Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Proximity (My Full Review)


Alright y'all, This is another one coming to me from across the pond. Jem Tugwell has already become a huge hit in the UK with this beauty. It is classified as a techno thriller however I didn't notice much of a sci-fi aspect during the whole story. I am super grateful to be part of the blog tour put together by Reads and Reels log tours. I have a great feeling that once you finish this review you will want your own copy. So let's just dive right on into it shall we?

Picture a world where cell phones are no longer needed, crime rate is at a bare minimum, and everybody can be tracked through a system called iMe. If you are a Futurama fan then just picture the episode with the eye phones. If you have never seen the episode I'm talking about, then imagine having your screen of your phone and computer system being in your head. That is exactly what is happening in this tale about DI Clive Lussac and DI Zoe Jordan.

Set in the UK Clive and Zoe are about to have their first murder case and over 10 years. Clive currently works and what is called the PCU (proximity crimes unit), which normally handles crimes such as theft, assault, muggings, and murder. However ever since the government got involved with the iMe system it has basically become a go between for reports and tracking down people at a crime scene. Clive is the last officer inside of PCU besides Zoe who is only there as part of her rotation from cyber crimes.

It is just a typical day for Clive and Zoe when they receive a missing persons report. Just as they start thinking it was simply somebody outside of their signal range so they call tech support who tells them that they are working on it. Before they can just shrug it off, the boyfriend of Karina Morgan calls to find out why she hasn't been found yet. When Clive and Zoe try to locate Karina using her IME signal it comes up with nothing. Not any kind of trace can be found for her. Which is nearly impossible in this scenario.

Clive and Zoe get into the self-driving car and head over to Karina's house where they are greeted by her boyfriend named Dave. Zoe has no experience as a cop without the IME system so Clive tries to talk to her about a few older procedures that he used to do all the time just in case.

Once at Karina's place they talk to Dave and find out that she designs Sentiments (The iMe's version of a mood update that is constantly live for the user) in Windsor. She is usually home by 6:00 p.m. every night unless she has a networking event. As far as Dave knows there is no event scheduled for last night.

Dave tells them he works in London as a senior partner at infotech marketing, and when he got to Karina's there was no sign of a struggle or forced entry. As they are walking out, Zoe notices some discolored specs on the wall by the front door that looks like a cleaner that sprayed wrong.

On the way back to the office, DCS Bhatt calls Clive and Zoe to come to her office when they get back. They tell Bhatt everything they have so far but it isn't much. they still cannot figure out how Karina signal went from 100% to 0% when she arrived home at 5:37 p.m. last night.

Bhatt says there's only two scenarios here: there's a technical error as iMe tech support suggested or Karina is really missing and her captor has managed to block her signal. Either way the case needs to be solved fast to avoid a media induced chaos.

The next day Clive and Zoe go to see Art Walker, the head of iMe, who acts like there is no way anybody could disappear on his flawless system. Especially since all recent testing and updates conducted by test manager Emma Bailey have come back with no issues reported. However it is not a complete wasted trip when Art slips and says that somebody of strategic importance could hide their signal if they had the proper clearance. Before dismissing Clive and Zoe, Art tells them he can have tech support confirm or deny if there is an encrypted signal for Karina but no further details can be released for her privacy.

The following day Clive and Zoe go back to iMe offices to speak to Emma Bailey and the technical architect Manu Ameobi to get a better idea of how the system actually works and if there is a way to mask somebody's signal. After a little of pushing, Emma and Manu reveal that with enough money and equipment it is possible for somebody to figure it out. Clive and Zoe leave knowing they've got a little bit more to go on.

The next day while waiting for an answer about the encryption signal from IME tech support, Clive brings up checking the CCTV (closed circuit tv city security system) but that they probably haven't been used in forever. Zoe decides to go down to the Windsor and Maidenhead Borough Council in person after all her phone calls about the CCTV go unanswered or unreturned. Unfortunately she gets told that CCTV system was shut down a while ago but the cameras were never removed to save money and to deter crimes in certain areas.

Zoe goes back to the office and updates Clive about the cameras not being an option for them to use. In response Clive suggests they go out for a pub lunch where they see a breaking news story about the Junior Tech Minister Alan Kane has been reported missing. Alan was supposed to show up for a briefing multicast, and when he didn't a reporter paid to have a signal trace done through iMe. Now the pressure is really on to solve this case.

On the way to Alan's house, Clive looks up his career and married life which have been rocked by an affair until recently. Newest reports show that Alan was making a comeback. They get to Alan's rented house and fine faint drag marks, a chair that had been moved, and a small section of carpet that had recently been vacuumed.

Back at PCU Clive and Zoe start putting together what little information they do have on a blank HUD (heads up display) on one of the walls. It still isn't much except for two victims and some suspects that include iMe staff and any personal relationship Karina and Alan have or had.

As the day goes by Clive and Zoe managed to go through all of the employees that are currently or have worked at iMe. The only person that stands out at the moment is an Esteban Jimenez who used to be Art's partner. Esteban's trace signal shows him going off-grid a lot. The only thing they can't figure out is why he was removed or left when the government was first brought into the iMe system. So Zoe and Clive add him to the suspect list.

The following morning Clive and Zoe are updating Bhatt on what they have found so far. Bhatt agrees that Esteban is definitely looking good for this, but when they bring up Art's encrypted signal she just brushes it off because of the rules required for someone to have an encrypted signal in the first place. Zoe and Clive go back to the main PCU office where Zoe uses an old connection at Cyber to contact Esteban on the WhatsApp messaging board. This takes a little work since it has not been used for years. Once Zoe sends a message saying they needed to talk, they get a reply to meet him at 10:00 a.m. at an address he picks.

Just as they are getting ready to leave to go meet Esteban, Karina signal comes back online. They figure out that Karina is deceased and her trace signal shows her in Windsor Great Park. While Clive searches for an old CSI kit, Zoe reaches out to Esteban about a reschedule. Clive and Zoe arrive at the scene and see that a uniform cop has already launched a forensic scan drone and has press and onlookers blocked from the scene.

Clive and Zoe are forced to wait for their forensic drones to finish their scans before they can enter the scene. Once they are done Clive and Zoe are able to look at the photos the drones took of Karina's body and see the puncture marks on all her major arteries. The cause of death is rolled exangonation or full blood drainage.

Clive and Zoe go back to PCU and walk Bhatt through all the crime scene photos. Once again Bhatt says they need to solve this case as soon as possible and find Alan before the public starts to question the whole iMe system. Meanwhile Zoe manages to get a new location and time from Esteban.

The following morning Clive picks up Zoe from her house before they head to the designated spot to meet Esteban. Shortly after they arrived Esteban pulls up in a Ferrari, which is a very rare sight since there is a gas tax that is super high and a special permit required.

Esteban gets out and greets them before he goes to the trunk and removes two collars that he places on Clive and Zoe's neck. It turns out that it blocks the iMe system from picking up on their signal. It also stops them from using the iMe system. Shortly after that Esteban convinces them to get into his car while he drives. After driving a little bit, Esteban makes them put on black hoods to keep his house location a secret.

Zoe is obviously nervous at first since she is never known a world without her HUD, but Clive is fine with the off-grid moment. Once inside Esteban's house, he takes the collars off because the system still won't work inside the house which has been set up for off-grid living. (It is basically set up like a home is nowadays.) Clive and Zoe are able to ask Esteban about his alibi which he willingly gives including a list of friends that will confirm. They ask him a few more questions including what the collars are. Esteban tells them they are called Suppressors and they are his creation. He has made a few versions of them that were meant to test the system, and art knows all about them.

The next day Clive and Zoe go back to Art's office to ask about the Esteban's departure from the company. They also ask about the Suppressors, but they are simply met with a smug can't touch me response about the details being protected by the Official Secrets Act. This means there is no court order that Clive and Zoe can get that will make Art talk.

Clive and so leave with a new plan to look closer at other iMe ex-employees who could have a grudge since Esteban's alibi was confirmed and Art refuses to talk. This also gives them a chance to check for signal gaps. Back at PCU Clive and Zoe get a message from Bhatt saying they have five officers coming to help them.

After showing the officers step by step what needs to be done, Zoe has them work on going through the data for the past 10 years of iMe signals and anybody that fits their search criteria. Unfortunately the five new faces are only able to go through four out of 10 years thanks to a new law that restricts the hours people under certain ages work. That leaves Zoe to go through the rest of the data herself.

At a little after midnight, Zoe makes her way through all the data for the other six years. She gets to the first year of iMe system data and gets a bunch of results for signal drops. Sadly they're all surrounding signal dead spots instead of suppressor use since this is during the time they were still working out kinks in the iMe system.

After a couple more hours of work the next day Zoe is able to give Clive two names. The first is Alice Bakaev and the second is Tom Mitchell. Both were once programmers at IME and are now not where you would expect them to be. Alice is living in a druid community, which is mostly off the grid with a small signal trace. Tom is working in a health club owned by mob boss Doris Barclay called Health Bank. Clive knows the name Doris because he has been trying to arrest her for years.

Clive then tells Zoe the history of Doris Barclay and how the legalization of drugs and prostitution hit her hard. Health Bank could be a front for discreet drugs and prostitute purchases since the legal purchases are on someone's record publicly forever. It may not explain why Tom works there, but it definitely gives Doris motive.

On the way to Health Bank Clive tries to warn Zoe about how to respond to Doris. He tells her to respond politely no matter how rude and nasty Doris gets. They also go over the suspect list again until they arrive. When they get there they decide to walk around the club against the receptionist's request until they are escorted by security to Doris's office.

Inside Doris's office sit Doris and Tom. Doris is her nasty usual self while Tom sits quietly next to her. When Clive and Zoe try to explain they need to talk to Tom, Doris immediately shuts them down and has them physically escorted from the building. This leaves Clive and Zoe no choice but to go back to the office. However this does give them a chance to pull up the layout and the current iMe stream for Health Bank.

Clive has Zoe go back about 20 minutes once she has the layout on the wall HUD and they watch the dots of people. One of the dots is a lawyer that goes through a door Clive noticed has an old number punched lock on it. They watch as the lawyer goes past rooms with two dots or none in each room until the lawyer reaches a room with a bunch of dots set up like a casino. Clive comes up with a plan to get inside and shares it with Bhatt who gives the go-ahead.

