Universe of Two by Stephen P. Kiernan – Book Spotlight

Overview

Graduating from Harvard at the height of World War II, brilliant mathematician Charlie Fish is assigned to the Manhattan Project. Working with some of the age’s greatest scientific minds, including J. Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, and Leo Szilard, Charlie is assigned the task of designing and building the detonator of the atomic bomb.

As he performs that work Charlie suffers a crisis of conscience, which his wife, Brenda—unaware of the true nature of Charlie’s top-secret task—mistakes as self-doubt. She urges him to set aside his qualms and continue. Once the bombs strike Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the feelings of culpability devastate him and Brenda. 

At the war’s end, Charlie receives a scholarship to pursue a PhD in physics at Stanford—an opportunity he and Brenda hope will allow them a fresh start. But the past proves inescapable. All any of his new colleagues can talk about is the bomb, and what greater atomic weapons might be on the horizon. Haunted by guilt, Charlie and Brenda leave Stanford and decide to dedicate the rest of their lives to making amends for the evil he helped to birth into the world.

Based on the life of the actual mathematician Charles B. Fisk, Universe of Two combines riveting historical drama with a poignant love story. Stephen Kiernan has conjured a remarkable account of two people struggling to heal their consciences and find peace in a world forever changed.

Praise for Universe of Two

“Kiernan (The Baker’s Secret, 2017) movingly charts a couple’s relationship alongside the development of WWII’s Manhattan Project… Kiernan recreates the zeitgeist of America leading up to the atomic bomb on a national and personal level: the eager anticipation of wartime’s end, the grimly fascinating science, and the growing sense of guilt and dread. Simultaneously tender and hard-hitting, this riveting story offers much to reflect upon.” —Booklist

“General readers and those interested in the time period will enjoy this brutally honest novel by the author of The Baker’s Secret.”—Library Journal

“Universe of Two by Stephen P. Kiernan skillfully educates, entertains and enlightens as great historical fiction should. This masterfully researched and exquisitely told story of one man’s struggle of conscience is a fictionalized account of the life of Charles Fisk, a gifted young mathematician who was drafted to build the detonator for the atomic bomb.”—The Boston Globe

About Stephen P. Kiernan

Universe Of Two – August 4, 2020 is Stephen P. Kiernan’s sixth publication, following the novels THE BAKER’S SECRET (2017), THE CURIOSITY (2013) and THE HUMMINGBIRD (2015), and two works of nonfiction, LAST RIGHTS (2006), and AUTHENTIC PATRIOTISM (2010). Together with his work as a journalist, he has earned more than 40 writing awards, including the George Polk Award and the National Journalism Award (Scripps-Howard). A graduate of Middlebury College, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop, he has worked at the Breadloaf School of English and the Breadloaf Writers Conference. A longtime board member of the Young Writers Project, he lives in Vermont. Connect with Stephen!Website // Twitter // Instagram // Facebook

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Fast Girls by Elise Hooper @gosparkpoint @elisehooper #historicalfiction #review

Overview

ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF THE SUMMER BY POPSUGAR, FROLIC, PARADE, TRAVEL & LEISURE, SHE KNOWS, and SHE READS!  

NAMED A REAL SIMPLE BEST BOOK OF 2020 (SO FAR). 

Fast Girls is a compelling, thrilling look at what it takes to be a female Olympian in pre-war America…Brava to Elise Hooper for bringing these inspiring heroines to the wide audience they so richly deserve.”—Tara Conklin, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Romantics and The House Girl

Acclaimed author Elise Hooper explores the gripping, real life history of female athletes, members of the first integrated women’s Olympic team, and their journeys to the 1936 summer games in Berlin, Nazi Germany.Perfect for readers who love untold stories of amazing women, such as The Only Woman in the Room, Hidden Figures, and The Lost Girls of Paris. 

In the 1928 Olympics, Chicago’s Betty Robinson competes as a member of the first-ever women’s delegation in track and field. Destined for further glory, she returns home feted as America’s Golden Girl until a nearly-fatal airplane crash threatens to end everything. 

Outside of Boston, Louise Stokes, one of the few black girls in her town, sees competing as an opportunity to overcome the limitations placed on her. Eager to prove that she has what it takes to be a champion, she risks everything to join the Olympic team. 

From Missouri, Helen Stephens, awkward, tomboyish, and poor, is considered an outcast by her schoolmates, but she dreams of escaping the hardships of her farm life through athletic success. Her aspirations appear impossible until a chance encounter changes her life. 

