Review: Beta by Jasinda Wilder

My Thoughts

Jasinda Wilder flips the story unexpectedly in this suspenseful page turner designed to get your heart racing from the very beginning.

4.5 to 5 stars.

Synopsis

Beta iBooksRoth and I are on an open-ended tour of the world. Roth being Roth, this means missionary in Morocco, reverse cowgirl in Calcutta, bent over the bow of a houseboat in Hanoi, slow and sleepy on St. John. Anywhere and everywhere, in every conceivable position, and some I didn’t know were possible.

Life was pretty incredible.

Until I woke up in his chateau in France, alone. On the bed next to me was a note. There were only four words:

He belongs to me.

 

My Review

This story is not what you expect. It doesn’t go down the path you think it would. Jasinda Wilder manages to surprise me by flipping the story onto its back and it totally works. She flipped a trope in a way I didn’t expect and in a way that shed light on Roth’s behavior in Alpha. In fact, I enjoyed this book much more than its predecessor, which surprised me, given that I loved the first book too. The characters felt better developed, the connection between our two protagonists believable and richer, the story line well paced. I loved that she kept the sexy backbone of the story, but I felt as if this sequel focused more on the characters, their past and the feelings that sparked and coursed between them. In addition, the suspense was utterly addictive as my heart raced anxiously through some harrowing and chill-inducing scenes. The story darkens and there were aspects of it that were hard to read from a character experience perspective, but I thought the way she brought awareness to a topic explored was rather bold.

“And everywhere I looked there he was. Telling me he loved me. Him, Valentine Roth, gorgeous, ripped, talented, gazillionaire businessman. He loved me. And he never got tired of telling me, showing me, making sure I knew I belonged to him.”

Kyrie and Roth had been living their happily ever after. Their time spent devouring each other between the sheets as well as globe-trotting to a new, exciting place each time the sun rose. But one day, Kyrie wakes up to an empty bed… a cold and chilling emptiness made worse by a knife and a note… He belongs to me.

“You are mine, my dearest Valentine.  I want you at my mercy.  I want you squirming and begging. So beg, Valentine. Beg me to stop.”

Roth’s absence unearths truths that were buried… dark truths Kyrie is shocked to discover. And suddenly, bullets rain all around her as danger pursues and she’s swept into a new reality she couldn’t begin to imagine.

I don’t want to spoil anything for you at all, so I’ll cease the major plot points there.  There’s a great deal of action, some heavy emotional issues and tons of suspense. This book really does have a different feel to it and I think lots of people will really enjoy this second installment. The only thing I battled with was the ending. Jasinda chose to end in an intriguing way (a perspective she explains), yet I would have loved to see a more tightly closed conclusion given the circumstances IF the series ends here, if it does not, it’s really rather perfect and a solid 5-star read. You guys will have to weigh in once you read the suspenseful continuation of Roth and Kyrie’s story. I assure you, you’re in for a ride!

“You belong to me, Kyrie St. Claire. That is true now and that will always be true.”

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Note, if story lines that cover rape/torture/violence are triggers, this may not be the book for you.

Book Trailer

Reading Order and Links

alpha Beta iBooks

About Jasinda

Jasinda headshotNew York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jasinda Wilder is a Michigan native with a penchant for titillating tales about sexy men and strong women. When she’s not writing, she’s probably shopping, baking, or reading. ​Some of her favorite authors include Nora Roberts, JR Ward, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Liliana Hart and Bella Andre. She loves to travel and some of her favorite vacations spots are Las Vegas, New York City and Toledo, Ohio. You can often find Jasinda drinking sweet red wine with frozen berries and eating a cupcake. Jasinda is represented by Kristin Nelson of the Nelson Literary Agency.

Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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VBB Weekly – 10.20.2014

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Highlights

Jay Crownover discussion – On October 29th at 8:00 p.m. CST/ 9:00 p.m. EST, our Vixens reading group is chatting with New York Times bestselling author Jay Crownover about her upcoming release, Rowdy, and all the other swoon-worthy Marked Men!  Join us!

Kristen Ashley paranormal & fantasy reading week – Kicking off October 26th, we are devoting a full week to Kristen Ashley in our Vixens reading group! This is our second KA week and this time we’re devouring her paranormal and fantasy novels! Check out the sales below too, because each book in her Ghosts and Reincarnation series is $0.99! I’ll be starting her Three series, in preparation for the third book, Wild and Free, releasing this December. Check out the full KA reading orders page.

