What Had Happened Was…

If you’re around a certain type of person, you hear that a lot. It becomes something of a joke … and I mean it here. A bit tongue in cheek, but also to explain. You may (or may not have noticed) that I kinda dropped off the face of the earth when it comes to ALBTALBS and my email. I’m on Twitter and Facebook a lot less, and there was a period I was gone for over a week. (Just saying that because only one person noticed, which is fine, but my point is I’m trying to explain, so I can’t assume people know things. I get there is a lot out there, and nobody gives a shit about keeping up with me and my life. Which I 100% get and am okay with. We all have our stuff, and lives.)

So … it’s been a lot. Deaths, family tragedy, an accident, serious health issues [hello surprise internal bleeding being just one thing of many…], work stuff, bad work stuff … lots of not work related court things … and Firefox constantly buggy enough for me to consider poking my eyes out. … Basically, I’ve had a rough time of it. It actually hasn’t been as bad as last year … but honestly I’d only wish my past month+ on someone I truly hated.

I am sorry and do feel badly about dropping the ball. Believe me – I feel guilty. I still feel guilty about not reading and reviewing ARC(s) I agreed to from 2007. My plan is to fill in posts – backdate especially since I was absent for pretty much all of Smithsonian Hispanic Heritage Month …. so if anyone is willing to write posts for it still … I’d love to have you.

For better or for worse I did renew the domain for at least another year, so we’ll just trudge along, shall we? There’s still hope for me yet, right? >.> Maybe? :X

Aaron Burden

Guest Author & A Giveaway: Erica Ridley

Ladies (and Gentlem..en?) I can’t believe it’s September. Really really can’t. I need a pause button on life. I hope I’m not wrong in this but I met Erica Ridley for the first time in person this past July. She’s super fun, and when I grabbed her online I was like “you should guest here!” and since Erica is supergreat, she was like “okay I’m game!” And we emailed about Sir Arthur. (Who doesn’t exist?) So anyway, Erica decided to go with an author interview – and these are my questions and her answers! Enjoy!

Erica RidleyWhich celebrity is your “spirit animal?” Why?
I’m actually a total fail at recognizing/knowing celebrities. I have virtually never watched cable television, and I live in Costa Rica, which means the magazines in the checkout aisle are not your usual fare. So I’m going to go with Jane Austen on this one. Not because she’s still the most famous author in my genre, 200 years later, but because she wrote what she wanted and how she wanted. I hope I can always say the same.

Baby Erica Wonder WomanWhat would your superhero name be? And your super power? Now… what if you were an anti hero? What would your “anti super hero power” be?
My superhero name would be Diana Prince, because I have been a Wonder Woman nerd since I was two years old. (See: photo evidence.) An invisible jet would come in handy, but if I could have any super power, it would be the ability to pause time. If I need to choose a different super power for myself as an anti-hero, then I have to do mind control. As a hero, I find overriding free will reprehensible, but as an anti-hero… you gotta do what you gotta do.

You have to listen to the same song to 72 hours, or your family gets it. What song do you choose to listen to on repeat?
I’m pretty sure I actually did this when I was younger, back in my mixtape days. Hmm. After 72 hours of the same song, I would probably never listen to it again, but I have to go with one I love: “A Charming Spell” by Splashdown. The first time I heard that song, I was trying to park my car and I sat there with the engine running until the song was over.

What is one question you always wish as an author people would ask but nobody ever does?
“Here, would you like some free money?” I jest. (But like many authors, I’ve had book advances that were on par with a single month’s salary–and had to last an entire year.) A question I would personally love to ask other authors is, “What would you write if you didn’t have to worry about the market/money?” But don’t ask me that one. That’s what pseudonyms are for! 😉

The Brigadier's Runaway BrideWhat’s the most unique/strange silly skill your possess?
I always thought it was juggling, but since moving to Costa Rica, I’ve meet a statistically improbable number of other people who can juggle, so I have to scratch that off the list. Maybe yodeling? I haven’t met many people who (admit to) being able to yodel. If that’s not quite a nerdy enough answer, I also used to have contests with a coworker to see who could solve a Rubik’s cube the fastest.

