The Vacation by T. M. Logan

Description

“T.M. Logan’s latest nail-biter…THE VACATION is a virtual holiday.”—Washington Post

In The Vacation, a captivating thriller from T. M. Logan, the bestselling author of Lies and 29 Seconds, four best friends on a dream vacation come face-to-face with an explosive secret.


It was supposed to be the perfect getaway: Kate and her three best friends, spending a week with their families in a luxurious villa in the south of France. Through the decades they’ve stayed closer than ever, and seven days of drinking crisp French wine and laying out under the dazzling Mediterranean sun is the perfect celebration of their friendship. But soon after arriving, Kate discovers an incriminating text on her husband’s cell phone.

A text revealing that he’s having an affair.

And that the other woman is one of her best friends.

But which one?

Trapped in paradise with no one to trust, Kate is determined to find out who has put her marriage—and a lifelong friendship—in jeopardy. But as she closes in on the truth, she realizes that the stakes are higher than she ever imagined. Everyone on the trip has secrets…and someone may be prepared to kill to keep theirs hidden.

T.M. Logan is an amazing suspense writer, and I was thrilled to be able to get his latest book via Net Galley. The Vacation was super suspenseful — I could not put it down and read it all in one night! I loved the thrill of it and I really hope that they make it into a movie. (though aren’t books always better??)

Thank you for my review e-copy!

Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly

Description (via NG)

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The perfect Mother’s Day gift! The million-copy bestseller Lilac Girls introduced the real-life heroine Caroline Ferriday. Now Lost Roses, set a generation earlier and also inspired by true events, features Caroline’s mother, Eliza, and follows three equally indomitable women from St. Petersburg to Paris under the shadow of World War I.

“Not only a brilliant historical tale, but a love song to all the ways our friendships carry us through the worst of times.”Lisa Wingate, New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours

It is 1914, and the world has been on the brink of war so often,many New Yorkers treat the subject with only passing interest. Eliza Ferriday is thrilled to be traveling to St. Petersburg with Sofya Streshnayva, a cousin of the Romanovs. The two met years ago one summer in Paris and became close confidantes. Now Eliza embarks on the trip of a lifetime, home with Sofya to see the splendors of Russia: the church with the interior covered in jeweled mosaics, the Rembrandts at the tsar’s Winter Palace, the famous ballet.

But when Austria declares war on Serbia and Russia’s imperial dynasty begins to fall, Eliza escapes back to America, while Sofya and her family flee to their country estate. In need of domestic help, they hire the local fortune-teller’s daughter, Varinka, unknowingly bringing intense danger into their household.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Eliza is doing her part to help the White Russian families find safety as they escape the revolution. But when Sofya’s letters suddenly stop coming, she fears the worst for her best friend. 

From the turbulent streets of St. Petersburg and aristocratic countryside estates to the avenues of Paris where a society of fallen Russian émigrés live to the mansions of Long Island, the lives of Eliza, Sofya, and Varinka will intersect in profound ways. In her newest powerful tale told through female-driven perspectives, Martha Hall Kelly celebrates the unbreakable bonds of women’s friendship, especially during the darkest days of history.

Praise for Lost Roses

“A charming and vividly rendered historical novel . . . Based on true events, this prequel to Lilac Girls transports.”People

“Inspired by true events, just like its predecessor, and just as well-researched, Lost Roses is a remarkable story and another testament to female strength. This sweeping epic will thrill and delight fans of Lilac Girls and readers of historical fiction alike.”—PopSugar

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I was thrilled to receive this title from Net Galley, as I had loved reading Lilac Girls, for which this book is a prequel. To be honest, it took me a bit to get into it. I did better reading at a stretch because each chapter is the point of view of one of the three main characters, and it kept switching, so if I waited too long, I couldn’t remember what had been happening! However, I settled in and read it over the three day weekend (it is almost 450 pages).