Claire Contreras article on USA Today HEA blog – I’m honored to feature author Claire Contreras as she shares her story on breast cancer, books and how she does it all.

Epic collaboration announcement – I think I heard the collective squeeeeeee across the world when bestselling authors Colleen Hoover and Tarryn Fisher announced their upcoming book, Never Never, which will be hitting our ereaders January of next year. Add it to your Goodreads TBR here.

NEVER NEVER FINAL

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Releasing This Week

closer to the edgeUnspoken by Brenda Rothert (Available Now)

Palmer Sinclair was on the edge of happily ever after when she broke off her engagement to Brady Grant. The end of their relationship marked the beginning of a painful solitary journey for her. Though she makes places beautiful with her work as an interior designer, the rest of her life is anything but beautiful – it’s slowly pulling her under.
Brady, a contractor, is swiftly building his business into an empire. Work is a faithful companion that never lets him down like Palmer did. When he sees women now, it’s on his terms. And his terms are simple: just sex. He won’t let a woman break him again.
Palmer is barely holding it together when she and Brady are unexpectedly paired on a project after a year apart. The pull between them is stronger than ever, but the fallout from their reconnection leaves them both wondering if maybe some things are better left unsaid.

This is addiction.

A portion of release day sales benefit The Keith Milano Memorial Fund in support of mental health awareness.

closer to the edgeHeartless (#1, Heartless) by J. Sterling (Available Now)

Elizabeth Lyons has one rule for herself: No Distractions.

No distractions basically translates into No Men; which definitely means HELL NO when it comes to Daniel Alexander.

After a chance meeting at a business function Daniel is not interested in letting Elizabeth go. No matter how much she tries to stay away from him, he’s not the kind of guy who lets something he wants walk out of his life. The question is, will she let him catch her, or will she chase him away for good?

This is a serial romance told over 3 episodes. The first episode is approximately a 90-minute read. Episode 2 releases on October 27th. Episode 3 releases on November 3rd.

closer to the edgeWild Addiction (#2, Wild) by Emma Hart (Available Now)

In this sizzling conclusion to WILD TEMPTATION, Liv and Tyler see the boundaries of their addictions pushed to new limits as their heads battle with their hearts for an explosive fall into the depths of love…

I gave him my body, and he gave me no strings. It was that simple… in the beginning.

I never could have imagined my temptation could become my addiction. If I knew for a second how entirely Tyler Stone would consume me, I never would have handed him my body so freely.

His addiction feeds mine. My cravings ignite his. Together we are dangerous. Destructive. Obsessive. Wild.

But now it’s too late. We’re bound by more than our inexplicable need for the other, and the ties that hold us together are irreversible.

He craves my body. I crave his heart.
This is addiction.

Reading Order: Wild Attraction (FREE novella) | Wild Temptation ($0.99) | Wild Addiction

shame coverCorruption (#2, Disruption) by Jessica Shirvington (Available Now – AUSTRALIA RELEASE ONLY) 

How do you live with yourself when you’ve deceived the one you love?

How do you move on when the person you’ve been fighting to save betrays you?

Two years ago, Maggie Stevens began the hunt.

Four weeks ago, Maggie’s world fell apart, when she finally found what she’d been looking for. And when Quentin, who had blindly trusted her, unravelled her web of lies.

Now, Maggie lives in the dark. But she’s not about to stay there. Not when she still has to bring M-Corp down. Not when there is still a chance she could win him back.

In the exhilarating conclusion to Disruption, Maggie must do whatever it takes to show the world the truth. And the price for her quest?

Everything.

Reading OrderDisruption | Corruption

Rowdy coverRowdy (#5, Marked Men) by Jay Crownover (Oct 21)
✩ VBB Recommendation ✩ 

The New York Times and USA Today bestselling Marked Men series continues with this sizzling, sexy story of love, heartbreak, fate, and second chances.

After the only girl he ever loved told him that he would never be enough, Rowdy St. James knocked the Texas dust off his boots and set out to live up to his nickname. A good ol’ boy looking for good times and good friends, Rowdy refuses to take anything too seriously, especially when it comes to the opposite sex. Burned by love once, he isn’t going to let himself trust a woman again. But that’s before his new co-worker arrives, a ghost from the past who’s suddenly making him question every lesson he ever learned.

Salem Cruz grew up in house with too many rules and too little fun—a world of unhappiness she couldn’t wait to forget. But one nice thing from childhood has stayed with her; the memory of the sweet, blue-eyed boy next door who’d been head over heels in love with her little sister.

