Thursday, February 22, 2018

Blogger Review: The Quality of Mercy by JS Cook

The year is 1934, and disgraced federal agent Nathan Devereaux is escorting convicted felon John Banks to visit his dying mother. Banks is despondent, miserably ill with a heavy cold, and unenthusiastic about traveling by plane. It isn't a responsibility Devereaux wants, but something about the prisoner’s plight resonates with him.

Devereaux charters a plane to Wisconsin, hoping to get there before Banks's mother breathes her last. But a routine journey swiftly turns into a sojourn in hell when a violent winter storm forces the plane miles off course, and Banks’s seemingly bad cold turns out to be diphtheria.

Stranded many miles from the destination, Devereaux must find a way to save Banks's life without compromising the mission. Like Banks, Devereaux has secrets of his own, and the scope and purpose of his mission don't quite square with the stories he tells. Making matters worse, he is the only one standing between Banks and certain death, but even a federal agent can do only so much—especially an agent with blood on his hands.

When tasked with taking a prisoner home to say goodbye to his dying mother, what could go wrong?  Quite a lot probably but in 1934 Illinois, illness and Mother Nature has their own plans for Federal Agent Nathan Devereaux and prisoner John Banks.  Will they walk away with their lives? And most importantly, will they walk away with their hearts in tact?

As you may have seen me say a few times, I am a huge fan of historicals and although I would have liked to have seen a bit more between Nathan and John or a glimpse ten years down the road, this look at 1934 made for a perfect short story/novella.  Once again, Mother Nature plays a huge part in a story and seeing how I am born and raised in Wisconsin where winters can be particularly brutal, I found this a wonderful use and portrayal of her wrath.  Yes, she can be dangerous but she also has no concept of or care for whatsoever of people's plans or time tables and the author uses this factor very realistically.

JS Cook is a new author for me, even though some of her work has been featured on my blog I never had the opportunity to read her before.  If The Quality of Mercy is anything to go by, this will definitely not be last time she graces my Kindle.  Simply put, The Quality of Mercy is a brilliant blend of historical, drama, romance, with just the right amount of mystery that Mother Nature likes to bring to the table.  Whether you love or hate historicals, Quality is a lovely tale that entertains and certainly worth the read.

Joliet Correctional Facility: January, 1934
THE INTERIOR of the prison at Joliet was as depressing as always and, on this late-January afternoon, as cold as hell. Nathan Devereaux felt like something that had been scraped off the soles of somebody’s shoes, and his normally stoic disposition was considerably altered by frustration and a cold anger.

He showed his badge and identification to the man behind the desk. “I’m here to take custody of the prisoner.”

“Johnnie Banks?” The man behind the desk struggled with late middle age, was bald and portly, and appeared to dislike his job a great deal. “This ID is expired, son.”

Devereaux did his best to smile. “Well, hell’s bells, so it is.” He scratched the back of his neck, stalling for time. “I do have the current one… bet I left it in the car. ’Course I’ll have to go on up to the parking lot to get it….” That meant John Banks would have to wait while he went to fetch it. Well, Devereaux reasoned, he’d already waited four and a half years.

“Don’t bother.” The guard waved a hand like somebody shooing flies. “He’s down there. Jess’ll take you.” He nodded at a tall black man standing by the wall, a veritable colossus who stood nearly seven feet tall and must have weighed three hundred pounds.

Devereaux followed Jess’s enormous back into a chilly corridor lined with cells, most of which were open and empty, even at this strange and unusual hour. The cell at the end of the hallway held Devereaux’s interest. Unlike the others, this cell wasn’t open, nor was it empty. In the far corner of the single bunk, a man sat hunched over and leaning against the wall. He appeared to be asleep, his chin resting on his chest.

“John Banks?” Devereaux didn’t wait for an answer. “I’m Nathan Devereaux. I’ve been instructed to escort you north to Mocksville, Wisconsin, where you will visit with family members for a period of two hours, after which I am instructed to return you to this institution. Do you understand?”

