Evil Lurks Everywhere in “The Shadows of Stormclyffe Hall”

The Shadows of Stormclyffe Hall coverAs I’m sitting here starting this post, lightening is flashing in the sky and thunder keeps rolling above in the heavens. How apt of a time to write a review of The Shadows of Stormclyffe Hall, a book that I had the pleasure of receiving from Entangled Publishing before its release date of today, September 29th. This new sensual romance written by Lauren Smith was a page-turner that I did not want to put down. Seriously, if you love a strong, Byronic hero that happens to be an earl with a haunted castle, add this novel to your must-read list.

Normally, I am the type of person that always goes for the typical historical or contemporary type romances–I don’t like anything that will give me nightmares. However, this modern romance novel that contains just a touch of paranormal was a refreshing change from my typical romance selections, yet it still contained the witty, tongue-in-cheek remarks that make me adore romances. With this novel, Smith did an excellent job of creating an electrifying environment that keeps you on edge without the book being overly scary or just cheesy. Best of all, I couldn’t figure out exactly how the the two main characters (Jane and Bastion) would remove the over 200-year-old curse that otherwise would keep the two ill-fated lovers apart. I had an idea thanks to the hints that Smith supplied, yet Smith managed to still surprise me at the end with how the characters stopped the curse that had been killing off Bastion’s family for centuries. After reading romances for over 20 years, it is nice when an author can still create a plot twist that you don’t see coming.

I’d definitely recommend reading this book, which is the first in Lauren Smith’s Dark Seductions series. It’s only $0.99 and can be purchased here. Lucky for you today (September 29th) is national FREE coffee day in most restaurants around the United States, so what you might normally spend on a cup of joe can be spent on this awesome book instead. 🙂

If you do read it, I’d love to hear what you think of it. Now, I’m off to see what other works Lauren Smith has written to feed my never ending hunger for romance novels!

(On a side note, credit goes here for the cool lightening image, used in my post header, which is available for download!)

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Sass, Class, Wildlife, and Romance–What More Could a Girl Want?

Wild About Rachel by Blaire Edens

This is a gorgeous, eye-catching cover. Did you catch the alligator in the background?

Oh my goodness, there is a fabulous new contemporary romance that just hit the book stand this past Monday. Wild About Rachel by Blaire Edens kept me turning the pages (okay, e-reader pages) because I wanted to see what happened next. If you took one of the stars of Gator Boys, made him super hot, and gave him a sexy former-cheerleader-now-broke debutante to work with, you have a rough idea of the plot. Rachel, the main character, is used to wearing Prada and alligator shoes. She’s terrified of almost all wild critters, yet she overcomes this fear to not only make herself a stronger woman but also in an effort to pay off her mortgaged-to-the-hilt ancestral home. It doesn’t hurt that her boss, Mark, is a super buff guy that learned how to become a tough man in the army but still displays heart-breaking gentleness when taking care of his dying mother.

Even though it might seem like a giant leap to turn a waitress into an alligator catcher almost overnight, Eden did an amazing job of building character and keeping the story believable. I love how she also took the time to educate her readers by providing wildlife statistics, such as how many people a year are killed by sharks–a surprisingly low number. As I read the novel, I felt like I became best friends with Rachel. I wish there was a sequel to this story (perhaps starring Rachel’s best friend, Shelley) because I am not quite ready to say goodbye to this amazing group of characters. Their lives were so real and identifiable (hello, please pass that Chick-Fil-A), which is a refreshing change from reading about a bunch of lords and ladies.

I was given an advanced readers copy of this book by Entangled Publishing in exchange for a review, but I highly encourage everyone to go out and buy this book. Right now, you can pick up a copy of this classy romance novel for just $.99. Support this talented author!

