2020 Book #46 – Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

Title: Beautiful Bad
Author: Annie Ward
Date finished: 6/9/21
Genre: Psychological thriller, suspense
Publisher: Park Row
Publication Date: March 5, 2019
Pages in book: 317
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

In the tradition of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train comes a riveting psychological thriller about a devoted wife, a loving husband, and a chilling crime that will stun even the cleverest readers.


It seemed like such a beautiful marriage…

Maddie and Ian’s love story began at a party overseas, while she was visiting her best friend, Jo. Now, almost two decades later, they are married with a beautiful son and living the perfect American life. But when a camping accident leaves Maddie badly scarred, she begins attending writing therapy, where she gradually reveals her fears about Ian, her concerns for her safety, and the couple’s tangled and tumultuous past with Jo.

From the electric streets of the Balkans to a quiet suburb in Kansas, sixteen years of love and fear, adventure and suspicion, culminate in the Day of the Killing, when a frantic 911 call summons the police to the scene of a shocking crime. Twisty and utterly original, Beautiful Bad shows that appearances are deceptive and even the most seemingly perfect couples have something to hide.

My rating:  3.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I am pretty excited to say that this is the last of my 2019 backlog books! I had originally requested this book because it sounded pretty interesting. And I was interested in the story – I liked the structure of the book and how it switched between the past and the present to tell the story. Maddie as a character was.. interesting. She was a little bat-shit crazy, but then again it seemed like a lot of the characters were kind of crazy. I just felt bad for Charlie with having to grow up with all these kooks. I was pretty on board with the story line I guess until the plot twist towards the end. It was a good plot twist, don’t get me wrong. It definitely wasn’t one that I was fully expecting. But at the same time it was not one that I was really excited about, to be honest I found it pretty depressing. It left me feeling unsettled even after the book’s ending was resolved. This one wasn’t exactly for me but overall it was still a good book and I would recommend it, especially if you like thrillers / suspense books.

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2021 Book #44 – The Turnout by Megan Abbott

Title: The Turnout
Author: Megan Abbott
Date finished: 6/4/21
Genre: Thriller, suspense
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publication Date: August 3, 2021
Pages in book: 352
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Edelweiss
NOTE: I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Bestselling and award-winning author Megan Abbott’s revelatory and mesmerizing new novel set against the hothouse of a family-run ballet studio.

With their long necks and matching buns and pink tights, Dara and Marie Durant have been dancers since they can remember. Growing up, they were homeschooled and trained by their glamorous mother, founder of the Durant School of Dance. After their parents’ death in a tragic accident nearly a dozen years ago, the sisters began running the school together, along with Charlie, Dara’s husband and once their mother’s prized student.

Marie, warm and soft, teaches the younger students; Dara, with her precision, trains the older ones; and Charlie, sidelined from dancing after years of injuries, rules over the back office. Circling around one another, the three have perfected a dance, six days a week, that keeps the studio thriving. But when a suspicious accident occurs, just at the onset of the school’s annual performance of The Nutcracker—a season of competition, anxiety, and exhilaration—an interloper arrives and threatens the sisters’ delicate balance.

Taut and unnerving, The Turnout is Megan Abbott at the height of her game. With uncanny insight and hypnotic writing, it is a sharp and strange dissection of family ties and sexuality, femininity and power, and a tale that is both alarming and irresistible.

My rating: 2.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I have read other books by this author in the past and have enjoyed them. The author has an interesting way of telling a story. And that is consistent with this novel as well. As the reader you can see the layers of the story that the author is weaving together. This book was complicated for me because it was complex, twisted and dark and I could see the mastery of the plot line but it just wasn’t one that I enjoyed. It was a little too perverse for me and made me feel icky. And some pieces of the plot frustrated me because if some crap like that was happening to me with the contractor I’d be calling the police or the Better Business Bureau or whoever I needed to call to get that asshole out of there. He was entirely inappropriate and he’d be fired within a day if it were up to me. Dara’s character was fascinating to me but it still felt like she just let a lot of things happen to her and that’s not what I’m about. Overall I think this book was really twist and interesting but it just wasn’t for me personally.

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2020 Book #43 – Neon Gods by Katee Robert

Title: Neon Gods
Author: Katee Robert
Date finished: 6/1/21
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date: June 1, 2021
Pages in book: 318
Stand alone or series: Dark Olympus series book #1
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

He was supposed to be a myth.
But from the moment I crossed the River Styx and fell under his dark spell…he was, quite simply, mine.

