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Monday, October 31, 2016

Book Review! Ren: Awakened by Brittany Quagan

Ren: Awakened by Brittany Quagan
Genre: Young Adult (Paranormal/Romance)
Date Published:  August 2, 2016
Publisher: Balboa Press

Seventeen-year-old Ren Nagel knows that the strange things she's seen are real--even if no one else believes her. But, when she's locked up in a psychiatric hospital; she loses hope that anyone will ever truly be on her side.

Then everything changes. With the help of a new friend, Ren breaks out. It's when she's on the run that she learns who she really is.

Hunted by evil, Ren must learn to control a power she never knew she had, organize a coalition of people she never knew existed, and remind humanity why fighting the darkness is a big part of being human.

Sometimes, feeling different is much more than just a feeling. For Ren, it means the fate of the world.

Ren: Awakened was an exciting and addictive start to a new series by Brittany Quagan. Ren was a wonderful main character. She had brains, spunk, and when she was mad at the characters around her, it was for good reason, because chances are you'd be mad at them too. I loved getting Ren's history in her flashbacks. She really has a heck of a tangled web of a history. Whew! It was interesting, and I don't envy the decisions she's going to have to make. The supporting characters all play important roles in Ren's life and mission, and I enjoyed getting to know them in bits too. I hope to learn more about them in future books. There is a form of love triangle brewing, but it's not your typical love triangle at all. I'm actually enjoying this one.. it's pretty clever. The pacing of the book was spot on and kept me turning the pages ever so quickly. I think this is going to be a great series, and I'm super excited to see where it goes! I have to say, Ren: Awakened surprised me. I liked it more than I thought I would, and it turned into one of my favorites that I've real all year. I'm definitely a fan!

I know all books are a labor of love for their author, but you can really feel that love reflected through Brittany Quagan's writing.

Ren: Awakened by Brittany Quagan by Brittany Quagan was kindly provided to me by the author for review. The opinions are my own.

Sometimes I want to scream at the top of my lungs until my voice is completely gone. Or until the pressure blows off my head, whichever comes first. The stress they put on me; I can’t handle it. It just builds and builds, and one day I’m going to POP. It’s even worse when I’m mad. The things that happen … well … I can’t help it; they just do.
You’d probably be just as pissed if you were in my shoes. I mean, do you have any freaking clue what it feels like to have been lied to for your entire life about who—or what—you are? To know that everything you thought was real couldn’t be further from the truth? And still, after everything I’ve learned, the lies keep coming.
I’m supposed to do things … change reality as we know it. But every corner I turn brings me to another obstacle, another lie.
You’d think that asking a simple “what” or “how” would get you the answers you need. Not when you’re dealing with these people. They have so much to say, yet they say nothing at all. And you know what? Secrets really piss me off. I know they’re hiding plenty from me.
By the way, I’m Ren. I’d love to have a typical going-off-to-college story with all sorts of teenage, rebellious debauchery. But I don’t. My story isn’t working like that; it never has. I’ve always been different than most. Whatever that means. For me, it means that my life has never been one you could call normal. Some of you can relate, which is great because you’ll be a big help in all of this.
I’ll try to break this down quickly for you so we can get on with the story. A few months ago, my life changed completely. Not that I had some lovely fairytale life to begin with. Life had always been a struggle, but then things got crazy. Things I never thought could—or would—happen, did. And now I, well, we (and by “we” I mean you and me and the rest of the world) really are smack dab in the middle of mayhem.
Before my life flipped upside down, I couldn’t even walk in public without thinking I was going to die. It didn’t matter where I went or who I was near; my chest would get heavy; I’d sweat bullets and twitch; my heart would race; I couldn’t breathe. Sometimes I’d want to throw up or curl into a ball. Sometimes I’d faint. I didn’t know why it happened. If I tried to explain to anyone, like a doctor, what I experience, they would just tell me I was paranoid or that I had anxiety disorder. Then they’d slap me on meds. It all changed when I met them, though. Everything changed. Because I learned the truth. And now it’s time for you to learn.

