Sunday, January 19, 2020

Echoes Between Us

Alright y'all, this ARC came to me thanks to TorTeen and and I am so glad that it did! So this is a YA that is about two teens that are in complete opposite social circles at school that are brought together by ghosts and secrets. Katie McGarry takes on the story of Veronica, the weird girl that does things her way, and Sawyer, the popular guy who doesn't really try to be popular. I had a few moments where I completely forgot this was a YA novel, because she writes in an amazing way that just pulls you into the story. I am super excited to talk about this book and had to actually stop reading so I would not spoil too much. So let's dive in!

Veronica is a seventeen year old girl who deals with constant headaches. She lives with her truck driver dad and mom in the second and third floors of their Victorian house. They converted the first floor of their house into an apartment that they rent out for some extra cash. Normally she wakes up in pain, but today she wakes up in a good mood and pain free despite it being the day of the school orientation. She looks around at the paper turkeys Veronica has hung up because she likes to creatively celebrate holidays on their non-designated days like her mom. Veronica and her mom have a whispered conversation about a secret Veronica is keeping from her dad while he is cooking in the kitchen. He brings up the short term tenants moving in soon because they are waiting on their new house's construction being done. Veronica asks if they know the house is haunted, but her dad tells it's not so no they weren't. She watches as her mom goes up the stairs without a glance from her dad as he joins Veronica at the table so they can eat breakfast.

Sawyer is an older brother to Lucy and a son to a single mom. His parents got divorced a little over five years ago when Lucy was just a baby. Ever since then Sawyer has taken on the responsibility of being the man of the house because his dad made it clear that was what was supposed to happen now. Today that means driving the U-Haul as they head over to move into the first floor apartment owned by Veronica's dad. He also has to check out the place when they first arrive to make sure there is nothing strange and out of the ordinary waiting for them around the corner. He walks through and finds nothing strange except an eerie feeling of being watched and a stapled pack of papers on the window seat of what is going to be Lucy's room. He picks up the papers and sees that it is a diary of a girl named Evelyn Ballack dated 1918. Once he tells his mom that it is all clear and shows Lucy her new room, his mom pulls him to the side. She lets him know that their landlords have rules: do not go upstairs and knock if something is wrong, you must call on his phone. Also the house is haunted.

Veronica is hanging out on the hill behind the house with her friends Leo and Nazareth. They are sitting on the wall of what used to be a tuberculosis (TB) hospital during the early 1900's. They can see Sawyer and his friends are making their way up the hill towards the abandoned hospital. Leo graduated last year and Nazareth is on an accelerated course that is half high school half college. That means that Veronica is by herself most of the school day. Nazareth drops the bomb on Veronica that he can't do the Senior Thesis project with her because he was made to do it last year. Veronica listens as a migraine is making its way through her head. Meanwhile inside, Sawyer and his group of friends are walking in through the front doors of the hospital. The others walked in further while Sawyer and his best friend Sylvia hang near the door. Sylvia starts talking about Veronica and how weird she is now that it is out that Sawyer moved in to her house. Next thing they know Veronica is standing on the other side of the room asking if there is anything else they want to say about her. Veronica asks Sawyer about the stapled papers just as Leo warns that cops are coming. While everyone else scatters, Veronica and Sawyer have a staring contest silently daring the other to run off first. Sawyer is the first to move.

Veronica is back at home looking through her files to see if Sawyer does have her copy of a diary. After looking every where she realizes that he does have her copy that her mom got for her. She's on the phone with her dad, who is out delivering another haul, talking about the accounting side of the business. Once she catches him up on everything, he hangs up and she realizes that it is after midnight. She sees a shadow run down the stairs, and she quietly follows it down the stairs. She is hoping to catch a glimpse of the ghost children she used to see when they first moved into the house. She is waiting patiently on the main staircase when she hear a child's scream. In his room, Sawyer is startled awake from his dream of being in Evelyn's TB hospital room by Lucy's screaming his name. He walks out of his room to see her standing at the main front door with it open. She is trying to go out the door while screaming about a monster when Veronica grabs her and pulls her close just as a shadow figure lunges towards them. Veronica picks up Lucy and carries her halfway up the main staircase with Sawyer close behind just as his mom stumbles in drunk. Veronica takes Lucy up to her place while Sawyer deals with his mom. He puts his mom in the bathroom before she can throw up everywhere. Once she is done, she tells him that they are broke until her next payday because his dad hasn't paid child support the past few months.

Upstairs Veronica gets Lucy a snack and all the art supplies needed to make paper turkeys to add to the collection Veronica has already started. She asks Lucy what was so scary, and the little girl tells her that she saw a little girl ghost that was dressed funny. Veronica tells her that the ghosts aren't scary, just simply people who left their bodies but not their homes. Veronica tells Lucy a secret: her mom is a ghost in the house too. Then Veronica tells Lucy about her decision to do her school project on proving ghosts are real so her dad will believe too. Lucy asks Veronica to show it to Sawyer so that he will believe her when she says there are ghosts waking her at night. Veronica tells her sure because more people need to believe. Later Sawyer goes upstairs to get Lucy and tries to convince Veronica not to cash their deposit check yet. She lets him know that she already had and it bounced. Sawyer asks her to give them until next week, and she agrees to wait on telling her dad. She also tells him that Lucy is welcome to come upstairs whenever she feels like it as long as Veronica is home.

The next morning, Sawyer sets Lucy up in front of the TV with a couple boxes of her toys and his mom outside with a book before heading off to his doctor's appointment. Sawyer has been walking around with a cast on his arm, and as far as anyone knows it is from where he slipped on the pool deck at the Y. The doctor takes the cast off, and Sawyer drives to a rock quarry and jumps down 40 feet into the water. He knows it is dangerous because this is how he actually broke his arm, but no one else knows that he jumps off cliffs for an adrenaline rush. Veronica is at her friend Jesse's farm with Leo and Nazareth camping out since Leo leaves for college in the morning. Veronica and Leo are sitting on a blanket waiting for the sun to rise when he asks her what it's like to have a brain tumor. She has to fight to hide the tears forming in her eyes while she answers that she forgets it's there until she gets a migraine. She thinks about she has already told him that it is benign but inoperable because of it's placement, and how ever since he only saw her tumor when he looked at her. Her mom died of a malignant one in almost the same spot, and Leo watched her go through the grief of losing her. They continue to sit there while she silently begs Leo to kiss her again, but he just puts her back in the friends zone like he has done so many times in the past. The conversation ends with him telling that her, Jesse, and Nazareth should come visit him at college in a few weeks. 

It's the first day of school, and Sawyer is in the library just listening to music after picking up his schedule from the front office. Before first period rings, Veronica comes up to his table and tells him that she wants to work with him for the Senior Thesis project since they are in the same class and he has a car. He tries to tell her that she doesn't want to work with him because of his dyslexia, but she doesn't see a problem with it. She tells him to just take her to one place this weekend and he can decide after that if it is something he wants to do since they have until Monday to pick out their own groups. Sawyer tells her okay, and heads to his first class. After the last bell rings, Veronica is slowly making her way out to the parking lot because she has been hit with a migraine that just won't quit. She makes out the doors and is pleased to see Nazareth waiting for her. He looks at her, and tells her to get in his car.

Nazareth takes her to his house where she smokes some pot his mom, Greer, grows until she falls asleep. She has migraine medication, but it doesn't do anything for her pain when it is this bad. She wakes from her nap to Jesse coming into Nazareth's room holding out his cellphone. Her dad is waiting to talk to her because she left her phone in the car and Nazareth doesn't always have his on. After reassuring her dad that she is okay and is honest about the pot, he tells her to go eat the soup Greer made her. She promises to let him know if she stays the night or goes home. Greer treats her like one of her own kids when Veronica comes over, especially during an intense migraine. After going to pick Lucy up from school because his mom forgot again, Sawyer heads to a town thirty minutes away with the urge to jump. Instead of heading to the quarry, he winds up at an AA meeting where he meets Knox. Sawyer sat in the back the whole time and didn't say a word, but he still got Knox's attention. Knox tells him that he is there to talk anytime Sawyer was ready. Sawyer just keeps thinking to himself that he's not an alcoholic so he doesn't need to be there.

It's Saturday and Sawyer is driving Veronica to an address that she gives him. They pull up to a house that she has been to before, and knocks on the door. Veronica introduces Sawyer to her dad's friend Max. Max does ghost hunting on the side, so he is able to instruct them on the proper way to use the necessary equipment as well as how to talk to the ghosts. When Sawyer asks if they have to spend money to do this project, Max tells him and Veronica no because he is going to loan them his equipment. Unfortunately for Veronica, Max spills the beans about her tumor in front of Sawyer when he tells her that he prays for her and her dad. Once all the questions are answered, Sawyer loads the equipment into the car when he sees Veronica starting to walk home. He tries to convince to let him drive her, but doesn't push when she keeps saying that it is just a few miles. Sawyer figures she is upset about what Max said, and drives off even though he feels like an ass for doing that. 

Sawyer is still thinking about it as he sits at Sylvia's house around midnight for a pool/pot luck dinner party. Him and Sylvia are sitting in chairs by the pool when she tries to explain that his mom was just trying to help when she signed him up for the AP English class her and Miguel are in. She says that his mom just wanted to make sure the three of them could work on the Senior Thesis project together, Sylvia and Miguel doing most of the work while Sawyer did the other part. Sawyer knows this means the "easy" part, and decides to ask Lucy if she is ready to go. He takes Lucy inside so she can get changed and tries to convince his mom it was time to go. However, Sylvia's mom Hannah steps in that the kids could go now while someone drives her later. Annoyed Sawyer takes a very sleepy Lucy and leaves his mom there wishing that his friends and his mom were more separated. Veronica is having a pity party on the porch when she sees Sawyer pull up with a sleeping Lucy. She opens both the main door and the apartment door for him, and waits in the living room at his request. Once Lucy's all tucked in and back to sleep, he asks Veronica about the tumor. Veronica gives him the quick breakdown like she gave everyone else that knows before asking if he is going to do the project with her. Sawyer surprises her and himself by saying yes.

In English on Monday, the teacher asks everyone to announce their groups for the project, and Sawyer surprises everyone else by saying he will be working with Veronica. He ignores the hurting and angry look on Sylvia's face while the rest of the class states their groups. Once that is done, Sawyer joins Veronica at the back of the class so they can start discussing more details as well as writing out the summary for the teacher. During the process, Veronica tells Sawyer that they need to get to know each other a little better if they are going to work well together despite her frequent headaches and his dyslexia. Back at home later on, Veronica gets a surprise visit on the psychic Glory who she has been avoiding lately. She is about to ignore her when Glory pulls out a smudge stick that will send away all spirits including Veronica's mom. After Veronica refuses to let Glory smudge the house, she leaves a few smudge sticks, a seashell, and the instructions on how to use them properly. Once that is out of the way, they go out back so that Glory can perform the healing that Veronica has been dodging for the past month. Inside the house Sawyer is in his apartment taking care of Lucy after having to leave practice early to pick her up because their mom forgot. His mom comes in the house mad about him working with Veronica on the Senior Thesis which causes him to leave out of the house fast with the urge to jump again. 

