Review – The Last Good Knight by Tiffany Reisz

The Last Good Knight Banner

So, I guess I should first mention that this post is part of the blog tour (I hope that’s obvious.) There’s a tour-wide giveaway here — check it out!

I read and loved the first four books in Tiffany Reisz’s Original Sinners series. (I say the first four books, but it’s kind of like Star Wars... the series started with the fourth (or fifth, if you count the novella) one.) So when I heard about this novella, I was pretty excited about it. Then I heard it was being released as a serial and I worried a little bit.

The Last Good Knight: An Original Sinners novella told in five parts:

Part I: Scars and Stripes

It’s lust at first sight when Mistress Nora encounters a sexy newcomer to The 8th Circle. She’s happy for the distraction, since she left her lover, Søren, but her session with Lance is cut short when her boss, Kingsley Edge, reveals they’re all in danger….

Part II: Sore Spots

With a potential stalker on the loose, Kingsley hires Lance as Nora’s bodyguard, but stipulates no sex while he’s on duty. Frustrated by the ex-SEAL’s noble chivalry, Nora is driven to seek release with the one man she’s trying to forget….

Part III: The Games Destiny Plays

Shocked to see Nora’s bruises, Lance is furious that she put herself in danger and demands to know where she got them. As Nora confesses her true nature, she’s equally shocked to learn that Lance has some secrets of his own, drawing them together despite Kingsley’s orders….

Part IV: Fit to Be Tied

With her feelings for Lance warring with her recent encounter with Søren, Nora returns to Lance’s bed and finds herself toying with the idea of…toying with him on a permanent basis. But after she gets a glimpse into his personal angst, Nora realizes she has the power to rescue this white knight….

Part V: The Last Good Night

Now that the perpetrator has been apprehended, Nora sadly acknowledges she doesn’t need a bodyguard anymore. She adores Lance and wants to keep him but is faced with a dilemma. If she uses her connections to help Lance, she’ll have to give him up forever…

The bottom line is that I liked this novella, but I have a few reservations about leaving it at that. I’ll put ’em in a list. I know you’ve been missing my lists.

  1. It’s a serial novella. That means that each $0.99 installment gives you about 25-30 pages of reading, with the expectation that you’ll purchase the other 4 installments to continue the story. Novellas are fast-paced little bites of stories anyway, and it’s slightly irritating to receive the story in this incremental format. I read them as ARCs — meaning that I had all five to start with (and I didn’t pay for them), and I was still slightly annoyed every time I had to find the next installment in my library and try to get back into the story. If you’re worried about the cost, I’ll be fair and put it in perspective… the total price for this approx. 120-page story is $4.95… the average Harlequin Presents story is about 180 pages long and costs $4.99. It’s up to you to decide whether a bit of Tiffany Reisz erotica is worth slightly more per-page than an HP.  My main irritation stems from the (admittedly ridiculous) inconvenience of having to open up five different books during one rather short reading experience. I know — I’m nit-picking — but novellas are already bite sized… do we really need to break them down further than that?
  2. Read those blurbs again… The thing is, the villain that drives most of the plot — that brings Nora and Lance together in a no-touching-allowed way — is an entirely off-page thing that never seems to be as big a deal as the characters believe. It’s like all the characters have these huge reactions to an invisible monster that turns out to be a nuisance rather than a danger.
  3. This one’s possibly just me, but it was a little weird reading a book about Nora and the other OS crew that takes place before The Siren, because OS books 2-4 so completely changed my views on Nora and Søren. It wasn’t a bad thing, but it was a little difficult for me to get into the right brain space to read this story. I suspect i’ll have the same problem with the other OS books (the prequels. Here’s hoping there aren’t any droid armies, Yoda fights or epic NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO moments in those books. I don’t think I could take it.)

