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4 stars for Defensive Mindset: Contemporary Soccer Lesbian Romance

Defensive Mindset by Wendy Temple

Genre: Romantic Suspense, LGBT
Publisher: Ylva Publishing
Publication date: April 19, 2017
Book Description:

Star footballer and successful businesswoman Jessie Grainger has her life set, and doesn’t need anything getting in the way. That includes rebellious rival player Fran Docherty, a burnt-out barmaid with a past as messed up as her attitude. So when the clashing pair find themselves on the same Edinburgh women’s football team, how will they survive each other, let alone play to win?

About the Author:

Wendy Temple’s first love has always been sport. She kicked a football as soon as she could walk. At school, girls weren’t allowed to play football, so she played hockey instead. Hockey became her go-to sport for many years, but she played five a side football as often as she could/was permitted!

Wendy also loves music and from a young age got into punk. She remembers watching the Sex Pistols on the BBC news and her mum and granny being appalled. Wendy was ten and thought they were amazing.

Wendy believes that sport and a good family saved her from a life on the fringes of society. At age fifteen she was experimenting with drugs and skipping school. She failed all her exams apart from English. It was her love of sport that had her returning to school to re-sit exams and try again.

Upon leaving school Wendy studied physical and community education. After college she became a youth worker, running sports clubs, after school clubs and youth clubs. Working for an orthotics company inspired her to go to university to study Occupational Therapy – providing invaluable insight into physical and mental health, including addiction, which is one of the major themes in Defensive Mindset.

Wendy has spent most of her life in Edinburgh bar a couple of months in London. For her, Edinburgh is a city that can feel like a town: “It’s cosmopolitan, quaint and steeped in history, an ideal setting for any story,” says Wendy, which explains why Defensive Mindset is based in Portobello, Edinburgh!


Trigger Warning: Rape, Grief, Addiction


  • Hate to Love trope 
  • "Exoctic" sexy, brown skinned women as background characters
  • The word "lover" is used and I know some people hate the word
  • A+ Punk Rock History & Music. 
  • Yes, Sex Pistols Credit Cards are a real thing. 
  • It starts with a groping on the soccer/football park during a game
  • I seriously love how well the title works on different levels

Yes, I knew from the cover going in it was about soccer/football. Do I know anything about soccer? No. Do I care about soccer? While reading Defensive Mindset I did. It was rocky getting into it given how foreign sports are to me, but I love how it doesn't try to define the terms and dumb it down. Context clues and paying attention is enough to get it, and once you've got it, you're golden.

The games were exciting, the strategy fascinating, and the pep talks got me pumped.

Jessie is the Good Girl. I understand her inhibitions and always cheer for characters scoping out exits with a social clock ticking down. What I'm about to say next is probably backwards for most people but...She was so frustrating! She's naive, sheltered and wholesome. I mean, her childhood and her success is what every parent asks for yet I kept thinking how fucking dull and judgemental she is and hating it.

"Seriously, that white shirt of yours saw more action in the thirty minutes Fran wore it than in a lifetime with you."

The best moment of realization isn't acknowledged verbally and I hope most people pick up on it. Jessie complained and whined how it wasn't fair that Fran was treated differently. In the beginning. Once she got over herself, her prejudices, and knew more about Fran, Jessie was defending her. Pointing how hard she had to work just to be functional like most people.

"Life was shocking. The truth was shocking. And Jessie needed to hear it in all its gutter glory."

Fran's destructive thoughts and the relief from smoking is so spot on. I know smoking is terrible, I've smoked for 8 years and have gone 72 days without a cig. Everyone asked why I smoked but none of them understood when I tried to explain. I have anxiety, depression, and an abusive past to deal with. I've been on medication for the past year and couldn't have even considered quitting smoking without that and the other progress I've made.

"The first drag burned the back of her throat before leaving a soothing sensation that radiated from her lungs throughout her body as she exhaled."

While Jessie is uncomfortable with Fran's smoking and how she describes her addiction to drugs, everything is truthful and the overall picture is one of caution.

"She fucking left me with a lifetime of chasing shadows and highs."

I was pleasantly surprised to find there was still a third of the book left at the point most romance novels would've wrapped it up.