I loved the characters in this book, especially tragic but resilient Sophya. While I feel familiar with the story of the Romanovs, I did not know how much Russian aristocracy (“white Russians”) suffered during WWI. Parts of this story were hard to read and disturbing (due to violence) but the overall historical facts made for really interesting reading (such as American society’s attempt to help displaced Russian women). I loved that this story feeds into the next generation story of Lilac Girls and has Caroline as a young girl. I read that the next prequel will focus on Eliza’s grandmother in the Civil War (and again – the Ferridays are real women!).

If you enjoy WWI stories and stories of strong women, pick up Lost Roses today!

Thank you again for my review e-copy!

The Daughter’s Tale by Armando Lucas Correa

I was thrilled to be offered this title via Net Galley since I had read and reviewed The German Girl a while back in 2016 (see review here: https://drbethnolan.com/2016/11/03/the-german-girl-by-armando-lucas-correa/). It was yet another story that was based in fact and unforgettable. Again, the ability of Jewish families to get passage to other countries where they will be safe is featured, and it is so disturbing to see how not many countries were helpful. I felt for the main character in this novel, Amanda, as she had so much loss. And yet, her story is most probably not too different from many women of that time and place.

Recommended for those who enjoy reading of WWII and of normal people who are forced to face extraordinary things. This novel has been called “heartbreaking” – and it is.

Thank you for my review copy.

Description

The Daughter’s Tale is immersive, both heartbreaking and redemptive, steeped in harrowing historical events and heroic acts of compassion that will have you reflecting on the best and worst the human heart has to offer. Fans of WWII history and book clubs will find depth and skillful storytelling here, but on a deeper level, searing questions about life, love, and the choices we make in the most impossible of circumstances.” —Lisa Wingate, New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours

From the internationally bestselling author of The German Girl, an unforgettable family saga exploring a hidden piece of World War II history and the lengths a mother will go to protect her children—perfect for fans of Lilac GirlsWe Were the Lucky Ones, and The Alice Network.

BERLIN, 1939. The dreams that Amanda Sternberg and her husband, Julius, had for their daughters are shattered when the Nazis descend on Berlin, burning down their beloved family bookshop and sending Julius to a concentration camp. Desperate to save her children, Amanda flees toward the south of France, where the widow of an old friend of her husband’s has agreed to take her in. Along the way, a refugee ship headed for Cuba offers another chance at escape and there, at the dock, Amanda is forced to make an impossible choice that will haunt her for the rest of her life. Once in Haute-Vienne, her brief respite is inter­rupted by the arrival of Nazi forces, and Amanda finds herself in a labor camp where she must once again make a heroic sacrifice.

NEW YORK, 2015. Eighty-year-old Elise Duval receives a call from a woman bearing messages from a time and country that she forced herself to forget. A French Catholic who arrived in New York after World War II, Elise is shocked to discover that the letters were from her mother, written in German during the war. Despite Elise’s best efforts to stave off her past, seven decades of secrets begin to unravel.

Based on true events, The Daughter’s Tale chronicles one of the most harrowing atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis during the war. Heart­breaking and immersive, it is a beautifully crafted family saga of love, survival, and redemption.

The Sound of Freedom by Kathy Kacer

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This was a wonderful young readers’ story about a family escaping Europe during WWII through an orchestra that was created to save Jewish musicians in the Holocaust. Based on true events, I’d recommend it for grades 5 and up.

Thank you for my e-copy!

Description

A Note From the Publisher

TWO JOURNEYS HOME by Kevin O’Connell

A while back, I read and reviewed BEYOND DERRYNANE by Kevin O’Connell, a story of an Irish family of “fallen aristocracy” in the 1700’s and how they lived with the courts of Europe when ousted from Ireland. I was thrilled that Mr. O’Connell reached out to offer me TWO JOURNEYS HOME, a sequel to DERRYNANE that continues Eileen’s story.

Here’s the overview:

It’s now the late-Summer of 1767. As the eagerly anticipated sequel to Beyond Derrynane opens, having spent almost six eventful years at the court of Maria Theresa, Eileen O’Connell has availed herself of a fortuitous opportunity to travel back to Ireland.