Clive and Zoe are waiting in the alley behind health bank while the rest of their PCU team goes in through the front door to create a distraction. Once they receive confirmation the team is inside, Clive and Zoe use a genetically engineered organism to get past the locked door. Once through the door they see a metal cabinet that holds bracelets that are charging and could be suppressors. The next door they go to reveals a bed and a chair with low lighting, and they find that the second room has the same setup but there is a trainer feeding a woman potato chips with mayo on them. Things just get a whole lot weirder from there.

Once they make it past all the other rooms to get to the big room, Clive and Zoe don't find a casino. They find a restaurant that serves pizza, steak, beer, and wine. Every single person in the room is wearing a bracelet like the ones they saw before and it seems to be blocking the intake of food and alcohol. Before they have a chance to turn around, they hear the voice of Doris's lawyer Alfie. Alfie is about to have Clive and Zoe thrown out when he releases six micro drones that start taking pictures when the rest of the team shows up along with more officers. Alfie punches Clive in the face before he can be arrested.

Back at PCU Clive and Zoe are interrogating Doris and Alfie. Alfie is being charged with assaulting a police officer. Doris is looking at fraud charges which makes Clive very happy. That is until Alfie produces paperwork about the Health Bank membership, the Wilde membership, and the terms and conditions all gym members have to look at. He also pulls out part of the sovereignty protection act that proves Doris was not conducting tax evasion or any other illegal activity with the bracelets since it is up to the member to make sure taxes are paid to the government. Which means they have to let Doris go and let the fraud department take over.

Back in the PCU main office Clive has Zoe pull up Art's signal and comparison to Doris, Manu, and Emma's, and sees that Art's signal is encrypted while the others are solid. Zoe then checks in with the five officers helping out and gets confirmation that Emma was home when Karina went missing. Then she is shown a message pop up on Alan's TrueMe app (new social media platform) that says "I'm home".

So in Clive head to Alan's house when his signal does not appear in the system at all. Since traffic is backing up the car they ordered, Clive sends a forensic drone ahead of them. When they are almost there the drone finally shows that Alan's front door is wide open. Clive has Zoe send out the micro drones which show a metal trunk in the middle of the living room area with a label reading h"sweet home" on the closed lid.

When they finally arrived to the house Clive goes and checks out the trunk and opens it. Inside he finds Alan's body chopped up and vacuumed sealed in plastic bags. He tries to stop Zoe from seeing it but it doesn't work. Shortly after they both put on gloves even though the forensic drones find no fingerprints inside the house. Zoe does a scan and sees that a man is inside the kitchen. With no guns or any way to defend themselves, they cautiously make their way to the kitchen where they find a journalist who has taken and posted photos of Alan and then vomited in the sink.

Shortly after Clive and Zoe Are once again summoned to Bhatt's office where they are told that they're not fired. Bhatt had just spent hours with the Prime Minister, home secretary, and Chief Constable convincing them that good old-fashioned police work was needed since technology was the problem. Then she tells Clive he needs to get back on the case.

Zoe and Clive once again meet with Emma and Manu to try to get more information out of them. Unfortunately they are met with the simple "we're working on it" answer they have been receiving this whole time. They go back to Bhatt to try to convince her they need another crack at Art, but they are told without concrete evidence they need to leave him alone. Clive decides Art and Esteban both need to be talked to immediately.

Bhatt and the Chief Constable watch as Clive and Zoe interrogates Art. First they try to talk about his encrypted signal, but once again gets shot down. Then they ask about Alan's time at iMe, and are told about Alan being the reason for the government being involved in the system. Clive uses the obvious upset about Alan's betrayal to show Art the photos of Alan's body. Art goes through the photos slowly before he simply says "I didn't put him in the trunk". Clive lets him go, but Bhatt finally sees what Clive means by something being off about him. Next Esteban comes in and gets some of the same questions Art did about Alan. When they show the photos of Alan, Esteban doesn't look at them besides a quick glimpse. Esteban reveals that he did not have a problem with the government's involvement until the Model Citizen health monitoring. He also denies being involved in Alan's death, but does admit that he met Karina at a party. Clive and Zoe bring Art back in after Esteban leaves using this new information.

Will Clive and Zoe figure out who the killer is and how they are staying off the iMe system? Does Art or Esteban have anything to do with the murders? What will happen to the iMe system if they do catch the killer? Why is the killer targeting these people and what do they have in common?

I know that is probably not the best spot to stop at, but if I go any further I will definitely have to put a spoiler alert at the beginning. When I found out that this was a techno thriller, I have to admit that I was not sure that I would love it as much as I did. However, the sci fi aspect is not as overpowering as I was expecting, which just made it that much more enjoyable. Jem Tugwell has already taken the UK by storm with this beauty, and I am sure that there is an audience here in the US. I have to once again say a huge thank you to Reads and Reels Blog Tours for including me on this book tour, because I loved this book! If you simply must have this book in your personal library, you already know you can find links on my page:
https://bookdragonsnotworms.blogspot.com/

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Broken Elite (Darlington Elite Book One)


Alright, so this ARC was sent to me by the super sweet Indie author Waverly Alexander, and I am so excited to be able to say that this is her debut novel! This is book one in her Darlington Elite series that she is planning. This one is her angsty college sports romance, but it is not just about the romance. However this is definitely meant for 18+ because of the very steamy moments she does have in there. This one is told just from Everly and Patrick's POV. I won't give too much away since this is an ARC, but Pub Day is January 9, 2020! So let's dive in already!

Everly is a long way from home while at Darlington University in Colorado with her cousin Zach, who is the only person she can really call family. Her parents are constantly traveling for their job which means they are absent from everything. She is on her way to see Patrick over at Phi Delta Theta house where all the hockey players live after Zach calls her saying Patrick needs her. Zach may be her cousin, but he is also Patrick's best friend and teammate and is more protective of him. Patrick and Everly were not exclusively dating but were always together until the night his sister, Darcey died. Darcey was Everly's best friend, and was supposedly with her for a girls night in during one of the frat house parties. However, Darcey got dressed to the nines and tried to drunkly walk up the back stairs of the frat house in heels. She fell and wasn't found until hours later. When Everly came to the hospital, she was definitely dressed for a night in which has Patrick furious at her for not being there with Darcey and for possibly being with another guy. Now they haven't really talked in a month since the funeral unless someone calls her because he is in another episode like tonight.

When she arrives, another teammate and close friend of Patrick's name Tommy tells her that he is upstairs while he has two puck bunnies hanging on his arms. She follows them up to the third floor and is about to knock on Zach's door when Zach stops her in the hallway. He is still concerned about Patrick but admits that Everly needs to be there. He tells her about how Patrick destroyed his room yet again and has been screaming for her for hours. She tells him it will be okay because she knows how he gets during these episodes of pure hate and grief. Everly finally goes into the room to see Patrick standing near Zach's desk. He has bloody knuckles and a brief moment of relief flashes across his face before the mask goes back in place as he clearly relives that night again. She goes to him and let's him pick her up and place her on the desk after she touches his arm. She just sits there and holds him as the anguish and anxiety leave his body. Just as she thinks that he is going to kiss her, she listens as he tells her to leave which is no surprise. She knows that she is only needed until the episode passes. He gives her pure hate again and asks why she keeps coming back to him. She simply replies because he needs her before walking out the door while trying to keep her own emotions in check.

The next day, Patrick shows up late to practice after another mandatory therapy session with the university's counselor. She has diagnosed him with PTSD and he isn't fighting her on it since he has to go to these sessions in order to go to class or stay on the hockey team. The team goalie and frat house president, Andre, starts to give him shit about being late. Andre tries to bait him into an argument by mentioning Everly's involvement with Darcey's death, but before he can react, Henry tells Andre to shut up. Henry is one of the very few that Patrick keeps close along with Tommy, Zach, and Miles. Andre doesn't take the advice and keeps going until Patrick finally leaps on him.
Patrick is able to land a few punches before Henry and Zach pull him off as Tommy and Miles put Andre on the bench. Patrick warns Andre to stay away from Everly just before the coach who is also Andre's dad walks in to find out what is taking so long. The guys leave Patrick and Andre in the locker room with coach. Andre tells coach that his nose is bleeding due to some roughhousing gone a little too far. Andre and coach walk out of the locker room leaving Patrick alone. When he hears the door shut, he sinks against the lockers and thinks about how much he still needs and misses Everly. As far as he is concerned, Everly was his and his alone, but he decides to tell the guys not to call her anymore to avoid anymore confusion between him and her.

Everly is trying to study for her Russian class in the library when her friend Beth comes up to her table. Beth starts asking about Everly's latest visit to the frat house and about Patrick punching Andre before practice. Everly gets up from the table to leave and end the conversation. However it becomes clear that Beth is going to keep talking when she follows Everly outside. On the way out, Everly reminds her that Patrick hates her, and Beth reminds her that she didn't do anything to Darcey except not show up on time to meet her. That was the story Everly told everyone, but only she knows that isn't what really happened. When they are almost down the steps, Everly sees Andre heading straight toward them with another teammate named Dalton in tow.
Andre tries to pull Everly to the side to "talk" while Dalton chats up Beth, but Everly tries to walk away. Andre stops her from leaving by stepping right in front of her, so Everly decides to just let him say what he wants without much from her in order to end the conversation as quickly as possible. He reminds her that nothing happens on campus without him knowing about it, and tells her that she better show up to the frat house party this weekend or he'll tell Patrick what he knows about the night Darcey died. Before she can reply, Henry comes up next to Everly and is able to get her away from Andre without any argument.

Henry leads her all the way to his car in the parking lot and tells her to get in. Instead Everly starts to head to class when he tells her that she needs to be extra careful when it comes to Andre. Patrick and the guys are pretty sure that Andre wants to use her to mess with Patrick. She takes his warning seriously and heads off to class. Once all her classes are over, Everly gets in her car and drives around the small college town for a few hours before heading to her dorm. When she parks, she puts Darcey necklace back under her hoodie and goes to her dorm. When she opens the door to see Patrick waiting for her inside. He asks where she's been and accuses her of being with Andre earlier. Her response is to remind him that he made it clear that he hates her and doesn't want to with her so why does he care? Before anything else can be said, Everly looks at his face and sees nothing but desire for her and passion in his eyes. Patrick starts making out with her and taking off her clothes until he sees Darcey's necklace hanging around her neck. The hate instantly returns as he yanks it off her neck before she can explain that his grandma gave it to her at the funeral. Patrick storms out of the room.

