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The Reaper

The Reaper (The Fallen Conviction)4 Stars

The Reaper opens with the revelation that the King of Akala is missing, and the new Queen, Leah, is now in power. She meets with President Inaeus Janu of Shaweh to offer a peace treaty that brings their long war to an end. Janu suspects the Queen is a figurehead and focuses on the mysterious Lialthas who seems to have an undue influence over the Queen.

In the meantime, refugees from Akala reach the city-state of Shaweh seeking asylum. The group includes the missing King Darius, his half-sister Moriene with the child Hannah in tow, General Victor Ikharson, and Sefas, once called Meddiah when he was an Empty One. They are shadowed by the black-clad Zacharias who used his magic to help them escape from Lialthas. When the Akalan’s gestures of peace turn out to be empty promises, President Janu and the Akalan refugees are whisked to a secure location as war resumes.

This is the second book in the Fallen Conviction series, and it wasn’t hard to catch up when the asylum-seekers told their story to Janu. This gave me the chance to get up to speed on the plot if you haven’t read the first book.

The interplay between Darius’ group of refugees and the leadership of Shaweh are the primary drivers of the plot. Character-driven stories are a big draw for me, and the author has a knack for showing the complex, often antagonistic relationships between all of these strong-willed characters. My favorite characters in this book were Moriene and Sefas, who were once under Lialthas’ control. Both escaped his grasp and recovered from being “Empty,” yet both still seem to be fighting the battles of the past.

I also enjoyed the high-tension setting. Being locked in a bunker with people you don’t like but are forced to trust is hard enough, but if that trust is tested, things are going to get violent. The situation erodes when Zacharias reveals that there’s something even worse that Lialthas out there, and they may not be able to stop it.

The first thing that struck me about The Reaper was the unusual formatting. At first, I thought it was a typesetting error, but it became clear that the line numbering was meant to give it a scriptural feel. Some of these passages have archaic sentence structure with rhyming words at the end of sentences, but it’s not always consistent and that can be frustrating for those expecting poetic meter. However, the nod to scripture isn’t surprising because gods and religion play a major part in this story.

Don’t assume that because this is written in poetic language that it won’t be exciting. This is a place where magic and technology that we would recognize today are both present, where battles are fought with WMD strikes as well as mind-bending magical attacks. War is gruesome, and the author doesn’t pull his punches when it comes to violence and mayhem. In this world, magic is fueled by blood, fear, and suffering, so whoever wields this power must harm others in order to succeed.

If you’re looking for a novel that offers both a unique style and a reading experience that challenges and defies “the usual” in fantasy, give this book a try.

Pages: 340 | ASIN: B06XRS3SFD

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The Passer

The Passer4 Stars

The Passer by Robin Christophersen is a welcome genre-blending story by a first-time novelist. We follow Dr. Eleanor Bouchard, accomplished actress and professor, attempt to put her life together after the death of her boyfriend. On the one year anniversary of his death she is visited by an otherworldly visitor with an unsettling message. Eleanor is then thrown into a mystery where she must not only figure out the message’s meaning, but also understand herself. New powers begin to awaken in her for the first time, which only adds more murkiness to dark waters. Matters become complicated further when a former flame, Daniel Archer, who has suffered the tragic loss of his wife comes stumbling into her life along with his step-daughter, Amelia. Eleanor begins to feel strange connections to the two of them and discovers that their meeting may not be so coincidental in the first place.

The Passer is an interesting read. Christophersen mixes romance, paranormal and even a bit of mystery to make an increasingly intriguing story. You would not suspect it even being an indie read, given the polish that is displayed on the pages. I was not expecting to be hit with so many “genre” elements, but they all manage to work well and complement one another. The book itself is a fast read and I was a dozen pages in without even blinking.

Eleanor as a protagonist is easy to follow, even if she is almost “too” accomplished, given her two professions. The professorship and her role as a Shakespearean actress seems almost intimidating, even to the reader, but her grief and struggle gives the reader a very tangible doorway into her mind and soul. The fact that she is on her own path to self-discovery despite being so accomplished is an excellent technique to use for the reader to be carried alongside the character on her journey.