Welcome to the story of my life (my lives?) and more than likely, yours too. 

Check out my review of the next book!
Brittany Quagan, known by family and friends as "Brittles," was born in Connecticut, twenty-something years ago and spent most of her life day dreaming like the stereo-typical Gemini she is.

Growing up, she wanted nothing more than to live a life of magic, mayhem, and writing, never knowing her dreams were being manifested into a reality with every wish and intention.

As a teen, her anxiety-riddled existence became nothing less than a burden, but she was determined to escape it and convinced there had to be more going on than just "being anxious." It wasn't until she met a new group of friends who guided her down a path of understanding energy and intuition that her life changed and she was able to overcome this.
Today, Brittany owns Journeys: School for the Soul, LLC in Windsor, CT.; an anxiety relief, intuitive development & healing center to help others who suffer from anxiety/panic disorder, those who believe in the unseen to tap into their intuitive selves, and to help people grow, find empowerment, manifest like a boss, and heal from wherever it is they feel stuck.

Ren's story isn't one that just came to Brittany; it's a story she lived. Most of what you read about in the adventure-filled series are experiences that are very real, that actually happened as it is entirely based on Brittany's life, and people she has met along the way. The series is one that's dwelled inside Brittany since she was a child, but couldn't be told until she finished living it for herself.

When Brittany isn't teaching, counseling, or writing, you'll find her traveling with friends  & family on a quest for adventure wherever she can, dying her hair every color of the rainbow, playing with her three nephews, trying craft beers, ruthlessly rating buffalo wings from all over the country, and talking to the moon. Most recently, she traveled to Alaska to dance on a glacier and bike down a mountain crying from hysterical laughter and extreme fear of plummeting to her death.

REN: Awakened is her first published book. Check out my interview with this amazing author!

To learn more about Brittany Quagan and her books, visit her website.You can also find her on Goodreads, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Playing Catch Up! Dark Hope by Monica McGurk

Playing Catch Up has really been helping me through my ever growing TBR list. I'd like to welcome all other blogs to participate too! If you do, be sure to post your links in the comments section. I'd love to see your Playing Catch Up Reviews, and I'm sure others would too!! *wink*

Want to know more about Playing Catch Up? I'll tell you all about it here!

Dark Hope (The Archangel Prophecies #1) by Monica McGurk
Genre: Young Adult (Paranormal Romance)
Date Published: July 29, 2014
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group

A new young adult saga in the Twilight tradition about the love between a human and an archangel.

For years, Hope Carmichael, survivor of a shocking child abduction, has lived a sheltered existence under the protection of her fanatically religious father. Now, liberated by her mother, Hope prepares to start life over as a normal kid in an Atlanta, Georgia, high school.

Normal, that is, until Hope meets Michael, a gorgeous emancipated teen with a mysterious past and a strong interest in Hope. And soon, Hope’s life is filled with questions. What’s behind the angry looks Hope gets from Lucas, leader of a gang of students? Who’s responsible for sending Hope a strange valentine inscribed with Bible quotations? How does this relate to the sinister business of human trafficking that operates on the periphery of Hope’s suburban world? And is Michael really a protector, or something more sinister—and just why does he seem so familiar?

In an epic narrative that takes readers from the back streets of Atlanta to the height of Vegas penthouses and beyond, Dark Hope introduces readers to The Archangel Prophecies, a new young adult saga that blends the feeling of Twilight with a vast mythological scope and moral urgency, as well as to Hope Carmichael—a young woman instantly memorable for her endurance, heart, and determination—and Michael, Hope’s dangerous companion who’s fated either to save Hope—or to kill her. 