Now, fate and an old friend have brought her and Rowdy together, and Salem is determined to show him that once upon a time he picked the wrong sister. A mission that is working perfectly—until the one person that ties them together appears, threatening to tear them apart for good.

Reading Order: Rule ($1.99) | Jet | Rome ($1.99) | Nash | Rowdy | Asa
My Reviews: Rule | Rome | Nash | Rowdy

shopaholic to the stars coverShopaholic to the Stars (#7, Shopaholic) by Sophie Kinsella (Oct 21) 

Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood) has stars in her eyes. She and her daughter, Minnie, have joined husband Luke in LA—city of herbal smoothies, multimillion-dollar yoga retreats, and the lure of celebrity. Luke is there to help manage the career of famous actress Sage Seymour—and Becky is convinced she is destined to be Sage’s personal stylist, and go from there to every A-list celebrity in Hollywood! But things become complicated when Becky joins the team of Sage’s archrival. How will charming and supportive Luke deal with this conflict? Is it possible that what Becky wants most will end up hurting those she loves most? Shopaholic fans old and new will devour Sophie Kinsella’s newest adventure!

Reading OrderConfessions of a Shopaholic | Shopaholic Takes Manhattan | Shopaholic Ties the Knot | Shopaholic and Sister | Shopaholic and Baby | Mini Shopaholic | Shopaholic to the Stars (Review)

insidious coverInsidious (#1, Tales from the Dark Side) by Aleatha Romig (Oct 21) 

Dark desires…Deadly secrets…Devious deceptions…Nothing is exactly as it seems in Insidious, the new erotic thriller from Aleatha Romig.

When a powerful man is willing to risk everything for his own satisfaction, only one woman can beat him at his own game: his wife. Or so she thinks…

“Let’s start with you calling me Stewart. Formalities seem unnecessary.”

Stewart Harrington is rich, gorgeous, and one of the most powerful men in Miami. He always gets what he wants. Anything is available to him for the right price.

Even me.

Being the wife of a mogul comes with all the perks, but being Mrs. Stewart Harrington comes with a few special requirements. I’ve learned to keep a part of myself locked away as my husband watches me submit to his needs. But the more he demands of me, the more beguiled he becomes and that’s to my advantage. So I keep fulfilling his fantasies and following his rules because he doesn’t know that what he’s playing is really my game. And winning is everything, right?

This is a stand-alone novel and the first from the series, Tales from the Dark Side.

shame coverVanishing Dreams (#2, Devil’s Bend) by Nicole Edwards (Oct 21) 

Dalton Calhoun hadn’t always planned on a life up on the big stage, beneath the bright lights, but that was where he found himself. A second chance of sorts. An opportunity that had come along after his real dreams vanished when he was eighteen years old. Although country music was more than he could’ve expected, he’d never dismissed the notion that there was still something missing.

When Dalton followed his buddy Cooper Krenshaw to Devil’s Bend, Texas, it didn’t take long before Dalton realized just what that was. But just because he has topped the country music charts, and made his fair share of women swoon, doesn’t mean that everything comes easy to him. And when he sets his sights on the black-haired, gray-eyed waitress at The Rusty Nail, Dalton realizes he might just have to work for what he wants.

Katie Clarren’s life has been a series of unfortunate events, starting from the time her mother left on her eighteenth birthday. Not exactly how she had planned to spend one of the major turning points in her young life. Nor had she planned to spend the next five years dealing with the fallout. Somewhere along the way, Katie adapted, doing exactly what she needed to do in order to survive. But Katie has secrets that even her closest friends don’t know. Secrets she has worked hard to protect.

Although she longs for handsome, charming, country music sensation, Dalton Calhoun, she knows that anything that starts between them can’t last. Too bad her heart doesn’t seem to be on the same page. Katie gives in to her love for Dalton, needing that human connection that has been missing for so long. But when it comes time to make the hard decisions, Katie forces herself to walk away from him. To protect her secrets, and him. The last thing she wants to do is hurt Dalton, no matter how much pain she has to endure in the process. She loves him.

Can the two of them overcome the secrets and lies? Can they look to the future and stop living in the past? Or will they keep dwelling on the dreams that vanished, not seeing what is right in front of them? Each other.

