The Total Package
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: William Morrow
Date of Publication: March 15, 2016
Number of pages: 256
The New York Times bestselling author of Big Girl Panties and The Sweet Spot is back with a funny, sweet, and sizzling novel about the game of love, in which a hot quarterback must figure out how to score big with a beautiful and talented media analyst after a heartbreaking fumble.
Star quarterback, first-round draft-pick, and heartthrob Tyson Palmer has made a name for himself with his spectacular moves. When the head coach of the Austin Mavericks refuses to let him waste his million-dollar arm, Tyson makes a Hail Mary pass at redemption and succeeds with everyone... except Dani, whose negative comments about his performance draw high ratings and spectacular notices of her own.
Dani can’t forgive Tyson’s transgressions or forget the sizzling history the two of them shared in college, a passionate love Tyson casually threw away. And even more infuriating, he doesn’t realize that the bombshell with huge ratings is the cute girl whose heart he once broke.
But can a woman trying to claw her way to the top and a quarterback who knows all about rock bottom make it to the Super Bowl without destroying each other? And what will happen when Tyson—riding high now that he’s revived his career—realizes he needs to make an even more important comeback with Dani? Can he make some spectacular moves to get past her defenses—or will she sideline him for good?
The server dropped off his fresh drink, but Tyson kept at the remaining ice in his drained glass. Pheromones were producing an equally worthy rush. Ella with the Italian name had barely changed at all. She was still cute. The bar was starting to wind down. It was after 1:00 a.m. The music had stopped playing, but the other drinkers in the bar didn’t seem to notice. Those in hushed conversations still were quiet, only now lip-reading was no longer required. Rowdy voices remained boisterous.
“Of course I remember. Thanks to you, I got a B.” Not sure if that was true, but he had a knack for mixing his caddishness with boyish charm, even when he was half in the bag. “You’re here for homecoming?”
“Yes, by default. I stayed here to continue on to my master’s. I graduate this year.”
“Congratulations,” he said, straightening up, envious that she would soon be rewarded for having learned all her lessons, including the one about resisting temptation. Suddenly being the biggest partier in the room was a dubious distinction. “Have a seat, let me buy you a drink. We’ll celebrate.” He slid his fresh drink across the table in her direction.
“I’m not there yet.” She took up his offer for a seat across from him and ignored the highball of whiskey. “I still have to make it through the year. How are you?”
A loaded question if ever there was one. And the first time he was asked it all night without the asker trying to quickly take it back. By the kindhearted look on her face, she really wanted to know. But how is anyone who’s about to lose everything and become a social pariah? Who will have managed to fall from grace in such a spectacular fashion and in record time? Looking into the eyes of this innocent bookworm, who was still protected from the outside world by two square miles of college campus, he longed to answer honestly. To tell Ella Bella that he wanted to go home but couldn’t remember his own address. And then confess that even if he did recall it, he couldn’t go there anyway because the repo man was probably lying in wait to take back his Land Rover, the only thing he had left after his exceptionally beautiful trophy wife cleaned him out and left when the rumors started to surface and the police came calling. He wanted to admit that he couldn’t tell the difference between stoned and tired anymore.
“I’m doing great,” he replied, longing to pick up one of the conversations from his past. And if there was one thing he could never be accused of, it was being a whiner.
Her expression didn’t change, and she continued to study him with the same gentle smile.
“You don’t have to keep up appearances for me, Tyson.”
At first it didn’t register, and then he just didn’t want it to. He had already attached himself to the fantasy that she was too busy being intelligent with her nose in a book to be bothered with television. Or the Internet, where his life seemed to play out as he lived it. A train wreck he couldn’t stand watching even as he stood at the helm and drove. He resisted reaching into his pocket for another Percocet, opting instead to take back the Jack Daniel’s he had previously offered her.
“Here’s to the good old days,” he toasted before taking a swallow.
