COVER REVEAL: Damaged Goods by Nicole Williams

I pretty much adore every single word Nicole Williams has ever written and I am so excited that she has a new series in the works!!! The first book in The Outsider Chronicles, Hard Knox, is already available and, today, I have the great pleasure of sharing with you the cover of the second book in the series—Damages Goods. Please note that each book highlights a different couple and they can all be read as standalone novels…. ♥

Expected release date: 9 September 2014

DamagedGoods

When Liv Bennett said good-bye to her sinkhole of a hometown, she planned to leave that chapter of her life behind forever. But forever turned out to only be three years.

After her addict of a mother up and disappears, Liv returns to what she considers her own personal hell smack in the middle of nowhere Nevada to take care of her two younger sisters, and she promptly reinstitutes the golden rule that got her through her first nineteen years of life without getting knocked up, roughed up, or messed up: don’t date the local boys and, god forbid, don’t fall in love with one of them.

It isn’t long before that golden rule is put to the test.

Will Goods grew up in the next trailer over, but the wild, careless boy who used to tear up the town with his three brothers has morphed into someone else so completely, he’s almost unrecognizable. The quiet, contemplative man who works on cars every night and takes care of his mentally ill mother every day is nothing like the local boys Liv grew up avoiding.

But when Liv considers suspending her golden rule just this once, she finds out something about Will that will change everything.

Will Goods isn’t who he used to be—he’s not even the man Liv thinks she’s gotten to know over the summer. He’s become someone else entirely.

He’s become . . .

Damaged Goods.

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Buy book: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
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The Outsider Chronicles – Recommended Reading Order
hardknox
DamagedGoods

Hard KnoxAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Damaged GoodsAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA (9 Sep 2014)

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The Author

Nicole is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of the Crash series, Lost & Found series, Up in Flames, The Eden Trilogy, and a handful of others. She writes stories about everyday kinds of people who find themselves in extraordinary kinds of situations. She tells love stories with happy endings because she believes in making the world a better place, and that’s one tiny way she can make it so. She’s one of those people who still believes in true love and soul mates, and would rather keep her head in the clouds any day over having her feet firmly on the ground.

Connect with Nicole: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
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BOOK REVIEW: Finders Keepers by Nicole Williams

finderskeepers_322x500

There’s tortured. And there’s Garth Black.

His life has been a constant carousel of tragedy and disappointment, including his love life. Of course, applying the term “love” to Garth’s conquests is a gross misuse of the word. Some people were made to give and accept love, and others weren’t. Garth Black redefines the “others” category. He’s made a vow that the day he meets a woman who could sucker him into falling in love will be the day he runs away.

Garth’s plan has one flaw. What happens when he’s already fallen hard for a girl before the warning signs and red flags go up? What happens when the love he’s avoided his entire life brings him to his knees? What happens when Garth Black lets the dirtiest four letter word he’s ever known into his dark, lonely life?

This cowboy’s about to find out he can control some things, and he can’t control others. Number one on the what he can’t control list?

Love.

review

“Don’t love me. You get to choose who you love, so please… please don’t waste it on me.”

If you had asked me a few months ago who my all-time favourite cowboy was, I would have said “Jesse Walker” in a heartbeat. That boy was the perfect combination of sweet and sexy, cheerful but profound, and this coupled with his innate ability to love others fiercely and selflessly, made him one of my favourite book boyfriends ever. But even while I was panting after Jesse, another cowboy caught my attention – a darker, more troubled one, whose smart mouth and careless attitude were clearly masking a bleeding heart under his tough façade. That cowboy was Jesse Walker’s best friend and this is finally his book.

“It didn’t matter what age I was or how much I thought I loved the woman. Marriage, rings, and vows were not created with people like me in mind.”

Garth Black has lived the kind of loveless childhood nightmares are made of. Having been neglected and physically abused by his only parent since he was born, never shown an ounce of affection or affirmation in his life, he has grown into a jaded young man who believes himself to be a bad seed unworthy of being loved. He is sarcastic, short-tempered and inherently self-destructive, making it very difficult for others to care for him or enjoy being around him. Except for his two best and only friends in the world who have always seen past his reckless pretences, never cared about his upbringing or his family’s lack of social standing, and who also happen to be the only two people that Garth has ever cared for. And he’s also secretly loved one of them since he was five years old.

“My childhood friend, my adolescent secret obsession, my biggest mistake.”

But as deep as his feelings are for his friend, Garth has never admitted this to himself or to her. He succumbed to his feelings for her only once in his life, one regretful drunken night of lowered inhibitions and frenzied passion, which cost him both his best friends for a long time after that.

“Why don’t you stop pretending to be the hero and own what you really are? The villain. Go villainize someone else’s life. You couldn’t possibly do anymore to mine.”

This book starts with a heartbreaking event in Garth’s life, leaving him homeless and alone in the world, and in the unexpected care of the very woman he won’t allow himself to love. But she is not only the only woman he dreams of, she is his true match, equally quick-tempered and stubborn, always seeing through his impassive acts and this time around determined to never allow him to push her away again. Never having had anyone concerned about his wellbeing before, or anyone who cared for him enough to put his happiness first, Garth is in unfamiliar territory when his best friend starts slowly dismantling his defences. Her persistent affection and faith in him are his undoing, and soon she makes him believe that they might have a chance at happiness after all. She shows him a different way of perceiving the world around him, one that is not all-consumingly negative and destructive, giving him hope that a man like him could love and be loved by a woman like her.

“It doesn’t have to be Garth Black against the whole world…”

She makes him question everything his dysfunctional childhood has taught him, his warped sense of right and wrong, his rejection of all social norms and behaviours, and for the first time in his life, Garth is happy. But a lifetime of self-doubt and self-hatred is hard to ignore when the world is determined to push you back down, and for Garth it is easier to believe that he will always be unworthy of his beloved’s love than that he finally deserves someone like her in his life. Or that he has anything in him to offer to her.

“How could I be what was best for her when I didn’t even know what was best for myself? How could I love her the way she deserved to be loved when my parents hadn’t shown me an ounce of it?”

A tale of learning to fight for what you want most in life and breaking a cycle of self-destruction and hatred of the world around you, this is a book that broke me, gutted me, made me mama bear and cowboy groupie all rolled into one. Garth’s self-doubting tendencies arising from a continuous lack of parental encouragement in his life made me so very protective of him and incredibly invested in his happiness. His leading lady was a force to be reckoned with, her strength of character and loving determination made me smile at their every interaction, not to mention swoon at the palpable chemistry between them. Without any explicit level of detail, Ms Williams manages to make our hearts race from mere acts of hand-holding or spooning in bed. I was having palpitations from sheer kissing scenes! Somehow, the level of emotion between these characters is more than enough to make us feel satisfied on all fronts, dreamy-eyed from beginning to end. I loved this book something fierce, and I knew, just KNEW this smartass cowboy would end up stealing my heart.

“I wasn’t the guy who fell in love with you this past winter… I was the boy who fell in love with you that day on the school bus when we were five. And I’m the man that always will.”

5stars

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Read an excerpt from Finders Keepers…
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Lost and Found – Reading Order and Purchase Links
lostandfound_322x500
NearandFar_322x500
finderskeepers_322x500
Lost and Found: Amazon US | Amazon UKB&N
Near and Far: Amazon US | Amazon UKB&N
Finders Keepers: Amazon US | Amazon UK | B&N
 ✤ ✤ ✤
The Author

Nicole Williams_picI’m a wife, a mom, a writer. I started writing because I loved it and I’m still writing because I love it. I write young adult because I still believe in true love, kindred spirits, and happy endings.

Here’s to staying young at heart *raises champagne glass* . . . care to join me?