The man raised his head, nodded once, and returned to huddling against the wall.

Jess unlocked the cell and said, “Come on, now, get up.”

The man shuffled forward into the light, and Devereaux could see he was dark-haired and dark-eyed, pale, with a tightly groomed mustache and a scar down one side of his face. He was dressed simply, in civilian garb: dark pants, white shirt, dark waistcoat. Had he been standing erect, he might have been about Devereaux’s own height, but he stood slumped before them, arms wrapped around himself. He appeared to be shivering. When prompted, he held his hands out obediently for Jess to cuff him.

“Does the prisoner have no overcoat?” Devereaux asked.

Jess raised his big shoulders and let them drop. “No, sir.”

“But the prisoner is being escorted three hundred fifty miles north.” Devereaux’s frustration threatened to choke him. “Why has he no overcoat, no hat?” He leaned closer and peered at Banks. “Is this man ill?”

“Yes, sir,” Jess replied.

Devereaux’s fists clenched. “And why has no one taken him to the infirmary?”

“I wouldn’t go.” Banks’s voice was raw, husky, like he’d spent the night screaming into some dark abyss. He turned aside and coughed violently—so violently that Devereaux thought he might pass out. “They tried to make me.” He raised his head, and for a moment, his gaze and Devereaux’s met and held.

All the air seemed to go out of Devereaux’s lungs as he stood there; the whole of his awareness suspended in those dark eyes. You poor son of a bitch, he thought. It seemed to slide through his mind like a half-forgotten melody. You poor son of a bitch. All alone, in the hell of Joliet, cold and sick, intent on seeing your mother, who is dying.

Consider it a mission of mercy. The voice in his head sounded freakishly like Devereaux’s old supervisor. She’s had one stroke and another is imminent.

Why is it my problem? Devereaux thought. Nobody forced him to commit armed robbery. What’ll happen if I refuse to take him? Nothing. There were others, men more able to escort Johnnie Banks to Wisconsin, men who would think it was a good idea. I should be doing the work I get paid for, not babysitting Johnnie “Stick ’em Up” Banks.

Johnnie Banks looked like a man at the end of the world, a man with nowhere else to go, and nobody who cared if he even got there.

Devereaux walked him back to the man behind the desk and signed the paperwork releasing Banks into his custody. He, Jess, and Banks were escorted to the main door, already open and waiting for them. The air was absolutely frigid, the wind a searing blade that cut clothes and skin. Devereaux stopped. He shrugged out of his own wool greatcoat and wrapped it around Banks’s shoulders. “What happened to your coat?”

“Somebody stole it,” Banks replied. He pulled the warm wool tight around him. “Guess they needed it more than me.”

In the dull, late-afternoon light, he was, Devereaux realized with a painful jolt, beautiful. Even pale and sick, with bright spots of fever burning in his cheeks, he was gorgeous. Devereaux understood why bank tellers handed over the contents of their cash drawers and store clerks readily emptied their tills for him.

“Thank you,” Banks murmured. “I sure do appreciate it.”

His honest gratitude cut Devereaux to the marrow. Don’t get involved, he told himself. This man is a convicted felon. He’d heard how charismatic Banks was, how polite and beautiful and courtly. He’d read the accounts of dozens of witnesses who testified to Banks’s charm and urbanity, his excellent manners, the way he was always polite to ladies, even as he was robbing them blind. He knew, too, the depth of his own loneliness. Even striking up a civil conversation with Banks was dangerous for a man in Nathan Devereaux’s position.

“Let’s go,” Devereaux said, a little more harshly than he intended. “The car is waiting. So is the driver.”