After getting an A- on the summary, it takes two weeks before Sawyer and Veronica can get together again. After dropping Lucy off at a sleepover, they drive to their first haunted spot. Their first place to check out is a covered bridge that has had multiple deaths occur, including a car accident. They get there before sunset which means that Sawyer is able to get a few pictures while Veronica sits on rocky ledge with the recorder and her phone behind her. She is about to adjust her sunflower barrette in her hair when it falls onto another rock a little below her. She lays on her stomach and tries to reach it when the ground gives way under her. She is sliding down the hill when she feels Sawyer grab her and roll her onto another rock ledge. They stand there and debate their options before Sawyer says they need to jump. Veronica never learned to swim, so he proposes that she float while he pushes her across. After a few more minutes of looking at the options, Veronica agrees and jumps with Sawyer. They land in the water and are able to swim across exactly how he said they would. They make it to the other side and walk up the hill. They have no choice but to go across the bridge back to his car. While walking across it, they hear tapping behind them like footsteps and hurry the rest of the way. 

Sawyer builds them a fire after Veronica spent thirty minutes trying to capture an EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) near the bridge's entrance with no success. They are still damp from the river when Sawyer decides to take off his shirt. Veronica has a blush form over her face that she tries to hide when he looks at her. After a little bit of awkward silence, they admit that they are both attracted to each other. Sawyer holds her hand while Veronica asks what is something no one else knows about him. He tells her about being told by his dad at 11 years old it was time to be brave. She tells him about her mom's battle with brain cancer when they hear more taps coming from the bridge. They grab the camera and recorder and walk a little ways into the bridge. Veronica asks a few questions while Sawyer takes a few pictures after telling the ghost that he was going to at Veronica's insistence. Once she asks all her questions, Veronica goes back to the fire and rewinds the tape. Her third question "Is there anything you think I should know?" is answered with "He's hurting."

On the drive home, Sawyer and Veronica sing and dance in the car until they pull onto their street. Once parked in the driveway, they sit in Sawyer's car for a bit when he hands her back her barrette. She pulls him into a hug and stays there until they are both thinking about kissing the other. However they are stopped when Sawyer sees someone standing on the porch over Veronica's shoulder. She turns around and bolts out of the car when she realizes that it is Leo coming down the steps. Sawyer gets out shortly behind her and see Nazareth and Jesse standing at the top of the stairs. Sawyer watches Leo casually touch Veronica while jealousy course through his body before he tells Veronica to text him when she is ready to go over the EVPs as he heads into the house and his apartment. Once he closes the apartment door, Sawyer finds his mom passed out on the couch with three empty wine bottles on the coffee table. He carries to her bed so she can sleep it off.

It's two in the morning, and Veronica is back over at Jesse's place climbing a tree while Jesse, his girlfriend Scarlett, Nazareth, and Leo all watch from below. When she decide she can't climb any higher, everyone else starts climbing up the tree. Veronica has to jump down because she starts getting dizzy. Just as she's walking towards the blanket near the fire, Leo jumps down behind her. They walk over and sit on the blanket as Leo makes a comment about him missing her because she's never down, and it just makes the awkwardness worse. He mentions that he's been going on dates and it quickly turns into a fight about her being around Sawyer. Leo says he's sorry when he sees how exhausted she really is, and then calmly voices his concern about Sawyer hurting her. Before Veronica can respond, his phone is ringing. He answers it saying that his friend is just going through something, which is confirms that their friendship has officially changed. Leo walks off and is replaced by Jesse who joins her when her head erupts into pain. Veronica tells Jesse to take her home right away. Jesse pulls into her driveway as Leo calls his phone for the dozenth time since Veronica turned her phone off. Jesse starts to say Leo came home because he's confused by his feelings for Veronica and a girl he is seeing at college. Veronica gets out in a rush while telling Jesse to just go home. Veronica gets inside just as her dad is coming down the main stairs yelling at her for being home late before she breaks down in tears over losing Leo as her best friend. Instead of continuing to yell at her her dad just holds her while she cries.

Sunday comes and Sawyer is cleaning up from making lasagna with Lucy when his mom brings up the Senior Thesis, him ignoring Sylvia, and his upcoming swim meet depending on his grades. Sawyer is just about to blow up on her because she's blaming Veronica when there's a knock at the door. Sawyer goes and opens it to see Veronica's dad, Ulysses, standing on the other side. He comes in and gets Sawyer to repeat that he won't tell anybody about Veronica's tumor. This peaks Sawyer's mom's interest as Ulysses is explaining a little more about her diagnosis and that he knows Veronica will make sure the Senior Thesis is perfect. Ulysses then tells Sawyer that he'll be taking Veronica out of town for a week for a vacation. When Ulysses leaves, Sawyer wonders what's going on with Veronica. When his mom loses all the fight in her voice, she walks away while yelling at his mom to not tell anybody about the tumor. Sawyer drives to the AA meeting he knows Knox will be at so he doesn't go jumping again. When it's over he tells, Knox about the jump with Veronica at the covered bridge, and Knox tells him that he was going to be his sponsor. While this is for alcoholics, Knox knows that they don't have adrenaline addiction groups, so this would have to be the next best thing. Knox's first step as Sawyer sponsor is for them to go grab food together and get to know each other.

Veronica wakes up at midnight realizing she slept the day away after talking to her dad about everything but seeing her mom's ghost. She hears tapping in the living room and follows it out in hopes of seeing the little ghost girl. On the way out to the living room she sees her mom laying next to her dad in his bed like she did when she was alive. This makes Veronica happy since it means he's finally getting a good night's sleep. She quietly walks out to the living room and down the main stairs when she hears more taps. Meanwhile Sawyer is woken again by Lucy screams. After getting Lucy back to sleep, Sawyer follows the taps that sounds like footsteps out of the apartment front door where Veronica is standing at the bottom of the main stairs. She basically confirms that he heard the ghost she has been telling him about. Sawyer asks her to go with him on a ride. She says sure but she has to leave a note for her dad.

Sawyer drives Veronica 20 minutes away to his favorite spot which is a rock quarry that he loves to jump from. He brings her here in an attempt to share his deepest darkest secret about being addicted to jumping, and to get her to tell him what is going on. Instead she tells him to kiss her and save the relationship altering talk for the morning. Sawyer has an internal debate until Veronica kisses him first. They make out for hours before driving home and happy silence while holding hands at 4:30 in the morning. When they pull into the driveway, Sawyer opens her car door, but lets her open the main door. They stand in the foyer and are about to kiss again when ghost's footsteps startle them apart. Then they hear her dad calling her up the stairs, and telling Sawyer to decide what kind of man he is going to be. Sawyer walks with Veronica up the stairs. Just as they get inside the living room when she sees her mom and passes out. She wakes up to see her dad and Sawyer staring at her while she's laying on the couch. After making sure she is okay, her dad gives them a minute to say goodbye. Veronica uses this minute to tell Sawyer this needs to be a fun thing with no pressure, and he agrees but says that they only kiss each other, no one else. Sawyer says goodbye knowing that Veronica and her dad will be leaving for their vacation soon.

A week passes, and Sawyer is driving with his mom and Lucy over to Sylvia's forget another weekend potluck dinner. Before they get out of his car, his mom makes them both promise to not tell anyone about their money troubles. Sawyer and Lucy sit in the car for a little bit longer, and are about to get out when Sylvia knocks on the car window. Sylvia helps Lucy get out and sends her inside, so Sylvia and Sawyer stay out in the driveway. Once alone they sort of make up and become friends again by admitting they were both handling the situation with Veronica wrong. Then she asks if her and Miguel can join his group with Veronica. Sawyer tells her sure, but she needs to know that he's dating Veronica. On Sunday, Veronica gets dressed for Christmas since her Thanksgiving got canceled thanks to Leo. She is finishing up her outfit while arguing with her mom about the sudden headache / seizure she had before going to Florida with her dad. She goes downstairs for what she thinks is a regular brunch with her dad, and is surprised to see that Sawyer got everyone together for her Thanksgiving after all. They all sit down to eat half brunch and half Thanksgiving food that Lucy keep saying she helped make. After helping clean up and set up Christmas, Sawyer joins Veronica on the porch after her dad finishes a short but serious "don't hurt her talk". Veronica admits to being in love with Leo once, but that she fell out of love when he couldn't see past her tumor. Sawyer makes it clear he sees her, and then tells her about going to the AA meetings for his cliff jumping addiction. She surprises him by being supportive and everything seems at ease. That is until he tells her that Miguel and Sylvia are going to be joining their group, now Veronica is pissed. It's 10:00 p.m. when Sawyer walks back into his apartment. After calming down Veronica, they went over the EVPs and photos from the bridge until he had to go to the Y for a work meeting. After the meeting was over, he did a few laps in the pool before coming home to find his mom still drunk from the night before. She tries to argue with him over Veronica being a bad influence until he brings up his dad is having another baby with his girlfriend. Before it can get turned into a shouting match between the two of them, Lucy wakes up thirsty so Sawyer puts her to bed before calling Knox.

Veronica, Sawyer, Sylvia, and Miguel are in a cafe in Lexington interviewing Dr. Kelly Wolfe, who is a professor of history at Transylvania University. Dr. Wolfe also knows a lot about Kentucky history, local folklore, and ghost stories. Veronica shows her the photos and the EVP from the bridge, and gets confirmation from Dr. Wolfe that they did in fact capture ghost activity. Then Dr. Wolfe explains the difference between an actual ghost interaction, and a residual haunting (a memory so traumatic that it stays at the location). This causes Sawyer to think about Veronica's house and all the ghost activity they've been hearing lately. After finishing the interview, they are back in Miguel's SUV who drove them to Lexington, and is now driving them to Louisville. The next destination is a road close to a cemetery where people have claimed to see a teenage girl in a prom dress walking on the road towards the cemetery.

The story is the teenage girl and her boyfriend crashed while they were on their way to a school dance. This road that they are on has a very sharp curve that will send you down the side of the steep hill if you are not careful. They are almost to the cemetery that both teenagers are buried at on the steep hill when a bright orb runs in front of the SUV forcing Miguel to slam on the brakes. This is just moments after Veronica explains the deaths in the crash are real and have records. After Sawyer make sure everybody is okay, he tells Miguel to pull over to the side of the road. Veronica gets out with the recorder and heads into the cemetery before Sawyer, Sylvia, and Miguel follow behind her. They catch up to Veronica as she stands over the teenage girls broken headstone. Veronica mentioned something about a statue close by that she wants to look at, so Miguel goes with her while Sawyer and Sylvia stay behind. Sylvia then tells Sawyer that her and Miguel know about Veronica's tumor thanks to his mom. Before the discussion can go further, Veronica comes back and get some saying they found the statue. Sylvia gets teased by Veronica and Miguel over a statue that supposedly predicts deaths of visiting groups. Sawyer takes a few pictures while Sylvia chases down Miguel. Veronica tells him that it feels like the cemetery wants them to leave.

When Sylvia and Miguel come back, Veronica says they need to take some EVPs. The four of them are sitting on the grassy knoll at the very end of the cemetery trying to get some EBTs but are out of luck. Instead Miguel asks the group what would be the one moment in their lives that would turn into their residual haunting. Miguel is unable to voice his, but it is clear that Sawyer and Sylvia know what he is thinking. Then Sawyer says his is the day his mom finally broke down after another round of him blaming her for the divorce. Veronica says hers is the moment her mom died after all those rounds of chemo. Sylvia says hers is a moment she came out to her family as being gay and her grandma told her that she would be going to hell. Then they all admit that the energy from the cemetery is very off-putting, so Veronica announces that a cleansing of chocolate milkshakes was an order while wondering in the back of her mind if this was the moment Glory had warned her about....

