Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Duke's Forbidden Love by Debra Elizabeth (Spotlight, excerpt, review, and GIVEAWAY) GFT

Debra Elizabeth


GENRE:   Historical Romance



Miss Amelia Beckwith should be over the moon with happiness when the Earl of Lincoln proposes. Unfortunately, the handsome earl is not who he appears to be in public.  She is desperate to escape Lincoln’s cruelty and has only one option left to leave the nightmare behind—RUN.

Racing back to his estate during a horrific thunderstorm, James Harlow, the Duke of Warwick, spots a young woman walking along the road when a bolt of lightning startles her. She tumbles down the ravine and lays like a broken doll at the bottom. Warwick rescues her and with the help of his staff nurses her back to health. There’s only one problem—the woman who has captivated his heart has lost her memory and cannot tell him who she is or where she comes from. Can he find out the identity of this delicate beauty before fate steps in and ruins everything he loves?



Richard Blackwood, the Earl of Lincoln, exited his carriage and walked up the stairs to the Beckwith townhome. It was extremely early for a morning call, but he wanted this business over with. The sooner he got the marriage contract signed, the sooner he could marry Lady Amelia and get his heir on her. He had not liked her little show of defiance last night on the balcony and would make sure she understood that that kind of behavior would not be tolerated in the future. He didn’t care for the chit, but she was the prettiest this Season, and he wanted to ensure that his future son and heir had the best chance of being handsome like his father. He cared not for daughters and would visit the marriage bed only until he had his heir and a spare.

He lifted the knocker and let it bang down.

A somber-looking butler opened the door. “My lord, you are expected. This way, please.”

Lincoln followed him down the hall to the baron’s study. Before they reached the door, a hysterical scream pierced the air. “What the bloody hell was that?”

The butler turned a shade of white and hurried toward the stairs with the earl hard on his heels. They bounded up the stairs to the family level and were met by the baroness, screaming outside a bedchamber.

The baron was trying to calm his wife but wasn’t having any luck. “Grace, calm yourself. This is not helping the situation.”

“What is the meaning of this?” Lincoln demanded, taking in the sight of the hysterical baroness and her husband.

“She’s gone, she’s gone,” wailed the baroness, throwing herself in her husband’s arms. “My darling girl must be kidnapped.”

Lincoln had a sinking feeling that he would not like what the answer he was about to receive. “Who’s gone?”

“Lincoln, I’m afraid Amelia’s missing,” Dudley said, taking a step away from his distraught wife.

Lincoln looked between the baron and his wife, trying to parse out the story. “What do you mean missing? Perhaps she is out walking.”

Dudley shook his head. “Her maid is here. Amelia would not go out without Dolly. She is a very responsible young woman and I am afraid I agree with my wife’s assertion that Amelia has been taken against her will.”

Richard strode into the bedchamber. His hands began clenching and unclenching as his fury built. “Where is the maid? I wish to question her.”

A timid-looking maid stepped forward. “I’m Dolly, my lord,” she said with a curtsey.

“What makes you think Miss Beckwith is missing?” he ground out between clenched teeth. He was having a difficult time controlling his anger at this hitch in his perfect plan, but until he had all the facts, he would keep himself in check.

The maid flinched at his tone. “Her bed is cold, my lord, and none of her dresses or personal items are missing.”

Richard pushed past the maid, wanting to see the chit’s room for himself. He took in the scene. Everything seemed to be in order, with no dresses strewn about to indicate a hurried packing of her things. There was also no sign of a struggle, and that led him to believe that, more than likely, Amelia had left of her own volition. “Is there a valise missing?”

Dolly shook her head. “No, my lord. Her valise is still in the armoire.”

Richard pushed aside the dresses. The maid was correct—in the corner sat a valise. If Amelia had run, why wouldn’t she pack a few essentials? Then the truth slammed into his gut. Amelia was much more clever than he had anticipated and hadn’t wanted to leave any clues behind when she fled the townhome.

“Dudley, I’ll talk to you in your study,” Richard said, striding from the room.

“Of course,” the baron said, disentangling his wife from his arm. “I’ll return shortly,” he whispered to her, then directed Dolly to help his wife to her bedchamber.

