Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Spotlight Tour and Giveaway: BREATH OF FIRE by Amanda Bouchet

Title: Breath of Fire
Author: Amanda Bouchet
Series: The Kingmaker Chronicles, #2
Pubdate: January 3, 2017


"Cat" Catalia Fisa has been running from her destiny since she could crawl. But now, her newfound loved ones are caught between the shadow of Cat's tortured past and the threat of her world-shattering future. So what's a warrior queen to do when she knows it's her fate to be the harbinger of doom? Everything in her power.

Griffin knows Cat is destined to change the world—for the better. As the realms are descending into all-out war, Cat and Griffin risk sacrificing everything they’ve fought for. Gods willing, they will emerge side-by-side in the heart of their future kingdom...or die trying.


Breath of Fire comes out on January 3rd and I couldn’t be more excited about it! I hope that readers who met Cat and Griffin and followed their exploits in A Promise of Fire will be looking forward to this second installment in The Kingmaker Chronicles, and I hope that new readers will be interested in giving this fantasy romance trilogy a try. The story picks up right where A Promise of Fire left off and with a shocking moment of truth: Cat’s secrets are finally revealed to all. But with the cat out of the bag (pun definitely intended!), important plans can now form to move Thalyria toward unification under Cat and Griffin’s joint rule—plans that will certainly keep Beta Team on their toes. But while Cat’s violent past and lingering self-doubt still haunt her on a deep level, Griffin won’t let her back down from the fate she’d love to avoid. As Griffin propels her toward her inevitable destiny and Cat tries to come to terms with the prophecy that’s haunted her for eight years, readers can expect plenty of adventure and danger, more of Cat’s smart-mouthed humor, exciting Beta Team moments, and a romance that heats up to positively scorching levels. Friendships solidify into unshakable bonds, and perilous quests lead the members of Beta Team into uncharted territory where monsters, magic, and mayhem abound. With Breath of Fire, I hope that readers get swept away and caught up in the emotion and adventure as Cat and Griffin try to navigate their developing and intensely passionate relationship while also taking on the daunting and dangerous task of conquering the world. But most of all, I hope you simply enjoy the book!

Starting with a heart-dropping scene right out of the gate, Amanda Bouchet brings us an exceptionally balanced sequel to A Promise of Fire.  A Promise of Fire is one of my top three reads of 2016 and I cannot recommend it enough. I gave away several copies during the holidays to share the pleasure of that book.  So this story is highly anticipated. However, sequels can be tricky and all too often fall short of the experience of the first book. I am happy to say, this is not the case.  Amanda Bouchet writing is perfectly balanced between mythology, adventure and romance.  

With Griffin securely in her life, the secret prophecy about Cat begins to unravel which takes them on an odyssey across the kingdom. Each exploit brings them closer to fulfilling the prophecy but with complications every step of the way.  They meet mythological characters and are forced into overcoming life-threatening challenges. This is no kiddy adventure.  These creatures are scary.  The Beta Team grows closer together and we delve further into their stories with each new obstacle. There is a fierce gladiator-type competition well-described and suited to make the reader sweat.  

Sometimes in fantasy books, the romance takes a back seat to the quest, but not so with Cat and Griffin.  Their romance is a hot as ever.  The author spends the time to show how the characters learn about each other, deepening their relationship.  There is heartbreak and misunderstanding, but also mutual respect, support, and care.  Not to mention scorching scenes of intimacy.  

Relationships are not limited to the romantic ones. I like that there is a portion of the story dedicated to Cat and one of the Beta Team members.  Because Griffin cannot follow Cat on one of the tasks, she is teamed with Kato.  She develops a deep, sibling-like affection for this hero who steps up to an unusual challenge.  It is great to see another aspect of Cat, but also validate her courage and selflessness.  

Breath of Fire is starting my 2017 reading year with a bang.  Highly recommended, I am going to have to go out and buy some more copies to share the goodness.

