Friday, June 28, 2019

Book Review: The Secret Baby by Leddy Harper

The Secret Baby by Leddy Harper

Publisher & Release: Montlake Romance, July 09, 2019

Time and setting:  Present Day, USA

Genre: Contemporary Romance, Romantic Comedy

Length: 283 Pages

Heat Level: 1 Flame

Rating: 4.5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

A one-night stand becomes much, much more in this sexy, lighthearted romance.
Maid of honor Kelsey Peterson is disappointed when the bride-to-be bails on her bachelorette party—especially since Kelsey’s already ordered the stripper. Desperate for a break from her romantic woes, Kelsey goes through with the party. After all, why let a good stripper go to waste?
Dr. Aaron Baucus is definitely not a stripper. He’s a legit doctor with a PhD in neuropsychology. But when his friend calls him over to a bar to meet a bunch of tipsy, flirtatious bridesmaids, they assume otherwise. After all, their stripper was supposed to be dressed like a doctor. Aaron isn’t much for pretending, but with Kelsey, he’s willing to be whatever she wants him to be. At least for one night.
But fate has a wicked sense of humor: Aaron and Kelsey are the maid of honor and best man at the same wedding. And after their one-night stand, Kelsey’s pregnant, but she doesn’t know how to tell him. Aaron wants to start a relationship, but he doesn’t think Kelsey wants something long term. Can their fragile romance survive all the half-truths and secrecy?

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Vikki’s Musings

This is the first book I’ve read by Leddy Harper, but it will not be the last! I’m so glad I accepted the chance to read and review The Secret Baby when I received an invitation from the publisher, via Net-Galley. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

The Secret Baby grabbed my attention right away. The characters pulled me in, and the plot kept me engaged until the end. I always love happy endings, and this book has a fantastic one. I enjoyed Leddy Harper’s writing style. Her dialogue flows easily and is very realistic. 

Kelsey Peterson’s character is funny with a delightfully quirky twist. Part of her is brazen, yet underneath, she has a vulnerable side. Her insecurities drew me in, and as the book progressed my admiration for her character grew.

Aaron Baucus is definitely a beta hero, and one that I enjoyed a great deal. Not every man can be an alpha. I loved his genuine, caring attitude, his child-like enthusiasm at the thought of being a parent. His easy acceptance of Kelsey, and his desire for her touched me. I felt his pain when he learns her secret.

The romance between Kelsey and Aaron is light-hearted and carefree. While the chemistry is undeniable, their bond as friends is as appealing. I truly wanted them to work through their issues and find their forever after.

If you enjoy romantic comedies with engaging characters, yet with real emotion under the laughter, then you will love The Secret Baby. I’ll admit, I laughed out loud on more than one occasion and shed a few tears during the emotionally-charged moments. I look forward to reading other books by the talented Ms. Harper. Happy reading! 

Monday, June 24, 2019

Book Review: A Rainbow Above Us by Sharon Sala

A Rainbow Above Us by Sharon Sala

Publisher & Release: Sourcebooks, June 25, 2019

Time and setting:  Present Day, Blessings, GA

Genre: Contemporary Rural Fiction, Romantic Elements

Book Length: 352 pages

Heat Level: 1 Flame

Rating: 4 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

What will it take to bring people together?
Hurricane Fanny left no one in Blessings, Georgia unscathed—including Rowan Harper, the only surviving member of her family. Rebuilding her life now seems almost impossible.
Bowie James comes back to help repair his grandmother's house, but he doesn't intend to stay long. He and his mother were forced out of Blessings a decade ago, and he's neither forgiven nor forgotten those responsible. 
But Rowan is kindhearted, beautiful, and lost, and Bowie discovers that he can entrust her with his deepest secrets. If only their love could bring hope and healing to everyone around them, maybe they'd be willing to give it a chance...
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This is the eighth book in the Blessings, Georgia series by Sharon Sala. When I received an invitation from the publisher, via Net-Galley, to read and review, I eagerly accepted since I’d read the previous books and enjoyed them. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

I quickly became fully vested in the characters and the plot. The pacing is incredibly fast, moving from one story line to another. There is a lot of head hopping. Sometimes from one sentence to the next. By now, I have grown used to it and didn’t find it as disconcerting. I enjoyed so many different perspectives, however, there isn’t a great deal of deep character development.