The scenery was less than captivating, especially this time of year, and Devereaux took advantage of the drive to rest. He’d been awake half the night, courtesy of his habitual insomnia, and eaten up alive with worry. He feared a strong push would be enough to topple him flat on his back. He leaned against the window and closed his eyes, surrendering to the sway and pull of the car’s powerful engine, and drifted for a while.

Devereaux awoke with a start. Banks was huddled in the corner of the seat, the coat wrapped around him, eyes closed. Devereaux didn’t know if he was asleep or just resting and didn’t feel it necessary to disturb him. He rested his head back on the seat and studied Banks covertly, out of the corner of his eye. The prisoner didn’t look like his wanted posters or the pictures of him pinned up in the post office. He had the kind of face, Devereaux decided, that defied photography. Banks might have a dozen pictures taken, but no two would be alike and none would really resemble him.

He was just as difficult for juries to pin down: his most recent trial had twice resulted in a hung jury; Banks’s lawyer had persuaded the judge to declare a mistrial and try the case again. Banks was waiting for his case to come up, but Devereaux had no doubt Banks would charm the new jury just as he had charmed all the others.

“Where we goin’?” Banks’s dark eyes bored into him. His sudden question jolted Devereaux out of his reverie.

“Hindman Airfield,” Devereaux replied. The most expeditious way to return Banks to his family home was by plane. He could visit his mother and Devereaux could have him back to Joliet that much quicker. Besides, a plane provided much greater security than travel by rail, where Banks would be on public view and, more importantly, where he could escape.

“Airfield?” Banks asked. “I ain’t going on no airplane.”

“It isn’t a public flight,” Devereaux assured him. “I chartered the plane just for us. We’ll be the only passengers.”

“Stop the car.” Banks reached for the door handle with his cuffed hands. “Let me out right now.” He was clearly in a state of flat panic, and Devereaux experienced a flicker of irritation.

“Mr. Banks, I am ordering you to let go of the door handle.” Banks ignored him. “Mr. Banks, I will if necessary restrain you myself.” The image produced a brief flare of heat, deep inside his belly. Banks was obviously weak and very ill, but obstinate. Maybe Devereaux would have to hold him down. The idea had significant appeal. What would it be like, to feel that strong, lithe body under his own? Christ, I really do need to get laid.

“I ain’t never been on one of them things, and I’m not going on one now.” Banks’s ravaged throat reduced the statement to a mere whisper.

He really is afraid. In fact, he’s terrified. “Today’s modern aircraft are perfectly safe,” Devereaux said. It was a line from the briefing he and other agents had been given years ago, when civilian air travel was in its infancy. The Bureau had decided it would charter airplanes in cases where expediency was desirable or necessary. “The Bureau often makes use of civilian aircraft—”

“I don’t care! Goddammit, put me on the train.”

Devereaux looked away for a moment. When he spoke, his voice was calm and very, very gentle. “Mr. Banks, there isn’t time.” He hoped he wouldn’t have to say more than this.

“I don’t—”

“Your mother has already suffered one stroke.” Devereaux’s fists clenched. “The doctor feels another is imminent.” Banks had turned and was looking at him now, his face pale and empty of expression. “A second stroke will be the last one,” Devereaux said. “Unless we fly you home, I’m afraid….” He let the rest of it trail off.

Banks drew a breath that sounded like a sob. “I won’t get there in time.”

Author Bio:
J.S. Cook was born in a tiny fishing village on the seacoast of Newfoundland. Her love of writing manifested itself early when her mother, impressed with the quality of a school assignment she'd written, sent it to the editor of the local paper - who published it. Since then she has written novels, short stories, novellas, plays, radio scripts and some really, really bad poetry. She has worked as a housekeeper, nanny, secretary, publisher, parliamentary editor and a university lecturer, although this last convinced her never to step foot inside a classroom again. She holds a B.A. (Honors) and an M.A. in English Language and Literature, and a B.Ed in Post-secondary education. She loves walking and once spent six hours walking the streets of Dublin, Ireland. She maintains she wasn't lost, just "looking around". She makes her home in St. John's, Newfoundland, with her husband of 26 years and her spoiled rotten 'dogter', Lola, who always gets her own way.