Reading Order: Chasing Dreams ($1.99)Vanishing Dreams


Beta iBooks
Beta by Jasinda Wilder (Oct 21)
✩ VBB Recommendation ✩ 

Roth and I are on an open-ended tour of the world. Roth being Roth, this means missionary in Morocco, reverse cowgirl in Calcutta, bent over the bow of a houseboat in Hanoi, slow and sleepy on St. John. Anywhere and everywhere, in every conceivable position, and some I didn’t know were possible.

Life was pretty incredible.

Until I woke up in his chateau in France, alone. On the bed next to me was a note. There were only four words:

He belongs to me.

This is the second book in the series and should be read in order.

Reading Order: Alpha | Beta
My Reviews: Alpha

stone cold touchStone Cold Touch (#2, The Dark Elements) by Jennifer L. Armentrout (Oct 21)
✩ VBB Recommendation ✩ 

Every touch has its price

Layla Shaw is trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life—no easy task for a seventeen-year-old who’s pretty sure things can’t get worse. Her impossibly gorgeous best friend, Zayne, is forever off-limits thanks to the mysterious powers of her soul-stealing kiss. The Warden clan that has always protected her is suddenly keeping dangerous secrets. And she can barely think about Roth, the wickedly hot demon prince who understood her in ways no one else could.

But sometimes rock bottom is only the beginning. Because suddenly Layla’s powers begin to evolve, and she’s offered a tantalizing taste of what has always been forbidden. Then, when she least expects it, Roth returns, bringing news that could change her world forever. She’s finally getting what she always wanted, but with hell literally breaking loose and the body count adding up, the price may be higher than Layla is willing to pay…

Reading Order: Bitter Sweet Love (novella) | White Hot Kiss | Stone Cold Touch
My Reviews: Bitter Sweet Love | White Hot Kiss

After (#1, After) by Anna Todd (Oct 21)after cover
✩ VBB Recommendation ✩ 

Now newly revised and expanded, Anna Todd’s After fanfiction racked up 1 billion reads online and captivated readers across the globe. Experience the Internet’s most talked-about book for yourself!

There was the time before Tessa met Hardin, and then there’s everything AFTER… Life will never be the same. #Hessa

Tessa is a good girl with a sweet, reliable boyfriend back home. She’s got direction, ambition, and a mother who’s intent on keeping her that way.

But she’s barely moved into her freshman dorm when she runs into Hardin. With his tousled brown hair, cocky British accent, tattoos, and lip ring, Hardin is cute and different from what she’s used to.

But he’s also rude—to the point of cruelty, even. For all his attitude, Tessa should hate Hardin. And she does—until she finds herself alone with him in his room. Something about his dark mood grabs her, and when they kiss it ignites within her a passion she’s never known before.

He’ll call her beautiful, then insist he isn’t the one for her and disappear again and again. Despite the reckless way he treats her, Tessa is compelled to dig deeper and find the real Hardin beneath all his lies. He pushes her away again and again, yet every time she pushes back, he only pulls her in deeper.

Tessa already has the perfect boyfriend. So why is she trying so hard to overcome her own hurt pride and Hardin’s prejudice about nice girls like her?

Unless…could this be love?

Reading Order: After (My review) | After We Collided | After We Fell

the rental coverAnything He Wants + Castaway by Sara Fawkes (Oct 21)

A powerful billionaire who always gets what he wants. An innocent protégée who will explore the darkest reaches of her own desire. Experience their intoxicating tale—now available for the first time as a complete saga…

Anything He Wants

Lucy Delacourt’s temp position isn’t quite her dream job but it pays the bills. The highlight of her day is riding the elevator in the mornings with a handsome stranger. But everything changes when the stranger seduces her. Completely out of character, she yields without a fight, but she has no idea her wanton acts with a man whose name she doesn’t know will change her life forever. Because the sexy stranger is none other than Jeremiah Hamilton, billionaire CEO of Hamilton Industries, and one taste isn’t nearly enough to satisfy his need.   

Castaway

As the billionaire pulls Lucy deeper into his world of high stakes business deals and ruthless takeovers, he demands nothing less than her complete surrender. But Jeremiah has no place in his life for love, and as Lucy falls deeper for him, she risks having her heart shattered. Making matters worse, Jeremiah’s fiercest rival is determined to steal Lucy’s affection…and to do it, he’ll show her the sinister side of Jeremiah’s opulent world.  With nowhere to turn and no one to trust, there’s only one thing Lucy knows for sure: she’ll never be free from Jeremiah’s sweet possession.

the rental coverBeholden (#2, The Belonging Duet) by Corinne Michaels (Oct 22)

Catherine Pope got a second chance at love, only to have it ripped away—again. She should’ve known better.
But she dared to hope.
She refuses to let fate take the reins this time. Catherine decides she’s going to fight.