The novel is deftly paced and reaches a satisfying conclusion. There were points that felt drawn out, but I think Christophersen balances this with the other genre elements. The quotes from Shakespeare, I feltm were heavily on the nose, considering what Eleanor does, but I could let that go, Christophersen clearly has a passion for Shakespeare and I can make a little room for the Bard. The plot may even be weighted down with the extra elements and confusing plot tangles, but by the end Christophersen untangles these and gives the reader a very satisfying story.

Overall, I believe The Passer to be an excellent read for those looking for not only an interesting plot, but a book that brings something new to the table of genre-blending. A very satisfying debut novel from a brand-new author. If this is the first book that Christophersen produces, readers should be on the lookout for the next.

Pages: 444 | ASIN: B00G2QC69Y

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Stirrings

Descendent Darkness: Book One: Stirrings5 Stars

Descendent Darkness: Book One: Stirrings, begins in 1982 in Clarkes Summit, Virginia, where an evil curse causes unimaginable horrors to the town’s favourite families. Fast forward 21 years later and three men are once again facing the terrors they thought they had diminished forever. Richard Gaston, Father Ryan Bennett and deputy sheriff Tom Campbell find themselves facing nightmares and tortured souls of evil that will pull them into the depths of their darkest days. This skin prickling adventure will bring your nightmares to reality as they face an evil, cold presence; guaranteed to chill you to your bones.

Descendent Darkness, Stirrings, written by A. J. Macready is a supernatural novel set with a dash of crime and drama. There are tortured souls, family bonds and mysterious servants of darkness in this edge of your seat vampire styled thriller. The story line follows several families as they face horrors and challenges that will threaten the relationships of everyone involved. Hold tight as you are thrown into an adventure where the characters fight evil even when they are in the shadows of exhaustion- in order to save the ones they love.  The story will leave you hungry for more, as bullets race across the page and violent killers storm through the darkest of nights.

Unlike a typical demon styled novel, Stirrings storyline is complex and filled with clues and details that far surpass any other supernatural story I’ve read for some time. Forget the Twilight era, this novel is filled with the traditional scares and fight scenes fit for a warrior. I found myself unable to turn away as I dove deeper into the novel, growing attached to the characters and their unknown fate.

The characters in Stirrings are surprisingly relatable and the fear for what may be lurking in the dark is a feeling we have all experienced. The relationship between the siblings Holly and Mike Gaston is one to be marvelled as they battle odds together, sacrificing their bodies and souls to pursue a mission with the belief that nothing is more important than family. As well as being siblings, they have a beautiful friendship and you can feel how much they genuinely care for one another as they battle against the odds. However it seems their family are bound for tragedy and the reader will feel emotionally connected to each family member as they fight for what they believe to be right.

Macready’s marvellous way of using descriptive language will have you huddled up and feeling the chills on the back of your neck. I found myself peering around the corner wondering if the cool breeze was the wind or was actually evil materialising its face in the darkness. The narration flows easily and feels like a picture is painted on the page with how beautifully the story is presented.

This is a heart-stopping novel and would recommend this to anybody who loves supernatural stories mixed with crime, drama and friendship. I look forward to reading the other stories in the series!

Pages: 199 | ASIN: B016WLQTS2

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Return to Babylon

Return to Babylon (The Orfeo Saga, #5)5 Stars

Return to Babylon is the fifth installment of the Orfeo saga and begins with Orfeo and Clarice returning from the New World and their battle with the Spartans to settle into a somewhat peaceful life in Pylos. However with the battles still fresh in their mind and the nightmares still haunting their sleep, Orfeo knew evil would eventually reappear- it was just a matter of when and where. An assassination attempt on Orfeo’s life leads him to leave with Clarice to venture to the city of Mesopotamia in hopes they will keep their beloved city of Pylos safe.

Meanwhile, kings begin to drop like flies with the kingdom of Mursillius the Hittite becoming the first to fall. Zinaida wants vengeance upon the coalition who put her on the throne and sends spies to find Zurga. What price will be paid for those who fight for justice and freedom?