When Dudley entered his study, Lincoln was pacing like a caged lion. He didn’t get a word out before the earl grabbed his cravat and tightened it in his fist. “What nonsense is this? Where’s your daughter?”



AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Debra writes sweet romance in contemporary romance and historical romance. She enjoys telling stories and has been pouring out her passion for romance since her teenage years. When she’s not writing, she enjoys working in her garden, motorcycle rides throughout New England with her husband and playtime with her granddaughter.

She enjoys hearing from fans and you can contact her at: She is also the author of the blog, Two Ends of the Pen. The blog features all things books—author interviews, new releases, guest posts and reviews. Be first to know about new releases and contests and sign up for her newsletter at



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My review:

3.5 out of 5 stars

The Duke’s Forbidden Love by Debra Elizabeth details the plight of Miss Amelia Beckwith, who is suddenly being strongly encouraged to accept the hand of the Earl of Lincoln. When she realizes he has a cruel sadistic side, she flees, only to become victim to an accident that takes her memory but lands her in the care of the reclusive widowed Earl of Warwick. Their instant connection is disturbing to each of them, but for vastly different reasons.

This historical romance is part of the ‘Age of Innocence’ series and gives a glimpse of some of the drawbacks to the rigid system of courtship among the aristocracy. One can’t help but feel sorry for the heroine and root for her to find a way out of her conundrum. The story felt a little compressed to me, with the shift from the shocking opening scene to the plight of Amelia, then the quick romance, but I figure part of that is due to the limitations conferred by this being a novella. Many of the elements that I love about historicals are present—fancy balls, the aristocracy, beautiful clothing and jewels—but I would have liked a little more substance to some of the events.

 Although I was able to read this as a stand-alone, I suspect that some of my questions are due to me not being familiar with the series, since I’ve discovered that one of the characters I wanted more background on had his own time in the spotlight in a previous book. Perhaps it would be helpful to read the other books in the series to appreciate the nuances of this one

Those in search of a quick, light historical romance tale should give this story a try.

A copy of this title was provided for review

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Cooking for Ghosts by Patricia V. Davis (Spotlight, excerpt, review, and GIVEAWAY) GFT

by Patricia V. Davis


GENRE:   magical realism, women's paranormal fiction, mystery



Do hearts broken long ago forever leave a tangible trace?

A Vegas cocktail waitress. An Indian herbalist. A British chemistry professor. An Italian-American widow. Four unique women with one thing in common: each is haunted by a tragedy from her past.

Cynthia, Rohini, Jane, and Angela meet on a food blogging site and bond over recipes. They decide on impulse to open The Secret Spice, an elegant café on the magnificent ocean liner, the RMS Queen Mary, currently a floating hotel in Long Beach, California. Rich in history and tales of supernatural occurrences, the ship hides her own dark secrets.

The women are surrounded by ghosts long before they step aboard, but once they do, nothing is quite what it seems. Not the people they meet, not their brooding chef's mystic recipes, and not the Queen Mary herself. Yet the spirits they encounter help them discover that there's always a chance to live, as long as one is alive.

An Official Pulpwood Queens Book Club Selection, and read by Ann Marie Gideon, COOKING FOR GHOSTS is an unforgettable tale of love, redemption, and divine female power.



Unconcerned with what her business partners were up to, Rohini was giggling with excitement. Hugging herself, she whirled in circles, then flung her arms up over her head and collapsed back in dizzy elation onto the enormous bed in the glorious stateroom. Everything was glorious. She was here. This was her room. The Secret Spice was, in part, her restaurant.



And when she’d first seen the Queen from the back seat of Cynthia’s preposterous little car, she knew she was headed to exactly where she should be. She couldn’t stop smiling, until, abruptly, a lump formed in her throat and her eyes misted with tears.

“I made it, Zahir,” she whispered. “I made it.”

She sobered as she thought of him, of all he’d done for her, and all that she might still need to do on her own.

