*ARC REVIEW* – Rough Love, by Laura Morgan

#darkread #darkromance #mcromance #erotic #newadult

Take a Walk on the Dark Side with his Fabulous MC Romance!

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Book Blurb

Please note – This book is not suitable for those under 18 years old. There are numerous triggers and dark scenes.

I’ve always lived a sheltered life,
One where my every move has been decided for me and no decision has ever been my own. I thought I liked it that way. That I was content to let it continue…

I’ve never been hurt, or had my heart broken,
That was until my big sister was killed in a hit and run, leaving me alone amongst the men who have brought me up—the protectors I thought I trusted—but without her, things are suddenly beginning to change. The world around me is growing darker and more dangerous. The monsters who were lurking in the shadows are slowly coming out to play their sinister games with me and I have no idea where to turn to for help.

I never got to know who my sister truly was,
I need answers to the questions I’ve left it too late to ask. But, I have finally found a clue, and the only question is, am I ready to hear the truth? Will I be able to handle the depravity of the story I’ve yet to uncover?

So now it’s all about to change,
My name is Dahlia Proctor. I’m the youngest daughter of the Black Knights Motorbike Club President, and this is the story of how my life has been turned upside down ever since my sister died…

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8155512.Laura_Morgan?from_search=true

My Review – 5 stars

A Fabulous Dark MC Romance TOP READ!

Rough Love is a fantastic walk on the dark side by the talented and versatile author Laura Morgan.  I LOVED it! It does have a HEA, but it is most definitely a white knuckled ride! Dahlia, hitherto the protected younger daughter of the President of a powerful MC club, finds herself thrust into the limelight after a family tragedy. It’s sink or swim as she strives to cope with her new role, the man who her father practically gifts her to and the darkness that is closing in.

After the tragic death of her sister, Dahlia finds that she is to replace her as the fiancée of Tobin, the oh so sexy alpha Vice President of the Black Knights Motorbike Club. Dahlia, unlike her sister, has always been a good girl, the apple of her father’s eye, and finds that she is very soon out of her comfort zone. She is shocked at the methods her father employs to compel her towards the union with Tobin and it will take all of her inner reserves to not only assert herself against the powerful will of the men in her life but also the sinister threat to her safety which emerges as she tries to find out about her sister’s last days.

The book is a compulsive, sexy and suspenseful read with some dark themes and scenes – definitely not a read for those under 18, as stated in the blurb. It very much represents the coming of age of the central character Dahlia, the heroine, as she comes to terms with secrets within the Black Knights Motorcycle Club and beyond, her new responsibilities and her relationships with Tobin, her father and others. With all that has happened and what she finds out in her quest to find out what happened to her sister, it is a constant battle to know who to trust. Should she have left her sibling’s secrets well alone or is it now too late and will she have to face the shocking consequences?

I loved the romance between the central couple. Dahlia is wildly attracted to Tobin (and who wouldn’t be – serious hottie alert)! They get off to a less than stellar start and are in many respects opposites – Dahlia the quiet, studious geek and Tobin the alpha, with a bad boy reputation.  Can their fledgling relationship survive what is revealed? How can Dahlia ever replace her larger than life sister and become the partner of the President in waiting?  Their romance is a complex one with many sizzling and heartfelt scenes.

Rough Love is a brilliant read for fans of dark romance and is thoroughly recommended!

Reviewed by Tina Williams

Please note, an ARC of this book was given to me by the author for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Purchase Links

Amazon US  Amazon UK

Connect with the Author

https://www.facebook.com/lauramorganauthor/?fref=ts

http://lauramorgan83.wixsite.com/lauramorgan

https://twitter.com/lauram241

 

*REVIEW* ~ A Different Kind of Cosplay, by Lucy Felthouse

#eroticromance #erotica #cosplay #roleplay #geeks

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Blurb

Zachary has a dilemma. His girlfriend, Reese, has a special birthday coming up soon and he has absolutely no clue what to get for her. It doesn’t help that Zach does not share or really understand Reese’s biggest hobby—comic books, superheroes and everything that goes with them. Zach raids Reese’s DVD collection for inspiration, and what he finds there gives him an idea…possibly the best one he’s ever had.

Sure, Reese has fantasized about her favorite superheroes. All those muscles and rakish smiles are to die for. She didn’t think Zach would ever really understand, though. But he proves her wrong in the best way possible.