It's the weekend, and Patrick is having some drinks with his guys while thinking about Darcey's necklace tucked in his jean pocket. He also thinks about the magnetic pull between him and her that just refuses to break no matter how much he hates her for not being there for Darcey or telling him what really happened that night.  Patrick catches Miles staring at Cassandra, Andre's sister, and warns him that sleeping with her will just bring trouble. However, Miles's response tells him that it is more than a desire to bang Cassandra. Before the conversation can go any further, Tommy makes a joke about Everly being the car door Patrick wants to slam his dick into. Tommy quickly defuses the anger building in Patrick by pointing out that they all know that Evverly was different than the other puck bunnies that come and go from each of their beds.

Just as he is about to get up from the couch they were all sitting on, Cassandra's friend comes over and sits on his lap. She tries to seduce him, but between knowing she has slept with half the team and only wanting Everly, Patrick turns her down instantly. He is about to force her off his lap when Miles points out Everly and Beth standing near the house bar with disappointment written all over her face. Patrick enjoys a small petty moment until he sees Andre join Everly at the bar. Patrick forces himself in between the two and tells Everly that they needed to talk. When Andre and Cassandra's friend try to bait the two into a fight, Everly pulls Patrick's attention to her so that they can both walk away before punches are thrown. Patrick once again tells Andre to stay away from her before she finally gets him to walk away. Patrick picks Everly up and throws her over his shoulder as a way to prove his point further that she was his. He carries her up the stairs like that until they reach his room where Henry opens the door. Henry hangs out in the doorway as Patrick asks Everly why she showed up. When she tells him it was to protect him from Andre, Patrick tells Henry they need to have a group meeting in the morning.

Henry agrees, and asks Everly if she was okay to be alone with Patrick. This only surprises Patrick a little considering the way he's been treating her, but Everly reassures Henry that she'll be okay. When Henry leaves to go for a drive, Patrick asks Everly again about where she was and who she was with that fateful night everything changed for them. She once again says she was home alone and nothing more. She doesn't say anything else besides explaining that Andre tell her that she better come to the party as she is trying to walk out the door. Patrick tells her to stay, climb into the bed, and get some sleep. He tells her that Andre isn't going to get the chance to do anything to either one of them. Everly doesn't argue with him while she gets in the bed leaving enough room for him before falling asleep. Patrick paces the room for a while afraid he won't be able to keep his hands off of her while he listens to her breathing. He finally gives in and lays next to her and gets a little sleep. The next morning Everly wakes up to an empty bed and Henry waiting to take her back to her dorm.

It's been almost a week since Everly left Patrick's room and she hasn't seen or talked to him. However she has seen the other four guys in the tight group since they have taken turns escorting her everywhere. One of them waits for her after class and stays with her until she goes back to the dorm. Today it is Miles's turn to walk her to the parking lot. She tries to get him to tell her about what is going on with Andre, but he just reminds her that Patrick just wants her to be safe. When she asks what happens if she just refuses to walk with him, he lets her know that Patrick wasn't the only one who lost her in this whole situation. Miles also tells her that this would all stop if she would just tell Patrick what happened to Darcey that night since they all know she isn't telling him something. They all understand it is to protect him, even Patrick who is just too mad to see it right now. Miles walks her all the way to the parking lot where Tommy is waiting to drive her. On the way to her dorm, Tommy tells her that she needs to pack a bag to go with them to their away game against their arch rival Salisbury the following day.

She tries to argue, but he quickly stops it by telling her that she could pick the easy way or the hard way. She gets in the car, and tries one more time to playfully talk him into leaving her behind. It doesn't work, especially when he lets her know that Patrick hasn't slept all week and refuses to let any of them call her. She gets out when they arrive at her dorm and packs a bag knowing that she will be going with them. On the way to the game, the guys force Everly and Patrick to sit together in their attempt to get them to work everything out. It starts out as an awkward car ride until Zach pointedly looks at her to try to get Patrick to look at her instead of out the window. She gets his attention by touching his arm and tells him to sleep. He surprises her by pulling her close to him and falling asleep when she was so sure that he would push her away. Everly is woken up by Tommy yelling out the window at some Salisbury girls as they head to the Ice House to get signed in. Patrick stays asleep until she chuckles at Tommy and Zach being goof balls.

When they finally park, she follows the guys out of the car while they unload the gear. She is surprised again by Patrick coming up behind her and whispering that she needs to stay with him the whole time. When they walk into the Ice House, Everly walks with Patrick behind her, Henry and Miles at her sides, and Tommy and Zach right in front of her. This way they keep her completely guarded as well as make a statement that she was with them and not to be messed with. They get inside and are in the sign in line to get the guys badges when Beth comes up to her. Patrick holds on to her so that Beth can't pull her away, and Everly listens to Beth tell her about how well things are going with Dalton. When Beth sees Dalton, she walks away leaving Everly still in Patrick's arm. Once the guys are signed in, Everly points out that Andre's older brothers, Ty, Devin, and Kevin, are sitting at a table nearby. In response to this, Patrick tells her to go with Miles and Zach to the hotel while Tommy and Henry stay with Patrick.

On the way to the hotel, Miles asks her what she is hiding from Patrick about Darcey. She doesn't give any different answer than she has before. When Patrick finally makes it to the hotel, he walks into his room to see Everly and Tommy playing go fish on the bed. Shortly after that Zach walks in with snacks and sodas that were clearly requested by Everly. Tommy and Zach leave the two of them alone so that Patrick can hopefully get some sleep. Everly mentions that she tried to get her own room, and it becomes clear on Patrick's face that he needs her close by him. While trying to keep things as vague as possible, Patrick tells her that he needs to take a nap and wants her close by so he knows she is safe. She replies that if she is in that much danger then she has a right to know what is going on. He doesn't answer her, but she lays down beside him anyway. Before long, he is fast asleep again. He wakes with a startle some time later just as Everly is making her way back to the bed from the bathroom. She tries once more to get more information out of him about Andre, and this time he tells her. Patrick admits that he knows that Andre is up to something with his brothers, but he's not sure what. Then he tells her about how Ty, Devin, and Kevin were seen going into the house cellar with some townie girls during a party, and after the girls never came back to the house. When they went down to take a look, the cellar door was locked up with a pad lock.

Once Patrick is done telling her all of this, they start to make out again and are about to finally give into the sexual desire they have for each other when there is a loud bang on the door. Patrick tells her to go get dressed in the bathroom while he answers the door. Tommy is standing on the other side saying it was time to head to warm up. Patrick says he'll be down in five minutes with Everly in tow. Just before the hockey game is about to start, Zach takes Everly to her seat in the front row and tells her not to move. Just as she is about to fight back a little even though her hair was standing a little still after seeing Andre's brothers in the hotel lobby, Zach asks Everly if she made up with Patrick yet since she was wearing Patrick's hoodie. She replies that he is simply marking his territory. Before the conversation can go much further, a girl that Everly recognizes from one of her classes walks up to them. She tells Zach she was sorry for being late as he helps the girl keep from falling over. The girl sits down after doing a cute little handshake with Zach. Everly introduces herself to the girl who says her name is Kennedy. It is clear that there is something between her and Zach, but before Everly can ask too many questions Zach walks off reminding her to stay in this seat for the whole game until he comes back. Once they are settled into their seats, Everly asks Kennedy about her relationship with Zach. Kennedy tells her that she is simply his best friend outside of the team, and Everly can feel a bond forming between them as she listens.

Everly asks Kennedy what she knows about the whole situation with Andre since she was obviously asked to babysit Everly. Kennedy tells her that she doesn't know much aside from Zach asking her to keep Everly company during the game and some rumors she has heard. Kennedy tells her that there are rumors going around the university about the hockey team and sex tapes and drugs. Whether or not there is some truth behind them remains to be unseen, but Kennedy knows that the guys are just being cautious. As the game progresses, Kennedy and Everly continue to bond while they watch as Tommy comes out of the penalty box again ready to fight. Meanwhile a little further down the ice, Patrick is punching Andre again until Henry and Zach pull him off while Tommy and Miles grab Andre. Everly gets up and convinces Kennedy to follow her to the locker room so she can see if Patrick is okay. When they arrive in the right hallway, they are greeted by Ty and Devin standing in front of the door with Cassandra. They turn to leave, but are quickly stopped when Kevin grabs their arms. Cassandra tries to get Kevin to let go of Everly and Kennedy just as Patrick, Henry, and Zach come out of the locker room. Patrick pushes Kevin off the girls while Henry stands in front of Ty and Devin. Zach pulls Kennedy to him while Everly inches closer to Patrick. Patrick punches Kevin before warning him to stay away from Everly. Patrick and Zach take Everly and Kennedy to the car while Henry stays behind to make sure that Cassandra and her brothers leave.

When they get to the car, Patrick and Zach tell the girls to get in and not move until they get back. Everly and Kennedy watch as they head back to the locker room to get their gear and the other guys. Once they get back, they head to a diner that is dedicated to the Salisbury team as per tradition after a win. Once everyone is seated with Everly right next to Patrick, Miles tells the waitress that comes up to the table that they will wait for Ms. Anna to serve them no matter how much she tries to argue with them about this being her table, not Ms. Anna's. When Ms. Anna arrives, she takes the girls drink orders before going to put in their surprise food order. She does this every time the guys come, but she puts up with their bullshit because they respect her and leave a generous tip every time. Before she walks away, she tells the guys to keep their hands and eyes off her daughter who started working there recently. Halfway through their food, Andre and his brothers walk through the door sending Everly into a tense state. Henry, Zach, and Patrick stand up near the table when Ty swats Ms. Anna's daughter on the ass. Before things get out of hand, Ms. Anna steps in and the guys stand down out of respect for her. They leave their usual generous tip, and leave with Kennedy and Everly tucked in the middle of the guys.