What was the first concert you ever went to? Who did you go with? And – if they were (or are) still around – would you go again? 😀
I went to a hair metal concert, I believe, back in grade school. With my aunt. And I would absolutely go again. I love concerts, and would see anyone I liked, regardless of how long the band has been around. I saw Tommy James & the Shondells a few years back and those guys had more energy than I did.

What is the naughtiest thing you have done in school? At your job? At a conference?
Naughtiest thing I ever did in school was probably leave it to go play pool with my best friend during what was supposed to be an art class. (It was the period right after lunch, and our teacher didn’t believe in taking attendance.) At my job… probably lunch hours surfing Napster, before I understood how bad that really was. At a conference, I can’t think of anything naughty. Am I old now? Are my naughty days behind me??

The Major's Faux FianceeIf you were a cartoon, which one would you prefer being? Why?
I would like to be Sherman, so I could get to hang out with Mr. Peabody and travel in the way-back machine.

Would you rather be bitten by a radioactive spider or a vampire? Why?
Going by traditional novel/comic lore, radioactive spider all the way, baby. I would much rather have superpowers in this lifetime than to be saddled with bloodlust and sun-aversion for the rest of eternity.

If you were a serial killer, who would be your target? And what would be your M.O.?
If I were a serial killer, I’d have to be like Dexter and target monsters even worse than me. I wouldn’t take anything from the victims or leave anything behind at the crime scene–I’ve read enough mysteries to know that’s the fastest way to get caught!

Hostile alien invasion, or zombie apocalypse? Which one do you think is more likely to happen? Which one is scarier?
More likely, alien invasion. Scarier… man, that’s a tough call. Zombies, maybe, not because they’re the bigger threat, but because it would be too mind-blowing to wrap my head around, and I’d spend the whole time unsure if it was actually happening or if I’d just gone off my rockers. Aliens are ostensibly scarier, since they can do to us all the experiments we’ve done to other insects and animals—or worse. But I can conceptualize that. Doubting my own sanity would be the scariest thing of all.

The Captian's Bluestocking MistressIf you could switch places with someone for 72 hours, whose life would you want to live?
If I would be ghosting them (ie they would still be controlling their body and I’d just be along for the ride) then I’d like to experience what it’s like to be a daredevil, one of those people who does crazy parkour tricks or rides a one-wheeled mountain bike across the mouth of hell with his GoPro strapped to his forehead. I love seeing those videos, but there’s no way I’d do it in real life.

What TV show do you wish was still on the air?
“The Finder.” I think it only lasted for one season, but I liked the oddball characters (even if I wanted to shake them) coming together to solve crimes/mysteries in a quirky way.

What two movies from different genres would you most like to see combined in a mash up?
That reminds me of the time Netflix offered up “Zombie Strippers!” on its recently added queue. My reaction was “WHAT. EVEN.” but of course I had to watch it. If you’re curious, it’s ranked 4/10 on imdb—likely because the mashup doesn’t appeal to aficionados of either genre. Of course, in this question’s hypothetical situation, the only person who has to watch the mashup is me (and we’ve already established I have no taste) so… Titanic, featuring Gremlins. Tagline: “Shit goes down as the ship goes down.” Can we please make this happen??

The Earl's Defiant WallflowerWhich fairy tale would you most like to be in? least? Why? And which character would you be?
Hansel and Gretel, as the witch. Not because I have any interest in eating children (I’m a vegetarian) but I can’t say no to living in a house made of candy. I would least like to be Scheherazade in “One Thousand and One Nights.” I like making up stories, but man. That’s a lot of pressure.

What is your secret plan for world domination?
If I tell you, it won’t be secret! 😉

Hee! So what questions do you have for Erica? And now you know it’s a GA&AG so … there will be some sort of giveaway, but it’s too early for me to have things figured out and I’ll add that. RIGHT? WHEE!

ETA: This was scheduled to go live on September 1 but something clearly went terribly wrong and I was away so let’s just play nice with time bending please, shall we? Thanks all. Xxoo

Recommend Me Books to Read, Please!

MineYes, I’m turning the tables on you! Generally bloggers give suggestions and their “best of” and “what to look for” … and I’ll do a bit of that here, but I want to know what you think I should read!