My Review – 5

Role Playing Smutfest with a Superhero Twist!

Lucy Felthouse’s A Different Kind of Cosplay is one hell of a hot and kinky read! If you have ever wondered what it would be like to get up close and personal with your fave superheroes then here’s your chance to find out in this fast and furious erotic read!

Reese is certainly one lucky girl when Zach her estate agent partner, who is not usually an Avengers fan, takes her and her libido completely by surprise, when he proceeds to ravish her in a series of deliciously kinky and lust filled role playing scenes, the likes neither of them has ever encountered before… Reese’s fantasies about her screen idols are realised and both are inspired to push the boat out when it comes to new experiences! Trying to keep a fairly neutral face on my local bus route into town when I was reading a number of their encounters was extremely challenging.

The read contains erotic and kinky scenes which hit the spot again and again (and then some more). I now know what will be going at the top of my own birthday wish list. 😉

Reviewed by Tina Williams

A copy of this book was provided by the author for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23688835-a-different-kind-of-cosplay?ac=1&from_search=true

Purchase Links

Amazon US   Amazon UK

Connect with the Author

http://www.lucyfelthouse.co.uk

Facebook

Twitter

*BLOG TOUR* ~ Loving Ruby ( Book 2 of The Riverstone series) by Roya Carmen

LOVING RUBY BY ROYA CARMEN

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Loving Ruby By Roya Carmen
Release Date- 19th January, 2017
 
A sinful boss secretary romance.

 

I’ve heard all the rumours: He killed his wife. He’s on house arrest. He’s a vampire. Yet still, when I get a job offer from the reclusive Mr. Hyde, I jump at the chance. Yes, I know I’m crazy.

 

I’m cautious at first, but then I discover a beautiful, quirky man. I also see a tortured soul who lives in darkness. I know I should run, yet I can’t tear myself away. I want to discover all his secrets. I desperately want to help him. And when he draws me deeper into his strange little world, I want to stay.

 

Author’s Note: Loving Ruby contains explicit sexual scenes and some coarse language. It is Book 2 of The Riverstone series but can be enjoyed as a standalone. If one wants to read the entire series, it is best to read them in chronological order to avoid spoilers.



TEASERS

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Busy mom, naughty writer, comic-addict, artist & designer, book-aholic, nature lover, and hopeless romantic.

 

When I’m not writing, I can usually be found hanging with my family, reading, camping and travelling, painting, yoga-ing (very ungracefully), shooting pool, or at my favourite bookstore café with my book friends.

 

A Northern French-Canadian gal, I now live just near Toronto where it’s much, much warmer!

 

For all the latest updates, sign-up for my newsletter at www.royacarmen.com or friend me on Facebook or Twitter!

 

Sign up for my monthly newsletter:
Twitter: @royacarmen
Wattpad: @royastories

*ARC REVIEW* ~ Never The Bride (Dilbury Village #1), by Charlotte Fallowfield

#romcom #humour

Loveable Feel Good Romantic Comedy!

I was honoured and SO excited to receive an ARC of this book! I have read a number of Charlotte Fallowfield’s books, writing as CJ Fallowfield (Torn, The Temptress and All That Glisters) and have hugely enjoyed them all. This was the first Rom-Com I’ve read of the author’s and her wicked sense of humour is given full reign – I LOVED it! Scroll down to find out more about the book and for my review. The book is due for release on 28th February, but is up for pre-order now. 🙂

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Blurb

From Charlotte Fallowfield, bestselling rom-com author, comes Never The Bride – A laugh out loud romantic comedy novel full of heart-warming friendships, romance, and quintessential British humour – Coming 28th February 2017.

Available to pre-order from Amazon now!

Abbie Carter felt doomed as she clutched her bouquet and started walking up the aisle. Again. She felt like she was stuck in some kind of Groundhog Day wedding nightmare. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Eight dresses, most of them hideous, were already stuffed in her attic space. She had more bridesmaid dresses than relationships. Was she really that unlucky in love? She despaired of ever finding her soul mate and was convinced that if she packed away dress thirteen in her attic, she’d never get to wear the coveted white one and have her happy ever after.

