Once a Charmer

Once a Charmer

by Sharla Lovelace

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Overview

Once a Charmer by Sharla Lovelace

Charmed, Texas, is a close-knit small town where people’s dreams of love can come true. That’s not to say that some people aren’t still waiting, and dreaming . . .
 
By day, Allie Greene stays busy with her family diner, and keeping tabs on her teenage daughter. What’s really exhausting Allie, however, are the nights. Not that she minds Bash Anderson unbuttoning her naughty desires—if only in her dreams. But what was he doing there at all? He’s her best friend, and a father figure to her girl. Talk about awkward. Talk about OMG-heat-and-fireworks that are flipping fifteen years of normal upside down. And now, when Allie needs him as a friend more than ever, logic doesn’t stand a chance against his lips and irresistible deep-blue eyes . . .
 
Sure, Bash has fantasized about Allie, but there’s no way he’d act on it. She and her daughter are the closest thing to family he’s ever known. With the exception of one drunken moment fifteen years ago, he and Allie have stayed on this side of the line—until that impulsive kiss of hers knocked him on his butt. That’s just one hurdle. Not only does Allie need Bash’s help to save her diner, but his apiary is in trouble, too. To stir the pot further, they’ve been roped into vying for the town’s Honey King and Queen contest—a sweet event that’s making them closer than ever. Something’s bound to come undone. Bash just hopes it’s not the friendship he’s worked so hard to hold on to.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781516101276
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 10/17/2017
Series: Charmed in Texas Series , #3
Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 13,683
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Sharla Lovelace is the bestselling, award-winning author of sexy small-town love stories. Being a Texas girl through and through, she’s proud to say she lives in Southeast Texas with her retired husband, a tricked-out golf cart, and two crazy dogs. She is the author of five stand-alone novels including the bestselling Don’t Let Go, the exciting Heart Of The Storm series, and the fun and sexy new Charmed in Texas series.  For more about Sharla's books, visit www.sharlalovelace.com, and keep up with all her new book releases easily by subscribing to her newsletter.  She loves keeping up with her readers, and you can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as @sharlalovelace.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

"Damn it, Bash, get out of my head."

It wasn't the first time I'd muttered that sentence over my travel mug lately on the way to the diner, but it was the first time it had made me late.

Actually, my teenaged daughter was the culprit on that one, attempting a sick day and dragging the morning out, but the not hearing my alarm part was on me. Or on Bash. My best friend. My really hot best friend that I couldn't quit having very vivid dreams about.

Yes.

Those kinds of dreams.

About Sebastian Anderson doing things to me I had no business thinking about him doing. Thoughts you aren't supposed to have about someone who's been your rock, your buddy, your confidante, and has had your back for everything for fifteen years. Until a few months ago, when I stupidly showed my hand in a moment of weakness. A really old, never-supposed-to-be-seen-again hand that came out waving during a crisis and now spent the twilight hours slapping me silly with fantasies. Before leaving me tossing and turning in frustration until the alarm went off. Too many nights of that, and the alarm ceases to matter.

I rolled my head on my shoulders as I walked through the front doors of the Blue Banana Grille, shaking off all the rest. I couldn't think any more about sex dreams or Bash Anderson. This mattered right now, whatever was going on here. My diner. My legacy, passed to me by my father, and maybe one day to my daughter, Angel. After finishing high school, college, medical school, and joining the Peace Corp and saving the world. Maybe. I didn't really see her as wanting to come run a small-town diner in Charmed, Texas, after all that excitement, but stranger things had happened.

Assuming she got out of her phone long enough to finish high school and quit trying to play hooky.

I smiled at Lanie McKane, Nick's wife, who looked up from a crossword puzzle and cup of coffee to wave and mouth a Hey, Allie! at me. Nick McKane was my star head chef, and had patrons coming day after day to devour his creations. He was also easy on the eyes for most of the female population, so while his wife was most likely just waiting for him to take a break, I had a feeling that she also liked making an appearance now and then. I didn't blame her. Running a diner, I'd seen almost everything at one time or another, and if there was one thing I knew for sure, it was that women can't be trusted.

No, I wasn't selling out my people. I just called things as I saw them. And most of the women in this town had sold me out a long time ago.