Back at the hotel, the gang is hanging out in Tommy's room for a small celebratory party when Patrick tells Everly it was time to go. He wasn't too drunk because he wanted to keep a mostly clear head. She doesn't argue, says her goodbyes, and follows him back to the room. Once inside the room, Patrick pushes her against the door and holds her the way she knows she loves before asking her again where she was and who she was that night. When she replies again that she was home alone, he asks if she slept with the guy that is so sure she was with. However when she says that he has been the only man to touch her, he picks her up and starts kissing her. Patrick has her stripped down to her underwear when Everly takes over and gives him a blowjob until he finally comes. When he's done, she wipes her mouth with a satisfied grin on her face before he carries her to the bed. Once they are both laying down, he holds his weight above her while trailing kisses down her neck as she falls asleep.

Back at the university, Tommy is walking Everly across campus to her next class. Once again it has been a week since she has seen Patrick or talked to him. Tommy makes his embarrassing brotherly show of dropping her off, and it forces Everly to try to look busy until class starts. She thinks about the weekend she just spent with Patrick and how every time she tried to talk to Zach about Kennedy he changed the subject. Cassandra and her friend Jackie who was at the party are in the class as well. Jackie tries to pick a fight with Everly, but Cassandra tells her to shut up unless she wants trouble to come her way. While Everly appreciates the act of kindness, it does not take away the uneasy feeling she has being so close to Cassandra right now.

It's 3 AM and Everly is not the least bit surprised that Patrick is in her dorm room during another one of his episodes. He has destroyed some of her stuff already, but she just sits calmly on her bed until he is done. She acknowledges that this is probably one of the most unhealthiest relationships out there but she doesn't care. He begs her to kick him out, but instead she pulls back her covers and tells him to lay down. Once again they're having sex without addressing any of the issues currently between them. This time though he lets her see just how vulnerable he is when it comes to her and just how much losing her would break him. He holds eye contact with her and watches the moment that she bares her soul to him as well. Once they both reach their release, Patrick holds her and kisses her finally realizing that it is possible she needs him just as much as he needs her. He stays with her in the dorm room all night. The next morning they are back at the frat house enjoying his private shower and shower sex before she has to get ready to go to work at the campus book store. While waiting for her to finish showering, Patrick stands in the bathroom drying off and tells her that Kennedy will be keeping her company during the game later. Then he practically barks at her that he wants her to move into the frat house with him, which reminds him that he needs to clean up the damage he made in her dorm room last night.

He tries to play it off as it being safer for her, but he admits to himself that he needs her by side as much as possible. Then Patrick tells Everly about Ty and Devin were seen taking totes down to the cellar last night by Tommy. When he asks her more gently to move into the house with him, she agrees almost immediately. Patrick drives her to the bookstore where she sees Kevin leaning against his car in one of the parking lots. Before he has a chance to stop the car and physically explode on Kevin, Everly calms him quickly. He drops her off at the bookstore, checks out the place, and tells her to stay inside until he comes in to get her later. What he doesn't tell her is that the other four guys will be stopping in throughout her shift to check on her. After kissing her goodbye a few times, Patrick walks out with a backward glance. When he looks at how her body has reacted to him, Patrick realizes that he finally believes her when she says she was alone the night Darcey died and starts to slowly trust her again.

After the game later, Kennedy and Everly are getting ready in Kennedy's dorm room for the party at the frat house. Kennedy does Everly's hair while admitting that Zach is mad that she's being pulled into the hockey world he tried so hard to keep her separate from. Everly knows that Kennedy has more than friendship feelings for Zach, and tells her that he wouldn't spend so much time with her if he didn't find her attractive. Later at the party, Patrick has Everly plastered to his side and she couldn't be happier. Especially when Jackie shows up coldly eyeballing her before Patrick chooses that moment to make it clear to everyone in the room that they two of them are together and no one was to mess with her.

It is one AM when Everly watches as Kennedy comes back downstairs from Zach's room to see a puck bunny grinding on Zach. Everly watches as Kennedy's face fall into a face of disappointment and shame before running towards the front door. Everly tries to catch up with her before she gets too far, but gets slowed down by Andre. When she finally gets outside, she doesn't see any sign of Kennedy. Everly starts to turn around to get her phone from Patrick's room when she is blinded by an SUV's high beams. It looks like one of Andre's brother's cars, and it starts to accelerate toward her. Before it can get too close to her, Patrick and Henry show up behind her. Patrick puts her behind him while him and Henry stare down the driver they can't quite see.

Once the SUV leaves, Patrick asks her angrily why she was outside by herself. Understanding why, she simply tells him about Kennedy running out of the house. Patrick tells Henry to start looking for Kennedy outside while they go inside to get Zach. When they reach Zach, Everly tells him about Kennedy leaving and she watches the alarm spark in him. Before they join Henry in the search, Patrick makes it clear that he's pissed about Everly being able to walk outside alone with none of them noticing. They are about to walk outside when Everly sees Kennedy sitting on the stairs leading to the bedrooms and rushes to wrap her in a hug. After listening to Kennedy tell them that she did make it outside, but she came back in when Ty tried to get her to get in his SUV. Everly is dragged by Patrick, who has called Henry to update him, to his room upstairs with hopefully Zach and Kennedy close behind heading to Zach's room. Once inside the room, Patrick locks the door, and turns on the light to reveal that her stuff was piled in front of his closet. He tells her to keep her outfit on, so she goes into the bathroom to freshen up. When she comes out, Patrick slowly strips her and ends up taking her against the wall until they are both sated. Just before they fall asleep together, he tells her that she will always have him.

The next morning, Patrick wakes to find a naked Everly snuggled into his back when his phone rings. He is about to ignore it, but Everly picks it up just as a text from Henry comes in. He tells Patrick to let him in and not to say a word. Patrick sends Everly in the bathroom to get dressed so he can let Henry in. Once she is in with the door closed, he opens the door to find Henry standing directly outside. Henry comes in and turns the radio on loudly before showing Patrick a black device that he found in his room. It turns out that it is a listening device, and Henry found a couple more around the house. This makes Patrick think about how Kevin and Devin were seen taking more stuff down to the locked cellar last night. When Everly comes out of the bathroom dressed, Patrick and Henry take her back in there, turn on the shower and sink to drown their voices, and tell her what Henry found earlier. The three of them assume that Andre and his brothers are behind the devices. Henry and Patrick suggest going to Everly's dorm, but she points out that the RAs (resident assistants) could have opened her room for anyone with their keys. Henry, Miles, Zach, Tommy, Patrick, and Everly are standing in a hotel room 20 miles away from campus staring at the other listening devices they managed to find around the house. When the guys staring thinking out loud what Andre and his brothers are up to in the cellar, Everly finally tells him about Kennedy telling her about a girl dropping out of Darlington due to a sex tape of the girl and a hockey player.  Patrick listens as Henry explains that everything they have seen them take down to the cellar fits the sex tape scheme. Henry tells the group that the frat house is the perfect place since girls will do anything to get inside, and that ad revenue from porn sites are probably providing the sudden cash inflow for Andre and his brothers. Patrick then realizes that it is no longer safe for any of them to stay in the frat house, rules be damned, and the other guys agree.

Later, Everly is at work trying to get some studying done while Tommy stands guard close by. Miles is supposed to be on the way to swap out with Tommy soon. Just as Everly tries to convince Tommy to leave early, Ty comes in and puts a copy of T.Steele's The Hitman's Desire on the counter. It shocks Everly because that was Darcey's favorite author that only Everly knew about. Unless the listening devices have been in place longer than any of them realize. So just how much more is there to the secret Darcey told Everly before her death. Tommy makes sure that Ty has left the building completely before he asks if what just happened has to do with Darcey. He tells her once again that she needs to tell Patrick everything about that night, but she tells him that it will just destroy Patrick. Tommy surprises her by saying that Everly has always been the most important person in Patrick's life ever since he laid eyes on her. This makes Everly wonder if telling Patrick will not only fix the issues between them, it just may be able to fix all of Darcey's mistakes. Later she starts to tell Patrick while laying in bed with him, but struggles to find the right words since tomorrow is Darcey's birthday. Before she can start to say anything, Patrick confesses that she has changed him so much and showed him that he can feel things he had no idea he was capable of. He tells her that she makes him want to do and be better as he pulls her closer to him in the bed.

Patrick wakes the next morning to find Everly is nowhere to found in his room. So he throws on some sweatpants and starts searching the rest of the house. He finally finds her in the kitchen with Henry talking in whispers. He immediately accuses them of sleeping together that night Darcey died and punches Henry. Henry stays calm while Patrick rages out until Everly pushes Patrick to the opposite wall. She sobs out that there is no way that would ever happen just as Henry tells Patrick that he figured out her secret. Henry is telling Everly it is time to tell him everything just as Kennedy and Zach come into the kitchen to see the aftermath. Everly asks them to take her back to her dorm because she thinks that Patrick has said enough. Patrick doesn't push her to stay when he hears just how broken she sounds.

After a three hour car ride to his hometown, Patrick is standing in front of Darcey's grave. He notices some fresh long stemmed red roses, but doesn't touch them when he doesn't see anyone else in the cemetery. He finally lets his tears fall while he tells Darcey that she could never disappoint him. He hears his phone ring, but it is just Henry calling. He lets it go to voicemail just as he looks at the red roses again. He gets an uneasy feeling about them when he notices an SUV that looks like one of Andre's brother's driving a few rows down. He shrugs off the idea that it is one of them since no one else knows where Darcey is buried but himself and the guys he keeps close. His phone rings for the third time as Henry calls, so Patrick answers it. Henry tells him that Everly is hurt bad and he needs to come back now...

