Friday, July 23, 2021

Betrayal of Genius by Robin Patchen Blog Tour and Giveaway

About the Book

Book:  Betrayal of Genius

Author: Robin Patchen

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Release date: July 13, 2021

From a USA Today bestselling author comes book three in the addictive Coventry Saga.

Her invention could save thousands of lives…if she can survive to long enough to share it.

Jacqui’s research could lead to a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, and she’s determined to ensure the technology goes to the company with the best shot at creating life-saving products, not just the highest bidder. When her lab is broken into, she realizes her partner is desperate to get his hands on her research and the money it’ll bring. Jacqui goes into hiding, planning to lie low until she can find a buyer who lives up to her expectations.

Reid’s life is all about protecting his daughter, but when she leaves for a month to visit her mother, he finds himself at loose ends. The pretty new manager at the ice cream shop seems like a good diversion, but he soon realizes there’s more to Jacqui than doling out scoops of rocky road. When he senses danger, he’s tempted to step away—he won’t allow any threat to come near his daughter—but how can he turn his back on a woman in danger, one he’s coming to care for?

Jacqui’s former partner is closing in and getting more desperate by the day. He’ll stop at nothing to get the payout he feels he deserves.

Join Jacqui and Reid as they navigate this pulse-pounding, faith-filled adventure into the high-stakes world of medical research, innovation, and greed.

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

This novel is one of suspense and interesting character development. The suspense results from the turmoil over a cutting edge invention. Jacqui, the one who invented it, wants to see it used for the welfare of mankind more than for her own wealth. Suspense occurs when others are desperate for the money the invention could bring, desperate enough to kill for it.

The character develop centers around making decisions. Jacqui decides to make the benefit of mankind her primary concern for the life saving invention. Her friend, Reid, also has a troublesome decision to make regarding his daughter. His ex-wife wants more involvement in the child's life. Reid really has to work through past hurts and the scars he still has from the time she abandoned them. Forgiveness is difficult for him.

I had a little trouble finding Jacqui and Reid engaging characters. Jacqui is a scientist yet she makes more decisions based on emotion than logic. Reid is fixed on his pain and, though he is a Christian, is not willing to see how God might have changed his ex-wife. Jacqui and Reid have some testy discussions. I had trouble believing the two of them would make a good couple.

This novel is a good one for readers who like suspense and relationship issues requiring character growth.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

 

About the Author

Robin Patchen is a USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of Christian romantic suspense. She grew up in a small town in New Hampshire, the setting of her Nutfield Saga books, and then headed to Boston to earn a journalism degree. After college, working in marketing and public relations, she discovered how much she loathed the nine-to-five ball and chain. After relocating to the Southwest, she started writing her first novel while she homeschooled her three children. The novel was dreadful, but her passion for storytelling didn’t wane. Thankfully, as her children grew, so did her writing ability. Now that her kids are adults, she has more time to play with the lives of fictional heroes and heroines, wreaking havoc and working magic to give her characters happy endings. When she’s not writing, she’s editing or reading, proving that most of her life revolves around the twenty-six letters of the alphabet. Visit https://robinpatchen.com/subscribe to receive a free book and stay informed about Robin’s latest projects.

More from Robin

It’s funny how the themes of my novels often present themselves when I’m in the thick of writing them. I thought Betrayal of Genius was going to be about Luke 12:48 and the old idiom, “To whom much is given, much is required.”

And the novel is about that. To a degree.

But as I wrote the manuscript, another theme worked up to the surface, revealing itself a little at a time. It started with the hero.

Reid is a single parent raising his six-year-old daughter, Ella, who was kidnapped and, thankfully, rescued the previous summer. He was protective before. Now he’s downright obsessive about his child’s safety. Sending her to spend a month in California with her mother seems about as natural as his ex’s hair color.

So the story is a little about Reid’s devotion to his daughter.

Jacqui is always, deep down, trying to earn her father’s approval. Oh, sure, she knows he loves her. But she so rarely gets to see it. As a world-renowned surgeon, he was always off saving the world, far too busy, too important, to shower his daughter with love and tenderness.

So the story is a little about Jacqui’s relationship with her dad.

I write about romantic love all the time, but parental love is just as important and just as beautiful. As a daughter, I was blessed to have two wonderful parents. As a mother, I try to be everything my kids need, and I fail all the time. Is there a right way to parent?

