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Cover Reveal!

Paris Burke, Dublin’s most charismatic barrister, has enough on his mind without the worries of looking after his two youngest sisters. The aftermath of a failed rebellion weighs on his conscience, so when the young English gentlewoman with an unwavering gaze arrives, he asks far too few questions before hiring her on as governess. But her quick wit and mysterious past prove an unexpected temptation.

Rosamund Gorse knows she should not have let Mr. Burke think her the candidate from the employment bureau. But after her midnight escape from a brother bent on marrying her off to a scoundrel, honesty is a luxury she can no longer afford. With his clever mind and persuasive skill, Paris could soon have her spilling her secrets freely just to lift the sorrow from his face. And if words won’t work, perhaps kisses would be better?

Hiding under her brother’s nose, Rosamund knows she shouldn’t take risks. If Paris learns the truth, she might lose her freedom for good. But if she can learn to trust him with her heart, she might discover just the champion she desires . . .

 

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Fictional Icons by Alana Wulff

Jo March – Little Women

Growing up, I was always a fan of words – whether I was writing them or reading them. I would consume book after book in the hopes of losing myself in a good story. But it’s safe to say no one piece of writing quite hit me like Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Telling the tale of four sisters growing up during the Civil War, Little Women was my go-to guide for inner strength and courage. It posed questions that women still face today – how do I balance my never-ending list of responsibilities with the need to seek out something more? Not only was Little Women a story about intelligent and driven young women – it was a story of family, led largely by the fierce and loyal feminist, Marmee, who urged her daughters to place value on who they were, not what they looked like. While all the girls had their own unique and commendable qualities, it was the headstrong ‘Jo’ March that truly spoke to me. She was a writer – a fellow booklover who liked to stay up late and craft stories thanks to a vivid imagination and an undeniable urge to create. She was the tomboy who didn’t care about gender roles. She was strong yet breakable at times, impulsive, smart and uncompromising. Many years ago, my love of this character led me to visiting ‘Orchard House’ in Concord, Massachusetts, where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women. I stood at the desk where she created Jo, took a deep breath and imagined myself one day writing a character that mattered as much to a young reader as Jo meant to me.

 

Buffy Summers – Buffy The Vampire Slayer

OK, the tales of Buffy’s role as a feminist icon in modern-day pop culture are very well documented, so it probably comes as no surprise that I was pretty obsessed with the ex-cheerleader turned vampire slayer, but Buffy and her pals came into my life at just the right time. I was first introduced to Buffy The Vampire Slayer when it originally aired throughout my last few years of high school. To say miss Summers helped me through a highly stressful period of exams and study would be an understatement. This habit of de-stressing with the Scoobies continued throughout my college years, and to this day, there’s nothing more comforting to me than watching Buffy exercise her supernatural strength while remaining entirely human and relatable in the process. There are so many wonderful episodes throughout Buffy’s seven seasons, however the premiere episode of Season 4, The Freshman, will always be my favourite. Why? Because despite all of her superhuman strength and abilities, Buffy is still just one of us when she suddenly finds herself alone, lost and overwhelmed during her first days at college. She struggles to fit in, and the temptation to return to the familiar rears its ugly head – as it does for many of us when trying something new. Of course, Buffy rallies in the end and she finds her place as a smaller fish in a big pond, but it’s her inner (not outer) strength that ultimately sees her through. I still think about this when it’s been a tough time and I feel like giving up.

Continue reading “Fictional Icons by Alana Wulff”

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10 Tips to Corral Beach Vacation Clutter by Mary Feliz

Kid and beaches are a classic part of summer. But we’ve all seen visitors who appear to have packed for a month-long safari and spend all their time lugging equipment between beach and car. Or those whose kids get sand in uncomfortable spots and make everyone miserable. A little pre-planning makes any trip more fun for everyone.

 

  1. To reduce housekeeping chores, set up a foot rinsing station outside your front door. Keep it simple. A plastic dishpan of water and a towel or soft brush will do the trick.