Oh, and one final note. Don’t read this novel when you’re hungry. There is a dog named French Toast in it. 😉

Scotland: Land of Sexy Lairds and Hot Accents

I’m anxiously awaiting the poll results to see whether Scotland will separate from the United Kingdom. I have to be honest and say that I haven’t followed the news closely to weigh the pros and cons of secession. However, part of me hopes that Scotland will secede just because so many Scots fought valiantly to prevent English takeover centuries ago. It’s not my fault that clan flags are waving and Scottish bagpipes are playing in my head. That I blame entirely on romance novels. Yes, I’m definitely a lassie who has read way too many novels about sexy highlander lords abducting some wenches while simultaneously protecting their castles. Oh, and I guess I shouldn’t fail to mention Bonnie Prince Charles. After all, any Scottish person worth his weight in haggis fought to put the true prince back on the Scottish throne during the 18th century. 😉

To celebrate this historic day, here are some great Scottish historical romances that I’ve eaten up over the years.

Seduction of a Highland Lass by Maya Banks         The Knight's Temptress by Amanda Scott

The Bride by Julie Garwood      The Laird Who Loved Me by Karen Hawkins

Remembering 9/11 and My Experience Visiting 1 World Trade Center

When I first moved to New York and began exploring the area this summer, I couldn’t help but go to the site of the World Trade Centers. I did not want to since the pain of that day is still very real when I think of it; yet, I was inexplicably drawn to the area where such carnage and horror happened. I felt like I was walking on sacred grounds, and to be honest, I hated how many tourists were there even though I was one of them. I honestly could not stay very long because it just felt wrong–the site had become a tourist attraction instead of a somber site where you go to pay your respects. After touching some of the victims’ names engraved in the reflecting pool, I paid my respects to the wall honoring the fallen firemen. I felt a small prickle of pride when viewing the Freedom Tower, yet I almost wished the site had been developed differently. I’m not sure what would have been more appropriate than the current plans, except for maybe if the Twin Towers themselves had been rebuilt. This is such a difficult subject in American history, it is hard to figure out what honors America’s strength and America’s fallen people the best.

In honor of everyone lost thirteen years ago today, I wanted to share some of my photos of the site in their memory.

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Canadian Geese walking through First Citizen's parking lot towards mall entrance.

Just Call Me Mother Goose

As a fan of bewinged, waddling creatures, yesterday was a pretty awesome day.

It started out with a need to get out of the house for a bit before settling in to work on cover letters. The Husband and I drove to Starbucks to share one of my favorite drinks ever–the hot pumpkin spice latte. Yes, they make you say “hot,” but really–who has ever gotten it cold? Anyways, I digress…Before getting to Starbucks, I looked over towards the mall and guess what I saw in an undeveloped, green field. Goosies! Yes, I know the correct word is “geese,” but when I see a flock of geese, I just revert back to childhood as I squeal and practically jump up and down in enthusiasm. I honestly always have to work hard to contain my enthusiasm when I see geese so that I don’t scare The Husband and cause a car accident.

After we got our pumpkin spice latte, The Husband and I decided to drive over to where the geese were and stalk them–I mean sit in the car and watch them. I couldn’t get nearly as close to them as I would have liked since I didn’t want to get in trouble with the mall security police for off-roading in a field. To my surprise, for the first time ever, I saw a completely white goose amid the large flock of Canadian geese. Seriously, this was a large flock people–at least 48 of those delicious babies.

Canadian Geese

The Husband and I sat there for about 20 minutes before I noticed that some of my babies were getting a little bit too close to the four-lane road that was heavily congested with five o’clock traffic. I have seen some geese get hit by cars where I used to work, and I definitely did not want that to happen to any of these babies. Thankfully, the geese chose to stay a few feet off the road with their beautiful long necks fully extended as they watched the cars speed by.

Unfortunately, my babies were not born with the largest brains since they then proceeded to do something quite, well, stupid. Much to my consternation, they started to walk across the field and into a bank drive-thru. As they rounded the bank’s parking lot and went out of sight, I told The Husband we should drive to where we could see them better. This gave me an awesome opportunity to look at them up close and honk out the window to them. Yes, I am not ashamed. I enjoy honking at the geese. As we parked our car again, the geese looked a little less than pleased to see we were so close. However, they proceeded to walk through the parking lot, heading directly towards the mall’s main entrance (a four-lane road with a landscaped center median).