So, yeah, those things were kind of strange or irritating, but I did like the novella. Once I got over the weirdness of going back in time with Nora and Søren, I loved how their dynamic played out. It’s also fantastic how you can read The Siren again after reading this novella and get another perspective on the Nora/Søren interactions. And I loved how the interludes between Nora and Lance, while necessarily short-lived, manage to be emotionally true and compelling. While the ending was a little bit heartbreaking, it was a really good kind of heartbreak.

While I’m not completely sure why this story needed to be told (maybe just to introduce Lance to the world?… Actually, that’s enough of a reason for me), I enjoyed reading it.

Amazon: (US Links)<br>Part I: http://amzn.to/1fVdUvP<br>Barnes & Noble:<br>Part I: http://bit.ly/RM6jI5

If you’re interested in more information about the author, check her out in the usual places: Twitter: @TiffanyReisz  https://twitter.com/tiffanyreisz, Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/littleredridingcrop, and Website: http://www.tiffanyreisz.com/.

Author PictureTiffany Reisz lives with her boyfriend (a reformed book reviewer) and two cats (one good, one evil). She graduated with a B.A. in English from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky and is making both her parents and her professors proud by writing BDSM erotica under her real name. She has five piercings, one tattoo, and has been arrested twice.

When not under arrest, Tiffany enjoys Latin Dance, Latin Men, and Latin Verbs. She dropped out of a conservative southern seminary in order to pursue her dream of becoming a smut peddler. Johnny Depp’s aunt was her fourth grade teacher. Her first full-length novel THE SIREN was inspired by a desire to tie up actor Jason Isaacs (on paper). She hopes someday life will imitate art (in bed).

If she couldn’t write, she would die.

*FTC Disclosure – I received e-galleys of all 5 installments from Harlequin via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

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What I’ve been reading lately – books by Jackie Barbosa

So, I was just putzing around on Twitter last Thursday when I saw a tweet from author Jackie Barbosa that shocked me with its reality.  Her son was killed in a traffic collision on his way to school that morning, and she was reeling. Over the next few hours, I saw tweet after tweet from authors, fans, friends, and bloggers offering support, love, and prayers. In the days that followed, a memorial fund was established to honor her son and eventually fund a scholarship in his name, and a bunch of authors, readers, and bloggers decided to help out in a creative way.  As author Courtney Milan put it on her blog, “Online, there’s no way to make someone a casserole or take her flowers, but there is something we can do to help ease her burdens and to send her the message that she is supported in this time: that is, for a short space of time, to take over the burden of talking about her books.”

So I’ve been reading books by Jackie Barbosa lately, and today I want to talk about them.

The Lesson Plan (Lords of Lancashire #1)

Sometimes, love is the hardest lesson of all… Despite her imminent debut, Miss Winifred Langston has no interest in trying on expensive ball gowns, learning intricate dance steps, or perfecting the one piece she can play on the pianoforte. Freddie would rather don a pair of breeches and go target shooting, fishing, or horseback riding—astride—than be anywhere near a ballroom or high tea. Rather than waste the last few days of her freedom on such pursuits, she invites her two closest friends to join her in one final caper.

When Conrad Pearce learns of Freddie’s plans, he decides it’s past time to teach his younger brother’s partner-in-crime a well-deserved lesson. But when he intercepts her, disguised as a highwayman, to demonstrate how dangerous and ill-advised her stunts are, he can’t resist the sensual beauty hidden beneath the maddening tomboy’s exterior. What began as one sort of lesson becomes quite another, as Conrad embarks on a comprehensive erotic tutorial of his surprisingly enthusiastic and adept student.

Now, he only has to convince the irrepressible Freddie to trade her breeches and madcap ways for the gowns and domesticity she despises.

I bought this book without reading the blurb because I’d already read and loved the second book in the Lords of Lancashire series. Then I read the blurb, and its final sentence worried me, but I was determined to trust that the woman who wrote Hot Under the Collar (which I loved) could not greatly err.  I was right.