Y'all I know that is such a horrible spot to stop in, but I need to quit before I give too much away. Especially since I have an ARC of this amazing angsty college sport romance. Waverly Alexander may be calling this her debut novel, but it feels like she has been writing forever! I got so absorbed into the story that I had a hard time reminding myself to take notes! I didn't want to stop reading for anything! I listened to the playlist on a loop while I read and it just made for a perfect reading mood. This is just book one in her Darlington Elite series, and I can say with no shame that I am dying to keep her reading her hardwork! Thank you again to Waverly for including me in her life and her readers! Love you girl! If you want to pre-order, or if it's after January 9th, buy this ebook beauty, head over to my page:
https://bookdragonsnotworms.blogspot.com/p/where-to-buy.html

Spotify Playlist put together by Waverly Alexander: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3Wzm3UjLWAaYbJwzODGeGs?si=YSxw-IQPQb2ylHWJlQq5Xw

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Bite Me Santa


This beautiful covered book was written by another one of my favorite Indie authors Brittany Cournoyer. This is a short holiday story that was included in a huge bundle with other Indie authors, and is meant for 18+ only. If you want a quick read for the holiday season and you love her MM (two or more men romance) books already, then this is the perfect book! This has all of Brittany's sass while still keeping to her MM genre that she just rocks at writing. So here we go!

So first thing that I want to point out is that the start of each chapter gives a line to a sarcastic version of a classic carol. A few examples are:

"Deck the halls with loads of bullshit, blah blah blah blah blah, the holidays could kiss my ass"

"Jingle hell, jingle hell, jingle this day away. It's not fun, and I am done with this freaking holiday"

"On the fifth day of Christmas, I gave to thee... something he probably wouldn't want to see..."

"Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer... had a lot of asshole friends"

So if that gives you an idea of just how much sarcasm and sass went into this book and you like it, then please keep reading because it only gets better!

Reed Lassiter is the modern day Grinch and cannot stand the Christmas season. He hates decorations and how everyone becomes so obsessed with it all. The whole spirit, season, and reason to celebrate has been long ruined for him thanks to a few things from his past. Reed is heading into work at an insurance call center like normal for the past three years. He arrives 15 minutes early to find a decent parking spot, makes the coffee in the break room, and heads to his desk.

Since it is Christmas that of course means looking at Christmas decorations that have just been growing as the month passes with disgust. That includes all things peppermint. During this morning, Reed watches and cringes as his coworker Troy who is the only other one in the break room for a few more minutes pours peppermint creamer into his coffee. Reed heads to his desk to get the day started.

Reed has been working at the call center during the day while talking night classes to obtain his degree in social work. The job may not be extravagant, but it pays the bills so that he can study and get his degree that he has been working hard for on his own. He goes through the normal morning in a somewhat blur until lunch time where he joins everyone else at the food truck close by. When he comes back, he finds a candy cane sitting on his keyboard. With no one nearby to claim the "good deed", he just throws it away and finishes out his shift.

The next morning starts off strangely. First he comes out to find his car covered in unexpected snow which only slows him down a little bit. He is still the first one in the office, and makes the first pot of coffee. Then when Troy joins him in the break room, Reed notices how thick, shiny, and beautifully colored Troy's hair is. When he tries to shake it off and just go to his desk, Reed finds a Christmas Pez dispenser on his desk, but doesn't have the heart to throw it away. So instead he puts it in a drawer and finishes out the day with nothing else strange happen.

The following day, Reed realizes that while going through his morning routine, Reed is waiting for Troy to come into the break room. Which is weird because beyond a few words over coffee, the two men haven't said a word to each other or spent time together. Reed is about to walk out of the break room when Troy finally comes in talking about having car trouble. Reed offers to give Troy a ride home after work much to both of their surprise, and Troy takes him up on it. Reed goes to his desk to find a miniature decorated Christmas tree waiting for him on his desk. Instead of throwing it out, he just pushes it behind his computer monitor where it is out of line of sight.

The rest of the day is really normal until the shift is over and Reed remembers that he is taking Troy home. Reed starts to get some butterflies but still agrees that it's not too much trouble. On the way back to Troy's apartment, Reed notices the freckles over Troy's nose and his spicy cologne. This brings him to wonder why he never noticed how handsome he was before since there isn't much talking until both men realize that they don't live but a few minutes apart. Reed takes this opportunity to offer to take him to work the next morning since it sounds like he needs a new car battery. And once again to both of their surprise Troy says sure if it's not too much trouble. Reed goes home and works on his homework until little after midnight before going to bed where he has dreams about Troy.

The next morning is Friday and Reed wakes up a little more anxious than the day before and heads over to pick up Troy. On the way into the office they go through the security gate, and the guard offers them both a candy cane. Read of course refuses but Troy takes one. Read questions out loud why he takes it, and Troy's response is that maybe Reid needs to take some time to talk to the security guard. Both men get out go into the office and go about their routine. Before walking out of the break room, Troy tries to tell Reed that he will find someone else to take him to the part store, but Reed insists that he is happy to take him. It seems to ease some of the tension that was there just moments ago. This time when Reed gets to his desk he finds a mini pink flamingo dressed as Mrs. Claus just like the one in the office corner. Once again cannot bring himself to throw it away, so it joins the Christmas tree.

After work, Reed takes Troy to the parts store where they are told that they do not have the battery. So Troy is forced to order it for arrival Monday, and Reed takes the opportunity to offer to take Troy wherever he needs over the weekend. They go by the store for a few things, and when Reed asks if there was anything else that needs to be done before they head home. Troy admits that he needs to go Christmas tree shopping, and after internally groaning Reed agrees to take him.

Reed does some more internal complaining when it turns out to be real Christmas tree shopping. It is just attacking his allergies as well as his Christmas hatred. Especially when they have to walk around for hours until Troy finds the perfect tree. While they are walking, Troy asks if they need to leave when he notices Reed's allergies, but Reed just brushes it off. Thankfully twenty minutes later, Troy finds the perfect tree, pays for a blanket to go between the car and tree, and they wait while the workers tie it to Reed's car roof. However the tree fun doesn't stop there.

Once back at Troy's apartment building, Reed helps him carry up two flights of stairs before helping put it in the tree stand. While waiting for Troy to find the tree stand, Reed takes the chance to look around the apartment. It is well furnished with a few Christmas decorations around. Instead of finding it annoying, Reed finds it tasteful. Once the tree is in it's stand, Troy offers to make dinner for Reed the following night since he refuses to take gas money. Reed agrees to come over at six before leaving to go home.

During the next day, Reed does his best to keep his mind off dinner with Troy by tackling some more homework. He knows if he just sits around that he will talk himself out of going and he doesn't want to do that. It works until the last half hour, because then he has to get ready to go. That of course brings on a new set of butterflies and what ifs. When he finally decides on an outfit, he spends just a few more minutes wondering if Troy was even gay and if this was a good idea before forcing him to go out the door and to Troy's.

Reed arrives at Troy's and is forced to sit awkwardly on the couch and watch Troy cook. Reed takes another chance to look around the apartment which has had more decorations, but instead of being disgusted Reed finds it even more tasteful. Reed is looking at the snowglobes and nutcrackers when Troy announces that dinner is finally ready. Reed teases Troy about the food at first since it is a new recipe, but when he sees just how anxious it actually makes him, Reed admits that it is delicious.

As the dinner continues, Reed finds himself more and more relaxed to the point that he completely forgets about the holiday and the decorations just sitting a few feet away. He almost forgets how much he hates this time of year. When all the food has been eaten, and Troy has packed leftovers for Reed, Reed heads home after making sure that Troy is set for the weekend. Once in the car, Reed realizes that he has a full blown teenage crush on Troy and wonders where on earth it came from and what to do.

On Monday, Reed picks up Troy on the way to work with the crush realization sitting at the front of his mind. The crush is starting to turn into an instant hard on when Troy brings up the White Elephant office party coming up. It requires that each employee bring a funny or impractical gift for someone else. When Troy asks if he has bought a present yet, Reed admits that he hadn't yet because he hadn't bought a present for anyone in years. So Troy brings up the suggestion to go after they pick up his car battery, and Reed agrees simply to spend more time with him.

After work, they arrive at the store which is crowded, and it reminds Reed just how much he hates shopping during this time of year and crowds. Troy finds a fruitcake as a suggestion for Reed, but Reed already has his eye on a bar of soap shaped like a chicken on a rope. They both make a few jokes, and Reed suggests that Troy buy the fruitcake to go with the present he already bought. They make their purchases and head out. Reed drops Troy off at home with the assurance that a neighbor is going to help him install the new battery, and goes back to his place. Once again he tackles more homework to try to get his mind off Troy even though he is making the holiday season a little more bearable.

The following day at work, Troy surprises Reed by inviting him to go a Christmas movie after the party. Reed agrees to go, especially when Troy confirms that he is gay and single. They go through their normal shift before the office party starts at the end of the day. After making sure that they stay to watch people open the gifts they all bought and listening to the boss make his usual speech, Reed and Troy head out. When they arrive at the theater, it seems like everyone else in town had the same idea, but instead of being annoyed by it, Reed focuses on Troy who insists on paying for the tickets. They come to a compromise of Troy buying the tickets and Reed buying the snacks. They finally get through both lines and head to their theater where they sit down a few minutes before the movie starts. Reed watches as Troy and the rest of the theater instantly becomes entranced by the opening credits before getting comfortable himself.

What will happen between Troy and Reed? Will Reed stop hating Christmas thanks to his time with Troy? Who is leaving the gifts on Reed's desk? Will Reed ever say out loud what ruined Christmas for him in the first place?

I know, I always find the "absolute worst" spots to stop in, but if you made it to the end of this review then you were just as engrossed as I was. This book may have been less than 100 pages, but it sucks you in and you don't want it to stop. Brittany Cournoyer is sassy and in my opinion a complete rock star in MM romance, and this one is no exception. While she describes him as a Scrooge, I think this is more of a Grinch story, especially when it turns out the way it does. I am so blessed to say that I know Brittany on a personal level because it made me enjoy the book that much more! If you want to add this book to your TBR and read it before New Year's, you need to head over to my page:
https://bookdragonsnotworms.blogspot.com/p/where-to-buy.html

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Prodigal (R&R Book Tour)



Alright y'all this is another book that is part of a blog tour hosted by Reads and Reels Book Tour, and this one was a short ebook. I know that most people don't consider 260 pages short, but it really was. Samantha Sanchez pulls you in almost immediately into, and before you know it, the book is over. This was definitely not what I was expecting, but I enjoyed it about as much as I enjoy reality shows every now and then. Since it was a quick read for me I will give as much details as possible without revealing any spoilers. So let's get started!

Since this is the tale of a group in a reality show, I am going to give you some quick facts about each person like you would get in the intro.

