Today’s Steals and Deals at AAR…..

We loved Write Before Christmas. Our DIK review is here.

When fantasy author Matt finds himself suffering from writer’s block, his assistant helps him find a small town rental home where he can hide out and try to finish his story. Time is of the essence, even more so than would normally be the case with a publishing deadline because his story has been made into a TV series – The Saga – and they’re waiting on him to continue the plot. The second season is about to premiere and the show has already caught up with his books. The producers need the rest of the story to start pre-production on Season Three and he has exactly nineteen days to finish the script. There’s already been an unfortunate incident that caused some tongue-wagging when an interview at comic-con went awry, and the heat is on for Matt to get things done and repair his relationship with the TV show executives.

Out jogging to mull over story and plot ideas, Matt runs into a woman walking her dog, Ralph Wiggums, (named after a character from The Simpsons.) The woman laughingly confesses that her daughter named the dog, and that she’s not a TV watcher, a boon for Matt as it’s unlikely that she’d recognize him. It’s a meeting that lingers in Matt’s mind after she’s gone.

Dani is recently divorced and she’s reluctantly had to move back in with her parents with her nineteen-year-old daughter Kelsie in tow. Dani has just had to relay the bad newsvthat until she can get a job, Kelsie won’t be able to move into an apartment with a friend and will have to commute from her grandparents’ place while going to the local college.

Having not had a job since Kelsie was born, Dani doesn’t have many marketable skills – but she can cook. And housekeeping, while not a career aspiration, is definitely an area in which she has experience. While attending one of her sister’s yoga classes, she meets one of her other clients, Jane, an assistant to an author. When Jane mentions that she’s looking for a cook and housekeeper for her boss – who has strict requirements not to be bothered while he’s working – Dani is reluctant, but ends up taking the job. She has no interest in the author himself; it’s just a job for the pay and it will at least be something she can put on a resumé.

Naturally, Dani soon discovers that the person she is working for is none other than Matt, the man she ran into with her dog. And Matt, though initially suspicious at the coincidence comes to believe that Dani really has no idea who he is or about his TV show (though Kelsie is not so ignorant).  The friendship they develop soon turns into something more. But Matt’s time is running out – both to turn in his script and in the small town. Will they get the happy ending they deserve or will it be cut short?

You can get it for 1.99 here.

Mimi Mathews has a lot of fans at AAR. We loved John Eyre.

Here’s a six-word summary of this book: Gender swapped Jane Eyre with vampires.

But before I begin my review of Mimi Matthews’ John Eyre, I have a confession to make. I never finished Jane Eyre, because Helen’s death was so sad I couldn’t read any more. So readers with more knowledge of the source material might enjoy this even more, but it’s an excellent story even if you’re not familiar with the names or references.

The story begins with John Eyre having accepted a position as tutor to two young boys at Thornfield Hall. John is running from demons – his poverty, his addiction to laudanum, and the recent suicide of his friend Helen, a woman trapped in an abusive marriage. But he soon discovers he’s fled straight into an even darker situation. Thick mists surround Thornfield Hall, there are too few servants, and the mistress of the house is not just widowed but absent too often.

Worst of all is the condition of the children he’s supposed to teach; they’ve been traumatized to the point where they’re completely nonverbal. Oh, and under the instructions of their guardian, Mrs. Rochester, they have to drink a tonic that contains laudanum.

This is a gripping setup, and Ms. Matthews’ usual attention to historical detail is very much in evidence. The secretive atmosphere of Thornfield Hall is described vividly, and I felt all of John’s trepidation about his new post. He wants to help the children, yet he can’t risk harming them any further. Most of all, he’s very much aware that he can be dismissed instantly if he puts a foot out of line.

You can get it for 2.99 here.

Sarah Mayberry is such a lovely writer. We’d like to see more of her work! This one is a DIK at AAR.

Cassidy and Daniel don’t know each other but they are each going through a rough patch, having had some difficult upheavals in their lives. Cassidy’s marriage just ended (her husband had been cheating on her) and Daniel lost his beloved pet dog Walter two months previously. They are both in need of a distraction to help them move forward and they find one unexpectedly in a coffee shop they both frequent on a daily basis.