Jackson Cole risked it all.
He thought this time would be different.
With his loyalties pulling him in two directions—it’s time to make a choice…his past or his future.

Will they be beholden to their fears or will they both fight against their demons and finally find the love they both long for?

Reading Order: Beloved | Beholden

the-collectors-society-front-coverThe Collectors’  Society (#1, The Collectors’ Society) by Heather Lyons (Oct 23)

From the author of the Fate series and The Deep End of the Sea comes a fantastical romantic adventure that has Alice tumbling down the strangest rabbit hole yet.

After years in Wonderland, Alice has returned to England as an adult, desperate to reclaim sanity and control over her life. An enigmatic gentleman with an intriguing job offer too tempting to resist changes her plans for a calm existence, though. Soon, she’s whisked to New York and initiated into the Collectors’ Society, a secret organization whose members confirm that famous stories are anything but straightforward and that what she knows about the world is only a fraction of the truth.

It’s there she discovers villains are afoot—ones who want to shelve the lives of countless beings. Assigned to work with the mysterious and alluring Finn, Alice and the rest of the Collectors’ Society race against a doomsday clock in order to prevent further destruction . . . but will they make it before all their endings are erased?

This is the first book in the Collectors’ Society series.

the-collectors-society-front-coverThe Muse (#1, Rothvale Legacy Historical Prequels) by Raine Miller (Oct 24)

What if the truth about a famous painting was not what it’s been told to be? What if it was not even the original work and a different painting had inspired its creation? The story of a painting… The motivation behind the work, Flaming June—Romanticist painter, Lord Frederic Leighton’s magnum opus—a woman sleeping in a chair. Hauntingly beautiful, but with its inspiration locked away in the mystery of times past.

1811…
Burdened with family skeletons and agonizing guilt, an unwilling Lord Rothvale, one Graham Everley, returns from a long sojourn in Ireland to attend to the obligations awaiting him in England. The last thing he imagines to find is his destiny, but find her he does.  Imogene Byron-Cole, a girl as lovely as her past is tragic. Graham can’t walk away from her, and so he marries her instead, in spite of an increasingly tangled web of troubles that threaten to destroy the very foundation of his entire existence.

As Graham and Imogene start out on their journey together, they express their love through a series of portraits. The art ensnares them completely, and in the end, becomes their salvation, bearing them through their deepest pain of loss, and inspiring a masterwork.

This will be book one of a three part saga in the Rothvale Legacy Historical Prequel series.

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Must Read of the Week

Rowdy by Jay Crownover

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I LOVE THE MARKED MEN. I’ve said it many times and I’ll keep saying it. I love each guy for different reasons and I could not begin to pick my favorite… although I sooooo loved Salem and Rowdy’s story. It’s a super sexy, sizzling kind of romance. A story that felt so distinctively them. I love that all of Jay’s books strike the perfect balance between super hot and wonderfully emotional, and this latest installment exemplifies that feat. It’s a stirring story of a friendship… of a second chance at a relationship that caused a hurt that was difficult to let go, even with miles and years between them. If you’re already a fan of the series, you’ll love this book as much as you have the others, and if you’ve yet to meet the tatted-up, big-hearted Marked crew, it’s the perfect time to fall in love with these books!

My ReviewsRule | Rome | Nash | Rowdy

Reading Order

 Rule Jet rome Nash Rowdy cover asa blank cover

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New Reviews
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Here’s a current list of sales for Amazon U.S. Click on the image to purchase.

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Review: After (#1, After) by Anna Todd

My Thoughts

Utterly Addictive. Explosive. Sexy. Unputdownable.

Synopsis

after coverNow newly revised and expanded, Anna Todd’s After fanfiction racked up 1 billion reads online and captivated readers across the globe. Experience the Internet’s most talked-about book for yourself!

There was the time before Tessa met Hardin, and then there’s everything AFTER… Life will never be the same. #Hessa

Tessa is a good girl with a sweet, reliable boyfriend back home. She’s got direction, ambition, and a mother who’s intent on keeping her that way.

But she’s barely moved into her freshman dorm when she runs into Hardin. With his tousled brown hair, cocky British accent, tattoos, and lip ring, Hardin is cute and different from what she’s used to.