I’m all tapped out and all I want to do is curl up and sleep, eat, and read. Alas, I can’t do that, but a girl can dream, right?

So I want to know – A) what’s the best romance you’ve read lately? B) What about EVER? C) What’s one romance you think EV-ER-Y-ONE should read?

I’ll give you some suggestions … Mine by HelenKay Dimon is one of my favorite books I’ve read this year … but it’s not out until October. It’s okay though – this gives you time to read the three previous stories. 😀 (Mercy, Only, and Taken – until Mine, Taken had been my favorite!)

Meanwhile, I’m in the middle of reading a historical romance anthology, and soaking up cooking shows on PBS Create while I try to feel good about being able to sit up and finish another day and that being enough of a goal.

Release Day Teaser Tuesday Exclusive Excerpt: An Indecent Invitation by Laura Trentham

Hey friends – more misadventures and misfortunes abound, so expect even more oddly timed posts and playing fast and loose with time. However, not today! This was a long ago scheduled post with Laura Trentham! It’s Tuesday, and time for an exclusive excerpt so we can all bask in the comfort of regularly scheduled programming, and a lovely tease of an upcoming romance. And as you see, today is release day! So everyone enjoy the excerpt, and remember to congratulate Laura on her newest book being available to the world! Whee!

An Indecent InvitationKeeping her safe is difficult, keeping a proper distance from her is downright impossible.

Lady Lily Drummond understands only too well the danger of spy work. Her father, a preeminent master spy, has been missing for months, and her brother barely survived his final mission for the Crown. Lily is still determined to help find her father, no matter how hard her brother and his best friend try to keep her in the dark.

Busy trying to untangle the web of deceit surrounding the Earl of Windor’s disappearance, Crown spy Gray Masterson also has to ensure Lily Drummond, the gangly, awkward child who was his constant shadow growing up, doesn’t get herself ruined at her London debut. But the girl with scraped knees and elbows has evolved into a lush, sensual beauty surrounded by a bevy of suitors.

Realizing Lily is going to investigate on her own if he doesn’t let her join the hunt for her missing father, Gray assumes he can give Lily a few minor tasks to pacify her, but he quickly learns she is a valuable asset. Moreover, she fairly crackles with life and warmth—things he craves after his dark years in service.

Warning: This book contains spies, scandals, naughty liaisons in houses of ill repute, men who think they know everything and women who know they do not.

Gray offered his arm with a slight inclination of his head, and Lily tentatively laid her hand on his forearm, glancing up at him under her lashes. His faint smile seemed sly and had her biting her lip.

He guided her out the doors before her waffling conscience had a chance to protest. Instead of staying on the balustrade, safe with the other couples and smoking gentlemen, he led her down the steps and into the greenery, his hand clamped over hers, barring protest.

“Now then, a bit of privacy. Tell me, my lady, you never answered my question, has a gentleman won your favor?”

She snatched her hand away and withdrew a few paces. With only dim light cutting the shadows, Gray loomed. An innate fierceness, masked by the pomp of the ball, distilled into the darkness and surrounded her with ominous intent. Did she really know him after so long?

“An offer has been made but my brother is set to decline on my behalf.”

He stroked his bottom lip, and her eyes followed as if he were a mesmerist. “Have you enjoyed your introduction to the ton?”

“It’s been…entertaining.”

“That was a mere platitude. Tell me the truth.” He flipped her words, a smile playing behind his finger.

“The truth? It’s been disappointing. Most of the gentlemen have been like Montbatton, obsessed with horses or carriages or cravats. Do they think I give a jot about such things?”

“What do you give a jot about?” he asked with a hint of derisive amusement. “Embroidery? Balls? Dresses?”

“I care about the war. How men come back maimed everyday—body and spirit. How women are left widows to care for their children on almost nothing. How no one here—” she gestured back to the ballroom with her fan, “—seems to notice. Or care.”

Her words wiped the amusement from his face. He took a step forward, close enough to touch, but neither of them made a move. “You speak from experience.”

The darkness was now her friend, offering welcome camouflage. “My brother was horribly wounded.”

“He’s better now.” It was more statement than question.