I don’t know. I do know that, though not everybody will be blessed to enjoy romance, all of us have parents. All of us know what it is to love a parent and to experience—or crave—a parent’s love in return.

If you’re a parent—or if you’ve got parents—you know it’s no easy thing to raise kids. As my children grow further into adulthood, I can look back and see everything I did wrong. I did a lot right, but for some reason, the wrong sticks out.

But you know what? I love them. I’ve loved them since the moment they were placed in my arms, maybe since that first flutter of movement in my belly.

Reid is trying to be the perfect father, and he’s always falling short. Jacqui’s dad did his very best, but he wasn’t perfect. But both of those daddies love their little girls. And, like it says in 1 Peter 4:8, “Love covers a multitude of sins.”

Betrayal of Genius is about working hard to accomplish the good works God gave us to do. It’s about doing the very best we can with what we’ve been given. But it’s also about good old human love. Imperfect but pure love, the kind that can wrap itself around a little child and make her feel safe. The kind that can encourage a grown woman to push through the hard times, even when it’s scary and dangerous.

I hope you experience that kind of love. Even if you didn’t receive it from your earthly parents, you have a perfect Father who wants to shower you with it, One whose very nature is Love. May His love wrap around you and carry you forward.

Blog Stops

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Robin is giving away a virtual trip to Boston with a signed paperback copy of Betrayal of Genius and a complete Lobster Dinner for Two, a $120 value. (Winner can choose among many seafood options—or trade it for a good ol’ fashioned Amazon gift card.)

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/11030/betrayal-of-genius-celebration-tour-giveaway

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Regaining Mercy by Carolyn Miller Blog Tour and Giveaway

About the Book

Book:  Regaining Mercy

Author: Carolyn Miller

Genre: Christian Contemporary Romance

Release date: June 29, 2021

A mom ready to do anything for her son. A man determined to win the woman he loves.

Going on Love at First Glance had seemed like such a good idea. She didn’t care about finding Mr. Right. No, Mindy Murray chose the reality TV show for more mercenary reasons.  A mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do when it comes to feeding her son.

When Mindy returns to Elnora, the girl from the “wrong side of the island” just wants a chance to rebuild her reputation. Too bad the folks at church don’t practice what the preacher preaches.

Enter Dermott Reilly. The interim boss at Greener Gardens has always had a soft spot for Mindy and her son, but with his new responsibilities, an important garden competition, and a few other concerns, he finds it difficult to prove himself to her.

A tropical storm and a missing child prove that sometimes grace appears in the most unusual ways.

Regaining Mercy concludes the Elnora Island romances of the Independence Islands Series, featuring five islands, six authors, and a boatload of happily ever-afters.

The Independence Islands Series: beach reads aren’t just for summer anymore.

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

This is an entertaining Christian romance that really emphasizes God's grace and mercy. Miller has crafted Mindy as a young woman with an embarrassing past that makes her very unsure of herself. She is a single mother with a four year old who seems to have some development issues. She feels like she is a total failure. Defensive and defeated, she certainly needs someone to rescue her.

Mindy is a character developed almost to excess. She is so down on herself she will not even seek help for her son when it was offered. She is so defensive even innocent comments destroy her. That seemed a bit unrealistic to me. I am glad there is included in the novel a clear message of God's redeeming work of mercy and grace, no matter our past.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

 

About the Author

Carolyn Miller is an Australian author of inspirational romance, particularly that of the Regency era, and loves drawing readers into fictional worlds where flawed people can grow in faith, hope and love through stories that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives.

More from Carolyn

Have you ever wondered what might happen if a failed TV reality star was to return home to her narrow minded community? What if she’s been tarred and feathered with disgrace?

In our world of insta-fame, selfies and fakebook, I find it fascinating that so many people are entranced by so-called reality TV, with its editing and narratives and shiny-eyed hopefuls chasing money, love and dreams. But what if it doesn’t work out? What happens next? How do you resume ‘normal life’ when you’ve been living in a very artificial world?

I enjoy writing fiction that is grounded in reality, with realistic, flawed characters who are on a God journey to find faith and freedom. My contemporary and historical novels often see characters struggle with the choices they’ve made (don’t we all?), which is exactly what single mom Mindy is dealing with.

Combine Mindy’s challenges with those faced by gardening expert, Dermott, a man whose stone wall building skills are better than his way with women, or his inability to hide his attraction to his former co-worker’s younger sister.