Connect with Nicole: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
✤ ✤ ✤

Nicole Williams_FB Banner 3

Other books in the series or related posts:

EXCLUSIVE: Teaser from Finders Keepers by Nicole Williams

Three more days and we will be finding out which girl stole our dark cowboy’s lonely little heart!!!! From the moment I met Garth Black in Lost and Found, I knew, i just KNEW there was something very special about this boy, but let me tell you something after reading this beautiful book… he truly is a keeper!! My review will be posted in the next few days, but in the meantime, enjoy this delicious little taste of Finders Keepers

Expected release date: 16 September 2013

finderskeepers_322x500

There’s tortured. And there’s Garth Black.

His life has been a constant carousel of tragedy and disappointment, including his love life. Of course, applying the term “love” to Garth’s conquests is a gross misuse of the word. Some people were made to give and accept love, and others weren’t. Garth Black redefines the “others” category. He’s made a vow that the day he meets a woman who could sucker him into falling in love will be the day he runs away.

Garth’s plan has one flaw. What happens when he’s already fallen hard for a girl before the warning signs and red flags go up? What happens when the love he’s avoided his entire life brings him to his knees? What happens when Garth Black lets the dirtiest four letter word he’s ever known into his dark, lonely life?

This cowboy’s about to find out he can control some things, and he can’t control others. Number one on the what he can’t control list?

Love.

excerpt

When a pillow hit the back of my head, I turned around. Changing time must be over if her hands were free to throw a pillow at me. When I saw her, my mouth almost fell open. “I thought you said you were changing into pajamas.”

She glanced down and lifted her arms. “These are pajamas.”

“Really? Because from a male’s point of view, that’s lingerie. Pajamas are, you know, the flannel, frumpy things that cover lots of skin that old ladies wear.” Shit, I was trying so hard not to check her out, but it was impossible. A man could have held a knife to my throat and told me to stop looking at her or die, and I would have been a dead man two seconds later.

She gave me an amused look as she finished tossing the mountain of pillows off of her bed. “I’ll keep that in mind. When I’m an old woman. But right now, I like this kind of pajamas.”

Yeah, I liked them too.

Flipping her hair forward, she worked it into a ponytail before flicking off the light switch. “I thought you said you were exhausted. Are you planning on standing there all night?”

If I got to watch her in my new favorite women’s “pajamas,” then hell yes, I would stand there all night. The lights might have been off, but those windows and that moonlight didn’t exactly make it dark.

What in the hell was I thinking? I felt like I’d grown a second consciousness, and the two had declared war on each other. One part of me knew staying away from her was priority number one. The other part of me, the one I wished I could locate so I could radiate it the hell out, wanted to be as close to her as she’d let me get. Those two agendas didn’t align. In fact, they couldn’t have been any more at odds. If one didn’t roll over and die soon, the battle would split me right down the middle.

Threatening both of my subconsiousnesses with a lobotomy if they didn’t shut up, I made my way toward the bed she was already crawling into. It was a relief when she threw the covers on. I grabbed a pillow and threw it on the ground. I was just grabbing the blanket draped on the chair when I heard the bed springs groan.

“What are you doing?” She sat up in bed, watching me like I’d tripped a wire.

“Going to bed,” I answered with a shrug.

“And the reason you’re throwing pillows and blankets on the floor is…?” We were not on the same wavelength apparently.

“Because you’ve got the bed, which means I’ve got the floor.” It was her room, and even if she’d offered me the bed, I wouldn’t let her sleep on the floor. Truthfully, the hardwood floor looked pretty damn close to heaven. It was warm, I had a big fluffy pillow to rest my head on, and the blanket was the softest thing I’d ever felt.

“Since when did you turn into Mr. Chivalrous?” The wire-tripping expression deepened before she patted the space on the bed beside her. “There’s plenty of room. No need to wake up with a stiff neck and back.”

I stared at the empty space. Fuck, if I slept beside her all night, I’d wake up with something else stiff. “Really, the floor’s good.” I slid off my hat and set it on her nightstand.

“Oh, please. Get over it. Just get in and get some sleep already.”

I knew I shouldn’t, but since the invitation had been extended, I couldn’t say no. Tossing the pillow back onto the bed, I peeled off a few layers of clothing and crawled in beside her. Her back was to me, but her shoulders were so stiff I knew she wasn’t asleep. Despite her no-big-deal attitude, could she be just as conscious of me beside her as I was of her beside me? The journey to that answer was a road I couldn’t take. I already knew the ending, and I wouldn’t do that to her. She deserved better, and she deserved a million times better than I could ever give her.

“See? Was that so bad?” she asked, her back still to me.

I slid my hands behind my head and grinned at the ceiling. “No, that wasn’t so bad.”

“Told ya.”

My grin stretched wider. “Oh, and you don’t have to worry about me crawling into your nice clean bed in the same clothes I worked in all day.”

“Why’s that?”

I positioned the blanket just below my navel. “Because I sleep naked.”

“What?!” she hissed, twisting around. As soon as she saw my bare chest, her eyes widened. She shrieked and covered her eyes. By then, I was laughing. I would have been howling if her parents weren’t a mere floor below us. “Garth, please, for the love of god and Montana, please put something on. Anything on.”

In her itty-bitty tank top with her hair in a floppy ponytail and her hands clamped over her eyes… It was the funniest, sexiest sight I’d seen. “Okay, fine. If you’re going to go all prude on me.” Sitting up just enough, I pretended to get up to grab some clothes, but I was watching her without blinking.

A couple moments later, her fingers splayed just enough for me to see her eyes, which meant . . .

I flashed my face in front of hers and winked. “Made you look.”

Her hands dropped from her eyes and went straight to my chest. She shoved me hard enough I almost tipped off the bed. “Nice jeans, asshole.”

I laughed again when she threw herself back down, her back to me again. “Nice sneaking a peek there, Secret Agent. Hoping to catch a glimpse of something?”

She gave an irritated sigh. “Shut up, Black.”

“Why would I do that when it’s so much more fun to tease you?”

“Because you like-slash-love your dick and probably want to keep it.”

“Hold up. Are you threatening the very piece of anatomy you were just hoping to sneak a peek at?” I pulled off my socks, left my jeans in place, and laid back down. She had been checking me out. I was back to grinning at the ceiling.

“My threat’s about to turn into a reality if you don’t zip it and go to sleep like I thought you were dying to do five minutes ago.”

“Come on, it’s no big deal. It’s perfectly natural to want to inspect a fine specimen like myself. I’d be happy to give you the whole show—the full monty—free of charge. But only looking, no touching. Or wait, you prefer peeking, right?” Our endless banter felt good. It took me back to a happier time before things had gotten so complicated between us.

“Sleep now or forever hold your peace, Black.”

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✤ ✤ ✤
Lost and Found – Reading Order and Purchase Links
lostandfound_322x500
NearandFar_322x500
finderskeepers_322x500
Lost and Found: Amazon US | Amazon UKB&N
Near and Far: Amazon US | Amazon UKB&N
Finders Keepers: Amazon US | Amazon UK | B&N
 ✤ ✤ ✤
The Author

Nicole Williams_picI’m a wife, a mom, a writer. I started writing because I loved it and I’m still writing because I love it. I write young adult because I still believe in true love, kindred spirits, and happy endings.

Here’s to staying young at heart *raises champagne glass* . . . care to join me?

Connect with Nicole: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
✤ ✤ ✤
Other books in the series or related posts:

EXCLUSIVE COVER REVEAL: Finders Keepers by Nicole Williams

This series has been my undoing ever since I read the beautiful Lost and Found, a heartwarming story of a lost young woman named Rowen and her sweet cowboy named Jesse. Their romance got the perfect conclusion in Near and Far, but another troubled cowboy caught my eye very early on in the series and I have been hoping, praying, harassing Ms Williams to give us his story. Well, we are finally getting Garth Black’s book!!!! Feast your eyes on Finders Keepers

Expected release date: 16 September 2013

finderskeepers

There’s tortured. And there’s Garth Black.

His life has been a constant carousel of tragedy and disappointment, including his love life. Of course, applying the term “love” to Garth’s conquests is a gross misuse of the word. Some people were made to give and accept love, and others weren’t. Garth Black redefines the “others” category. He’s made a vow that the day he meets a woman who could sucker him into falling in love will be the day he runs away.