“Is he? He drinks too much, wakes with nightmares too often, becomes angry with little provocation. He works himself into exhaustion every day to keep from falling into melancholy. I worry about him. What happens if I’m not there to bully him back to life?”

He squinted at the hedge as if it held deep wisdom. “Your brother is lucky to have you.”

“You’ve been in the fighting, haven’t you?”

His gaze travelled back to her face, and the moment stretched. “Yes.”

“Have you been injured?”

Again, he paused before whispering, “I have my share of scars.”

Now she did touch him, laying a hand on his forearm. He covered her hand with his, and for a mad moment, she wished neither of them wore gloves, wished she could entwine their bare fingers. Solid ground beckoned. This talk made her too vulnerable, and didn’t she have a part to play?

She pulled her hand from under his and forced out a false, jarring laugh. “I need to return, sir. My chaperone will surely have missed me by now, and there will be a list of gentleman I’ve disappointed.”

“Of course, let me escort you back inside.” He backed into a shaft of moonlight and waited with an outstretched hand. His hair shone black and he stood straight and strong. He had always been the stalwart port in the violent storm that was her father.

She took his hand, and he tugged her forward too quickly. Her toes tangled in the hem of her dress. She grabbed at his biceps for balance, the thick ropes of muscle flexing. His hands spanned her waist and then slid down to where her hips flared. The sensation set off a fine trembling in her knees.

Their faces were inches apart. Firm lips above a squarely masculine jaw caused her to worry her bottom lip with teeth and tongue. His nostrils flared, and in answer, she inhaled, his scent clean and woodsy. He had never smelled quite so appealing when she was a child.

He moved closer, and she parted her lips. Her brain held no sway. Her body completely ignored its instructions to push away, escape. Instead, her back arched, her face tilted up, and her hands roved over his shoulders. Her heart beat against the tight confines of her stays, trying to escape.

Was Gray going to kiss her? Did she want him to?

Her lungs pulled in much needed air, and on the exhale, she breathed his name.

The intimacy of his name disintegrated his befuddlement. Christ, had he lost all commonsense? First to pull her into him and then to almost kiss her? His body was charged for a full-out sensual assault, his hands ready to explore the too-tempting soft curves pressed into him. He thrust her away and snatched his hands back as if she had the plague.

He covered his confusion with menace. “Lily Drummond. Rafe would spank your bottom if he knew you’d accompanied a man to the gardens.”

“If he knew the man who lured me out was you?”

Her well-made point pierced like an arrow. “I was trying to teach you a lesson,” he said with pompous undertones.

“Perhaps I was trying to teach you one as well.” She sniffed and adjusted her gloves.

“What was that, pray tell?”

“Never steal a lady without first making sure you know her name.” She swept by and tapped him on the chest with her fan.

They walked side by side to the balustrade, but he didn’t offer an arm this time. “Obviously I’m a fool, but you’ve changed dramatically from the little girl I left at Wintermarsh.”

“It’s referred to as growing up,” she said pertly, but then sadness and accusation wove through her words. “If you had come to visit, my changed appearance wouldn’t be such a shock. Rafe needed you. Last autumn was horrid.”

Guilt was not an emotion he allowed lest it overwhelm him. It rose like bile just the same. “Do you not think I wanted to be there? To get Rafe home, I indentured myself to Sir Hawkins. The last eight months weren’t enjoyable for me either.”

She cut her eyes to him, her voice small. “Are you angry with me?”

He had to think on it. In disbelief, flummoxed, shocked, yes. But amused, entertained and fascinated as well. “Devil if I know why I’m not. You led me on quite a merry chase.”

Copyright © 2015 Laura Trentham
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication

So what’d you think? 😀 You can read another excerpt here or buy a copy here. Happy newest release, Laura, and congratulations on the newest Spies and Lovers book!

Review: Ever After by Rachel Lacey

Deb’s review of Ever After by Rachel Lacey
Contemporary Romance released by Forever on August 25, 2015


Olivia Bennett is not having a happy birthday. Instead of blowing out her twenty-nine candles, she’s stuck in jail, caught red-handed in a graffiti incident that (perhaps) involved one too many strawberry margaritas. Worst idea ever. The only bright side is that she ended up in the strong arms of the most gorgeous lawman she’s ever seen.