Regaining Mercy encourages us to see ourselves as God does, to not let the labels of the past to shape our future. Along the way, readers will enjoy the honest portrayals of family, friendship and faith.

I’m so glad people are really enjoying my new contemporary books, where I can bring my love of gardens (& my horticulturalist hubby’s expertise!) to a new audience. Want to see what’s growing in my garden? Check out my website www.carolynmillerauthor.com – and you might even see some of my husband’s famous stone walls!

If you enjoy stories of hope, heart and humor, then you’ll be sure to enjoy this novel about a prodigal and the patient gardener who helps her find God’s mercy – and renewed hope for her heart.

Happy reading!

Carolyn

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, July 21

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, July 21

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, July 22

Labor Not in Vain, July 22

lakesidelivingsite, July 22

She Lives To Read, July 23

deb's Book Review, July 23

Debbie's Dusty Deliberations, July 24

CarpeDiem, July 24

Texas Book-aholic, July 25

Splashes of Joy, July 25

Connect in Fiction, July 25

Inklings and notions, July 26

Blogging With Carol, July 26

For Him and My Family, July 27

Mypreciousbitsandmusings, July 27

Aryn The Libraryan ðŸ“š , July 28

Older & Smarter?, July 28

Lots of Helpers, July 28

Locks, Hooks and Books, July 29

Simple Harvest Reads, July 29 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)

Because I said so -- and other adventures in Parenting, July 30

Lis Loves Reading, July 30

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, July 31

Kayem Reads, July 31

Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, August 1

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, August 1

Cultivating Us, August 1

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, August 2 (Author Interview)

Daysong Reflections, August 2

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, August 3

Blossoms and Blessings, August 3

Joanne Markey, August 3

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Carolyn is giving away the grand prize package of a $50 Amazon gift card and a copy of the book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/1102c/regaining-mercy-celebration-tour-giveaway

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Tracer by Jason Dean

Dean has given readers a new kind of flawed hero. Korso is a salvage operative, a very skilled man at finding missing items valued at a high level. Perhaps a stolen, high priced painting. Perhaps a hijacked shipment of drugs or arms. Here, he is blackmailed into recovering a shipment of high priced caviar being carried by an airplane that seems to have completely disappeared. But there is something much more important in the shipment than just caviar that makes the owner desperate for its recovery. Those with whom Korso is forced to work may not be who they seem. Danger lurks on many sides.

I liked this novel. Dean's writing style is good. The plot moves along well and has a good level of suspense. There is a good twist at the end. The character development is mixed. We find out about Korso's history as the novel progresses but his personality is somewhat hidden behind his determined action. I found it difficult to like him although I am interested enough in his character that I will be looking for the next in the series.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Jason Dean was born and raised in England. After college, he spent years in graphic design before deciding to write international thrillers. He has written five novels and several short stories. He lives with his wife in the Far East.

Canelo Action, 279 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Monday, July 19, 2021

Over Her Head: In the Shadow Blog Tour and Giveaway

 

About the Book

Book:  Over Her Head: In the Shadow

Author: JL Crosswhite

Genre: Christian Romantic Suspense

Release date: June 21, 2021

 

She’s working on a new start…

…He’s trying a new work venture.

Can they build a relationship that fits their new life?

Fresh out of cosmetology school Jessica and whiz software engineer Austin have been thrown together by mutual friends. They even escaped a wildfire together.

But do they have something more than friendship?

Maybe a singles’ camping trip will make their future clear.

But when they encounter someone who needs their help, the relaxing weekend away becomes anything but. As the danger mounts and the challenges reveal who they truly are, will it pull them together or push them apart… for good?

You will get lost in Over Her Head because the biggest adventure is falling in love.

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

This is a fun romance for career age readers. Both the main characters, Jessica and Austin, are in times of career stress. Jessica just started working at a hair salon and has to do her best to have a chance at getting hired permanently. Austin is challenged by the possibility of an advancement but has trouble giving suitable reports of his progress. Readers in the midst of career stress will be able to identify with Jessica and Austin.

There are a couple of brief periods of suspense but the narrative by far is on romance. Crosswhite has added the troubling issue of human trafficking to give the novel some depth. We see from Jessica's experience how quickly we could be presented with the opportunity to help a young woman in trouble.