These three athletes will join with others to defy society’s expectations of what women can achieve. As tensions bring the United States and Europe closer and closer to the brink of war, Betty, Louise, and Helen must fight for the chance to compete as the fastest women in the world amidst the pomp and pageantry of the Nazi-sponsored 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

Review

The 1928 Olympics allow the first ever women to compete in Track and Field. It opens many opportunities for other young ladies to try for the 1936 Olympics. Betty, Louise and Helen all come from different parts of the country and different backgrounds. But each one is determined to make their dream come true.

This story is told through a different woman’s point of view. However, all have some of the same difficulties. People, mainly men, telling them they should not run. They should not compete. It will make them too masculine. They will lose their girlish figure. The list goes on and on. And that is not even touching on the African American competitors. Their challenges were doubled and tripled and then some!

I enjoyed following these athletes through their struggles. All of these women were true leaders of their time. I don’t think I have quite understood the challenges these women athletes, which have gone before us, actually experienced. I was mesmerized through this whole tale.

This novel is very well researched and very well written! Grab your copy today!

I received a copy from Go Spark Studios for a honest review.

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The Reluctant Bandit by Ami Hicken King – COVER REVEAL

The Reluctant Bandit: lawlessness and the law Book 1

By Ami Hicken King

Genre: Historical fiction (western & romance elements)

About the Book

Good guy or villain?

Charlie Stapleton begins his day with one dilemma—rob the mercantile in a booming mining town or his brother Jimmy dies–ending the morning with another–kidnapping the sheriff’s daughter.  Conscientious and guilt-ridden, he’s now responsible for Jimmy and Annabelle, against their wishes.

Annabelle, the sheriff’s daughter, grew up sheltered for reasons beyond her understanding.  Chafing at the restrictions placed on her by her single father and unwilling to be courted by her father’s deputy, she begins planning a “trip.”  

Charlie’s actions propel himself and Annabelle into a long-standing chain of events so intertwined they blur the lines between law and disorder, and right and wrong.  In the battle between the law, lawlessness, and corrupt business, who will be willing to sacrifice their goals and principles to gain resolution?

About the Author

I’ve always been curious as well as a verbal processor who thinks about things, a lot. This behavior also happens to drive my family a little batty. What may seem like random thoughts and words sprouting out of seemingly nowhere has a method in my mind—this includes the mid-sentence pauses, over-thinking, and a variety pack of humor. It can be entertaining and confusing, but never dull. Amongst the entertained: two male, rescue mutts—Yes, I talk to my dogs (I’m sure I’m not alone in that). 

While I love wandering, wondering, and cloud watching, I also enjoy learning and connecting the dots in my inner and outer worlds. I’ve always been a voracious reader, fountain pen and paper product enthusiast, as well as lover of wax seal jewelry and pretty, shiny objects. I love a good story and analogies—written and spoken. Tell me your story, my spirit will listen. 

I frequently stand on the precipice, watching and observing, but when I’m in, I’m all in. I’m your ride or die girl, or the Thelma to your Louise (or Louie, whichever the case may be). Coffee or tea? Yes, please.

Website: https://amihickenking.com

On Instagram:@amihickenking

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Lies, Lies, Lies by Adele Parks @harlequinbooks #review #fiction

Book Summary:

LIES LIES LIES (MIRA Trade Paperback; August 4, 2020; $17.99) centers on the story of Simon and Daisy Barnes. To the outside world, Simon and Daisy look like they have a perfect life. They have jobs they love, an angelic, talented daughter, a tight group of friends… and they have secrets too. Secrets that will find their way to the light, one way or the other.
Daisy and Simon spent almost a decade hoping for the child that fate cruelly seemed to keep from them. It wasn’t until, with their marriage nearly in shambles and Daisy driven to desperation, little Millie was born. Perfect in every way, healing the Barnes family into a happy unit of three. Ever indulgent Simon hopes for one more miracle, one more baby. But his doctor’s visit shatters the illusion of the family he holds so dear.
Now, Simon has turned to the bottle to deal with his revelation and Daisy is trying to keep both of their secrets from spilling outside of their home. But Daisy’s silence and Simon’s habit begin to build until they set off a catastrophic chain of events that will destroy life as they know it.

Review

Simon and Daisy struggled most of their marriage to have a child. Then along comes sweet, little Millie. But all is not as rosy as it seems. Simon drinks way too much. And all it takes is one night for everything to fall apart.

Daisy is a character I just wanted to shake! Shake some sense into her! And don’t even get me started on Simon.