Will Sawyer tell Veronica that more people know about her tumor? Will Veronica tell Sawyer and her dad about the new symptom she's an experiencing? Will Sawyer ever learn the full truth about her tumor? Will they be able to prove ghosts are real after all?

I know this is not the usual cliff hanger that I would stop at, but this is the best spot I could stop at without giving away too much more. Like I said, this may be a YA novel, but Katie McGarry did such an amazing job that I completely forgot. This book pulls you in pretty much from the first few pages, and makes it almost impossible to put down! I am so grateful to TorTeen Books and for sending me this book because I absolutely loved it! It has ghosts, secrets, and two teenagers that don't normally fit in the same social circles. What more could you ask for? If you simply must join me and many others by adding this to your personal library, then head on over to my page:

Thursday, January 16, 2020

What to Do About POTASS Spotlight (R&R Book Tour)


Welcome to the blog tour for What to Do About POTASS, a hilarious political satire by Glenn Shepard! Read on for more details and an exclusive excerpt! 51lrb53FrYLWhat to Do About POTASS: A Comedic Novella of Political Errors Publication Date: October 4th, 2019 Genre: Political Satire/ Comedy/ Novella Publisher: Mystery House Publishing What To Do About POTASS tells the story of the bumbling antics of legislators and The President or, as he is known in the book, POTASS. When Capitol Hill maintenance worker Thomas Wilson (or Will Thompson, as POTASS calls him) overhears different groups of legislators scheming about saving the country through various plots, he believes it’s incumbent on him to notify The President, who has recently hired him part-time to collect press clippings. But The President dismisses Wilson’s pleas. Will the legislators bungle their way to greater disaster or can they succeed in their efforts to rescue the country? Where does Thomas Wilson fit in? How will they all ultimately decide What To Do About POTASS? Read this book, and it will have you laughing out loud. This new novella is the first comedic endeavor for surgeon-turned-thriller-author Glenn Shepard (Dr. Scott James Thriller Series, including The Missile Game, The Zombie Game, The Ebola Game, and The Encryption Game). Ever with an aim to heal, in What to Do About POTASS Dr. Shepard offers the sorely needed medicine of comic relief in this politically divisive age. “Bipartisan political tomfoolery. Diet Cokes. Bungled assassination attempts. Secret meetings in basement restrooms. Great Walls. Poisonous needles. And the most popular President of all time, POTASS. What more could anybody want in a great modern day political satire? This book is of this moment and also one for all moments. Read it. Laugh out loud. Pure satiric genius. Enjoy.” ~ Rich Krevolin, Author of Screenwriting in the Land of Oz and The Hook Add to Goodreads


“I like Diet Cokes.” The President pointed to the button. “This guy brings a Diet Coke each time I press it, at least eighteen times a day. Diet Coke stimulates my whole body and my brain as well. It improves my performance, which I need to stay on top of everything I do. I drink one before my every tweet. In fact, during my most productive days, when I do two dozen tweets in an evening, I just about pop from the heavy intake.” He laughed. *** “How about I bring you a hamburger for dinner tonight, one of those monster burgers with onion rings and bacon? That’ll get your mind flowing strong again. And I have a few ideas to float, if you are in the mood to listen.” The President looked up and nodded slowly. “The burger sounds good, but I want two of them, with a double order of French fries. And I don’t know if I want to hear your ideas or not. There are just too many people who seem to think they know better than I how to run this country. I’ll have burgers delivered to the West Gate at six. Pick them up and return here. Just come in. No need to knock since I’ll know it’s you.” *** Wilson awakened in the morning with a start. He looked around and saw that he was in The President’s office, lying on a sofa that was not a part of the office yesterday. The President was there reading at his desk. Wilson sat up and rubbed his eyes. “Where are all the people that were here last night?” “I dunno. I hope Congress is in session today, but no one has told me that.” A President who was so warm and open to Wilson last night was coldly indifferent, like someone else.
Available on Amazon About the Author 61QuztAXK+L._US230_

GLENN SHEPARD is the author of The Missile Game and The Zombie Game. His first novel, Surge, was written while he was still a surgical resident at Vanderbilt. In the following years he wrote The Hart Virus, a one-thousand-page epic about the AIDS crisis, as well as three other novels. In 2008, he created “Dr. Scott James,” his Fugitive-

like action-hero, and began publishing the series. The first volume of the Dr. Scott James series was originally released as Not For Profit, but was later changed to The Missile Game.

Born on a farm in eastern Virginia, Dr. Shepard lives and maintains a thriving plastic surgery practice in Williamsburg. The third volume of The Dr. Scott James Thriller Series, The Ebola Game, is due out this year, through Mystery House. Glenn Shepard Blog Tour Organized By: R&RButto200x200 R&R Book Tours

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Back to You: You Series

Alright y'all this ARC comes to me from across the pond by a wonderful Indie author who is celebrating her debut novel as it starts to hit your TBRs! This book has two parts to it, one part is when they are in high school and part two is eight years later. This is definitely a friends to lovers type romance, but it's not the typical story. This one is filled with secrets and  However this book is definitely geared toward the 18+ crowd because of the steamy content and language that is there pretty much from the get go. I will be using pretty much the same language as well as describing the sexual parts as much as I find necessary, so if you don't want to read that, I strongly suggest you stop reading this review right here. Let's begin!

PART ONE: 18 Years Old

Rome Grayson is sitting in Red's Diner with a blonde that he has no interest in so that he can watch his best friend and love of his life Ashley Davis on her date with a dude that he really wants to punch in the face. While Rome is thinking about how much Ashley is meant to be his girl, she finally sees him and the color drains from her face. Rome gives the blonde money to pay for the food, and walks away to Ashley's table. He tells the dude that date is over, holds his hand out for Ashley, and after she willingly takes it, walks her out the door to his truck. Outside, Ashley and Rome take turns confronting the other over their behavior just now. She asks him why the sudden interest in dating her, and he asks why that asshole. Rome finally asks her out on a date, and she replies it is just because someone else did. He makes it clear that he's been wanting her for a long time before he kisses her.

It's been a week since Rome asked Ashley on a date. He is walking out of the locker room after another football practice just as Ashley is talking with her friend Molly about someone walking over hot coals for her after last night. Rome quickly realizes that they are talking about him because he was with Ashley last night at Brayden's party. Brayden is Rome's other best friend and football player. Brayden threw a party last night and it took everything in Rome's willpower to not put his hands all over Ashley. Rome listens for a little bit longer before joining them. He asks who was walking on hot coals, but Ashley tells him to ignore her while running her fingers through his hair. After sending Molly into the locker room to get his wallet, Rome checks to makes sure they are alone before pressing Ashley against the wall and kissing her like he can't get enough of her. He tells her that she is coming home with him around kisses, and she simply replies "whatever you say". Rome thinks about how he has been in love with her since they were kids and has been dying to hear her say those words for as long as he can remember.

Back at Rome's house, they are alone which is not out of the ordinary since his parents travel a lot for work. Rome and Ashley share a few more kisses and confessions of feelings before cuddling together and falling asleep like they have since they were kids. No one knows about them being together still, so it is not surprising when the next day at school Brayden is trying to nag Rome into telling Ashley how he feels about her in the one class they all share. While listening to Brayden, Rome text Ashley about how beautiful she looks, and when she blushes it leads to Brayden nagging more. Rome keeps quiet still, but thinks about how he is 17, the football quarterback, yet the only girl he has ever kissed is Ashley. He has had plenty of opportunities with all the Jersey Chasers that surround them after each game, but Rome only wants Ashley. Brayden groans out of frustration at Rome, and the teacher asks if there is something he wants to share with the class. Before Brayden can say anything, Rome kicks him forcing him to cry out "Motherfuck--" which earns them both a warning of detention.

It's Saturday which means that Ashley is working in her mom's boutique for the morning. She is ringing up a customer when Rome comes walking in. Rome helps her mom with a box while Ashley practically drools over him. The customer notices and asks if that's her boyfriend in reference to Rome, and Ashley takes the moment to tell someone about them quietly. Then she wonders why Rome is there so early because she still has two hours left to go in her shift. Once the customer leaves, her mom calls Ashley over to help with old stock and asks what they have planned for the afternoon. Ashley starts to say they were going on a date, but Rome cuts her off saying day trip. Ashley feels deflated but says they are headed to Disney World for the day. Her mom lets her take off early, so Ashley grabs her stuff while trying to figure out why Rome is acting like she is his dirty little secret. On the drive, Rome is back to acting the way he normally does when it's just the two of them. They have to stop for gas on the way there, and Rome is once again acting weird. She tries to kiss him and he tells her not here because he wants to keep that side of them private. She says okay but stays quiet the rest of the ride there.

As they are driving under the Disney World signs, Rome tries to get her to talk to him. When she doesn't say anything, he pulls over to the side of the road, pulls her into his lap, and says he won't move the car until she tells him what is going on. She says that she isn't the one acting shady over a few kisses. He says again that he is just trying to protect her from the people that would try to rip them apart. Rome is able to get her to relax and happy again so they can go enjoy their date. While getting back in her seat, she makes a comment about this being a story to tell their kids someday. Both of them burst out laughing once she realizes that she said that out loud. The next few hours are happy, amazing, and full of small pieces of affection. They decide to take a photo in front of Cinderella's Castle since there was a photographer there. While waiting for the man to take the picture, Rome plants a big kiss on Ashley that draws a lot of "aww's" from the crowd. The photographer clears his throat, waits for them to pull apart some and smile before taking their picture. Later they are on the Haunted Mansion ride and it breaks down, so Rome and Ashley take advantage for a quick make out and dry hump until Rome stops her with the promise of tonight.

Back at Rome's house later, they are laying in the bed with bare minimum of clothes when Ashley tries to suggest that they tell their parents, Molly, and Brayden about them. Rome still resists, so Ashley pulls away from and starts to get undressed while using his blankets to cover herself. She argues with him about telling their parents not being a big deal because they won't judge or tell the whole school. When Rome still says no, Ashley says she's leaving because she doesn't want to be anyone's dirty little secret. She walks out of the house, and Rome doesn't hear from her the rest of the night or all day Sunday.

On Monday, Rome is walking around the school before early practice trying to find Ashley since she's been avoiding him. He wasn't able to sleep at all knowing Ashley wasn't with him and that she left upset. When he doesn't find her in the halls anywhere, he heads to the school gym to work out some agitation before he snaps on someone. After working off some steam, Rome heads to the cafeteria when Brayden catches up to him. They both walk to their usual table and find it completely empty. While they are both standing there looking at Ashley's empty seat, Trey Henderson walks up behind them with some of his goons in tow. Trey is also a football player, but Rome still can't figure out how he made the team. Trey starts trying to pick a fight with Rome about Ashley not being by his side, but it ends quickly when Rome mentions his mom. Rome warns Trey to stay away from Ashley or he will make sure the whole school knows about Trey's coked out mom's extracurricular activities. Trey walks away with the goons in tow telling Rome that it isn't over between them.

