Friday, December 6, 2019

Book Review: Never Enough, Featuring Author Kelly Elliott


Never Enough by Kelly Elliott



Publisher & Release: Montlake Romance, December 10, 2019

Time and setting:  Present Day, Montana

Genre: Contemporary Romance/Western Romance

Length: 315 Pages

Heat Level: Sensual

Rating:  4 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Cowboys and Angels series comes an intricate romance that asks the question, Can love heal the pain of the past?
Longing to forget the pain of his wife’s death, Brock Shaw has immersed himself in the one thing that lets him escape the guilt. Bull riding. But life on the road means leaving his young son at home with his parents. They want him to give up his career and be a father to his child, but Brock needs the adrenaline to get through each day…or so he thinks.
Lincoln Pratt needs a fresh start. As a top interior designer in Atlanta, she has everything she could ever want, but she’s always at her father’s mercy. Something’s missing, and Lincoln knows she’ll only find it somewhere far away—like the rolling pastures of Hamilton, Montana, where she meets the irresistibly mysterious Brock.
In Brock Shaw, Lincoln sees the part of her that’s missing. In Lincoln Pratt, Brock sees the part of himself he thought he’d lost. But the pain of his past binds him. Can he let himself love again?

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Vikki’s Musings

Thanks goes to the publisher, via Net-Galley, for giving me a chance to read and review Never Enough by Kelly Elliott in advance of publication. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

This is my first experience reading a novel by Kelly Elliott. It’s a fast-paced book with an intriguing hero and interesting secondary characters. The plot is excellent, and Ms. Elliott’s writing flows smoothly with light-hearted banter between the hero and heroine. The novel had plenty of emotions, especially for the hero’s back story which is beautifully weaved through the story with no information dumps. There is also a bit of excitement in the rodeo scenes.

Lincoln Pratt’s character has some depth. Although she doesn’t have any major baggage to create deep emotions, she is a likable heroine, an independent woman, determined to leave the comforts of home for a new entirely different life in an unfamiliar place. I would have enjoyed more concerning her decision to move from Atlanta to Hamilton, Montana.

Brock Shaw is my favorite kind of hero. He does have a great deal of baggage he’s carrying. He blames himself for his late wife’s death because he made the decision to go ahead with his bull ride, knowing his wife had gone into labor and that there were complications. He arrives immediately following his son’s birth, just in time for his wife to smile and present his son. She immediately dies from a blood clot right after. In no way, did he cause her death, but grief is irrational many times. 

Because of his guilt, he craves the adrenalin rush he feels when riding an ornery bull. This keeps him away a lot, and he leaves most of the child rearing to his mother. When he meets Lincoln, he’s immediately overwhelmed by the attraction he feels. This too, adds to the guilt over his late wife’s death. As you can see, he indeed does have a lot of baggage he must unload before he can open his heart to love again!

The romance between the hero and heroine is wrought with emotion and an amazing amount of attraction. There’s a great deal of sexual tension between them, which I enjoyed a lot, so it was a fulfilling love story for me. I could see them with a great chance to have a life-long relationship. 

If you enjoy a romance with a fulfilling love story, and an enthralling hero, then you will like Never Enough. I loved most of this book, just would have preferred more depth to the heroine’s character, hence, the 4 Gold Crowns. I do enjoy Ms. Elliott’s writing and will look for other books by her. I’m amazed I’ve never read any of her romances before because she has a long back list. Happy reading!


Q & A:

1) In just a few short years you have published dozens of books and climbed bestsellers lists. Tell us a bit about your crazy fast rise in the romance world? 

Honestly, it has been a dream come true! I sometimes feel like I have to pinch myself. I’m very humbled by the success I’ve been able to achieve and do not take a second of it for granted. I think one of my favorite things has been getting to meet so many amazing readers along this journey. 