The Lesson Plan has some of my favorite things: a cross dressing heroine; a slightly repressed hero who does things that are wildly out of character (or wildly in tune with his repressed — but true — self); a mad plan that goes awry; a masked man who looks — in my imagination, anyway, and that’s what really counts — like Westley/Dread Pirate Roberts; seemingly unrequited love that dates from adolescence; a heroine who is comfortable with her sexuality. It is steamy, fun, romantic, and a little bit sweet. In short, it was exactly what I wanted.

Hot Under the Collar (Lords of Lancashire #2)

Despite the old saw about third sons being destined for the church, no one ever expected the rakish, irresponsible Walter Langston to take up the collar, least of all himself. After an accident renders him unfit for military service, however, he has few other options. When he’s given the post of vicar at a parish church in a sleepy, coastal village, he’s convinced he’ll molder in obscurity. Instead, his arrival brings a sudden resurgence in church attendance…or at least, the attendance of female parishioners. As word of the eligible young vicar spreads, every well-heeled family for miles with a marriageable daughter fills his pews, aiming to catch his eye. Unfortunately for these hopeful members of his flock, Walter’s eye has already been caught—by the one woman who doesn’t come to church on Sundays.

Artemisia Finch left a lucrative career as a celebrated member of London’s demimondaine to care for her ailing father. Returning home hasn’t been easy, though, as her past isn’t even a well-kept secret in the village. When the new vicar arrives on her doorstep, Artemisia is determined to send him on his merry, pious way. But Walter Langston is nothing like any man of the cloth she’s ever known—he’s funny, irreverent, handsome, and tempting as sin. Falling in love with a vicar would be a very bad idea for a former courtesan. Why does this one have to be so hot under the collar?

I read and reviewed this book in 2012 in a multiple-review post, so I’m just going to copy the text that relates to Hot Under the Collar.

I was the lucky winner of a giveaway hosted by The Dashing Duchesses (always a fount of interesting information).  I love winning things, especially since it doesn’t happen very often, but I especially love winning things that I can really enjoy.  I enjoyed Hot Under the Collar, because it’s a fairly steamy romance novella with a happy-go-lucky vicar as the hero.  No kidding.

One of the things I love about the romance genre is that its authors often take the accepted assumptions about the time (for example that women were downtrodden waifs whose lives were completely controlled by men) and turn them around, writing novels with independent female characters who direct their own lives.  Hot Under the Collar does an excellent job of highlighting one of the cultural double standards of the time (and it’s still a double standard in our time, let me point out) that it was perfectly acceptable for men to have misadventures and then go on to be respectable members of society, but it was absolutely unacceptable for women to do the same, even if those “misadventures” were not really of their own doing.  So Walter is a respectable country vicar even though he spent his youth carousing brothels and gaming hells and being a general ne’er-do-well, but Artemisia is shunned by her community because she was fully compromised (in a family way) when she was sixteen, taken in by false promises of love.  Walter, as a vicar who doesn’t believe he has the right to judge anyone, ends up teaching morals and values to the entire community by behaving morally.

I loved this story and could not put it down.  Walter is glorious, funny, charming, and indomitable, and Artemisia, while generally accepting her circumstances, is confident and strong, exactly the sort of character whose story I want to read. The secondary characters add depth to the story, certainly more depth than I expected from a novella, and allow us to get to know Walter in his professional guise.

I know I’m gushing, but whatever.  The best books (my favorites, anyway) are the ones that make me feel better about humanity, and this one jumped to the top of my list of feel-good favorites.

Can’t Take the Heat (Working It #0.5)

Delaney Monroe could have married her college sweetheart, Wes Barrows, and lived the life of the idle rich thanks to his family’s casino money. Instead, she chose to become a firefighter. Unfortunately, that decision ended her relationship with Wes, who couldn’t bear the thought of her in such a dangerous profession. A little less than three years later, Del is one of the most respected members of her crew and loves her job, but she desperately misses Wes. Then, during a search and rescue operation, she’s knocked unconscious by falling debris.