Crosswhite's writing style is straightforward and easy to read. The plot is also very clear and a bit predictable. This would be a good novel for readers who are put off by a complex plot.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

 

About the Author

Jennifer’s favorite thing is discovering how much there is to love about America the Beautiful and the great outdoors. She’s a mom to two navigating the young adult years while battling her daughter’s juvenile arthritis, exploring the delights of her son’s autism, and keeping gluten free. A California native who’s spent significant time in the Midwest, she’s thrilled to be back in the Golden State. Follow her on social media to see all her adventures and how she gets inspired for her books!

More from Jennifer

MacGyver might have come from my family tree. I grew up hearing stories of how my grandpa turned a horse trailer into a travel trailer for camping and how he finagled something out of what he had if he didn’t have the actual thing he needed. I grew up seeing my dad do this. And I’ve been known to do it a time or two myself.

My grandpa grew up during the Great Depression, so I could see how making do with what he had came to him naturally. The rest of us saw the usefulness of it and continued the tradition. Even though there are times I’ve stopped and said, “I should just go by the thing I need instead of trying to make do.” Maybe it would have saved me some time and frustration.

But there is something satisfying about seeing a problem and creating the solution yourself. It’s like solving a puzzle. And for me, writing a book is a lot like that. I start out with various pieces and no idea how they are going to fit together.

When I began Over Her Head, it was the third book of my In the Shadow series. This series explores the idea of what it’s like to grow up in the shadow of a hero. Jessica’s brother, Scott, is a Navy pilot. Their oldest brother died before Jessica was born, so she’s always felt like she’s been in the shadow of her older brothers. How would she become her own person and find the purpose that God has for her?

That was one piece. A big one. But I still needed to find a love interest, a plot, and a supporting cast. I started sorting through what I had, looking for pieces that could fit, could be molded into something new and different. A trip to the hair salon provided a fun conversation with my hair stylist about what a newly graduated cosmetology student might be doing and the politics of working in a salon.

The pieces were coming together. Finally, I decided to set the story around one of my favorite activities: camping. Okay, maybe it’s more like glamping. I like a real bed. But it is a great way to force a group of people to be close together for a period of time. There’s an element of stress, and even danger, since nature isn’t predictable.

Hopefully the end product looks smoothly finished and not MacGyvered together. But I don’t ever let the rough beginning or different looking pieces discourage me from pressing on with the story. And I think that’s a good lesson for life. What rough spots need a little creativity to bring them to life and smooth them out? Spend some time letting your inner MacGyver play.

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, July 19

For Him and My Family, July 20

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, July 21 (Author Interview)

The Sacred Line, July 21

Debbie's Dusty Deliberations, July 22

deb's Book Review, July 23

Locks, Hooks and Books, July 24

Inklings and notions, July 25

CarpeDiem, July 26

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, July 26

Because I said so -- and other adventures in Parenting, July 27

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, July 28

Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, July 29

My Journey Back the Journey Back, July 29

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, July 30

Texas Book-aholic, July 31

Cats in the Cradle Blog, July 31

Pause for Tales, August 1

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, J.L. is giving away the grand prize package of a $50 Amazon gift card and a signed copy of the book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/10fa8/over-her-head-celebration-tour-giveaway

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Sunday, July 18, 2021

The Essential Andrew Murray Collection

Take a deep breath when you start reading this book. If you are used to the books on spiritual growth we see today, if you frequently listen to the feel good sermons preached today, this book will take your breath away. Reading this collection of three of Murray's books reminded me of how shallow our contemporary Christian spirituality has become.

The first book in the collection is one on humility. Murray wrote there was nothing more beautiful and blessed “than to be nothing in order that God may be everything.” (14) Humility is entire dependence upon God and is to be the chief mark of our relationship with God. A lack of humility, Murray wrote, “is the explanation of every defect and failure.” (21) Jesus is our example of humility. What would our lives be like if we followed His example?

The first book in this collection shook me to the core. The second book, on abiding in Christ, helped me understand much about the Christian life and experience. Many do not understand what abiding in Christ means and is the reason they do not have joy nor the abundant life Jesus promised. Murray reminds us the abiding is not a work we do but rather is allowing God to work in us. It is by faith we realize we abide with Jesus moment by moment. It is allowing Christ to become our life within us, inspiring all out thinking, feeling and actions. (294)

The last book concentrates on prayer but begins reminding us of the seriousness of our sin and our being led by our flesh rather than the Spirit. Murray reminds us that the enemy uses all his power to keep us from praying. We are also reminded of the difference between knowing about life in Christ and actually living the abundant life in Christ, allowing Him to have full mastery over us. Murray also gives suggestions for prayer.