Garth’s plan has one flaw. What happens when he’s already fallen hard for a girl before the warning signs and red flags go up? What happens when the love he’s avoided his entire life brings him to his knees? What happens when Garth Black lets the dirtiest four letter word he’s ever known into his dark, lonely life?

This cowboy’s about to find out he can control some things, and he can’t control others. Number one on the what he can’t control list?

Love.

addtogoodreads

✤ ✤ ✤
Lost and Found – Reading Order and Purchase Links
lostandfound_322x500 NearandFar_322x500 finderskeepers_322x500
Lost and Found: Amazon Kindle | Amazon Paperback | Amazon UK | B&N
Near and Far: Amazon Kindle | Amazon Paperback | Amazon UK | B&N
Finders Keepers: Amazon Kindle | Amazon UK
The Author

Nicole Williams_picI’m a wife, a mom, a writer. I started writing because I loved it and I’m still writing because I love it. I write young adult because I still believe in true love, kindred spirits, and happy endings.

Here’s to staying young at heart *raises champagne glass* . . . care to join me?

Connect with Nicole: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
✤ ✤ ✤
Other books in the series or related posts:

Near and Far by Nicole Williams

NearandFar_322x500There’s optimistic. And there’s Jesse Walker.

If he wasn’t so charming, his sunny disposition and incessant grin would get annoying. Fast.

Falling in love with the girl who had at first seemed immune to it, was the best thing to happen to Jesse since the Walkers adopted him into their family when he was five. But loving the girl who has her fair share of secrets is about as easy as that same girl loving the boy who seems to have none.

As Jesse’s life continues at the ranch, and Rowen begins making her mark in the Seattle art community, they begin to wonder where the middle ground is. Or if there even is one.

As push comes to shove and choices aren’t only needing to be made, but forced to be made, Jesse and Rowen have to face what their lives might look like without the other.

Can two people with such tragic pasts and different presents, go on to expect a promising future? Whatever the answer, they’ll need a lot more than love to make it.

review

“For you, I’m a weak, weak man. I’m so weak for you that you could break me with one word. You could end me with one look. You could ruin me with one touch.”

If you’re looking for a series written with heart, impeccable skill and capable of turning you into a gushing mess over a gentle cowboy whose mere presence on a page will make you grin ear to ear, look no further than the Lost and Found series. Unlike anything else I’ve ever read before, the truly uplifting love story of Rowen and Jesse captured my heart from the very first page and instantly become a favourite of mine.

Although Lost and Found did not end on a nail-biting cliffhanger and it left us in a rather happy place, content with the steady bond these characters managed to forge and the difficulties they rose above, I was ecstatic to have their story continue and to see what other obstacles they would have to overcome both personally as well as a couple. We find them navigating the tricky waters of a long distance relationship, their love and devotion to one another being a constant beacon for their young relationship, but the miles between them and the long periods of time apart keep feeding the demons inside them and making them fearful of losing the one thing they cherish the most in life – each other.

“Loving someone as much as I did Jesse meant the darkness of the world seemed so black I never wanted to walk out the front door. Around every corner was some terror threatening to take away what I held most dear.”

Rowen is now in a new city, pursuing her passion in art and slowly making a name for herself in this new world far away from the only place she ever considered home – Willow Springs. Her love for Jesse grounds her, keeps her from reverting back to the scared and angry little girl that she once was, but knowing he has been and always would be the light at the end of the tunnel she used to live in, makes her constantly fearful of losing him, of him finding someone better than her, almost expecting it to happen sooner or later. She loves him with all her heart, but her self-destructive tendencies resurface at times, convincing her that she would eventually end up destroying the little piece of heaven she has found with Jesse.

“I always knew I would be the one responsible for tearing us apart because that’s what I did and that’s what I was good at. No matter how hard I tried to be something else, something better, I couldn’t keep the destructive part of me fully contained.”

Jesse is secretly fighting his own demons while away from Rowen. His self-control is failing him, nightmares from his childhood have returned and his anxiety and fear of losing the love of his life are rearing their ugly heads at night, when he’s most vulnerable, and torturing him with flashbacks from his abuse-ridden childhood. His mind has equated the fear of losing Rowen to the fear he experienced as a little boy at the hands of two cruel parents, and the more they struggle as a couple with distance and time apart, the more Jesse’s mind turns against itself and convinces him that the woman he adores is better off without someone as unstable as him in her life.

“I don’t want her to know. I don’t want her to be a part of it. I don’t want her near it. I want her as far away from the poison flowing through me as I can keep her.”

Once more, this story makes us feel so many emotions, at both ends of the spectrum, without becoming too dark or too gritty. Jesse’s childhood memories are gruesome, heart-shattering and I needed to take a break while reading them as they were sometimes too hard to bear, but they were necessary if we were to understand this beautiful person, the emotional hardship he had overcome and the miracle of a man he had become given his horrible past. His every smile became that much more precious, his every positive outlook on life that much more awe-inspiring. His selfless heart, his ability to love others unconditionally and need to protect them, shelter them even from himself, made Jesse a sight to behold.

“A woman like her was every man’s dream. A woman who couldn’t be shaken and would stand shoulder to shoulder in the face of a storm. I’d found that kind of woman and, beyond all belief, she loved me. And I had to let her go.”

They both make mistakes in their relationship, purely due to inexperience and their young age, but their love for each other never fades, never gives up, never makes them doubt each other. It’s the one constant in their life they can depend on and eventually the one thing that conquers even the darkest and more vicious of demons from their pasts.

“When Jesse and I were close enough to share the same breath, confusion and uncertainty were distant memories.”

It is impossible for this story not to affect you one way or another. There is such inherent positivity in every word, every concept, every bit of her heart that the author has woven into this beautiful story. Ms Williams has a very unique way of communicating with the reader, making us feel so much, so deeply and so quickly, without using overtly detailed descriptions or wordy scenes. She takes aim with her words and hits the bull’s-eye every single time. She can make you laugh and cry on the same page, and walk away from that same scene with the biggest grin on your face.

“She’s managed to bust free from the weight of her past to get on with her life. She’d grown, evolved, and was setting the world on fire. I, on the other hand, was digressing, shrinking, and setting myself on fire.”

I am selfishly unprepared to say goodbye to these characters and as happy as their ending is, I am hopeful that we will get to see more of them in the future, even through someone else’s story… a cowboy with a proclivity for smartass comments and the colour black, perhaps? Either way, bravo, Ms Williams, and thank you for everything this story has made me feel and for this silly grin that I do not seem to be able to erase from my face. This will always be one of my favourite stories ever and Jesse Walker will forever be my favourite book boyfriend.

“Our priorities aren’t what we say they are. They’re what we show they are.”

5stars

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Buy book: Amazon US | Amazon UK | B&N
The Author

Nicole Williams_picI’m a wife, a mom, a writer. I started writing because I loved it and I’m still writing because I love it. I write young adult because I still believe in true love, kindred spirits, and happy endings.

Here’s to staying young at heart *raises champagne glass* . . . care to join me?

Connect with Nicole: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
Other books in the series or related posts:

EXCLUSIVE: Teaser from Near and Far by Nicole Williams

The sequel to one of My Favourite Books ever, Lost and Found, is coming out in less than two weeks!!!! Because I know how anxious we all are to see how this beautiful love story will unfold in Near and Far, the lovely Nicole Williams is sharing with us a very special excerpt. Read on, book junkies, and fall in love all over again with Rowen and Jesse…

Expected release date: 30 July 2013

NearandFar_322x500There’s optimistic. And there’s Jesse Walker.

If he wasn’t so charming, his sunny disposition and incessant grin would get annoying. Fast.

Falling in love with the girl who had at first seemed immune to it, was the best thing to happen to Jesse since the Walkers adopted him into their family when he was five. But loving the girl who has her fair share of secrets is about as easy as that same girl loving the boy who seems to have none.