--Lyric: "Preacher's Kid", 21 years old, theater major, born and raised in San Diego by a family that lives by the church and usually works in the church

--DeVon: "Clown", 21 years old, business major, from Detroit but moved to San Diego when he was 12 with his mom, ends up being in a relationship with Athena

--Athena: "Free Spirit", 20 years old, marine biology major, from Orange County but parents moved to the States from Africa before she was conceived

--Anthony: "Wanna Be", 21 years old, aspiring rapper, music major, from Brooklyn NY

--Monroe: "Chameleon", 20 years old, dance major, from St. Louis MO

--Christopher: "Musician", 23 years old, undeclared major

Lyric is a 21 year old woman who auditions for a reality TV show to escape her mundane life that revolves around church. She is the preacher's daughter and a well known Bishop's granddaughter. The reality show is called and based on "The Breakfast Club" that follows six college students that are so different from each other that are forced to be roommates while attending San Diego college. Their labels are "The Clown", "The Wanna Be", "The Preacher's Kid", "Free Spirit", "The Chameleon", and "The Musician." Their classes and supplies are paid for by the producers and network as well as the house they will be staying in, but for daily living money they will all be working in a restaurant that is not too far from the school and house.

When it is time to move in a week before classes start, Lyric is the last one to arrive. She is greeted by DeVon who introduces her to Monroe, Athena, Christopher, and Anthony who are all hanging around the pool. Christopher shows her to the room she will be sharing with Athena. The house is wired with cameras mounted in every door way except the bathrooms.

Athena and DeVon almost start dating immediately and become inseparable. Monroe and Christopher bond over music. Which left Lyric and Anthony kind of as the odd balls who get along with everyone but don't really want anything to do with each other. Lyric tries to be nice to him at first, but he is always stuck in his phone. DeVon tries to change that by throwing the phone in the bushes, but Anthony just winds up following him around for a while. Athena and Lyric get along in the stereotypical "black: girl style. (Oh yeah did I forget to mention that they are all black or mixed? Oops! I really didn't notice it except for a few parts.)

On the night of Monroe and Athena's 21st birthday, Lyric is getting ready to go out when her Marine boyfriend is finally able to call her. However the phone is just him wanting to break up with her. They were originally supposed to be a drunken one night stand, but he pursued a relationship with her. Now here he was breaking up with her because she wasn't ready for marriage. She decides that going out and getting drunk is exactly what she needs. Especially when she remembers that he took her virginity.  Athena is the first to check on her before they head out for the night.

Later while at the club, a so called friend comes up and tells Lyric that her now ex just proposed to another girl a few days ago. So now not only has she just been dumped, but now she knows he was cheating on her with a woman that he can't wait to marry apparently. This just adds to her desire to drink the night away. Lyric is so drunk by the time they all get back to the house that she doesn't remember anything the rest of the night. She wakes up the next morning in Anthony's bed to find that neither one of them have on clothes. She gets up, steals one of his shirts, goes back into her room, and falls back asleep.

When she wakes up the second time, she finally gets the story about how her and Anthony had unprotected sex six times. So now everyone jokes that Lyric is pregnant, but she brushes it off since she took the morning after pill, but Athena says not both pills in the right time frame. While Anthony continues to say that he didn't want to but DeVon made him. This goes on for a while until she finally buys a pregnancy test at Target while out shopping with Athena and DeVon at the mall. It gave her a chance to pick out a Halloween costume even though there was still time. The whole time they are there, DeVon is in a funky depressed mood.

As the trio is getting ready to head out, DeVon says he is going to go get ran over by a trolley while the girls just stand there. While waiting out his bluff, Lyric sees a guy she knows from church named Trey who she calls "freakyboy". He comes over and catches up with her real quick. Apparently he's on an ankle monitor waiting for his jail time to start. Trey goes with them back to the house where he basically calls out Anthony. After putting Anthony in his place by saying Trey would be raising the baby instead, Lyric goes and takes the pregnancy test. The producers want to catch it on camera, but she only allows one camera and Trey to be in the bathroom with her.

The test comes up positive and she kicks the camera guy out so that Trey can hold her while she has a breakdown. Trey repeats that she will not do this alone. That he will be there with her and will take care of them both. Even when he is in jail, he will make sure that his people look out for her. This brings her some comfort, and she calms down enough for Trey to feel comfortable leaving before his curfew and agreeing to come back the next day.

After taking a shower, Lyric separates yourself from everyone else to try to get some of her homework done. She is fully focused on a story for one of her classes when Anthony comes up to her and tells her that he doesn't want the baby calling anyone else's "daddy", but he also doesn't want to be a father yet. His excuse is because he's supposedly wanted for murder back in Brooklyn. She doesn't buy it and repeats that she doesn't want anything to do with him. then he tries to tell her that she can't sleep with anyone else but he also doesn't want a relationship with her. She brushes him off and goes to bed.

The following day, Lyric tells DeVon, Trey, and Athena about her conversation with Anthony the night before and they all get a good laugh. Trey takes her to go get slurpees before he tells her that he has court the next day and that he could possibly go to jail. He reminds her again that he is still going to take care of her and the baby one way or another, and that she will not be doing this long. Despite being sad that he could possibly go to jail the next day, Lyric goes home happy knowing that there is a man out there that still loves her and wants her for her. Lyric walks him to the bus stop and waits for him before heading back to the house. well walking back to the house she realizes that she now must tell her family starting with her mother that she is pregnant. When she does tell her mom it goes better than expected. Her mom will still help her and support her but is a little unhappy about how this happened.

Just as predicted Trey was sent to jail the next day when he went to court. Knowing this information Anthony tries over and over to sleep with lyric and control her a little bit. he keeps telling her that since she's his baby mama that she needs to be available to him all the time. Basically he wants the wifey treatment without any commitment to lyric, and lyrics not having any of it. Lyric, her mom, and Anthony go to her first OB appointment a few weeks later. However the whole time Anthony keeps talking about he's got somewhere to be, and eventually her mom tells him to just go then as a test. By no surprise at all Anthony leaves before the doctor even comes in. Lyric realizes that this is just more proof that he truly is not ready.

Halloween has finally come and "The BFC" decide to throw a party. It started out as a typical college party, but now it is just basically going to be friends and close family. Lyrics invites a bunch of her family but not everybody shows up because they don't agree with her being on the show.everyone is there except for Christopher who just did not show up after their last no film day. All of his stuff is there so they're hoping he'll come back but for now the show must go on. During the party lyric is forced to tell one of her cousins that she is pregnant thanks to DeVon. Then she has to explain that her real name is Naomi after her cousin calls her Mimi. Little by little her family starts to leave, so lyrics starts telling them goodbye and trying to talk to what family is still there.

While talking to one of her other cousins a guy comes up and hits on her for like the third time. It turns out he is Anthony's uncle and does not take the hint very well. A short time later while lyric is talking to her cousin's girlfriend, Anthony comes up and tells her that she should "get to know" his uncle. Basically he's trying to pass her off to his uncle. This forces lyric over the edge and she flips out on him. After the whole thing with Anthony, Lyric decides to go stay with her cousin and his girlfriend for the night. When she goes back to the house in the morning, she ignores Anthony completely to the point that Monroe is having to play the go between. She also finds out that Athena and DeVon got into it, and Athena ends up having her ex drop her off at a hotel where she stays the night alone just to get away for the night.

As it gets closer to Thanksgiving, DeVon starts getting crazy and super possessive and paranoid again about Athena to the point that he is following her everywhere. His family is even calling her on the phone and calling her all kinds of names. Supposedly he has forgiven her but this is proof that he hasn't. And when it's time for them to go visit their families for the holiday, DeVon almost doesn't go back to his mom's until Athena leaves to go with her family. During the time DeVon is flipping out more and more, Lyric moved into Monroe's room since Christopher still had not come back. While it gave Lyric the space she needed, it also made Anthony as crazy as DeVon. Anthony still says that he does not want to be in a relationship with her but yet he gets super jealous anytime they joke that she's sleeping with Monroe.

During Thanksgiving break, Lyric goes back to her mom's house where she's by herself cuz her whole family on her mom's side has gone out of town. Just as she's going out the door to go to her dad's house Anthony is waiting On her doorstep. He says that he wants to talk to her, but lyric decides that he's going to help her tell her dad about the baby. They drive over there and before they go in she tells Anthony that she's going to say they've been dating for a while so that her dad won't look down on her anymore then he already is. Surprisingly Anthony agrees to go along with it and actually behave himself. After dinner Anthony is watching a movie with some of her family, so lyric takes the chance to tell her dad about the baby. instead of being supportive he immediately starts talking about her quitting the show and about her finances which just defeats her even more. She forces Anthony to leave with her right away after she walks out of her dad's room.

When she goes to drop Anthony back off at the show house, because he couldn't go back to his aunt's for the holiday, the tears are just free-flowing down her cheek. Anthony surprises her by getting out hugging her and then inviting her to come inside to just sit and watch a movie and relax. Lyric takes it for the simple fact that it's kind of she hadn't seen from him at all and she really doesn't want to go back to an empty house. Her and Anthony spend the rest of the weekend getting to really know each other. The whole time Anthony is super sweet and considerate to the point that Lyric is actually wanting to be around him. however when the rest of the roommates come back and filming resumes he goes back to ignoring her and being disrespectful.

Over the next few months it is a very confusing relationship between Lyric and Anthony. Most of the time she is throwing stuff at him because he's being mean and laughing at her, but there are a few moments of sweetness in between. Since all of this is captured on the cameras, the six of them are quickly approached about a season two since the network is happy with all the drama that is going on. They all agree and resign contracts. Shortly after the second round of contracts are signed, the network approaches Anthony and Lyric about doing a spin-off with triple the salary per episode. The only catch is that they have to live in a condo together. Anthony is all for it right away, but Lyric decides that that would not be a good situation for a new baby.

Season 1 wraps up just before winter break so they have to do a photo shoot that Christopher is able to show up for. Turns out the poor boy's been in jail is whole entire time. They take the photos and then go back to the house for their last dinner of season 1. While sitting there, Lyric has finally had enough with Anthony's stupidity and wanting relationship benefits without them being together that she's looking forward to the 6-week break. During the break everyone else goes back to their homes while lyric moves her mom and herself into a new house that she buys using the money from the show. It is three bedrooms, an actual house, and it finally gives her a safe place to bring the baby. They also go to her third OB appointment that Anthony does not show up for.