He quickly put his hand and the glass back on the table, a trick he’d learned to feel grounded. Now was the moment for her to take her leave and join the ranks of those repulsed by him. But sweet inexperienced Ella wasn’t beating a hasty retreat. Instead she pulled her chair up closer and lowered her voice.
“I’d much rather toast to your future,” she said, picking up his half empty drink and polishing it off.
He didn’t want to pretend anymore. And he didn’t have to carry on the charade. She still seemed to be looking at him with the wide-eyed adoration she had in the past, only now with a shadow of Jack-shooting tough girl.
“I don’t have a future.”
“Of course you do,” she proclaimed, “and I want to help you get back on the field.”
Tyson leaned back in his chair, stretching out his long legs to one side of the table. He crossed his arms over his chest and let out a single chuckle. Not the follow-up he’d expected. And she said it like he should’ve known.
“Just how do you propose to do that, Ella Bella?”
“By being a real friend for starters, the kind that wouldn’t just sit idly by and watch you get hooked on drugs.”
“Nobody got me hooked on anything,” he said stubbornly, more defense mechanism than anything else. By the time the news broke that she was indeed correct, this conversation would be over and he’d never have to see her again. And he refused to blame anyone other than himself for his lousy choices.
“So it was just alcohol that influenced your decisions that night with Carla Dowe?” she asked, moving on to the next topic, sounding more like a sideline reporter than an old friend.
Tyson grimaced. That was one face he’d never forget. At least she got right to the point. Carla Dowe was the beauty he met in a nightclub outside of Houston. She had long hair, longer legs, and rode him like a cowgirl in his rental car in the parking lot where they shared a joint after drinking the night away. His other transgressions surfaced rapidly after she sent one too many selfies of them looking a little too cozy. Her tune changed altogether once her parents found out. In the lawsuits that followed and thanks to his expensive attorney, the bar that let her in and served her took the brunt of the fallout. The suspicion around him remained as the allegations intensified, and rightly so. Even he had trouble recollecting the events of that evening. His blackouts had become a frequent occurrence. Luckily, his own lawyer was ruthless enough to subpoena and systematically grill friend after friend of the girl’s to testify about that night and Carla’s delight at having landed herself the ultimate score, complete with all the smiles she snapped, captured, and sent. But it was a double-edged sword. She looked young and innocent. He looked like ten miles of bad road. Tyson was spared a jail sentence but convicted of being a total scumbag in the court of public opinion.
“I swear she told me she was twenty-one.” He tried to make it sound like a joke, but the embarrassment reflected in his bloodshot eyes. “And she was eighteen.” He added feebly. He wasn’t sure why he bothered. There was still the issue that he was married at the time.
“Four days into eighteen. Easy to lose sight of that fact given she was still in high school,” Ella replied, graciously making no reference to his now-ex-wife.
New York Times Bestselling Author, Stephanie Evanovich is a full-fledged Jersey girl from Asbury Park who began writing fiction while waiting for her cues during countless community theater projects. She attended New York’s School of Film and Television and acted in several improvisational troupes and a few small-budget movies, all in preparation for the greatest job she ever had, raising her two sons. Now a full-time writer, she’s an avid sports fan who holds a black belt in tae kwon do.
To connect with the author online:
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The Bride Wore Starlight
Seven Brides for Seven Cowboys, #3
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Date of Publication: February 9, 2016
Number of pages: 279
Once comfortable on stage in front of thousands, Joely Crockett is now mortified at the thought of walking—or rolling—down the aisle at her sisters’ wedding. Scarred and wheelchair-bound, the former beauty queen has lost more than the ability to walk—she’s lost her fire. But when one handsome, arrogant guest accuses her of milking her injuries and ignites her ire, Joely finally starts to feel truly alive again, and soon it’s impossible for her to resist her heart’s desire.
Alec Morrissey knows a little something about loss. A famous rodeo cowboy before he was injured in Iraq, he’s managed to create something of a normal life, even if it’s not the one he always imagined. Encountering stunning but damaged Joely, he sees a kindred spirit who can learn from his mistakes.