Pete Sampson (aka Deputy Hot Stuff) faces intense pressure from the sheriff to find out who’s behind a string of vandalisms. And after her spray-painting spree, Olivia is suspect number one. Still, Pete can’t stop thinking about her. Wanting her. Now he’s torn between his duty and his overpowering desire for the vivacious waitress. But he may have to bend the rules because true love is more important than the letter of the law…

Ever After is book 3 in Rachel Lacey’s Love to the Rescue series;  however, it can be read as a standalone.  It is a very sweet, well written, contemporary romance set in small town North Carolina.  I love small town romances with their interesting mix of quirky characters and fun goings on.  However, I’m not a sweet kind of gal.  I like my romances down and dirty with lots of the same in regard to the sex on the page.  And, shame on me, I have also been known to judge a book by its cover.  The cover of Ever After is…sweet. However, the hot guy and the dog on the cover roped me in, because guys who love dogs are just that much hotter, right?  So I gave myself a lecture to stop with the judging and eye rolling before I’ve even read a chapter.  And I’m glad I did because I truly enjoyed this book.

Olivia Bennett isn’t sure what she wants to do with her life.  Her parents, prominent attorneys, expect Olivia to follow in their footsteps.  She has two years of law school under her belt.  Admittedly, she’s a natural at it, but the thought of practicing law makes her cringe.  It really isn’t her “thing” so she’s taking a break to figure out just what her “thing” is.  Olivia’s true passion is animal rights and for the past year she’s gone on a crusade to close down Halverson Foods, a local chicken processing plant.  She writes a blog and has a Facebook page viewed by thousands, documenting the abusive conditions at the plant.  At this point, I’ll admit I started to step back.  This particular subject matter in a romance book?  But I kicked the judgment aside because I was liking Olivia.  She’s not a goody two shoes by any stretch and she’s not a fanatic.  She speaks her mind but doesn’t force her opinions on anyone else.  She’s a vegetarian but hey, she won’t condemn you if you are a carnivore.  She organizes peaceful protests, hands out pamphlets, and writes intelligent posts on the subject.  However, her efforts to enlighten the Halverson big wigs about the conditions at the plant repeatedly fail. So after celebrating her 29th birthday with a couple friends and imbibing in one margarita too many, Olivia goes a bit too far in her activist efforts.

When Deputy Pete Sampson comes across a teenager spray painting graffiti on the side of the Halverson Plant he’s mostly annoyed.  However, when he discovers the teenager is a very attractive woman who’s clearly indulging in a drunken prank, he’s pissed.  Since Olivia’s friends have run off, he assumes she is not only defacing property but also driving while under the influence.  A drunken driving incident he feels responsible for has caused Pete some demons he can’t let go of.  Even though he finds her cute as hell, duty prevails.  Once Olivia is sentenced to community service Pete finds reasons to check up on her.  All the while telling himself it’s just his duty.  Which is a load of baloney because he knows were it not for him being the arresting officer; he’d totally be asking her out.  Pete is adorable while at the same time frustrating as hell.  He flirts with Olivia, admits he’s attracted to her, but then comes to his senses since it’s a huge conflict of interest, and pushes her away.  Except when he’s kissing her.  And that seems to happen a lot.  When vandals begin painting nasty slogans on her car and house, it only draws Pete closer to Olivia.  He wants to protect her.  Pete is a good guy.  He adopted a German Shepard that failed the K-9 program, he takes care of his mom, he bakes muffins when he can’t sleep and donates them to the women’s shelter.  He’s also very hot.

As the vandalism events toward Olivia escalate, so does the romance between Pete and Olivia.  Pete uncovers startling information surrounding the Halverson plant and the vandalism directed at Olivia, which only makes him more protective of her.  The suspense adds a lot to the story and even though it’s not too hard to figure out, I still enjoyed it.  Ms. Lacey has done a fine job with Pete and Olivia’s relationship as well.  I thought it might turn into a sappy story but I found myself really liking the slow build, the courtship, the care Olivia and Pete take getting to know one another. There really is something to be said for a nice sweet romance.  And just so you aren’t too disappointed, there’s some pretty hot sex as well.