As Jesse’s life continues at the ranch, and Rowen begins making her mark in the Seattle art community, they begin to wonder where the middle ground is. Or if there even is one.

As push comes to shove and choices aren’t only needing to be made, but forced to be made, Jesse and Rowen have to face what their lives might look like without the other.

Can two people with such tragic pasts and different presents, go on to expect a promising future? Whatever the answer, they’ll need a lot more than love to make it.

exclusive

“You kids be good now. I’d hate to win a bet this easily.” Garth winked as we passed him and Jolene.

“You’re not winning another thing tonight, Black. Get that through your dark skull and darker head now.”

Rose was following the girls into the kitchen when Jesse whacked Garth in the stomach. “Go cuss already. You know you’re about to die from keeping-it-all-inside poisoning.”

“Nah, I don’t think so. Tonight’s the first night of the past two weeks I’m actually tickled pink we made that little bet.”

“Tickled pink? What the hell, Black? What has happened to you?” I asked.

Jesse moved his mouth outside my ear. “See? It’s already happening. Talking in little girl words is the first sign he’s about to keel over from poisoning.” Jesse wrapped his arms around my waist and continued for the door. “Come on, Black. Just get it out. It will all be over soon, and I promise, I won’t gloat in my win. Too much.”

Garth made a crude motion with his hand. Jolene cringed and moved away as he continued pumping his fist in front of his crotch. “Take notes, Walker. That’s the only action you’re going to be getting for a while.”

“And that’s our cue to leave.” Jesse guided me the rest of the way onto the porch.

“Good night, Jesse! Thanks so much for taking such good care of me.” Nails on a chalkboard—that’s exactly what Jolene’s words sounded like to me. “See you at breakfast.”

“Night, night, Jolene. Keep that ankle elevated. You wouldn’t want to spend the summer with one nasty cankle,” I replied before Jesse had a chance. “It was really great to meet you.” I knew my sarcasm wasn’t lost on Jesse or Garth, but neither of them let on that my farewell was anything but genuine.

“So great to meet you too, Rowen. Have a nice night.” When a hobbling cast sounded like it was moving our way, I hurried to shut the door.

“Oh, I plan to.” Making sure the door was closed—firmly—I wrapped my arms around Jesse’s waist.

“Plan to what?” He tilted his hat back and leaned in. The look in his eyes made my stomach bottom out.

“Have a nice night. Have the nicest kind of night a girl could have with a guy like you.”

“I like where this is going.”

“You better. Because we’re not going far.” I shoved Jesse until the backs of his legs ran into one of the porch swings. Yep, that would do. It would have to because my need for the man had burst free. Keeping it bottled when he was within arm’s reach was a chore, and it was utterly impossible when we were alone and he graced me with that look. I was straddling his lap before he’d fully collapsed into the swing.

“I really like where you’re going with this.”

Grinning at him, I slid off his hat and wove my fingers into his hair. “I missed you.”

His eyes closed as I massaged his scalp. “Good.”

“Good? You’re glad I missed you so bad I almost skipped class for a few days to hop on a bus just so I could see you for a couple hours before I had to turn around and get back to reality?”

“Yeah, I am glad.”

That was the first time Jesse had admitted to being glad about me being uncomfortable. I had to be missing something. “Why?”

His eyes opened and locked onto mine. “Because, Rowen. Because the day you don’t miss me is the day we’re doomed.”

Jesse’s words never failed to amaze me. He saw everything a bit differently than everyone else . . . but what he saw was so right. “In that case I missed, missed, missed, missed, missed you.” Leaning in, I kissed the tip of his nose.

“And I’ve never been happier to know that you missed, missed, missed me.”

“You missed a couple misses in there.”

Jesse’s smile spread. “So I’m forgiven for not picking you up tonight at the very place we met?”

A Greyhound station smack in the middle of Montana. The place we’d met. It might not have been ideal for most romances, but it was our place, and that trumped everything else. “That depends,” I said before skimming my lips up his jaw.

He shuddered. “Depends on what?”

“On how persuasive you can be?” My mouth moved to the other side of his jaw.

“Oh, I can be persuasive.” His voice was rougher. Rough enough I knew what he wanted to do, which made it that much harder to keep restraining myself.

When my mouth was just outside his ear, I kissed his earlobe. “Show, don’t tell.”

Jesse’s hands formed over my hips as he shifted me into a more suitable position. “Showing.”

His head turned, his mouth searching for mine. When he found it, the weeks of separation and torture of anticipation poured out in one kiss. Jesse expressed his love through his touch, as opposed to the boys before him who had merely used “love” as a justification to touch. When Jesse’s mouth moved with mine, I sensed exactly how he felt about me. It didn’t matter how many times I’d kissed him; I never got used to the magnitude of it. I knew it was something a person never could get used to, so I did my best to enjoy it and be in the moment.

My fingers curled into his shirt and pulled it free of his jeans. His hands slid up my legs, past the hem of my dress. We were on the porch swing, one wall separating us from whoever was still in the kitchen, but getting caught seemed less irresponsible than stopping the ride we were on. I might have actually died from the disappointment if Jesse’s hand had lowered and his lips stopped. So I pressed on, my lips unyielding against his. Just as I was tugging his shirt over his head, the front door swung open.

The figure stepping out onto the porch was enough to freeze us in place. The porch lights flickered back on, and a grin as wide and maniacal as the Joker’s formed on Garth’s face. Shutting the door first, he ambled our way. “Looks like I was about two minutes early to walking in on you losing our bet, Walker.”

I, like the frozen idiot I was, kept Jesse’s shirt three-quarters of the way up his back. Jesse’s hands slid down my legs, out of the “danger zone,” and they paused just above my knees. “Get out of here, Black. Go find someone else to harass. I’m busy.”

“Oh, I can see just how busy you are.” Garth winked at me for a grand total of fifty thousand times. “Carry on. I can wait until morning to be declared the winner.”

He was swaggering his way down the stairs when Jesse called out, “Come on. You and I both know there’s no way you’ve gone two weeks without cussing. It’s impossible for you, Garth.”

“Is it?” Garth paused and cocked a brow. “But enough about me. Let’s talk about you and how it’s a physical impossibility for you to carry out your end of the bet. Especially now that your precious, hot-for-you Rowen is here.” Garth took another long look at Jesse’s and my position, smiled, and headed for his truck. Jesse was mid-groan when Garth whistled. “Might I suggest ice? A large bag of it. Apply directly to the groin area, and that might help with the level of blue your balls are going to get if you consider stopping your johnson mid-game.”

The pieces fell into place about Jesse’s bet when Garth’s truck fired to life. By the time he’d peeled down the driveway, I’d directed as stern a look as I could manage at Jesse. “You made a bet with Garth Black that you could go longer without sex than he could without cussing?”

“Maybe?”

“Maybe?” I screeched. “Maybe? What kind of an answer is that, Jesse Walker?”

Half of Jesse’s face wrinkled. “It seemed safer than an outright yes.”

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Buy Lost and Found: Amazon US | Amazon UK | B&N
The Author

Nicole Williams_picI’m a wife, a mom, a writer. I started writing because I loved it and I’m still writing because I love it. I write young adult because I still believe in true love, kindred spirits, and happy endings.

Here’s to staying young at heart *raises champagne glass* . . . care to join me?

Connect with Nicole: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
Other books in the series or related posts:

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Up In Flames by Nicole Williams

Being a die-hard fan of Nicole Williams’ writing, I am excited whenever one of her books gets on my book junkie radar. Up in Frames has been quietly gaining a loyal following since its initial release in December 2012 and it is the angst-filled story of a young woman on her journey to find herself. It is being released in paperback format in Australia and the UK with a stunning new cover on 1 August 2013 and today I bring you not only this hot new cover, but also an excerpt to match…

UpInFlames_UKElle Montgomery is a good girl. Born and raised in a small town in Washington State, she’s always done exactly what she’s supposed to and what everyone expects of her. She helps out at the cafe her family owns, and has been dating the pastor’s son, Logan, since she was allowed to go on her first date at sixteen.