Jocasta looks around the room, her blue eyes narrowed and her lips pursed. “You need a new bed.”
“Really? I hadn’t noticed.” Last night, Griffin and I slept on the thick sheepskin rug in front of the unlit hearth—if sleeping is what you can call what we did for most of the night.
Griffin’s sister snorts. “I wish I could take a sword and beat the stuffing out of something when I’m upset.”
“You can. Here.” I hand her my sword. It’s short, about the length of a man’s arm. The hilt fits my grip perfectly, and the rounded guard is engraved with a decorative pattern of intertwining laurel leaves. I’m thinking about naming it. Swords need names. “I recommend the bed, but I’m not particularly attached to that table over there.”
Jocasta glances at the upturned table with its irreparably cracked central board. Her dark hair reflects the morning sunbeams streaming through the open window as she approaches what’s left of the bed and then gives the ruined mattress a good whack. Her whole body jars from the impact. She hauls the sword up again and then thumps it back down harder. This time, the blade sticks in the splintered bed frame. By the time she wrestles it out of the wood, she’s panting and half her curls have slipped from their pins.
She shoves her almost blue-black hair out her face. “That was annoying.”
I shrug. “Sometimes that happens in bone.”
Revulsion crosses her face, but instead of setting down the sword, she strikes the bed again like she has something to prove. She keeps going, avoiding what’s left of the frame. Stuffing erupts from the torn-up mattress, and feathers catch in her hair, giving her a savage appearance. With her bright sapphire eyes, flushed face, and a sword in her hand, she looks like a force to be reckoned with.
Since Griffin turned all our chairs into firewood, I stand there, watching with my arms crossed. “What are you upset about?” I ask.
Jocasta takes a few deep breaths and then props the sword against the wall. “I’m not upset, exactly. I’m restless. The north wall is nearly fixed, and the children don’t especially need my limited expertise in construction to finish the job. The pages have all settled into their roles in the castle. I don’t have any groundbreaking ideas for improvements to the realm. The new healing centers and schools are Egeria’s projects, and she doesn’t need or really even want my help, although I keep offering.” She brushes goose down from the front of her dress, her mouth thinning.
“You’re bored.” I get that. If I weren’t so in love, which is completely new to me, I’d probably be bored, too. As it is, I’m tired of being confined to the castle grounds. I’m used to living mostly out in the open and traveling with the circus. Sometimes, these walls feel like they’re closing in on me.
Jocasta sighs. “Piers is busy recruiting new soldiers, and that’s not exactly my domain anyway. Carver has responsibilities that Griffin trusts him with. You have Beta Team. Father reads or sleeps most of the day. Mother concocts herbal sludge that I can already recite the recipes for forward and backward and use to heal most of the usual ailments. Kaia has her tutor—who’s an old goat, by the way—but besides a few adjustments to court life, I’ve already had my schooling and don’t need to sit in on lessons.” She eyes my sword like she wants to start bashing things again. “I have nothing to do.”
“Life is different for you now. As a younger sibling in a royal house, you have no real role. And even less freedom.”
She chews on her lower lip, looking annoyed. “I used to be able to go places by myself. Ride a horse. Talk to people. Help them because they knew me and came to me and respected me. Now I’m stuck behind these walls where no one really needs me.”
“There are days I feel trapped, too,” I say. “But there are worse prisons than this.”
“Yes, but everyone needs you. Especially Griffin.” Scowling, Jocasta kicks a piece of wood across the room—debris from Griffin’s rampage. “Sintans should see their new royals. They were nothing but welcoming on our way north last spring. I asked if I could travel the realm, with a large guard, of course, but Griffin won’t let me. He says it’s too dangerous.”
“He’s right.”
Her eyes flash a fierce blue. “You, too? I thought you’d understand.”
“I do understand. But the realms are entering into a Power Bid now. Fisa is a shadow over us all. Tarvan snakes are rattling their tails. They’ve attacked us twice, and the last time Griffin nearly died. What do you think they’d do if they got their hands on you?”
Jocasta doesn’t answer.
In her silence, I answer for her. “They’d tear apart everyone you love as they came for you, and then they’d tear you apart, too.”
“Then I should learn to defend myself!” She starts pacing, her fluid prowling reminding me of a certain Sintan warlord I know. “Teach me to fight, Cat. Make me less of a liability. Then maybe I can have some freedom.”

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Award-winning author Amanda Bouchet grew up in New England and studied French at the undergraduate and graduate levels, first at Bowdoin College and then at Bowling Green State University. She moved to Paris, France in 2001 and has been there ever since. She met her husband while studying abroad, and the family now includes two bilingual children, who will soon be correcting her French.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Release Day Blitz: ABSOLUTE TRUST by Piper Drake

Author: Piper J. Drake
Series: True Heroes, #3
Publisher: Forever



After multiple tours of duty, Brandon Forte returns to his hometown on a personal mission: to open a facility for military service dogs like Haydn, a German shepherd who's seen his share of combat and loss. It also brings him back to Sophie Kim, a beacon of light in his life . . . and the one woman he can't have. But Forte's success means he's made enemies in high places. Enemies who are now after Sophie . . . 

When Forte enlisted and left without saying goodbye, Sophie did her best to move on. But with her first love back in town, looking sexier than ever, she's constantly reminded of what they could have had. Then after he risks himself for her, Sophie realizes she'll have to put her life in the hands of the man who broke her heart, knowing the danger—and the sparks between them—could consume them both.