While Rowan’s character doesn’t have much depth, she’s such an endearing individual, it didn’t matter. She’s a simple, somewhat naïve young woman who has lived in isolation on a farm with her father. When she loses her daddy and is left homeless after the hurricane in the last book, Pearl and Ella James takes her under their wing. She’s grateful for their kindness and does anything to help them in return. I loved her open heart and sweet nature.

Bowie James is a great hero. He left Blessings after receiving a near-death beating from family because he looked too much like them, and since he’s a bastard, his father wants him gone. Shortly after he and his mother ran, she committed suicide, so Bowie had to make his way alone. Even though he had lots of reasons to stay away from Blessings, when his grandmother and aunt need him, he returns.

His willingness to help restore his grandmother’s house touched my heart. When he’s attacked on his first day in Blessing by the same uncles who gave him his beating, he handles it quickly and the men are arrested. His nephew keys his car in retaliation and is arrested, but when the fifteen-year-old wants to make restitution by working to cover repairs, he immediately takes him under his wing. He’s able to look beyond the boy’s actions and find the good in him.

The romance between the hero and heroine is sweet and tender. Even though it moved quickly, it still felt right. The chemistry is strong and very pleasing. Bowie has craved family ever since he left Blessings, and with Rowan, he’s found someone who is willing to follow him anywhere. They are perfect together.

The Uncles and his father are the villains of this story. The sad truth that the uncles have allowed their father to rule their lives, play a significant role in this book. Their women finally have their eyes opened to their deplorable behavior. The father’s wife, Cora, leaves him and turns her back on her sons. This is a huge eye-opener for them and has the sons examining their behavior, which is always a good thing! 

If you enjoy a story with engaging characters and an intriguing plot, then you will enjoy A Rainbow Above Us. You will need to read carefully to follow all the different story lines, but it’s worth it. I look forward to reading the next book in this interesting series. Happy reading!

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Book Review: Renegade by Anna Schmidt

Renegade by Anna Schmidt

Publisher & Release: Sourcebooks, June 25, 2019

Time and setting:  Late 19thcentury, Texas

Genre: Historical Romance, Western

Heat Level: 1 Flame

Rating: 4.5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

MEET THE HARVEY GIRLS. These real-life pioneering women were symbols of elegance in the wild frontier: taming rough manners, falling in love, and changing the face of the West forever.
Lily Travis may be a Harvey Girl, but she's a rebel—and a romantic—at heart. Too bad her impulsive nature led her to marry a man who promised a life of ease and prosperity, only to disappear the very next day. She's kept her secret as best she can, and now she's convinced she'll never find true love...not even with the handsome local sheriff she can't get off her mind.
Cody Daniels knows Lily isn't the right woman for a by-the-book lawman with political ambitions. She's brash, headstrong...and entirely too tempting. But when Lily's past catches up with her and the villain she married threatens everything she holds dear, Cody is determined to defend her honor and show her the future they could have together—no matter the consequences.
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Vikki’s Musings

Renegade is the second book in Anna Schmidt’s Cowboys and Harvey Girls series. I read Trailblazer, the first book in this series and loved it, so when I received an invitation from the publisher, via Net Galley, to read and review, I took the opportunity. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

Renegade is an engaging romance with endearing characters and a unique plot. The pacing is good and kept me enmeshed in the story. I thoroughly enjoyed the historical details involving the Harvey Girls. I also enjoyed, not only the main characters, but the secondary ones as well. It was particularly lovely to learn more of Grace and Nick, the hero and heroine of book 1, along with the rest of the engaging members of the Harvey staff at the Palace.

Lily Travis is part of the trio that forms a strong friendship when they met on the train bound for their first placement as Harvey girls. Her character was as entertaining as Grace’s. She is a feisty young woman who learned at a young age that life was not always fair. Abused by her step-father then bamboozled by a smooth-talking man who marries her and disappears the morning after their wedding night. She’s not willing to give her heart again, not even to the handsome and kind sheriff.