Later at early practice, Rome struggles to get through the drills because his body is so exhausted and aching from not sleeping all weekend. Finally in the locker room, Rome checks his phone and sees nothing from Ashley. Brayden sees the frustration, and asks Rome if Team Romely has hit a rough spot. Rome is forced to confess that he messed everything up, but Brayden tries to reassure him that they will be fine by lunch time. Rome is about to go hop in the shower when Liam, Ashley's brother and baseball team captain, walks up behind him and asks why he sent Ashley home in tears the other night. Before Rome can start to ask Liam where Ashley is, Tiffany walks into the locker room. Tiffany is Ashley and Liam's stepsister and head cheerleader. First she tries to seduce Rome, but her nasty side is quickly turned on Brayden. She makes a remark about Brayden's stepmom which forces Rome to get her attention back on him before Brayden blows up on her. With Tiffany's attention back on him, Rome asks her what she wants. Tiffany says something about the cheerleaders working hard and not wanting the football team to make them look like fools at the big game Friday, so he needs to fix whatever is going on with Ashley. Liam tries to jump in, but Tiffany dismisses him. Liam and Brayden both walk off before they say something they will regret to Tiffany. Galley, the football center back, tells Rome that his girlfriend Lilly just saw Ashley on the bleachers. Ignoring anything else Tiffany has to say, Rome sprays on some deodorant, packs his duffel, and walks out the locker room.

Ashley is still sitting on the bleachers looking over the football field when she hears Rome's heavy footsteps coming towards her. After giving in to the hug he pulls her in, Ashley listens as Rome tells her that he was complete mess all weekend without her. She admits that it was hard on her too, but she doesn't want to hide their relationship from anyone anymore. Not after they both waited so long to be together. This time Rome doesn't argue with her. Instead he surprises Ashley by saying that he will do whatever she wants to do. Then Rome talks her into ditching school with him with the promise that he will cover for her with her parents. When she agrees, he practically carries her out of the school. They drive to Miami for the day since Rome is pretty well known around their hometown Palm Beach. They are walking on the beach when Ashley makes a comment about living there one day. He says he will make it happen when he is a NFL player and she is a teacher. She acts shocked that he thinks about their future together. Rome teases her about the fact that she made a comment about kids the other day, and she tries to act mad about it. He shocks her out of by saying that he is in love with her and he knows she loves him back. Then he takes her for ice cream before she can say anything back. After finishing their ice cream, Rome and Ashley are standing in a tattoo shop to get matching tattoos on a whim. It started out as Rome's idea that he get one, but it quickly turns into her getting one as well.

The next morning, Ashley is standing in the kitchen in just her underwear and Rome's shirt trying to make them breakfast. She is interrupted by Rome grinding his hard on into her back. He convinces her to stop making breakfast, turns off the stove, and takes her back upstairs. Once back in his room, Rome strips Ashley down and makes her cum with just his fingers and tongue. When she comes down from the pleasure waves, she tries to give him the same attention back. Rome stops her and says that he wants it to just be about her this time despite how badly he wants her. They are laying on the bed looking at their matching wrist tattoos, an A on his right wrist and an R on her left, when Ashley finally says "I love you" to Rome.

It has been a month full of either dry humping or Ashley riding Rome's fingers and tongue, and she finally gets the courage to ask Molly to go with her to the doctor so she can get birth control pills. When Molly agrees to go, but wants to know why, Ashley is forced to tell her about dating Rome for a month now. They finally told their parents but not Liam and Tiffany. Her mom was thrilled, her dad had the usual father response, and his parents acted like they could care less. Then Molly admits to being interested in Liam after spending the last few weeks tutoring him. Molly asks her if she's mad, but Ashley tells her that she's not mad but surprised. Ashley warns Molly to be careful because Liam can be an ass and she doesn't want to see Molly hurt. At the end of school, Molly and Ashley are heading to their lockers before going to the doctor and food before the football game. Just as they are crossing the hallway to get to their lockers, Trey knocks into Molly which sends her to the floor and her books flying. Tiffany is giggling at his side, but this doesn't stop Ashley from telling Trey to watch where he is going. Molly tries to stop Ashley, but it doesn't work. Liam walks up behind them, pulls Molly to his side, and tells Trey to take his slut (Tiffany) and walk away. Tiffany tells everyone listening that Liam didn't think she was a slut last night just as Rome comes up to Ashley's side. Brayden walks up next to Rome just as Rome is reminding him about his warning to stay away from Ashley.

Trey finally walks away with Tiffany with the weak threat of seeing Rome on the field. Brayden has to step in front of Rome to stop him from going after Trey with the reminder that they can get him on the field later. Liam tries to explain himself to Molly, but Molly tries to play it off as she doesn't care. When he says it was a mistake, she tells him to find a new tutor because she thinks it was a mistake as well. Molly and Ashley walk away and head to the doctors. Later after the game has been over for 20 minutes, Ashley and Molly are still sitting in their reserved seats because the stadium is still packed and Molly doesn't seem to be in a rush to leave. After admitting that she wasn't sure why she expected anything different from Liam, Molly decides to head home. Ashley offers to go with her, but Molly tells her to go have fun with Rome. Molly asks about their coffee date tomorrow, and Ashley confirms it is on. While Molly heads to her car, Ashley heads to the locker room.

Ashley gets to the locker room and is pleased to find it empty except for Rome's equipment bag. When she realizes that he is in the shower, Ashley bravely walks in to them after stripping off her wrap around dress and shoes. She joins him in the shower, and it doesn't take but a few seconds before Rome has her pushed up against the wall with his head between her legs. When she finally comes down from the waves of pleasure he just gave her, Ashley pushes Rome against the wall and finally gives him the blow job she has been wanting to give for weeks now. This time Rome doesn't fight her, and just gives in. When he finally cums, Rome pulls her up to her feet so he can kiss her. Then he tells her that she is his end game, his forever, and tells her it is time to go home while she processes the fact that he wants forever with her.

When they get back to Rome's house, Rome is quickly reminded that he told Brayden the party can be at his place since his parents are gone again. Rome kicks himself for forgetting about it. Ashley is upstairs in his room while he is in the kitchen taking a shot of tequila looking around at the damage already done to his house. Tiffany comes up trying to figure out where Liam is. Rome tells her to leave him and Molly alone, but that makes her turn her attention to seducing him with Trey watching close by. Rome pushes her hand away when she tries to grab him after not taking his hint to leave him alone. Brayden comes walking up to Rome asking if everything is okay with a slight slur. He tells Brayden to get her out of his house before Rome heads upstairs to his room. When he walks in his door, the lights are off but he can see Ashley thanks to the light streaming in the window. She is laying on his bed with her eyes closed and headphones on. She keeps her eyes closed as she sits up and takes a drink from a water bottle. Rome stands near the door and watches her jealous of the water bottle, and thinks about how deeply in love he is with her. He spots her Queen embroidered hat on the night stand that matches the one he's wearing, and thinks about how loves that she got them to make it clear to everyone at school they were together.

He finally pushes away from the door, turns his hat backwards, and walks over to the bed. Ashley is still sitting up when she opens her eyes in surprise until she realizes it is Rome. He kneels on the floor in front of her and places his body between her legs as he hugs her close to him. She takes off her headphones as he says he missed her. She says it's only been an hour, but isn't surprised when he admits that every second away from her is torture. She suggest having Brayden shut down the party so they can be alone before telling him that she is on the pill now. Rome makes it clear that he can't believe how lucky he is to have her in his life, and she playful insinuates that she just wants him for his body. Just as Rome is holding himself above her body in response to this comment, her phone vibrates. He tries to convince her to ignore it, but Ashley is worried it is Molly. She grabs the phone and sees a text from Molly saying she has a very drunk Liam banging on her door. Ashley leaves to go deal with her brother with the promise that she will be back later.

Two hours have passed, and Rome has managed to kick everyone out of the house and shut down the party. Now he is sitting on the couch waiting for Ashley's coming home text and is starting to get worried. When she does finally text it is to let him know that she needs a rain check because she is still dealing with Liam. She promises that she will see him after her coffee date with Molly tomorrow. It is after midnight, and Rome is sitting on the beach alone watching the waves lap at the shore. He spent hours trying to get sleep but just tossed and turned in his bed. He quickly finds that he is not alone when he hears Tiffany's voice beside him. She hands him an open beer, and he takes two swigs of it. Tiffany starts kissing on him just as his vision starts to blur. She grabs his crotch while Rome hears a clicking sound in the distance. He passes out listening to the sound of clothes being pulled off.

The next day, Ashley is leaving a concerned voice mail on Rome's phone because she hasn't gotten a response to any texts and got no answer when she went by his house before heading to meet Molly. Ashley tries to shrug off the uneasy feeling she has when Molly reminds her that he could be working out with Brayden. They get their coffee, and sit down at a table where Ashley asks Molly to help her make a sex bucket list before they head to Victoria Secret. Just as they are reaching their cars, Rome finally texts Ashley back telling her to come over to his house. She tells Molly that she will see her on Monday, and drives over. Ten minutes later she is parking in Rome's driveway. She is about to get out when Rome pulls open her car door and yanks her out of the car and into a deep kiss. While Ashley is enjoying the kiss, she can tell there is something different about it. She ends up stopping him when he holds her up against the car to try to keep the possessive and desperate kisses going, and leads him into the house.

Once inside, she forces him to sit down on the couch and talk to her. She takes a good look at him and see that he looks like he hasn't slept all night. He tells her that he feels horrible about last night as a few tears run down his face. Ashley thinks it's because he was upset she left to deal with Liam as he says he's sorry. He pulls her into his lap, and she decides to grind her hips into him and tell him to show her how sorry. He asks her if she is sure, and she replies yes even though he is sure he has been with other girls. He quickly tells her that he hasn't done anything even remotely sexual with anyone but her which just drives her need up more. She strips his shirt off of him before he puts them both on the carpet in front of the fireplace. She tells him to quit playing around when he tries to take things slowly. He rolls on a condom before entering her fully. He stills himself for a minute and peppers her with kisses until the pain passes. Once it does Ashley tells him to move, and it turns into everything she ever imagined her first time being.

Rome jolts awake from the third nightmare the following night of Ashley asking him why she slept with Tiffany if she is all he ever needs. Then he thinks about how two nights ago he woke up in an alcove on the beach with his head still fuzzy and Tiffany laying next to him naked. He also saw two beer bottles and several condoms around them, but has no idea or memory of what happened after his first few sips of that beer. He is pretty sure that Tiffany drugged him, because he knows even drunk he would never have sex with anyone but Ashley. He knows that he is lying to her every time he doesn't tell her about what happened, but he is too scared that she will walk away from him for good if he does. Rome jumps when his phone buzzes on the nightstand when a text from an unknown number comes through threatening to ruin Ashley if he tells her about what happened. He is pretty sure that it is from Tiffany. Ashley wakes up next to him and asks him who was on the phone, but he tells her no one and to go back to sleep. Instead she starts up another round of love making, and says that she is glad they waited for each other. This causes Rome to freeze for a second before he makes himself snap out of it.

Rome drives Ashley back to her house the next morning and thinks about her being in the same house as Tiffany and how that can ruin everything. He tries once again to recall what happened that night, but is still drawing a blank. Ashley pulls his attention back to her by mentioning the lingerie she bought as well as the sex bucket list. She shows it to him and he can't believe just how lucky he is to have her as his girlfriend. Before she gets out of the car, Ashley tells Rome that her mom wants him to come to game night later, and he says sure even though internally he's panicking. He asks if he can bring Brayden, and she says sure. She gets out and goes inside. Later Rome is walking up to Ashley's front door, and is about to knock when Tiffany pulls it open. She tries to get him to go for another round with her, but he tells her not going to happen just before Ashley walks up behind Tiffany. When he is sure that she didn't hear any of it, Rome hugs her and says fine. Brayden comes up the driveway, and they all go inside to start eating.