Her vivacious personality matched only by her arresting physical presence, Eileen returns to Derrynane this time not as a teenage widow but, rather, as one of the most recognised figures at the glittering Habsburg court. Before departing Ireland several months later she experiences a whirlwind romance, leading to a tumult of betrayal and conflict within the O’Connell clan. Once back in Vienna she unexpectedly finds her responsibilities as governess to the youngest Habsburg archduchess now linked to relations between France and Austria.

Abigail, rather than being eclipsed by her colourful younger sister, has instead ascended to the vaulted position of principal lady-in-waiting to Empress Maria Theresa. No longer “just a girl from deep in Kerry,” she is a beloved – and powerful – figure at court.

Hugh O’Connell, the youngest of the large family, leaves behind waning adolescence and a fleeting attraction to the youngest archduchess when he begins a military career in the Irish Brigade of the armies of Louis XV. But, perhaps as a foreshadowing of his adult life and career, more royal entanglement awaits him in France …

In the continuing saga, the O’Connells will confront intrigue, romance – even violence. Despite their innate wisdom, cunning and guile, what their futures hold remains to be seen.

With his uniquely-descriptive prose, Kevin O’Connell again deftly weaves threads of historical fact and fancy to create a colourful tapestry affording unique insights into the courts of eighteenth-century Catholic Europe as well as Protestant Ascendancy-ruled Ireland. Watch as the epic unfolds amongst the O’Connells, their friends and enemies, as the tumultuously-dangerous worlds in which they dwell continue to gradually – but inexorably – change.

Along with Beyond Derrynane, Two Journeys Home – and the two books to follow in The Derrynane Saga – comprise an enthralling series of historical novels, presenting a sweeping chronicle, set against the larger drama of Europe in the early stages of significant change, dramatising the roles, which have never before been treated in fiction, played by a small number of expatriate Irish Catholics of the fallen “Gaelic Aristocracy” at the courts of Catholic Europe, as well as relating their complex, at times dangerous, lives at home in an Ireland still controlled by the Sassenach.

In addition to Eileen’s, the books trace the largely-fictional lives of several other O’Connells of Derrynane, it is the tantalisingly few facts that are historically documented about them which provide the basic facts which give rise to the tale, into which strategic additions of numerous historical and fictional personalities and events mesh seamlessly.

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O’Connell is a fantastic storyteller. His prose is so rich and beautiful, it is a joy to read. The story is compelling and the characters are memorable — all the more so because they are based on real people. I must admit, I am Irish but I did not know about this piece of Irish history. It is fascinating, but historical fiction at the same time – my favorite kind of read: keeps my interest and I learn something new!

Thank you to Mr. O’Connell for my copy. Highly recommended for historical fiction lovers!

About the Author

Kevin O’Connell is a native of of New York City, descended from a young officer of what had – from 1690 to 1792 – been the Irish Brigade of the French army, believed to have arrived in French Canada sometime following the execution of Queen Marie Antoinette in October, 1793. At least one grandson subsequently returned to Ireland; Mr. O’Connell’s own grandparents arrived in New York in the early Twentieth Century. He holds both Irish and American citizenship. Given this heritage, he has been a serious student of Eighteenth Century Irish and European history for virtually all his life; one significant aspect of this has been a continuing scholarly as well as personal interest in the extended O’Connell family. As a result, in 2014, Mr. O’Connell began writing a series of historical fiction novels, now known as the Derrynane Saga. His first book, Beyond Derrynane: A Novel of Eighteenth Century Europe, was published by The Gortcullinane Press in July 2016, is in global circulation and has received a range of positive critical reviews, in the United States, the UK and in Europe. An alumnus of Don Bosco Preparatory School, he is a graduate of Providence College and Georgetown University Law Centre. For much of his forty-plus year long legal career, Mr. O’Connell has practiced international business transactional law, primarily involving direct-investment matters, throughout Asia, Europe and the Middle East O’Connell is married, has five children and ten grandchildren. He resides with his wife, Laurette, and their golden retriever, Katie, near Annapolis, Maryland, USA.