I really was not a huge fan of this book. But do not judge it by my opinion…it is an opinion. I was not a fan of the characters. They really were unlikeable. It is also very slow at the start of this read. Took too long to get to any action. And when it came down to the part about the cat, that just about did me in!

I received this novel from the publisher for a honest review.

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Social Links:

Twitter: @AdeleParks
Instagram: @adele_parks
Facebook: @OfficialAdeleParks

Author Bio:
Adele Parks was born in Teesside, North-East England. Her first novel, Playing Away, was published in 2000 and since then she’s had seventeen international bestsellers, translated into twenty-six languages, including I Invited Her In. She’s been an Ambassador for The Reading Agency and a judge for the Costa. She’s lived in Italy, Botswana and London, and is now settled in Guildford, Surrey, with her husband, teenage son and cat.

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The Night Swim by Megan Goldin #5stars #suspense #review @megangoldin @stmartinspress

Overview

A blistering plot and crisp writing make The Night Swim an unputdownable read.” –Sarah Pekkanen, bestselling author of The Wife Between Us

In The Night Swim, a new thriller from Megan Goldin, author of the “gripping and unforgettable” (Harlen Coben) The Escape Room, a true crime podcast host covering a controversial trial finds herself drawn deep into a small town’s dark past and a brutal crime that took place there years before.

Ever since her true-crime podcast became an overnight sensation and set an innocent man free, Rachel Krall has become a household name—and the last hope for people seeking justice. But she’s used to being recognized for her voice, not her face. Which makes it all the more unsettling when she finds a note on her car windshield, addressed to her, begging for help.

The new season of Rachel’s podcast has brought her to a small town being torn apart by a devastating rape trial. A local golden boy, a swimmer destined for Olympic greatness, has been accused of raping the beloved granddaughter of the police chief. Under pressure to make Season 3 a success, Rachel throws herself into her investigation—but the mysterious letters keep coming. Someone is following her, and she won’t stop until Rachel finds out what happened to her sister twenty-five years ago. Officially, Jenny Stills tragically drowned, but the letters insist she was murdered—and when Rachel starts asking questions, nobody in town wants to answer. The past and present start to collide as Rachel uncovers startling connections between the two cases—and a revelation that will change the course of the trial and the lives of everyone involved.

Electrifying and propulsive, The Night Swim asks: What is the price of a reputation? Can a small town ever right the wrongs of its past? And what really happened to Jenny?

Review

Rachel is a famous true crime podcaster. She is always on the look out for justice. She is after the truth. This season she is trying to discover the truth about a rape. Did a future Olympic swimmer rape a young 16 year old? Rachel is at the trial to discover what actually happened. But, as she is arriving into town, she stops to grab a bite to eat. When she comes back to her car, there is a letter. No one knows Rachel via her face. They know her voice. So how did someone know where she was or WHO she was???

Rachel continues to get cryptic letters about a murder years ago in this same town. And boy, do these letters open a can of worms and hidden secrets.

This story is packed full of whodunnits! I swear…I did not figure it out for quite a while. The author did a fabulous job masking the real killer. I loved the guessing game and all the tangents she had me chasing. And the ending!!

This novel also touches on the differences between rape and murder in the justice system. It is a tragedy to see what the victim of a rape has to go through to see the perpetrator punished.

This is a tragic, well-written, wonderful story with many unique twists and turns. Grab your copy today. You will stay up late into the night! Do not miss it!

I received this novel from the publisher for a honest review.

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The Orphan Collector by Ellen Marie Wiseman #historicalfiction #review #5stars @ellenmariewise #kensingtonpublishing

Overview

From the internationally bestselling author of What She Left Behind comes a gripping and powerful tale of upheaval—a heartbreaking saga of resilience and hope perfect for fans of Beatriz Williams and Kristin Hannah—set in Philadelphia during the 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak—the deadly pandemic that went on to infect one-third of the world’s population…

In the fall of 1918, thirteen-year-old German immigrant Pia Lange longs to be far from Philadelphia’s overcrowded slums and the anti-immigrant sentiment that compelled her father to enlist in the U.S. Army. But as her city celebrates the end of war, an even more urgent threat arrives: the Spanish flu. Funeral crepe and quarantine signs appear on doors as victims drop dead in the streets and desperate survivors wear white masks to ward off illness. When food runs out in the cramped tenement she calls home, Pia must venture alone into the quarantined city in search of supplies, leaving her baby brothers behind.

Bernice Groves has become lost in grief and bitterness since her baby died from the Spanish flu. Watching Pia leave her brothers alone, Bernice makes a shocking, life-altering decision. It becomes her sinister mission to tear families apart when they’re at their most vulnerable, planning to transform the city’s orphans and immigrant children into what she feels are “true Americans.”