Return to Babylon, written by Murray Lee Eiland Jr, continues the adventures of Orfeo who begins the heroic tale in the city of Pylos. Prepare for an action-packed story line that explores the dynamics between different kingdoms and the blood thirst for those who want to save the world.

Assassination attempts and secret spies lead the characters to question whether the events taking place are purely coincidental or is there a more sinister evil at work. As the reader explores the different kingdoms, you soon learn who is trustworthy and who hides behind closed doors, plotting their evil revenge. Networks of spies will reveal information that will mean our favourite characters will have to risk it all for the price of glory.

Murray Lee Eiland Jr. has an impeccable flair to paint the scenes of his story with such conviction that the reader will feel emotionally involved with the main characters and their harrowing tales. At times the novel has moments of historical accountability, giving readers a front row seat into the secrecy of life and lies within kingdoms. Once you add in the brave and fierce heroes, Return to Babylon, has an epic story line that will leave you on the edge of your seat and eager to read all installments. My favourite character was Cyrus, a young and eager apprentice who begins to learn the ins and outs of spy craft. I particularly enjoyed the character development and surprise turns that each character entails throughout the story.

This book in the series delves deeper into the world of mystery, intrigue and espionage. I particular like how Murray Lee Eiland Jr adds a light-hearted touch to scenes in order to create a memorable and powerful story line. It is a cool reminder that some of our biggest threats are being spun together behind the closed doors within the most powerful people in the city.

Return to Babylon is brilliantly written. I would recommend this novel for anyone who loves an action-packed novel filled with twists and turns that will leave you on the edge of your seat, and eager for more!

Pages: 217 | ASIN: B01KEDH2CG

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Blooded

Blooded (Lisen of Solsta, #3)4 Stars

In the final installment of the Lisen of Solsta trilogy, Blooded by D. Hart St. Martin takes us on a gruesome journey as we learn how Lisen as Empir of Garla will affect the future of the Garlan people. After ascending to the throne, Lisen must make major decisions while facing her own physical and mental battles alone, especially when she’s captured by rebel Thristans for a period of time. On the verge of a devastating war, Lisen and the holders of Garla face the bloodthirsty Thristans in a battle that reveals the truth of the hermit’s prophecy and whether peace can ever truly arise between the two nations.

In Blooded, the concluding piece of the Lisen of Solsta series, Lisen becomes Empir Ariannas—without Korin at her side, though, she struggles with this new sense of authority. As a result, Nalin becomes a vital figure who assists Lisen with developing the knowledge and skills needed to rule over Garla, and he becomes even more important when Lisen is captured by rebel Thristans. Blooded also follows Korin’s return to his homeland, Thristas, and he experiences his own dilemmas, as he realizes his connection to Lisen is much deeper than he originally thought—in this world, where gender norms are shattered, men or women can carry a child, and Korin is carrying his and Lisen’s baby (unknown to Lisen).

Hart St. Martin’s impressive fantasy world construction throughout the entire Lisen of Solsta series kept me so absorbed in the story that I couldn’t put this last book down—I had to know how the series ended because I felt genuinely invested in these carefully-constructed characters. For example, along with everyone else in Garla and Thrista, Lisen resembles a human, but she has a flat chest, a furry belly, and a marsupial-like pouch. In Blooded, we learn more about the “unpouching” or birthing process in this world by witnessing two important “outcomings” or births. St. Martin makes these moments suspenseful and full of emotion by showing two birthing events from different perspectives.

While Korin is raising his and Lisen’s child in Thristas, Lisen faces her own mental struggles when she realizes that the Thristans are planning to go to war with Garla. This climactic moment in the plot, where Lisen and her Council devise a plan for war, showcases the dynamic development of both Nalin’s and Lisen’s characters throughout the series.

During Lisen’s abduction by the rebels, Nalin becomes a strong-minded, confident leader, commanding Lisen’s Council to make major decisions in Lisen’s absence. On the other hand, Lisen sets aside her typical sarcastic, sassy attitude and at times she reveals her emotional turmoil a bit more, as she feels overwhelmed by death piling up around her and the possibility of war. Bala, a significant character from Tainted, becomes instrumental to the plot of Blooded once she’s granted a spot on Lisen’s private Council—when the Garlans go to war, Bala shows her true colors as an assertive leader for her troops.