Release Blitz: Pretty in Pink by Jay Northcote

Title: Pretty in Pink
Author: Jay Northcote
Series: Housemates #6
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: February 21, 2018
Cover Design: Garrett Leigh at Black Jazz Design
Ryan isn't looking for a relationship with a guy--and Johnny isn't looking for a relationship at all.

Ryan's always been attracted to tall, leggy blondes--normally of the female variety. When Johnny catches his eye at a party, Ryan's interest is piqued even though he's never been with a guy before. The attraction is mutual, and the amazing night that follows opens Ryan's eyes to his bisexuality.

Experience has taught Johnny that love hurts. Staying single is safer, and there's no need for complicated relationships when hooking up is easy. When he moves in next door to Ryan, they're both interested in picking up where they left off, and it seems like an ideal arrangement: convenient, mutually satisfying, and with no strings attached.

Despite their best intentions to keep things casual, they develop an emotional connection alongside the physical one. Both begin to want more from the relationship but are afraid to admit it. If they're going to work things out, they need to start being honest--first with themselves, and then with each other.

Although this book is part of the Housemates series, it has new main characters, a satisfying happy ending, and can be read as a standalone.

Ryan was a few drinks down and feeling pretty buzzed when he first caught sight of blond hair through the crowd of partygoers.

He nearly hadn’t bothered coming out tonight. He had his third year project to write up, and should have been working on that, not partying with his next door neighbours. But the rest of Ryan’s housemates had talked him into it and he could do with letting off some steam, so he hadn’t put up much of a fight. One night couldn’t make too much difference, right?

The blonde arrived late and headed straight into the throng of dancers in the living room, bottle in hand. Tall and leggy in black skinny jeans with shit-kicking boots, Ryan’s interest was piqued immediately and a spike of arousal made his cock wake up. Tall and blonde was completely Ryan’s type, but when this blond slid a leather jacket off slender shoulders and tossed it on the back of the sofa, his washboard-flat chest made it clear he was a guy—so not Ryan’s type after all.

Despite the gut punch of disappointment at that revelation, Ryan found his interest persisted. The guy drew Ryan’s attention like a magnet lining up iron filings, and no matter how hard he tried, Ryan couldn’t stop watching him.

Spurred on by alcohol and reckless impulsivity, Ryan made a conscious decision not to question his attraction and just roll with it. He gradually edged his way into the group where the blond was dancing, and when he finally managed to make eye contact, the guy gave him a knowing smile that reflected Ryan’s interest right back at him. It curled around Ryan’s balls like the gentle, insistent squeeze of a hand.

Game on.

University was supposed to be all about new experiences, and Ryan only had a few months left before he graduated. He’d never hooked up with a guy before, and it had always been on his sexual bucket list, but not a high priority. As a young teen he’d sometimes admired androgynous male models on the pages of magazines that his mum used to buy and felt a confusing interest in them… but he’d never seen a guy in real life he’d wanted to fuck enough to actually do something about it.

Until tonight.

Author Bio:
Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England. He comes from a family of writers, but always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed him by. He spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content.

One day, Jay decided to try and write a short story—just to see if he could—and found it rather addictive. He hasn’t stopped writing since.

Jay writes contemporary romance about men who fall in love with other men. He has five books published by Dreamspinner Press, and also self-publishes under the imprint Jaybird Press. Many of his books are now available as audiobooks.

Jay is transgender and was formerly known as she/her.


Pretty in Pink #6

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Release Tour: Driving Whiskey Wild by Melissa Foster

Title: Driving Whiskey Wild
Author: Melissa Foster
Series: The Whiskeys #3
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: February 21, 2018
A captivating new sexy standalone romance by New York Times bestselling author Melissa Foster.