Having just graduated from high school, and knowing that Logan wants to put a ring on her finger and get married as soon possible, Elle feels like her life is already mapped out.

Cole Carson’s life couldn’t be more different. An adrenaline junkie, he has worked as a smokejumper for the past three summers, roaming from town to town following the fires. Cole lives his life day to day and dreads the thought of putting down roots or being tied to one person.

Following an awkward, embarrassing first meeting, Elle knows she should keep away from Cole and the feelings he ignites in her. And Cole just can’t help but pursue Elle, the girl who seems immune to his charms.

But as summer heats up, their attraction grows, and as tensions between them run high, Elle and Cole realise that one way or another, they’re going up in flames…

excerpt

I filled my lungs to capacity before slowly letting that breath out through my nose. As soon as I was below the surface, I started to count. The longer I counted, the blacker the water around me got. The farther my body fell below the surface, the colder the water got. Deeper and deeper I sunk until my lungs started to burn. The last of the oxygen was gone after ten seconds.

I pushed past the burn and ignored the fear that clawed at me when the black got opaque around me. I was three seconds away from tying the record. Four seconds away from breaking the record.

Two more seconds down, two more to go. My lungs had gone from that burning feeling to feeling like raw open wounds. I felt myself go a little light headed when something grabbed a hold of me.

I jolted in surprise as a strong arm wound around my middle before I was towed to the surface. The instant my head broke through the water, I gulped in a mouthful of air. The arm wound around me didn’t let me go, and as I took a second gulp of air, I felt a few emotions trickle into my veins: I’d been so close.

So close to breaking my record and this arm and its owner had ruined it.

“What do you think you’re doing?” I gasped, shoving out of the arm’s hold and swimming a few strokes away.

“You’re welcome. Happy I could be of assistance and I’m even happier to have you show your utmost appreciation for saving your life,” a male’s voice replied with a strong dose of sarcasm. It wasn’t a familiar one.

When I’d put some distance between us, I twisted around. His face wasn’t familiar either, but a girl wouldn’t mind getting familiar with that kind of face.

That was, if a girl wasn’t with another guy who was the town’s unofficial crown prince.

“I wasn’t drowning,” I said, biting back the you idiot part. “I was swimming.”

“You were under the surface for over thirty seconds,” he said, swimming closer. I backed away until my feet hit the sandy loam. “I thought you were drowning. What was I supposed to do? Just let you go down without a fight?”

Sinking my feet into the sand, I stood up. “No. You’re supposed to ask a person if they want saving before you go all hero on them.”

Hero boy’s mouth curved up when his eyes drifted south. “Thank God.”

“No, not ‘thank God’ for you interrupting my efforts to break a sinking record,” I snapped back.

“I’m thanking God for something else right now.” The look on his face was one I’m sure God wouldn’t approve of and, if it wasn’t for the way it was making me breathe a little short, I wouldn’t have approved either.

“What are you thanking him for?” I said, ready to get out of the water and leave this stranger, who was both infuriating and appealing at the same time thanks to his own life-saving, god-thanking ways.

That was when I remembered I was swimsuit impaired in waist deep water. A fact that wouldn’t have escaped my mind if it hadn’t been so oxygen deprived.

“Right now,”—one brow arched—“I’m thanking him for cold water.”

I glanced down, already mortified.

Yep. That dreamy look in his eyes and that twisted smile all made sense now. As if my bare boobs weren’t enough, my nipples were on high beams for his viewing pleasure.

I ducked beneath the surface so he had nothing but a neck up view. His expression didn’t change as much as I thought it would. “For someone who can stare like that at a girl’s . . .” I stumbled for the right word to use. I fumbled even more trying to verbalize it.

“Rack?” the grinning boy suggested.

“Chest,” I added with a tight smile. “For someone who can stare at an unsuspecting girl’s chest for half a minute, I wouldn’t take that person to be the thanking God, religious type.”

“I’m not,” he said with a one-shouldered shrug. “But after just witnessing that wonder of the world, I might change my mind.”

I narrowed my eyes. “How long have you been here?”

He swam a little closer, and now I could make out the color of his eyes. A bright greenish-blue that, when paired with his dark hair, tan skin, and the appealing angles of his face, could make a girl weak in the knees even from ten yards back.

That sly smile of his went higher. “Long enough to know that your hair color is natural.”

Despite the cold water, my face heated instantly.

“It’s all right,” he said immediately, lifting his hands above the water. “We were brought into the world naked and it’s a damn shame somewhere along man’s way he felt the need to cover up.” Those eyes of his sparkled. “Because bodies like yours make clothing a real tragedy.”

I knew in some sick, twisted way, he was trying to make me feel better, but I felt worse. My own boyfriend hadn’t seen me naked. Heck, he hadn’t even seen me naked from the waist up, and this smiling stranger had gotten the whole shebang. Not only that, I was uncomfortable with the way he looked at me and the way I felt when he looked at me. Some part of me, and if I was a betting girl I’d put it all on that wild streak, liked the way he looked at me.

Liked it way too much.

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Buy book: Amazon Kindle USAmazon Kindle Australia | Book DepositoryAmazon UK Paperback
The Author

Nicole Williams_picI’m a wife, a mom, a writer. I started writing because I loved it and I’m still writing because I love it. I write young adult because I still believe in true love, kindred spirits, and happy endings. Here’s to staying young at heart *raises champagne glass* . . . care to join me?

Connect with Nicole: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

EXCLUSIVE COVER REVEAL: Near and Far by Nicole Williams

I am literally jumping up and down from joy, book junkies!!! One of My Favourite Books ever, Lost and Found by the super-talented Nicole Williams, is not only getting a sequel BUT I have the huge honour of showing the cover and blurb to you first!! Lost and Found still makes me grin every time I think of this beautiful book and I cannot tell you how excited I am to read more about Rowen and Jesse. If you are looking for an impeccably written story that will warm your heart from the very first page, trust me, this is the book for you. I give you Near and Far

Expected release date: 30 July 2013

NearandFar

The Story

There’s optimistic. And there’s Jesse Walker.

If he wasn’t so charming, his sunny disposition and incessant grin would get annoying. Fast.

Falling in love with the girl who had at first seemed immune to it, was the best thing to happen to Jesse since the Walkers adopted him into their family when he was five. But loving the girl who has her fair share of secrets is about as easy as that same girl loving the boy who seems to have none.

As Jesse’s life continues at the ranch, and Rowen begins making her mark in the Seattle art community, they begin to wonder where the middle ground is. Or if there even is one.

As push comes to shove and choices aren’t only needing to be made, but forced to be made, Jesse and Rowen have to face what their lives might look like without the other.

Can two people with such tragic pasts and different presents, go on to expect a promising future? Whatever the answer, they’ll need a lot more than love to make it.

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Buy Lost and Found: Amazon Kindle | Amazon Paperback | Amazon UK | Barnes and Noble
The Author

Nicole Williams_picI’m a wife, a mom, a writer. I started writing because I loved it and I’m still writing because I love it. I write young adult because I still believe in true love, kindred spirits, and happy endings.

Here’s to staying young at heart *raises champagne glass* . . . care to join me?

Connect with Nicole: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
Other books in the series or related posts:

GIVEAWAY: Lost and Found by Nicole Williams

A few weeks ago, I read one of those books that makes you smile like a Cheshire cat every time you think about it and that book was Lost and Found by Nicole Williams. It is truly now one of My Favourite Books ever. Because I loved it so much and I truly believe that this beautiful book deserves for everyone to know about it, I have asked the lovely Nicole to help me out with a little giveaway to entice those who have read Lost and Found to leave a review on Amazon. Please take the time to write your thoughts, enter the giveaway below and you could win a signed paperback!! And did I fail to mention that this contest is open internationally?

Leave you review HERE
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By entering, you are accepting the following Giveaway Conditions.