But he’s also rude—to the point of cruelty, even. For all his attitude, Tessa should hate Hardin. And she does—until she finds herself alone with him in his room. Something about his dark mood grabs her, and when they kiss it ignites within her a passion she’s never known before.

He’ll call her beautiful, then insist he isn’t the one for her and disappear again and again. Despite the reckless way he treats her, Tessa is compelled to dig deeper and find the real Hardin beneath all his lies. He pushes her away again and again, yet every time she pushes back, he only pulls her in deeper.

Tessa already has the perfect boyfriend. So why is she trying so hard to overcome her own hurt pride and Hardin’s prejudice about nice girls like her?

Unless…could this be love?

My Review

 Click here to view the video if you cannot see it below.

“All that I am certain of is that my life and my heart will never be the same, not after Hardin crashed into them.”

“I want you. More than I have ever wanted anyone or anything in my entire life.”

Reading Order and Links

Each book should be read in order.

after cover after we fell cover after we collided cover

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Exclusive Excerpt + Signed Giveaway: The Collectors’ Society by Heather Lyons

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Coming on October 23rd is the newest novel from Heather Lyons, The Collectors’ Society, a strikingly unique fantastical romantic adventure about Alice and her cherished Wonderland. It’s a riveting story unlike anything you’ve seen before and I’m thrilled to share the first chapter of the book with you today!

Synopsis

the-collectors-society-front-coverFrom the author of the Fate series and The Deep End of the Sea comes a fantastical romantic adventure that has Alice tumbling down the strangest rabbit hole yet.

After years in Wonderland, Alice has returned to England as an adult, desperate to reclaim sanity and control over her life. An enigmatic gentleman with an intriguing job offer too tempting to resist changes her plans for a calm existence, though. Soon, she’s whisked to New York and initiated into the Collectors’ Society, a secret organization whose members confirm that famous stories are anything but straightforward and that what she knows about the world is only a fraction of the truth.

It’s there she discovers villains are afoot—ones who want to shelve the lives of countless beings. Assigned to work with the mysterious and alluring Finn, Alice and the rest of the Collectors’ Society race against a doomsday clock in order to prevent further destruction . . . but will they make it before all their endings are erased?

This is the first book in the Collectors’ Society series.

✦ Pre-order The Collectors’ Society: Amazon | iTunes 

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Excerpt

The Pleasance Asylum

The ceiling above me is a mysterious map of cracks and chipped paint, nearly undecipherable in origins or destinations. Voids unsettle me, though, so night after night, as I stare up at it, tracing the moonbeams that flit in between hills and valleys, I assign them my own designations. There, that bump? It’s Gibraltar. That chunk? The Himalayas. The deep groove near the Southeast corner of the room? The Great Wall of China. The smooth patch nearly dead center is the Pleasance Asylum, which is vastly amusing to me.

I shy away from the splattering of flakes in the Northwest quadrant, though. Those ones, whose ridges grow on nearly a daily basis, are far too easy to decipher. I made the mistake of telling Dr. Featheringstone this during a fit of delirium, and he’s not forgotten it. In fact, he’s asked me about them again, just now, and he’s waiting patiently for my answer.

“They’re flakes of paint,” I tell him. “Created from age and lack of upkeep.”

As he chuckles softly, the thick mustache that hides his lip twitches. “Always the literal one.”

I keep my eyes on his face rather than in the area he’s quizzing me about. It taunts me though, just over his left shoulder. “Why shouldn’t I be? Word games are silly and are best left for children or the elderly who seek to hold onto their wit.” The muscle inside my chest works in overtime as I tell him this. He’s heard my ravings, and knows my struggles.

“And you are no longer a child?”

I lean back in the still, wooden chair, delighting in how its discomfort bites into my bones. “I hardly think a woman of twenty-five is a child, Doctor.”

In direct opposition to his faint yet genuine smile, pudgy fingers stroke his bushy mustache downward. “Many ladies of your standing are long married with family.”

He says many when he means most. I smooth the stubborn wrinkles on my gray skirt. “It’s a little hard to meet prospective suitors in . . .” I glance around the room, eyes careful not to settle too long above his head. “A fine establishment such as yours.”

Neither of us mention where I’d been before here, or what I’d seen and done and experienced.

Another chuckle rumbles out of him. “Too true, dear. But you will not be at the Pleasance much longer. What then?”