I nodded at a few of my regulars that came several times a week for Nick's breakfast specials, and I picked up old Mr. Wilson's napkin that had fallen from his lap for probably the twelfth time. Our ex-mayor, Dean Crestwell, sat by the window on the far end eating his eggs like he wanted to hide under his jacket and beard. Sully Hart, the owner of the Lucky Charm, sat three tables away facing the other direction reading a newspaper. If I had my guess, one of them faced those directions on purpose to avoid looking at each other. My every-morning-at-the- counter-for-coffee old salts were already perched on their stools, flannel shirts tucked in, and white socks peering out from underneath trousers that were a little too short.

I glanced to my right, and bam.

Kick to the belly with all the tingling feels, as a certain pair of major blue eyes looked my way and did a little head nod as Bash sat talking to another man. Shit! Instantly, I was transported back a few hours to a particularly lusty dream where those same eyes were heated and dark and looking up at me from —

"Oh my God," I said under my breath, turning away immediately, my hand going directly to my messy bun — for what? To see if I looked okay? "Jesus, I'm pathetic," I added, yanking my hand back down.

I looked back at them sideways after getting behind the bar and tying on my black apron. I didn't recognize the other guy. Not that that was weird. Bash met with many people there at the diner, as plenty of others did. It was a good central location for all kinds of meet-ups, plus the food couldn't be beat. Bash Anderson was a major presence as the owner of the largest bee apiary in the area, and he could easily be talking to a new investor or client. Anderson's Apiary kept the town and probably a quarter of Texas supplied in honey, beeswax products, and beehives for hire. But while not knowing his breakfast partner over there wasn't a standout moment, the guy himself practically glowed with I'm not from here.

We were a pretty relaxed lot in Charmed. Casual was the basic dress plan, and stepping up — at least in my opinion — was just nicer jeans and maybe some killer shoes. Guys didn't even need the shoes. In stark contrast, this guy with Bash wore black slacks and a sweater, what appeared to be leather penny loafers on his feet and too much hair gel making his locks shiny. He looked like he belonged in a J. Crew catalog from the nineties. More than that was the leather bag slung over the back of his chair like a purse.

Definitely not from here.

Kerri, a college student I'd hired as a waitress two months ago, who still hadn't learned to memorize orders, came rushing over.

"Miss Greene, Nick said to tell you he needs to talk to you ASAP," she said.

"Okay," I said, glancing through the open window section to the kitchen where Nick was cooking with a scowl on his face.

"Also, that section over there by the Ficus and the bookshelf?" she added, pointing.

"Otherwise known as tables ten through fourteen?" I asked.

Kerri nodded. "Yes. It's leaking over them again. Has been ever since we turned on the heat."

Great. I made a mental note to call someone out to get up on the roof, or maybe Nick would take pity on me and do it later. I nodded toward J. Crew and lowered my voice.

"Who's that with Bash Anderson? Someone about the Lucky Charm?"

Charmed was getting an overhaul in the form of an entertainment complex along our pond. The Lucky Charm was the baby of Sullivan Hart, who came to town a few months back, an ex-carnie from the Lucky Hart carnival that had frequented our town for decades. Restaurants and shopping and rides and a boardwalk — it was already partially underway with a few rides and shops, and the town was in a constant state of chaos. Contractors, investors, businesspeople wanting to expand or kick off startups, they were as stirred up as an ant pile. For the diner, this was a good thing, as most all of them met up under my roof for a good meal.

Kerri followed my look. "No idea, but he was asking for you earlier."

I looked at her with a question. "For me?"

"Right before Mr. Anderson showed up," she said, nodding. "Nick talked to him for a minute, though, so maybe he knows."

I frowned back in the men's direction, where Bash looked to be hanging on every word J. Crew was saying. He did a quick double take my way, which sent the butterflies skittering again until he said something and pointed. The other guy turned toward me with a polite smile.

A smile that didn't quite reach his dark eyes. They remained distracted, and a weird familiar metallic taste filled my mouth as I looked into them. A déjà vu that wasn't pleasant. Which was ludicrous. I'd never seen this man before.

"Good deal," I said, also taking in the manicured hands, the fork in his left hand that was just poking at the food instead of eating it, and the expensive watch on his right wrist. "Get them some more water. Stand toward the new guy's right to fill it."

She frowned, glancing his way. "Why?"