I find it frustrating when authors build up so much and finish with a shallow hollow ending. If you convince me for SO many pages how they're relationship will never work, why the hell would I change my mind quickly?

Thankfully, Defensive Mindset portrays Fran as a whole person with real issues that cannot be shaken off with a good fuck. Only gimmicks and games work like that. When faced with the future and commitment and being open, Fran's reaction is realistic. Making her accept that escalation after the Big Moment between would be fake.

Instead, Fran and Jessie are allowed to maneuver freely and make further progress. At the end, I KNOW how much I love them and can root for them, how assured their relationship is. I can't describe it better without major spoilers but Wendy Temple has gained a huge fan with this turn of events. 

It doesn't matter if you don't know jack about soccer, or that you call it soccer. Want a grown-ass romance between two adult women from different sides of the field and want Hate to Love? Get Defensive Mindset. 

Another win for Ylva Publishing! You can check out more of their books here. I've read and loved all the books by Emily O’Beirne, which are YA Contemporary in Australia.

Don't forget to come back next Tuesday, the 30th for my review of Under Parr by Andrea Bramhall, another W/W romance published by Ylva.

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2 Dress & a Facemask: My Attempt at Pampering Reviews!

Brooke Banks | 12:00 AM | | | | | Please comment!

Back with more product reviews! More face care and I'm stepping out of my comfort zone with dresses too. I haven't owned a dress since I was able to pick my own clothes. Until now. But first....

Dead Sea Collagen Anti Aging Facial Mask By iBeautyLabs

#iBeautyLabs #facemask #Beautytips #Lookyounger #Beautifulskin #Facemask #DeadSeaMask

About the product: 

5 masks per pack 

  • DEEPLY MOISTURIZING COLLAGEN AND DEAD SEA MINERALS AND VITAMINS BLEND: The iBeautyLabs Dead Sea collagen mask is made of finest quality, 100% safe and extremely effective bio ingredients which deeply hydrate and nourish the skin. In addition, the 98% absorption rate assures maximum results in minimum time.
  • MINIMIZE PORES, FIRM AND REJUVENATE YOUR SKIN: This Dead Sea spa moisturizing face mask can properly hydrate your skin, as well as deeply cleanse and detoxify it, leaving it silky smooth and glowing. What is more, it can tone and firm your skin, helping you erase aging signs and blemishes including wrinkles, fine lines, acne and pimples.
  • NO MORE MESSY, RUNNY, INEFFECTIVE CLAY MASKS FOR YOU: Stop wasting money and time using cheaply made clay and mud masks! This Dead Sea and collagen anti-aging, skin care facial mask can be used by beauty experts, professionals and women who like to take proper care of themselves. The high quality and the low cost give you the chance to indulge yourself to the professional beauty care at the comfort of your own home in 20 minutes, eliminating the need to visit beauty salons!
  • THE PERFECT GIFT FOR EVERY WOMAN: No matter what your age or your skin type is, this Dead Sea minerals moisturizing face mask is ideal for you! Apart from making it yours, you can also offer it as a gift to a friend, a family member or a colleague. In addition, the pack of 5 allows you to organize a gathering and spend the afternoon taking care of yourself. Last but not least, the individual packs allow you to effortlessly carry your beauty care mask anywhere you go!
  • 100% RISK FREE PURCHASE: Keeping you satisfied and providing you with the friendliest customer service is our number one goal. This is why we stand 100% behind our products, assuring you that making this collagen Dead Sea spa skin care facial mask yours is entirely risk free.

I agree with all those check marks!

I don't have pictures of myself to put up, because well, I hate my appearance and would prefer to stay anonymous. I really hope you believe me when I say how huge my pores are and how this mask worked to shrink their appearance. I did it on my Sunday night before returning to work and it lasted until my Wednesday night when I did it again. 

I was so worried about having to lay down and apply it so it doesn't slip off. I'm always doing something at home. There's too much to do to lay around. Having to put it in the fridge and being forced to lay down really helped me relax and feel pampered. If you have trouble making yourself stop and take a break, these are a great idea!

The directions suggest doing it 3 times a week and I totally see that working, but only twice might be necessary because it's so effective. I was able to get a deal on it for my first buy and review it, but after that I'll be paying regular price of $25 bucks a box for 5 masks. It equals out to each mask being worth $5 and I think it's totally worth it. I just don't know if I can spare that much money for a luxury so consistently.