*A scorchingly hot modern retelling of Hades and Persephone that’s as sinful as it is sweet.*

Society darling Persephone Dimitriou plans to flee the ultra-modern city of Olympus and start over far from the backstabbing politics of the Thirteen Houses. But all that’s ripped away when her mother ambushes her with an engagement to Zeus, the dangerous power behind their glittering city’s dark facade.

With no options left, Persephone flees to the forbidden undercity and makes a devil’s bargain with a man she once believed a myth…a man who awakens her to a world she never knew existed.

Hades has spent his life in the shadows, and he has no intention of stepping into the light. But when he finds that Persephone can offer a little slice of the revenge he’s spent years craving, it’s all the excuse he needs to help her—for a price. Yet every breathless night spent tangled together has given Hades a taste for Persephone, and he’ll go to war with Olympus itself to keep her close…

My rating:  3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I’ve heard a lot about this author from a couple of the podcasts that I listen to so I was excited to get the chance to read this new release. And not only that but it features stories around modern day Greek gods – which certainly peaks my interest. I thought the plot line was really interesting, especially with it being based on the various gods and their power struggles. The author did a good job of world building without making it overly complicated. I found it interesting that Amazon categorized this one as erotic fantasy – it was certainly steam but there was so much else going on in the book beyond the sex journey of the characters that I wouldn’t necessarily agree on it being in the erotica category. While I found the plot interesting, there were a few pieces of it that didn’t sit quite right with me. Specifically some pieces of the sexual evolution of the characters, it felt weird to have that as almost a sub plot while there was already so much else going on. And I thought it was weird that there was so much of the lore of Greek gods in there but no one expected that Hades and Persephone might end up together. That one I know I’m just reading too much into it but I couldn’t get it to make sense to me. I liked the book a lot and would recommend it, but I think there was some potential for it to be better and it just fell a tad short in certain areas for me personally.

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2021 Book #42 – Heartbreak for Hire by Sonia Hartl

Title: Heartbreak for Hire
Author: Sonia Hartl
Date finished: 5/30/21
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: July 27, 2021
Pages in book: 320
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

A smart, sexy, and witty romantic comedy—perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Sally Thorne—about a twentysomething who lives out every woman’s fantasy: getting paid to give men who do us wrong a taste of their own medicine. But when a previous target unexpectedly shows up at her office, she’s forced to rethink her life as a professional heartbreaker.

Brinkley Saunders has a secret.

To everyone in the academic world she left behind, she lost it all when she dropped out of grad school. Once a rising star following in her mother’s footsteps, she’s now an administrative assistant at an insurance agency—or so they think.

In reality, Brinkley works at Heartbreak for Hire, a secret service that specializes in revenge for jilted lovers, frenemies, and long-suffering coworkers with a little cash to spare and a man who needs to be taken down a notch. It might not be as prestigious as academia, but it helps Brinkley save for her dream of opening an art gallery and lets her exorcise a few demons, all while helping to empower women.

But when her boss announces she’s hiring male heartbreakers for the first time, Brinkley’s no longer so sure she’s doing the right thing—especially when her new coworker turns out to be a target she was paid to take down. Though Mark spends his days struggling up the academic ladder, he seems to be the opposite of a backstabbing adjunct: a nerd at heart in criminally sexy sweater vests who’s attentive both in and out of the bedroom. But as Brinkley finds it increasingly more difficult to focus on anything but Mark, she soon realizes that like herself, people aren’t always who they appear to be.

My rating:  4.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I was really interested by the premise behind this novel and was excited to get the chance to read it. It’s coming out in a couple months but I am not sure on my availability for posting this July so I figured I’d just read and post it a little early. The plot line on this was was different than the other romances I’ve read of late and it was a refreshing change of pace. Brinkley’s profession is really what made this book so interesting to me. I felt terrible that she got screwed over so much but I loved how she stood up for herself in the end. Her “meet-cute” with Mark was really unusual too and it was just intriguing to me to see such a different plot line. I’d be interested to hear stories about the other H4H ladies falling in love too and their journeys. I’m not sure if Hartl is planning to do a series of sorts but I hope so! Overall this was an interesting and different book and was also a great romantic story. I would recommend it to other readers!