Special Forces veteran and Dark Knights Motorcycle Club member Bullet Whiskey lives to protect his family, their bar, and the residents of his small hometown. He’s rough, unapologetic, and haunted by a secret, painful past. He’s also a master at keeping people away, and when his sister hires gorgeous and sweet Finlay Wilson to help expand their biker bar, he knows just how to get rid of her.

After losing her boyfriend and her father, Finlay moves back to her hometown to be closer to the little family she has left. She needs her temporary job at Whiskey Bro’s to get her catering business off the ground, and she’s determined not to let the gruff, arrogant mountain of a man Bullet Whiskey scare her off.

Finlay is everything Bullet has never wanted. She’s afraid of his dog, afraid of motorcycles, and sweet enough to give him cavities, but as she weaves her way into the hearts of everyone around him, he’s powerless to resist her charms. Passion ignites, but trust doesn’t come easily, and when their pasts collide, Bullet finds out the true meaning of protecting those he loves.

FINLAY SMILED AND waved as she slipped into the dingy bar. “Hi. Am I interrupting?” From the scowl on Bullet’s face, she was not only interrupting, but she’d somehow pissed him off. Well, good for him. Let him be angry, the big, tattooed bully. What kind of man comes up to a woman at a wedding and says, Hey, sweetheart, whaddaya say I take you for a ride on the Bullet train?

She smoothed her sundress over her hips, trying to gather her wits about her. Bullet train. She had no doubt he had a train in his pants. The man was larger than life in too many ways to count, and when he set those cold, dark eyes on her, she swore they ignited right in front of her. Lordy, now my pulse is racing. She’d been thinking of that flash of heat ever since the wedding, and she couldn’t deny that it scared her and turned her on in equally frustrating measures. If she were honest with herself, she’d thought she was too damaged after losing Aaron to ever feel this type of spine-tingling excitement over a man again—and the fact that she felt it around a guy like Bullet scared the heck out of her. But this was not the time for honesty. She needed to pull herself together so she didn’t make a bad impression.

Dixie pushed past her massive brother to greet her. “Not at all! I’m glad you made it in.” She gave Finlay a quick hug and then glared at Bullet. “Right, Bull? Aren’t we glad she made it in?”

He lifted his chin in a half-cocked greeting before stalking around the bar and busying himself pulling bottles from shelves. Was he upset that she’d refused his magical penis ride? If so, he was going to have to get over it, and fast.

“Don’t pay attention to him. He had a rough night.” Dixie waved a hand as if Bullet didn’t matter.

Finlay forced a smile, knowing the big oaf mattered a heck of a lot. She’d grown up in Peaceful Harbor, although she was several years younger than the Whiskeys and she hadn’t known them then. She’d moved back into town two months ago, hoping to put down roots near her sister, Penny, after leaving to attend college in Boston nearly a decade ago. Penny had filled her in on the Whiskeys when she’d accepted the catering job for their friends’ wedding. Apparently, the Whiskeys and their motorcycle gang owned her small hometown. Only, according to Penny, it wasn’t like the stories she’d heard about bikers causing a ruckus or scaring people. No, the Whiskeys were known to be good folks, and apparently their gang was more of a club. She didn’t know the difference, but understood that they protected the community, keeping crime down and helping with bullies—except, apparently, for their own big, pushy son. From what Penny had said, they might look intimidating, but beneath all those tattoos and dark leather, they were kind, caring, generous people. She’d noticed that at the wedding, and in the weeks since, as she’d seen Dixie, her other brothers, and their parents around town. They were all as nice as could be. The jury was still out on big, bad Bullet.

But if she was going to spend any amount of time in his presence, he needed to respect her. This was why Penny had pushed her to take this job, wasn’t it? Because she’d been hiding behind her past, living a safe, comfortable, lonely life for so long she’d all but forgotten how it felt to be hit on? And how to handle it. Well, that ended now. She straightened her spine, the way she’d learned to do in culinary school, when top chefs came in to teach and they’d ream the students for the smallest errors. There was no room for thin skin in catering—and she’d be darned if she’d let Bullet Whiskey intimidate her one bit.

