Thursday, May 18, 2017

In the Spotlight...Jessica Rachel Kreger

Please join me in welcoming Jessica Rachel Kreger and her recently released book, Fit to Love.


For any woman who has ever battled with their weight, debut author Jessica Rachel Kreger tells a heartwarming tale of a woman whose struggle for fitness leads her into the studio of an irresistible trainer who needs her more than she knows…

After her mother’s tragic death from diabetes, mousy Daisy Day embarks on her own life-saving mission to lose a hundred and fifty pounds. Handsome personal trainer and Army veteran, Eric Anderson, seems like the answer to her prayers, but he’s way out of her league…not to mention taken by a picture-perfect model almost half her age.

When Daisy lends her marketing acumen to launch Eric’s personal training business and helps him overcome his grief from losing his brother in Afghanistan, he realizes he has more in common with her than his own girlfriend. Yet when the hours of training pay off, and Daisy is transformed into a head-turning beauty, he’s not the only man to notice.

Daisy Day is fit to love and she’s already fallen for Eric… but with his now ex-girlfriend chasing after him, and another man in Daisy’s arms, is it too late for him to catch her?

Excerpt 1

It’s now or never, Daisy Day vowed, easing her naked body onto the cracked scale in the bathroom of her Miami Beach apartment. The numbers flashed 272. She inched her toes off the machine and tried again, but the battery sputtered off. Throwing the old thing in the trash, she let a chuckle escape. Good riddance, she thought. Time for new beginnings.
Moving into her bedroom, she fished out the navy sweat suit from the bottom of the closet. Stepping into an outfit as bland as yesterday’s leftovers, she sucked in her stomach and wormed into the pants. A tiny hem broke when she squeezed the matching shirt over her shoulders.
Throwing on a pair of nurse-white sneakers she had never worn, she rushed to her apartment’s entranceway and snatched her keys from their hook.
Grabbing her driver’s license on the way out, she blinked back warm tears, seeing her mother’s round dimpled face, mousy brown hair, and brown eyes speckled with green reflected in her own picture. She slammed the front door behind her before she had time to lose her nerve.
Her little blue sedan sunk with her weight as she eased herself in. She started the car, her palms moist, remembering holding her mother’s hand on her deathbed, promising she would get in shape and not meet the same fate as her mother and grandmother before.
Clutching the steering wheel, she silently prayed, Lord, help me lose the weight. I’m too young to die at thirty-eight. Please let me see my fortieth birthday. Don’t let me give up again. Be my rock.
The address for Eric Anderson, the personal trainer her mother’s nurse had recommended, was in Coconut Grove. Tourists flocked to the shaded, suburban community for its artist colony roots, lush vegetation and parks, wild peacocks, and as of late, its exclusive spas. But instead of the posh drive she expected, she found herself winding down a narrow residential road and pulling up to its most modest ranch home.
“You have arrived,” her GPS announced, but Daisy wondered if she stopped in the right driveway. She killed the ignition, but another fire ignited in her belly when she stepped out of the car.
She recognized the bona fide hunk shooting hoops in his driveway from the picture on his website. She knew he was about her age from reading his bio, but that’s where the similarities ended.
A foot taller than Daisy, Eric had sandy-blond hair and sky-blue eyes set off by a glowing, rosy complexion. Sculpted muscles jutted out symmetrically from each arm as if he were a classical sculpture. When he jumped up for a basket, she could see hints of his six pack—a toned stomach he must have attained through hours of sweat—peek out from underneath an orange-and-green Miami Hurricanes T-shirt.
Please don’t let him take one look and laugh at me, Daisy prayed.
But when she beeped her car alarm, he put his basketball down and faced her with eyes that gleamed with kindness.
Hiding her trembling fingers behind her back, she followed him into his garage studio. She wasn’t sure she could find her voice but, as luck had it, this strong, silent type didn’t speak right away.
Inside his garage, she took a closer look at this man, who from afar seemed to be the polished image of perfection. A few days’ worth of uneven stubble prickled from his tanned cheeks.
He looks like a Norse god who needs a shave, she thought and then giggled at her own silliness before noticing a small faded scar on his arm. Even Norse gods could scar.
“Eric Anderson,” he said, ignoring her laughter and extending a firm hand.
As he reached toward her, Daisy inhaled faint hints of his subtle cologne—an alluring woodsy musk with a mix of spices. Much better smelling here than any other gym, she thought.
Clearing her throat and steadying her hands, she returned his solid grasp. A spark of static electricity flew from the tips of her fingers to the top of her shoulders when he shook her hand. “Daisy Day.”