Waking in a makeshift hospital days after collapsing in the street, Pia is frantic to return home. Instead, she is taken to St. Vincent’s Orphan Asylum – the first step in a long and arduous journey. As Bernice plots to keep the truth hidden at any cost in the months and years that follow, Pia must confront her own shame and fear, risking everything to see justice – and love – triumph at last. Powerful, harrowing, and ultimately exultant, The Orphan Collector is a story of love, resilience, and the lengths we will go to protect those who need us most.

Review

Pia is a young, German girl living in the slums of Philadelphia with her twin brothers and her mother. Her father is fighting in the war overseas and they are struggling to survive. Then her mother dies of the Spanish Flu and the struggle worsens. Pia does everything she can to keep her family together. She slips out one day to find food and leaves her brothers at home alone. She collapses in the street and wakes up in a hospital sick with the flu. She is desperate to get to her brothers, but sadly, she is sent to an orphanage.

Pia struggles through most of her life. She is constantly trying to find a way to find her brothers. Adding to her stress is the orphanage…don’t even get me started! Then there is Bernice. She is pure evil and you MUST read this to find out why!

When I finished this read, I honestly said, “WOW!” This story is ripped straight from today’s headlines. Even though it is set in 1913, we are still fighting the same battles, immigration, racism and an epidemic. This novel also pulls at your heartstrings and I swear you just want to cry over some of these children.

You DO NOT want to miss this one! Grab your copy today!

I received this novel from the publisher for a honest review.

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The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis @fionajdavis @duttonbooks #historicalfiction #review #5stars

Overview

In nationally bestselling author Fiona Davis’s latest historical novel, a series of book thefts roils the iconic New York Public Library, leaving two generations of strong-willed women to pick up the pieces.

It’s 1913, and on the surface, Laura Lyons couldn’t ask for more out of life—her husband is the superintendent of the New York Public Library, allowing their family to live in an apartment within the grand building, and they are blessed with two children. But headstrong, passionate Laura wants more, and when she takes a leap of faith and applies to the Columbia Journalism School, her world is cracked wide open. As her studies take her all over the city, she is drawn to Greenwich Village’s new bohemia, where she discovers the Heterodoxy Club—a radical, all-female group in which women are encouraged to loudly share their opinions on suffrage, birth control, and women’s rights. Soon, Laura finds herself questioning her traditional role as wife and mother. But when valuable books are stolen back at the library, threatening the home and institution she loves, she’s forced to confront her shifting priorities head on . . . and may just lose everything in the process.

Eighty years later, in 1993, Sadie Donovan struggles with the legacy of her grandmother, the famous essayist Laura Lyons, especially after she’s wrangled her dream job as a curator at the New York Public Library. But the job quickly becomes a nightmare when rare manuscripts, notes, and books for the exhibit Sadie’s running begin disappearing from the library’s famous Berg Collection. Determined to save both the exhibit and her career, the typically risk-adverse Sadie teams up with a private security expert to uncover the culprit. However, things unexpectedly become personal when the investigation leads Sadie to some unwelcome truths about her own family heritage—truths that shed new light on the biggest tragedy in the library’s history.

Review

Laura Lyons is married to the superintendent for the New York Public Library. Her husband and their family actually live in an apartment in the library. Laura decides to go back to school and become a journalist. Being a woman…and 1913…this is not an easy feat. Then some valuable books disappear from the library. This threatens everything she has worked for…including her family.

Now, fast forward to the 1990s. Sadie almost has her dream job of curator for the New York Public Library. She has kept hidden the fact that Laura Lyons, the famous essayist, is her grandmother. She does not want to use this as leverage. But, when valuable objects and books start missing from the library. Things start to cave in around her.

I enjoyed how the author incorporated the two time periods. And she did an excellent job with the differences for woman during both eras. I was extremely fascinated with just about every part of this book. The characters, the building of the library, the history around the objects…just amazingly well done!

No one does old New York like Fiona Davis! And this book is one of her bests! As most of you know…I love a book which has me researching. And this one had me looking up all kinds of stuff.

Do not miss this one! Grab your copy today!

I received this novel from the publisher for a honest review.