“It’ll be fine,” she assured Dixie, and walked directly behind the bar to the mountain of a man who was trying his best to ignore her. Every step made her heart beat faster. Holy moly, she hadn’t remembered him being that tall. She was only five three, but even though she had heels on, he was well over a foot taller than her.

She reached up and tapped Bullet’s shoulder. It was like tapping stone covered with a black leather vest. He turned slowly, his broad chest and massive arms suddenly taking up all the extra space. She stared up at him. His dark beard and eyes gave him a menacing look. She swallowed hard, steeling herself to say her piece. In the next second those angry eyes turned even hotter and hungrier than they’d been at the wedding.

Her traitorous insides flamed.

Oh boy. She was in way over her head. This man probably got everything he wanted from women with that look. He cast some sort of spell with his leather wrist cuffs, scary-looking silver and black rings, and go-ahead-just-try-to-mess-with-me attitude.

Forcing her sternest expression, she said, “Bullet, if we’re going to work together, I expect you’ll let what happened at the wedding go and get behind me on this project.”

He cocked his head, his lips curving up in a wicked smile that brought goose bumps to her entire body as he said, “I’m happy to get behind you anytime, sweetheart.”

Tru Blue #1
He wore the skin of a killer, and bore the heart of a lover.

There's nothing Truman Gritt won't do to protect his family--Including spending years in jail for a crime he didn't commit. When he's finally released, the life he knew is turned upside down by his mother's overdose, and Truman steps in to raise the children she's left behind. Truman's hard, he's secretive, and he's trying to save a brother who's even more broken than he is. He's never needed help in his life, and when beautiful Gemma Wright tries to step in, he's less than accepting. But Gemma has a way of slithering into people's lives and eventually she pierces through his ironclad heart. When Truman's dark past collides with his future, his loyalties will be tested, and he'll be faced with his toughest decision yet.

Truly, Madly, Whiskey #2

Eight months is a long damn time to have the hots for a woman who keeps a guy at arm's length. But Crystal Moon is no ordinary woman. She's a sinfully sexy, sass-mouthed badass, and the subject of Bear Whiskey's midnight fantasies. She's also one of his closest friends.

Just when Crystal thinks she has her life under control, scorching-hot, possessive, aggressive, and fiercely loyal Bear pushes all her sexual buttons, relentless in his pursuit to make her his.

The more Bear pushes, the hotter their passion burns, unearthing memories for Crystal that are best kept buried. But there's no stopping the collision of her past and present, catapulting the two lovers down an emotional and sexually charged road that has them questioning all they thought they knew.

Wicked Whiskey Love #4(Coming November 2018)
Fall in love with Bones Whiskey in WICKED WHISKEY LOVE, an emotionally riveting, sexy new standalone romance by New York Times bestselling author Melissa Foster. A magnificent love story for those who enjoy fiercely loyal and insanely sexy alpha heroes, smart, sassy heroines, families, bikers, babies, and more! Full details coming soon!

Author Bio:
SIGN UP for ADDISON'S Sweet with Heat newsletter. Fun, flirty romance with a dash of heat.

Addison Cole is the sweet alter ego of New York Times and USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Melissa Foster. She writes humorous and emotional sweet contemporary romance. Her books do not include explicit sex scenes or harsh language. Addison spends her summers on Cape Cod, where she dreams up wonderful love stories in her house overlooking Cape Cod Bay.

Addison enjoys discussing her books with book clubs and reader groups and welcomes an invitation to your event.

Addison’s books are available in paperback, digital, and audio formats.


Driving Whiskey Wild #3

Tru Blue #1

Truly Madly Whiskey #2

Wicked Whiskey Love #4

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