Dark Hope is the first book in The Archangel Prophesies by Monica McGurk. Hope has had a rough childhood, fortunately she has no memory of the most traumatic part of it. Michael is an archangel. Yes, the archangel Michael we all know from the Bible. This book took ideas and characters from the Bible and created it's own prophesies and lore. This story pretty much created its own world, using Biblical characters as a guide and re-creating them into something entirely fictional. It also brought up an important issue, human trafficking. This is something serious that people should be aware of. It happens in our own country and around the world. It affects all ages, races, and genders.

I enjoyed the thought and creativity that went into this story. I've seen it compared to Twilight on some reviews. I guess it has a Twilighty feel to it in some ways, but I would never have compared the two if I didn't see that in the blurb first(then after reading the book, I saw others compared it in their reviews as well). I think Dark Hope stands fine on its own. It's its own unique story. It doesn't need the comparison. I'm curious as to what happens next. The ending was abrupt, not really a cliffhanger ending per say, but maybe still sitting on the edge a little.

Dark Hope by Monica McGurk was kindly provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley for review. The opinions are my own.

When the SWAT team stormed the motel room, the frst thing
they saw was the little girl. She was sitting on the edge of the bed,
holding her blankie and sucking her thumb, her bare legs hanging
over the edge, absentmindedly kicking at the faded bedspread.
Te television set blared—Wile E. Coyote getting crushed by a
falling anvil, courtesy once again of the Road Runner.
Te girl turned her big brown eyes and stared at the men. She
didn’t scream; she didn’t cry; she just looked at them as if she had
been expecting them all along, as if they were as natural a part
of the run-down room as the peeling, speckled wallpaper and the
rust-colored shag carpet.
Tey turned and fanned their guns around the room, looking
for the man who had taken the girl, the bad man who had hurt
other little girls, the man who was lurking in the corner or hiding
under the bed. But he wasn’t there. Te door to the bathroom was
closed, however, so they surrounded it.
Two of the men, who looked like bugs in their funny helmets
and gas masks, began talking to her, touching her hair, her arms, as
if to reassure themselves that she was there, really, really there. Was
she all right? Was she hurt?
While they wrapped a blanket around her, another bug-man
kicked in the bathroom door and rushed inside, brandishing
his gun.
“Oh dear God,” he choked out, his voice sounding tinny and far
away as he backed out through the door. An acrid smell foated out
with him.
Te other men rushed into the bathroom to see what he had
seen. Suddenly, they had to strain to move their feet, as if springs
were pulling them back. Te faded linoleum had melted and was
sticking to their boots, stretching apart like long strings of tafy.
Tere, in the middle of a scorched, black circle of gooey plastic,
lay a pile of ash fecked with little chips of white. Teeth. Bones. Te
body was still smoking, its whispery tendrils rising up to leave a
flm of soot on the ceiling. One of the men kicked the pile, revealing
a few misshapen lumps. A putrid smell washed over them as
he kicked around the remains, musky sweet and tangy, like copper.
One by one the men came out, holding their hands over their
faces. One rushed to the little Formica table in the corner, thrust
up the front of his helmet, and vomited into the wastebasket.
Walkie-talkies started buzzing and bulbs started fashing and
everything seemed to get hot and loud all at once.
Te frst man, the man who had kicked in the bathroom door,
knelt before the little girl on the bed.
“What happened? Who did this?” he asked the little girl. “Was
there someone else here with you?”