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2021 Book #38 – Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

Title: Never Have I Ever
Author: Joshilyn Jackson
Date finished: 5/13/21
Genre: Thriller, suspense
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: July 30, 2019
Pages in book: 359
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Edelweiss
NOTE: I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

In this game, even winning can be deadly…

Amy Whey is proud of her ordinary life and the simple pleasures that come with it—teaching diving lessons, baking cookies for new neighbors, helping her best friend, Charlotte, run their local book club. Her greatest joy is her family: her devoted professor husband, her spirited fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, her adorable infant son. And, of course, the steadfast and supportive Charlotte. But Amy’s sweet, uncomplicated life begins to unravel when the mysterious and alluring Angelica Roux arrives on her doorstep one book club night.

Sultry and magnetic, Roux beguiles the group with her feral charm. She keeps the wine flowing and lures them into a game of spilling secrets. Everyone thinks it’s naughty, harmless fun. Only Amy knows better. Something wicked has come her way—a she-devil in a pricey red sports car who seems to know the terrible truth about who she is and what she once did.

When they’re alone, Roux tells her that if she doesn’t give her what she asks for, what she deserves, she’s going to make Amy pay for her sins. One way or another.

To protect herself and her family and save the life she’s built, Amy must beat the devil at her own clever game, matching wits with Roux in an escalating war of hidden pasts and unearthed secrets. Amy knows the consequences if she can’t beat Roux. What terrifies her is everything she could lose if she wins.

A diabolically entertaining tale of betrayal, deception, temptation, and love filled with dark twists leavened by Joshilyn Jackson’s trademark humor, Never Have I Ever explores what happens when the transgressions of our past come back with a vengeance.

My rating: 2.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I heard a lot of buzz about this book around when it was published, though I didn’t get a chance to read it when it originally came out a couple years ago. With as much as I heard about the book, I was surprised that I didn’t like it more. I think my issue was more of a personal problem with the story line. I found the book so frustrating – it was so tension filled and the author did a great job of really driving the readers emotions in the book. It just didn’t work for me personally because it so filled with negativity and hate and it really made me feel uncomfortable. Amy was a child when she made mistakes and I thought it was so awful that it was still being held against her. The ending made me even more mad because it was icky. It was definitely an unexpected twist but it made me feel just unclean. Overall this wasn’t my favorite book but there were a lot of unexpected plot twists – I can definitely see why this was a popular novel, it just wasn’t the right one for me.

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2021 Book #37 – The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren

Title: The Soulmate Equation
Author: Christina Lauren
Date finished: 5/9/21
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: May 18, 2021
Pages in book: 365
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Single mom Jessica Davis is a data and statistics wizard, but no amount of number crunching can convince her to step back into the dating world. Raised by her grandparents—who now help raise her seven-year-old daughter, Juno—Jess has been left behind too often to feel comfortable letting anyone in. After all, her father was never around, her hard-partying mother disappeared when she was six, and her ex decided he wasn’t “father material” before Juno was even born. Jess holds her loved ones close, but working constantly to stay afloat is hard…and lonely.

But then Jess hears about GeneticAlly, a buzzy new DNA-based matchmaking company that’s predicted to change dating forever. Finding a soulmate through DNA? The reliability of numbers: This Jess understands.

At least she thought she did, until her test shows an unheard-of 98 percent compatibility with another subject in the database: one of GeneticAlly’s founders, Dr. River Peña. This is one number she can’t wrap her head around, because she already knows Dr. Peña. The stuck-up, stubborn man is without a doubt not her soulmate. But GeneticAlly has a proposition: Get to know him and we’ll pay you. Jess—who is barely making ends meet—is in no position to turn it down, despite her skepticism about the project and her dislike for River. As the pair are dragged from one event to the next as the “Diamond Match” that could launch GeneticAlly’s valuation sky-high, Jess begins to realize that there might be more to the scientist—and the science behind a soulmate—than she thought.

Funny, warm, and full of heart, The Soulmate Equation proves that the delicate balance between fate and choice can never be calculated

My rating:  4.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I love these authors a ton and they always publish books that I enjoy so much. And this was another great book of theirs! I thought this book was a great strangers/dislike to falling in love and it was really well done. The way that the relationship developed between River and Jess was immensely heart warming and I really loved both their interactions with Juno. It was enchanting to see their love story unfolding. Even more, it was so interesting to see Jess’s journey to accepting help from her loved ones and also to accepting herself. River was so painfully shy and earnest, I loved his character. Honestly all the characters were quirky and hilarious – Fizzy especially and I loved that she was a romance author. I also loved that the story featured Jess cutting off a toxic relationship with a relative. I think too often books manage to turn things around and things magically work out somehow. But sometimes a toxic relationship is just that and needs to end. I thought it was a really brave thing to do. Overall I thought it was a great love story and I really enjoyed it!