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The Friendship List by Susan Mallery – Excerpt @Harlequinbooks #excerpt #bookspotlight

The Friendship List : A Novel

Susan Mallery

On Sale Date: August 4, 2020

9781335136961, 1335136967

Hardcover

$26.99 USD, $33.50 CAD

Fiction / Romance / Contemporary 

384 pages

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Already a worldwide success in mass market and trade paperback formats, Susan Mallery’s newest hardcover is an emotional, witty, and heartfelt story about two best friends who are determined to help one another shake things up and live life to the fullest…only to discover that possibilities are everywhere–especially in the most unexpected of places.

Ellen and Unity have been best friends basically since birth, but they couldn’t be more different. Unity married her childhood sweetheart just after high school and became an Army wife, moving from base to base…until her husband’s shocking death in the line of duty leaves her a widow. Grief-stricken, it’s time for Unity to come back home to Ellen—the only person she can trust to help her rebuild her life. But Ellen has troubles of her own. Boys never seemed to notice Ellen…until one got her pregnant in high school and disappeared. Her son is now 17 and she’s wondering what to do with herself now that he’s heading off to college and he’s literally her entire world.

But now that Ellen and Unity are reunited, they’re done with their stale lives. It’s time to shake things up and start living again, knowing that they’ll always have one another to lean on. So they create a list of challenges they have to accomplish–everything from getting a tattoo to skydiving to staying out all night. And whoever completes the most challenges is the winner. But with new adventures and love just around the corner, there’s no such thing as losing…

About The Author

SUSAN MALLERY is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of novels about the relationships that define women’s lives—family, friendship and romance. Library Journal says, “Mallery is the master of blending emotionally believable characters in realistic situations,” and readers seem to agree—forty million copies of her books have been sold worldwide. Her warm, humorous stories make the world a happier place to live.

Susan grew up in California and now lives in Seattle with her husband. She’s passionate about animal welfare, especially that of the two Ragdoll cats and adorable poodle who think of her as Mom.

SOCIAL LINKS:

Twitter: @susanmallery

Facebook: @susanmallery

Instagram: @susanmallery

Author website: https://www.susanmallery.com/

BUY LINKS:

Amazon

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Indie Bound

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Chapter One

“I should have married money,” Ellen Fox said glumly. “That would have solved all my problems.”

Unity Leandre, her best friend, practically since birth, raised her eyebrows. “Because that was an option so many times and you kept saying no?”

“It could have been. Maybe. If I’d ever, you know, met a rich guy I liked and wanted to marry.”

“Wouldn’t having him want to marry you be an equally important part of the equation?”

Ellen groaned. “This is not a good time for logic. This is a good time for sympathy. Or giving me a winning lottery ticket. We’ve been friends for years and you’ve never once given me a winning lottery ticket.”

Unity picked up her coffee and smiled. “True, but I did give you my pony rides when we celebrated our eighth birthdays.”

A point she would have to concede, Ellen thought. With their birthdays so close together, they’d often had shared parties. The summer they’d turned eight, Unity’s mom had arranged for pony rides at a nearby farm. Unity had enjoyed herself, but Ellen had fallen in love with scruffy Mr. Peepers, the crabby old pony who carried them around the paddock. At Ellen’s declaration of affection for the pony, Unity had handed over the rest of her ride tickets, content to watch Ellen on Mr. Peepers’s wide back.

“You were wonderful about the pony rides,” Ellen said earnestly, “And I love that you were so generous. But right now I really need a small fortune. Nothing overwhelming. Just a tasteful million or so. In return, I’ll give back the rides on Mr. Peepers.”

Unity reached across the kitchen table and touched Ellen’s arm. “He really wants to go to UCLA?”

Ellen nodded, afraid if she spoke, she would whimper. After sucking in a breath, she managed to say, “He does. Even with a partial scholarship, the price is going to kill me.” She braced herself for the ugly reality. “Out-of-state costs, including room and board, are about sixty-four thousand dollars.” Ellen felt her heart skip a beat and not out of excitement. “A year. A year! I don’t even bring home that much after taxes. Who has that kind of money? It might as well be a million dollars.”

Unity nodded. “Okay, now marrying money makes sense.”

“I don’t have a lot of options.” Ellen pressed her hand to her chest and told herself she wasn’t having a heart attack. “You know I’d do anything for Coop and I’ll figure this out, but those numbers are terrifying. I have to start buying lottery scratchers and get a second job.” She looked at Unity. “How much do you think they make at Starbucks? I could work nights.”

Unity, five inches taller, with long straight blond hair, grabbed her hands. “Last month it was University of Oklahoma and the month before that, he wanted to go to Notre Dame. Cooper has changed his mind a dozen times. Wait until you go look at colleges this summer and he figures out what he really wants, then see who offers the best financial aid before you panic.” Her mouth curved up in a smile. “No offense, Ellen, but I’ve tasted your coffee. You shouldn’t be working anywhere near a Starbucks.”