2) You just started a new series with Never Enough. What can readers expect from these stories? 
They can expect stores filled with love, hope, second chances, some tears, and also some laughter. Family and friends play a major role in each book and that is always important to me. My goal with each book is to give the reader a chance to escape reality for a bit while making them fall so in love with the characters they want to revisit them often! 

3) This series takes place in Montana with some seriously sexy heroes—bull riders, ropers, ranchers. What makes these Alpha men that work with their hands so irresistible? 
Who doesn’t love a cowboy right!? I think it is their charm and ability to make us swoon that makes them so irresistible. Of course it helps I’m married to my own cowboy so he often inspires the heroes in my books! 
4) To add a little something special to the mix, your first heroine, Lincoln, comes from Georgia and practically oozes southern charm (certainly enchanting your hero as she goes). What made you decide that this H/h would work so well?
In the very beginning I knew Lincoln had to be from somewhere other than Montana. Me being a southern girl myself, it felt right for her move from a southern state and I love Georgia. In the beginning of the book we find a very different Brock and I knew I had to have a strong heroine who knew who she was and what she wanted. She had no problem confronting Brock and I loved that about her. From the very beginning I knew these two were meant to be. 
5) If Brock Shaw had a song dedicated to him, it would be Katy Perry’s Hot N Cold considering the fact that his emotions about Lincoln change with the breeze. This is mainly due to his past—tell us about his journey.
Oh Brock. He gave me a bit of whiplash in the beginning of this book. LOL! He is filled with so many different emotions, guilt, anger, regret, and when Lincoln comes into his life like she does you can almost feel his struggle. He wants to move on from the past, but he honestly doesn’t think he deserves to. He used his career to bury all these emotions for years and when he is confronted with them he is really confronted. I think Lincoln was the happiness he had always longed for and it didn’t take him long to realize that. But that realization came fear, which he had to overcome. 

6) Lincoln isn’t quite running away from home, but she certainly is running towards a new life. How does Brock, and his son Blayze, fit into her plans?
I don’t think Lincoln was looking for those two cowboys when she first started towards her new journey, but when they came into her world they both were piece of the puzzle she hadn’t even realized was missing. The three of them fit together so beautifully.  
7) At the center of this story is loss, but also redemption. Is this a theme that we will see going throughout your Meet Me in Montana books? 
I think you will see the emotions kicked up a bit with each book in the series. Book two really focuses on healing and finding that one person who is your true love. Your soulmate. 


Excerpt:

Betty Jane handed me a set of keys. “Here, these are his. Make sure he gets out of here and safely home.” 


My hand instinctively took the keys, and I sat there for a few moments, stunned. When I finally realized Betty Jane was putting me in charge of getting Brock home, I jumped up and followed her over to the bar.

“Wait! Ty said you would make sure Brock got to his truck and slept it off. He didn’t say anything about making sure he got home.” 

Betty Jane loaded up empty beer bottles onto her tray. It was then I looked around the bar and noticed it was almost empty. 

“What time is it?” I asked, reaching for my phone. “It’s almost one!” 

She laughed. “Yep, it’s been real fun watching you give dirty looks to Lee for the last hour. I figured I’d help a girl out and get rid of her for you.” 

When I looked back at the table, Brock had his head on it. 

Good grief. Is he sleeping? 

“What do you mean, get rid of her?” I asked, still trailing behind the waitress, who honestly looked to be just a few years older than me. 

She stopped and faced me. “I’ve been doing this job since I was eighteen. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell that you’ve got a thing for our Brock. I can’t blame ya, really. He’s a looker. Those blue eyes and dimples. Not to mention the way the man can fill out a pair of Wranglers. Throw in he’s a professional bull rider and worth some money, and you’ve got yourself one sought-after cowboy. He doesn’t normally come in here and get drunk like this, so I’m going to guess he’s had a bad day and he’s trying to drink away his problems. 

“Now, the way I see it is, he seems to be smitten with you, and you’re smitten with him. So, it only makes sense that you get him home safely. What happens after that is your business, but just know that the rest of the town will most likely find out within seventy-two hours—unless you’re discreet about it.” 