That was until she locked eyes with one of the handsome ushers, whose wink turned her elegant and well-practiced glide up the aisle into a flailing Bambi-on-ice spectacle. Miller Davis was the first man in forever to make her heart skip a beat, as well as her legs turn to jelly. And, for once, her interest in a man didn’t seem to be one-sided. It was just a shame that the Atlantic Ocean separated them. Abbie couldn’t even make a relationship with her elderly fat pooch, Sumo, work, so what chance did she have with a permanent New Yorker? Her best friend, Georgie, told her to ignore the miles that separated her from Miller and to go for it, saying that true love knew no bounds.

Was Abbie fated to always be the bridesmaid, or would her wish for the perfect day with the man of her dreams ever come true?

While Never The Bride will be a standalone story, it’s the first in the Dilbury Village series of romantic comedy novels. All of them will be set in the quaint fictitious English hamlet in the Shropshire countryside, but feature a different village couples’ story.

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My Review ~ Loveable Feel Good Romantic Comedy! 5 stars

Charlotte Fallowfield’s Never the Bride is a feel good romantic comedy, the ideal read if you are after an instant pick me up! It contains an unlucky in love but totally likeable heroine Abbie, who careers from one embarrassing or compromising situation to another, whilst she lives her life and looks for Mr Right. It is the first book in the author’s Dilsbury Village series, but can be read as a standalone.

Abbie meets Miller, a sexy American IT specialist whilst she is once again bridesmaid (never the bride) at the wedding of one of her old school friends. The scene where they meet is one of pure comic genius, as are many other scenes in the book! Their attraction is instantaneous yet they live thousands of miles apart, separated by the Atlantic. The romance sees a non-starter until their paths once again cross at yet another wedding and Miller’s persistence pays off.

Yet Abbie is very much wedded to village life and her friends in Dilsbury, in the centre of England. Can there possibly be a future with Miller, the swoon worthy alpha male, who is equally committed to his career and home in New York? How can they meet each other half way, when half way is the middle of the Atlantic? Is Abbie forever destined to remain the bridesmaid and never the bride? Should Abbie look elsewhere for her beau? The book is a rollercoaster ride of emotions and humour!

Abbie’s tale is recounted in Charlotte Fallowfield’s signature comedic style, interspersed with some sexy scenes. Village life in Dilsbury is never boring –  there are a wealth of lovable and entertaining individuals who accompany Abbie on her exploits and support her in her quest for Mr Right. Characters incude Abbie’s BFF Georgie, Daphne and David her neighbours, Heath the sexy gardener and last but not least her adorable pooch Sumo, who plays a key role in the plot.

I’ll say no more – this read just about killed me with laughter. It full of  hilarious scenes, recounted with typical British humour.

Highly recommended for fans of Romantic Comedies. A riotous read guaranteed.

Reviewed by Tina Williams

Please note an ARC of this book was sent o me by the author for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Purchase Links

Pre-order now:

Amazon UK  Amazon US

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Connect with the Author

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31742268-never-the-bride?from_search=true

https://www.facebook.com/Charlottefallowfield.author

http://cjfallowfield.co.uk/charlotte-fallowfield

 

*Release Blitz & Excerpt* ~ Britney King – Dead in the Water (Water Trilogy #2)

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Title: Dead in the Water

Series: Water Trilogy #2

Author: Britney King

Release Date: Jan 17, 2017

Add to TBR

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Synopsis

THE PERFECT NEIGHBORS. THE PERFECT COVER.

A Gripping Romantic Suspense Thriller

He’s a contract killer. She likes to even the score. Smack dab in the middle of suburbia, few married couples are as competitive as Jude and Kate.

But then, most married couples don’t keep score in the form of body counts. Each hell-bent on a silent pact to out-do the other, the games begin.

Who ends up on top is anyone’s guess. But with these two, one thing’s for sure— not everyone comes out alive.

After all, there are a few things they can agree on: All is fair in love and war. And if they can’t make it work— they’re dead in the water.