“Very funny.” Ellen squeezed her hands. “You’re right. He’s barely seventeen. He won’t be a senior until September. I have time. And I’m saving money every month.”

It was how she’d been raised, she thought. To be practical, to take responsibility. If only her parents had thought to mention marrying for money.

“After our road trip, he may decide he wants to go to the University of Washington after all, and that would solve all my problems.”

Not just the money ones, but the loneliness ones, she thought wistfully. Because after eighteen years of them being a team, her nearly grown-up baby boy was going to leave her.

“Stop,” Unity said. “You’re getting sad. I can see it.”

“I hate that you know me so well.”

“No, you don’t.”

Ellen sighed. “No, I don’t, but you’re annoying.”

“You’re more annoying.”

They smiled at each other.

Unity stood, all five feet ten of her, and stretched. “I have to get going. You have young minds to mold and I have a backed-up kitchen sink to deal with, followed by a gate repair and something with a vacuum. The message wasn’t clear.” She looked at Ellen. “You going to be okay?”

Ellen nodded. “I’m fine. You’re right. Coop will change his mind fifteen more times. I’ll wait until it’s a sure thing, then have my breakdown.”

“See. You always have a plan.”

They walked to the front door. Ellen’s mind slid back to the ridiculous cost of college.

“Any of those old people you help have money?” she asked. “For the right price, I could be a trophy wife.”

Unity shook her head. “You’re thirty-four. The average resident of Silver Pines is in his seventies.”

“Marrying money would still solve all my problems.”

Unity hugged her, hanging on tight for an extra second. “You’re a freak.”

“I’m a momma bear with a cub.”

“Your cub is six foot three. It’s time to stop worrying.”

“That will never happen.”

“Which is why I love you. Talk later.”

Ellen smiled. “Have a good one. Avoid spiders.”

“Always.”

When Unity had driven away, Ellen returned to the kitchen where she quickly loaded the dishwasher, then packed her lunch. Cooper had left before six. He was doing some end-of-school-year fitness challenge. Something about running and Ellen wasn’t sure what. To be honest, when he went on about his workouts, it was really hard not to tune him out. Especially when she had things like tuition to worry about.

“Not anymore today,” she said out loud. She would worry again in the morning. Unity was right—Cooper was going to keep changing his mind. Their road trip to look at colleges was only a few weeks away. After that they would narrow the list and he would start to apply. Only then would she know the final number and have to figure out how to pay for it.

Until then she had plenty to keep her busy. She was giving pop quizzes in both fourth and sixth periods and she wanted to update her year-end tests for her two algebra classes. She needed to buy groceries and put gas in the car and go by the library to get all her summer reading on the reserve list.

As she finished her morning routine and drove to the high school where she taught, Ellen thought about Cooper and the college issue. While she was afraid she couldn’t afford the tuition, she had to admit it was a great problem to have. Seventeen years ago, she’d been a terrified teenager, about to be a single mom, with nothing between her and living on the streets except incredibly disappointed and angry parents who had been determined to make her see the error of her ways.

Through hard work and determination, she’d managed to pull herself together—raise Cooper, go to college, get a good job, buy a duplex and save money for her kid’s education. Yay her.

But it sure would have been a lot easier if she’d simply married someone with money.

*

“How is it possible to get a C- in Spanish?” Coach Keith Kinne asked, not bothering to keep his voice down. “Half the population in town speaks Spanish. Hell, your sister’s husband is Hispanic.” He glared at the strapping football player standing in front of him. “Luka, you’re an idiot.”

Luka hung his head. “Yes, Coach.”

“Don’t ‘yes, Coach’ me. You knew this was happening—you’ve known for weeks. And did you ask for help? Did you tell me?”

“No, Coach.”

Keith thought about strangling the kid but he wasn’t sure he could physically wrap his hands around the teen’s thick neck. He swore silently, knowing they were where they were and now he had to fix things—like he always did with his students.

“You know the rules,” he pointed out. “To play on any varsity team you have to get a C+ or better in every class. Did you think the rules didn’t apply to you?”

Luka, nearly six-five and two hundred and fifty pounds, slumped even more. “I thought I was doing okay.”

“Really? So you’d been getting better grades on your tests?”

“Not exactly.” He raised his head, his expression miserable. “I thought I could pull up my grade at the last minute.”

“How did that plan work out?”

“No bueno.”

Keith glared at him. “You think this is funny?”