It’s rare to find a series of books that keeps your interest until the very end, and the end of Blooded and the Lisen of Solsta series left me feeling a great sense of closure. With characters that felt so real within a uniquely constructed fantasy world, this series captures the best aspects of the fantasy genre while also pushing the genre’s boundaries through constructing a gender non-conforming world.

Pages: 420 | ASIN: B00R8K8XXQ

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For Beau: The Sarah Ashdown Story

For Beau: The Sarah Ashdown Story3 Stars

The story begins in 2009, where an old woman is being interviewed to tell the story of her history as a fighter in the French resistance to the German army in the 1940’s. In the narrative told by Sarah Ashdown, the character that this history revolves around, readers are bounced seamlessly back and forth between the two eras, and listen as Sarah gives detail about the progression of her life. Simon Gandossi, the author of the story, allows readers peeks at Sarah’s life now as an elderly woman in a nursing home with friends and memories to pass the days with.

England marks the setting for the beginning of the story, but most of the events take place in France or other war zones. By following the reflective narrative of Sarah Ashcroft, an elderly woman being interviewed by a TV reporter about her actions in the war against the Nazis, you’ll learn about the horrific events that took place during the bombings and raids of World War II.

While the majority of the story focuses on Sarah, as she is the one re-telling it to those interested, you also get peeks into the lives of those of both in her past and present. A friendly nurse Patty makes a frequent appearance, and the disorganized reporter himself Daniel Warwick provides a sturdy companion to her as she gives him the story.

After leaving her English hometown and abandoning her family and friends after the disappearance of her husband and the loss of a dear friend, Sarah makes her way to France to help fight the German’s and do her part to end the war. Sarah is met with many difficulties, since she is a woman, but she is a beautiful character, full of strength and wit, and consistently her own worst critic.

Throughout the story, you get to see Sarah’s life in the present setting play out in her nursing home, and the toll of telling the gruesome tale of her war experiences is slowly made evident to the readers. Gandossi takes you on a thrilling, heart-wrenching ride of what life as a soldier in the 1940’s was like, and compels those to feel deeply for Sarah as she agonizes over her decisions.

This isn’t a cheerful story; as few stories about war are. In fact, it’s a heavy read, full of history and heroic deeds. I enjoyed it, but I’ve never liked stories that are sad even until the very end. It made me really think about how hard life was for those suffering through the war in the 1940’s, and it gave me unique insight I’ve never read before. The way Gandossi narrates the story through the voice of Sarah is inspiring and gives an intimate touch.

Pages: 435 | ASIN: B01N6JGBQK

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Trust in Faith and Magic

Sonia J. Buck Author Interview

Sonia J. Buck Author Interview

The Status Update follows Christine, a grieving mother, as she is presented with the opportunity to travel back and make different decisions that could save lives. What was the inspiration for the heartfelt setup to this emotional novel?

I wanted to write a character dealing with hopelessness and heading down a path of destruction, but who transforms. To reap the benefits of the gift, she has to trust in faith and magic, and she becomes hopeful.

The Status Update is a genre-crossing novel combining elements of science fiction and suspense as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?

I was pleasantly surprised by readers who found The Status Update suspenseful. I was going for thought-provoking and hoping the twist on the time travel genre would keep readers engaged.

I felt that Christine was an intriguing character. What were the driving ideals that drove the characters development throughout the story?

I wanted to illustrate inner conflict and struggle. To highlight the tension between the two Christines, I use both third person and first person to tell her story. This “mirror” account was also designed to provide that sense of deja vu often invoked in time travel stories.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?

The Status Update is my first piece of fiction. A lawyer by day, I typically write about law. I am incorporating law into my next fiction book, but with a supernatural twist. The heroin is a criminal defense lawyer who works with her dead ex-husband (a police officer) to bring about justice.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter

The Status Update by [Buck, Sonia J.]“Still grieving decade old losses and feeling the weight of new losses, Christine felt like everything was slipping away from her – her home, her physical health, her family. Upon a freak Facebook encounter with her younger self, she’s presented with a second chance. Has Christine finally lost her mind? Or has she been gifted with a rare opportunity to change the course of her life? And if this gift is real, can Christine convince her younger self to believe her and to heed her warnings?