Sitting around the dining room table when Tiffany calls him Romey, which causes Ashley to growl that his name is Rome. Tiffany says that he didn't mind her calling him that the other night, and Rome explains she was at the party after the game. Brayden jumps in by complimenting Ashley's mom on the food. Rome could cry with relief because he doesn't know about the other night either. Brayden playfully tells Ashley's mom that he will happily elope with her when she gets tired of Ashley's dad. Her mom laughs it off and tells her dad to calm down because he doesn't mean it before asking for help with the dishes. Brayden starts to get up, but her dad stops him with a look and a statement about him helping his wife. Rome excuses himself to use the bathroom which is upstairs. He is about halfway done when Tiffany comes barging in to try to seduce him again. He tells her no  and forces his way out the door past her.

Rome comes back into the dining room as Ashley is helping clean up. He asks her if they can leave early because he is wiped, and she says sure but she needs to say goodbye first. They walk hand in hand out to the living room where Brayden, Liam, and Tiffany are sitting on the couches. She asks Liam where their parents are, and Liam says upstairs right before Tiffany laughs. Ashley asks her what is so funny, and Tiffany replies that she slept with two out of three men in the room. Ashley knows Liam is one of them, so she looks at Brayden like seriously? Brayden say it wasn't him, which makes her turn to Rome. The look in his eyes confirms it while his mouth is trying to explain himself to her. Ashley starts crying as Brayden stands up and pulls her into a hug while Liam also stands and asks Rome what the hell. Rome drops to his knees as the tears start to roll down his face as well, and Ashley makes him admit that it happened before they slept together for the first time. Her mom comes down the stairs catching most of the conversation, and tells Rome he needs to leave. Ashley announces that she's leaving because she can't be in the same house as Tiffany. Rome tries to convince her to talk to him and love him, but she walks out the door leaving Rome back on his knees as she runs away.

PART TWO: 26 Years Old

Ashley is sitting in a club that is owned by her friend Sean at the insistence of her friend and fellow middle school teacher Tori. Ashley is trying to politely tell a dude named Brant that she is not interested in him when she hears a voice behind her she hasn't heard in eight years. It's Rome and he's telling Brant to leave because she's with him. Brant quickly turns his attention to Rome since he is a retired star QB for Miami by asking for an autograph. Rome whispers in Ashley's ear to just go with it before he tells Brant that he better leave because he isn't getting an autograph or Ashley. After Brant finally walks away, Ashley asks Rome what the hell he is doing there. He admits that he has been keeping tabs on her all these years before asking her to dance. She hesitates for a second before letting him lead her onto the crowded dance floor. After a week protest, Ashley gives in and lets Rome hold her like they have both been dying to do for 8 years. Rome says he knows she's angry at him still. but he just wants to pretend for just one night that she's his again. Ashley tries to hate him and walk away, but just can't bring herself to do it. Rome whispers in her ear about how he's only thought of her, which sends Ashley into thinking about the first time on the floor in front of the fireplace. But that quickly turns to heartache, so she turns herself around to put her back is to his chest. She can feel his hard on pressing into her ass so she grinds against it. Rome spins her around and begs her for a kiss.

The next thing Ashley knows they are stumbling into the men's restroom while Rome kisses her neck. He kicks close the door and locks it behind them. Deciding that this is purely fueled by lust and nothing else, Ashley tells him to hurry up and fuck her. Before Rome complies, he tells her that he knows they have a lot to talk about, but he needs this to just be about being with her and the look in his eyes confirms every word. Once they both climax, Rome looks at her with love just swimming through his eyes, and all Ashley can feel is instant regret. She spent six years putting herself back together after finding out about Rome and Tiffany. She thinks about all the trust and commitment issues she's had over the years because of it. Ashley pushes him, fixes her dress, and basically tells him they are not the same people anymore and she doesn't belong to him. After practically throwing her ripped red thong at him, Ashley walks out the bathroom door leaving room standing there with his pants still down.

It's the next day and Rome is like a teenager all over again. Every single time he opens the drawer and sees Ashley's thong sitting there he has to jerk off. He thinks about how lucky he was that Sean invited him to the club the same night Ashley was there when Brayden knocks on the door. After quickly cleans himself up, Rome tells Brayden to come in. Brayden walks in with a handful of newspapers and tells Rome to take a look at them. Rome makes a sarcastic comment about Brayden reading Cosmo, but Brayden confidently tells him that it has helped with Lexi. Lexi is Brayden's wife of two years and is pregnant with their first child, however Braden's been in love with her since high school. Rome finally looks at the newspapers and see that him and Ashley are plastered all over each of them. Rome curses as he thinks about all the time and effort he put in during his football career to keep Ashley out of the press. Now it has been all for nothing, but Rome decides to call his agent Damon to try to see if he can do damage control.

Rome is at his gym that he owns trying to finish up a training session with a client. The client tries to hit on him for the umpteenth time, but he reminds her that he doesn't date clients. Rome thinks about how he could easily have any woman he wanted, but even after all these years, Ashley is the only one for him. When the client doesn't take the hint, Rome ends the session 10 minutes early because he isn't going to stand there and let her carry on like that in his crowded gym. After she quickly recovers from the rejection, she asks Rome if it's because of the woman in the pictures she saw on TMZ. He just ignores her by saying it's none of her business and tells her to make an appointment with the receptionist. He is sitting in his office putting away a client file when Olivia AKA Liv, who is one of the personal trainers on staff, comes barging in with a newspaper in her hand. Rome figures out quickly that Olivia is having a jealous moment even though they've only hooked up a few times. There has never been any kind of relationship between them besides a few one night stands. When he says that the two of them have never been in a relationship, Liv brings up the other night. Rome knows she is referring to the fact that he went over to her place after a rough day at work because she was convenient. At first he couldn't get it up until he thought about Ashley, and he now realizes that Liv took it as a response to her. He tries to walk out with his phone and keys in hand when Liv calls him Romy and tries to stop him. Rome tells her that she is a great asset to the gym, but there is nothing between them. Liv responds and anger, and says that she knows he loves her before launching into a full-blown crazy girlfriend type moment. She tries to bring up Ashley and him on the dance floor in the video she saw and he has had enough.

Rome is about to tell Liv that enough is enough when Ashley comes storming into his office pissed off. She starts talking about how she couldn't even go to work and teach her students or leave her house without reporters following her. Rome is about to pull Ashley into a hug when Liv pipes up that she's his girlfriend and that Ashley needs to leave. Ashley believes Liv and walks out in digust. After warning Liv that he'll fire her if she acts like that again, Rome gathers his stuff and runs after Ashley. He catches her before she goes out the door and explains that Liv isn't his girlfriend, and asks her to come talk to him. She tries to say that he could just lie to her again, but Rome reminds her that he only lied to her once. I actually finally agreed to go with him, but she wants to go in her own car. He quickly tells her no because he has blacked out windows for a reason. Before they pull off he looks at her and reminds her that he will keep her safe even if someone crowds the car or follows them.

They finally arrived at Rome's house just as it starts down pouring rain. Ashley gets out and runs to the door first, but she is soaked completely by the time she makes it up the porch. Rome is closely behind her after he grabs his bag and opens the door for her. He glances at her soaked white shirt and uses all the self-control he has to go get them towels and dry clothes. He points to the direction of the kitchen, and tells her to make herself at home. After watching Rome sprint up the stairs, Ashley heads to the kitchen, grabs a couple water bottles, and then takes in the view from the balcony sliding glass doors. Ashley is still staying there looking out the door when Rome comes in to tell her that he laid out clothes and fresh towels for her if she wants to take a shower. She turns around to face him and he makes it clear that he is fighting very hard to be a gentleman but her wet shirt is making it difficult. And response to his statement Ashley takes off her shirt with a new sense of boldness coursing through her. Ashley tries to tempt him into fucking her again, but Rome manages to keep his mind on explaining what happened at the gym even as he lifts her up so she can wrap her legs around his waist. Ashley says she only has two simple questions: did he use her to cheat on Liv and is Liv his girlfriend? He repeats again that no he did not and that Liv has never been his girlfriend. She pushes them away so he has to put her back on her feet before kissing him and walking away with the statement that he better not keep her waiting in the shower.

Ashley is standing under the hot water while she thinks about how crazy her life has become in the past 24 hours. It takes 10 minutes before Rome finally comes in and joins her. Rome starts out with just a few kisses as he tells her how much he has missed her in general. Ashley however quickly turns it back to sex. Rome gently pushes her down onto the shower bench before putting his head between her legs and an achingly slow passion. It's just like when they were first together all those years ago. Ashley tries to return the affection and Rome says again he wants to focus on her. once she is done Rome helps her stand under the hot water yet again before taking from behind. Once they are both done riding their waves of pleasure, Rome holds her close under the hot water and asks her to stay as the night.

Immediately Ashley stiffens up because she knows that shower sex and staying the night in his bed are two totally different things. She asked him if he really thinks it's that's a good idea since they still have so much to talk about and he eventually agrees. He says she can't blame me for wanting to make up lost time, but then suggests that they order food and sit in front of the TV and block out the rest of the world. Ashley is still unsure but can't think of anywhere else she would rather be. After ordering their food through Uber eats, Rome makes it clear that he remembers everything about her as he hands her a glass of white wine in the kitchen. Ashley kisses him and thanks him for showing her that he is still the boy she fell in love with all those years ago. She asked about how he feels but being a famous football star and he admits that it's nice but he's always known something was missing from his life. Then Rome tells her that a piece of him died the minute she walked away from him that fateful night all those years ago. She listens to him describe himself as being in a black hole full of self-hate. She tells him that the past happened and there's nothing they can do about it except learn from their mistakes. She finally asked for the full truth about Liv so that she can start trying to trust him with her future. Rome is honest with her and says that he is slept with Liv a few times, but has never fallen in love with anyone but her. Ashley lets him know that she isn't judging him anyway because she's been with a few other people but she needed to know. When he starts to bristle at the idea of someone else being with her, she tells him that none of them ever meant the same thing to her as he did it has always been him.

At that statement, Rome carries her as he jogs back up the stairs to the bed. An hour later they are laying in the bed when Ashley mentions the fact that they haven't used a condom once in the past 24 hours. He tells her that because of football he is checked out every few months, and will happily show her his most recent clean bill of health. She reassures him that she wasn't accusing him otherwise. She simply wants to have some kind of protection, because she isn't ready for a baby especially when they're not sure if this is permanent or not.  After quickly flashing her his A tattoo, he tells her that while she may not be sure, he knows for him this is everything. Rome reminds her that they forgot to eat, but instead of getting up she just snuggles into him and said he'll owe her breakfast in the morning then.

The next morning Ashley wakes up to find Rome's head between her legs. He stays there until he makes her come so forcefully that she sees stars, and then gets up to make her breakfast when her stomach growls so loudly he can hear it. She watches him pull on some sweats as he discusses her needing food and energy for what he has planned for the day. She has a moment where she thinks about the fact that she will eventually have to go back to her place and that terrifies her a little. It must be written all over her face, because he looks at her with such concern until she plays it off. 30 minutes later Rome returns with a mini buffet of food for them that smells so amazing, Ashley's mouth is practically watering. While they eat, Rome asks Ashley about her teaching job. She tells him about how she worked as a waitress until she got her bachelor's degree in Miami. Then she admits that she is unsure if she still has her teaching job since they put her on paid leave until everything settles down with the press. Rome makes it clear that he never wanted her to go through this, but she reassures him that she's a tough chick and can handle it. Rome finally gets it off his chest just how badly he regrets hurting her like he did all those years ago. She once again tells him that the past is the past, because she thinks it's the only way they will be able to work everything out. He finally tells her that he loves her and that he never stopped loving her. This leads to another round of amazing sex without a condom that ends with Ashley internally realizing that Rome still owns her heart despite everything.