But that wasn’t for today. Today was for celebration and thankfulness. Getting up from the bed, she opened her case, pulled out all the little plastic sacks of spices and herbs she’d packed, and sighed with relief. Not a one had opened or torn. Even so, she could smell their pungent bouquet right through the protective wrappings. Rauvolfia, Serpentina, Jaiphal, Javitri, Khus Khus, Ashwagandha and more — why did cinnamon always smell the strongest? There were dozens of varieties that she’d stuffed inside shirt sleeves and trouser legs and white cotton gym socks, just like a drug dealer might hide a stash. The TSA had missed them completely. They’d even affixed a sticker to the top of her bag: “Checked by Homeland Security.”

Giggling again at that, Rohini placed all the smaller sacks into a large white bag she’d found in the wardrobe. The bag had a price list for various laundry services printed on it. With that mission accomplished, she took her treasures downstairs to the kitchen.

But she wasn’t two steps in before she stopped stock still and remained right where she was, listening.

“Oh, my,” she murmured to herself. “Oh, my, my, my.”

Now she understood why she’d felt that the ship had summoned her. To anyone else who might peek in, the kitchen appeared silent and empty. But not to Rohini. She could hear the walls sighing.

Gradually, she walked further inside, and the sighs turned to whispers. She stood still, breathing cautiously, waiting, watching. In unison, the stainless steel cooking utensils dangling from the long, narrow cylinders that were screwed to the walls began to sway, soundlessly. The copper pots that hung from the ceiling over the two spanking-new ovens and eight burner stoves began to twirl, gracefully. Every inanimate object in the room that wasn’t bolted down was waltzing eerily, on its own. To Rohini, the dance seemed sad rather than ghoulish.

Walking quietly, listening carefully, she followed the hushed sounds as they moved along the walls, leading her back to the scullery. As she approached, an ancient, enormous, floor-to-ceiling freezer blew out a puff of ice cold air as its door swung wide open as though it were greeting her, then gently clicked closed again.

Unafraid, Rohini observed it all. Still clinging to the laundry bag filled with her precious sacks of spice, s she turned in a full circle, leisurely, so as not to miss any of it. After a while, she set the bag down on one of the gleaming stainless steel work tables. Bending into a full and formal curtsy, she spoke aloud.

“It is my great honor to meet you, Your Majesty.”

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AUTHOR Bio and Links:

PATRICIA V. DAVIS's debut novel series, THE SECRET SPICE CAFE, is comprised of three books: COOKING FOR GHOSTS (2016) SPELLS AND OREGANO (2017) and DEMONS, WELL-SEASONED. (2019) The audio books will be released in 2020 by Tantor Media, and narrated by Ann Marie Gideon. 

Patricia lives with her husband, who is both a poker player and a rice farmer, so she divides her time between southern Nevada and northern California. 

Say hello to Patricia at her author website

TikTok:        @patriciavdavis



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My review:

4.25 out of 5 stars

Cooking for Ghosts by Patricia V. Davis is the first book in the ‘Secret Spice Café’ series, and features a quartet of women who have parlayed an Internet friendship into a business venture on the famed Queen Mary steamship. The women have gathered to make their dreams a reality, but between their secrets and the secrets the popular attraction holds, the new restaurant may never launch.

This mystery story blends fascinating historical facts with challenging contemporary and cultural details in an intriguing story. Multiple points of view shift back and forth, so one has to pay attention to whose perception is being used, but once I got used to that, I enjoyed the way the story unfolded. The combination of multiculturalism and tidbits from the past mixed with the mysticism that personifies “Mary” herself, plus the various spirits who have their own significant contributions makes this a compelling story that grabs one’s attention and heightens curiosity for how various conundrums are going to be solved.

I’m a pretty squeamish person and not fond of horror or ghost stories, but I definitely enjoyed this story and I am curious about the other books in the series. I think that what fascinated me the most was the way past tragedies were touched upon using vivid descriptions that brought them to life while present-day challenges were made relevant, even to one who doesn’t understand how a different culture could be so misogynistic. There are multiple threads to follow, and lovely romances, plus the enigmatic ship herself as an active character, and I enjoyed the lighter moments that leavened some of the drama (fencing against attacking cookware!). Those with triggers should be warned that there are some heartwrenching scenarios touched upon that involve violence against women, but they are sensitively portrayed.