As these two healing souls begin to fall in love under the Wyoming stars, they must discover if they are willing to give in to the tragedies of life or fight for a future together.
The contact with Alec’s strong, long-fingered hand didn’t do anything to quell the annoyance dancing in her stomach. Or was it attraction? Or just a very long time since a man had taken her hand?
He tugged gently and braced his feet so she could stand and get her solid leg beneath her.
Her eyes came level with his tie. That put him at roughly six feet, she thought inanely, although, in truth, no thoughts but inane ones filled her head. Up close his eyes shone a dark, rich amber, and his full, upturned lips made him appear prone to smiling. His hat looked so natural on him he might well have been born with it on.
He held out his right elbow. “Just think of me as a human hiking stick.”
He hadn’t said “cane.” He hadn’t said “crutch.” She offered a tentative, grateful smile, took a deep breath, and nodded.
What could have been horribly awkward turned out to be an easy partnership. Alec seemed to know instinctively how to step where she needed him for support, and his arm offered a perfect grip that she could lean into as firmly as she wanted. It took a dozen or so strides to get the coordination right, but slowly she figured out how to step firmly with her right leg and use Alec’s weight to help swing and step quickly with her left. She’d walked like this with crutches, but this felt so quasi normal—she almost enjoyed it.
They came to the stairs, and she froze. A flat path was easy. Going up stairs was awkward but doable. But going down threw her weight forward, and she didn’t have the strength or balance to keep from pitching headfirst down the flight.
“We’re doing great,” he said. “There are only six.”
“We’re doing fine,” he’d said. She didn’t know this man from any random person, and yet he knew how to speak as if they’d been doing this forever.
“I really should have a body on the other side, too,” she admitted reluctantly. “I suck at stairs.”
“Here’s the deal.” He removed her hand from his elbow and held it, then wrapped his right arm loosely around her waist. “It’s your balance that’s got you spooked. You haven’t practiced with it, but your left leg is strong enough. Trust yourself. You know the drill: bad leg—”
“First,” she finished. “Yes. But it doesn’t hold my weight.”
“Eventually it will, but for now we’ll step together, and you lean into me when you’re using that leg.”
How did he know so effortlessly what to do? He’d probably had plenty of bangs and bruises when he’d been on the rodeo circuit—maybe this was second nature for him.
They navigated the stairs like they’d been doing it for years. She’d never have made it on her own, and such an exercise had been clunky at best with a physical therapist. When she stood at the bottom without aid of a crutch or two side walkers, her satisfaction had to rival that of any successful mountain climber’s.
“Wow,” she said, unable to keep the pleasure from her voice.
“Why are you surprised? You’re a ranch girl; you’re tough.”
Lizbeth Selvig lives in Minnesota with her best friend (aka her husband), and a gray Arabian gelding. After working as a newspaper journalist and magazine editor, and raising an equine veterinarian daughter and a talented musician son, she won RWA’s prestigious Golden Heart® Contest in 2010 with her contemporary romance The Rancher and the Rock Star. In her spare time, she loves to hike, quilt, read, horseback ride, and spend time with her new granddaughter. She also has four-legged grandchildren—more than twenty—including a wallaby, two alpacas, a donkey, a pig, a sugar glider, and many dogs, cats, and horses (pics of all appear on her website www.lizbethselvig.com). She loves connecting with readers—contact her any time!
To connect with the author online:
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I Wish You Were Mine
Oxford Novel, #
Genre: Contemporary Sports Romance
Date of Publication: February 2, 2016
Number of pages: 283
Cover Artist: Abel Mitja Varela
Perfect for fans of Alice Clayton and Emma Chase, Lauren Layne’s Oxford series heats up in this story of forbidden desire as a brooding jock hoping for a comeback falls for a woman who’s strictly off-limits.