Cody Daniels has plans bigger than a career as a small-town sheriff. His character is ambitious, but in a completely honorable way. I loved his strong, yet gentle strength, which endeared me from the start. He is clearly smitten with Lily and intrigued by her. I adored his careful courting and determination to earn Lily’s trust.

The story includes the villain who supposedly married her and deserted her the following morning. Is he the gentleman as he presents to the world or a thief? Cody is suspicious of the man and the whole marriage debacle. If what he suspects is true, and the marriage wasn’t real, he is determined to prove it.

Lily is petrified when her husband shows up at the Palace. Harvey girls cannot be married nor have a blemish on their past. He could ruin her if he tells her manager. Enters her close friend, Jake, a man who loves her, but she only sees as a close friend. Jake runs interference between Lily and the villain and pays dearly for his decision.

Cody is determined to discover if the scoundrel, Johnson, Lily’s supposed husband, is behind the attack on Jake and truly married to Lily. I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery that needs to be solved to keep Lily safe. I want to be careful to not include any spoils. Let’s just say, Cody discovers things that makes him believe Lily is not wed, and all though she might not be the perfect candidate as wife of a man who has aspirations involving a political career, he still wants her.

The romance between Lily and Cody progresses carefully, but is enjoyable nonetheless. It’s clear they love each other from early on, but the complication of a husband, does keep their relationship from developing to fast. This reader was certainly praying she was not legally married to the villain.

If you enjoy a story with plenty of complications that must be resolved before the hero and heroine can find their happy ending, and one with a dash of mystery and suspense, then you will love Renegade. I enjoyed this second book even more than the first. I can’t wait to read the next romance in this exciting series. Happy reading!

Friday, June 21, 2019

Book Review: Andrew by Jennifer Beckstrand

Andrew by Jennifer Beckstrand

Publisher & Release: Penquin Random House Publishing, June 25, 2019

Time and setting:  Present Day, Wisconsin

Genre: Amish Romance

Heat Level: 1 Sweetheart

Rating: 5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

Andrew, Abraham, and Austin Petersheim’s family business has earned them the nickname The Peanut Butter Brothers. But if their matchmaking younger siblings have their way, all three may soon bear another title: husband . . .
Handsome, hardworking, and godly, Andrew Petersheim has always been sure of his place in his Wisconsin Amish community. He’ll be a welcome catch for the local girl who finally captures his heart. Mary Coblenz certainly isn’t that girl. Two years after “jumping the fence” for the Englischer world, she’s returned, unmarried and pregnant. Yet instead of hiding in shame as others in the community expect, she’s working at the Honeybee Farm, ignoring the gossips—and winning over Andrew’s eight-year-old twin brothers . . .
For all Andrew’s certainty about right and wrong, it seems he has a lot to learn from Mary’s courage, grace, and resilience. She’s changing his notions about forgiveness and love, but will she in turn accept the challenge of starting over and choose to stay—with him?

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Vikki’s Musings

I’ve recently discovered a love for Amish fiction and found Jennifer Beckstrand’s delightful books, particularly any centered in Huckleberry Hill, a small village in Wisconsin. When I stumbled upon Ms. Beckstrand’s new romance, book one in the Petersheim Brothers series. I immediately requested it on Net-Galley, and the publisher was kind and approved my request. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

Andrew is a delightful Amish romance with engaging characters and a heartfelt plot. The pacing is excellent and kept me enthralled from the first page. It was such a delight when a secondary character, Bitsy, from one of previous Amish books by Ms. Beckstrand is in this one. I love it when an author brings well-loved characters into a new story. 

Mary Coblenz is a young Amish girl who jumped the fence. She’s now an unwed, pregnant nineteen-year-old and has returned to her village. Her reception is not good. Her parents refuse her entrance into her family home. My heart ached immediately for her. Enters the eccentric Bitsy, who welcomes her with open arms. My heart went out to Mary. Her ex-boyfriend had betrayed her trust, and now her family has turned her back on her. Without Bitsy, she would have been homeless.