What about the butterfly effect? Will Christine’s modifications result in some universal impact? Should she try to stop tragedy for all involved or should she be more careful, and instead just focus on protecting her family?

A new twist on the time travel genre, The Status Update is the movie Frequency meets the movie The Lake House meets the digital age.

The setting is Lewiston-Auburn, Maine and the time period switches between 2015 and 2025.”

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Thing in the Pond

Fawn Bonning Author Interview

Fawn Bonning Author Interview

The Leader of Lors is a genre-crossing novel with elements of fantasy, romance, and suspense as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?

It carries on in the same vein as The Heart of Hannen as an erotic fantasy romance. Other elements – horror, suspense, adventure and mystery – just fell into place as the story progressed.

The supporting characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?

I would have to say Eubreena. She’s fiercely protective of Christine, mainly because she feels responsible for maiming and nearly killing her, unwitting though it may have been. Her heart is kind and her friendship true.

What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?

The Atriian Trilogy actually began as a horror short-story called Thing in the Pond. It was originally about an earthquake that opens up an underwater cavern in the family pond, releasing a monster from another dimension. Instead of this creature wreaking havoc on Earth, I decided to let Christine follow it back through the caverns. And thus the Atriian Trilogy was born.

How do you feel you’ve developed as a writer between The Heart of Hannen and this book?

I believe my growth as a writer between the first and second book of this series was quite remarkable. For the first book, time restrictions only allotted an hour here and there for writing, a method not very conducive to good storytelling. By the time I sat down and got my head into the story and wrote a few sentences, it was time to call it a night. I was able to dedicate more time to the second novel, between five and six hours a day. Needless to say, the writing began to come much more easily, seeming to flow naturally, and the results were amazing. For the third book, I doubled down, writing between eight and ten hours a day, and did it ever pay off. By the end, I merely had to place my fingers on the keyboard and the story practically wrote itself.

What is the next book that you’re working on and when will it be available?

My next project will be an erotic paranormal romance based on another short-story from my horror collection Thing Bailiwick. A bodark is a creature of Russian lore, a man capable of shifting into a wolf. Though they are not bound to the cycles of the moon. They can transform at will, and whilst in wolf form they not only possess the enhanced senses and abilities of the wolf, they are able to maintain human awareness and intelligence. Except for when the time comes to mate, an event which occurs but once in their lifetime. Then all must beware the bodark, lest his senses become overpowered by the feral instincts of the beast lurking within.

Projected release date – Jan 2019.

Author Links: GoodReads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

The Leader of Lors (Atriian Trilogy, #2)

“How far will a mother go to protect her child?
Christine will go to beyond the ends of the Earth,
back to the brutal world of Atriia,
back to the man who will possess
her at any cost.

He is Lor Zeria,
the very Leader of Lors,
revered and respected by all,
yet feared by Christine as no other.

This is a tale of fantasy and bravery,
of adventure and horror,
of passion and obsession,
of survival and betrayal.

And for Christine Clavin . . .
it is her own harrowing tale
of destiny.”

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The Tenth Nail

The Tenth Nail5 Stars

The Tenth Nail, written by Kwen Griffeth is a novel that revolves around a homicide detective Nate Burns and his new partner Manuel Trujillo as they work together to solve the murder of a beautiful young woman, Via. Via is a prostitute and one night she is approached by a handsome man who lures her into an alley where she ultimately meets her demise. To avenge her death and find her killer, Nate and Manny, the dynamic duo, find themselves caught in a case that will twist and turn through good and evil and eventually lead to a mystery that will rock the core foundations of every police officer.

Kwen Griffeth’s edgy crime novel, The Tenth Nail, will have your heart racing in anticipation to find out what happens next as you are thrown right into the action with a murder in the first pages. A mix of crime, a dash of seduction and air of mystery, The Tenth Nail will fulfill your whodunnit fix and leave you eager for more. From prostitutes to police officers and the sweet life on a quiet farm to the busy strips on Las Vegas, this novel will take you on a whirlwind adventure of murder, integrity and seduction.