Excerpt 2

Daisy’s legs wobbled as she walked up to Eric’s garage door and pressed the bell. She hadn’t seen Eric since before her shopping spree, when he and Penny had stopped by her apartment to bring chicken soup.
Now, she had on a light blue tank with spaghetti straps that showed off her new shape and brought out her dark eyes. She paired it with white gym shorts with a matching blue vertical stripe to accentuate her smooth legs and shapely thighs.
“Daisy?” Eric called through the door. “Come right in... I’ll be with you in a min.”
Putting a hand on her legs to steady them, she entered the studio for her first session after a month and a half of recovery.
“Hey Hercules!” Daisy said, moving toward the weight rack.
Eric was making notes on a clipboard and didn’t look up.
“Welcome back! I’m so—” He raised his head and his eyes peeled. “Wow! Daisy!”
He was speechless, the clipboard and pen locked in his frozen hands. Daisy glowed, basking in Eric’s wide-eyed stare.
“Dig my new digs?”
“Wow!” he repeated, searching for words. “You look amazing!” She gave him a quick hug.
“Thanks, Eric. You’re not so bad yourself.” A ribbed, white tank top clung to his hardened chest and cropped, black shorts emblazoned with the Miami Heat logo revealed runner’s calves.
“Ha,” he said, as if she was joking. “Glad to see you are feeling better! Ready to get back to work?”
With his encouragement, her sea legs disappeared, and minutes later she was working up a healthy sweat and deep into the rhythm of the treadmill. Eric was standing in front coaching her to keep her pace steady when the door opened and Star sauntered in, a tight, black, bustier dress clinging to her thin frame.
Her cell phone sounded with a ringtone set to the tune of the parody, “Everyday I'm Hustling.”
“Just a sec,” Star called to Eric, fishing her phone from her matching black leather, designer purse.
“Hello, I’m a Star,” she said into the phone and sashayed toward the laundry room as if she was walking down a red carpet, holding the cell phone like a microphone. She closed the door behind her.
Daisy shared a glance with Eric and they both cracked up.
“So, modesty isn’t her strong suit,” he said.
“Uh, I don’t think it’s even a part of her wardrobe,” she noted. “But you gotta hand it to her—she’s nailed positive thinking.”
“True that,” he agreed, as Star reappeared, smiling from ear to ear. She rushed to embrace Eric and ignored Daisy.
Eric gave Star a perfunctory peck on the cheek, and Daisy’s head spun. Why only a kiss on the cheek? Did something happen between them?
“Guess who you’re looking at now!” Star commanded to Eric.
“A star,” Daisy quipped, although she hadn’t been the one addressed.
“Natch,” Star replied. “Do I know you?” she asked, not recognizing Daisy.
Daisy nodded and suppressed the urge to laugh. She risked a glance at Eric. His hands were clasped over his mouth, shielding a smirk. Their first inside joke.
Star babbled on, oblivious. “Yes, I’m a star, but I’m now also the newest face of Miami Health Boutique, the hippest place to go for all your health food and juice, spa, and fitness needs,” she said, sounding like a commercial already. “I auditioned yesterday and they just told me I got the part!”
“Congrats,” Eric muttered.
Daisy noticed he sounded less than enthusiastic and didn’t slap Star his usual high-five. Between this and his lackluster greeting…could she hope against hope they broke up?