I WILL be ordering it whenever I can though and highly recommend everyone with large pores and uneven skin to try it out. It's only sale for $15 right now and it's just a steal! 

Klicky Women's V Neck Lace Vintage Maxi Dress with Cap Sleeve

Free Shipping for Prime Members & Free Return on some sizes and colors

Size Chart:

  • Small:Bust:33-34",Waist:25-26",Length:52"
  • Medium:Bust:35-36",Waist:26-27",Length:53"
  • Large:Bust:36-37",Waist:28-29",Length:54"
  • X-Large:Bust:38-39",Waist:29-30",Length:55"
  • XX-Large:Bust:40-41",Waist:31-32",Length:56"
  • XXX-Large:Bust:42-43",Waist:33-34",Length:57"

I fell in love with this dress when I saw it. Badly enough that I just had to have it. Do I own a dress? No. Do I need a dress? No. But so pretty! I FELT so pretty.

It felt AMAZING. I love this fabric and the lace pattern. It was swish-y and sleek and comfortable.

The only problem is I've gotten bigger. I swear I've always been a 2x, and I've ordered up to a 3x for the dress and yet...It was tight around my chest and arms. My boobs just look ridiculous! The side stitching didn't hold up to my expansion, though the rips are minor.

I hope it's just having to size up twice for this particular  brand and dress. *crosses fingers* I'm sure by the time I actually need to wear it, I'll have gone back to my typical size. I get back down only so far in sizes before going belly up. (heh)

They do have a slightly different style that might be better for us top-heavy apples.

Knee Length Patchwork Women Dress Elegant Tunic Female Work Dress Plus Size M- 4XL Bodycon Pencil Dress Vestidos

Free Shipping for Prime Members & Free Return on some sizes and colors

This one looked cute, has plus sizes and I figured if I'm going to try dresses I should try something I can wear to work. Something that will make me feel cute and professional.

Too bad it didn't fit! This time I ordered a 4XL and I swear to you, these sizes just aren't right. I could theoretically get in the dress, but my chest and arms were about to burst through like the Hulk. It was so tight and uncomfortable, I peeled it off and returned it right away.

There's only a couple of other reviews right now, and they all agree it runs incredibly small. Here I was thinking two sizes up would be just fine...

Those pictures with the thread coming out? All right after I took it out of the package and before I tried it on. I can't attest to how long the dress will last but thought ya'll should know.

If you're willing to try it, pay very close attention to the measurements and then give MORE leeway for it's smallness.

So far, I've struck gold with a facemask and struck out with two dresses. Oh well, can't win 'em all.

That's what I've been trying out for the last week. Have you tried anything new lately or have anything you're anxious to try? Let me know below!

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The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich: M/M YA Romance with Excerpt & Giveaway

The Love Interest

by Cale Dietrich
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQIA
 photo addtogoodreadssmall_zpsa2a6cf28.png photo B6096376-6C81-4465-8935-CE890C777EB9-1855-000001A1E900B890_zps5affbed6.jpg


There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Inter-ests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable se-crets.

Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: The brood-ing, dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boywill pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have tobe– whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.


All four walls of my cell are mirrors.

The light on the ceiling flashes red and pinpricks of crimson bounce around the room. Red, huh? That’s a bit sudden, seeing as the last examination was only a couple of weeks ago. I grin at the light, and my smile is reflected by the endless versions of myself that surround me. The light flashes again.

I drop into a push-up position. The concrete floor is so cold my hands go numb then start to burn. Up, down. Up, down. A strand of mousy-brown hair falls over my eyes. That color will be the first thing they change about me.

If I’m chosen, that is.

If I’m good enough, that is.

On flash nine I jump to my feet. Gritting my teeth, I grab my shirt and pull it up and over my head. The voice of the LIC’s events coordinator rings through my mind: When you’re examined, be proud to display the bodies you’ve worked so hard to create. You’re all incredibly beautiful young men, and you should relish the chance to show everyone how handsome you are.

I scrunch the shirt in my hands for a second—just a second—crushing it beneath my grip. Adrenaline pumps through my torso and my arms, making them feel electric. I toss the shirt into the corner of the room, then lower my eyes and force myself to do what they want me to do every morning: look at the boy/man/whatever I’ve become.