Two mischievous eight-year-old twins enter her life, along with their elder brother, and they turn her world upside down. At first, Andrew is very judgmental of Mary’s dilemma and believes she has earned his scorn and many of the others in their community. The twins feel differently and want him to marry so they don’t have to stay in the cellar any more. Mary seems perfect for their plans. After all, Andrew would gain a ready-made family!

At first, Andrew comes across a bit sanctimonious, but a good young man at heart, he realizes he’s judged Mary unfairly without really knowing her. I enjoyed his change of heart, which shows the goodness of his soul. I also loved his patience with his rambunctious brothers.

As with most Amish romances, the love between them grows from the friendship between the couple. I believe that’s what I like best in this genre. The couples normally don’t even kiss. At most, they hold hands and sneak glances at each other in a most innocent way. Indicative of long-ago times. That’s the case with Andrew and Mary. They clearly are falling in love. Of course, Mary is scared of their growing feelings, and Andrew is a bit clueless. Fortunately, it all come together in the end in a most enjoyable way for this reader!

If you enjoy Amish romance with wonderful characters from the hero and heroine to the cast of secondary ones as well, you will love Andrew. I can’t wait to read Abraham, which is the second book in this amazing new series. Happy reading! 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Book Review: Rogue Most Wanted by Janna MacGregor

Rogue Most Wanted by Jana MacGregor

Publisher & Release: St. Martin’s Press, June 25, 2019

Time and setting:  Regency England

Genre: Historical Romance

Heat Level: 1 Flame

Rating: 3.5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

Wanted: an engagement of convenience. Found: A noble suitor. 
Raised on a remote Scottish estate by her adoring grandfather, Lady Theodora Worth has inherited an earldom as well as the land itself. But when an upstart duke challenges her claim to the title and the Ladykyrk estate, Thea is suddenly in need of a husband—in name, at least. An elderly neighbor with a thoroughly modern sensibility and a dashing great-nephew just might be the answer to Thea’s prayers. Except she has no intention of marrying the first man she meets. That would be utterly ridiculous.
It just can’t be him. . .
Lord William Cavensham is entirely too devoted to his family’s estate—ever since he was jilted as a lad--to wed, but he agrees to meet the woman his aunt has taken under her wing—and introduce her to possible suitors. But after just one meeting with beautiful, spirited Thea, Will is determined to help her reclaim her title. And even moreso, he can’t stop thinking that perhaps marriage to this bold, passionate woman may be the one thing he’s been missing all along? 
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Vikki’s Musings

This is the fifth book in the Cavensham Heiresses. I’ve read three of the last four, and I am enjoying the series. Thanks goes to the publisher, via Net-Galley, for the opportunity to read and review Rogue Most Wanted in advance of publication. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.
Rogue Most Wanted is an historical novel set in the Regency period and has most of the characteristics I love in this sub-genre. The pacing is okay, but there were a few places where it dragged. Over all, an enjoyable read, just not a stellar one, the reason for the 3.5 Gold Crown rating, rounded to 4.

Theodora Worth’s character is charming and innocent until Will lit the fire within her. She is extremely loyal to her grandfather’s memory, and the promise she made when he passed, almost to her detriment. There were a few inconsistencies in her character, but minor ones and did not affect my overall opinion.

William Cavensham is an enjoyable hero. While he has reason to distrust women since he was jilted at the tender age of nineteen, he’s willingly agrees to help Theo in her quest to find the charter giving her the right to inherit her title. He was comfortable with her from the beginning and a lovely friendship develops between them in the first half of the book.

This is a friends to lovers trope, and that is a favorite of mine. That’s why I enjoyed the first half of the book more than the second. The second half dragged a bit. However, there is a slow burn simmering which is one of the things I enjoy most in Regency romances.

If you enjoy Regency romance with a sweet and gentle love story, an interesting plot and a mystery to solve, then you will enjoy Rogue Most Wanted. While this is the fifth book in this series, it reads well as a stand-alone. Happy reading!