I stood frozen in place. What in the world is this lady talking about? 

“Okay, I didn’t really understand half of that, but you’re very wrong on one thing. Brock Shaw is not . . . smitten . . . with me. It’s really the opposite. I don’t think he can stand me.” 

Betty Jane winked. “Ralph will help you get him out to his truck.” 

“But . . . I . . . my . . . I’m not . . . wait!” 

Placing her hand on her hip, she rolled her eyes. “Listen, I’ve got to finish cleaning up and then kick everyone out of here. Just spit it out, would ya?” 

“My car! I have my car here. I can’t leave it.” 

“Oh, you don’t have to worry about it being left here. It’s perfectly fine.” 

She turned and walked away. When I called out for her again, she ignored me. 

I turned around and walked back over to the table to find a sleeping Brock. Burying my face in my hands, I mumbled, “Oh my God! Why me?” Poking his shoulder, I said, “Brock! Brock, wake up!” 

His head popped up, and I let out a little yelp. 

He turned to look at me, and instead of frowning, he smiled for once. “Hey, pretty little thing.” 

He’s so drunk he doesn’t even know who I am. 

“Um, hey. Listen, I need to get you home, so could you maybe stand and walk out to your truck?” 

Brock smiled bigger, and his dimples seemed to scream out at me. 

Oh. Holy. Hell. 

This guy was beyond good looking. I mean, I didn’t think I’d ever seen a guy smile and look so damn sexy, despite his highly intoxicated state. Even with his cowboy hat all crooked, he looked handsome as hell. 

“I can stand,” he grumbled out as he slowly stood. 

I slipped my arm around his waist. After doing a quick scan of the table, I reached behind me and felt for my phone. I had my license and credit card tucked into my phone case, and I had my keys in my pocket. 

“Okay, let’s get you to your truck.” 

His head dropped forward, and I was pretty sure he was falling back asleep. 

“Brock!” I shouted, making his head jerk up. “Walk to the door.” 

“What do you adore?” he asked, taking a few stumbling steps next to me as I guided him. 

I chuckled. “No, I said, walk to the door!” 

“I am walking to the door, woman!” 

With a roll of my eyes, I focused on keeping this man upright. It wasn’t an easy task. His stocky frame was heavy. With the way my arm was around him, I couldn’t help but notice his muscles flexing as we walked . . . no, stumbled along. I let my silly mind wander to what he would look like without a shirt on. 

Stop it right now, Lincoln Pratt

Betty Jane opened the door for us and winked at me yet again as I walked by. “Have a good night, and don’t worry about your car!” 

I mumbled under my breath about being set up and then stepped out into the cool night. A shiver ran up my spine as I searched the parking lot. I’d only seen Brock’s truck once, and the only thing I remembered was that it was silver. 

“Where’s your truck?” I asked, glancing at three trucks still parked in the lot. 

Brock lifted his head and looked around. “My truck is the best damn truck in the parking lot.” 

“That doesn’t help, Shaw. What’s your license plate number?” 

Brock turned, his big, drunk blue eyes gazing down at me. “You want my number, Lincoln? I thought you didn’t like me.” 

My mouth dropped open. “Um, excuse me, but you’re the one who’s been shooting daggers at me all night long. Not to mention how rude you were to me earlier today.” 

“You didn’t catch me at my best, sweetheart.” 

My stomach dipped at the endearment. No one had ever called me anything like that. Not baby, babe, sweetie, or sweetheart. I was always just Lincoln. Every guy I’d ever dated called me by my first name. Even in bed, I was always Lincoln. 

It pissed me off how much I liked hearing that come from Brock’s mouth. I liked it a lot . . . more than a lot. 

Damn it. What is it about this guy? 

“I didn’t ask you for your phone number, you drunk fool. Your license plate number on your truck.” 

He frowned. “I don’t know.” 

“You don’t know the license plate on your own truck?” 

“Nope!” he said, popping the p in the most adorable way. 