The countless hours I’ve spent working out have obviously had an impact. Still, I’m far from perfect. I mean, I have abs, which took forever to show, and I’m proud of my arms. But my skin is stormtrooper white, I have a mole on my left hip I’m really self-conscious about, and my chest is getting hairy. When did that happen? I touch my now-hairy chest. Oh great, another thing to stress about. I wish I could tell myself that it’s nothing, that they’ll fix whatever flaws I have if I’m chosen, but I can’t. Another boy was once dismissed because they said his nose was unpleasant. If an oddly shaped nose is enough to get rejected, I’m sure my pale, weirdly hairy body isn’t far behind.

I don’t linger on my face. It’s not hideous or anything, it’s just kind of boring. Plus, it’s destined to be changed. I close my eyes and try to get rid of the depressing thought. To make it through, I need to be positive.

I’ve worked frigging hard on my body, though. I open my eyes, then flex my biceps and smile. I’ve definitely bulked up since the last examination, and I hope I’m not too big to be a Nice. All the superfun and superrigorous personality testing they make us do here has shown that Nice is the disposition for me. But they’ve made a mistake. Me, a Nice? Yeah, right. Sure, I try to be friendly and I don’t like hurting people’s feelings, but that doesn’t mean I’m a Disney prince.

The light flashes again. I pull my trousers down, leaving me dressed only in sky-blue trunks. As I throw the pants away, my door hisses and slides open. I wince and raise a hand, my forearm protecting my eyes from the burning whiteness of the hallway.

I walk outside and stop in front of my door. The others are already standing in front of their cells. The floor of this hallway is white concrete, but the walls and ceiling are long, smooth mirrors.

Dozens of guys are visible, all dressed in the same trunks as I am. Most are busy staring at themselves, fixing their hair, practicing their smiles, or flexing their biceps, but a few are looking from side to side, sizing up the competition. Those are the threats.

We don’t talk.

We know better than that.

“Turn,” booms a tinny voice.

With a shuffling sound, we turn to the left and stare down the hallway. In front of me is a guy so ridiculously buff I instantly lose all pride I have in my body and seriously wonder why I even try. His back is muscles on muscles on muscles. How does he even work those muscles out? Extremely complicated yoga?

It turns out the back belongs to a not-so-complicated guy named Robert. He says that name was given to him by his birth parents, but that’s a huge lie. We aren’t the result of loving families: we were taken, probably as infants, from families that couldn’t care for us. Some people think our parents were tricked into giving us up, believing we were going to a family that wanted us. Others think they sold us to the LIC. I lean toward the former because the thought is comforting, and to me, that’s more important than the truth.

Unlike Robert, all I have is a number: 412.

Robert’s a Bad for sure. It’s evident in the confidence-killing meatiness of his back and in the uneven tribal tattoo that covers his right shoulder. Even the people in charge here must think he’s 100 percent Bad, as someone borderline like me would never get permission to destroy his so-called wholesome image as he’s done. He catches me looking and his top lip curls into a snarl.

“You may now proceed to the main hall.”

My feet plod on the icy concrete as we walk down the hall. Moving slowly, we pass through a set of frosted-glass doors into a large rectangular room. There are no windows, so the only light comes from the long fluorescent tubes that run along the roof. The light is just a touch too bright; the dial turned a fraction too far.

At the front of the room is a huge screen. Beside it is the events coordinator, a slim man wearing a tailored black shirt tucked into dark-gray slacks. Usually he’s the pinnacle of male grooming, but today his short hair is messy, spiking up in uneven tufts, and his pants are slightly creased.

“Hey, guys,” he says. “I know you weren’t expecting an examination today, and I’m super sorry about making you do this, but it’s kind of an emergency. A particularly important young woman has shown signs that she’s ready to select a partner, so two of you have to be sent in right away. We’re looking for a boy-next-door Nice and a mysterious, tortured-soul Bad.”

Aren’t they always?

“Five Nices and five Bads from this floor have been identified as a potential match, so, obviously, they’ll be examined. And guys, I know this test is late notice, but I’m your pal, so you can trust me when I say that if your number is on the screen, it’s there for a reason. It means our complex compatibility algorithm has concluded that she will fall for you if you spend time with her. How cool is that? Now, let’s see who made it to the next round.”