I also feel that a great facet of this book is the way women in all of stages of life are portrayed, including the obstacles that have to be overcome, the difficulties of being a single mother, the hassles of co-owning a business with three other opinionated women, and the euphoria and heartache of being a small-business owner. That the setting is a beloved local landmark is a wonderful bonus, and almost makes me want to book a room there…one of these days!

A copy of this title was provided for review

Monday, July 27, 2020

The Baby Contract by Nan Reinhardt (VBT, excerpt, and GIVEAWAY) GFT

Nan Reinhardt

She wants a baby…he wants a family

Firefighter and paramedic Tierney Ashton has always been a bold adventurer, but at thirty-four she longs to embark on a new adventure—motherhood. But who will be the father? Although financially challenging, a sperm bank appears to be her best option. That is, until she shares her dream with her long-time pal, Brendan Flaherty.

Government analyst and world traveler Brendan Flaherty returns home to River’s Edge to help out at his family’s thriving winery and his brother’s new community theater. He also plans to finally achieve his lifelong goal of writing a novel. But when Tierney shares her wish, Bren offers to be her baby daddy—with one condition. Marriage.

It seems like a perfect contract, but will love get in the way?


Three texts from Bren—he’d heard about the fire—wondering if she was okay. He was moving into his cabin; did she want to come up to the winery and help him celebrate. And, hey, it was almost midnight, where was she?

She smiled. Good old Brendan Flaherty. Her buddy had returned home from Washington, DC, nearly a year and a half ago. It was good to have him back in River’s Edge. He’d been her older brother, Mike’s, best friend since elementary school and had always treated her like his own little sister. He’d stepped right in as surrogate big brother when Mike died in Afghanistan fifteen years ago, and the two of them had helped each other through the grief. She treasured their friendship, especially now that Bren was home to stay.

Her eyes went to the photo on the mantle above the fireplace in the living room—Mike and Bren on their bikes with her sitting on Mike’s cross bar, his arm around her skinny form. The boys had been in seventh grade in the picture and at eight years old, Tierney had worshipped her older brother, although she’d always found his best buddy a little geeky. Actually, both Mike and Bren had been kind of nerdy—into computer games and science experiments and exploring the caves down by the Ohio River.

Bren was still geeky, but in the nicest way possible. He still made a point of looking after Tierney, even though at thirty-four, she was quite capable of taking care of herself. She went into the kitchen, refilled her coffee mug, and retrieved the box of marshmallow cereal from the pantry. Plopping back down at the table, she ate fingersful of dry cereal directly from the box while she texted Holly to let her know she’d be there at three and then Bren to reassure him that she was fine and would love to come out to the winery to celebrate his new digs.

Buy Links


About the Author:
Nan Reinhardt is a USA Today-bestselling author of romantic fiction for women in their prime. Yeah, women still fall in love and have sex, even after 45! Imagine! She is a wife, a mom, a mother-in-law, and a grandmother. Nan has been a copyeditor and proofreader for over 25 years, and currently works on romantic fiction titles for a variety of clients, including Avon Books, St. Martin’s Press, HarperCollins, Kensington Books, Tule Publishing, and Entangled Publishing, as well as for many indie authors.

Although she loves her life as an editor, writing is Nan’s first and most enduring passion. She can’t remember a time in her life when she wasn’t writing—she wrote her first romance novel at the age of ten, a love story between the most sophisticated person she knew at the time, her older sister (who was in high school and had a driver’s license!), and a member of Herman’s Hermits. If you remember who they are, you are Nan’s audience! Her latest series, the Four Irish Brothers Winery series is available from Tule Publishing and all book retailers. Books 1 through 3 are currently available; Book 4 releases July 16, 2020 and is available for preorder.

Visit Nan’s website at, where you’ll find links to all her books as well as blogs about writing, being a Baby Boomer, and aging gracefully…mostly. Nan also blogs every third Tuesday at Word Wranglers, sharing the spotlight with five other romance authors, is a frequent contributor the RWA Contemporary Romance blog, and she contributes to the Romance University blog where she writes as Editor Nan.




Nan Reinhardt will be awarding a set of 6 handmade wineglass charms and a $10 Starbucks gift card. (USA only) to 5 randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour.