I found myself smiling up at him. 

“It’s the silver one on the far right!” Betty Jane called out. 

I looked behind me, almost losing my grip on Brock. “And I don’t suppose you’d help me get him there . . . or Ralph, maybe?” 

She laughed. She actually laughed before turning and walking back into the bar. 

“Thanks for nothing,” I grumbled as I guided Brock over to the truck. 

***
Author Bio:


Kelly Elliott is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling contemporary romance author. Since finishing her bestselling Wanted series, Kelly has continued to spread her wings while remaining true to her roots with stories of hot men, strong women, and beautiful surroundings. Her bestselling works include Wanted, Broken, Without You, and Lost Love. Elliott has been passionate about writing since she was fifteen. After years of filling journals with stories, she finally followed her dream and published her first novel, Wanted, in November 2012.

Elliott lives in Central Texas with her husband, daughter, and two pups. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading and spending time with her family. She is down to earth and very in touch with her readers, both on social media and at signings. To learn more about Kelly and her books, you can find her through her website, www.kellyelliottauthor.com.

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Monday, December 2, 2019

Book Review: Featuring Loreth Anne White's latest release


In the Dark by Loreth Anne White



Publisher & Release: Montlake Romance, December 1, 2019

Time and setting:  Present Day, Northwest Canada

Genre: Mystery Thriller

Length: 407 Pages

Heat Level: none

Rating:  5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 
A secluded mountain lodge. The perfect getaway. So remote no one will ever find you.
The promise of a luxury vacation at a secluded wilderness spa has brought together eight lucky guests. But nothing is what they were led to believe. As a fierce storm barrels down and all contact with the outside is cut off, the guests fear that it’s not a getaway. It’s a trap.
Each one has a secret. Each one has something to hide. And now, as darkness closes in, they all have something to fear—including one another.
Alerted to the vanished party of strangers, homicide cop Mason Deniaud and search and rescue expert Callie Sutton must brave the brutal elements of the mountains to find them. But even Mason and Callie have no idea how precious time is. Because the clock is ticking, and one by one, the guests of Forest Shadow Lodge are being hunted. For them, surviving becomes part of a diabolical game.

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Vikki’s Musings

Thanks goes to the publisher, via Net-Galley, for the opportunity to read and review In the Dark by Loreth Anne White in advance of publication. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

I stumbled across Ms. White’s books a while ago, and while they aren’t romances, but thrillers, I was amazed with her fantastic books and quickly devoured her back list. Whenever I find a new book by her, I know I’m in for a thrilling read. In the Dark is definitely that. 

In the Dark is dark and exciting. It’s a “Whodunit” at it’s best. It takes an unlikely group on a journey where the player in this tale will discover the worse aspect of their character, a piece that lives inside each of them. 

The mystery aspect is excellent. Although I suspected who set up the fake tour that takes the characters on their journey. I didn’t suspect the character who ends up the true villain. I love being surprised, and it speaks to Ms. White’s abilities as an author who spins a tale that will keep the reader on the edge from the first page to the last.

There is first-hand knowledge of all the players in this exciting story. It’s a lot to take in and keep track of, but well worth the effort. Each have their own reasons to suspect the others, so although they should work together, they can’t. Each have a hand in what started the vengeful charade. Throughout the tale, it moves from one player to the other, which will have you wondering who set them up.

There’s also insight into the search and rescue team as well. What motivates them and drives them to find the group before it’s too late is enthralling. I quite enjoyed that aspect of this book a great deal. There’s plenty of emotions running around with all the characters, whether they are part of the group missing or on the SAR team.

Ms. White’s mastery of the written word comes through from the description of the environment to the enter-workings of the characters, to the intricate plot. I will continue reading her books because I know she’ll have me gripping my Kindle, flipping through the page at lightning speed!