 

  1. Use mesh bags to transport sand toys. Shake to get rid of excess sand then rinse off in the ocean, with a house, or under a faucet at the end of your trip. Toss the whole bag in a plastic garbage bag for maximum sand control.

 

  1. To manage sand in the car, line passenger foot wells with old towels you can carefully lift and shake out when necessary. Keep a whisk broom handy for the driver’s area, where a towel could get dangerously tangled among feet and pedals.

 

  1. Cover your rear passage seats with a fitted sheet. As often as necessary, the sheet can be removed and shaken out or laundered.

Continue reading “10 Tips to Corral Beach Vacation Clutter by Mary Feliz”

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Anything But Perfect by Kevin O’Brien

“Do you know, if you rip off the front of houses, you’d find swine?”

This chilling remark was made by “Uncle Charlie” (Joseph Cotten) to his adoring niece (Teresa Wright), who has come to realize that he’s a serial killer. The film is Alfred Hitchcock’s personal favorite, SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943). Hitchcock hired OUR TOWN author, Thornton Wilder, to create an image of the perfect, sweet, homespun American family. Teresa Wright’s father was portrayed by Henry Travers, who also played the angel, Clarence, in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. You can’t get any more homespun and sweeter than that! When Uncle Charlie comes to stay with the family, it’s to elude a police manhunt on the East Coast, where he has murdered several rich widows.

Uncle Charlie seems to charm everyone in town. As his niece begins to suspect the truth about him, he tells her that she has been living a perfect, ordinary life: “You sleep your untroubled ordinary little sleep, filled with peaceful, stupid dreams. And I brought you nightmares.”

The perfect family—or the perfect marriage—isn’t always what it seems. Sometimes, it just takes a stranger or relative to come into someone’s home and rip away that perfect façade, exposing the horrible secrets and lies.

This is what happens in my latest thriller, THE BETRAYED WIFE. Sheila and Dylan O’Rourke seem to have the perfect marriage and the perfect family. They live in a charming, upper class neighborhood in Seattle, where Dylan works in public relations for Starbucks and Sheila has a part time job as a dance instructor. They have three children. Then, into their lives comes a street-punk teenager named Eden, whose mother has recently met a gruesome death. Eden claims to be Dylan’s daughter from an affair he’d had long ago. A blood test proves she’s telling the truth. The girl moves in with the family, turning their perfect lives into a perfect nightmare.

Until Eden came along, Sheila had been able to turn a blind eye to her handsome husband’s womanizing. And she’d managed to live with a horrible secret from her own past. She’d felt safe in her “perfect” home.  But now, after several accidents and disturbances, she can’t help feeling as if her house has been booby-trapped. Then, people start dying.

In films and books, we’ve seen how a husband’s infidelity can tear apart a perfect family—and even lead to murder. It happened in the bestseller, PRESUMED INNOCENT by Scott Turrow (who graduated from New Trier High School a few years after me), and in Gillian Fylnn’s GONE GIRL, and of course, most memorably in the film, FATAL ATTRACTION. Continue reading “Anything But Perfect by Kevin O’Brien”

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Tips for changing up your living space by Nita Brooks

Ever since I was a kid I loved to change up my space. Whether it was spending a weekend moving the furniture around, adding new posters to the wall, or asking my parents to paint the walls pink (which they did) I always felt a sense of satisfaction with having some control over my room.

Every time I made a change, it turned my room into a new space with new possibilities. I still do this today. Get me in a home decorating store and I’m thinking of ways to re-work a room in my home. Each time I make a change it still makes me smile. Sometimes I’ll just sit in the room and stare at whatever the change is and get that same satisfaction I used to have as a kid.