After cleaning up from breakfast, Rome tries to accept the fact that Ashley is having Tori pick her up from his house, because she doesn't want to add fuel to the fire involving the press. She reminds him that this comes with the territory of him being famous just as a car horn sounds outside. Rome stops Ashley when she starts making her way outside and ask about seeing her again and calling her. After Ashley reassures that he can call her and that she will see him again he lets her go. Once inside Tori's car, Ashley fights the urge to tell Tori to turn around because the car ride is torture and every single mile kills her. She tries to process just how much her life has changed in just the past two days when Ashley notices that Tori has pulled the car over just down the road from her house. Tori asked her why in the three years they have been friends, Ashley didn't mention anything about Rome. Ashley admits it was because she never thought she would see him again. So Tory makes Ashley to tell her everything once and for all. Ashley gives her a quick rundown about her relationship and it ends with Tori voicing her concern about her getting hurt again. Ashley understands it, but admits that room was still the boy she fell in love with, and that she's pretty sure there's more to the story about Tiffany and Rome. Tori accepts that Rome may actually be good for Ashley because she hasn't seen her happy in a long time, but does usual friend threat of being Rome's worst nightmare if she cries a single tear because of him.

Tori ends the conversation with the advice to Ashley make Rome do all the work to prove to her that he's changed, and then takes her down the street to her house. After making sure all the reporters have gone, Tori and Ashley sit on the couch watching TV and drinking a couple glasses of wine. She finally asked Tori what is the deal between her and Sean and Tori says it's nothing but harmless flirting. Ashley doesn't buy it but gets distracted by the fact that Rome has texted her saying that he misses her already. Tori takes it as the cue that it is her time to leave. Ashley walks her out and watches her get in the car and drive off. She's about to walk back into her house when she hears a rustling noise in the bushes. Ashley starts to cautiously take a few steps down towards the bushes until it happens again. She runs into the house, locks the door, and immediately texts that she thinks somebody is watching her.

Rome is playing cards over at Brayden's house with Brayden and a couple other guys that they both know. It's been 15 minutes since Ashley's last reply to his I miss you text, and it's starting to make it difficult for him to focus. He goes down to the kitchen to get a drink when Lexi comes in and asked him what's going on. He tries to say that he's fine while he thinks about how he doesn't want to scare Ashley away with his intense feelings about her. Lexi makes him follow her into the dining room so she can sit down and make Rome tell her everything. It takes a little coaxing, but Rome finally admits that he wants what Lexi and Brayden have but with Ashley. Lexi knows a little bit about Ashley because of Brayden, and reassures Rome that Ashley will forgive him for eventually. Lexi suggests bringing Ashley to their cookout tomorrow when he gets the text from Ashley about her being watched. Rome runs into the kitchen and grabs his keys before bolting towards the door to get his jacket. Lexi follows behind him as fast as a 6-month pregnant woman can move and ask if everything is okay. Rome walks out the door asking her to tell Brayden that he may need bail money. Rome blows through every red light and is in Ashley's driveway in about 5 minutes. After grabbing a baseball bat out of the trunk and doing a quick scan, he rushes inside and pulls Ashley to him with the sigh of relief while she lets the tears fall. After making sure everything is locked up, Rome takes Ashley to her room and holds her until she falls asleep with the promise that he's not leaving.

The next day after another round of morning sex, Rome drives Ashley over to Lexi and Brayden's house for their cookout so that she can get out of her house after the scare last night. When they pull into the driveway, Rome leads her through the back gate where they are greeted by Brayden uncovering the pool. Brayden realizes that it is Ashley standing next to Rome and gives her a quick hug before Rome plants a possessive kiss on her lips. Lexi comes out mid kiss, and tells Brayden to quit teasing them. She gives Ashley a hug while telling her that Rome talked about her a lot and that she should just enjoy herself today. Later Rome and Ashley are walking up her driveway while she thanks him for the day. Rome stops and pulls her into a hug, and Ashley sees her garage door and pales instantly. Seeing her face, Rome turns around and see the word slut spray painted on the door. He does a quick scan around the property before carrying Ashley into the house. He sets her down after locking the door and tells her to go pack a bag, because she was going with him to his place. She starts to put up a fight, but gives in when he points out that it is unsafe for her to be in her house alone.

Back at his house, Rome calls Brayden and makes arrangements for him to get Ashley's keys from Rome's so he can get her car from the gym parking lot and park it at his house. He hangs up just in time to hear the pasta water boiling over onto the stove. Rome turns it down just as Ashley comes in with a silk white robe covering white lace lingerie and black heels. Dinner is quickly forgotten as another round of mind blowing sex starts up in the kitchen and ends on the living room rug. Once they are both sedated and laying on the rug, Ashley gets up with a blanket barely covering her and pads to the kitchen to pull out some food. After she pulls out some grapes, cheese, and ice cream, she gets Rome to help her carry it back to their spot in the living room. Once they are seated again and eating, Rome tells her that he wants to take away for a couple days. She listens as he explains that he rented a place in Little Palm Island for two nights just for them. She agrees to go with two conditions: she pays for some things (which he mentally says no to) and no sex.

While on their trip, they get to know each other again without the constant distraction of sex. Ashley learns that Rome kept everything she gave him including the King hat that he hears, and that his NFL career ended because of a torn ACL. While they stick to the no sex rule, Ashley enjoys teasing him and a little foreplay. While they are getting ready to go out for dinner, Ashley hears his phone buzz. She looks at it when she can't get his attention and see that someone named Liv sent him text. She opens it and sees Liv's tits above a message saying she hoped her and Rome had a repeat the other night. When Rome leans out of the bathroom to ask for a shirt, Ashley shows him the text livid. He immediately tells her that he's sorry she had to see that before deleting and blocking Liv's number right in front of Ashley. She instantly calms down and feels bad for getting so mad at him. After a few sweet reminders that Rome loves her and her alone, and that no one else compares to her, Ashley says she trusts him and believes him. They finish getting ready for dinner.

At the restaurant while waiting for a waitress, Ashley thanks him for bringing her to the island. Then they have a serious conversation about him letting the police handle the nastiness and threats aimed her way. Rome tells her that he will do no such thing because a threat against her is a threat against him. She is about to tell him that she loves him when the waitress interrupts her to take their order. Just before walking away, the waitress says that she recognizes Rome as the NFL player and from his visit last time with the blonde. Ashley gets up with her appetite gone, and walks away in anger talking about she's supposed to trust him huh?

Will Ashley and Rome ever work things out? Who is threatening Ashley? Will Rome ever be able to prove that he is not defined by one mistake? Will Ashley ever learn the truth about the night Tiffany slept with Rome?

To find out you will have to buy the book for yourself! I know you will agree with me when I say that C. Standing knocked it out of the park with this angsty romance debut novel! This is book one in her intertwining stand alone series, but I know I loved every moment. There were a lot more steamy and sexy moments than I expected, but I can't imagine the book without them. I have to give a big thank you to C. Standing for having me as one of her ARC readers and for letting me part of her debut journey a little bit. I know you are dying to get your hands on a copy so you can find out what happens, so head on over to my page:

Spotify Playlist put together by C. Standing:

Friday, January 10, 2020

Primrose's Curse Coloring and Activity Book

Alright, so I am sure by now you have seen my review for the children's book written by young author Kiara Shankar on here. Well, this talented and super sweet girl was kind enough to send me her coloring and activity book to go along with it. Now while I will not be the main person enjoying this book, I am doing a joint review with my daughter on it. There are two versions of this coloring book, one is just plain black and white, and the other is like the one I received with some color pages. It follows the story in Primrose's Curse. Like my poetry book reviews and short book reviews, I am going to share a few of my favorite pages. So let's get started!

This one immediately stands out because it is one of the first pages. It shows Primrose with all her animal friends. It allows for plenty of colors, and is just so cute!

This one stood out to me because I remember which part of the book it was. It is also one of my daughter's favorite pictures.

This one shows the villain in the story, and this just shows perfectly here. My daughter says it reminds her of some of the older cartoons she has watched with me.

This is one of the color pages that you can find throughout the book. My daughter likes having it in the book so she can either use it as a guide or simple remember what it looked like in the story.

This one stood out because it is a small picture to color, but you can see the black and white with the color on one page. My daughter smiled because she could see both.

This is one stands out to me and my daughter because it is simply a doodle Kiara decided to include in the activity book even though it has nothing to do with Primrose.

This is one of the first activities I saw, and I love it because it is an owl. My daughter loves it because it is a connect the dots owl.

This is one of the few pages that you do not have to do anything but read. My daughter loves the riddles that are on this page.

This page became a favorite because I love to do crosswords and word searches when I am not reading. My daughter wanted to go ahead and find all the words before I could take a picture.

Now I know this was a short review, but I wanted to make sure that I highlighted a few pages that stood out the most to me. This book along with Primrose's Curse is the perfect gift for any little girl in your life. It is a great story and coloring book that will make them happy, especially when they learn that a 12 year old little girl wrote and drew both! Like how amazing is that?! I am so grateful to Kiara and her father, Vinay, because they have just been so sweet and fun to work with! Plus the story is a really cute but empowering story for little girls everywhere! I am so glad for opportunities to not only share my love of books with y'all, but with my kids as well. If you know a little girl in your life that would love this book, head on over to my page:

In the Shadow of Vesuvius

So this beautiful covered beauty was sent to me by the amazing team over at Minotaur Books. This is the 14th book in the Lady Emily Mystery series that Tasha Alexander has been working on however, it can be a decent stand alone. While I haven't read any of the other books in the series, I can honestly say that I didn't feel like I was missing too much as far as a backstory. Now I do no usually take to historical fiction very well, but the detective aspect made it a little easier for me. I will admit that it took a good minute for me to get into it, but that could be partly from not being used hr writing style and partly not being a big historical fiction reader. If you are a big historical fiction fan, then you will probably read this a little faster than I did. This is told through two POVs: Emily who is a detective in 1902 and Quinta who was a poet in AD 79. Both women are tied by the physical place they are in, but I am going to be focusing on Emily. Now I know that it is already out on the shelves, but I have an ARC so I am going to stick to my usual review format. So let's go!

It is 1902. Lady Emily Hargreaves and her husband Colin are traveling with her old time friend Ivy Brandon in Pompeii. Ivy is there while her husband Robert is working as security for the Royal family, and has invited Emily and Colin to join them since it has been a while since they got to spend time together. Emily, Colin, and Ivy are exploring the archaeological excavation sites in the valley right below Mount Vesuvius. They are looking at the castings of people trapped in cooled lava and ash when Ivy notices one of the men has odd sideburns. Emily comes over and takes a look herself before agreeing that there is definitely something odd about the casting. Colin decides to scrap away some of the plaster that the archaeologists have been using to help bring them back to realistic form. Colin finds bluish skin instead of more plaster.