Rhys Bowen’s On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service

 

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If you read me, you know I love ALL Rhys Bowen’s novels, but I particularly enjoy the Royal Spyness Mysteries with Lady Georgiana and her adventures that are both exciting and funny. I never find this series boring as each installment is unique and engaging.

Here’s what is happening this time:

Description (via Net Galley)

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Poor Georgie! Will she ever be able to marry Darcy?? Will good friend Belinda ever think of anyone except herself and her enjoyment? Will Georgie’s mother act like a mother for once?
You’ll have to read it to find out!
I hope Ms. Bowen continues writing these novels for quite some time. She’s a bit of an Agatha Christie — you just never get tired of her!
Thank you for my review e-copy!

THE FINISHING SCHOOL by Joanna Goodman

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I had heard about this book via the blogosphere, but I couldn’t get it via my usual sources; thus I was thrilled when the author kindly sent me a copy of it!

Here’s the overview via Amazon:

In this suspenseful, provocative novel of friendship, secrets, and deceit, a successful writer returns to her elite Swiss boarding school to get to the bottom of a tragic accident that took place while she was a student twenty years earlier.

How far would you go to uncover the truth?

One spring night in 1998 the beautiful Cressida Strauss plunges from a fourth-floor balcony at the Lycée Internationale Suisse with catastrophic consequences. Loath to draw negative publicity to the school, a bastion of European wealth and glamour, officials quickly dismiss the incident as an accident, but questions remain: Was it a suicide attempt? Or was Cressida pushed? It was no secret that she had a selfish streak and had earned as many enemies as allies in her tenure at the school. For her best friend, scholarship student Kersti Kuusk, the lingering questions surrounding Cressida’s fall continue to nag long after she leaves the Lycée.

Kersti marries and becomes a bestselling writer, but never stops wondering about Cressida’s obsession with the Helvetian Society—a secret club banned years before their arrival at the school—and a pair of its members who were expelled. When Kersti is invited as a guest to the Lycée’s 100th Anniversary, she begins probing the cover-up, unearthing a frightening underbelly of lies and abuse at the prestigious establishment. And in one portentous moment, Kersti makes a decision that will connect her to Cressida forever and raise the stakes dangerously high in her own desire to solve the mystery and redeem her past.

An unputdownable read as clever as it is compelling, The Finishing School offers a riveting glimpse into a privileged, rarefied world in which nothing is as it appears.

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So – if you read me, you know that I love novels that take place in boarding schools and that are suspenseful. This storyline pulled me in from the start and kept me reading. It does toggle back and forth in time, from the girls’ time there as students to Kersti in modern life, which I know some readers don’t like. I did figure out most of the mystery well in advance of its big reveal, but I enjoyed it anyway. At first I thought I would give it to my 8th grader to read when I was done, but sexual content and abuse included makes me say this one is really for adults or older YA readers.

Quick to read and with a story that can haunt you, The Finishing School is a suspenseful summer find! Thank you for my review copy!

Find it on Amazon where I am an Associate:

HFVBTour for BEYOND DERRYNANE by Kevin O’Connell

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I’m so happy to be taking part in the Historical Fiction Blog Tour for DERRYNANE, a story of Ireland in the 1700’s and the start of a saga. It is a beautifully written and engaging story, and the start of a larger chronicle. Here’s the scoop:

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Beyond Derrynane by Kevin O’ Connell

Publication Date: July 7, 2016
Gortcullinane Press
eBook & Paperback; 348 Pages

Series: The Derrynane Saga, Volume 1
Genre: Historical Fiction

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Wed in an arranged marriage to a man nearly fifty years her senior, sixteen-year-old Eileen O’Connell goes from being one of five unmarried sisters to become the mistress of Ballyhar, the great estate of John O’Connor, one of the wealthiest and most influential men in Ireland.

When O’Connor dies suddenly seven months into their marriage, Eileen must decide whether she will fulfill her brother’s strategic goals for her family by marrying her late husband’s son.