That’s why I made the protagonist, Yvonne Cable in my debut novel Redesigning Happiness, an interior designer. She designs her client’s spaces in a way that makes them feel comfortable, happy, and safe in their home or workplace. Sometimes it takes a rework of the things around you to get a little bit of happiness. If you’re like me and like to make changes, but aren’t into hiring an interior designer to the stars like Yvonne, I’ve got a few tips of ways you can spruce up a room. Continue reading “Tips for changing up your living space by Nita Brooks”

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Caring for the Dead By Amanda Skenandore

Writing a story about a nineteenth-century embalmer, as I did in The Undertaker’s Assistant, may seem strange and even morbid. But it was the broader social interactions surrounding death and mourning that interested me. In this era, sanitation and disease were little understood, and the death rate was significantly higher than today. Illness, death, and mourning, therefore, were a more common thread in people’s lives. Unlike today, where 80% of people die in hospitals or nursing homes, most nineteenth-century Americans died in their homes. They were nursed in the home before death. Afterward, their bodies were washed and prepared for burial there. Depending on their religious traditions, they were laid out in the front room or parlor for viewing and funeral services. They were interred at home in the family plot. So death was not only a common occurrence but also a more intimate one.

Embalming, in the broad sense of artificially preserving the dead, has been practiced for millennia. Ancient Egyptians embalmed their dead. So too did the Guanches, the Incas, and other early South American cultures. Their specific practices varied, but often entailed the removal of the internal organs and covering of the body in salt, resin, or bitumen.

In 1838, a new technique for embalming, injecting preservative into the arteries, was developed in France.  Knowledge of this practice spread to the United States just in time for the Civil War when families wanted a way to bring loved ones who died on the battlefield home for burial. It helped that President Lincoln embraced this new practice. When his eleven-year-old son Willie died in 1862 from typhoid fever, Lincoln had him embalmed.  Three years later, the same man who had embalmed Willie preserved Lincoln’s body after his assassination. Continue reading “Caring for the Dead By Amanda Skenandore”

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Deadline Troll by Amy Lillard

I’m a nice person. Really I am. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you that I go out of my way for others. I like helping people. I like being helpful. I love taking care of my family. Sure, I probably do more for them than I should. (I’m not certain if my husband can even turn on the washing machine, but I taught my son so if I keel over tomorrow at least one of them will have clean clothes for the funeral.) But helping them, cooking for them, taking care of them is all a part of how I express my love for them and the people around me.

But there comes a time when helping others becomes difficult for me, when I start to act and react like a totally different person. Now this only happens two or three times a year. Okay, okay, I’m lowballing. It happens more than that. But it varies, honestly. It only happens when I have a book due to my publisher. About two weeks before the actual contracted date…it comes.

What happens you ask? I turn into the Deadline Troll. It’s not pretty, a little like when Bruce Banner turns into the Hulk. The upside for me is I don’t turn green, but everything else is pretty much the same. Quick to anger, growly breathing, unkempt appearance. But worst of all, my house becomes every man for himself. Continue reading “Deadline Troll by Amy Lillard”

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Flip-flops as summer door décor . . . by Linda Reilly

Flip-flop weather is upon us, and this year I discovered another use for the fun, fanciful footwear. Early this season, I was visiting someone at a local nursing home when I spotted the most adorable decoration hanging on the door of someone’s office. Using a pair of flip-flops, a cluster of faux flowers, and a beaded necklace (as a hanger), someone had created a whimsical summer door hanging.

It was perfect, I realized, for my local crafts club’s monthly project. A frugal bunch, we’re always looking for ideas that are gentle to our purses! Also, since none of us has any real sewing skills, a simple project is the kind we look for. This particular craft was one that I knew we could create from dollar store items. Plus, I love dollar store flip-flops! Continue reading “Flip-flops as summer door décor . . . by Linda Reilly”

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Cowboy Romances by Stacy Finz

I’m a devourer of cowboy romances, especially set in contemporary times. What can I say? I love a man in boots and a Stetson. I have so many favorite cowboy romance authors that I don’t know where to start: Linda Lael Miller, Jennifer Ryan, Lori Wilde, Carolyn Brown, Jodi Thomas. The list goes on and on. But here’s five with whom I’m currently obsessed.