“No, Coach.”

Keith shook his head. “You know there’s not a Spanish summer school class. That means we’re going to have to find an alternative.”

Despite his dark skin, Luka went pale. “Coach, don’t send me away.”

“No one gets sent away.” Sometimes athletes went to other districts that had a different summer curriculum. They stayed with families and focused on their studies.

“I need to stay with my family. My mom understands me.”

“It would be better for all of us if she understood Spanish.” Keith glared at the kid. “I’ll arrange for an online class. You’ll get a tutor. You will report to me twice a week, bringing me updates until you pass the class.” He sharpened his gaze. “With an A.”

Luka took a step back. “Coach, no! An A? I can’t.”

“Not with that attitude.”

“But, Coach.”

“You knew the rules and you broke them. You could have come to me for help early on. You know I’m always here for any of my students, but did you think about that or did you decide you were fine on your own?”

“I decided I was fine on my own,” Luka mumbled.

“Exactly. And deciding on your own is not how teams work. You go it alone and you fail.”

Tears filled Luka’s eyes. “Yes, Coach.”

Keith pointed to the door. Luka shuffled out. Keith sank into his chair. He’d been hard on the kid, but he needed to get the message across. Grades mattered. He was willing to help whenever he could, but he had to be told what was going on. He had a feeling Luka thought because he was a star athlete he was going to get special treatment. Maybe somewhere else, but not here. Forcing Luka to get an A sent a message to everyone who wanted to play varsity sports.

He’d barely turned to his computer when one of the freshman boys stuck his head in the office. “Coach Kinne! Coach Kinne! There’s a girl crying in the weight room.”

Keith silently groaned as he got up and jogged to the weight room, hoping he was about to deal with something simple like a broken arm or a concussion. He knew what to do for those kinds of things. Anything that was more emotional, honest to God, terrified him.

He walked into the weight room and found a group of guys huddled together. A petite, dark-haired girl he didn’t know sat on a bench at the far end, her hands covering her face, her sobs audible in the uneasy silence.

He looked at the guys. “She hurt?”

They shifted their weight and shook their heads. Damn. So it wasn’t physical. Why didn’t things ever go his way?

“Any of you responsible for whatever it is?” he asked.

More shaken heads with a couple of guys ducking out.

Keith pointed to the door so the rest of them left, then returned his attention to the crying girl. She was small and looked young. Maybe fifteen. Not one of his daughter’s friends or a school athlete—he knew all of them.

He approached the teen, trying to look friendly rather than menacing, then sat on a nearby bench.

“Hey,” he said softly. “I’m Coach Kinne.”

She sniffed. Her eyes were red, her skin pale. “I know who you are.”

“What’s going on?” Don’t be pregnant, don’t be pregnant, he chanted silently.

More tears spilled over. “I’m pregnant. The father is Dylan, only he says he’s not, and I can’t tell my m-mom because she’ll be so mad and he said he l-loved me.”

And just like that Keith watched his Monday fall directly into the crapper.

*

Keith left work exactly at three fifteen. He would be returning to his office to finish up paperwork, supervise a couple of workouts and review final grades for athletes hovering on the edge of academic problems. But first, he had pressing personal business.

He drove the two short miles to his house, walked inside and headed directly for his seventeen-year-old daughter’s room.

Lissa looked up from her laptop when he entered, her smile fading as she figured out he was in a mood. Despite the attitude, she was a beauty. Long dark hair, big brown eyes. Dammit all to hell—why couldn’t he have an ugly daughter who no guy would look at twice?

“Hi, Dad,” she said, sounding wary. “What’s up?”

“Spot check.”

She rolled her eyes. “Seriously? There is something wrong with you. I heard what happened at school today. I’m not dumb enough to date a guy like Dylan who would tell a tree stump he loved it if it would have sex with him. I’m not sleeping with anyone and I’m not pregnant. I told you—I’m not ready to have sex, as in I’m still a virgin. You’re obsessed. Would you feel better if I wore a chastity belt?”

“Yes, but you won’t. I’ve asked.”

“Da-ad. Why are you like this? Pregnancy isn’t the worst thing that could happen. I could be sick and dying. Wouldn’t that be terrible?”

“You can’t win this argument with logic. I’m irrational. I accept that. But I’m also the parent, so you have to deal with me being irrational.”

He pointed to her bathroom. She sighed the long-suffering sigh of those cursed with impossible fathers and got up. He followed her to the doorway and watched as she pulled the small plastic container out of the bathroom drawer and opened it.

Relief eased the tension in his body. Pills were missing. The right number of pills.