Excerpt 3 – Longer

Wiping down the weight bench in his garage studio, Eric heard his phone buzz and saw a text from his sister flash on the screen.
“Red alert. Daisy’s here with a player. Come quick! Leave the sports gear at home if you want to win this game.”
“I’ll be there pronto,” Eric replied. He received his sister’s message and her jeer loud and clear. His sports clothes would not cut it tonight. He had competition and he had to look better than ever.
Ready to step up his game and show Daisy he wanted her, he made a mad dash for the shower and then raided his closet.
Inside the salsa club, Mario ordered drinks. When the music stopped, a man spoke into the microphone in Spanish, and Mario translated.
“We’re going to try a Cuban dance where couples dance in a circle and swap partners,” Mario bellowed over the din of the crowd. “The announcer will call out the moves and use hand signals, too, because it’s so noisy.”
“Uh, you do know I’m new at this, right?” Daisy spoke into his ear. “And I know sign language but not for this…” She fought back panic. Maybe salsa dancing was not the best idea for a first date. “I have to come clean… I don’t remember much from the Spanish I took in high school,” Daisy admitted. Is it too late to bail?
No problemo,” he said, putting his hands on her shoulder and pressing them down to ground her. “Relax. The guy leads. Just follow along and have fun.” He led her to the dance floor, leaving their drinks on the table.
When the music began and Mario held her close, her fears melted with the rhythm of the Latin night. An expert dancer, he guided her through complex spins, his hand around her waist, then locked hands with hers, tapping his feet as he whirled her around and around, until she abruptly found herself in the arms of a new partner.
She danced with a handful of men of all ages, and was dizzy with excitement, caught up in a flurry of twists and turns when someone tapped on her shoulder with gusto. A puzzled look raked her partner’s face, but she could not see who the mystery man was in the shadows.
“Excuse me, may I cut in?” the man said huskily and she knew the voice in a heartbeat. Her partner sulked away in a huff.
“Hello beautiful,” Eric said and Daisy almost stumbled in her heels as he took her hand. What was Eric doing here? And did he mean it when he called her beautiful? He had called her that at the health expo, but had also addressed Star in the same way. Could it be her new hairstyle? Or did he just enchant all women that way?
She regained her composure as she twirled in his arms and met his gaze. The skirt of her dress flourished as he swept her across the dance floor.
“Hello Mr. Miami Vice,” she said, drinking in his evening attire between turns. A turquoise T-shirt played off the color of his eyes, and a tailor-made white suit showed he was ready for prime time. “This is quite a surprise.”
“You know me. I’m not much of a club person, but Penny convinced me to come out tonight. She and her friends are celebrating finishing their board exams,” he explained, pointing to the bar where his sister was chatting with two women. “And when I saw you, I knew I had to dance with the most stunning woman in the room.” His hand grazed the bare flesh of her back where her dress scooped as he swirled her around.
“I guess it’s been a while since you’ve seen me with my hair down,” she said, her back tingling from his touch.
“I love it this way—it shows off your elegant neck and bare shoulders,” he said, brushing her hair back and exposing the most tender parts of her neck, sending a new wave of sensations down her spine. “And you smell like heaven! I had a great time last night. Next time, let’s—”
She felt another strong tap on her shoulder. Mario. Although Eric’s arms were interlaced with hers, Mario reached in and slipped his hands across her newly defined waist, inserting himself between them.
“She’s mine. I can’t stay away from my gorgeous date for too long,” his sexy accent cooed into Daisy’s ear, just loud enough so Eric would hear, the strong statement marking her as his.
Eric arched an eyebrow, but did not let go. Daisy lingered for another moment in both of their grasps. She wasn’t in a hurry for either of them to go. After years of dateless nights, being between two handsome men vying for her affection was a moment she wished she could freeze in time.
“I do believe this dance is mine,” Mario asserted. Daisy nodded. Eric may have just been asking her out again, but Mario was her date tonight. He had picked her up in a fancy limo, taken her to dinner, and taught her to salsa.
Eric didn’t say a word as he relinquished his grasp on Daisy. But before walking away, he stole a pointed look at Mario.
“Wait, Eric—” Daisy shouted after him, but her voice was lost in the drumbeat, and Eric had already disappeared back into the shadows. Penny and her friends had moved on from the bar. Daisy wanted more than anything to find Eric, but it wouldn’t be right to leave Mario like that.
“Shall we?” Mario said, ignoring the encounter and leading her across the dance floor as a new number played.
When the song was over, Mario guided her to the entrance to the club, maneuvering her past a group of men who whistled at her and tried to call her over to them. Daisy still couldn’t get over the fact that they were whistling at her.

Author Bio:

Jessica Rachel Kreger’s love of fitness, Florida, and respect for military veterans like her father spawned the idea for her first novel. While working as the research communications director at the University of Miami’s medical school, Jessica learned about our country’s obesity epidemic, and came up with the plot for Fit to Love.

At an early age, Jessica developed a passion for reading from her mother, and continues to find inspiration in her family, friends, and faith. When not writing, Jessica enjoys hitting the gym, snorkeling the South Florida waters, and predicting what is going to happen on her favorite TV shows.