A year ago, Jackson Burke was married to the love of his life and playing quarterback for the Texas Redhawks. Now he’s retired, courtesy of the car accident that ruined his career—and single, after a nasty scandal torpedoed his marriage. Just as he’s starting to get used to his new life as a health and fitness columnist for Oxford magazine, his unpredictable ex shows up on his doorstep in Manhattan. Jackson should be thrilled. But he can’t stop thinking about the one person who’s always been there for him, the one girl he could never have: her younger sister.
Mollie Carrington can’t say no to Madison. After all, her older sister practically raised her. So when Madison begs for help in winning her ex-husband back, Mollie’s just glad she got over her own crush on Jackson ages ago—or so she thought. Because as Mollie reconnects with Jackson, she quickly forgets all her reasons to stay loyal to her sister. Tempted by Jackson’s mellow drawl and cowboy good looks, Mollie is sick and tired of coming in second place. But she can’t win if she doesn’t play the game.
Jackson took a sip. Perfection. Although what did it mean that Jackson’s life had turned into one where the highlight of his day was a well-made cocktail?
It wasn’t that Jackson needed the booze. He enjoyed it, certainly. Had relied on it more than he probably should have in those first few days when he’d gotten out of the hospital and come home to a whole lot of nothingness.
But these days he could take it or leave it.
Tonight, however, he was taking it. Sobriety had no place when you had to sit across from the most off-limits woman on the planet.
Knowing that didn’t stop the anticipation, however. He hadn’t seen her since she’d shown up in his hospital room to deliver a bag of Gatlin’s BBQ and...
His divorce papers.
That had been eight months ago.
He’d avoided her ever since, and he couldn’t even say why except that he’d avoided pretty much everyone. Jackson still spoke with his parents every Sunday, but everyone else—all the old teammates, the old neighbors—had eventually stopped calling.
Mollie hadn’t, though. Mollie had never given up on him. Until today, he hadn’t responded to a single text, a single email, and yet she hadn’t stopped sending them. That was Mollie for you. Fiercely loyal to both him and Madison, even when things had started to go to hell.
Mollie had been accepted to Columbia just about the time that he and Madison started coming apart at the seams. In hindsight, he was grateful that Mollie had been in New York when things started to go to hell in his marriage. That she hadn’t seen him at his worst.
At the time, however, he’d been hit with an unfair sense of abandonment. He hadn’t realized how much he’d come to rely on the much younger Mollie to mediate things between him and the volatile Madison until she was in a different time zone.
Even now, more than a decade since first meeting Mollie, he struggled to reconcile the fact that she and Madison had come from the same parents. Madison was perfectly coiffed, charming only when she was in the mood, and manipulative as all hell. Mollie, on the other hand, was adorably awkward—a brainy research assistant who cared a hell of a lot more about her scientific journals than her manicure.
But somewhere along the line, Mollie Carrington had ceased to be that awkward kid who talked about bugs at inopportune times. Somewhere along the line, she’d become his rock. The one person in the world, save for perhaps his parents, who always knew the exact right thing to say to make him feel like a human whenever he’d started to feel like a caricature of himself.
For years he’d tried to tell himself that it was just sibling affection—that he cared about her the way he would a sister. But then things had gotten worse with Madison—way worse. And Jackson had been hit upside the head with the truth: that maybe he’d married the wrong sister. That he didn’t want to spend the rest of his days married to the beautiful, brittle Madison.
He wanted someone who made him laugh. Who listened. Someone who cared more about people than she did about hair appointments.
Someone like Mollie.
Lauren Layne is the USA Today Bestselling author of more than a dozen contemporary romance novels.
Prior to becoming an author, Lauren worked in e-commerce and web-marketing. A year after moving from Seattle to NYC to pursue a writing career, she had a fabulous agent and multiple New York publishing deals.
Lauren currently lives in Manhattan with her husband and plus-sized Pomeranian. When not writing, you'll likely find her running (rarely), reading (sometimes), or at happy hour (often).
To connect with the author online:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram | Goodreads
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