Grade: B

You can read an excerpt here or buy a copy here.

TBR Challenge Review: Evening Storm by Anne Calhoun

Evening Storm by Anne Calhoun
Contemporary [erotic] romance released by Penguin Intermix on August 18, 2015

Evening StormWhen it comes to the wolves of Wall Street, Ryan Hamilton is the leader of the pack. But his bravado is all bluff. The bank he works for is up to it’s assets in fraud and shady deals. And thanks to pressure from the NYPD and FBI, Ryan is working as both a trader and a whistleblower. His only respite from the tension is when he parades his latest arm candy at a fancy lingerie shop.

Simone Demarchelier owns Irresistible, crafting custom high-end lingerie. So she’s more than happy that Ryan is spending a fortune on his women. But she senses that behind the hotshot facade there is something more. Something tortured and sad. And when he flies her out to the Hamptons in the shadow of a summer thunderstorm in order to fix one of her designs, she instead finds herself stuck in the opulent home with a distraught Ryan.

Is Simone the one person who can mend Ryan’s heart and soul?

​Anne Calhoun wrote one of my favorite erotic romances – Liberating Lacey, so I’m always willing to give one of her books a try. I read the previous book in this series (The List), and I liked Evening Storm [even] more. There’s something about it that keeps me from loving it, but I did find the book very sexy, and an enjoyable read. I can’t quite put my finger on what was “off” for me because the premise while potentially off putting for people, didn’t bother me. There’s a stark and rather grim undertone throughout the novel, which makes everything unique. The back cover copy is itself unique because it describes something that happens near the end of the story.

Simone Demarchelier is a heroine who is comfortable in her own skin. She knows who she is, and likes who she is – that’s unique enough amongst romance heroines, much less women in general. Simone designs and sells high end lingerie, which makes her profession inherently sensual, if not sexual. She understand that and goes with it. She’s attracted to Ryan but keeps her distance as she meets him basically as a client first. And then because of who he is – he’s a player, and Simone is too smart to be taken in by that, or involved with someone like that. I liked that Simone was willing to stand in place and do what she liked without changing for Ryan. Especially because they only had a tentative friendship. She values and respects herself, and is the steady presence in Evening Storm.

Ryan Hamilton is a really interesting character. He’s a romance hero – but he’s not very heroic in a way. While he’s pictured as your stereotypical high flying asshole investment banker, his despair negates the behavior. It’s hard to explain without reading it. Ryan himself says that he hit rock bottom when it comes to humanity, and almost surprised himself by doing the right thing. And in this case, doing the right thing is more than even a good person might do. It’s a difficult journey for Ryan throughout, and Ms. Calhoun does an excellent job of conveying how difficult and precarious the situation is. Then there’s also the fact that he yearns for Simone, but is essentially romancing other high profile women. He and the actress(es) are using each other, but it’s still unusual.

It’s clear from the start is that Ryan and Simone are going to end up together. What adds another level to Evening Storm is that they aren’t together, and that as I stated, Ryan is “dating” other women through most of the book. In fact, he uses stories of his exploits to tempt and seduce Simone. He’s ridiculously extravagant and romantic in his gestures to Simone. Almost obscenely so, but it fits. He’s a splashy guy who gets what he wants, and money is no object for him. He’s also working toward a goal that will basically destroy his life. Somehow Ms. Calhoun takes all this, and crafts a romance from the mess.

I found Evening Storm to be a compelling read, and I look forward to Anne Calhoun’s next book. I can definitely see myself re-reading this book in the future.

Grade: B–
You can read an excerpt here or buy a copy here.

“Sit Yo Ass Down and Listen For Once In Your Life”

That’s actually just a quote from the sketch below. But I liked it. And I’ll probably be discussing topics soon I do want people to listen to. (Which basically means nobody will. Ah well.)

I’m just treading water here… so I know I haven’t been as up on stuff and promoting and … whatever, but yeah. Hopefully I’ll get some rest and things soon. “That’s some Biblical plague shit, y’all!”
I’m actually not experiencing any of that … but I just loved this skit. Key & Peele are generally hilarious, so enjoy. This is your weekend laugh.