A member of the Romance Writers of America and the South Florida Romance Writers, she has over seventeen years of experience as a professional writer, and earned a B.A. in English from Penn State University and an M.A. in Professional Writing from Carnegie Mellon University.

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

In the Spotlight...JJ Nite


All Edie Malakim wanted was to be a regular teenager, but she never had an abundance of luck. Discovering you’re the answer to an ancient prophecy, the one destined to lock Lucifer in Hell, definitely doesn’tqualify as normal either.

As Edie struggles to control her fire-throwing power and not burn everything in her path, she must also be ready for danger appearing around every corner. With the help of Kiah, a fellow Timoreo, and her coyote friend Atlas, she begins to learn a measure of control and a little more of her history.

When an unexpected visitor appears, Edie’s world becomes even more complicated as secrets are revealed and old wounds are opened. As her eighteenth birthday and the possibility of new abilities being bestowed on her approaches, Edie must try to decipher fact from fiction and friend from foe. 

Excerpt #1
I walked through the halls of school, and nothing felt like it had before. I wished I could go back and do things differently. You know, little things like appreciating my mom and making sure she knew it before she died or paying more attention to the things she was trying to teach me while I was growing up. And then there was the big stuff. Those events you wish you could block out of your mind, but once they happened, they were cemented in your memory for all time.
That’s how I felt anyway—even if everyone else around me thought it was awesome I had been able to send a demon back to Hell all by myself. Granted I had been able to save my own life and Kiah’s, but it bothered me to do it. And because I was the answer to an age-old prophecy that said I was the chosen one to lock Lucifer back to Hell, there was a little added pressure. Not really how I wanted my senior year of high school to go.
I had been avoiding going back to school for fear someone might find out what I could do or what I really was. Even though it had only been two days, it felt like much longer. All I wanted was to be a normal teenager and to be lost in the sea of faces. My destiny, however, was something altogether different.

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J. J. Nite lives in North Alabama with her husband, 3 kids, 3 dogs, 4 goldfish, and a guinea pig.  She writes young adult sweet romance for Clean Reads and loves reading as much as possible. J.J.'s also found that if she doesn't write something every day, her mood is that of a bear waking from hibernation. Don't worry though, the children have learned to let Mommy write a little before approaching.

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

In the Spotlight...Lucie Ulrich

Please join me in welcoming Lucie Ulrich and her newest release, Finding Hope

Book: Finding Hope – Though a standalone, this book is a companion or follow-up to The Rose Ring.

Genres: Inspirational, Romance, Family Drama

Nearly sixteen years after relinquishing the rights to his unborn child, Noah Cooper is stunned to discover his daughter, Hope, wants to meet him. With the love and support of his family, Noah sets off from Elk Flats, Montana to Albany, New York, having no idea what changes are in store for him.
Cancer survivor and widow, Beth Peterson, is more than a little nervous to meet her daughter’s birth father. Their initial meeting goes well, but things decline in a hurry when Noah invites Hope to spend time at the ranch without speaking to Beth about it first. 
Determined to meet her new family, a battle of wills ensues between Hope and her mother. While Hope longs for a connection, Beth fears losing her daughter to virtual strangers—strangers who live two thousand miles away.
Struggles and misunderstandings abound between Noah and Beth, despite their growing attraction for one another. Noah is ready to commit, while Beth can’t let go of the memory of her husband and the imperfections cancer has forced to live with. 
Will hope, patience, and prayer be enough to pull this family together?