Te little girl just stared at him with her big brown eyes and
sucked her thumb. She had no idea what he was talking about.
“Let’s get you out of here,” the man said, his voice rough. He
swept her up in his arms, pulling the industrial blanket tightly
around her. She was so tiny, almost weightless. He wound through
the crowded room and headed toward the open door, trying to
block the memory of what he’d seen in the bathroom.
He emerged, blinking, into the gray light. On the concrete
sidewalk he paused, taking great gulps of fresh air. Emergency
personnel swirled all around them while police barked at the gathering
crowd, pressing them back from the caution tape where they
surged, hoping for a glimpse.
Te girl whimpered against his shoulder, clutching her threadbare
blanket even tighter.
“It’s okay,” he murmured, patting her awkwardly on the back.
“We’ll fnd your mommy and your daddy. You’d like that, wouldn’t
He didn’t wait for her answer before striding purposefully across
the parking lot, moving closer and closer to the fashing lights, the
cameras, and the crowd.
A wild-eyed woman broke through the tape, past the restraining
arms of the police ofcer, and then was swallowed up in the crowd.
Te girl squirmed in his arms, straining toward the voice.
“Hold on now,” the man cautioned, but the little girl was kicking
at him now, determined to get to her mother. Carefully, he set
her down on the cracked pavement. “Be careful, you’re barefoot,”
he warned her, holding her back ever so slightly. It wouldn’t do to
lose her now.
A pair of EMTs fell upon her, peppering her with questions as
one shone a penlight in her eyes and the other took notes. Reporters
crowded around them, microphones eagerly thrusting forward like branches of trees, showering questions down upon the little
girl’s head.
Te little girl shrank back against the SWAT leader, who instinctively
wrapped her in a protective arm.
“Hope!” A desperate voice rose above the chatter of the reporters.
“Tat’s my daughter! Let me through!”
Slowly, the crowd parted for the woman who was clawing her
way through.
“Hope!” she sobbed, falling on her knees before her daughter.
In an instant, a man, eyes heavy with shadows, fell in behind her—
the father.
The woman laughed through her sobs, running her hands over
the little girl, checking that she was whole, as if she were a newborn.
“Oh my God, what did he do to you?” she choked out through
her tears, clutching the little girl in her arms. Her husband wrapped
them both in his embrace, weeping silently.
Te SWAT leader cleared his throat, leaning in to speak to the
parents. Tis part always made him uncomfortable, but it had to
be said.
“She seems unhurt,” he said steadily, low so that the reporters
would not hear, “but we haven’t had a physical examination yet.
We don’t know what he may have done to her. We need to take her
in now. To be sure.”
He locked eyes with the father, who blanched. He’d heard the
father had been the one with her at the time she was snatched. He
felt for the guy. It would be hard to live with yourself, if the worst
had, indeed, happened.
Te mother just kissed the top of her daughter’s head. “Of
course,” she said. “But we go with her. I’m not leaving her side.” She
rose to her feet, shifing her baby girl in her arms. Te girl made a little sound of protest where she rested her head against her mother’s
“Oh, poor baby, your hair is caught,” the woman said. She
hitched the girl up on her hip and swept the girl’s cascade of silky
hair around her neck.
Te SWAT leader started. “What’s that?” he demanded, pointing
at the little girl.
“What’s what?” the mother responded, confused.
“Tere, on her neck.”
Te woman turned to face her husband. “What is it, Don?”
Her husband shuddered and reached out with a tentative hand
to lif up her hair and touch his little girl’s neck. She finched from
the touch.
Her husband’s face hardened into a mask of fury as he let her
hair fall back into place. (Excerpt from TeenReads)