Monday, June 17, 2019

Book Review: A Merciful Promise by Kendra Elliott

A Merciful Promise by Kendra Elliott

Publisher & Release: Montlake Romance, June 18, 2019

Time and setting:  Present Day, Pacific Northwest

Genre: Romantic Thriller

Rating: 5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

The job: infiltrate a militia amassing illegal firearms in an isolated forest community. FBI agent Mercy Kilpatrick is the ideal candidate. She knows Oregon. She’s near the compound. And having been raised among survivalists, Mercy understands the mind-set of fanatics. Lay low, follow rules, do nothing to sound an alarm, and relinquish all contact with the outside world. She’s ready to blend in.
As Mercy disappears into the winter hills, something just as foreboding emerges. Mercy’s fiancé, Eagle’s Nest police chief Truman Daly, is faced with a puzzling series of murders—three men dumped in random locations after execution-style shootings.
Now, for Mercy, trapped in a culture where suspicion is second nature, and betrayal is punishable to the extreme, there is no way out. No way to call for help. And as plans for a catastrophic terrorist event escalate, there may be no way to stop them. Even if Mercy dies trying.

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I always know I’m in for a treat with a new release from Kendra Elliott. When I received an invitation from the publisher, via Net-Galley, I eagerly agreed to read and review the sixth, and last book, in her Mercy Kilpatrick series. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

As with all of Kendra Elliot’s books, the characters are real and flawed, the plot is intriguing and there’s plenty of emotions running high. One of the things I enjoy most about her books is the suspenseful scenes. Her action scenes are graphic and send chills through me. She has a way of keeping me on the edge of my seat from the first page until the last.

I love Mercy’s character, and in each of these books, it only grows stronger. While she’s complicated and has a lot of pent-up issues, she never lets them hold her back. She’s fierce in her determination to be the best FBI agent possible and protects her niece like a mama bear. In this one, all doubts regarding Truman are gone, and she has given him her trust completely.

Truman is a drool-worthy hero any woman will love, and I’m one of them. He’s an honorable, caring man, and he’s so patient with Mercy. He never lets anything rattle him, whether it’s a case or Mercy. His kindness and care to Ollie melts my heart, and the bond he’s formed with Mercy’s niece is touching.

By this final book, the love between Mercy and Truman is rock solid and both are looking forward to their wedding. The love is so strong. A Merciful Promise is the fulfillment of the romance that has spanned six books, and I love that they found their happy ending.

There isn’t as much mystery in this final book, but it was still a shock when all is revealed near the end. Ms. Elliott does not disappoint when it comes to the details. She builds the suspense throughout the book until the climax.

If you enjoy romantic thrillers with amazing characters, and so much action your heart is pumping fast, then you will love A Merciful Promise as much as I did. Even though this is the last book in this series, I don’t believe it’s the last time we’ll see Mercy and Truman. Ms. Elliott will bring them back as secondary characters in her future books. That is mentioned in her author notes. Happy reading! 

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Book Review: Change of Heart by Judith Kim

Change of Heart by Judith Keim

Publisher & Release: Wild Quail Publishing, June 11, 2019

Time and setting:  Present Day, Florida and New York 

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Heat Level: 1 Sweetheart

Rating: 4 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

Emerson “Em” Jordan always wanted a Valentine’s Day wedding. But after being dumped by her boyfriend, she spends the holiday at Seashell Cottage on the Gulf Coast of Florida with Devin Gerard, a family friend who has no interest in her or any other woman and is instead concentrating on his pediatric medical practice and continuing medical missions in Costa Rica. 

Em, who’s always wanted a large family, doesn’t mind his disinterest. At thirty-two, she’s decided she doesn’t need a husband to have a child or to adopt one. First, she’s going to fulfill her dream of setting up her own landscape design business in upstate New York and has promised to continue to help run her grandmother’s flower shop. 

It isn’t until Em and Devin become friends that Em realizes she might want more than friendship from him. But with his work in Miami and Costa Rica and her busy life in New York, it’s out of the question until something happens that changes everything, even a couple of hearts. 