Headstrong and outspoken, Eileen frustrates her brother’s wishes, as, through the auspices of her uncle, General Moritz O’Connell of the Imperial Austrian Army, she, along with her ebullient elder sister, Abigail, spend the ensuing richly-dramatic and eventful years at the court of the Empress Maria Theresa in Vienna.The sisters learn to navigate the complex and frequently contradictory ways of the court–making a place for themselves in a world far different from remote Derrynane. Together with the general, they experience a complex life at the pinnacle of the Hapsburg Empire.

Beyond Derrynane – and the three books to follow in The Derrynane Saga – will present a sweeping chronicle, set against the larger drama of Europe in the early stages of significant change, dramatising the roles, which have never before been treated in fiction, played by a small number of expatriate Irish Catholics of the fallen “Gaelic Aristocracy” (of which the O’Connells were counted as being amongst its few basically still-intact families) at the courts of Catholic Europe, as well as relating their complex, at times dangerous, lives at home in Protestant Ascendancy-ruled Ireland.

In addition to Eileen’s, the books trace the largely-fictional lives of several other O’Connells of Derrynane, it is the tantalisingly few facts that are historically documented about them which provide the basic threads around which the tale itself is woven, into which strategic additions of numerous historical and fictional personalities and events intertwine seamlessly.

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Me again — I loved the character of Eileen in this book. She was quite strong and independent. As someone who’s great grandparents came from Ireland, I thought I was fairly familiar with Irish history, but I really did not know about the expat Irish who went to court in Europe (full disclosure: I came from a fairly long line of farmers not aristocracy!). This book was so interesting and also well-written.

Thank you for making me part of the tour and for my review copy!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

About the Author

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Kevin O’Connell is a native of New York City and a descendant of a young officer of what had—from 1690 to 1792—been the Irish Brigade of the French army, believed to have arrived in French Canada following the execution of Queen Marie Antoinette in October of 1793. At least one grandson subsequently returned to Ireland and Mr. O’Connell’s own grandparents came to New York in the early twentieth century. He holds both Irish and American citizenship.

He is a graduate of Providence College and Georgetown University Law Centre.

For more than four decades, O’Connell has practiced international business transactional law, primarily involving direct-investment matters, throughout Asia (principally China), Europe, and the Middle East.

Mr. O’Connell has been a serious student of selected (especially the Eighteenth Century) periods of the history of Ireland for virtually all of his life; one significant aspect of this has been a continuing scholarly as well as personal interest in the extended O’Connell family at Derrynane, many even distant and long-ago members of which, especially the characters about whom he writes, he has “known” intimately since childhood.

The father of five children and grandfather of ten, he and his wife, Laurette, live with their golden retriever, Katie, near Annapolis, Maryland.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, January 16
Kick Off at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, January 17
Review at Broken Teepee

Wednesday, January 18
Review at Luxury Reading
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, January 19
Review at Books, Dreams, Life

Friday, January 20
Review at The Book Junkie Reads

Sunday, January 22
Review at Carole’s Ramblings

Monday, January 23
Review at Jorie Loves a Story

Tuesday, January 24
Review at Kinx’s Book Nook

Wednesday, January 25
Review at A Bookaholic Swede
Excerpt at A Literary Vacation

Friday, January 27
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Interview at Dianne Ascroft’s Blog

Monday, January 30
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog

Tuesday, January 31
Review at Book Nerd

THE SULTAN, THE VAMPYR, AND THE SOOTHSAYER by Lucille Turner — Guest Post included!

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I recently read Lucille Turner’s previous book, LA GIOCONDA, about Leonardo da Vinci, and loved it, so I was thrilled when she offered me a copy of her new book: The Sultan, the Vampyr, and the Soothsayer. This is a fascinating account of the historical character behind Dracula.

Here’s the overview:

1442: When Vlad Dracula arrives at the court of the Ottoman Sultan Murad II, his life is turned upside down. His father Dracul cannot protect him; he must battle his demons alone. And when the Sultan calls for the services of a soothsayer, even the shrewd teller of fortunes is unprepared for what he learns.