"He's a leftie." She looked at me blankly. "He's new here. He's barely touching his food. So he'll be more approachable, less defensive, and more likely to leave a good tip if you serve him on his weaker side."

Kerri's eyebrows lifted. "Wow."

"Yeah, it's rocket science," I said under my breath as I pushed open the doors to the kitchen. "What's up, Nick? You know Lanie's out there, right?"

He didn't look up, focusing instead on folding some cream into a bowl of sliced strawberries that would go into his famous strawberry cake. That's what I loved about this guy. It was strawberries and cream, and he treated it like it came straight from a cow with a golden udder.

"Yep," he said. "I was just waiting for David to get here so I can run to the bank with her to do some paperwork."

I tilted my head. "She's taking her break from the bank, to come here to get you on your break, to go back to the bank?"

"That's what I said, but Lanie said if she waited on me, I'd get caught up in what I was doing and forget." Nick shrugged. "And she's probably right."

"You do get a little tunnel-visioned," I said.

"So did he introduce himself?" he asked, picking up a spatula to turn the strawberries gently.

"Who?"

Dark eyes darted my way. "The guy out there that looks like his mom dressed him to get beat up at school," he said.

I choked back a laugh as I plucked a strawberry slice from the top and popped it into my mouth. "No, he's meeting with Bash about something." I moaned around the berry. "Oh man, I need about forty more of these."

"I have the feeling you might want to double that," he said, frowning as he grabbed another bowl. "This guy — something's up."

I rose from the stool I'd just rested on. "Why?"

"I don't know, he's odd. He only wanted to talk to you, but now he's eating with Bash?" Nick said, shaking his head as he worked.

"What did he say?" I asked.

Nick glanced up. "It has something to do with your dad."

Something that felt like cold little fingers traced a path down my spine. Something old and familiar.

"Wh — why?" I asked, resisting the urge to reach out for the wall, the door, the sink nearby. Anything tangible and touchable that could ground me and yet make me vulnerable at the same time. Don't show weakness.

"He said he was here to talk to you on behalf of Oliver Greene."

On behalf of ...

I stared at Nick, nodding slowly as I turned for the door. The man's face came into view as I emerged on the other side of it as he shook hands with a smiling Bash and the two men parted ways. J. Crew came up to the counter in front of me and sat on a stool, lacing his fingers. Instantly, I knew what the taste was about, the unpleasant sensation, the déjà vu. I'd never laid eyes on this man before, but I'd seen the others before him. They all had that same useless look about them.

I held out my hand.

"Allie Greene," I said. "What did he lose?"

*
My father was a good man. He had a heart of gold with hands of steel that had worked hard his whole life before illness stripped him of that. He also had a weakness. If there was a deal or a sham, a poker table or a get-rich-quick scheme within ten miles, he couldn't resist. If he had five dollars in his pocket, it would burn a hole until he was forced to spend it, and frequently that was aimed at something with chips or a bigger pocket. Especially during stressful times.

I loved my dad with everything I had, but I watched him gamble all our savings away after my mom died. The only new truck he'd ever owned was trailered and gone. Our house — I would never forget the man that came for that. I was seven, and that man's face would forever be etched in my memory as the person that took my room with the purple flowers and sent us to the trailer park.

This man had the same empty eyes.

"I'm Landon Lange," he said, gripping my hand. "I'm an acquaintance of your father's."

A tall woman with big blonde hair came through the door, striding straight up to the counter. "Hi!" she said, her voice perky, teeth flashing. "Can I get a cup of coffee?"

"Sure thing," I said, letting go of the man's hand and reaching for the nearby coffeepot robotically, pouring a cup. "Sugar and creamer are right there," I said, pointing without looking.

"Thanks, hon," she said. "Great place."

I met her eyes. Another stranger. I guessed bringing in a tourist attraction was going to bring that in, too.

"Thanks," I said. "Do you need a table?"

"No ma'am," she said, smiling so warmly I felt it around me like a blanket. "I'm meeting that handsome man over there," she said, pointing at Sully with a wink.

"Enjoy," I said, hoping I came across that welcoming. I felt my eyebrows lift, looking back at Lange as the woman walked away, taking her warmth with her. "So, an acquaintance," I said, smiling. "That's a new one. Although I'm curious how you know him recently since he's been homebound all this last year."