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Buy Links

Amazon – http://amzn.to/2jURbKc

Barnes & Noble – http://bit.ly/2jmKGzi

Kobo – http://bit.ly/2jzCTLG

iBooks – http://bit.ly/2joSEaN

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Excerpt

“Cheers,” I offer, but it sounds like ‘fuck you,’ which it is, and I hate that we haven’t touched glasses. It’s bad luck, and certainly we don’t need any of that. You don’t seem concerned with luck though, because in two short strides you are standing in front of me, and your eyes are dark. You swallow hard, and this intensity, it kills me. You don’t say anything, and I hate the silence between us. Maybe you’re trying to send a message. Maybe you’re into telepathy; I’m not sure. But I’m not afraid of this side of you, Jude. It’s always been the best part. And so when you push me against the wall, I go willingly. At least at first. Because I know you, and you’ve always enjoyed a bit of a fight.

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Author Info

Britney King writes modern love stories for mature audiences. She also enjoys suspense and often finds her sweet spot penning a good mixture of the two.

Britney is the author of eight novels and is currently at work on number nine.

She lives in Austin, Texas with her husband, children, two dogs, one ridiculous cat and a partridge in a pear tree.

Facebook – http://bit.ly/1Mwe1LG

Twitter – http://bit.ly/2ell0jN

Website – http://bit.ly/2iw8hcp

Goodreads – http://bit.ly/2exNnIR

 

 

 

*RELEASE BLITZ* ~ Her Savage Scot & Her Vengeful Scot, books1 & 2 of The Highland Warrior Chronicles, by Christina Phillips

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Forged in blood, United by Passion
The Highland Warrior Chronicles

Book 1 – Her Savage Scot

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 Amazon   |   iBooks   |   Kobo   |   B&N

He’s the only man she wants, and the one she can never have…

When tough Scot warrior Connor MacKenzie rides into the barbaric lands of the Picts on a mission for his king, he never expects to be captivated by a beautiful Pictish widow. Drawn under her spell, yet unaware of her true identity, he risks everything for one passionate night in her arms.

Aila, princess of Pictland, swore, after watching her husband die, that she would never marry again. But after meeting Connor, her frozen heart thaws and once again she imagines a future filled with love and passion.

When Connor delivers the message from his king, Aila becomes a pawn in a deadly game of politics. Her heart belongs to Connor, but she must marry the prince of Dal Riada – Connor’s half-brother. But the fates have other plans for the star-crossed lovers as they fight their enemies and themselves to find true love.

Previously published in 2013

Read Chapter One of Her Savage Scot 

Book 2 – Her Vengeful Scot

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 AmazoniBooks  |  Kobo  |  B&N

To avenge his sister’s honor, he must destroy the woman he wants most in the world…

Ordered to remain in Pictland, Cameron MacNeil fights the lust that consumes him whenever he encounters the aloof princess, Elise. Not only is she a cursed Pict, she belongs to the man he has vowed vengeance upon.

Despite her reputation, Elise has no interest in men until she meets Cameron. Lacking the famed Scots charm, his blunt ways enchant her and he ignites a passion she long thought dead. When she is freed from her difficult marriage, Elise places her trust in the tough Scot warrior who has stolen her heart.

Bound by blood oaths, the only way Cam can protect Elise from political schemes is to make her his bride. When Elise discovers the truth, she fears everything she knew about her husband was a lie. All she can do is trust her goddess was right and Cameron is her one true love.

Previously published in 2014

Read Chapter One of Her Vengeful Scot

**Release Day Review, Author Post & Excerpt** BRAKE FAILURE by Alison Brodie

Released today, BRAKE FAILURE is a contemporary romance, with humour, suspense and a kick-ass heroine. The story is set in one of the most fascinating episodes in America’s history: the months leading up to Y2K “melt-down”. And, what’s more is that it’s just $1/£1 for the first five days of it’s release!!

brakefailurecoverwithreview793Title: Brake Failure

Author: Alison Brodie

Genre: Contemporary romantic suspense

Date released: January 9th, 2017

Length: 340 pages

Buy Links: Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon Canada

Blurb: “Is it too late to tell him you love him when you’re looking down the barrel of his gun?”

Ruby Mortimer-Smyth is upper-class English, rigidly brought up to marry a man from the pages of Burke’s Peerage. She knows the etiquette for every occasion and her soufflés NEVER collapse.

She is in control of her life, tightly in control. Until …she ends up in Kansas.

Ruby believes that life is like a car; common-sense keeps it on the road, passion sends it into a ditch. What she doesn’t know is, she’s on a collision course with Sheriff Hank Gephart.