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Check out my review of Absolute Trust on the Scandalicious Book Review Blog


Sophie Kim must’ve come directly from work because, under her very sleek, black trench coat, she wore a matching pencil skirt. Three-inch red heels popped in contrast to the severe black of the rest of her outfit. Which did all sorts of things to him. Naughty things. The kind of things that were so good that they were really bad. Especially when a woman was off limits.
“Hey! Is that the new guy?” Sophie slowed her approach, keeping her gaze locked on Forte’s face.
She’d been around tiny dogs all her life, but she’d spent enough time at Hope’s Crossing Kennels over the last couple of years to have learned how to meet the much bigger dogs in Forte’s care. Training working dogs was his thing. Or in Haydn’s case, retraining.
Always a work in progress. 
Sophie had been here when Forte had come back from active duty, too battle weary to continue deploying. She’d helped him with the accounting when he’d established Hope’s Crossing Kennels and had generally integrated herself into the private world he’d created for himself, Rojas, and Cruz while they all rebuilt lives for themselves. 
Sophie’s bright smile faded as she waited for him to answer. She always sensed when he got too caught up inside his own head.
“Yeah.” Forte came to a halt and murmured the command for Haydn to sit.
Instant obedience. Despite his injury, surgery, and current need for recovery, the dog was as sharp as he’d been on active duty. The mind was eager, ready to work. The body, not so much.
Sophie’s smile renewed, the brilliant expression stopping his heart, the way it had every time he’d seen her since they’d first met way back in high school. She came to a stop in front of them, barely within arm’s reach. “He must be doing well if you’ve got him out here for some field work.”
While they spoke, Haydn watched them both. Then he sniffed the back of Sophie’s hand, which she’d been holding conveniently within reach.
Usually, he preferred if a person asked to be introduced, but this was Sophie. If she’d approached anyone else, she’d have requested permission to say “Hi” to the dog. But between the two of them, everything was an exception. 
It showed how well she’d come to know the way he worked in the last few years. He’d changed with every deployment. It happened. And she’d adjusted and accepted those changes in him without a word when he came back. She was the steadfast, forever friend.
He’d never told her why he’d left in the first place or why he’d come back. She was so good at just accepting him that she might never know. And he was a coward for not telling her.
“What’s your plan for him?” Sophie glanced down at the dog, now that he’d sniffed her hand. “Haydn, right?”
 “Yeah.” Forte cleared his throat. “He’s got a couple of weeks of physical therapy first. Then we need to coordinate with the Air Force on his adoption.”
“Ah.” Understanding in one syllable. She had the kind of caring heart to fill in the gaps when something went unsaid. “His handler didn’t make it.” 
Part of why Sophie was one of the only people Forte felt easy around was because she got it. Only needed to explain once. And she listened the first time. Sometimes no explanation was required at all. 
 “Where’s your car? We’ll walk you.”
“Right across the street.” Sophie jerked her head in the direction of the small parking lot.
They headed over, Sophie falling into step next to Forte. She didn’t try to take his hand or tuck her own around his arm. They weren’t like that. Besides, she knew he didn’t like to be all wound up with a person when walking out in the open. 
 As they approached her car, Sophie juggled her shopping bag to pull her keys out of her purse and triggered the trunk. 
“Need help?” Forte came up alongside the car, scanning the area around the parking lot out of habit.
“No worries.” Sophie lifted the trunk door and carefully placed her shopping bag inside the deep space, leaning in to move things around to where she wanted. “I need to make sure this is arranged so stuff doesn’t shift. It's delicate!”
He was not going to admit to anyone, ever, how much he was willing to stretch his neck to catch sight of her backside while she was leaning over. 
Haydn sniffed the side of the car. The big dog was very engaged, his relaxed attitude changing to a sharper set of movements. Forte tore his attention from Sophie. 
Haydn had detected something out of place. Something wrong. Forte’s stomach tightened into a hard knot. Nothing wrong should be anywhere near his Sophie. It didn’t matter that they were in a sleepy town on the edge of a river in the middle of a peaceful country. It didn’t matter that there shouldn’t be any real danger here. 
Haydn deliberately sat and looked up at Forte. It was a clear signal. One Haydn had been specifically trained to give as a military explosives detection dog.
“Sophie. Step away from your car.” He’d explain later. Be afraid later. Rage. Worry.
She popped up from the trunk. “Huh?”
“Do it.” 
They had to move now.
She complied, thank god. He gave Haydn a terse command, circled around to grab Sophie and get more distance. He steered her across the parking lot toward a big dumpster. It’d serve as good cover. Then he reached for his smart phone.
They got a couple of yards away, and Sophie craned her neck to look back at her car, even as she kept moving with him. She always did as he asked immediately, but she had a brain, and she insisted on explanations after she complied. “What—?” 
Behind them, the trunk hatch came down with a solid thunk. 
Forte let out a curse and grabbed her, pulling them down to the ground and rolling for the cover of other cars as an explosion lifted the entire driver’s side of her car.




Piper J. Drake (or "PJ") spent her childhood pretending to study for the SATs by reading every interesting novel she could find at the library. After being introduced to the wonderful world of romance by her best friend, she dove into the genre.

PJ began her writing career as PJ Schnyder, writing sci-fi & paranormal romance and steampunk, for which she won the FF&P PRISM award as well as the NJRW Golden Leaf award and Parsec award.

PJ's romantic suspense novels incorporate her interests in mixed martial arts and the military. The True Heroes series is inspired by her experience rescuing, owning and training a variety of retired working dogs, including Kaiser, a former guard dog, and Mozart, who was trained to detect explosives.