Wesley Barrows finds himself with a major dilemma when his ex-girlfriend wakes from a serious head injury with no memory of the past few years or the circumstances that led to their breakup. On one hand, it’s the opportunity he’s longed for since he blew it and let her walk out the door. On the other, the fact that she’s got amnesia at all is the fault of the risky occupation she chose despite his objections. When her neurologist recommends that Delaney be allowed to recover her memory without being told what’s happened, Wes has no choice but take her home and act as if they’re still together, which isn’t a hardship when, in his heart, they always were. But as the bond between them becomes closer and more passionate than ever, Wes knows he risks losing her all over again when the truth comes out.

Having read two of Barbosa’s historical novellas, I decided to give one her contemporary stories a try. I love second-chance stories, in the same way that I love seemingly-unrequited-love-dating-from-adolescence stories… it’s the notion that the characters have all this baggage between them of a failed relationship or all their childish longing and have to sort it all out in order to reach happily ever after. (Maybe it won’t surprise you to hear that I married my adolescent love.) I like the inherent conflict in these kinds of stories, and I also like that this story type precludes my least favorite character trope: the character who’s opposed to love because of reasons /tangent. I was predisposed to like this story, but I was a little surprised by how much I liked it.

The blurb doesn’t prepare you for the cool way Barbosa handles the familiar second-chance-due-to-amnesia story line, and I love how sneaky it is. One minute you’re tracking along with all your expectations, and the next you’re like well, that was a surprise. And, if you’re like me, you’re thrilled that a contemporary novella had the power to surprise you, to run contrary to your expectations and still be completely enjoyable. I was also surprised by how steamy the sex scenes are (for reals… #buttsex).

My favorite thing about Can’t Take the Heat is that it features friendship in a big way. While Delaney ends up leaning on Wes after the accident, she runs to her best friend for comfort and conversation, and the scene between the two women is absolutely my favorite in the book. It reminded me so much of my own friendships. It is rare to find a book that authentically portrays friendship, and I think y’all should check this one out just for that and let everything else be a bonus.

For more information about Barbosa’s books, check out her website. If you’re curious about any of the books I highlighted here, simply click on the cover images above to visit their pages on Goodreads.

Advent reads part two – three more holiday novellas

I know you were totally thinking to yourself, “Books are great, Kelly, but what I really want is another video of an Advent carol.”  I knew it!

So I have three more holiday novellas to spotlight this week.  I loved one of them, thought one was enjoyable if a tad unremarkable, and did not at all like the third.

First up is the best of the bunch, Nina Rowan’s ‘Twas the Night Before Mischief. 

Cover image, ‘Twas the Night Before Mischief by Nina Rowan

‘Twas the night before mischief and all through the house, a lady was plotting—it was time to break out!

When Penelope Darlington is persuaded to elope with a most unsuitable suitor, she wastes no time. With visions of passion and adventure dancing in her head, she steals away in the middle of the night, just before her father’s Christmas feast.

Fearing for his daughter’s reputation, Henry Darlington begs Darius Hall, the Earl of Rushton’s daring yet discreet son, to bring Penelope home. When Darius finally catches up to Penelope, he is shocked. She’s not the silly little girl he expected, but a beautiful woman with a sharp mind and an allure that cannot be ignored.

Now forced to kidnap Penelope in order to bring her home, Darius and his new charge spend the next several days—and nights—in very close quarters. Penelope wanted passion and adventure, but she never could have imagined the pleasures Darius can provide…

‘Twas the Night Before Mischief is simply marvelous.  The characters are very well developed — especially considering the novella length — the story is interesting and well paced, and, perhaps most importantly, the romance is compelling.  My favorite thing about it is that the characters communicate imperfectly — Darius does not always understand what Penelope is trying to say, and Penelope frequently misunderstands Darius as well — but it isn’t obnoxious; actually, it feels natural, like how you’d expect two people who are getting to know one another to be.  As they spend time together, they get better at understanding.  It’s a fun little dose of reality in the middle of a historical romance novella.  I also loved the little details about Darius’ inventions and the nuances of Penelope’s relationship with her family.  All told, this is a fantastic novella, and I highly recommend it.