Canadian Geese walking through First Citizen's parking lot towards mall entrance.

I watched my geese as they walked one after the other through the bushes, across the road, and into the median. Thankfully, incoming cars stopped, but you never know when someone will be careless or just mean and run them over. Sadly, the geese in the front of the line just stopped in the median, causing a goose jam. After seeing a few cars weave around the geese, I jumped out of my car, ran through the bushes, and what happened next was epic.

Picture a girl in faux denim blue Abercrombie lounge pants wearing a red long-sleeve Bank of America shirt. She stands by the road, raising her hands, and yelling “GOOOOOOOOOOO.” My white goose and a few others take off. I clap and wave and yell “GOOOOOOOOOO” again and all of a sudden, with a whoosh, the sky is obliterated with geese.

It was AMAZING people. I felt like Dumbledore or Harry Potter casting a spell or something. Drivers that were stopped at the traffic light ducked their heads as the geese barely made it high enough in the air to avoid hitting their vehicles. The car driver that was stopped in an incoming traffic lane waved “thank you” as her lane was finally clear of geese.

I quickly walked back to my car where The Husband was grinning. The first words out of his mouth was how he wished he had recorded that epic moment. Me, I was just thrilled knowing my geese were all safe, even though they probably hated me for scaring them.

After feeling charged up from my delicious drink, I spent the rest of the evening cooking dinner and working on a publishing cover letter with my ever so helpful side-kick, Aggy.

Aggy helping me write a cover letter.

Oh, and don’t judge me for what I was wearing yesterday. I had no idea I’d actually be getting out of the car and seeing people. 🙂

Labor Day – A Day You Celebrate Working by Doing Nothing

The other day, my husband made a comment wondering why we celebrate Labor Day. It just seems like a time that people go to the lake or beach to party and enjoy the last warm days of summer. Although that seems like the most common reason, Americans and Canadians created Labor Day to serve as a tribute to hardworking men and women. Labor unions first started celebrating the day as early as 1882, when the first Labor Day Parade was held in New York City. I had no idea until I started doing some research on the topic that labor unions specifically chose the first Monday in September because it was halfway between Independence Day and Thanksgiving.

As we celebrate Labor Day here in America, I am thankful that I am an American that is physically able to pursue a career that I love–one in publishing. I am even more thankful that I have a husband who works hard to support us (and our kitties and birdie!) while I am pursuing my dream job. I seriously have the best husband ever and am so thankful that he worked hard in South Carolina while I moved up to NYC this past summer to earn my publishing certification at NYU.

Now I am off to fill out a job application before getting back to the new book I just started reading. No worries, my cat, Caesar, is working hard to make sure my book doesn’t go somewhere until I pick it up again. Someone should seriously hire him to check book binding durability.

Caesar with Victoria Bylin's "Until I found You"

Caesar with Victoria Bylin’s “Until I found You”

Anyways, here is to being able to celebrate Labor Day next year as an employed woman! :raises root beer:

Credit goes here for the Labor Day info.

Tuesday’s Bits and Bobs

I am in awe of this woman’s nature photography.

Leanne Cole PHOTOGRAPHY

This last week has been so crazy, that I am not sure I have a lot to tell you. I suppose there is always going to be weeks like that.  I feel like I am just in a no go zone right now.  It has been so quiet, with no classes and people not wanting to do any classes with me, I’m trying not to take it to heart, and am hoping it is more about the weather and as the weather improves the inquiries will start.

Planning Trips and Workshops

I am planning my next trip to Woomelang and am hoping to run another workshop there on night time photography.  It would be great to actually do a class in Woomelang, perhaps around the shearing shed and silos.  There are so many things around there that would be interesting, and of course we can also try some light painting…

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