Monica McGurk loves nothing better than to craft thought-provoking, multilayered stories, showcasing strong girls and women overcoming big challenges.

Already a fan favorite, she received the 2013 TwiFic Fandom Undiscovered Gem award for Morning Star, her alternate ending to the Twilight series, written before the release of Breaking Dawn.

Her first novel in The Archangel Prophecies trilogy, Dark Hope, was published in 2014. Dark Rising, the second novel in the series came out in 2015. And, the final installment, Dark Before Dawn, is now available.

To learn more about Monica McGurk and her books, visit her website.You can also find her on Goodreads, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Book Review of Samantha by Andrea Kane

Samantha (Barrett #2) by Andrea Kane
Genre: Adult Fiction (Historical Fiction/Romance)
Date Re-Published: October 18, 2016
Publisher: Bonnie Meadow Publishing LLC

Lady Samantha Barrett is determined to find the man of her dreams. Of course, he must be devastatingly handsome and just a bit dangerous. Now, her coach is filled with a collection of gothic novels and her head with romantic notions as she eagerly leaves her brother's country estate for her first London Season. Still unsophisticated and too innocent by far, Samantha is ill-prepared for the hypocrisy of the town or for the formidable stranger who crosses her path-- a stranger she is sure must be her long-awaited hero... Remington Worth, the Earl of Gresham, is reputed to be anything but a hero. He is, however, intrigued by the fresh, young Lady Samantha. At sea, Remington had been a brilliant captain. To help save his country, he has become the Crown's most deadly and dedicated covert agent, posing as a notorious womanizer and blackmailer. His latest orders are to investigate the mysterious disappearances of England's prized merchant vessels. He will allow no one to get in his way or touch his heart-- until Samantha.


Samantha is the second book in the Barrett series by Andrea Kane. Samantha is all grown up! This is a girl who knows what she wants. She's blunt, honest, and wears her emotions for the world to see. You always know where she stands on anything, because she'll tell you. Remington was the opposite. He keeps everything in a box. You never know what he's thinking or feeling. Even as a reader, I wasn't always sure. So, it took me a little bit longer to warm up to him. Together they are a hoot. Rem doesn't know what to make of this crazy girl who sees him as her hero and tells him they will marry. He thinks she's naive, and she is. Very much so, but she also sees people better than they see themselves. Their story was a fun one, with some danger and drama thrown in to keep things even more interesting.

Samantha by Andrea Kane was kindly provided to me by the author for review. The opinions are my own.

In walked the man of her dreams.
Samantha stared, transfixed, as the vision stepped directly from the pages of her latest gothic romance into the noisy, smoke-filled tavern.
He had arrived… her long-awaited hero.
It mattered not that he was a total stranger to her… nor that he patronized so seedy an establishment as this… nor that he pointedly displayed an ominous-looking knife handle from the top of one muddied Hessian boot. All that mattered was his towering height, his thick black hair, his uncompromising jaw, his piercing gray eyes. And that dimple… it was just where she’d always known it would be; in his left cheek. It flashed briefly as he nodded a greeting to someone, then vanished into the taut lines of his face.
Yes, it was irrefutably he… the hero of all her fantasies.
Breathless and eager, Samantha watched as he carelessly swung off his great coat, shaking rivulets of rain from it with swift, purposeful strokes. Simultaneously, he surveyed the room, his cool gaze taking in the shoddy furnishings and seedy occupants in one enveloping glance.
He moved forward, commanding and sure, coming closer to where Sammy sat… close enough so she could see the drops of water glistening in his raven-black hair, causing the ends to curl a bit at the nape. He seemed to be looking for someone.
Instead, he found her.
Dark brows raised, not with instantaneous, adoring surrender, but with decided, disapproving surprise.
Without hesitating, Sammy flashed him a smile, drinking in his splendid, chiseled features and exciting, leashed power. He was just as she had imagined him… no, better.
Her heart tightened in her chest as he approached her.
“What despicable cad deserted you here, little one?”
“Pardon me?” Sammy blinked in confusion.
With apparent disgust, her hero scanned the room. “You needn’t feel ashamed. Just tell me what unscrupulous blackguard accompanied you to such a place, then abandoned you.”
“Oh, nothing like that, sir.” Sammy assured him brightly. “Actually, it was I who spotted this establishment from my carriage window and chose to stop here. Given the circumstances, it seemed the best place…”
“The best place… to what?” He looked censuring now, his gray eyes chilling, stormier than the skies that heralded tonight’s downpour. “Is this your idea of an evening adventure? If so, you’ve either lost your way or your mind! Tell me, have you looked about you? I seriously doubt that you have, else you would have bolted. And, thankfully, it seems that these low-lifes have yet to spot you as prey. Had they done so, I assure you that your elegant gown would have long since been tossed up over your foolish, beautiful head!”
Sammy sucked in her breath. This wasn’t at all the way she’d envisioned their first meeting.
Following her hero’s icy, pointed gaze, she surveyed the dimly lit tavern, trying to see what was upsetting him so. True, the tables were a bit shabby, even broken in spots, and the pungent smell of gin… mixed with some other, unrecognizable foul odor… permeated the room. And, she had to admit, the occupants of the tavern did need to shave… as well as to bathe. Still, they’d shown no signs of harming or even approaching her; so why was her hero hinting at violence?
“I don’t know what you mean, sir,” she confessed, bewildered. “Despite their rather coarse attire and unpolished manners, the gentlemen here have made no improper advances toward me. They are merely enjoying their spirits and each other’s company.”
The stranger gaped in utter disbelief.
“Gentlemen?” he managed. Leaning forward, he lowered his voice to a muffled hiss. “Sheltered innocent, what you see are pickpockets, highwaymen and drunks… and an occasional murderer or two.” He straightened, emphatic and fierce. “This is Boydry’s… as unsavory a pub as they come… not the bloody Clarendon Hotel!”
“Really?” Samantha was finding it very difficult to share the intensity of his tirade. She was too busy drowning in the hypnotic spell of his towering presence. And, after all, he was only trying to protect her… the foremost duty of a true hero.
“If such is the case, then why are you here?” she asked, half-tempted to stroke the hard, uncompromising line of his jaw. “You don’t appear unsavory to me.”
His dimple flickered in response. “Don’t I? That is only because you don’t know me.”
“No… but I’d like to.”
He blinked. “You’d like to…”
“Oh yes. Don’t you see?” Sammy leaned forward, making an animated sweep with her hands. “It’s as if Mrs. Radcliffe had penned it; a young woman alone… darkness… danger.” A pause. “Of course I would have preferred a castle turret to a tavern…” she gave a philosophical shrug, “… nevertheless, you’ve arrived… and you’re exactly as I pictured you.”
“You have lost your mind,” he muttered.