This is a book I will need to read again and again to reap the full spiritual impact it contains. The chapters are short and are suitable to be used as a daily devotion. Daily reading is the way to go as there is just too much to take in by reading it in big chunks as I did for this review. Be ready to be challenged to experience a depth of Christian spirituality rarely seen in modern works. If you feel there is something missing in your spiritual life, if you are willing to be confronted with your half hearted go at it, read this book. It will change you.

You can read an excerpt here.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Andrew Murray (1828-1917) was born in South Africa. After receiving his education in Scotland and Holland, he returned to South Africa and spent his life there as a pastor, missionary, and author of many devotional books. He and his wife raised eight children.

Bethany House, 464 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Friday, July 16, 2021

Black Label by James L'Etoile Blog Tour and Giveaway

Black Label

by James L'Etoile

July 12 - August 8, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Sanity is something you don’t miss until it’s gone. Hard charging pharmaceutical executive Jillian Cooper fears she’d destined to inherit her mother’s history of mental illness when she finds herself accused of murdering her boss. All the evidence tells her she’s either a murderer, or insane. When Jillian struggles to find the truth, she uncovers a web of black market pharmaceuticals, prison gangs, and greed. She begins to believe she may have killed to cover up the off-the-books drug operation.

Can she discover the truth before she’s condemned to life in prison, or a mental hospital?

Praise

"Tight, terrific, terrifying. BLACK LABEL delves into the murky world of pharmaceuticals where profit is prioritized above all else. L’Etoile creates a strong female lead in Jillian Cooper, a woman who faces obstacle after obstacle, but still charges into the abyss. More unnerving than a fistful of amphetamines. Unputdownable."
—K.J. Howe, international bestselling author of SKYJACK

"James L'Etoile's BLACK LABEL is a delightfully complex and twisty thriller with a ripped-from-the-headlines plot that will make you think long and hard before you swallow your next dose of medication. Add in an intrepid heroine willing to do whatever it takes to uncover the truth no matter the cost, and L'Etoile's newest offering is a winner!"
— Karen Dionne, author of the #1 international bestseller THE MARSH KING'S DAUGHTER and THE WICKED SISTER

"Relentlessly fast-paced and compellingly twisty! The talented James L’Etoile sets up an irresistibly high-stakes situation: a woman is certain to be charged with murder and doesn’t remember a thing. Can she prove her innocence before she's silenced forever? A dark journey through the world of big Pharma and big money—you will turn the pages as fast as you can."
— Hank Phillippi Ryan USA Today Bestselling author of THE FIRST TO LIE

"If this book had a tag, it would say ‘proceed with caution’ because nothing is what it seems. Told with a vivid and visceral style, this is le Carré’s Constant Gardener meets The Fugitive. As the title suggests, BLACK LABEL is a top of the line thriller."
Gabriel Valjan, Agatha & Anthony Award nominated author

My Review:

This first half of this novel is a tightly crafted nightmare. Imagine being accused of murder and all the evidence points to you and you have no alibi because you had blacked out. Imagine every attempt to prove your innocence and find the real killer is thwarted. The action is continuous and intense in this first part of the plot. It is an engaging psychological thriller. The last part of the novel develops at a much slower pace. There is less action and much more discussion and contemplation and explanation. The plot is quite complex and working it out takes a great deal of conniving and explaining, uncovering the many layers in the end.

Jillian is a good amateur sleuth, desperate to figure out what is going on. I like how she continues to dig for the truth. There is interesting information about a pharmaceutical company, stirring up the social issue of concentrating on profits verses business for the good of mankind.

This is a good novel for those who like an intense psychological thriller.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: July 20, 2021
Number of Pages: 300
ISBN: 978-1-953789-14-3
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

It was bad this time. Jillian shielded her eyes from the sharp edge of morning light and dug her fingers into the pillow clutched over her face. Deep in her temples, her pulse hammered a fast, painful staccato rhythm. She’d gone months since her last migraine, and this one tightened a vice around her skull. Even with her eyes closed, her vision clouded with a kaleidoscope of bright dots. The rustle of bedcovers sounded like the world fell in around her. Jillian Cooper’s world had crumbled down and threatened to suffocate her, only she didn’t know it–yet.