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This is the second book I’ve read by Judith Keim. I enjoyed the first one so much, I eagerly accepted a chance to read and review Change of Heart when the offer came from the publisher, via Net-Galley. My opinions are my own are not influenced in any way.

Change of Heart has likable characters and an interesting plot. The pacing is steady, keeping me engaged throughout the book. I like Ms. Keim’s writing style, and the story developed logically with most of the book evolving around the heroine, and her life choices, making this a lovely women’s fiction with a romantic element.

Emerson Jordan’s character has been disappointed in love when her boyfriend ends their relationship at a wedding reception, when she is expecting a proposal. She believes romance is not for her and decides to focus on building her career. She is determined to start her own landscape design business, yet still help her grandmother with her flower shop. Em is extremely organized which is important because she has a lot the handle.

I loved the relationship between Em and her grandmother, which added a great deal to the book. I enjoyed Em’s fulfillment of her dream to have her landscaping design business. She’s an independent woman and doesn’t need a man in her life. Even though she is attracted to Devin, she keeps him in the friend category until she can no longer deny the growing attraction between them.

Devin Gerrard is the hero. He too, is focused on his career as a pediatric doctor and his work in Costa Rica. He has a genuine love for children. This comes out when he interacts with several delightful little girls in the story. When he meets Em, he’s relieved she is no more interested in romance then he is. It makes it easy for him to relax and enjoy her company, which helps their friendship develop into a strong one.

The romance is secondary to the plot. Em and Devin do not spend much time together, so it was hard to get excited about a happy ending for them. Their romance really only happens toward the end and there just wasn’t enough for me. Everything comes together really fast. The dilemma that would make it impossible for them, resolves much too easily. However, since this is women’s fiction, I didn’t expect a lot of romance.

Overall, I enjoyed Change of Heart. If you enjoy women’s fiction with a determined woman and don’t need much in the romance department, then you will enjoy this book. I look forward to reading Ms. Keim’s next book. Happy reading!

Monday, June 10, 2019

Book Review: Love at the Shore by Teri Wilson

Love at the Shore by Teri Wilson

Publisher & Release: Hallmark Publishing, June 11, 2019

Time and setting:  Present Day, Georgia

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Heat Level: 1 Sweetheart

Rating: 4.5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

She came to the beach to write…

But she’s getting distracted by the surfer next door.

Jenna, a single mom and successful author, has five weeks to deliver her next young adult novel to the publisher. This year’s summer getaway with her kids will be a working vacation. 

The only problem? Lucas, the devil-may-care surfer in the beach rental next to hers. He cranks up his music at night, hosts loud volleyball matches, and allows his dog to run around at will. 

Jenna often blames him for her writer’s block. But before long, she begins to see a new side of her neighbor at the shore. Maybe opposites do attract…but will that attraction fade like a sunset once summer is gone?
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This is the first book I’ve read by Teri Wilson, and I’m glad I took advantage of the offer from the publisher, via Net-Galley, to read and review in advance of publication. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

Love at the Shoreis a fast paced enjoyable read from start to finish. The characters are engaging, and the plot grabbed me. I always like books with children and Jenna’s two are awesome.

Jenna’s character has many redeeming characteristics. She dedicated to her craft, and she is determined to meet her deadline while still giving her two kids a fun summer at the beach. I quickly became vested in her character.

Lucas is a sweetheart! While he claims to not care for children, it’s all bluff. After all, he owns the summer day camp Jenna’s children are attending and is determined to help her son achieve his goal to make his swim team. He’s a great fit for Jenna since she’s a little on the serious side while he’s a devil-may-care kind of guy.

The romance is sweet, but oh, so satisfying. I truly wanted them to find their happy ending. While this is a light-hearted story, there’s plenty of emotion and feelings going on between this couple.

If you’re looking for a fun read to take to the beach, with great characters and an interesting plot, then you will enjoy Love at the Shoreas much as I did. I will be on the lookout for other entertaining romances by the talented Ms. Wilson. Happy reading!