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2021 Book #32 – How To Train Your Earl by Amelia Grey

Title: How To Train Your Earl
Author: Amelia Grey
Date finished: 4/28/21
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: April 27, 2021
Pages in book: 352
Stand alone or series: First Comes Love series #3
Where I got the book from: Publisher / NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from the publisher / NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

A roguish earl must fight using his honor and not his sword to win his lady’s hand in How To Train Your Earl, the third book in the First Comes Love trilogy from bestseller Amelia Grey.

Brina Feld has settled into a life devoted to helping others since the sinking of the Salty Dove left her widowed. She has no need for a man in her contented life. But when the notorious and handsome Lord Blacknight returns and awakens her desires, her peace and serenity vanish. If she agrees to an alliance with him, she knows she will have to battle her heart to keep from being snared under his spell.

Zane, the Earl of Blacknight, was never supposed to inherit the earldom, so he didn’t much care to lead a respectable life before then. Fistfights, card games, and drinking are the order of the day. Now he’s determined to change his rakish ways and he knows the proper lady who can help him. There’s just one problem: He’s already bet he’ll win her hand before the Season is over. With her resolve to out-scheme him, how can he show her that his love is true?

My rating:  3.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I had read the first book in this series and when I saw this one I thought it sounded interesting. And I liked it but I can’t say that I loved it. It was a solid romance novel but there were parts that I didn’t care for personally. I thought Zane’s family was a little overly involved and not always very nice to him, of course he had not proven to be a very reliable fellow through his youth. Also I didn’t love that Brina was so closed-minded even though she had strong feelings for Zane. And I especially didn’t like that she wouldn’t listen to Zane at the climax of the story – I know it was necessary for the plot but it was so frustrating. Zane spends all this time proving to her how devoted he was and how much he cared about her, and she wouldn’t give him the benefit of the doubt and at least listen to what he had to say. It all worked out fine in the end but some parts I found frustrating. So overall I liked the book but I can’t say that I loved it.

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2021 Book #30 – The Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian

Title: The Hour of the Witch
Author: Chris Bohjalian
Date finished: 4/18/21
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: May 4, 2021
Pages in book: 401
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Edelweiss
NOTE: I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

A young Puritan woman–faithful, resourceful, but afraid of the demons that dog her soul–plots her escape from a violent marriage in this riveting and propulsive novel of historical suspense from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Flight Attendant.

Boston, 1662. Mary Deerfield is twenty-four-years-old. Her skin is porcelain, her eyes delft blue, and in England she might have had many suitors. But here in the New World, amid this community of saints, Mary is the second wife of Thomas Deerfield, a man as cruel as he is powerful. When Thomas, prone to drunken rage, drives a three-tined fork into the back of Mary’s hand, she resolves that she must divorce him to save her life. But in a world where every neighbor is watching for signs of the devil, a woman like Mary–a woman who harbors secret desires and finds it difficult to tolerate the brazen hypocrisy of so many men in the colony–soon becomes herself the object of suspicion and rumor. When tainted objects are discovered buried in Mary’s garden, when a boy she has treated with herbs and simples dies, and when their servant girl runs screaming in fright from her home, Mary must fight to not only escape her marriage, but also the gallows. A twisting, tightly plotted novel of historical suspense from one of our greatest storytellers, Hour of the Witch is a timely and terrifying story of socially sanctioned brutality and the original American witch hunt.

My rating: 1.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I was interested in the premise behind this book and thought I would give it a try. And I should have known that I wouldn’t end up loving it but I still thought it sounded interesting. I just couldn’t get into the characters or even the plot line. I’m sure it’s historically accurate but it was so depressing and more than that it was maddening! Which I’m sure it was supposed to be maddening because they did actually murder a bunch of innocent women calling them “witches.” The whole book though with trying to first divorce Thomas and then second defend herself against a completely unfounded accusation of witchery. I liked maybe the last 5% of the book (the ending) but the rest of the book was somewhat torturous to get through. Overall I really didn’t enjoy this book very much but I’m sure that there are many who would end up loving it – it seems like it might be an accurate representation of the frustrations of the time.