Next up is Jennifer Haymore’s His for Christmas.  I totally should have read the blurb all the way through (not just the first paragraph) before I read it.  I don’t think my opinion of the book would have materially changed, but I would have stopped expecting something a lot more interesting (and less straightforward) than what it is.  (It’s not necessarily an excuse, but you’ve noticed that blurbs are frequently lame and rarely give you an accurate idea of a story’s merit, right?  Anyway… sometimes I sort of skim the blurb, and sometimes I suck at skimming…)  Based on the first paragraph of the blurb, I was sort of expecting Lady Esme to appear as a character in this story, and I was hoping it would be super meta, with sections of Lady Esme’s erotic stories appearing in Esme’s own story.  I totally should have continued on to the 2nd paragraph.  But, seriously, wouldn’t that have been interesting?

Cover image, His for Christmas by Jennifer Haymore

Jennifer Haymore introduced sweet, but shy Lady Esme in The Duchess Hunt, the first novel in her House of Trent Series. But what readers may not know is that proper young Lady Esme has a secret: the youngest sister of the Duke of Trent privately pens erotic stories!

Society would never allow Lady Esme to share her own work, so her friend Jennifer Haymore is here to help—and just in time for Christmas!

His for Christmas is the steamy story of two travelers who find themselves stranded in an inn when an unexpected snowstorm blankets the English countryside. As the temperature drops, desire rises and the two strangers share a night of passion unlike anything either has ever experienced. When dawn breaks and the storm clears, will they continue on their separate journeys, or will they begin a new path together?

(Aside: just for the sake of my own sanity, I edited the above blurb, which I copied and pasted directly from Goodreads, to remove 3 spelling errors… “upexpected” “seperate” and “thier.”  In all honesty, if I had read the entire blurb, I would never have bothered reading the book, and that’s sad.)

His for Christmas tells the story of two homeward bound travelers, stranded at an inn during a winter storm.  These two were (sort of) childhood sweethearts until a sort-of-but-not-entirely betrayal forced them apart.  Now, with one recently widowed and one recently returned from a continental sojourn, they are able to discover the truth about the past and indulge in the passionate promise of the future.  The story was sweet, if a bit angsty, and I did actually enjoy it, but it lacked character development, and the story felt a bit rushed.  I know — it’s a novella, so I should be expecting those things — but novellas don’t have to live up to their reputation; they can, in fact, be perfect.  This novella certainly isn’t, but it does tell a lovely little story about forgiveness, trust, and sweet loving in a tiny bed.

And, finally, there’s Mistletoe and Magic a novella about a wackadoodle debutante, her gift of seeing the future, and the hero who inexplicably loves her (at first sight).

Cover image, Mistletoe and Magic by Katie Rose

In Katie Rose’s delightful eBook original novella set in Victorian New York City, a remarkable woman with the gift of second sight must learn to trust her visions while following her heart.
 
Blond, angelic Penelope Appleton possesses breathtaking looks—and a troublesome secret. She and her two charming—and newly married—sisters have inspired quite a following posing as spiritualists. However, unlike her clever sisters, Penelope actually does glimpse the future. On the eve of her coming out at a Christmas ball, Penelope sees a vision of a rakishly handsome dark-haired man who she knows is her destiny. But her premonition comes with a terrible price: She also foretells his death.

Jared Marton takes one look at Penelope and his fate is sealed. He must possess her, heart and soul, even if his efforts to get close to this ethereal beauty are thwarted by her determination to deny the magic between them . . . until a perfect kiss dissolves all barriers to sweet surrender. But when Jared discovers the burden she carries, a perfect love is challenged by the cold winds of fate.