My fingers knot tightly together in my lap. “I imagine I will be sent to rusticate at our family’s summer house near the seaside. Perhaps I will find a nice stableboy to court me, and by the ripe age of twenty-six, we will be living out our bliss amongst seashells, ponies, and hay.”

Featheringstone sighs, his face transforming into a look I could sketch from memory; it’s given so often to me when I offer up an answer he doesn’t like. I call it Disappointed Featheringstone.

My eyes drift to the one window in the room. “I am still not positive my release is the wisest course of action.”

“You’ve been here for over half a year,” the doctor says. “Most people in your position would be clamoring to taste freedom.”

A thin smile surfaces. That’s the problem. I’ve had a taste of freedom, true freedom, and I’m loathe to accept anything other than such.

“You are in good health,” he continues. “Your need for confinement is gone. Your nightmares have decreased significantly.” His chair creaks beneath his significant girth as he leans forward. “It is time for you to resume your life, Alice. You cannot do that here at the asylum. You are, as you pointed out, twenty-five years old. You still have many years of experiences ahead of you.”

I have many years of experiences behind me, too.

“Perhaps I ought to become a nurse,” I muse, keeping the edge of my sarcasm soft enough to not wound. “What a story mine would be: patient to nurse, a grand example of life dedicated to the Pleasance.”

“I think nursing school is a grand idea.” His ruddy face alights. “There are several reputable ones in London you could attend.”

It’s my turn to give him a patented look, the one he affectionately calls Unamused Alice.

“Your father has sent word he will come to escort you home at the end of the week.”

Unamused Alice transitions to Curmudgeonly Alice.

Featheringstone stands up, glancing up at my past before shuffling over to pat me on my shoulder. He is a nice man, whose intentions for his wards are sincere. It’s for this I both appreciate and resent him. An old schoolmate of my father’s, he was selected upon my return sorely for this purpose. Too many horror stories about hellish asylums and nefarious doctors rage about England, but my father knew his friend would treat me with kid gloves. While the Pleasance may be physically showing its age, it’s amongst the most sought after when it comes to those in the upper class due to its gentle hand and discreet employees.

Sometimes I wish my father hadn’t been so kind. It might have been easier had he thrown me into one of the hellholes, where I could have gotten lost amongst the insane.

Mandatory strolls are required of all patients at the Pleasance, as Dr. Featheringstone believes, “Fresh air is the tonic to many ails.” At first, I was resistant to such outings, preferring to stay in my snug room with the door closed, but after several tours with the good doctor and a team of nurses and orderlies, I determined he perhaps had a point. There is a nice pond that is home to a family of ducks, a small grove of trees, and a handful of boring, quiet gardens that house no red roses after the good doctor had requested them removed. Worn dirt paths lined with benches connect the Pleasance’s outdoor pleasures, and one can experience everything in as little as a half hour. We patients are never left to our own devices during these Fresh Air Hours, though. Nurses and orderlies mingle amongst the residents, setting up tables for games of checkers, chess, or croquet, although I naturally recuse myself from such frivolity.

Half a year in, and I am still a stranger to most of the folk here. That was by my choice; many of the residents did their best to welcome me into the fold, but I was determined to keep my distance out of early fear of spies.

There is nowhere you could go in which we could not find you, little bird.

“A letter, my lady.”

My head snaps up sharply to find one of the orderlies standing over me, an envelope in his hand. I eye the object warily; outside of my parents, whom I requested not to write to me during my stay, no one else of my acquaintance knows I’m here. “There is no need to be so formal with me. We are at an asylum after all.”

I think his name is Edward, but it could easily be Edwin, too. Or perhaps even Edmund. A mere incline of the head is given, but I highly doubt my bitterly voiced suggestion means anything to him. The staff here is the epitome of propriety.

I don’t want what he has to offer. “Toss it into the fire.”

His smile is patient and kind, one borne of tempered familiarity. “Dr. Featheringstone has already previewed its contents.” The open flap is jiggled. “Would you like me to open it as well?”

I sigh and set my sketch pad on the bench next to me. The ducklings in the distance scatter across the pond, leaving me without subject to capture. “Go ahead and read it aloud.”

A slim piece of paper is extracted. Through the afternoon’s golden sunlight, I can determine less than a quarter of the sheet is filled with thin, spidery calligraphy. “Dear madam,” E reads, modulating his voice so it sounds very dignified, indeed. “It is my great hope that I may come and speak to you tomorrow afternoon about a matter of great importance. Yours sincerely, Abraham Van Brunt.”

“That’s it?” I ask once the paper is refolded.