Daniel unknowingly starts off the sequence of events that will lead to their eventual meeting. He and his co-worker and friend Pete are frequent customers at Cuppa Diem, the coffee shop near their work. As a joke, he proclaims himself their best customer (he does go there 5 times a day!) with a funny selfie and quickly made poster for the shop.

Cassidy also gets her coffee at this same shop with her best friend and colleague Libby, and when she sees Daniel’s poster by the cash register, she is somewhat affronted since she knows that with the amount of times SHE frequents the shop, it should definitely be her who gets to claim the title of best customer. She makes a more professional sign proclaiming herself as top dog to post next to his.

This is an amusing turn of events for Pete and Libby, a married couple who’ve been trying to set up Daniel and Cassidy on a blind date to no avail, both having proclaimed themselves not in the right frame of mind for dating. But they can see the spark that this little game has engendered and decide to keep quiet and see what plays out. Then it’s a battle of wits and oneupmanship between Daniel and Cassidy, to the delight of the patrons of the store and the baristas, who are quite happy with the influx of customers eager to see who is going to come out on top.

Anyone who has felt the sting of grief associated with the loss of a beloved pet will understand Daniel and how much he misses Walter. The author deftly weaves these moments of loss into Daniel’s daily life and also as he starts to recover from that grief, the distraction of the game with Cassidy enabling him to look forward to a new day with anticipation even without his faithful companion. Similarly, those who’ve gone through a relationship that ended when a partner was unfaithful will understand Cassidy’s emotional seesaw of hurt and anger. She throws herself into the challenge with Daniel and it helps her realize that her valid feelings about the dissolution of her marriage no longer need to be front and center.

You can get it for 0.99 here.

Back in the day, Brockmann was an AAR must read. This one is on her list of DIKs here

OK, what’s the Number 1 Female Fantasy? Forget sex for now. Let’s concentrate on the more imaginative stuff. In my opinion, it’s got to be one of two things: it’s either Healing the Tortured Soul or Taming the Rake. Both are delicious fantasies, and I’d say they regularly tangle with each other for the top spot. In Get Lucky, Suzanne Brockmann gives us a wonderfully fun example of the Taming the Rake scenario. It’s absolute entertainment in the guise of ink and pressed wood pulp.

To do this type of plot justice, the author has got to get both contenders just right. The rake has got to be naughty without being nasty, and elevated enough that the fall will be worth watching. Your neck has to actually crane. And the heroine? Well, she’s got to be pretty special, worthy of the reformed rake in every way. You’ve got to like her, and you have to respect her. She’s got to be able to kick some rake butt and bat her eyelashes at the same time. This is hard to do, but Brockmann pulls it off beautifully here.

In the one corner we have Luke “Lucky” O’Donlon, gorgeous, multitalented, Navy SEAL womanizer who has enough charm to give Bobby Tom Denton (of Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Heaven, Texas) a run for his money. Luke has never wanted for female company, but his girlfriends tend to be decorative rather than contemplative. And this suits him just fine. He figures it would be selfish of him to limit all his good lovin’ to just one woman, and he’s inclined to be more generous than that.

In the opposite corner we have Sydney Jameson, everywoman journalist. Not beautiful, not gorgeous, a much better candidate for Mensa than Miss America. She’s flat chested, wide hipped, and sassy as all get out. And she sees through Lucky at first glance.

The book begins with serious premise. A serial rapist who may or may not be a SEAL has been terrorizing the Coronado/San Felipe area. When Sydney’s young neighbor becomes a victim Sydney confronts the police with an article she has written, threatening to generate publicity unless they get serious about finding the rapist. That’s when the SEALs get involved. Since they do not believe the rapist to be one of their own, they have a vested interest in catching the guy. Lucky gets assigned to a task force consisting of SEALs, FInCOM agents, the local police force, and Sydney.

Problem is, Lucky’s not too convinced that the task force is that good an idea. He thinks the SEALs could take care of business faster and with less fuss. And he has no use at all for a smart-mouthed reporter. But Sydney’s not budging. This creates a bit of a conflict. In the background of their first meeting, you can almost hear the bell ding and the hush of the crowd as the opponents square off. The resulting verbal sparring is most enjoyable. From the first time Sydney accidentally calls Lucky “Ken” (as in Ken doll) to Lucky’s eventual sad realization that he’s been taken out of action, this is a complete romp. And the plot ain’t bad either.

You can get it for 0.99 here.


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