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2021 Book #28 – The Invited by Jennifer McMahon

Title: The Invited
Author: Jennifer McMahon
Date finished: 4/12/21
Genre: Psychological thriller
Publisher: Anchor
Publication Date: April 30, 2019
Pages in book: 347
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

A chilling ghost story with a twist: the New York Times bestselling author of The Winter People returns to the woods of Vermont to tell the story of a husband and wife who don’t simply move into a haunted house–they build one . . .

In a quest for a simpler life, Helen and Nate have abandoned the comforts of suburbia to take up residence on forty-four acres of rural land where they will begin the ultimate, aspirational do-it-yourself project: building the house of their dreams. When they discover that this beautiful property has a dark and violent past, Helen, a former history teacher, becomes consumed by the local legend of Hattie Breckenridge, a woman who lived and died there a century ago. With her passion for artifacts, Helen finds special materials to incorporate into the house–a beam from an old schoolroom, bricks from a mill, a mantel from a farmhouse–objects that draw her deeper into the story of Hattie and her descendants, three generations of Breckenridge women, each of whom died suspiciously. As the building project progresses, the house will become a place of menace and unfinished business: a new home, now haunted, that beckons its owners and their neighbors toward unimaginable danger.

My rating:  4.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I have heard a lot of buzz about this author in the past and having read another book of hers recently (The Drowning Kind) I wanted to catch up on some of her past releases. I really liked this one so much – more than The Drowning Kind even. There were some aspects of the two books that were similar even: both set in Vermont, both featured water as part of the plot, and both were about ghosts! But I ended up liking this one so much better  – I think it was because of the interwoven stories of Hattie’s family throughout and how each descendant’s untimely demise was revealed to the reader. It was gruesome but enthralling. As far as characters go, I thought Olive was a little annoying at first but she really grew on me. Nate stayed pretty annoying throughout. I liked that he came around at the end but he was self-important throughout the whole book. Helen’s character really interested me with her love of history and her drive to help Hattie. The plot in this one was very good – there were some great plot twists that I didn’t see coming and I loved how all the various plot areas came together in pieces that made complete sense at the end. I would definitely recommend it, was a great and spooky read!

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

Twin Games in Music City BLOG TOUR!!

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Harlequin is featuring their category romance in an April 2021 series blog tour! Twin Games in Music City was released April 1, and to celebrate I am participating in a Blog Tour for the book! I recently read this novel and I enjoyed it! You can see my review of the book here. See below for more information about the book, a short author bio, and an excerpt: 

SUMMARY

It’s a twin swap, Nashville-style, in the launch of the Dynasties: Beaumont Bay series from USA TODAY bestselling author Jules Bennett!

Country singer Hannah Banks wants what she shouldn’t have.

The owner of her new label—the man in charge of her career—is way too hot. So hot he’s all she can think about… So to put distance between them, she poses as her quieter twin sister. That should keep temptation away…

Except Will Sutherland doesn’t play games. He wants the real Hannah—in his studio and in his bed—as long as what’s between them stays their secret. But when an old rival uncovers the truth, Will must choose between playing the press or playing for keeps…

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

USA TODAY Bestselling Author Jules Bennett has penned more than 50 novels during her short career. She’s married to her high school sweetheart, has two active girls, and is a former salon owner. Jules can be found on Twitter, Facebook (Fan Page), and her website julesbennett.com. She holds contests via these three outlets with each release and loves to hear from readers!

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BUY IT HERE!

EXCERPT

9781335232854Will Sutherland settled into the corner leather booth and watched as Hallie Banks wound her way through the tables at Rise and Grind.

This little meeting shouldn’t already have him irritated, but it did. Will didn’t want to meet with Hallie—he wanted to meet with her twin sister, Han- nah.

But obviously, Hannah Banks, country superstar and America’s sweetheart, couldn’t be bothered with such mundane things as setting up her recording schedule for the next album or going over the tour dates and venues.

He’d only met her a handful of times in passing at various events within the industry. Will had al- ways found her attractive; he’d have to be dead not to. Hannah Banks could make any man do a double take and he was no different.

As far as knowing her personally, he couldn’t re- ally say much, but this first official meeting wasn’t going as planned.

Her selfish way of thinking might have worked for her old record label, but now that she’d signed with Elite, she was going to have to accept the very real fact that she wasn’t in charge. He was.