If you enjoy thrillers with plenty of mystery, a dash of psychological thriller in it, and an intriguing plot, then you will be in for an exciting reading experience. I recommend you read In the Dark when you can have an uninterrupted period of time. You will not want to put this one aside to take care of mundane tasks. Happy reading!


Q & A: by Author

1. You are very well known for your romantic suspense tales, but your new title, IN THE DARK, is all about mystery -- a real whodunit! Tell us a bit about the story. 

I like to think there is still a strong echo of my earlier romantic suspense books that ripples through IN THE DARK. Yes, it’s a locked-room mystery/thriller --  wilderness style, but the mystery narrative is wrapped inside a romantic suspense-style narrative that follows a budding friendship between Detective Mason Deniaud and Search & Rescue manager Callie Sutton who must not only piece together what happened as they hunt for survivors, but also must race against time to save who might be left. The story leaves off with a promise of more ahead in the relationship between Callie and Mason, so my roots are still showing, I hope.

2. Your story definitely has shades of Agatha Christie as well as a nod or two to Stephen King. Did these authors act as inspirations for this book?

IN THE DARK is not only a homage to Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, but Christie’s story becomes a plot device, a psychological tool that the villain uses to instill fear in the victims trapped in the lodge because the victims know what transpired in the book, and they anticipate the same will happen to them. 

And yes, a teensy nod to master of atmosphere and horror, Stephen King’s THE SHINING where characters are trapped in a remote and snowbound hotel and become mercy to the psychological horror that descends on them.

3. A rural, isolated lodge is always a great place to start a suspenseful novel. How exactly did your characters all come to be at Forest Shadow Lodge?

The characters are invited for an all-expenses stay at the brand new, high-end, fly-in wilderness lodge and spa. They are lured by an offer to enjoy a ‘soft opening’, so to speak, where they can assess the accommodation and potentially negotiate lucrative contracts with the new lodge owners. Each guest runs a business that would be suitable for such an establishment. Each is excited by a possible lucrative contract. But not all is quite what meets the eye, of course.

4. Your story is told from multiple points-of-view as you take deep dives into the characters’ lives and histories. Does everyone have something to hide?

Don’t we all have something to hide? My characters in this book certainly do. Some of their secrets are more powerful than others.

5. Mason and Callie are two of the law enforcement responders that are trying to piece together exactly what happened at The Lodge. Tell us more about these characters and what makes them so good at what they do. 

Mason Deniaud was a top homicide detective before relocating to the remote north for personal reasons. He lost a young son and a wife and he’s searching for a way to live, or exist, if not heal. Callie Sutton is a young mother who is single, but also isn’t because her husband lies in hospital and is brain dead. Her husband is there, but he also isn’t there for Callie and her young son. Like Mason, she’s in limbo, a place where she can’t move forward, or back. It’s through this they find a bond. And the search for the missing lodge party pushes them together.

6. IN THE DARK is a pivotal novel in your career. What does it have in common with your previous writing and how is it different? How does this inform your next steps as a writer?

Pivotal sounds cool. I’ll take it! Thank you. But yes IN THE DARK is a bit of a departure from my previous romantic suspense books. If readers enjoy it, however, and if my publisher remains happy, I’d like to keep growing in this direction. But I do think my crime stories will always revolve around strong women, or women who might be victims to start with, but who find agency and take back their lives and become strong and survive through the arc of a story. (As with my forthcoming work IN THE DEEP). I do love to include a relationship element in my crime novels, but bonding with a potential love interest comes out of the personal growth of the protagonist. I like to tell—and read—stories of women who find ways to rescue themselves. 


Excerpt:

“The gas stove and the gas water heaters work,” Nathan said. “And there’s plumbing.” He turned his back on them and busied himself taking mugs out of the cupboard in an exaggerated fashion. His heart hammered in his chest. Sweat prickled across his lip. 

“And there’s tea, coffee, tins of tuna, and soup,” Steven said as he hurriedly opened more cupboards. 

Bart frowned. “Well, at least we won’t go hungry.” He made for the living area, paused. “I found a path. It looks like it leads around to the other bay, but it was getting too dark to follow without a flashlight.” 