So Mistletoe and Magic goes like this: Penelope meets Jared and is all OMG, dreamy! but then she has a psychic vision of his death, and she’s like, OMG, Heartbreak? GTFO!, but, meanwhile, Jared’s like Whoa… I think I’m in love! I’d better buy her all the things! Penelope doesn’t actually want him to die, but she’s far more invested in preventing heartbreak, so she sends him an anonymous note: Be careful! You’re in danger! and then proceeds to act totally crazy around him, gazing longingly in his general direction one moment and telling him to GTFO the next.  Jared doesn’t care that she’s cray, though, because she’s got nice tits.

Eventually, Penelope realizes she needs to start telling people that she has The Gift, so she does, one by one, in a series of increasingly uncomfortable scenes.  Then Jared’s parents find out he’s courting the crazy girl, and they’re like Nope. Nope Nope Nope Nope!!! And Jared’s like Whatever, whatever, I do what I want. But his parents reach out to Penelope, and she’s like Love is all about self-sacrifice, and Jared could do way better than me. Ima go cry now. But then Penelope remembers a crucial detail about her original vision — a newspaper headline, complete with the date, announcing Jared’s death — and she knows she’s got to tell Jared, so she goes to his house, alone, at night, to warn him.  You totally know what happens next, right?  Yeah.  So then Jared’s like We’re totally getting married now! and Penelope’s like Babe, for reals, don’t go to the shops next to your office tomorrow. Like, for serious, some dude is going to shoot you! And Jared’s like, Aww, babe, it’s super cute how you’re all worried about me. I promise, I’ll be careful. But then the next day, he’s like Ima buy an engagement ring for Penelope at this shop conveniently located right around the corner from my office! And… yeah.  Have you heard enough?

It’s been a while (possibly since Secrets and Lords) since I read a book with such a squirrelly heroine.  Honestly, Penelope… you see a vision of this guy that you’re already convinced is your destiny getting killed, and all you can think to do is not get involved with him?  Really?  Like it’s going to be OK if he gets killed as long as you aren’t adversely impacted by it? Ugh.  And then, at the end, this other dude ends up getting killed in Jared’s stead (wrong place, wrong time, wrong coat) and everyone’s all LOLZ Jared’s not dead! but no one even spares a thought about the dead guy?  And readers are supposed to be satisfied when these two monumentally selfish (and stupid) people get their happy ending?!  Terrible.

‘Twas the Night Before Mischief was released on December 10, 2013 as an e-book by Forever Yours.  His for Christmas was released on October 1, 2013 as an e-book by Forever Yours.  Mistletoe and Magic was released on October 14, 2013 as an e-book by Loveswept.  If you’re interested about any of these books, just click on the cover images above to visit their pages on Goodreads.

*FTC Disclosure – I received e-galleys of all three books from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Review – Making It Last by Ruthie Knox

Marriage is the end game of most romances, but is it romantic?  Ruthie Knox sure thinks so, and, after reading Making It Last, I’m inclined to think so, too.

Cover image, Making It Last by Ruthie Knox

The publisher’s blurb, courtesy of Goodreads:

A hotel bar. A sexy stranger. A night of passion. There’s a part of Amber Mazzara that wants those things, wants to have a moment — just one — where life isn’t a complicated tangle of house and husband and kids and careers. Then, after a long, exhausting “vacation” with her family, her husband surprises her with a gift: a few days on the beach . . . alone.

Only she won’t be alone long, because a handsome man just bought her a drink. He’s cool, he’s confident, and he wants to take Amber to bed and keep her there for days. Lucky for them both, he’s her husband. He’s only got a few days in Jamaica to make her wildest desires come true, but if he can pull it off, there’s reason to believe that this fantasy can last a lifetime.

This novella packs a hell of an emotional punch.  Set fourteen years after, How to Misbehave, the novella that brought these characters together, Making It Last tells the story of Amber and Tony struggling to find their focus after life and kids and the economy have chipped at them, incrementally separating them from their dreams.  Ruthie Knox tells this story of a marriage, of two individuals, in quiet crisis, with realism, compassion, and hope.  I’m not much of a crier, but I found this story gloriously cathartic as well as supportive.