“Yes, my lady.”

What a curious letter. “I am unacquainted with an Abraham Van Brunt,” I tell the orderly. And then, as I reclaim my sketch pad, “I suppose Dr. Featheringstone has already sent off a missive telling him not to bother coming round.”

Naturally, he does not know whether or not the doctor did just such a thing. “Would you like the letter, my lady?”

I’m already turning back toward the pond. “No. Please burn it.”

The crunch of twigs informs me of his retreat, allowing me to reclaim my solitude. The ducks long gone, I spend my time perfecting the tufts of grass and reeds growing at water’s edge on today’s landscape.

Alice.

I focus harder, my charcoal furiously scraping across the paper until I remember I don’t want to do anything furiously. Not anymore, at least.

Alice.

I close my eyes, focusing on the red and orange kaleidoscopes that dance across my lids.

Alice?

The paper in my hand crumples as easily as my heart. I leave it behind on the bench when I make my way back inside, because I’m positive there was an H etched into it. And to think that Featheringstone is convinced I’m sane.

I haven’t been sane in over six years.

About Heather Lyons

HEATHERHeather Lyons has always had a thing for words—She’s been writing stories since she was a kid. In addition to writing, she’s also been an archaeologist and a teacher. Heather is a rabid music fan, as evidenced by her (mostly) music-centric blog, and she’s married to an even larger music snob. They’re happily raising three kids who are mini music fiends who love to read and be read to.

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Cover Reveal + Excerpt: The Librarian Principle by Helena Hunting

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Read the synopsis below and tell me you aren’t already clamoring for more?! I know I am! I can’t wait to read this latest from author Helena Hunting.

Summary

Annaliese Harper knows that one tiny mistake can jeopardize a career before it’s even begun. Letting your boss find the extensive collection of porn on your personal laptop is one way. Sleeping with him is another. Liese manages to do both.

As the new librarian at a prestigious small-town private high school, Liese is drawn to her sexy, charismatic principal, Ryder Whitehall—an attraction she refuses to acknowledge given their relationship and her recent liberation from a delusional ex-boyfriend.

Liese is certain Ryder’s flirtation is the product of her sex-deprived imagination—until he discovers her digital porn stash during working hours and demands a private meeting. Behind closed doors, their attraction explodes into a dangerous, passionate affair that not only threatens their jobs and reputations, but most of all, their hearts.

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Excerpt

Liese was in the middle of adjusting her skirt when her phone chimed. She rummaged around inside her purse and found Marissa had sent her a message. Against her better judgment, she checked it. There was no text, only a photo, and it was too small in the message window to adequately discern the content. She clicked the image, and it expanded on the screen.

A noise that sounded vaguely like a cat dying escaped her. Marissa had done it again. Ryder’s head was superimposed onto the body of yet another well-hung porn star, and this time the image also included a woman—superimposed with Liese’s face—sprawled out over a desk, much like the one she stood in front of now.

“Hi there.”

Liese screamed, caught completely unaware. She turned to find Ryder standing in her office doorway, leaning against the jamb, his coat thrown over his arm, briefcase in hand. His suit jacket was unbuttoned, giving him a more relaxed look than usual. And sexier. If that was possible.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten you,” he said. “You seemed rather invested in whatever you were reading just now.”

Liese hit the button on her phone, and the screen went blank. “It was my girlfriend,” she explained.

Ryder stared at her, unblinking.

At his lack of reaction, she elaborated. “My best friend—she’s expecting me later this evening. She was just checking in.”

“Oh.” He sounded relieved for some reason she couldn’t fathom. “Am I keeping you? We can reschedule for next week if you need to go.”

“No, no, it’s fine. I’m happy to meet with you, unless you have another engagement.” Liese slid her phone back into her purse, turning off the volume as she did so.

“I have no prior engagements.”

They stared at each other for a few interminable seconds before Liese realized they were on her territory, and she should invite him in. “Would you like to work in my office or out there?” Liese gestured to the empty library beyond.

He glanced over his shoulder and then surveyed their current surroundings. “I think your office would be more private.”

“Sure. Right.” Liese nodded, clutching the back of her chair.

“Unless you’d be more comfortable working out there,” Ryder supplied, watching her speculatively from his spot in the doorway.

“What? Oh, no. Not at all. I’m perfectly comfortable with you in me.”

His shock formed a counterpoint to her horror.

“In my office! I’m perfectly comfortable working with you in my office.”

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