Sheriff Hank Gephart can judge a person. Miss Mortimer-Smyth might act like the Duchess of England, but just under the surface there’s something bubbling, ready to erupt. She’s reckless, and she’s heading for brake failure. And he’s not thinking about her car.

With the Millennium approaching, Ruby gets caught up in the Y2K hysteria. She joins a Survivalists group, who give her a gun and advise her to stockpile basic essentials. Accordingly, she bulk-buys Perrier, Gentleman’s Relish and macaroons.

Ruby, far from home, is making Unsuitable Friends and “finding herself” for the first time. She falls in with a gang of Hells Angels and falls foul of the law. At every turn, she comes up hard against Sheriff Hank Gephart, whose blue eyes seem to look deep into her soul. She desperately wants him, but knows she can never have him.

She’s angry at the emotions he arouses in her. Pushed to her limit, she bursts from her emotional straightjacket.

As the clock strikes midnight of the new Millennium, she’s on a freight train with three million dollars, a bottle of Wild Turkey and a smoking gun.

What happened to Miss Prim-and-Proper? And why did she shoot Mr Right?
________________

Note: Alison Brodie wrote this story from first-hand experience. She lived in Kansas during this time and was stunned by the hysteria, unnerved that the US government was spending $150 billion preparing for Armageddon. As Lionel Shriver says in her novel, We Have To Talk About Kevin: “1999, a year widely mooted beforehand as the end of the world.”

REVIEW ***** (5* rating)

To say I loved this story is an understatement. Brake Failure is a powerful romantic suspense, with quick wit and humour at times when you least expect it for a great uplifting experience between the intense scenes. Ruby, an extremely well-to-do upper class Brit, has her hopes and dreams set on a life in Paris; living up to the expectations of her stepmother and stepsister. Marriage is more of one of convenience than love and desire, and so when she realises her husband has been offered a job in Kansas, USA instead of the sexy, sophisticated Paris she is quite disheartened and a tad embarrassed. However, when two men from completely different backgrounds enter her life her thoughts begin to spiral out of control.

Sheriff Hank Gephart is the man she keeps running into every time she does something wild and loose cannon-like. He always catches her during times of misbehaviour and craziness, letting her off the hook, but always telling her what to do, and who she shouldn’t be hanging out with. Another moment in his company and she’d lose her top. Yet, from deep within he has this invisible hold of her. She can’t stop thinking of him. But, no, she definitely hates him! Or, does she? Besides, who cares, she’s married to Edward and is certainly not going to be running off with anyone anytime soon.

Unless, Payat, the Red Indian Chief boss of her husband counts, with his tall, broad body, soft eyes and caring nature. Yes, if she were to have an affair it would definitely be him. Why on earth would she want the brute of a man, a cowboy, like Gephart, when she could have the soft, tender caressing love and protection from her seemingly lovely Indian? Yet, as a reader, it is the intensity of Hank’s character that gets the heart pacing, just as it does for Ruby, even if she is in denial.

“It would be like wanting a cuddly cat and being given a tiger. He (Hank) was too masculine, too overpowering, too much in charge. If she wanted to rock the security of her little world by going off with another man, she would choose Payat. Payat with his gentle manner, his shy dark eyes and, of course, his wildly romantic appeal.

But she wasn’t prepared to go off with another man. Like a filing cabinet, her life was compartmentalised and ordered. Edward was her husband. Payat was a delicious fantasy. And Gephart was the rogue piece of paper that had to go in the bin.”

Brake Failure draws you in from the very beginning as the reader learns that a sheriff has been shot. This leads the reader to question who shot him, why did they shoot, and where are they now? What will happen next? Stories that open up with a shocking scene always seem to be the best, as the reader searches for these answers, being gripped to every ounce of information that the author offers them.

The story weaves between the events that unfold in the investigation of the shot sheriff and the weeks leading up to that event. Did Ruby really shoot Hank? If so, what caused her to do so? And, where is she now? Did she leave, running scared after an accident? Or, did she decide to leave to go to Payat?

The differences of Ruby’s social class and etiquette in comparison to the culture and behaviour of those in the Mid-West adds plenty of humour to the story. Her Kansas friends are ever-eager to find out about the British Royal Family, whilst preparing themselves for a possible breakdown in society if computers start to crash during the 2000 New Year Millennium Bug. This encourages Ruby to start preparing herself, just in case. It is during some of these events that the reader is introduced to Ruby’s diary and her thoughts that will make the reader laugh out loud, along with her sarcasm towards her stepsister and Hank Gephart.