Meanwhile, the Ottoman Turks are advancing through the Balkans with Vienna in their sights and Constantinople, the Orthodox Greek capital, within their grasp. As Eastern Europe struggles against the tide of a Muslim advance it cannot counter, Western Christendom needs only one prize to overthrow its enemies.

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Ms. Turner is an excellent writer and also an excellent historian. I had to think that this book took hours of research as it was so incredibly detailed. I will admit to knowing next to nothing about life in eastern Europe in the 1400’s, and I found the story fascinating. I was particularly impressed with the level of visual detail included and how I could easily imagine the scenes.

I had some questions for Lucille regarding her novel and she kindly agreed to guest post with me today!

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–How much of this story is true?

True to the genre of historical fiction, the historical facts about the life of Vlad Dracula, his family and that of the Ottoman dynasty have been preserved in so far as they are known. Vlad Dracula and his younger brother, Radu, spent a number of years at the palace of the Ottoman Sultan Murad II, where they encountered the Sultan’s notorious son Mehmet. The unsustainable politics that forced the Dracul family into such a corner were certainly responsible for the tragedies the family as a whole was forced to endure. As for the parts of the book that touch upon the myth of the vampire, or strigoi, in Romania, these are based on documented evidence from the region itself, which has a cult of the dead on a par with Ancient Egypt. I drew on this folklore when I wrote the book, as well as on the stories of the Goths, and their close cousins the Getae, of Gets, who populated the Black Sea regions in ancient times. There I found a link to the vampire myth in the legend of the wolf-men of the Goths and the ‘twice-born’ of the Gets. It was these legends and myths, together with the local customs and traditions based around the undisputed existence of the Romanian strigoi that helped me re-imagine the connection between the Dracul family and their ‘vampire’ future.

— How did you research your novel?

The initial inspiration for The Sultan, the Vampyr and the Soothsayer came after I visited Istanbul in 2012. One of the sultanate’s most famous hostages was Vlad Dracula, whose family played a major role in defending Christendom from the Turks, although I didn’t know that at the time. What fascinated me about the remains of the Topkapı palace at Istanbul was the harem, which was a real labyrinth of courtyards and rooms. It struck me as a prison, which is effectively what it was, even though many historians stress the power that certain women had at one point in the seraglio of the Ottoman court. Nevertheless, it was a kind of female prison, and the female characters in my book, on the Ottoman side, are forced to battle against not only their keepers, the men, but also against their fellow inmates, the women — none of which makes for an easy life.

The second element of the book, the Romanian, or Rumani one, was suggested by a book on Romanian folklore, which I discovered in a French library. The book is out of print now; if that book was not the last copy in circulation, it was certainly one of the last. It was a documented exploration of the myth of the Romanian vampire, complete with bibliography. It gave me nightmares for weeks.

–How does your story differ from “Dracula” by Bram Stoker?

Bram Stoker’s novel was not really historical fiction. It was a novel inspired by a real historical character, Dracula. It took the myth of the vampire, which already existed and has existed since practically the dawn of civilisation, and made it into a sensation by adding a good dose of sex, fangs and blood. Certainly, there is a connection between all

of these elements and the vampire, or strigoi of myth (although I would seriously argue against the fangs), in that the strigoi was often said to revisit its relatives or loved ones first, during what is called its ‘second life’ — and if you substitute family ties for ‘blood’ ties, the connection makes even more sense. But The Sultan, the Vampyr and the Soothsayer is really historical fiction with an element of myth running through it. Because it is historical fiction, it delivers the bigger picture around the lives of the Dracul family, including their intriguing involvement with the Ottomans of Turkey and the Greeks of Constantinople. The novel’s principal themes emerge from this historical perspective.

 

THANK YOU, LUCILLE TURNER, FOR SHARING YOUR TIME AND YOUR TALENT WITH US TODAY!

OXBLOOD by Annalisa Grant

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Description via Net Galley —