Hallie offered a soft smile and reached to shake his hand. “Good morning. Have you been waiting long?”

Will came to his feet and gripped her hand, sur- prised by how soft and delicate she seemed. He didn’t recall noticing Hallie’s hands before…and he shouldn’t be noticing them now.

He’d already found himself fantasizing about Hallie’s sister, Hannah. The last thing he needed was an attraction to twins. That wouldn’t be good for business, and being attracted to either of them didn’t fit his professional style.

Hallie was more conservative in her wardrobe than her usual blinged-out sister. Perhaps that’s because Hallie was the manager and worked behind the scenes in a quieter, calmer setting. Whereas Hannah was in-your-face, sparkly, over-the-top…and not at all the type of woman he should have been drawn to. Yet, he found himself noticing his new star more and more.

He needed to get his thoughts under control.

“I just got here myself.” He gestured to the seat across from him. “Please, sit.”

She put her bag in the vacant seat and settled into the chair with curved arms. A barista came right over to take their orders before leaving them alone again.

“So where did you say Hannah was and why couldn’t she make it today?” he asked, hoping to get a direct answer this time.

Hallie blinked up at him. “Oh, I didn’t say. She just asked me to meet you. After we talk, I will go over the schedule with her. She did request that she record in her home studio, so that was the main thing I’m supposed to tell you.”

Of course. Will shouldn’t have been surprised, though. Since that horrific storm had swept through Beaumont Bay only a few weeks ago, the town was still trying to recover. It was all hands on deck in this Nashville bedroom community to rebuild the multimillion-dollar homes that had taken a hit and the few businesses that had been affected.

The Bay wouldn’t stay down long. This lakeside community was where Nashville came to play, where all the deals were done, where the country music elite hid their juiciest secrets. And it was a town that legendary music producer Mags Dumond pretty much owned…or thought she did.

He’d give Mags her due. She’d built up Beaumont Bay with her late husband and former mayor. It had been her foresight—and her insistence on hosting all her parties here over the decades—that had made a home, or second home, in the Bay a necessity for anyone who was anyone in Nashville.

Will’s family had been born here, and not to a country music bloodline. Travis and Dana Sutherland were in the real estate industry and owned nearly everything…unless Mags had claim on it.

But the Sutherland brothers had made a name for themselves in the music industry by pulling themselves up by the bootstraps…and staying out of Mags’s way for the most part. The woman had been a thorn in his family’s side for decades, but he refused to think about that now. The next step in building his family’s music empire was his new star, Hannah Banks, and finishing the renovations to the studio that had been damaged.

The reconstruction was taking much too long, although even a one-day delay was too long in this industry. He had music to make and singers relying on him, not to mention the trickle-down effect of the tours that were already being promoted to celebrate albums that were releasing soon.

The whole damn situation was a nightmare and Hannah Banks—the superstar he’d stolen from Mags, whom he needed to make this whole plan a reality—couldn’t find the time for a courtesy, in- person meeting. Sending her sister/manager/twin wasn’t the same.

“I would have to check out Hannah’s recording studio before I could commit to that agreement,” Will informed Hallie. “We are going to have to start the production process next week to keep up with the deadlines. Tell Hannah I’ll be at her house first thing in the morning to check out this recording room of hers.”

Hallie pursed her pale pink lips and shook her head. “Tomorrow morning won’t work.” She pulled out her phone and scrolled, then tapped her finger on the screen. “How about Tuesday at ten?”

Considering this was Friday, there was no way in hell he was waiting until Tuesday. Will pulled in a deep breath and sighed. Was Hallie going to be just as difficult as the country diva? The pout of her lips said yes, and something hard and dark moved inside him.

And that’s when he knew something was off here.

“I’m not sure how things went when she worked for Mags at Cheating Hearts, but now that she’s with Elite, I run the schedule and say when things are going to get done.”

Hallie’s eyes narrowed. “Is that right? Well, maybe I should’ve just stayed with Cheating Hearts.” Will inched forward, resting his hands on the table. “Hannah? Are you kidding me?”

She cursed beneath her breath and Will gritted his teeth. He’d known something felt off, but he’d never thought for a second his newest artist would play such a childish game as to pretend to be her twin. No way in hell would he fall for this swapped-twin trap. Hannah Banks was about to learn who was in charge real quick.

***

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