Alison Brodie keeps the readers guessing due to the surprises and twists that occur, and also because of Ruby’s sometimes erratic and indecisive behaviour. She has her family’s upbringing expectations to live up to, her perfect, classy housewife expectations of her husband’s, and yet (although in denial for the most part) starts wanting to live. Love shouldn’t be a lustful desire, but a companionship – a means to an end, but when she begins to desire things she’s not used to it sets her down a crazy path. This keeps the reader on their toes, making it a fast and exhilarating read that will stay with you for a very long time. Certainly a classic in my opinion!

A copy of Brake Failure was provided by the author, Alison Brodie, in return for a fair and honest review.

Reviewed by Caroline Barker

Other reviews include:

5 * “OMG…I freakin’ LOVED this book…going on the list of one of my favorites of 2016.” –Star Angels Reviews

5* “Everyone needs to read this book. It’s blooming brilliant.” –The Reading Shed

5* “Hilarious.” –Lauren Sapala, Book Reviewer and Writers’ Coach

5* “A laugh-out-tale that will keep you flipping the pages as fast as possible.” –Tome Tender

5* “Empowering…comical…refreshing.” –San Francisco Book Review

AUTHOR POST

ALISON BRODIE – Brake Failure

 

Brake Failure is about an English girl, Ruby, who has been strictly brought up to be polite – and to bottle her feelings. Then she arrives in Kansas and collides with Sheriff Hank Gephart, who gives her a hard time. Pushed to her limit, she bursts from her emotional straightjacket and commits minor acts of criminal insanity.

I loved writing this story. It was wonderful to be in Ruby’s skin and just be reckless, rude and raving!I I also love Hank. He is down-to-earth, controlling (he is a cop, after all) and very macho.

When I write a book, I allow my characters to tell the story. With this book, I just didn’t know how – or if – Hank and Ruby could ever get together. It seemed so impossible. I also loved Rowdy, the ugly dog she adopts, and Idabel, a Survivalist who teaches Ruby how to shoot a gun ready for Y2K “meltdown”.

I lived in Kansas during the time of the Millennium Bug and got quite worried about what would happen when the bell struck midnight of the new year! TV channels were either saying: “Just prepare as if for a 6-day blizzard.” Other channels were saying “Run for the hills!” I didn’t know what to think, especially as the American government was spending 150 billion dollars on preparing for the “bug”. Yikes!

This was an easy story to write because I didn’t need to do research. I lived there, went to all the dives, danced with cowboys, met real bull-riders, sheriffs, neighbours, Survivalists. The book reads more like a memoir! And the big event that happened right at the end? It really did happen. I have the Kansas City Star from 1 January to prove it!

Some readers may enjoy historical references: I mention Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac (institutes like these gave money to poor people, which would eventually lead to world recession).

The first Harry Potter book had just come out and was being burned (can you remember a time before the Year HP?)

Princess Diana had died two years before and the American people were still stunned, still asking questions. The Americans have a fascination for the Royal Family.

The Hadron Collider was just being built. Now it’s up and running and has found the Higgs boson.

So this book is a romcom, a memoir, a slice of recent history, plus a social document detailing the differences between America and Britain. Enjoy!

Alison Brodie Author photoAUTHOR BIO

Alison Brodie is a Scot, with French Huguenot ancestors on her mother’s side. Alison was a photographic model for a wide range of products, such as Ducatti motorbikes and 7Up. She was also the vampire in the Schweppes commercial.

Alison lived in Kansas for two years. She loved the people, their friendliness, the history and the BBQs! Now, she lives in Biarritz, France with her rescue mutt, Bayley.

BRAKE FAILURE will be “unleashed” 9 Jan, 2017. See the reviews on Goodreads:https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31683339-brake-failure

Alison loves to hear from her readers. Link to website: http://www.alisonbrodiebooks.com/#!the-double/c1253

EXCERPT

Ruby!’ Karla shouted. ‘Git yer ass over here, gal.’

She wandered over, aware that he was more stoned than usual. He grabbed her hand and tugged. ‘Come on, Ruby-Ruby; tell us more about the Tower of London.’