The character development is by far one of my favorite aspects of this story. Nate Burns, a strong man in both nature and physique is an honest family man who is determined to solve the murder of street walker, Via. He resembles something of a Texas cowboy, who loves his horse Babe, his wife and two children and demands attention and respect when he enters a crime scene. As the story develops you learn about his intriguing past that haunts his nightmares of today and the reader will slowly find the skeletons in his closet are indications of a man far more complex than you first expect.

At times I was disappointed at the integrity of characters and readers will question their belief that policemen are heroes and instead begin to realize that they too are people with their own set of complex beliefs and emotions. It gives you a taste of what many in our police force deal with daily and how they learn to become desensitized to some of the horrors that most ordinary folk will never encounter. Some of the events will leave other characters maturing into heroes and other characters developing into something more sinister.

One of my favorite lines in the story is when Nate tells Manny that fashion is “part biology, mixed with a little psychology, and spiced with sociology” as we all crave a little attention, even if it is just walking across a room. The entire novel is filled with ideas that encourage you to ponder about our world and where our own set of beliefs come from.

This novel is by far one of the most gripping stories I have encountered and Kwen Griffeth’s has an incredible ability to create a story that is riveting, entertaining, creative and leaves the reader gasping for more answers until the shocking end. I would highly recommend this to anyone who loves a fast-paced thriller styled novel.

Pages: 382 | ASIN: B01JTU2AZ4

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Exit Five from Charing Cross

EXIT FIVE FROM CHARING CROSS by [Keogh, Valerie]5 Stars

Exit Five from Charing Cross, written by Valerie Keogh revolves around the life of a successful investment banker, Jake Mitchell. Starting his life again at Oxford, Jake meets Adam and they instantly hit it off, becoming best friends quickly. When Jane enters the picture, a depressing love triangle emerges as Jake becomes the outer person staring longingly into a blossoming relationship.

However soon Jake seemingly has it all- the money, the career and eventually a wife and children. But this all changes when he meets the elusive Joyce, a beautiful woman eating a pastry in a train station. Torn between his emotions, Jake makes decisions that will change his life in the most shocking way possible.

Exit Five from Charing Cross is a beautifully written mystery novel that takes the reader on a journey through the life of a successful businessman, Jake Mitchell. Working at a company Sebastian et Sebastian, a firm that only entertains the seriously wealthy, Jake soon rises up in the ranks of the rich, buying into a lifestyle only a few of us will ever indulge in. The riches, the food and the extraordinary homes will leave the reader in awe and at times a little jealous of the extravagant riches that he can afford.

Romance and acceptance are the undertones for this book that will develop into a twist that will shock you to your very core. The start is a little slow but the reader will soon realise that this is the foundations of a story that you will be eager to recommend to every person you meet. My favourite character is Ann, a beautiful woman who attracts the eye of every person when entering a room. She is classy with a touch of sexiness and demands attention and admiration, and manipulate situations to suit her every desire. Is she all that she portrays or is there is something more underneath the silky designer dresses that she adorns so carefully?

Valerie Keogh can paint a picture beautifully with her words and between luxury dinners and divine champagne, the reader is easily transported to the majestic home located in Notting Hill. I found myself imagining what my own home would look like if I had eternal riches on demand and the very best designer at my fingertips. The story isn’t always glamourous though and you quickly learn that riches cannot always buy what we all innately desire- love. Jakes desperation to be loved by his best friends wife and then eventually settling at second best leads to questionable decisions that develop into choices that will leave you hungry for more.

Indulge in a side of a lobster and a glass of champagne when you curl up to read this mystery novel as you will find yourself craving a touch of luxury for yourself! I would recommend Exit Five from Charing Cross to anyone who enjoys a mystery novel with a dash of romance and a plot twist that will leave your mind reeling for days. What could possibly happen to a man who seemingly has it all? You will have to read it to find out!

Pages: 285 | ASIN: B00QPCNB80

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