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Thursday, July 23, 2020

Madam in Silk by Gini Grossenbacher (VBB, excerpt, and GIVEAWAY) GFT

Gini Grossenbacher

San Francisco, 1849.

Despite her objections, twenty-year-old Ah Toy and her servant Chen voyage from China to San Francisco with her husband who dies on board ship. With little cash and bound feet, how is she to find employment in the Gold Rush town? Since she is the only Chinese woman there, she opens a "Lookee Shop," catering to miners who pay in gold dust to see her exotic beauty. As her notoriety grows, so does her attraction to the devoted policeman, John Clark. Yet should she put her faith in one man? Will their love survive despite her frightening encounter with Sydney Ducks, threats from rival madam Li Fan, and a tempting offer from Henry Conrad who promises her wealth and security? Armed with her mystical beliefs of the inner dragon and Goddess Mazu, Ah Toy faces much more than the journey from the ancient ways in China to the new world in America. In fact, she must find the true source of courage in a life or death struggle for her own fate, justice, and dignity.

Based on page-turning accounts about the life of Ah Toy, one of San Francisco's most legendary madams.



Clark fondled his hat brim. “Tell me which shop, and I shall go find her.”

Chen clenched his teeth. “I think that is not a good idea,” he said.

Clark frowned. “Forever why not?”

Chen fell silent. . . .

Clark’s face reddened. “Chen, are you hiding something? Out with it, my man. Why would it not be a good idea?” He looked up at the ceiling, then let out a heavy sigh. . . .

Ah peered through the crack in the door. Chen was probably wondering if he should tell Clark the truth—or not. She watched him gaze at Clark whose lips pressed flat.

Then Chen broke Ah Toy’s rules for servants—again. . . . “I will face great trouble from my mistress for telling you this. You can never tell her how you learned this information.”

Clark leaned forward, sliding his chair closer. “Of course, Chen, your secret is safe with me.”

“She is to be married. She is out shopping for a wedding garment.”

Clark blinked rapidly. Was he trying not to show his surprise?

She held her breath for a moment. A debate raged inside of her: if she went to Clark, here and now, as she was sorely tempted, her risk was great. After his wife’s loss, Clark had already drifted away from her to New York. How could such a man be trusted?

Clark stiffened; his knuckles white around the rim of his hat. “She is going to wed?”

Amazon link



About the Author:
MADAM IN SILK is California teacher and editor Gini Grossenbacher’s second historical fiction novel. Her debut novel MADAM OF MY HEART garnered the 2018 IPPY silver medal for Historical Fiction; finalist in the 2018 American Fiction Awards for Historical Fiction; honorable mention at the 2018 San Francisco Book Festival for General Fiction; and runner-up in the 2017 Hollywood Book Festival for Genre Fiction. 

She is also a copyeditor and leads an aspiring writers group called Elk Grove Writers and Artists, providing lessons in novel writing, memoir, poetry, and flash fiction. When she’s not writing, Gini can be found taking long walks, tending the roses in her garden, and barbecuing with her husband and beloved dog, Murphy Brown.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

First In by Danika Bloom (Spotlight, excerpts, and review) ADULT title FREE for a limited time!

(A steamy, small-town fireman romance)
The Mixed Six-Pack series, Book 1
ADULT title
Danika Bloom


He's a career firefighter trying to fast-track his life.
Me? I'm a 5'2" volunteer, still trying to figure mine out.

I was in my last year of nursing.
I was engaged.
I was only supposed to come back to my hometown for three months.

But here we are, two years later. I didn't finish my degree. My fiancé left me. And I'm about to lose the family home. Ostie de calice.

So when hot as Hades, Nick West, rolls into town and steals the chief position--a job everyone knew was mine--what choice did I have but to accept the offer to be his deputy?

He gave me a paycheck.
He gave me a purpose.
And I accidentally let him give me my first orgasm.

Now things are messy because I'm wrecking his career and he's breaking my heart.
The town is too small for us both, and since I was here first...

First In is a 90,000 word, steamy small-town, enemies-to-lovers romance with an HEA.



Two hours later, I’d met and worked with eight of the crew of the Lily Valley Volunteer Fire and Rescue, including the event’s IC, Sophie Beaulieu. I’d never seen such a small firefighter in my life. No way she’d make it on a career crew. Hell, the jaws of life weighed more than she did.