She reached for the phone she kept on her bedside table. There was no way she was going to make it to her Saturday morning spin class. Her hand probed for the phone, her head still tucked under the pillow. First one way, then she groped in another direction, knocking over a small brass table lamp. Jillian recoiled from the clatter as the metal lamp rung as loudly as the bells at Saints’ Peter and Paul Church over in North Beach. She peeled off her protective pillow and reached for the phone. Her phone wasn’t on the bedside table, and neither was the stack of paperback books she habitually kept at hand. Blinding pinpricks of light danced in her vision, making it impossible to focus through the swirling aura.

Fighting against the pounding in her head, Jillian crept to the edge of the bed, dangled her legs off the side, and brushed her toes gently on the polished hardwood floor. Jillian shuddered, a wave of nausea poured over her. The feeling wasn’t from a migraine. It came from the realization she wasn’t in her apartment. Her place didn’t have hardwood floors. Jillian didn’t know where she was, or worse, how she got here.

Instead of her phone, a half-empty Gran Patrón Platinum tequila bottle and a wrinkled condom wrapper lay on the nightstand. She spotted her clothes on the other side of the room, in a heap on a leather chair. Jillian pulled the sheet away from herself and peered downward.

“Shit.”

She was naked under the bed covers. Jillian couldn’t remember the slightest detail leading up to her ending the night disrobed, nor could she feel the lingering warmth of being with someone, in spite of the condom wrapper left on the nightstand. She’d never experienced a blackout from alcohol before. Jillian stayed away from tequila as a rule because of a few bad hangovers back when she attended San Francisco State University. If it weren’t for the half-empty bottle of pricy booze, she’d have sworn she hadn’t touched the stuff in ten years.

Yet, here she was–tequila, nakedness, and all. She hoped a tall, dark, handsome, athletic man was going to burst through the bedroom door with a tray of cappuccinos and warm croissants. At this point, a short, round, gnomish man with instant coffee and a day-old pop tart would be welcome. It wasn’t her habit to “sleep around,” as her mother used to call it. However, Jillian Cooper was a woman who enjoyed the occasional company of men, and this was not the first time she’d greeted the sunrise from a man’s place following a late night hook-up. She always remembered them, until this morning. The migraine and the tequila played games in her head—loud, pulsing, and painful games.

The bedroom, where she did God-only-knows-what, was expensively furnished and decidedly masculine. Dark hues of burnished leather and deep mahogany dominated the space. A set of wooden horizontal blinds kept out some light, and in spite of her headache, curiosity demanded she open them.

The window looked out over Huntington Park in Nob Hill, some of the priciest real estate in San Francisco. From her vantage point, Jillian figured the room sat on the sixth floor, or higher, and commanded a view of the grey slate tile roof of Grace Cathedral and Mt. Sutro off to the South. The condo, or whatever this place was, offered the resident one of those “ten-million-dollar views” everyone wanted, but few could afford. Jillian’s salary as a Vice President of Marketing for Dynalife Pharmaceutical wouldn’t buy the dust in a place like this.
Another wave of nausea buckled Jillian’s knees. She grabbed onto a dresser near the window and braced herself while the queasiness passed. As she opened her eyes, she focused on a silver-plated frame on the top of the dresser. Jillian peered at a photograph of her own image, a picture of her, with her boss, Jonathon Mattson, the CEO of Dynalife Pharmaceutical.

Confusion and panic clawed at Jillian’s mind. Mattson was thirty-five years her senior and married to one of the city’s society matrons. Jillian supposed some women found him attractive, with his swagger and the ease with which he flaunted his wealth. There were lines Jillian did not cross; never, ever, get involved with someone at work, and married men were off limits.

What was she doing here, naked in Mattson’s apartment? Had Jillian broken both rules? The thought of a relationship with Mattson was unthinkable. The photograph meant they’d been together before. The two looked at ease with one another in the photo, and it hinted at a close personal relationship, her hand on his chest. When the hell was that taken? She had no recollection of an evening with Jonathon Mattson, let alone posing for a photo.

“What have I done?”