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Good Luck!

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Lost and Found by Nicole Williams

lostandfound_322x500There’s complicated. And there’s Rowen Sterling.

After numbing pain for the past five years with boys, alcohol, and all-around apathy, she finds herself on a Greyhound bus to nowhere Montana the summer after she graduates high school. Her mom agreed to front the bill to Rowen’s dream art school only if Rowen proves she can work hard and stay out of trouble at Willow Springs Ranch. Cooking breakfast at the crack of dawn for a couple dozen ranch hands and mucking out horse stalls are the last things in the world Rowen wants to spend her summer doing.

Until Jesse Walker saunters into her life wearing a pair of painted-on jeans, a cowboy hat, and a grin that makes something in her chest she’d thought was frozen go boom-boom. Jesse’s like no one else, and certainly nothing like her. He’s the bright and shiny to her dark and jaded.

Rowen knows there’s no happily-ever-after for the golden boy and the rebel girl – happily-right-now is a stretch – so she tries to forget and ignore the boy who makes her feel things she’s not sure she’s ready to feel. But the more she pushes him away, the closer he seems to get. The more she convinces herself she doesn’t care, the harder she falls.

When her dark secrets refuse to stay locked behind the walls she’s kept up for years, Rowen realizes it’s not just everyone else she needs to be honest with. It’s herself.

review

“Sometimes we just have to cut off the dead branches in our life. Sometimes that’s the only way we can keep the tree alive.”

Books like this one are the reason why I love reading. There is nothing more exhilarating than finding a rare gem of a story that holds you captive from beginning to end, makes you smile so much your jaw hurts by the time you turn that last page, and leaves you so delightfully enthralled by the characters, you wish the story never ended. This book quite simply stole my heart.

Rowen is a young woman desperately in need of a wake-up call in life. For the past five years, she has been spiralling down an angry hole of self-destructive behaviour, rebelling against everything and everyone around her. But behind the provocative black clothes, the dark contact lenses and the black lipstick, hides a broken-hearted young girl whose life has hurt and disappointed her so badly, that she has convinced herself not to expect anything but further pain.

“Instead of trying to get to the bottom of why her daughter was floundering through life, she sent me off to ranch boot camp to “prove” myself worthy of art school.”

After being shipped off by her emotionless mother to a ranch in the middle of nowhere with the directive to prove herself as responsible, hardworking and worthy of trust, Rowen finds herself sticking out like a sore thumb in wholesome countryside Montana. But for the first time in her young life, instead of fingers being pointed at her and being labelled a freak, people are actually taking their time to get to know her and seeing past her appearance. From barely having a parent who never showed her any love to suddenly being part of a large family where small demonstrations of love are a daily occurrence, Rowen is truly out of her element.

“Every morning we get a chance to be different. A chance to change. A chance to be better. Your past is your past. Leave it there. Get on with the future part, honey.”

At this point I think there should be a drumroll or some trumpet playing somewhere because lo and behold, prepare your hearts for the divine Mr Jesse Walker! Jesse is the ranch owner’s son and he is nothing like the guys Rowen is normally attracted to. He is cheerful, positive, affectionate, he pays her compliments and asks nothing in return, and he seems to see the person she so desperately tries to hide. The more she pushes him away, the more he gently pursues her, with nothing more than kindness and understanding. And a heart-melting smile.

“Why don’t you want to know that I like you, Rowen? Why don’t you want me to tell you I’m so damn attracted to you, I almost don’t trust myself to be alone with you like we are right now? Why don’t you want to know that I care about you so much…?”

Once her walls start crumbling and one very delicious cowboy gets under her skin, Rowen begins her journey of self-discovery.

“…when I looked into those eyes of his that saw everything, those eyes that saw me, I knew the fight would be worth it. The struggle to let him in when I wanted to barricade the windows and lower the gates would be a battle I’d never regret fighting.”

What is possibly one of the most enchanting and heart-warming romances I have read in a very long time, this is as much of a love story as it is a beautifully written and flawlessly developed tale of finding oneself and accepting that life is not just a string of negatives. Rowen is a complex character – her past has made her emotionally weary and afraid to let herself accept affection from others. She is hungry for it, starved for even the smallest sliver of unconditional love, but she has also been programmed to believe that she is unworthy of the kind of love Jesse is offering her. She perceives him as a ray of sunshine that her hang-ups would only end up clouding, but she ultimately fights their connection because she sees herself as undeserving to be loved, something her mother had ingrained into her with continuous neglect and grave lack of positive affirmations.

“You think you deserve this. You think you deserve to be alone and suffer. You’ve convinced yourself you’re so worthless that you’ve gone to the extreme to punish yourself. You think you deserve a life of misery.”

We watch the romance between Jesse and Rowen take root, blossom, weather the storms, as this young woman finds herself and learns that every woman deserves to have a ‘Jesse’ in her life. There is something very special in the way Nicole Williams gives her characters ‘life’, it is evident that they come from her heart and she somehow makes us love even the most imperfect of them.

It has been two days since I finished reading this book and my heart is still bursting at the seams!! A stunning book with a positive message – it was just what I needed, it was totally not what I expected, and it was simply perfect.

“We all want to open up to someone, Rowen. The hard part is finding someone we trust enough to open up to. That person we’re not afraid to let into the darkest parts of our world.”

5stars

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Read an excerpt HERE
Buy book: Amazon US | Amazon UK | B&N
The Author

Nicole Williams_picI’m a wife, a mom, a writer. I started writing because I loved it and I’m still writing because I love it. I write young adult because I still believe in true love, kindred spirits, and happy endings.

Here’s to staying young at heart *raises champagne glass* . . . care to join me?

Connect with Nicole: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
The Giveaway

To win a paperback of Lost and Found, a leather cuff bracelet with metal inscription “Love is organized chaos”, or a $50 Amazon Gift Card, please enter below. This contest is administered by AToMR Tours and it is open internationally.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

lost and found_lisa_NT2

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COVER REVEAL: Lost and Found by Nicole Williams

Another exciting new release coming to us from the talented hands of Nicole Williams!!! Did someone say “cowboy”?? I give you the cover of a book I am simply dying to read, Lost and Found, and make sure you check the exclusive excerpt that Nicole shared with us a few months ago…

Expected release date: 7 May 2013

lostandfound

Click here for an exclusive excerpt from Lost and Found…
The Story

There’s complicated. And there’s Rowen Sterling.

After numbing pain for the past five years with boys, alcohol, and all-around apathy, she finds herself on a Greyhound bus to nowhere Montana the summer after she graduates high school. Her mom agreed to front the bill to Rowen’s dream art school only if Rowen proves she can work hard and stay out of trouble at Willow Springs Ranch. Cooking breakfast at the crack of dawn for a couple dozen ranch hands and mucking out horse stalls are the last things in the world Rowen wants to spend her summer doing.

Until Jesse Walker saunters into her life wearing a pair of painted-on jeans, a cowboy hat, and a grin that makes something in her chest she’d thought was frozen go boom-boom. Jesse’s like no one else, and certainly nothing like her. He’s the bright and shiny to her dark and jaded.

Rowen knows there’s no happily-ever-after for the golden boy and the rebel girl—happily-right-now is a stretch—so she tries to forget and ignore the boy who makes her feel things she’s not sure she’s ready to feel. But the more she pushes him away, the closer he seems to get. The more she convinces herself she doesn’t care, the harder she falls.

When her dark secrets refuse to stay locked behind the walls she’s kept up for years, Rowen realizes it’s not just everyone else she needs to be honest with. It’s herself.

addtogoodreads

The Author

Nicole Williams_picI’m a wife, a mom, a writer. I started writing because I loved it and I’m still writing because I love it. I write young adult because I still believe in true love, kindred spirits, and happy endings.

Here’s to staying young at heart *raises champagne glass* . . . care to join me?