“Do you think it might lead to the real lodge?” Steven asked. 

Nathan blinked. It was like the doctor was reaching for straws by asking—as if hoping, still, that their pilot had just made some terrible screwup with the GPS coordinates. 

Bart said, “We can check again in the morning to see if—” 

“There isno real lodge.” Jackie appeared in the doorway that led from the great room into the kitchen. 

They all turned to look at the solid woman with intense eyes. 

“This is no mistake,” she said curtly. “This is a con, some sick game.” 

“What do you mean?” Bart asked. 

“Did you guys not see the plaque outside, next to the front door? This placeiscalled Forest Shadow Lodge. As in Forest Shadow Wilderness Resort & Spa. Here, look at this.” She pulled a brochure from her pocket and smoothed it out on the kitchen island. 

“I printed it off the website before I left home.” She jabbed a photo of the luxury lodge. “It’s fake. It’s photoshopped, because it’s using the same location. See this bay here? And the shape of this one here? This mountain? This is how the terrain looked from the air. It’s thisspot, but someone has photoshopped the spa into the location. They’ve erased parts of the forest, added cabins and trails, plus interior shots from some other spa and lodges.” She met their gazes. “This whole thing was faked from the get-go. We were lured here. All of us. And now we’re trapped.” 

A sinister cold seemed to enter the kitchen. A shutter banged upstairs, and wind whistled. Mist, cloying and wet, pressed up against the windows. It grew darker inside. 

“Why?” Bart asked, still holding his wood. 

“God knows.” Jackie dragged her hand over her hair. “But right now, we’re stuck. We’ve been baited and lured into some weird kind of wilderness prison.” 

“We are not trapped.” Stella entered the kitchen. “We have a plane. And you guys have a pilot—me. We have fuel. We—” 

“We have no bloody radio!” Jackie snapped, whirling round to face Stella, her eyes furious.

What?” said Steven. 

“That’s right,” Jackie said. “Go on, tell them, Stella.” 

Stella’s gray eyes flashed, shooting daggers at Jackie. 

“Go on. Tell them. The radio is broken. Sabotaged, wires cut.” 

“But I heard you speaking to your dispatch on the radio,” Nathan said. 

“But it wasn’t working, was it, Stella?” Jackie said. “Your dispatch couldn’t hear you, could they? No one even knows where we are, do they?” 

Stella’s features went tight. 

“So when were you going to tell us this, Stella?” Steven asked. 

“I didn’t want to say right away. Fear, worry, is not a good thing when—” 

“When what? Jesus. Who are youto decide what’s right and wrong for us to know?” Steven barked. “You’re just the pilot, not the boss of our lives, for Chrissakes.” 

“There’s a chance I could fix it in the morning. If I can—if it’s an easy fix—you’d never have to have known about it.” 

“So you thought you’d play God?” Steven snapped. “Because we would all panic.” He wagged jazz hands at the sides of his face. 

“And you’re not panicking?” she said. 

Silence swelled in the kitchen. It felt for a bizarre moment as though the house was listening. Alive. Hostile. Nathan felt hairs rise along his arms. He was sensitive to these things. He could feel trees in the forest watching and listening to him. 

***

Author Bio:


Loreth Anne White is a bestselling author of thrillers, mysteries, and romantic suspense. A three-time RITA finalist, she is also the recipient of the Overall 2017 Daphne du Maurier Award, the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, the National Readers’ Choice Award, and the Romantic Crown for Best Romantic Suspense and Best Book Overall. In addition, she’s a Booksellers’ Best finalist and a multiple CataRomance Reviewers’ Choice Award winner. A former journalist who has worked in both South Africa and Canada, she now resides in the Pacific Northwest with her family. When Loreth isn’t writing, you will find her skiing, biking, or hiking the trails with her dog (a.k.a. the Black Beast) or open-water swimming. She calls this work, because that's when the best ideas come.

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