The screen flashes and the numbers appear. I scan the list, my heart racing. Come on …


My number is there, in the very middle. Thank you, complex compatibility algorithm! I take back all the times I called you rigged. It’s been over a year since my number last appeared, and in that time I’ve totally committed myself to being the perfect Nice. Now I’ll find out if that’s enough to succeed, or if I’m destined to die before I’m even given a chance to fight for my life.

“Nices go through the door to the left, Bads to the right. If you’re not sure what your disposition is, that’s fine, the color of your number will tell you. Nices are blue, Bads are red.”

My number is blue, confirming my suspicions: they think I’m a Nice. I quickly glance at the other chosen guys. I ignore the Bads, because they never pick two Love Interests from the same floor, so these Bads will never be anything to me. The Nices all have light hair and boyish faces. She has a type. Three of them are about my age, but the one directly in front of me is much younger, probably eleven or twelve. He has no chance of passing this examination, but is going to be forced through it anyway.

I clench my hands into fists. He shouldn’t be here. I can’t say anything now, because if I do we’ll both be punished, but if I fail the examination I’m going to take him aside and make sure he knows I care about him. The boy shuffles toward the doorway. I wait for a second, because Nices don’t lead, then I join the line. The glass panes separate, revealing a square room. We enter.

In the doorway I tense. At the back of the room, standing still, is a Stalker. I’ve seen one in person only a few times, but fleeting encounters have been enough to give me nightmares.

It’s a tall robot, standing at around eight feet, with a hulking, all-black body. That’s not the worst part, though; that honor goes to its head, which looks like a mannequin’s: no eyes, no nostrils, lips pursed. Right now, the body is totally black, which means it’s currently dormant. My heartbeat steadies. It can’t move unless its lights are on, so this one isn’t here to hurt anyone. It’s here to keep us in line, and to remind us what will come after us if we disobey.

The door at the back of the room opens, and a short, round man in a striped navy button-down and black slacks enters. They’d kill me if I looked like that. A stethoscope hangs over his shoulders.

He hooks the stethoscope into his ears, then walks up to the first boy, who is flexing his biceps. The doctor ignores the showboating and presses the metal end of the stethoscope against the boy’s chest. After a few moments, the doctor switches the stethoscope for a tape measure and measures the boy’s torso. I was the last to enter this room, so I’m at the end of the line. Now I feel like that was a mistake. What if they find the perfect Love Interest before they get to me?

As I wait my turn, I stand with my back straight and my fists clenched. After what feels like forever, the doctor beckons the boy in front of me forward. The kid takes a tentative step toward the doctor, then raises his hands. He’s so small. The doctor narrows his eyes, and the boy lets out a little sob that breaks my heart.

“Runt,” says the doctor. “Get out of here. Next.”

The kid scurries away. I step forward, taking his place, and the doctor presses the end of the stethoscope onto my chest. The metal is freezing, but I keep my face expressionless. Still, I can’t control my heartbeat, so he must know I’m feeling something, even if he doesn’t know what it is. He’ll probably put it down to nerves, and that’s partially true, but if I’ve done my job right he’ll never suspect that I’m feeling frustration or maybe even anger at the way they’re treating the kid. A Nice would never feel such unsavory things.

He pulls the stethoscope away. “Arms up.”

I raise my arms over my head. He leans in close and wraps the tape measure around my chest and pulls it tight, pinching my skin. I grit my teeth. He smells like cinnamon candy and body odor.

He takes a step back. “Flex.”

I tilt my arms back, arch my spine, and flex my biceps as hard as I possibly can.

As he wraps the tape around my right bicep I notice there’s a blue line drawn on the measure. It must be to make sure I’m not too big. Bads can be as buff as they want, the bigger the better, actually. For a Nice, the aim of the game is lean. I need to look friendly and cute, but when I take my shirt off I need to be ripped. Just in an approachable way that doesn’t look like I work out much. Like these muscles happened accidentally, the result of playing outside with a golden Labrador or good genes or something like that.

My bicep falls within the acceptable bracket, so he moves across and checks my left.