Crazy about Northern California cowboys? Then you’ll go nuts for Kate Pearce. The first book in her new Morgan Valley series (The Second Chance Rancher) just came out and I’ve got a feeling the Miller men are destined to be my new book boyfriends. The original series, Morgan Ranch, is one of my all-time favorites. I adore Kate’s heroes and heroines. And the setting? Let’s put it this way, in the land of fiction, I’m pretty sure Morgan Valley is right next to Dry Creek Ranch. Why not start with Kate’s The Reluctant Cowboy (Morgan Ranch) and work your way through both series?

So when TJ Kline writes about cowboys she knows what she’s talking about. She’s a real-life rodeo queen and an equestrian extraordinaire and lives not far from me in Northern California. All her experience riding in the rodeo comes leaping off the pages in her stories. Her Saddle Creek small-town series is so deliciously good. But you can’t go wrong with her earlier books from the Healing Harts and Hidden Falls series. She writes small-town heroes and heroines with heart.

Looking for category cowboy romance, try Claire McEwen, another Northern California author. Her stories are a combination of sweet and poignant. In Reunited with the Cowboy (out in July), Claire explores one of my favorite tropes: saving the ranch. I love this storyline because it’s an accurate depiction of American life. Ranching and farming are herculean struggles these days and I like when cowboy romance brings that reality onto the page.

Speaking of tropes, I’m also a sucker for marriage of convenience stories, especially if it’s to save the ranch. Kristi Rose’s Wyoming Matchmaker Series hits all the right notes for me. Lively writing, good storytelling and a bit of humor. Her characters are so vivid and her heroines are the kind of women I’d be friends with. Start with The Cowboy Takes a Bride.

Last but never least, I recommend any cowboy romance by Maisey Yates. She writes with such beautiful emotion. And Oregon, where her stories are set, is the perfect backdrop, especially because we Northern Californians are just over the border. I’d start with Brokedown Cowboy, which won a 2016 Rita for its moving tale about a rancher who loses his wife and finds love again, and work your way through her Copper Ridge series.

Hopefully that holds you over for the summer. Enjoy and let me know what your favorite cowboy romances are to add to my TBR list.

 

 

Cash, Jace, and Sawyer: Three cousins sharing an inheritance of five hundred acres of prime California ranch land—and a whole lot of surprises . . .

Cash Dalton is no rancher. He’s an FBI agent—or at least he was, until he left a haunting case behind him and a load of guilt in front of him. Now it turns out he’s also a father—to a twelve-year-old girl he didn’t know he had. Clearly, it’s no time for a new romance, especially not with Aubrey McAlister, who’s renting the cottage on Dry Creek Ranch. She doesn’t even seem to like him. Still, there’s nothing wrong with looking . . .

After calling off her wedding, Aubrey is trying to focus on her interior design career and avoid the fact that she’s the center of small-town gossip. Clearly, it’s no time for a new romance, especially not with brooding Cash. Though she does find him sexy as hell. And he has softened since his daughter arrived—enough for Aubrey to help decorate her room—and even try to get Cash to open up about the chip on his shoulder. Once he does, both their hearts might just follow—but will their futures sync up as well? . . .

 

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9 Tips For A Dog’s Day At The Beach by Mary Feliz

Taking your dog to the beach can be a great recreational experience for you and your furry friend, especially if you prepare ahead of time and follow these few tips:

 

  1. Make sure your dog likes the beach. Most water dogs love it. Others will be prefer to stay home. Before you plan to battle summer beach traffic for a day on the sand, make sure every member of your group will have fun—including your dog.

 

  1. Provide for your pet’s comfort. If you need shade for the human members of your family, you dog will need it too. If the sand is too hot for you to go barefoot, it will pain your pup’s paws just as quickly.

 

  1. You wouldn’t drink salt water and your dog shouldn’t either. Sometimes, it can cause diarrhea. In large quantities it can be life-threatening. And some beaches harbor bacteria or other organisms that can cause lasting damage or discomfort. Check with your veterinarian for hazards in your area. Bring plenty of fresh water and a drinking bowl.

Continue reading “9 Tips For A Dog’s Day At The Beach by Mary Feliz”