Connect with Nicole: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

lostandfound_jacket

Other books in the series or related posts:

BIRTHDAY TEASING: Lost and Found by Nicole Williams

lostandfound_322x500No one can make us fall in love with a bad boy like our lady of the hour – the lovely Nicole Williams. I became a fan of Nicole’s emotional writing through the Crash series, through Jude and Lucy and their tempestuous tale. We follow the ups and downs of a young couple fighting for their happy ending against all odds … and their beautiful story is still not over.

Read my review of Crash
Buy Crash: Amazon
Read my review of Clash
Buy Clash: Amazon
Pre-order Crush: Amazon

But today, we are going to talk about a new book that Nicole has been working on, an equal parts sweet and sexy story about a lost girl who finds herself on a cattle ranch in Montana, torn between two guys. It’s a story about choosing what’s good for you versus what you think you deserve, a love story that transcends the typical stereotypes.

I am beyond excited to give you the first ever peek at Lost and Found

Expected release date: 7 May 2013

I was supposed to be meeting one of the ranch hands from Willow Springs in the parking lot. I couldn’t remember his name, just that it began with a J and was one hundred and ten percent a cowboy name. I was supposed to link up with some total stranger, a man who worked as a ranch hand, after driving across a couple state lines on a Greyhound bus … and this was the first step towards proving my responsibility to my mother?

Yeah, that was messed up.

Tilting my head back, I searched the sky, half expecting the buzzards to be circling.

Man, even the sky was different here. Too big and too blue. Where I came from, the sky was gray on most days and on the rare day the cloud cover did shift, the sky was never quite blue. Almost like it couldn’t let go of the gray that consumed it more days than not.

I was just about to close my eyes and take a quick siesta and let Mr. Ranch-Hand-With-A-Gritty-Cowboy-Name wait, when a figure passed by me.

On a typical day, I was passed by hundreds, if not thousands of people. Passed by, passed over, passed something … so I don’t know why this particular figure caught my attention, but it did. Leaning up, I shielded my eyes from the sun and watched this “figure” that I couldn’t ignore like I could the others. After a second, I understood why.

The guy was wearing positively the tightest, most painted-on pair of jeans I’d ever seen a guy slide into. And I came from a generation where it was socially acceptable for guys to sport skinny jeans.

However, this cowboy in what I could only assume were a pair of faded Wranglers, had just secured the sash and crown in the Tightest Pants in the Universe title.

“Excuse me, Sir?” Tight pant boy said, tapping the shoulder of the employee I’d snapped at. He waited for the employee to turn around and acknowledge him before continuing.

“Yes,” the employee said, shaking Cowboy’s hand when he extended it.

“Is this the bus that came up from Portland?” Cowboy Tight Pants asked, glancing up at the windows like he was looking for someone.

“Sure is. Last passenger just got off a few minutes ago.”

The cowboy’s back was to me, although his back wasn’t exactly what I zeroed in on.   It had nothing to do with ogling, lusting, or wanting to run my hands all over it … I just couldn’t wrap my mind around how those stitches were holding strong with pants that were two sizes too small cupping those butt cheeks.

“Was there a young woman on board? A girl about my age?” cowboy asked.

“There were lots of young women on board, Son,” the employee replied, doing a better job of masking his sarcasm than I would have. “Do you have a description? Maybe a name?”

“I think she’s blonde, maybe strawberry blonde,” he began, tilting his neck to the side. “Petite, I’m guessing … I don’t know. I’ve only seen a picture of her that’s ten years old.”

My stomach fell a little.

“I’ve got her name right here,” the cowboy said, sliding a piece of paper out of his front pocket. I didn’t need to hear him say it, I already knew the name scratched down on that scrap of paper. “Rowen. Her name’s Rowen Sterling.”

My subconscious couldn’t decide what to curse first, so it mixed, matched and uttered a Shuk and a Fuit.

When my mom had told me I’d be getting a ride back to Willow Springs with a ranch hand whose name I’d forgotten, I’d pictured a scratching, spitting, old-timer like the town sheriff in one of those old westerns. Not some young, fit man who adhered to the tighter-the-better policy when it came to jeans selection.

I had yet to see his face, but from what I’d seen of his back, I already knew what to expect. And if I was a typical eighteen-year-old girl who liked the typical teenage girl things, I’m sure I’d be panting for an opportunity to catch a ride with Cowboy Montana in what I guessed was a big diesel truck that had four wheels in the back. I’d heard what those kinds of trucks were called, but couldn’t remember it. Where I came from, people didn’t need six tires when four did the job just fine.

Catching myself right before I let out a long sigh, I stood up and made my way over. No sense in stalling.

Stopping a few feet behind the vacuum-sealed ass, I cleared my throat. “Looking for Rowen Sterling?”

“Yeah,” Cowboy replied, turning my direction. “You know her?”

I gave a shrug. “Kind of.”

“Do you know where she is?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I replied, trying to get a look at his face, but with that huge-ass cowboy hat, combined with the position of the sun in the sky, his whole face was shaded. He could have been the thing of female fantasies. He just as easily could have been eyeless and toothless for all I could tell.

After a few more seconds of quiet, where I guessed he was waiting for me to add something else, he shifted. “Could you tell me where she is then?”

I glanced at the photo in his hand. He’d been right. It was almost ten years old to the day. Taken at my ninth birthday party. I was wearing the biggest, pinkest, most god-awful princess dress to have ever been created and I was blonde and beaming.

I was none of those things anymore. This reaction ought to be fun to witness.

“She’s about two feet in front of you,” I said, now thankful that I couldn’t see his face because whether it was a ten or a zero or somewhere in between, I didn’t want to witness the shock and the cringe that was to come.

When you compared the young girl in the picture to the older girl that was me present day, a cringe seemed to be the standard response.

What I didn’t expect him to do was remove his hat and extend his hand. “Hey, Rowan,” he said, flashing a smile that almost made me flinch. I hadn’t been smiled at like that when meeting a stranger in a long time. “I’m Jesse. It’s nice to meet you.”

Jesse. That’s right. The cowboy J name that had slipped my mind was the name that I was certain I’d never again forget now. Not because his eyes were the same color as the sky, or because his light hair sort-of cascaded down his forehead like it knew just where to fall, or because of the dimples drilled deep into his cheeks from the continued smile. Nope, the reason I’d remember Jesse’s name from this day forward was because of the way he was looking at me. He didn’t study me like I was a freak or something that was different and scary. He looked at me like I was a human being, no different from himself, and yet unique just the same.

It was … staggering. It made me feel all light and floaty, too. For a girl who liked to keep her feet firmly on the ground and who, as a policy, didn’t do “floaty” this whole sensation was a tad overwhelming.

After I’d left his hand hanging in the air like the staggered idiot I was, he dropped it back to his side and lifted his other hand holding the picture towards my face. Studying the picture, then my face, his smile stretched higher. “Yep. You’re Rowan Sterling all right,” he said with certainty. Like he was able to see past my dyed black hair, nose ring, bright lipstick, and my inky black combat boots to find the little girl I’d once been.

The Author

Nicole Williams is a wife, a mom, a writer. She started writing because she loved it and she’s still writing because she loves it. She is the author of the Crash series, Up In Flames, The Eden Trilogy, and The Patrick Chronicles. She writes New Adult and Young Adult because she still believes in happy endings, true love, and soul mates. She writes in general because it’s her passion in life and she’s fortunate enough to have found a way to make her passion her career.

Connect with Nicole: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
The Giveaway

One lucky winner will win the entire Crash series – a set of three eBooks comprising of Crash, Clash and Crush (delivered on release day). Please enter below. By entering, you accept the following Giveaway Conditions.

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BOOK REVIEW: Clash by Nicole Williams

The only easy thing about Jude and Lucy’s relationship is their love for one another. Everything else is hard.

Especially when it comes to reining in Jude’s trigger touch temper and Lucy’s increasing jealousy of Jude’s Spirit Sister on the cheer squad who’s attached herself to him in just about every way a girl could. Feeling the stress of trying to hang on to her quintessential bad boy while becoming the foremost dancer in her class, Lucy knows something’s going to break. She wants both. She needs both. But if she doesn’t make a choice, she risks losing everything.