Ivy listens as Colin describes the skin of what he is assuming a less than a month old corpse before she has to duck behind a pot to get sick. Once she is done, Colin hands her a handkerchief to clean her mouth off while telling Emily that she needs to go find the head archaeologists while he alerts the police. After dropping Ivy off at the villa they were all staying at during the trip, Emily meets Colin back at the excavation site to wait for the police to arrive. Emily has been working murder cases with Colin for the last ten years, but standing in the room where a woman is being portrayed as getting ready to be beat by a man is hard for her to process. Emily is shaken out of her thought process when Colin starts to pull some more of the plaster away from the murder victim's body. It becomes clear quickly that the man was put inside the plaster with no clothing on since it is not on the body or embedded in the plaster.

Shortly after the process starts, the excavation main funder and boss walks in with another man following behind. The first man introduces himself as Mr. Taylor and the second man as Benjamin. Benjamin is an American that has already met Ivy along with his sister Callie. Benjamin was hired by Mr. Taylor to paint the pictures for the sites while Callie helps run the archaeology side of it. After answering a few questions, Mr. Taylor and Benjamin leave while Colin and Emily wait for the police to arrive. When they finally arrive, the sun is starting to set, but Emily still insists that her and Colin accompany the body to the morgue. It is after midnight when they finally make it back to the villa and are greeted by a very awake Ivy. After answering a few of her questions, the three of them head to bed to try to get some sleep.

The next day, Ivy, Colin, and Emily go back to the excavations sites with a sketch Emily made of the deceased man while they were at the morgue. They are hoping that someone there will be able to give some kind of hint as to who the man is. They are talking to the local tour guide Karl Ritcher, and find out that the deceased man's name is Clarence Walker, and that he worked at the New York Times as a reporter. Walker was there a few years ago for an article he was writing. Karl says that his guide through the excavations was a man named Mario Sorrentino. Just as they are finishign up their questions, Colin, Emily and Ivy are approached by a man named James Stirling who is Mr. Taylor's site director. He looks at the sketch, denies seeing Walker around the sites, and doesn't give much information before walking off. Colin splits from Emily and Ivy to go inform the police of what they have found so far while the ladies walk around the city.

Emily and Ivy finally take a break to stop for lunch. Just as they are about to dive into the picnic that the villa cooks packed for them, Benjamin's sister, Callie, comes up to them asking to see the sketch. She looks at it and tells Emily that she recognized him from their ship ride from New York. Callie says she hasn't seen him since then, and walks away after accepting a dinner invitation from Ivy. After finishing the rest of their interviews, Ivy and Emily head to meet Colin at the amphitheater. Colin tells Emily that the police have considered Walker's case mostly closed. Colin suggests it could be partially due to the Camorra, a criminal organization that controls most of the area, but Colin is unsure of their involvement without solid evidence to prove it. Emily and Colin decide that they will conduct an investigation themselves and keep the police in the loop. Colin, Emily, and Ivy try once more to contact Mario but are unsuccessful.

Later at dinner, Ivy, Benjamin, Callie, Colin, and Emily are all discussing the murder when Emily asks Callie and Benjamin if they recall anything about Walker during their time on the ship. Both of them deny any interaction with Walker, and the conversation is interrupted shortly after by an unexpected guest. Jeffrey Sheffield, the Duke of Bainbridge, is an old friend of Emily and Ivy's comes walking in the door asking Ivy for sanctuary against a mother who wants him to marry her daughter. Ivy gets Jeffrey settled before it can get too tense between him and Benjamin, and say goodbye to their guests before heading to bed. The next morning brings yet another surprise.

While having breakfast on the villa's terrace, Emily, Colin, Ivy, and Jeffrey are interrupted by a woman who looks just like a woman named Countess Kristiana von Lange who was Colin's first fiancee. She introduces herself as Katherine von Lange and that she is Colin's daughter. Emily tries to process everything Katherine, who wants to be called Kat, is saying because Kristiana died ten years ago. Kat tells them that she had no idea who her father was until a week ago when she was given a letter her mother had written before she died. Kat has been away at boarding school in France her whole life and only saw her mother a few times. Colin asks about Count von Lange, but Kat says he doesn't know anything about her either. Kat was kept a secret from everyone except Kristiana. Emily makes it through the rest of breakfast before looking for an excuse to leave the room and have a private moment. It is at this moment that Ivy tells Emily she needs help with a new camera her husband Robert gave her for the trip. Before they can make it to Ivy's room, Colin seeks reassurance that she knows he had no idea about Kat. Emily tells him what she knows he needs to hear.

Once inside Ivy's room, Emily lets the tears fall while they talk about Emily's initial feelings about the whole situation. Emily always felt inadequate around Kristiana and she is reliving now with Kat. Once Emily's tears have stopped, Ivy tries to convince her to help damage the camera so she doesn't have to do it, but Emily is able to change her mind. Emily even suggests giving the camera to Kat for some odd reason. After some more conversation and Kat taking a few pictures of everyone but Emily, she asks just how Kat found them. Kat explains all the telegrams she sent until she found one of their houses and a butler who said they were in Pompeii. Emily listens while deciding to leave everything Kat related up to Colin since Kat is making it clear that she has no intention of interacting with her. Once the story is over and everyone has finished eating, they all head out as a group including Kat to continue their investigation.

They reach the start of the excavation sites with maps in hand, Colin decides that they need to split up in order to search every site properly. Colin and Kat go in one direction while Emily, Ivy, and Jeremy go in another. Before they set off on their side, Jeremy and Ivy do their best to try to reassure Emily that they are there for her and that she just needs to be patient with Kat. Emily doesn't let the conversation go much further because she wants to focus on the case. While looking through one of the last buildings on their map, Emily, Ivy, and Jeremy find a room with paintings of the Greek Muses on the walls. It appears to be the room where the town got together to discuss issues and vote. Emily discovers ostraca (clay discs) that have been painted and had "Hargreaves" scratched into the surface, but the question is are they meant as a warning for Emily or Colin? Emily wraps them all and puts them in her bag. Before moving on, they all discuss how it is the killer's way of letting them know they know Emily and Colin are investigating. Emily says that it is clear that the killer is not an archaeologist and has to be a local or connected to the excavations.

They finish their spots on the map, and check with all the vendors to see if they sold the ostracas. They are able to find three vendors that do sell ostracas to tourists, but they all have Roman names on them. Emily, Ivy, and Jeremy head back to the villa where they find Colin and Kat already back sipping whiskey on the terrace. Kat gives Emily a look that dares her to question anything they are doing. Emily ignores her, and pulls Colin to the side to discuss what they found. Once she explains that they found the ostracas in the room with the Muses, Emily expresses her concern that it could be Callie since her full name is Calliope after one of the Muses. Then she asks how things went with Kat and automatically tries to hide her annoyance when he says she is just like her mother. Colin and Emily make a plan to go back through the excavations again to try to find where the murderer plastered Walker.

The next day, Emily, Colin, and Kat head out and are able to find that two large piles of plaster were removed from the supply shed without forced entry. There is also no record of it being removed, but it does explain where all the plaster came from. The next three days are filled with interview after interview of everyone who is working on the sites trying to find some clue as to where to start next. The fourth day has Emily and Colin digging into Walker's life before his second trip to Pompeii. It turns out that he lead a pretty boring life and had no reason to return. He writes about art and culture around New York. Colin and Emily find the hotel where Walker was supposed to stay, and are told that he dropped off his luggage and left. The manager gives them the bag, and all it holds is one day's worth of clothing and a return ticket to New York dated one week after he arrived. They get ahold of the shipping company and find that left a trunk with them. They have the shipping company look inside, but are told there is nothing out of the ordinary inside.

Colin and Emily continue to question how much truth they have been getting out of Callie, Benjamin, and Stirling about Walker. Meanwhile Kat is making herself at home while avoiding looking at or speaking to Emily as much as possible. Emily suggests that they invite Mr. Taylor over to the villa for tea so that they can try to find out more information about Callie and Benjamin. When Mr. Taylor arrives, they have a pleasant conversation about everything, but don't learn much else about Callie and Benjamin except that he has a temper. The following day Ivy and Emily go out with Benjamin to Pompeii to shop for couches for the villa that will fit in with the Greek theme of the excavations. It doesn't take long for them to see the temper Mr. Taylor was talking about. Benjamin snaps at the store clerk who is just trying to be extra helpful before walking back outside. Emily and Ivy apologize to the clerk and join him outside. Benjamin apologizes to them before going back into the shop to say he's sorry and makes a large purchase. Benjamin rejoins the ladies and they continue their shopping adventure.

After finding everything on Ivy's list, they stop at a cafe for a break where Benjamin takes the chance to sketch his ideas for Ivy's party. Emily takes the moment to go into the bookstore across the street. When they make it back to Pompeii on a crowded train, Benjamin immediately runs off to catch up with Stirling so they can walk to the dig site together. Emily and Ivy walk back to the villa while discussing the odd behavior of Benjamin. When they arrive, Ivy goes to her room to dress for dinner while Emily goes through her books in the main room. Jeremy comes in as she starts to go through them after being out all night. Emily finds a wooden box holding a thin metal sheet that is rolled up with a nail holding it in place. Jeremy stands over her shoulder while she reads the violent message about silencing her tongue. Colin comes into the room and Emily shows him the message. It turns out that it is a cursed tablet that also has a few magic symbols on it. They are all just meant to keep her quiet, but Emily takes it as a hint that she is on the right track.

Colin and Emily are analyzing the ostracas and cursed tablet together. They come to the agreement that someone is trying to scare Emily into stop her investigation, but Emily just takes it as fuel to the fire. Emily also presents her theory that there are two murderers instead of one. Kat comes in then with accusatory eyes for Emily asking who knew about their Naples trip today. When Emily says just them and Benjamin, Kat immediately says that Benjamin couldn't have done had anything to do with it. Kat claims that Benjamin doesn't have enough knowledge to make either item. Thankfully Ivy points out that making the tablet isn't the same as putting it in Emily's bag. Emily mentions that Stirling was on the train platform when they arrived in Pompeii and brings up the chance that he was on the train as well. It was really crowded so it was possible they didn't see him. This brings around the point that Stirling also had opportunity to put both items in place. It doesn't help much, but it does help eliminate Callie, especially after Jeremy points out that she is too short to strangle Walker.

On the way to bed, Emily and Colin are looking over the curse tablet again when Kat comes up and convinces Colin to let her have it for the night. Kat and Colin ignore Emily's protests. They go to their rooms, and once the door is closed, Emily finally admits that Kat brings out the same insecurities she had around Kristiana. Colin does his best to reassure Emily that she is the only one for him and that she is amazing in her own way, but it doesn't last long. The following morning Kat makes a show of returning the tablet to Colin with no acknowledgement of Emily. Emily doesn't pay it any mind since she is reading over the article that Walker wrote about Pompeii. It gives no indication of his desire to return or any reason for him to return.

Emily looks at the time before reminding Ivy that they have to get going. Kat asks if she can tag along, and Emily says sure but it was just to interview Mario Sorrentino. Kat then tries to convince Colin to do the interview instead of going to Naples to talk to the police. This time however Colin does not give in to Kat, and makes it clear that Emily is doing the interview. So, Emily, Ivy, and Kat head out to meet with Mario, but Kat ditches them despite Emily's protests as soon as they reach their destination. Kat heads to the House of the Tragic Poet (a museum of sorts) while Ivy and Emily head to meet with Mario. After making the introductions with Mario, Emily is about to start the interview when Kat comes in with blood on her cheek saying that someone pushed her from behind while in an empty room in the House of the Tragic Poet. The cut is superficial, but Emily notices that Kat is holding her wrist in an odd manner. Ivy looks at the wrist and determines it is not broken, and Kat makes a point to subtly take a jab at Emily over not knowing what to do. Mario offers to help her to the cab waiting outside just before Kat fakes a faint.