Check out my review of the first book in this series!

Andrea Kane is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-seven novels, including thirteen psychological thrillers and fourteen historical romantic suspense titles.

With her signature style, Kane creates unforgettable characters and confronts them with life-threatening danger. As a master of suspense, she weaves them into exciting, carefully-researched stories, pushing them to the edge—and keeping her readers up all night.

Kane’s beloved historical romantic suspense novels include My Heart’s Desire, Samantha, The Last Duke, and Wishes in the Wind.
With a worldwide following of passionate readers, her books have been published in more than twenty languages.

Kane lives in New Jersey with her husband and family. She’s an avid crossword puzzle solver and a diehard Yankees fan. Otherwise, she’s either writing or playing with her Pomeranian, Mischief, who does his best to keep her from writing.

To learn more about Andrea Kane and her books, visit her website.You can also find her on GoodreadsFacebook, and Twitter.

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Providence Book Promotions for Andrea Kane and Bonnie Meadow Publishing LLC. There will be 5 US winners of one (1) eBook copy of Samantha by Andrea Kane. The giveaway begins on September 28th and runs through November 3rd, 2016.
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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Book Review of To Love and to Cherish by Lauren Layne

To Love and to Cherish (The Wedding Belles #3) by Lauren Layne
Genre: Adult (Contemporary Romance)
Date Published: October 18, 2016
Publisher: Pocket Books

Sex and the City meets The Wedding Planner in The Wedding Belles, a contemporary and witty romance series about three high-powered New York City women who can plan any wedding—but their own.

Alexis Morgan has spent the past six years devoted to turning her tiny start-up into Manhattan’s premiere wedding planning company, The Wedding Belles. Now that her business is thriving, it’s time to turn towards her much neglected personal life, and Alexis approaches her relationships like she does everything else: with a plan. Not a part of that plan is Logan Harris, the silent partner in the Belles, and the one person who’s been there for her since the very beginning. But Alexis needs someone fun, and Logan’s all business, all the time—except when a late night at the office ends with an unexpected kiss that leaves the usually cool and together Alexis reeling.