She was not at all alarmed by his manner. Although he was built like King Kong, he was a pussy-cat. But she was in no mood for talking. ‘Nah, I’m going back inside,’ she said, making a half-hearted attempt to disengage herself.

GET YER HANDS OFF HER!’ The voice cut through the night air.

Gephart was striding towards them, his face murderous.

Karla was on his feet, hands bunched: ‘You talking to me?’ he growled, unaware that he was threatening a cop out of uniform.

Yeah, I’m talking to you.’

Karla stepped forward, chin thrust out. ‘What I do with her ain’t none of yer business!’

It’s alright!’ Ruby cried, grabbing Gephart’s sleeve to restrain his threatening punch. This was a mistake. With his arm held back, Gephart was unable to defend himself and took the full force of Karla’s fist in his face. Gephart let out a yell and fell back clutching his nose.

Ruby spun to Karla. ‘You idiot! Why on earth did you do that?’

Karla, startled by her verbal attack, didn’t see Hank’s fist coming. It cracked against his jaw, sending him reeling back.

Appalled, she turned angrily to see Hank going in for another punch. ‘STOP IT!’ She jumped between them and held out her hands. ‘THIS IS ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS!’ Goodness, she sounded like the Queen.

It worked, though. The combatants stared at her with a “what-the-hell-was-that” look.

Karla’s girlfriend arrived on the scene, wobbling on spiked heels and screeching. Everyone was making a fuss over Karla, yet no-one cared about Hank, who was bent over, cupping a hand under his bleeding nose. Ruby’s fury turned to pity. She picked up his Stetson.

Come on,’ she said, putting a hand on his back. ‘Let’s go inside and I’ll clean you up.’ She steered him towards the entrance, along the corridor and into the ladies lavatory. ‘You shouldn’t have hit him,’ she said, sitting him on a stool by the sink and taking the tube of Savlon from her bag. Apart from a pair of tweezers, the rest of her emergency medical supplies had long ago been abandoned to make space for makeup and perfume.

You were in trouble.’

She began filling the sink with hot water. ‘I wasn’t in trouble.’ Gephart was so close; she could feel the power of him.

Didn’t look that way to me.’

Karla’s my friend. He was just being silly.’ She yanked paper towels from the dispenser, soaked them in water, squeezed them out and began to wipe the blood from Hank’s face. He was staring at her but she refused to meet his gaze. Being so close, she could smell him, the beer on his breath, the smoky smell of hickory wood from his hair, the warm scent of male sweat; musty yet inoffensive. She could see the kink in his noise where it had broken, the crows’ feet at the corner of his eyes.

In the dance hall, the band finished their song with a rousing roll of drums. The roar of chattering voices filled the sudden silence. It was the interval. Females began filing in to the lavatory and, seeing Gephart, rushed forward, squeaking their sympathy. ‘Hank, sweetheart, does it hurt?’ ‘Can I help?’

When a hand reached out to touch his cheek, Ruby slapped it away. She was appalled at this base action. She quickly collected herself: ‘Ladies, please!’ That voice again. ‘We need space.’ Throwing her cautious looks, the females backed off.

Why had she slapped that girl? Shame-faced, Ruby soaked another fistful of paper and began cleaning the side of Gephart’s nose. All around was the sound of flushing loos, the spray of perfume, the click of lipsticks. Then the room went silent as everyone left. From the dance hall came the plaintive sound of a woman singing:

Let me ride through the wide open country that I love. Don’t fence me in. Let me be by myself in the evening breeze, listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees, send me off for ever but I ask you please, don’t fence me in …’

When Hank spoke again, his tone was low, dejected. ‘What happened to you at Shady Acres? I was waiting with a bunch of flowers to say thank you.’

She felt a twinge of guilt. He’d bought her flowers. ‘I’m sorry, Hank. I must have gone out the wrong door.’

You were running from me again, weren’t you?’

Her glance flickered over his blue eyes and quickly away.

Was it because I called you Sweet Cheeks?’

She was silent for a moment then a tiny laugh escaped. ‘Possibly.’

He stared at her. ‘You’re the most beautiful woman I ever did see.’

Ruby knew from the heat in her cheeks that her face had turned the fiercest red. She was panicking, unable to cope with these feelings.