But she was smart and fast and worked well under pressure. There weren’t that many decisions I’d have made differently in her shoes. I had to give her credit, she was a good Incident Commander. For a volunteer.

And damn was she ever cute.  She could be stunt stand-in for Arya Stark, with her short, dark hair and those eyes… grey when she was barking orders at me—which I did not appreciate—but when we were taking a breath after the paramedics took over, her eyes were a shade of green that made you want to stare deep into them to see what kind of magic was burning there.

She was nothing like the women I was used to dating. Dating… that’s a stretch. The women I was used to having pre-fuck drinks with is more accurate. The women I met when I needed to get out of my head and forget a hard day at work. They met the cleaned-up, buttoned-down version of me which was about as authentic as they were with their Instagram-perfect make-up and push-up bras. Women who were as hungry for distraction as I was.

In just two hours, I felt like I knew more about this pint-sized firefighter than any of those flings. And, I really liked being near her. In a situation that normally left me needing a lot of booze and a naked body to remind me that I was still alive, I felt alive just working alongside Sophie. Alive and happy, despite the shit show of a car accident with a fatality.

This title is FREE for a limited time but please check price before purchasing.

Amazon link


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Excerpt #2:

Fair warning, this is an intense excerpt, so probably skip if you have triggers or are squeamish!

“Has anyone called 9-1-1?” I yelled.

Several people called back, “Yes.”

“Does anyone have any first aid training? Any at all?”


The cars were about 100 yards from each other. I ran to the closest one. An older man, probably in his seventies, was in the driver’s seat. He was alone. His windshield was smashed and his face was covered in blood.

“Hey! Can you hear me? Hello?”

No response. I checked the pulse in his neck. Alive and unresponsive. Looking around I saw a middle-aged man in outdoor gear standing with what were probably his teenage daughters. I motioned him to come over.

He stared at me.

“Over here! Now!” I barked.

The teens moved with him.

“No. You,” I pointed at the girls. “stay. You do not come over here.”

Outdoor man jogged over.

“I need you to keep this guy company until the paramedics arrive. Don’t touch him. Just talk to him. Say any shit you think of. Tell him about your kids, where you were headed, anything. Just keep talking and keep it calm.”

I scanned the crowd and pointed to a couple of young guys, “Come with me.”

They obeyed. We ran to the farther car. It was bigger, taller, an SUV. The upside? Lower likelihood of catastrophic injuries. The downside—higher chance there’d be more than one person in the vehicle needing medical attention.

The driver was trying to get out but his door had been crushed. He’d rolled the van but thankfully physics had been on his side so he was wheels down again. All the windows were shattered.

I pointed at the guys with me, “Wait.” Then I approached the driver’s side, “Sir.”

He gave me ‘the look.’ He was in shock, had no idea what had happened.

“Sir, you’ve been in an accident. What’s your name?” I used my elbow to push away glass so I could get a better look inside.

“Oliver,” he said, looking at me with wide eyes, tiny pupils.

Beside him, his wife I assume, had taken the brunt of the impact. They don’t call it the suicide seat for nothing. Clearly he anticipated the hit and steered to try to avoid it. What he hadn’t anticipated was the soft shoulder. 

I motioned for one of the two guys to join me and spoke quietly to him, “This is Oliver. Talk to him and keep him focused on you. Don’t let him look at his wife.”

Crossing behind the van to see if anyone else was inside, I approached the woman in the passenger seat who was clearly unconscious. Her pulse was strong but there was zero chance she didn’t have a serious neck injury. Just as I was about to call 9-1-1 myself, to advise dispatch to send three ambulances, Oliver leaned across and shook his wife’s shoulder.

“Amanda!” he yelled.

I grabbed his hand and held it away from her body.

“Sir. Don’t touch her. She needs paramedics. You’ll do more harm than good.”

The driver dropped his arm and stared at his wife.

I looked for the second guy, to get him to find a door we could open so when first responders arrived they’d have quick access to stabilize the passenger. The idiot was walking away from me.

“Yo! Bro! I need you over here. No time to take a piss,” I yelled.