It's New year's Eve and lyric is at home in her new house alone when DeVon and Anthony show up. Turns out both of the boys got kicked out of their houses and Anthony has nowhere to go. DeVon explains he's staying with Athena, and ignores all of Lyric's protest while he is walking out the door. Lyric finally looks at Anthony and says that he will be getting on a greyhound tomorrow to go to his aunt's in Long Beach. The next day lyrics whole family is supposed to be coming over for a dinner/housewarming party. Anthony ends up staying for the dinner because lyrics nanny tells him to and she doesn't want to cause a scene. However throughout the dinner her family finally makes it known about what happened during the Halloween party and helps her get him to leave.

During the rest of the break, Lyric does some research and talks to a lawyer about what to do to make sure she has sole full custody of the baby. She finds out that if she leaves his name off the birth certificate, then he will have to jump through all the legal hoops in order to see the baby. Lyric decides this is the best thing to do since it will be up to Anthony to do what is necessary to be in there. Just as the break is about to be over, her mom and Aunt take her maternity clothes shopping since she's about to be filming again soon. She is able to find a few weeks worth of clothes and tries to mentally prepare herself to go back to the house. Before she goes back, she talks to Athena about rooming again with her to help keep her stressed level down. However, on moving day Lyric and Athena arrive to find out that the boys have already claimed rooms and put Anthony in the room with Lyric. Lyric tries to leave but Devon takes her purse.

After standing outside in the rain for a little bit, Anthony comes out and tells her that he won't try anything and just try to be her friend so she'll come back inside. A few weeks go by and he actually sticks to it until Devon starts making comments about them just being a couple for pity sake. Then it's like a switch is slipped inside Anthony and he goes back to his disrespectful ways. When season 1 is finally about to premiere they are told they have to go to a promotion party and a nightclub. Lyric tries to have a good time even though she can't drink or do anything really. That is until they show the first episode which is the night that she got so drunk that she slept with Anthony. And what it reveals shocks her even more than the roommates telling her what happened.

After the promo party is over and they start their classes up again, Lyric develops a new routine where she hangs out with Christopher more and more since he doesn't go out with everyone else as often. During one of these nights, Lyric decides to physically move all of Anthony stuff out of her room and into Athena and Devon's room. When they get back Anthony has actually brought home a girl which just makes her glad that she did this. To make it even funnier, Monroe ends up stealing the girl Anthony brought home and sleeps with her while Anthony sets up his bed in a corner of the living room. Lyric realizes it's petty, but now she's happy and stress free since he is no longer in the room with her. It is almost Valentine's Day and Lyric is talking about her next OB appointment with all the roommates.

At the OB appointment, Lyric finds out that she is having a girl before she heads into work. While she is working Anthony confronts her about not telling him supposedly about the appointment. She tells him it's a girl and then she doesn't see him for the rest of her shift. When she gets home from work she tells Athena and DeVon about not putting Anthony's name on the birth certificate. DeVon tries to talk her out of it but Lyric isn't listening. Just as she is getting ready for bed, Anthony comes back to the house with baby clothes and baby items as well as her favorite chocolates, roses, and a giant teddy bear. He tells her that he's sorry, and that he wants to be in their daughter's life and be with her. Lyric takes the whole thing with a grain of salt because she sure he'll go back to his way soon.

The next morning he tells Lyric about the conversation he had with his aunt that basically raised him. He tells her that he's serious about stepping up, and that he really is sorry for the way he's been treating her. And for a while Anthony actually does what he says he's going to do and almost has Lyric convinced that he's changed. until he brings up the spin-off show once again while they are making the baby shower registry. She says no until he proposes telling the network they have to get a two bedroom condo. lyric brings this to the networks attention and they agree to do it as well as upper salary to $45,000 per episode. Her and Anthony sign the new contracts but is not all perfect from there.

Like I said this was a quick read that reminded me a little of Jersey Shore. This book is definitely for adults only, but it is a good read for those that enjoy a little "trashy" TV like I do every now and then. Samantha Sanchez knows how to pull you in almost from the first page, and then keeps you hooked until the very end. Now the ending was not what I was expecting, but then again I didn't half of the plot twists coming.This was actually a little under 300 pages, but it really was a fast read since I had a hard time putting it down.If you simply must have a copy for yourself, then you already know to head on over to mypage:
https://bookdragonsnotworms.blogspot.com/p/where-to-buy.html

Friday, December 20, 2019

Love Potions and Other Calamities (R&R Book Tours)



Alright y'all, this one was sent to me after I signed up for a blog tour hosted by Reads and Reels Book Tours. This one came from all the way across the pond from Headline Books. Charlie Laidlaw is a wonderful UK author that really does have his own writing style. I must first say that this book is definitely for adults since there are some strong sexual language moments. For this book, you follow multiple POVs that flow as if you were watching a multiple camera show. I will admit that it did take a little bit to get into it, but once I was able to get the flow of his writing style down it went really quick. With that being said this is not going be like my normal reviews where I stop at a certain point in the book because there are parts from each POV that tie into another. Since we all know that I hate spoilers, I will be focusing on what happens up until I got so sucked into the book I forgot to take notes. So let's get started!

Rosie and Jack McLeod are owners of a public pub called the Fox and the Duck in the village of Holy Cross. Rosie is also a gifted herbalist that helps out people in the village with natural herb and plant concoctions. She makes them for things like upset stomach, fertility issues, and arthritis. She is known around the village as the medicine woman. Things are going just the way she plans until one day a series of events throw the whole village for a curve.

Rosie is tending to the bar with her bartenders Tam and Mara when a thunderstorm knocks out the power just as Tam is about to start talking about the upcoming election that Rosie has no interest in. Once the last customer has been served and out goes out the door Rosie closes up the pub and heads upstairs where she waits for her husband Jack to join her. Jack finally comes home from being at his parents house all day and they both talk about how their day went. Rosie ends up telling him about the Hazel tree in the beer garden dying and needing to be cut down. When they both finally go to bed Rosie tries to seduce Jack but gets nowhere. Rosie wonders if her upcoming 40th birthday has made her unattractive to him.

The next day Rosie asks the housekeeper of Reverend Lionel Kennedy named Sadie why the minister went to the police station last night. Sadie tells her about how he saw a huge black cat and was concerned for the villages safety. Sadie is sure it was just a regular cat and the darkness of the night playing a trick on the minister, and goes back on her way to her job. Rosie on the other hand wonders what exactly he saw and decides to go to the spot he says he saw it at since the storm had passed. On the way there she passes through the field where she collects most of the plants used in her medicinal concoctions and starts thinking about her inventory back at the flat. Since Rosie and Jack live above their pub it makes it easy for Rosie to help run the business as well as make her herbal concoctions to help everyone she does.

On the way back to the pub, Rosie decides to try a few of her concoctions to naturally raise the hormones in Jack so that maybe they will finally have sex for the first time in months. She goes through the day and closes down the bar before heading upstairs to remind Jack to cut down the hazel tree while she makes a concoction to help Mara's mom who just started recovering from a hip replacement surgery. The next day before heading over to see Mara's mom, Rosie tries to give Jack a tea with one of her concoctions in it while he's cutting down the hazel tree. Rosie leaves assuming he will drink it, but Mara ends up drinking it instead. The bigger problem is that Mara is a vegetarian and the tea will affect her differently since she doesn't have the proteins and other things Jack does as a meat and potato eater.

The village Constable Richie is responding to a traffic accident between a milk truck driver that is a village native and the Tory party election candidate. Luckily no one is hurt, but both vehicles have been damaged severely since they are both trying to use a narrow bridge after the truck driver swerve to avoid a big black cat sitting on his side of the road. Richie make sure the cars are towed and that both men are okay before leaving to go back to the station for a few supplies. Meanwhile back at the pub Mara is thinking about the night her very discreet relationship started with Richie when they were both at a party for a guy named Max. She was the DJ and he was there to make sure everybody was safe. Then she thinks about how there's still so much she wants to do in her life before she settles down and gets married when Tam interrupts her thoughts since they're standing behind the bar.

After watching her mom go through heartbreak from her dad leaving, Mara has always said that she won't settle for a man until she does everything that she wants with her life. She is currently working towards her PhD and wants to travel. Mara has dated a few men in the past, but never anything serious. Richie is well aware of Mara's commitment issues but not the cause of them. Richie is okay with it even though he is now falling for her hard. He says nothing to her about it, because he knows she just wants to keep it casual. They've been seeing each other for months and haven't even slept together in order to keep it casual.

When Rosie arrives back at the pub Jack tells her about finding a copper nail in the base of the hazel tree and how Mara thinks that is what killed the tree. When Rosie goes and looks at the spot the nail was in, she notices a distinct mark carved into the tree in the form of XIII. Before she can think too far into it, Jack mentions her upcoming birthday. She tells Jack that she doesn't want to have a party, she doesn't want to do anything, except for something romantic and private for just the two of them. Before he can argue she tells him about the minister going to see Richie about the big black cat.

When Richie arrives back at the station he grabs his Wellington boots and camera before he heads back to the bridge. At first he just notices the skid marks from the milk truck and the milk ring on the rock that pierced the side of the milk truck, but nothing else out of the ordinary. After putting on his Wellington's and grabbing the camera he walks upstream until he finds a paw print in the river embankment. He takes a few pictures with the ruler next to it. He has no idea what kind of animal could have made them with a plan to send them to the zoo for their expert opinion.

Back at the pub, Mara is having hot flashes so she is splashing water on her face in the bathroom. While staring in the mirror she thinks about how she is starting to see Richie like a brother instead of a lover like she has in other relationships. Then she thinks about he just arrived too soon into her life, and that he could be the one for her, but not right now.  She splashes some more water and then heads back out to the bar. Reverend Lionel is sitting in his home when Richie calls saying that a second confirmed sighting of the same black cat. Richie also says that there isn't much that he can do besides keep an eye out for it since it is a wild animal and keep an open mind.