“You are a nightmare father,” his daughter said, shoving the pills back in the drawer. “I can’t wait until I’m eighteen and I can get the shot instead of having to take birth control pills. Then you’ll only bug me every few months.”

“I can’t wait, either.”

“It’s not like I even have a boyfriend.”

“You could be talking to someone online.”

Her annoyance faded as she smiled at him. “Dad, only one of us in this house does the online dating thing and it’s not me.”

“I don’t online date.”

“Fine. You pick up women online, then go off and have sex with them for the weekend. It’s gross. You should fall in love with someone you’re not embarrassed to bring home to meet me.”

“I’m not embarrassed. I just don’t want complications.”

“But you do want to have sex. It’s yucky.”

“Then why are we talking about it?” He pulled her close and hugged her, then kissed the top of her head. “Sorry, Lissa. I can’t help worrying about you.”

She looked up at him. “Dad, I’m taking my pills every day, not that it matters because I’m not having sex. I’m not. I’ve barely kissed a guy. Having you as my father makes it really difficult to date. Guys don’t want to mess with you and risk being beat up.”

“Good.”

She smiled even as she hit him in the arm. “You’re repressing my emotional growth.”

“Just don’t get pregnant.”

“You need to find a more positive message. How about ‘be your best self?’”

“That, too. Gotta go.”

“I’m having dinner with Jessie tonight. Remember?”

“No problem. Be home by ten.”

He got back in his truck but before starting the engine, he quickly texted Ellen. I need a couple of beers and a friendly ear. You around tonight?

The response came quickly. Only if you bring fried chicken. I have beer and ice cream.

You’re on. See you at six.

Excerpted from The Friendship List by Susan Mallery, Copyright © 2020 by Susan Mallery, Inc.. Published by HQN.

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July Escapes and Escapades #julywrapup #escapeandescapades #wrapup

Escapades

We actually took a vacation this month. Yes! We did! We took off to the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. We have not been up to this part of the country for quite some time. We usually follow the St. Louis Cardinals on a road trip. But, this is a unique year, to say the least. We had a wonderful time and we will definitely be back.

If you ever get a chance, check this part of the country out. It is beautiful.

Now on to my Escapes.

No One Saw
The Lost and Found Bookshop
What You Wish For
A Sweet Mess
The Woman Before Wallis
The Book of Lost Names
How Lulu Lost Her Mind
The Wife Who Knew Too Much
The Two Mrs Carlyles
Gone To Darkness

I also finished these two below and the reviews will be up next week

Once again, I had a fabulous reading month. What about you…what were your escapes and escapades?

Inquiring minds want to know!

Have a wonderful August!

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Gone to Darkness by Barbara Nickless #review #fiction #suspense @barbaranickless

Overview

From a Wall Street Journal bestselling author. Newly minted homicide detective Sydney Parnell faces a savage killer whose endgame is to capture her. And keep her.

Iraqi war vet and former railway cop Sydney Parnell is now the youngest homicide detective in Denver’s Major Crimes Unit. In the past, gut instinct has served her and her K9 partner well. But it’s not a trait Len Bandoni, her old nemesis turned reluctant mentor, admires. Not until Sydney’s instincts lead to their first case: a man tortured and beaten to death, then left in a refrigerated train car with cryptic messages carved into his body.

The victim is a well-liked member of an elite club called the Superior Gentlemen. At first glance, the club appears harmless. But beneath its refined surface swim darker currents.

As Sydney; her K9 partner, Clyde; and Bandoni investigate the grisly murder, the three develop a bond that carries them through a shocking series of crimes and a horrifying conspiracy that threatens the detectives’ lives and promises to bring their beloved city to its knees.

Review

Sydney has started her new job as the youngest detective on the Denver Police Force. She has a lot to prove. And when Sydney’s first murder case does not even have a body….she is struggling to find out exactly what is going on.

Sydney is a character after my own heart. She is smart and she is tough. She is a marine for goodness sakes. So, don’t mess with her. But this does not stop some people from trying. When this murder leads her to an elite, underground club her life becomes a target.

And then there is Clyde. Clyde is her K9 partner and he is the best character in the book!

I do not know how I have missed this author. But, I thoroughly enjoyed this read. It moves quickly and I was hooked on the cryptic symbols….you have to read this to find out. Captivating to say the least. I have not read the other books in this series and I will remedy that soon. This is a stand alone read and you do not want to miss it! Plus! It has a dog! I am all about a dog!

I received this novel from the publisher for a honest review.

Purchase Here

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