After helping Kat into a cab, Mario agrees to meet with Emily the next day to continue their interview. Once they arrive at the villa, Kat insists on no doctor being called before locking herself in her room. They all wait until Colin gets home, and when he finally does Kat puts on another show. She stands behind Emily at the front door and makes it seem like Emily is the reason she got hurt before letting him call for a doctor and kick out Ivy and Emily when Ivy tries to say that Emily is not at fault. Two hours later, Colin comes out to the terrace where Ivy and Emily are sitting and starts to place even more blame on her. Emily informs him that she tried to stop Kat but she wouldn't listen before telling him what she can to calm him down. Colin leaves her side again and returns to Kat's room. Emily doesn't see him again until the next morning.

At breakfast Kat continues her show of being wounded until Ivy and Emily are about to leave to meet with Mario again. Kat immediately perks up that she needs to go too, but Colin tells her that she will stay in the villa. When Kat says that she will die from boredom, Colin says that he will stay with her. So Emily and Ivy leave father and daughter inside while they go out to continue the investigation. On the way to meet Mario, Emily and Ivy discuss Kat's behavior, but the conversation doesn't last long. Emily simply says she needs to just be patient and let Colin deal with Kat. They arrive at the cafe Mario chose and start asking him questions. Mario tells them about how he became a guide before revealing that Walker was just like any other tourists and that he saw no desire for him to return once the first trip was over.

After getting all their questions answered, Emily and Ivy start to try to figure out what exactly happened to Kat including talking to the man stationed at the entrance to the House of the Tragic Poet. The man says that the place is never empty and that he hasn't heard anything about an attack. He also says that he doesn't remember seeing a young woman with a camera. Now Emily and Ivy really question just how much truth they are getting, but Emily decides not to tell Colin since they don't know anything but what Kat told them. Back at the villa, Emily walks in her room to find Colin getting in a bath to wash away the dust he is covered in. It turns out that Kat convinced him to take her to Mr. Taylor's excavation site. Colin tries to bring up the incident with Kat again, but Emily doesn't feed into the conversation. Instead she steers it towards the fact that she managed to set up an interview with Walker's friend that lives in Rome. Colin takes the hint and tells her about Benjamin gossiping about Callie the whole time they were there. Colin also says that he found it odd that Stirling kept avoiding Kat's camera when she took pictures of the crew working. The last thing he says to her is that they are hosting a picnic dinner at the dig for the crew.

They all get dressed for dinner and head to Mr. Taylor's excavation site. It is already set up by the staff working at the villa. At the dinner, Benjamin gives another glimpse of his temper when Callie tries to argue about their parents being proud of him. Mr. Taylor tries to change the subject, but it doesn't work when Callie tries to poke at Benjamin over his temper. Stirling stands up and tries to help calm Benjamin down, but it just results in Benjamin walking off in one direction with Mr. Taylor following while Stirling goes off in another.

Everyone else tries to sit down and enjoy the food until they hear a crash and a screen. Colin and Emily take off running with their friends closely behind until they find a spot where a bunch of stacked debris has been knocked over. The other workers beat them to the spot because they were closer and start immediately pulling the debris off. It doesn't take long before they find a man crushed underneath all the rocks. One of the workers takes a look at him and says that his name is Jackson. The workers continue to dig to see if there is anybody else travel Emily does a head count. When she is done she finds the only Mr Taylor, Sterling, and Benjamin are missing from the group. Colin has Ivy take cat back to the villa, Jeremy to look for the three missing men, and someone to summon the police. Colin and Emily start asking questions and find that no one is able to identify the voices that Alan Powell, an American archaeologist, said he heard in the direction they found Jackson in. Jeremy returns an hour later with only Mr Taylor in tow. Mr Taylor asked a few questions himself as well as answers Colin's questions. Colin and Emily wait for the police to arrive while everyone else goes home.

The next morning Colin wakes Emily with tea, wildflowers, and the request that she take cat with her to the meeting in Rome. He admits that is a lot to ask of her especially after the other day, but Emily agrees to take her. Emily and Kat have a rather silent trip with no surprises until cat decides to change her appearance to make her look like an Italian girl. When they arrive in Rome they get a cab, and head to the cafe near the Trevy Fountain where Walker's friend is supposed to meet them. During the cab ride, Kat admits that she was inspired by her mom for the disguise who would visit her over the years at the school. Then she engages Emily into a short conversation about languages that ends right before they arrive.

They arrive at the cafe to find Walker's friend, Mr. Richards, waiting for them. Emily lets Kat banter with him a little in her Italian character before stepping into officially start the interview. Turns out Walker started out with Richards at New York Times while being a gold miner in Montana until his brother was beaten to death over gold. Mr. Richard's also reveals that he has no idea why Walker would return to Pompeii since he hated traveling abroad. It turns out Walker was only there to help another colleague out and wasn't originally assigned the article. After all the questions are over Richard's leaves while Kat and Emily sit at the cafe for another hour. Emily watches as Kat drinks coffee and scribbles furiously in a notebook. Emily writes up a few telegrams that need to be sent off before they get back on the train.

Back on the train, Kat changes back into her regular self while Emily reads the book she brought with her. When Kat finally emerges, she apologizes to Emily by giving her the notebook that has the whole interview with Mr. Richards in it as well as admitting  her behavior has been horrible. They spend the rest of the train ride back to Naples talking about Colin, Christiana, and how everyone is where they are today because of decisions they two of them made before Kat and Emily were a factor. When they arrive at Naples, they fall silent for a few moments before getting off the train to meet Colin. They jump on the train to go to Pompeii after stopping at the telegraph office to pick up the replies Emily was waiting on.

On the way back to Pompeii, Emily catches Colin up on the interview before showing him the telegraph she picked up about Walker's brother's death. Emily then provides the theory that Walker followed Callie and Benjamin here to Pompeii because his brother's murderer, Felix Morgan, could possibly be their father since no one knows where Morgan went. Kat, who was quiet the whole time, tries to throw this theory but Colin degrees that it is completely possible. Emily then points out the Benjamin could have been Kat's attacker, but she tries to ignore that one as well. In response Colin says Kat needs to stay away from Benjamin for a little while which leads to Kat's anger being directed at Colin for a change.

Once back at the villa, Kat storms off to her room before Colin and Emily head to their own. Colin informs Emily that the coroner was unable to determine if Jackson's death was a murder or a complete accident. He was also able to get an alibi for Stirling, Benjamin, and Mr. Taylor for the time frame. Stirling has said to have gone back to his room at the rooming house he was staying in, but there is no way to confirm it. Benjamin said he made his way to a bar where the owner did confirm he was there, but not of what time he was there. Mr. Taylor's servant said he did come home but he could have left without anybody knowing since his dressing room connects to the garden out back. Colin was able to find out a few things about Jackson but all of them were good except the fact that Stirling borrowed enough money from Jackson to cover three months room rent. Colin also points out that Jackson was killed by a possible push and Kat was pushed before saying that he thinks they're connected.

The next morning Emily heads to Mr. Taylor's dig while while Colin and Kat stay at the villa for the day. Benjamin greets her and apologizes again for his temper before answering Emily's question about where he was 2 days ago. Benjamin says he was at the House of Vetty before noon but Emily knows that is wrong because that's where she met Mario. When she says this, he then says he was at the Forum Baths which is directly behind the House of the Tragic Poet. Before Benjamin walks away, Emily asks him about Felix Morgan that he denies knowing anything about him. Next Emily talks to Stirling who reveals no obvious ill will towards Jackson and that he does not know Felix Morgan. He does suggest that Mr. Taylor could know and calls him over.

Well Mr. Taylor joins them Emily asked about Felix Morgan. Mr. Taylor says that he thinks Morgan was there before Walker showed up for his first visit to test out archaeology under the Italians. Then Mr. Taylor asked if Walker was a man with red hair and from St Louis like Stirling, but Stirling still denies knowing anything about him. The look in Stirling's eyes and on his face when he denies this has Emily set up for Stirling to guide her and Ivy through the ruins on Sunday so she can question him away from everybody else. Afterwards Emily goes to the Italian excavation site to see if they did hire Morgan all those years ago, but they have no record of him. The Italian suggested Germans, but the Germans say the same thing.

It's Sunday which means Emily and Ivy are headed to meet Stirling for their tour. They make it through the admissions gates where when they see a crowd gathered around a chalk drawing of what could be Emily and Colin surrounded by eight dead ravens in a circle on the ground. Before she can take closer look, Emily is yanked away by Stirling. Instead of letting Stirling lead them both away, Emily has Ivy sketch the chalk drawing and the ravens so they have a record of it. Then Emily takes a closer look at the drawing and what could possibly be the meaning behind it. Once she is done looking at it and she points out to the guards that they should clean it up before their other guests are scared, she let Stirling start the tour.

The tour is wonderful except for the sensation of constantly being watched. Stirling looks over his shoulder a few times like he has the same sensation and Emily has it as well but says nothing. Emily and Ivy return back to the villa, and show Colin the sketch. Emily and Colin decide to focus again on Walker especially now that they know about Montana starting by requesting Mario. later on they meet Mario at his brother's restaurant but they don't learn any new details about why Walker returned. Colin and Emily decide to talk to Benjamin again the following day. The next morning however Emily goes to the House of Marcus by herself in hopes that she'll catch Benjamin before he leaves.

She arrived just as Benjamin is starting to pick up his easel and paints and follows him through tunnels that aren't used by the public. Along the way she questions him about his father but doesn't get any information except that he lived in New York, worked hard, never traveled, and couldn't afford to send him away to college.

When they reach the Vesuvius gate Benjamin points out something red up on a hill. Emily leads the climb up to the hill where she finds a piece of bright red fabric stuck to a thorny bush. They also find what appears to be the remains of a campsite close by. Emily looks through the campsite and finds a beat up cufflink monogrammed with FM underneath the rock that was moved to make a makeshift seat next to the fire. She doesn't show Benjamin before putting it in her pocket. She walks away from the rock acting like she found nothing and watches as Benjamin walks over to the rock expecting to find something there. They make their way back down the hill in a different direction and she spots a pencil laying on the ground. She picks it up without Benjamin seeing and continues walking towards Taylor's site. Once they arrive Benjamin runs off so fast without saying goodbye. Emily decides to go and talk to Kelly about Felix Morgan, Jackson, and about her parents. Kelly denies knowing anything about Felix Morgan or knowing much about Jackson. She does however say that her parents could afford to send her to college.

Which sibling is telling the truth Benjamin or Callie ? Are the deaths of Walker and Jackson connected? Are there really two killers? Will Emily and Colin be able to figure it all out before they have to leave? Can Emily, Colin, and Kat become a somewhat normal family after all this?

Probably not the most exciting spot to stop, but I don't want to give away too much more and spoil the ending. Again this book was told from two different POVs but I chose to focus on Emily. I have never read Tasha Alexander before but I was not able to tell that this was the 14th book in the series. It definitely does a good job of standing by itself. I will admit that I did struggle to get through a good chunk of it before I got engrossed, but once I did I had a hard time putting it down. I have to give a huge thank you to the team over at Minotaur books for sending it to me. I'm not a big historical fiction reader but the detective aspect made it easier for me. If you simply must have this book for your own collection, head on over to my page:

Echoes Between Us

Alright y'all, this ARC came to me thanks to TorTeen and and I am so glad that it did! So this is a YA that is abo...