The thing is, women need these stories.  I could see pieces of every woman I know (including me) in Amber.  She’s got that urge that so many of us have to give and give and give, until there’s nothing left.  That’s a common phrase, but how often do we think about what it really looks like to have nothing left, to be so lost in the giving that you don’t even know who you are anymore or why anyone would want you to give them anything?  How do you come back from that?  Where do love and romance fit in when your life is so full of all the things, all those demands, that you can barely summon the energy to scrape by?

Making It Last provides an answer to those questions, and it does so in a truly beautiful way.  I think you should read it.  It’ll probably make you cry but in a good way.  It will also make you laugh, and, when it’s done, and you’ve turned the last page, it’ll leave behind some hope.  And we all need more of that, amiright?

Making It Last was released as an e-book by Loveswept, a division of Random House on July 15, 2013.  To learn more about the book, click on the cover image above to visit the book’s page on Goodreads.  For more information about Ruthie Knox, check out her website.

*FTC Disclosure – I received an e-galley of this book from Loveswept via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Review – The Story Guy by Mary Ann Rivers

So, I was putzing around on Twitter last month gushing to Ruthie Knox about how much I loved her newest release, and she let me on to a little secret that’s not so secret any more: Mary Ann Rivers is fantastic, funny, kind, insightful, and the author of one of the best novellas I’ve ever read.

Cover image, The Story Guy by Mary Ann Rivers

The publisher’s blurb, courtesy of Goodreads:

In this eBook original novella, Mary Ann Rivers introduces a soulful and sexy tale of courage, sacrifice, and love.
 
I will meet you on Wednesdays at noon in Celebration Park. Kissing only.

Carrie West is happy with her life . . . isn’t she? But when she sees this provocative online ad, the thirtysomething librarian can’t help but be tempted. After all, the photo of the anonymous poster is far too attractive to ignore. And when Wednesday finally arrives, it brings a first kiss that’s hotter than any she’s ever imagined. Brian Newburgh is an attorney, but there’s more to his life . . . that he won’t share with Carrie. Determined to have more than just Wednesdays, Carrie embarks on a quest to learn Brian’s story, certain that he will be worth the cost. But is she ready to gamble her heart on a man who just might be The One . . . even though she has no idea how their love story will end?

This is a book that you need to read.  I’m not just advising, recommending, or suggesting.  I’m imploring, exhorting, begging, even demanding.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t read romance novels, you need to read this book.  (And, seriously, it’s $0.99.)

The Story Guy is about many things: how essential are connections with other people, how we can fill up a life with contentedness, with doing things, and going places, but how all of that can be compressed — almost distilled — to the essence of one’s life.  Above all, this book is about life: a life lived, a life survived, a life sacrificed, a life given in hour-long increments.  It’s also about kissing.  (And gussets get a shout out.)

It’s beautiful.  Rivers’ prose is lyrical and effortlessly deliberate.  When I turned the last page, I went right back to the first, because I just wasn’t done bathing in all that beautiful language, in that lovely focus.  I am convinced that Mary Ann Rivers could write about my mundane life and manage to make it beautiful; she would notice all the shiny details I ignore, all the moments that make life true, the moments that are the point of it all, really, but that we overlook in the hustle and bustle of getting things done.  She would point to those details and say, “that, right there, is why you struggle and work and endure every day.  Look at it.  Know why you’re living your life.”

That’s what The Story Guy did for me.  It made me look at my own life to wonder what I was doing with all my hours.  It made me want to live my life a bit more deliberately.  If that’s what Mary Ann Rivers can accomplish in a novella, a debut novella, I simply cannot wait to find out what she’ll do next.

The Story Guy was released on July 8, 2013 as an e-book by Loveswept, a division of Random House.  For more information about the book, please click on the cover image above to visit the book’s page on Goodreads.  Learn more about Mary Ann Rivers by visiting her website.

*FTC Disclosure – I received an e-galley from Loveswept via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*