“Good job,” he says as he drops the tape measure. My mouth falls open an inch before I catch it. I’ve never been complimented by a doctor. Not even once. “Now tense.” He places his palm on my stomach and presses. I feel my own firmness against his skin. He pulls his hand away and nods at the hair that covers my chest. “That’ll need to be fixed. Nices can’t be hairy. But other than that, your body is in excellent condition. Great work.”

I want to jump up and down, or pump my fist, or do something to show how freaking fantastic his words have made me feel, but I remain still.

He turns to the guard. “This one and that one—” He tilts his head toward the boy at the front of the line. In the corner of my vision, I see him turn and look at me, sizing me up. I keep my attention focused on the guards, as if not looking at him will wipe him from existence. “—can advance. The others aren’t ready.”

I crack and turn to face my competition. He’s got hazel eyes, and his nose and shoulders are covered in freckles. He looks like an average nerdy-in-a-hot-way Nice.

For my sake I hope that’s all he is.

“You first,” I say with a gesture toward the door.

When he thinks they aren’t watching, he narrows his eyes at me. “How kind of you.”

I blink, startled. I didn’t even think that he might be offended by the offer. Obviously he thinks I was being a smartass or something, but I really wasn’t, it was just instinct.

“Sorry,” I say. “I didn’t mean to…”

The door opens. He sneers one last time, then steps through.

Suddenly the room is eerily quiet. So this is it. My interrogation, also known as my best shot at getting out of here this year. I exhale. I know I’m as prepared as it’s possible to be, but I can’t shake the feeling that my best efforts aren’t enough, and that I’m doomed to spend my whole life here. The thought makes me shiver.

After an eternity, the door slides open. I gulp, then step forward. The door whooshes closed behind me.

The room is plain, the walls smooth and featureless. Sitting at a stainless steel table is a trim man with rigidly perfect posture and solid gray hair. Despite his hair color, his eyes are bright and his face is mostly wrinkle-free, so pinning his exact age is difficult. I’d guess late thirties or early forties.

He gestures toward the seat. “Congratulations on making it this far. My name is Rodger Craike, and I’m the manager of the Love Interest Compound. You will call me Mr. Craike or sir, nothing else.”

He picks up a tablet and starts scrolling. I sit and peer at the screen. Huh. It’s filled with reports from my monthly integration exams. Because the LIC is so isolated, we have to take classes to keep up with pop culture, and each month we’re quizzed to make sure we’re keeping up to date. It’s usually about big movies, popular TV shows, and hit songs, which we are required to know by heart in case of karaoke or sing-alongs. For Bads and select Nices, sports are included, but I don’t have to learn about that because they decided I’m more of a nerdy-boy-next-door type. Thank goodness. Anyway, we do all this so we can “integrate seamlessly” with the real world when the time comes. Their words, not mine. I know my test scores are good, but he’s frowning at them like I failed every single one. Why?

“I should thank you, sir,” I say, trying to draw his attention away from whatever is wrong with my scores. He keeps reading. “For giving me the gym equipment and the food. I wouldn’t look this way without you.”

“We provide the equipment, you do the work.” His eyes flick down over my body. “And you’ve done an exceptional job. You’d be surprised how many Nices ruin their bodies by making themselves too big. But you understand what it means to be Nice, don’t you?”

I shrug my shoulders. “I hope so.”

He tilts his head back and laughs. Recovering, he leans forward. “Maybe, after all this time, we’ve found a genuinely nice guy.”

Or someone smart enough to know how to play the system.

“Enough pleasantries. As the manager of the LIC, it’s my job to make sure every Love Interest is the right man or woman for the job. So I’m going to ask you a few questions to see how well you’ve applied yourself to your time here. Are you ready to begin?”

I nod.

“What disposition are you?” he asks.


“Why do you think that?”

“All the tests told me that’s what I am.”

“You think they made a mistake?”


“No, it’s not that,” I say. “It just feels weird to call myself Nice; it seems boastful. I’m not perfect by any means, but I think I’m a nice person. Plus, I’m so obviously not Bad. I’m good at making people laugh, not manipulating or intimidating them.”

“Some people would say making someone laugh is manipulating them.”

“Some people,” I say, “would say if laughter is a manipulation it’s the best one there is. It makes people feel good. Who cares how that end is achieved?”