Short Excerpt:  (385 words)
Noah Cooper brushed down his horse and left him in the corral. He strode across the expanse of property and entered the house through the mudroom. Removing his hat, he scrubbed a hand through his sandy-blond hair. It was time for a haircut. The aroma of beef stew wafted from the kitchen. “You in there, Annie?”
 “I am, and I washed the floors this morning, so take your boots off.”
 “Yes, ma’am.” Chuckling, Noah sat on a bench to do as ordered. In the five months since he’d discovered the woman he believed to be his aunt was actually his mother, Noah had experienced a new kind of love. They were still working out the kinks, but life was good. Noah stepped into the kitchen, kissed Annie on the cheek, and sat at the oak table that was older than he was. “I picked up the mail. Nothing but bills and junk.” He held up a square envelope. “Except for this.” Annie reached for it, but Noah pulled it back with a smile. “Sorry, it’s addressed to me.”
Annie wiped her hands on a dishtowel, her inquisitive gray eyes staring down at him. “Who’s it from?”
 “I don’t know. There’s no return address.” He tore open the flap and pulled out a floral note card. A small photograph of a young girl, maybe thirteen or fourteen, spilled out. She had golden-brown hair that fell past her shoulders, large green eyes, and a slightly crooked smile that mimicked his own. He turned the photo over to find the name Hope and age fourteen written on the back.
“Who’s this?” Annie took the photo from him and studied it.
 Tingles ran up Noah’s spine. “I’m not sure.” Could it possibly be? Before reading the note, he zeroed in on the signature at the bottom. The breath escaped his lungs in a whoosh. 
“You okay?” Annie sat next to him and put a hand on his arm. 
It took a moment before he could answer. He hadn’t heard from his first love in nearly sixteen years. Not since the day he’d signed the adoption papers relinquishing any rights to his unborn child. “It’s from Amanda.”
Annie let out a long, slow whistle while holding up the picture. “So this is…”
Noah took the picture from her. “My daughter.”
Long Excerpt:  (579 words)
Over dinner Hope chatted on about school, her dreams to become a veterinarian, and the school play she was taking part in. “I have a really good part. Do you think you could come back to see me, Noah?”
“As much as I’d like to, I’m not sure I could get away so soon.”
“Honey, that’s a lot to ask. The play is only a month away, and Noah doesn’t exactly live across town.”
“Sure.” Hope swirled the mashed potatoes on her plate with her fork. “I understand.”
The downward bent of Hope’s mouth tore at Noah’s insides. He’d barely made contact and was already letting her down. He swallowed his final bite of meat. “Maybe you could spend some time at the ranch over the summer.”
Hope’s frown quickly turned to a face-splitting grin. “That would be amazing. I can’t wait to tell Jenny.”
Fire practically shot from Beth’s eyes, and Noah knew he’d put his foot in it big time.
            Beth asked Hope to clear the table and clean the kitchen. “I’m going to show Noah the garden. We’ll have dessert when we come back.”
“Sure, Mom.”
“The garden’s this way.” Beth walked past Noah toward the sliding glass door. She opened it with more force than necessary, causing the door to slam into its metal casing. Cringing at the racket, she was less forceful with the screen.
Noah followed her onto the deck. “Look, I know I spoke—”
“Not here.” She descended the stairs at a brisk pace and walked across the yard until she reached the gazebo. The walk and cool air did nothing to calm her nerves. Spinning around, she faced him. “You had no right to extend an invitation like that without speaking to me first.”
“I know, and I’m sorry. The words just came out before I had a chance to think about what I was saying.”
“Yeah, well, sorry isn’t going to help when I have to tell Hope she won’t be going. I opened my home to you so that you could meet your daughter, not for you to whisk her away at the first opportunity.”
He held up his hands. “Whisk her away? No, you’ve got it all wrong. I expect you to come with her. Hope has other family, which means you do, too. I think she’d enjoy a couple of weeks of ranch life, and you’re both going to love my family.”
“You assume a lot for someone who’s barely known me for twenty-four hours and my daughter half that amount of time. And, yes, I did say my daughter. You may have fathered her, but I raised her.”
“That’s a low blow, Beth.” Noah’s easy smile vanished. He leaned against the railing and crossed his arms over his chest. The mixture of hurt and anger in his eyes pained her. She knew she was overreacting but couldn’t help herself. He was moving too fast. Surely he realized that. “I think it might be best if you don’t stay for dessert. I’ll explain to Hope.”
“I’ll be the first to admit that my enthusiasm may have gotten the better of me.” He uncrossed his arms and pointed to her. “But you’re the one who invited me into Hope’s life. You asked if I was in for the long-haul, so I assumed you understood I’d want to bring Hope to Montana from time to time.”
“It’s too early for this to be about what you want.”                            

About the author: Lucie Ulrich is an award-winning author of inspirational fiction. Her books are filled with stories of faith, family and forgiveness. She was honored to receive a RONE Award for her second novel, “The Rose Ring.” 

A former performing arts director, Lucie now enjoys going on photo shoots with her husband, and taking long (or short) road trips. She continues to find inspiration as she and her husband explore the four corners of the United States.

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