For Lucy Larson and Jude Ryder, love might be the thing that just isn’t enough.

 

 

 

review

A stunning sequel to Crash and an even more emotional journey for our beloved characters, Lucy and Jude, two young people carrying a lifetime of hurt on their shoulders. This story explores what happens after their apparent ‘happily-ever-after’, whether love is enough to erase the stains of the past and which things in life are truly worth fighting for.

Lucy and Jude are back together. Their bond is stronger than ever and they are inseparable. They are in college now but in cities hours apart. However, that does not stop them from spending every free moment with each other. Lucy is studying to be a dancer while Jude is his college’s football star with a following worthy of a champion. Their devotion to each other is unquestionable but their relationship is also an unstoppable roller coaster where all they do is fight and make up, equally passionately.

“Nothing was easy about our relationship. Well, nothing but falling hard for each other. Everything else was like trying to swim against a current. You never quite felt you were making much headway, but the journey made up for the lack of real estate.”

Jude is still battling his demons, struggling to keep his anger at bay and be worthy of the woman he adores. He cherishes Lucy with all his being and considers her to be his whole world. Lucy, however, hates the flammable dynamic between them. She questions whether the love they share is worth the heartache they keep giving each other. She fears that something will eventually pull them apart and lives in constant anticipation of that ‘doom’.

“It feels like sometimes I’m just waiting for the bottom to fall out beneath us.”

But Jude keeps fighting for her tooth and claw, relentlessly reassuring her of what she means to him and giving her hope that even if ‘doom’ comes along, they would get through it together.

“I know. When it does though, we’ll just grab onto a rope and wait it out.”

Their biggest obstacle in this book is their young age and inability to see the big picture. While Jude is light years ahead of Lucy in terms of knowing what truly matters in life, he is still allowing his anger to rule his reactions and cannot see past his mistrust of people, occasionally even of the woman he loves. He is possessive of her and jealous of every guy that looks her way, hiding at the core of his anger a deep fear of losing her. Lucy, on the other hand, is stuck in some utopian notion of what perfect relationships should be like and she keeps convincing herself more and more that they would be better off apart. All it takes is the first big test of implicit trust between them and they fail miserably. What follows is a heart-wrenching, soul-shaking, pulse-igniting, fasten-your-seatbelts-and-don’t-look-down kind of roller coaster ride of two people who perhaps love each other too obsessively. Their ups and downs shook me deeply. I was a complete mess at times, screaming ‘nooooooooo’ in my head, wanting to head-butt Lucy for hurting a man who was willing to give everything up for her. But she was hurting herself as much as she was hurting Jude, her insecurities digging a hole in her heart deeper and deeper.

“I loved him, but I shouldn’t. I trusted him, but it wasn’t natural. I wanted him, but I couldn’t have him.”

The happy ending is inevitable so we are rewarded in the end for all the pain and suffering caused by the events in the book, but it is a bittersweet happiness in my opinion as the sceptic in me fails to believe that the type of doubts and reservations that were weighing Lucy down could be solved so easily and so effortlessly. I would have preferred them to work at it a bit more rather than just be ‘served’ the solution to their problems on a silver platter. I felt it somewhat trivialised their struggles and the heartbreak they put themselves through but I reminded myself, again, that this is a YA story, one that is meant to inspire young minds to believe in love conquering all.

“Love isn’t easy. Especially the really good kind. It’s difficult, and you’ll want to rip your hair out just as many days as you’ll feel the wind at your back. But it’s worth it. It’s worth fighting for. Don’t let what isn’t real blind you from what is. Life isn’t perfect, we sure as sh*t aren’t perfect, so why should we expect love to be?”

Beautifully said? Definitely. A tad simplistic? Hmmm.

Maybe I’m a cynical b*tch who believes that two eighteen-year-olds can solve world hunger more than she believes that they could decipher the complex formula that is life and love, but I will stand proudly here and admit that I really enjoyed this book, regardless of all the drama. It is a skilfully written story that grabs you from the beginning and doesn’t let go until the end. It could have been a bit longer, it would have given more credibility to the resolution of the storyline, but it was extremely enjoyable nonetheless.

4halfstarssignature2addtogoodreads

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Crash by Nicole Williams

Southpointe High is the last place Lucy wanted to wind up her senior year of school. Right up until she stumbles into Jude Ryder, a guy whose name has become its own verb, and synonymous with trouble. He’s got a rap sheet that runs longer than a senior thesis, has had his name sighed, shouted, and cursed by more women than Lucy dares to ask, and lives at the local boys home where disturbed seems to be the status quo for the residents.

Lucy had a stable at best, quirky at worst, upbringing. She lives for wearing the satin down on her ballet shoes, has her sights set on Juilliard, and has been careful to keep trouble out of her life. Up until now.

Jude’s everything she knows she needs to stay away from if she wants to separate her past from her future. Staying away, she’s about to find, is the only thing she’s incapable of.

For Lucy Larson and Jude Ryder, love’s about to become the thing that tears them apart.

review

Oh, how I miss high school when I read a book like this one!  The careless summers, the hopeless crushes, the bickering with the parentals, the gossiping with friends, the lack of perspective… When pick-up lines were lame and they still worked.

“The name’s Jude Ryder, since I know you’re all but salivating like a rabid dog to know, and I don’t do girlfriends, relationships, flowers, or regular phone calls. If that works for you, I think we could work out something special.”

If only life could have stayed that way!

This is a nice little story of two teenagers from very different walks of life whose paths suddenly cross and nothing is the same after that for either of them. While Lucy has big dreams for her future and a tenacious will to match those dreams, Jude is someone whom people usually write off as a lost cause. – “Jude Ryder wasn’t only trouble, he was trouble with a side of danger and a dessert of heartache.”

But while Lucy’s life might seem OK on the surface, appearances can be deceiving more often than not. Her family has survived a horrific personal tragedy that has changed the family dynamic irrevocably. Each one of them has learned to deal with their pain differently. Her father has ‘checked out’ from reality by filing his days with predictable routines and showing little emotion towards anything. Lucy’s mother fills her days with work and expresses her pain through anger and resentment. Lucy, on the other hand, while carrying a very heavy burden of guilt and sadness with her, has not lost all hope in the world. She mourns for the past and the happy family she once had but she also hopes that the future would be brighter. And that is why she lets someone like Jude into her heart.

Apart from the initial physical attraction between the two of them, I believe Lucy fell for the man Jude could be, not the one everyone, including Jude, thought he was and always would be. She never accepted that his future was written in stone simply based on his dark past – she wanted him to see that anything can happen and that he was the only one who could make things happen. She saw the spark in him that people usually brushed off, she saw how desperate he was to break away from this pre-determined path that people expected him to follow which would have inevitably led to prison or worse. Lucy never pitied Jude, she never allowed herself to cry whenever she found out some heart-wrenching detail from his past because she knew he did not need her to feel sadness for him. He needed someone to feel hope for him as he himself never did. She made him want to change and become the person he so desperately pretended not to be.

“I don’t need to believe where I’ve been is where I’m headed. And I don’t need to believe that one tragedy can shape the future … Only I can do that.”

It was hard not to feel sad for Jude and the cards he was dealt in life but this book is about not lingering on the past and things one can’t change, but rather living life in the moment and filling one’s future with hope.

“Don’t live life hiding behind your past, live for right now.”

Some very serious topics were addressed  in this story – death, abuse, rape, depression, guilt, resentment – but I felt they were not really dealt with properly but rather skimmed over like pebbles bouncing off water. Even when characters were ‘dealing’ with issues, I felt it was a bit forced, rushed and with not much depth. However, I think this was quite appropriate for the YA genre of the book. It felt a bit like watching 90210 (am I showing my age here…?) but it was still a very fun and can’t-put-it-down-able read.

4stars signature2 addtogoodreads

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