He looks down and starts typing something on his tablet. The room fills with the sound of his fingertips hitting the screen. I breathe in through my nostrils, then exhale slowly.

Finally, he lowers the tablet and rests it on the table. “A lot of Nices have told me they’d give their life to save their rival if they could. Would you be willing to do that?”

I look down at my hands. The true answer to this question is the reason I know I’m not a genuine Nice: I’m not ready to die, and I’m not willing to give up my life for anyone else. I’ve always known that if I made it out of the LIC I’d fight as hard as I could to make sure I got the girl and survived. It’s what I hate about myself the most.

I meet his stare. “I would be willing to do that. Sacrifice myself, I mean. I’d do it in a heartbeat.”

He grins. “You know what I think? I think you’re a great actor. I know you’re lying, yet I find myself believing you. It’s truly a rare gift.”

I tense, and it spreads through my entire body, with cold dread creeping down from my cheeks to dwell in the cords of my shoulders. He knows.

“Oh, don’t look so scared; it’s a good thing. You’re going to be a spy, after all, so being able to act is one of the most valuable skills you could have. And you clearly are a natural liar. But I’m not interested in an actor who needs to memorize lines; you need to be able to improvise. So answer these questions with the first thought that enters your mind. If you pause, you’ll fail. Now, why do you think your Chosen should pick you over your rival?”

“I don’t. I just hope she does.”

In his eyes, I see him ticking the boxes.

Modest? Check.

Humble? Check.

“Elaborate on that,” he says.

“I want her to pick whoever will make her the happiest. And if she’s a better fit with him, I’ll gladly accept my fate.”

A total pushover? Check plus.

I imagine myself standing naked in a massive steel room: the incinerator. Feeling the cold dry air on my skin, the metal beneath my feet. The split second of agony before the roaring orange flames turn me into ash. Stop thinking about that. Focus!

“There must be some good things about you,” he says. “Tell me about them.”

“I’m a good listener. And I can be funny sometimes, I guess.”

“If you caught your Chosen kissing your rival, what would you do?”

I lower my eyes and bring on the tears. When I feel them behind my eyelids I look up at him, my entire body radiating hurt. I stare at him for a moment, drop my mouth open a fraction, then turn my head away.

“I’d look at her like that. Then I’d walk away. Next time I saw her she’d probably apologize if I were still in the running, so I’d tell her she doesn’t ever have to explain herself to me, and that I only responded in that manner because I love her so damn much. I’d tell her I’m glad it hurts because it proves how much I care.”

“Would you fight for her?”

“If I had to, yes.”

“When will you first try to kiss her?”

“I won’t. I’ll wait until she kisses me. But I’ll kiss her on the cheek after our first date.”

“What would you do if she texted you in the middle of the night and said she was lonely?”

“I’d drop everything and run to her as fast as possible. I’ll be there for her whenever she needs me. No matter what.”

“Now, I have one last question, and in many ways, it’s the most important one, so think for a second before answering. If you get it wrong, you’ll be dismissed.”

I wipe my sweaty palms on my legs. This is it. One last question.

“I’m ready,” I say.

“Do you think you will fall in love with her?”

I smile, because I know the answer, and that means I’m finally getting out of the LIC. There’s no way I can get it wrong, because the answer to this question has been drilled into me every single day I’ve been here.

“It doesn’t matter,” I say. “She’s the hero of this story, so how I feel is irrelevant.”

He leans back on his chair and grins.


Copyright © 2017 by Cale Dietrich

Cale Dietrich is a YA devotee, lifelong gamer, and tragic pop punk enthusiast. He was born in Perth, grew upon the Gold Coast, and now lives in Brisbane, Aus-tralia. The Love Interest is his first novel.

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Blog Tour Twofer: Contemporary Romance Addition with Danced Close & Intoxicating

Brooke Banks | 12:00 AM | | | | | | | | | 3 Comments

I'm so happy to be apart of this tour! This one is a two-fer, including Intoxicating by Heather Heyford and Danced Closed by Annabeth Albert. My main focus is going to be Danced Closed, with an excerpt and review.

First up though is the spotlight on Intoxicating....