Logan has lusted after Alexis since the day he walked into the tiny Harlem apartment that used to double as her office. But the ambitious wedding planner has always been untouchable...until now. Alexis has made it clear that she’s on the dating market—and equally clear that he’s not in the running. But when Alexis finds herself in need of a date for her sister’s last minute wedding in Florida, Logan knows it’s the perfect time to show Alexis that there’s more to him than numbers and spreadsheets—and beneath the pinstripes and glasses lies a hot-blooded heartthrob. As Florida’s sultry days turn into even hotter nights, Logan’s out to convince Alexis that the fling of a lifetime could just maybe turn into forever...

To Love and to Cherish is the final book in The Wedding Belles series by Lauren Layne. I was so excited to finally get Alexis and Logan's story, and let me tell you, they don't disappoint one bit. Their story was all consuming for me. I just couldn't put it down. Going into this book, I felt like I knew Alexis better than I knew Logan, but there was actually a whole lot more to learn about her. And Logan? I couldn't wait to see what he was like, and now he's my favorite of the guys in this series. They had undeniable chemistry, and they sure know how to turn on the steam. I've enjoyed each book in this series, and it was sad to see it end, but I'm thrilled with the overall outcomes of these characters. I'm going to miss them though. The characters of The Wedding Belles Series felt like friends, and I hate saying bye to friends.

The ARC of To Love and to Cherish by Lauren Layne was kindly provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley for review. The opinions are my own.