Jillian staggered to the chair with her wadded-up clothes, slid into her panties, quickly stepped into her dark blue dress, shoved a bra in her purse, and grabbed her shoes from the floor. With an ear to the door, Jillian listened. Filtered by the thrum of her heartbeat, she heard voices deep within the apartment. She felt her face blush thinking about who she’d meet as she snuck out. Her hand trembled on the doorknob as she turned it, a fraction of an inch at a time until the lock slid back with a muted click. The door opened inward a few inches, the voices became more distinct–a television.

Shoes in hand, Jillian crept down the hallway. The hardwood floor felt cold under her bare feet as she made her way to the large open living space. A flat-screen television blared the financial news from CNN to an empty room. Jillian glanced at the kitchen, and she exhaled when she realized she was alone in the apartment. The veil of swirling bright spots in her vision started to clear, and she needed to head home for her migraine medication. She desperately wanted to leave before Jonathon Mattson returned. She couldn’t face him with the cocktail of anger and shame whirling inside her.

Slipping on her shoes, she listened as the CNN anchor, a carefully coifed and airbrushed young blonde reporter, delivered her monologue.

“The market opened with a quick rally this morning,” the anchorwoman said.

“Today’s Saturday and the market isn’t open, bimbo,” Jillian said. “Where do they find these people?” She found her jacket folded over the back of a sofa.

Jillian tucked the jacket under her arm, reached for the apartment door and stopped when she heard the woman’s voice drone on.

“In other financial news, the death of Dynalife Pharmaceutical CEO, Jonathon Mattson sent the mega-pharmaceutical company’s stock prices plummeting in early trading. Authorities are looking into the matter and haven’t disclosed any details about the death.”

Jillian froze when the screen flashed a photo of Mattson, with a banner under the image proclaiming, “Billionaire Pharmaceutical CEO Dead.”

The television news turned the page and droned on about other financial news. Mattson was a mere footnote in the market ledgers. Business goes on.

“That can’t be. Jonathon, dead?”

Another cramp of nausea hit her, and she wrapped her arms around her midsection as if she held her insides together. The apartment space closed in on her, and when the spasms subsided, Jillian darted for the door and flung it open. She ran across the hall to an elevator and stabbed the down button repeatedly, willing the car to appear. The hallway space was foreign; nothing in the décor sparked a memory of how she got here. But here she was, and it wasn’t like she magically appeared in Mattson’s apartment. Jillian didn’t know Jonathon kept an apartment on Knob Hill. It must have been a secret rendezvous pad for Jonathon and his rumored affairs. A wave of nausea swept over Jillian at the though she was now among his conquests.

The whir of the elevator stopped, and a light electronic bleep sounded the arrival of the conveyance. She slid into the empty elevator before the doors fully opened and punched the lobby button. The cool wall of the elevator car soothed the back of her head, the first comforting thing since awakening in this bad dream.

She couldn’t shake the nightmare off. Questions without answers cascaded through her mind. What happened? Where was she? Who was she with?

“Come on–come on,” she urged the doors as they closed at a slow agonizing pace.

“It’s not possible. Today is Saturday, and I saw Jonathon at a board meeting yesterday–Friday. It has to be a huge mistake.” She drew in a deep breath and tried to center herself.

The elevator chimed, and the doors opened into the building’s lobby. Jonathon wasn’t there to expose some elaborate practical joke. Instead, Jillian found the marble-tiled lobby empty, except for a doorman who gave her a smirk and a nod signaling, “I know what you did last night.” The man leered and stroked his short stubble beard as Jillian passed his station.

Jillian stepped outside to the curb and raised her hand for a taxi. She glanced at a newspaper rack on the sidewalk next to her, and the headline caught her breath short.

Billionaire Jonathon Mattson Murdered.

The date jumped off the page. It was the Monday edition.

Mattson was dead; she’d met with him on Friday and woke up in his apartment this morning. Jillian’s knees buckled with the realization that two days passed without a single lingering memory. Two days erased without a trace.

***

Excerpt from Black Label by James L'Etoile. Copyright 2021 by James L'Etoile. Reproduced with permission from James L'Etoile. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

James L’Etoile uses his twenty-nine years behind bars as an influence in his novels, short stories, and screenplays. He is a former associate warden in a maximum-security prison, a hostage negotiator, facility captain, and director of California’s state parole system. He is a nationally recognized expert witness on prison and jail operations. He has been nominated for the Silver Falchion for Best Procedural Mystery, and The Bill Crider Award for short fiction. His published novels include: At What Cost, Bury the Past, and Little River -The Other Side of Paradise.

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I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours.

 (My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)