Intoxicating: An Oregon Wine Country Romance #2

By Heather Heyford
Contemporary Romance (M/F)

In the second book of Heather Heyford’s series, set in Oregon’s wine country, having a crush takes on a whole new meaning when a lady sommelier teams up with the hottie from her high school days . . .

The Girl Most Likely

. . . to be a waitress at her hometown café. That’s what Clarkston’s high school yearbook said about Poppy Springer ten years ago and that’s where the beauty queen is today. But that’s about to change now that Poppy has been offered a position as a lady sommelier at a cutting-edge new restaurant. Only Poppy has an embarrassing secret that could keep her from landing her dream job. A secret her high school crush seems determined to help her with . . .

The Man Most Wanted

In high school, Heath Sinclair may have been voted most likely to blow something up, but these days the sexy science prodigy is a self-made success story with his popular microbrewery and chiseled good looks. So why is Clarkston’s most-eligible man so hell-bent on helping Poppy prove that she is more than her reputation? Could it be the enigmatic bachelor has a hankering for the girl who got away?

About the Author: 

Heather Heyford is the author of contemporary romances set in the wine country. See what inspires her writing on her many Pinterest boards, read more about her on HeatherHeyford.com, and connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.

Danced Close: Portland Heart #6

by Annabeth Albert
Contemporary romance (M/F)

Portland, Oregon, is one of the hottest cities in America. Just ask all the hard-working men sweating it up behind the counters of the restaurants, boutiques, and cafés all over town . . .

Newly clean and sober, Todd’s taken a shine to his job at Portland’s most talked about bakery. It’s not just the delicious desserts they sell, but the tasty treats who keep walking through the door. That certainly includes Kendall Rose, a wedding planner with eyes the color of brown sugar and skin to match. Todd doesn’t try to hide his attraction to Kendall’s elegant confidence and unique style, even as he worries about exposing the secrets of his past.

For Kendall, the attention is just part of the anything-goes Portland he’s grown to love. But he’s still looking for that special someone who will embrace all of him—including his gender fluidity. So he takes a chance and asks Todd to be his partner in a dance class leading to a fundraiser. When the music starts and he takes Todd in his arms, Kendall is shocked at how good it feels. Turns out taking the lead for once isn’t a mistake. In fact, it might be time to take the next step and follow his heart . .

I could have kissed him right then for that reaction. He didn’t go all dude bro about the prospect of being led by someone wearing high heels or get embarrassed that I owned said shoes.

“Can I ask something?” he asked after a few more turns. He had that serious look again, but he’d been so cool so far, I was more than willing to risk some discomfort.


“Your lips . . . they’re so shiny . . . You do a gloss, right? Ever do color?”

His eyes were indeed locked right on my mouth. I got a little thrill knowing that he thought about my mouth.

“I’ve been known to.” At this point, it had been enough years that I wasn’t going to apologize for the contents of my makeup case. But unlike when a lot of people asked me about it, I didn’t get all defen- sive with Todd, who seemed more . . . thoughtful in his curiosity than some. “Why? Would you like that next week?”

He was silent a long moment, gnawing on his own lip. I was seri- ously going to have to get the guy some balm the way he abused the poor things. “Yeah, I think I might.” He sounded a bit surprised at himself, giving me a shy smile.

About the Author: 

Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer. Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two toddlers.

This is my first Portland Heat book and I'm sold! This is another series that follows individual couples, and each reads as a standalone.

  • I quickly fell in love with Kendall and Todd, together and apart.
  • Love switching perspectives between them.
  • The dealing with addiction and meetings rings true as someone who's been around recovering addicts.
  • Love how it deals with pronouns, gender roles, misogyny, and discrimination within the rainbow community.
  • Love how Todd starts catching himself with gendered thinking and speech.
  • Love how Kendall has to catch himself about assumptions with food and money.
  • There is no dramatic meet-cute for them because they meet through work, which I appreciate as more realistic and endearing.
  • They start slowly physically, before ramping up to hot, perfect, explicit sex scenes. Don't worry, they don't forget the sweet, the cuddling, and the fun along the way.
  • There is the commutative failure to sow drama and discontent between them, so they can come together stronger in the end.
  • Things do go predictably, but that's a feature rather than a bug.

Absolutely perfect for contemporary romance fans looking for m/m couple and progressiveness.

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