He ignored me and started to jog—in the wrong direction.

Turning back to the first guy, I said, “Try to get the driver’s door open. If he cooperates, let him stay where he is. But if he starts to touch his wife again, encourage him to get out. But don’t pull or push him. Let him move on his own. Clear?”


“Over here,” the runner called to me. He was twenty yards up the road and standing in the ditch, waving wildly.

I ran, hoping against hope that he wanted to show me some wildflowers in the ditch. Wishful thinking. What I saw was so not good. I put my hand on the guy’s shoulder and turned him away from the child laying lifeless in the mud. Despite a decade of emergency medical calls I knew that even I’d be needing to debrief this with a professional.

“Look at me,” I said, forcing him to make eye contact with me, “Call 9-1-1. Tell them we need air evac for a toddler. Say Captain West of Vancouver Fire and Rescue is on-scene. Got it?”

He nodded and was pulling out his phone before I finished my sentence.

I dropped into the muck and rolled a child of no more than five onto my extended arm so I could pick him up with as little movement to his spine as possible. I needed him on solid ground. As I lifted him I took one breath to redirect my rage at the parents who didn’t think car seats were necessary, into something a little more productive.

I gently lay him down on the pavement and checked his pulse. Nothing. But he was so small and my heart was pounding so hard I knew I might not feel it even if he had one.

“Hey little man, can you hear me?”

No eye flutter. No chest movement. I pinched his arm. No response.

The first guy had gotten the dad out of the car and was walking him toward me.

“Keep him away from here,” I yelled. I pushed a button on my watch and started CPR.

A few hundred compressions later, I noticed that two fire trucks were on-scene. All my focus was on making sure the blood was circulating in this small body so that if he could be resuscitated he’d actually stand a chance at having a functioning brain.

Minutes passed.

Merde,” I heard as the boots and legs of a firefighter in full turn-out gear stopped in front of me.

“Get me your AED,” I said without looking up.

“It’s being used,” a female voice replied.

“If it’s not attached to a body I want it now.”

No response. I looked up and made eye contact with her, “Now!

She looked startled. Deer in headlights. But she followed my command.

“Joe from Sophie,” she said.

“Go for Joe,” a voice on the radio replied.

“Has your driver got a pulse?”

“Weak. AED is charged,” the radio voice said.

“Sir, how long have you been doing CPR?” She asked.

I checked my watch, “8 minutes 27 seconds.” I stopped compressions, checked the boy’s pulse. Nothing. “I need that  AED. Now!”

“Joe, bring the AED to the other car. Fast. There’s a kid.”

“Scissors. In my kit,” I ordered.

“I’m the Incident Commander, I—”

“I don’t care if you’re the fucking Queen of England. Get the scissors and cut this kid’s shirt off.”

Amazon link


My review:

4.25 out of 5 stars

First In by Danika Bloom is Book 1 of ‘The Mixed Six-Pack’ series and features Sophie Beaulieu and Nick West, who both are depending on the position of paid chief for the local volunteer fire department to be their stepping-stone to a new life. Unfortunately for their personal attraction to each other, only one of them can occupy the position.

This contemporary romance is an entertaining but sometimes bittersweet story that is told in alternating first person points of view. It introduces two charismatic and hardworking characters who are passionate about their profession but juggling personal problems. I was drawn into the story immediately and formed a connection to each character, but some of the developments were frustrating to me because I didn’t feel enough resolution or explanation was provided. I understand that this is the beginning of the series, but there are multiple dangling threads that I definitely hope get tied up in the sequel(s). There was also a mirrored situation that strained my credulity a bit, even though the outcome was different.

Despite those issues, I enjoyed this story and was fascinated by the glimpse into what goes into being a volunteer firefighter for a small town. I’m already in awe of the courage and tenacity of first responders, and this underscored the dedication and obstacles that many of them face. There are many thorny issues addressed, including the entanglements of dealing with a dysfunctional family and the challenges of countering discrimination, and there are also wonderful elements including mysterious coins and a great Bernese Mountain Dog named Max.

This is a nice start to the series and I look forward to reading more stories about others who fit the description #sexyfireman.

A copy of this title was provided for review