The sexy British accented startled Alexis out of her thoughts, and she glanced up, both alarmed and intrigued to find that the face that awaited her was every bit as appealing as the voice.
The man was about her age—early, maybe midtwenties—and ridiculously cute. His hair was dark and maybe just a touch too long, as though he intended to get a haircut but kept forgetting. The eyes were brown and friendly, accented by trendy black-framed glasses.
The chunky cable-knit sweater with elbow patches—for real—bordered on dorky, but then, Alexis had always had a soft spot for dorky. He had a bit of the Clark Kent thing going on, which had always been far more her type than the overrated Superman.
“Hi,” she replied quickly, realizing that she’d been staring.
His smile grew wider as he extended a hand. “Logan Harris.”
Darn. Even the name was good.
“Alexis,” she said.
“Does that come with a last name?” he teased, lowering himself to the vacant barstool beside her.
“Not to strange men,” she retorted.
“I could buy you a drink. Get rid of the ‘strange’ part.”
Alexis’s smile slipped as she remembered that romance, even flirting, wasn’t part of her plan. She’d learned the hard way that she could have one or the other—her own business or a boyfriend—not both. And even if she wanted the latter, the latter didn’t want her back.
“No thanks; I’m fine,” she said, letting the slightest amount of chill enter her voice. The ice-princess treatment, Roxanne called it.
Logan shrugged, undeterred. “All right then. May I borrow your menu?”
She nodded, and he picked it up, perusing it for several moments and paying her no attention.
It was both a relief and also a bit of an insult, if she was being entirely honest, to be given up on so easily.
Alexis tried to turn her attention back to her laptop but watched out of the corner of her eye as he finally shut the menu, waiting patiently to catch the bartender’s eye.
“Hi there,” he said, when the bartender ambled back over. “I’d like a Stella, and a maybe bite to eat?”
Alexis didn’t miss the once-over that the bartender gave Logan before the curvy redhead leaned over the bar, displaying perky boobs as she clicked her pen and pulled a notepad out of her back pocket.
“Shoot,” the bartender said flirtatiously, looking a good deal friendlier than she had when she’d spoken to Alexis.
Not that Alexis blamed her. A cute Brit could do that to a girl.
“All right then,” Logan said. “I’d like the burger, medium, with Swiss. Fish and chips, extra tartar, and . . . how’s your chicken club?”
The bartender blinked. “It’s good. But you want all that?”
“I do. Thank you.”
“Suit yourself,” she said, scribbling Logan’s order on the pad.
“Hungry?” Alexis couldn’t resist asking after the bartender moved away.
Logan gave a sheepish smile. “I’m a recovering student. I sometimes get so wrapped up in my day that I forget to eat.”
“A recovering student. What does that mean?”
He turned slightly toward her. “Someone’s showing plenty of interest in a strange man.”
She bit her lip. “I’m sorry if I was rude before. I’m just not really in the market for . . . you know.”
He gave her an easy smile. “Everyone’s in the market for a friend, Alexis.”
She opened her mouth and then shut it as she realized he was right. She could use a friend. She’d spent her entire life in Boston and knew almost nobody in New York. This guy seemed nice and nonthreatening enough—what would be the harm in a little conversation over dinner? It had been too long since she’d had somebody to share a meal with.
Logan seemed to know the moment she capitulated, because he turned more fully toward her. “A recovering student, Alexis, is a recent graduate. One who hasn’t quite absorbed that there will be no more finals, no more requisite all-nighters, and no more dorm sex.”
Alexis laughed. “Undergrad, then?”
He gave her a wry look. “How young do I look, darling? MBA from Columbia. Just finished up end of last year.”
She felt a little stab of relief that he wasn’t twenty-two.
He leaned toward her slightly. “Twenty-five next month, just in case you were wondering. As a friend.”
She tried to hide her smile and failed. “Columbia, huh? You’re a long way from home.”
“Noticed that, did ya?” He winked. “I came out here for undergrad, also Columbia. Always figured I’d go back to London and maybe someday I will, but . . .” He shrugged. “Seems I have stuff to do here first.”
“Such as?” She took a sip of her wine, dismayed to see that it was half-empty.
“Well, this will probably shock you, given my vast amount of brawn, but I’m an accountant. Or at least I will be, once I get my business up and running.”
Alexis was impressed. “Your own business?”
Most twentysomethings, even those with an entrepreneurial bent, opted to get a few years of work under their belts for someone else before branching out on their own.
He nodded. “I’m working out of my flat for now, but I’m hoping to lease some office space soon, get some legitimacy. If nothing else to get my father off my back.”
“He’s not a fan of your plan?” Alexis asked.
Logan’s shoulder lifted, and for the first time he seemed a little sad. “Both parents have had it in their head that I’d come home. Run the family business in London.”
“Which is . . . ?”
He spun his beer glass idly. “Financial consulting firm. My father’s the CEO, Mum’s the COO.”
“Wow, that’s . . .”
“Scary?” Logan supplied.
“I was going to say impressive. That they work together—without killing each other, I mean.”
“They’re in love. It’s atrocious,” he said with a wink. “What about your folks?”
Alexis laughed. “Not in love. They divorced when I was in high school. Dad’s remarried and happy now, I think. Mom not so much.”
“And you?” he said. “Are you happy, Alexis?”
She pursed her lips, surprised and yet not entirely unsettled by the personal question. “It’s been a while since anyone asked me that. Since I even thought about it, really.”
“Think it out. I’ll wait,” he said with a wink.
She didn’t have to think that long. “I’m almost happy.”
“You sound quite confident on that.”
She shrugged. “Let’s just say that I need a few things to fall into place in my professional life, but once that happens . . . yeah. I’ll be happy.”
She’d make sure of it.

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Lauren Layne is the USA Today bestselling author of more than a dozen romantic comedies. She lives in New York City with her husband (who was her high school sweetheart--cute, right?!) and plus-sized Pomeranian.

In 2011, she ditched her corporate career in Seattle to pursue a full-time writing career in Manhattan, and never looked back.

In her ideal world, every stiletto-wearing, Kate Spade wielding woman would carry a Kindle stocked with Lauren Layne books.  Check out my interview with Lauren Layne.

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