Richie hangs up and waits for his tea kettle to whistle. He has already sent the photos of the paw print to the zoo, and knows that for now there is nothing else to do about that. He starts to think about Mara and how he fell for her despite knowing she has no intention of committing to him. Back at the pub, Mara is working in the function suite when the Madam Chair of the Tory political group arrives to check everything out. Madam Chair asks Mara where the candidate is, and Mara remembers that she answered a call earlier about him being late due to the minor accident he was in. Mara tells Madam Chair this before excusing herself to go into the kitchen for a glass of water where Jack points out that she is flushed. When Jack tries to offer her some chicken, the cook Sammy tells him that she is a vegetarian. Mara says it is just something she ate earlier, and decides to drink the rest of the tea Rosie made.

Rosie is walking along the brick wall that encloses the beer garden near where the hazel tree was, and wonders how someone could have gotten in unnoticed. She is also trying to figure out what the person meant when they carved in XIII into the trunk. Rosie knows that for some people it means the months of the lunar calendar or the number of witches in a coven. This has her then thinking about everything she was taught during her childhood. How her mom trained her in healing concoctions before she went to school to become certified. Then she thinks about the joking rumors around the village of her being a "witch" now as well as the two reported sightings of the black cat.

The Tory candidate has finally arrived and is waiting to start his speech to everyone that showed up. Mara takes this as a chance to sit out in the beer garden since she is still having hot flashes. She sits outside the kitchen close enough to the open windows of the function suite so she can listen for the end of the speech. Mara lights a cigarette and takes off her shoes. Once again her mind wanders just before she starts to hallucinate that she is flying across fields and the rivers to a dark, murky embankment where other people are standing there waiting for her. While she is living in this hallucination, her body is laying on the beer garden stone walk practically naked with her hand in her knickers. Inside everyone can hear her moans as they grow louder and louder, but no one goes outside until the candidate is punched in the face by the very drunk young native from earlier.

Jack goes into the function suite to make sure that everyone is okay and the police are called. Then he goes into the beer garden where he finds Mara masturbating but not lucid. Jack struggles to pick her up and take her back into the kitchen before anyone else can see her under the lamps. Jack takes Mara home after telling Sammy to call Rosie on the internal phone so she can handle the function suite. Rosie is upset that she is having to deal with the minimal damage to the function suite and the aftermath of the punch since she was in a bath. After making sure that everyone was okay, and telling Richie that she will get the estimate for him for the damage for the report. Before going back upstairs, Madam Chair makes a point to ask for a refund and tell Rosie about Jack being in the beer garden with a moaning Mara. Rosie starts thinking the worse since she still has no idea that Mara drank the tea instead of Jack. Jack pulls into Mara's driveway, and offers to help her inside. Mara refuses since she is definitely lucid now and embarrassed. She goes inside to find her mom in the living room waiting since Sammy called her saying that Mara was not feeling well and being driven home by Jack. She says again that it was probably something she ate. She tells her mom about her day minus the beer garden before heading off to bed.

Reverend Lionel is at the church working on his sermon when he hears a metallic scratching on the north wall of the church. He listens a couple times and when it gets more persistent like it's someone scared, he gets his flashlight and goes out the west side door. While he is walking the ten yards between the doors, there is a loud banging on the main door. However when he finally rounds the corner no one is there at all. The minister walks around a bit to see if he can catch a glimpse of the person before going back inside. Back at the pub, Jack finally joins Rosie in the flat after closing up only to find her pretending to be asleep. Jack gets ready for bed, and lays down without so much as touching Rosie or giving her a kiss. Rosie listens to Jack falling asleep before laying there thinking about what could have possibly gone wrong in her plan. Then she tries to physically entice him into having sex when she smells Mara's perfume on his neck and vaginal juices on his cheek.

The following morning Jack wakes up with a jolt and the smell of smoke and decaying earth in his nose to find Rosie in the kitchen working with some new herbs and plants she must have gone out for after she woke up. Jack gets dressed and sneaks out of the flat to go buy the newspapers. On the way back, he stops by a coffee shop and sits for a little while. When he does finally go back to the flat, he sees a clean kitchen and a very pissed Rosie. She confronts him about leaving her to deal with yesterday's events, but does not allow him to explain anything. She then tells him that she will be going out of town to go visit a friend for the night. It is their day off from the pub, so she sees no reason that he can't manage alone. She leaves him a potpie and a bottle of her homemade wine.

Meanwhile Mara is laying in her bed wide awake trying to remember what happened yesterday. She is trying to figure out what was reality and what was the hallucination. Her thoughts are interrupted by a text from Richie asking if she was up to going on a date with him. She agrees to go with him thinking that this would be the time to start slowly breaking it off. Richie is across town visiting Reverend Lionel to let him know that the zoo thinks it is a puma everyone is seeing. The minister is surprised when Richie says there is nothing else to do but continue to keep an eye out for it, and then express his concerns that history was about to repeat itself as well as what the black cat represents.

Later on Mara goes to the pub even though it is her day off to try to apologize to Jack. When he hears that she has no memory of what happened between sitting down in the beer garden and becoming somewhat lucid in the kitchen, he tells her not to worry about it. When she says again that she thinks it was something she ate, Jack gives her Rosie's homemade wine as his way of saying he was sorry if it was something in the pub's kitchen. Across the street at the church, the minister is showing Richie a five point star that was the result of the metallic scratching he heard the night before. Reverend Lionel then explains that the star is a Wiccan symbol and how it was one of the warning signs his predecessor warned him about 20 years ago. Both men sit down on the bench nearby so that the minister can tell Richie the story about what supposedly happened when a black cat was spotted 20 years ago in the village.

Once the story is over, the minister tells Richie to look at the files about the incidents back then, but Richie says there is none since no actual crime was reported back then. Richie leaves, and the minister decides that he needs to find an ally that can help him discreetly investigate himself. He decides that the Tory candidate would be the perfect ally since he reported seeing the black cat as well. Mainly because he is a man in a small position of power that won't get judged harshly by the rest of the people in the village. Reverend Lionel knows that someone needs to ask around in case there are other signs of a Wiccan cult presence in the village for everyone's safety.

Rosie is driving out of town as planned, and still cannot bring herself to fully believe that Jack would cheat on her with Mara of all people. However, she cannot explain or rationalize how else the vaginal juices got on his cheek. She still hasn't given Jack a chance to explain or seen Mara, which means she doesn't know that Mara drank the tea or that she had her hands in her trousers before touching Jack's cheek when he helped her into the kitchen. Meanwhile back in Holy Cross, Richie is picking Mara for their date at the fun fair the next town over. Mara is still trying to process her "dream" on the drive there. However she quickly forgets about it while they ride a few rides and play a few games before having a picnic on the nearby field. Mara brought the homemade wine Jack gave her, and after a glass or two she starts telling Richie about her childhood. Richie listens patiently to everything that Mara tells him without judgement.

Back at the pub, Jack is cleaning up the beer garden and fixing the function suite back up. Once that is down and he is about to get comfortable, Rosie calls him in a cheery mood but the conversation doesn't last long. When he hangs the phone up, Jack starts to think about when he first met Rosie and how even back then she was obsessed with herbs and plants and their medicinal uses. Richie and Mara are back at Richie's place which is attached to the police station to have dinner together. Mara thinks some more about her "dream" while Richie watches her closely while she tells him about it. They have some more of the homemade wine, eat, and talk about a little bit of everything. Back in the church, the minister is sitting down to eat the pot pie left by Sadie who received it from Jack after making his normal weekend visit to the sick and lonely. He turns on the TV just in time to see a newsstory about the black cat sightings and rumors of it being a sign of a Wiccan cult. Richie and Mara finish off the wine, and are both having a hallucination while they are having sex. He sees himself in a tunnel that transforms into a hospital where a woman clings to him. She is back on the embankment from the other night. They both moan in pure pleasure about the same time before they fall asleep satisfied.

The next day Rosie comes back and Jack asks her if she had seen the newspaper articles calling her a witch. Rosie of course had been driving all morning, so no she hadn't seen them yet. Jack asks her about the trip, and she gives the minimal answers since she is still a little angry. She asks him if he still loves her, and he replies yes of course. When he asks if this has to do with the other day and tries to explain again, she cuts him off by talking about having to get glasses. Rosie then flips out again about her upcoming birthday, and doesn't let Jack calm her down. Over at Richie's, Mara and Richie wake up and end up admitting out loud that they love each other. This makes Mara realize that this was really it, and she is happy and feels free still. Before she can spiral into her fear, Richie's boss rings the station's doorbell to tell him that he will have to be on duty after all.

Rosie rereads all the articles in the newspapers that are practically calling her a witch, which she knows there is a slim chance that anyone in the village believes it. She decides to go to church with the rest of the village despite not being religious on any level. On the way to the church, Mara walks up to her and finally tells her about her relationship with Richie. This finally confirms that there was no way that Jack did anything with Mara for Rosie, and she asks for more details. Once Mara is done telling about how they got together and how last night they finally got serious, Rosie asks her if there was anyone that even slightly believes that Rosie is a witch. Mara tells her no way, she was the Medicine Woman, nothing more. This leads to Rosie asking Mara about the incident in the beer garden and finally figures out that Mara drank the tea she made for Jack.

This is where I got so engrossed in the book that I forgot to write notes. What you basically need to know is that Rosie finds a few more clues that lead her to think that the mark on the hazel tree was aimed at her. Rosie becomes the target of a psychopath, Mara and Richie continue to work on their relationship, and Reverend Lionel still does his own investigation. Everyone is still tied together as the story continues, and you really do have to find the rhythm of Charlie Laidlaw's writing style. Once I was able to put some real time to the side and found it, I breezed through the rest of the book. This was also the moment that I stopped taking notes because I was engrossed into it. I enjoyed it. The first chapter is slightly confusing but it makes complete sense towards the end. I have to once again give a big thank you to the wonderful Reads and Reels Book Tour for letting me be a part of this book tour. If you simply must have a copy for yourself, head over to my page:
https://bookdragonsnotworms.blogspot.com/p/where-to-buy.html

Author Interview with Mark Edwards

Alright y'all, I met Mark Edwards on bookstagram when he reached out to me to review his poetic novel Love & Trust. He was also o...