How kind,’ she said coolly, trying to re-assert control of her emotions.

She sounded like Claire. Good. Now she had to be Claire.

I want you to know I’m more’n just a cop.’ He flexed his right hand – his punching hand – and grimaced. ‘I’m a bull-rider. I’ve won the bull-riders’ championship at Flint Hills Rodeo three years straight, and no-one west of State Line can rope a steer as good as me.’

Evidently, you are not a man who sits at home in a smoking jacket listening to Schubert.’ She was using biting sarcasm as a defence and was surprised when he chuckled.

Sure don’t sound like me.’ He shifted. ‘I’m building my own house out in Abilene with a veranda looking west to the sunset. And a picket fence that goes all around. Out in the yard there’s a live oak some say was used by Sherman’s scouts.’ He paused. ‘Come out with me Ruby. No strings. Just you and me. Bottle of wine. Steamboat on the Missouri. Moonlight. Then we can talk, start over. What do you say?’

It sounded appealing, and very romantic. All the pieces fitted perfectly, except one:

Him.

It would be like wanting a cuddly cat and being given a tiger. He was too masculine, too overpowering, too much in charge. If she wanted to rock the security of her little world by going off with another man, she would choose Payat. Payat with his gentle manner, his shy dark eyes and, of course, his wildly romantic appeal.

But she wasn’t prepared to go off with another man. Like a filing cabinet, her life was compartmentalised and ordered. Edward was her husband. Payat was a delicious fantasy. And Gephart was the rogue piece of paper that had to go in the bin.

It was time to tell him she was married.

I’m mar-’ She stopped and thought: This man is a cop, a control freak. What if he has the old-fashioned notion that this little lady should be at home with hubbie and not in some seedy bar mixing with drug-fuelled Hells Angels? What if, in a fit of pique, he tells Edward? Then I’m in big trouble and all “shore leave” will be revoked – permanently.

Hank sighed. ‘Sometimes I get the feeling you don’t like me.’

Possibly.’

He grabbed her wrist. Astonished, she found herself staring him straight in the eyes. ‘No, you don’t dislike me, Ruby,’ he whispered. ‘In fact, I bet if I asked nicely, you’d give me a kiss.’

She had the sensation of standing on railroad tracks and feeling, or imagining, the far-off trembling of something large racing her way. And yet she was powerless to move away as much as a step.

Go on, Ruby, I’ve been injured in the line of duty. Give me a kiss.’

No.’ His hand felt like a steel band around her wrist.

I saved your hide.’ Although his tone was cheeky, his eyes pleaded.

Then will you to let me go?’

I promise.’

Alright,’ she conceded, telling herself that for right or wrong, he was now sitting here because he’d believed she’d needed rescuing. She lowered her head, touched her lips to his cheek and jerked back.

His face was stamped with indignation. ‘What the hell was that?’ he thundered.

A kiss.’

I meant on the lips.’

She stared down at his mouth. A voice in her head told her to do it, another voice told her to run like hell. But she couldn’t run; not with him holding her. She bent and quickly pecked him on the lips. ‘There! That’s a kiss.’

Where I come from lady that was no kiss.’

He stood up abruptly. She sensed what was about to happen and felt the flutter of giant wings open inside her chest. But before she could step away, he pulled her against him, one hand coming around her to hold her arms, the other gripping the back of her head. She was immobilised, unable to turn from his advancing kiss. He lowered his head and slowly brushed his mouth across hers; she could feel his breath coming into her. She felt a dart of hot desire shoot up from between her legs. Then his mouth was on hers, pressing down…

A cheer of female voices and male wolf-whistles erupted from the doorway. Hearing it, Hank lifted his head to his audience, his arms loosening their hold on her. ‘Now that’s a kiss!’ he smirked.

Humiliated, she slapped him across the cheek and strode for the door. Laughter broke over her head like a wave. She shouldered her way through a jubilant crowd of heavily perfumed females and grinning cowboys. The bastard had got a laugh at her expense!

A man shouted out. ‘Hey, Hank, I got a notion she don’t like you!’

Another man agreed. ‘You ain’t gonna be herdin’ that pretty heifer into yer corral any time soon.’

In the babble of voices she heard: ‘… got yerself a maverick.’ ‘… Roxanne.’

It wasn’t until she was outside that she realised she was crying.

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