ellen asked. “We have the best security of any art museum in the world here. And Director Davidson is top-notch.”

“We do. Physically.” The museum sported the requisite cameras, guards in every room, motion sensors on each work of art, and vigilant overnight security. 

“But we may need assistance in dealing with computer issues.”

The collections manager offered, “These emails have been coming periodically for a while now. Aren’t they just from some kook who doesn’t understand genius or wants attention?”

“At first, we thought so. Then the frequency increased. And the tenor of the messages has become aggressive. Also, a few employees have noticed lurkers around the quietest spaces in the museum. When security was called, they vanished.”

“A lot of people lurk in museums.” This from the research associate. “We call it browsing.”

Elizabeita agreed about the lurkers. Her favorite patron of the museum, a little old Polish man who took the train in from Brooklyn every week, could be considered one. And he was as harmless as a kitten.

“All I can say is the director wants you to be on the lookout for anything unusual. And be sure to send your emails to him as soon as you receive them so his team can analyze the data.”

Elizabeita’s gaze strayed to the man painting in the corner. He hadn’t gotten much done. Right now, he was on his haunches doing something she couldn’t s­ee. It was unusual to have a workman in a room during a staff meeting.

When the group broke up, Elizabeita took out her phone. As she walked into the hallway, she checked for messages. Three texts had come in, and she moved to the side to read them. One from a professor she had taken classes from—and more—who lived in London. One from Ana. Another from a guy she’d dated once and didn’t plan to see again. She answered them and then pushed herself off the wall. Right as the workman came out. They collided.

A gallon can went flying. When it hit the wall, the top came off and beige paint spattered everywhere. ““What the hell?” he muttered and whirled around. “You ran into me.”

“I wasn’t looking where I was going. I’m sorry.”

“Do you have any idea how long that’s going to take me to clean up?”

She frowned. “Quite a while.”

He glanced back to the wall. “Damn it,” he said under his breath.

“Listen, I can help you. It was my fault.”

“Damn right it was.” He raked her up and down with a disgusted gaze. “Never mind. I can’t see you mopping up paint in those heels and the suit.”

Hmm. Must be he didn’t know who she was. Not a big shot at the museum, for sure, but she’d started working here after she got her second degree in art and had interned in galleries in London and Paris. She planned to climb the art ladder fast. Now, at twenty-six, she was recommending exhibits and had gotten one approved. She could, if she wanted to, get him in trouble.

Sofia would kill her. Sweetie, she’d say. Be forgiving of people. You never know if their cat died, if they were up all night at a second job, or if they’d lost everything they’d worked for.

So she backed up a few steps. “You’re right. I was only trying to help.” Stung, she started to walk away.

And heard behind her, “I could probably leave the paint on the wall, and people would think it was just another piece of that damned modern art.”

Hmm. He had a sense of humor. Who would have guessed?

About the Author

A NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author, Kathryn Shay has been a lifelong writer and teacher. She has written dozens of self-published original romance titles, print books with the Berkley Publishing Group and Harlequin Enterprises and mainstream women’s fiction with Bold Strokes Books. She has won five RT Book Reviews awards, four Golden Quills, four Holt Medallions, the Bookseller’s Best Award, Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year and several “Starred Reviews.” Her novels have been serialized in COSMOPOLITAN magazine and featured in USA TODAY, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL and PEOPLE magazine. There are over five million copies of her books in print, along with hundreds of thousands downloaded online. Reviewers have call her work “emotional and heart-wrenching.”

You can find Kathryn at 



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