"It's actually been a little while," he said. "I was hoping maybe he'd come through."

"How much?" I asked, closing my eyes.

Landon Lange appeared to study his manicured nails on the countertop, then pulled a piece of paper from his man-purse.

"I own fifty-one percent of this diner," he said.

My eyes popped open. My everything popped open.

"What?"

"There's this —" he began, smoothing the paper on the counter. My counter. The counter I'd cleaned 4,394,839,409 times and now held a paper that said —

"No," I said. "That's not —"

"Miss Greene."

"That's not possible," I said, bringing the word down to a whisper. A hiss. An utterance of no-fucking-way. "This is my diner. It's ours. It belongs to my family. It doesn't go on the table — ever."

That was the deal. That was always the deal. Please God, don't take away the deal.

"Miss Greene."

"Stop saying my name," I said, hearing my voice rise but unable to control it. It was like someone else held the remote and was watching the show. The blonde lady moved as far over to the right as she could, and Lanie moved slowly up to take her place as if she might need to vault it to kick somebody's ass.

"Everything okay?" she asked quietly.

"Why don't we go in your office," Nick said, miraculously appearing behind me.

"I have this signed —" Landon began again.

"I don't care what you have," I said. "It's not happening."

"Allie, please," Nick said in a low voice. "Let's take this in the back."

Nick was right. He was being the cool-headed logical one. Acting like management, taking charge of the situation. He was being me. And I was having a mental breakdown next to the coffeepot.

I own fifty-one percent ...

Oh my God.

What did you do, Dad?

Walking to my office felt like the walk of doom, as the cold chill of things shifting washed over me. It wasn't my office if this guy owned —

The hell it wasn't. It was my mom and dad's before me and fuck if some man-pursed asshole was going to take it from me.

I spun around.

"Mr. Lange, my father has put a lot of things on the line over the years," I said, focusing on the tone of every word as it left my mouth. He couldn't have really done such a thing. I had to believe that. I had to hold on to that hope. "I've seen too many things lost, including my home, and he made a promise to me after that. The Blue Banana would never be jeopardized."

"Well, I'm sorry," he said, walking in, setting the paper on my desk without hesitation. "It is what it is. Signed and legal. He can verify it."

It is what it is.

Hope left the room. It peeled itself from every surface and floated away. My father did it. He lost it. He lost our everything.

I couldn't breathe.

"He —" I cleared my throat. "My dad can't verify anything. He's got dementia. Some days he isn't sure of his own name."

"Sorry to hear that," Landon said. "He was a nice guy."

"He's still a nice guy," I snapped.

Landon held his palms forward and then picked up the paper, holding it in front of me. "Can you just look at the signature?"

My feet felt rooted to the floor. I shut my eyes, feeling the tightly wound control I valued so much begin to slip away. I didn't have to look. I didn't want to. I'd know my father's writing in a heartbeat, and I knew with just as much conviction that it would be on that paper. Still, my eyes needed the proof. The stinging slap to the face. I felt Lanie's arm link through mine and Nick's hand on the back of my neck, while my eyes fluttered open to a watery image of a yellow form. A deed transfer. Of majority percentage of the Blue Banana Grille to Landon Lange. Signed and dated in a hard right-slanted hand by Oliver Greene, Owner.

I didn't even have a tenth of a percent to my name. I ran it as my own because it was our baby. My mother gave birth to it, my father raised it, and I took it on. Now this stranger that had never set foot in here before today had controlling ownership. Had been in control for a while, and I never knew it.

"This was signed last year," I said, my voice not much more than an exhausted whisper. "Over a year ago, actually. Why are you here now?"

He never changed expression, just set the paper down on my desk when I didn't take it from him.

"Honestly, I liked your father, Miss Greene," he said. "He's straightforward and truthful. I don't see much of that in my line of work."

"I'll bet," I said.

"What exactly is your line of work?" Nick asked from behind me.

"He's a bookie," I said.

"I'm a private loan officer," Landon amended.

"He's a bookie," I repeated.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Once a Charmer"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Sharla Lovelace.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Once a Charmer 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
DaneWeimMama More than 1 year ago
I honestly didn't think this series could get any better but Once a Charmer is my favorite book in the Charmed in Texas series. And that is saying a lot because I have adored each story. OMG- to have a relationship like Allie & Bash has in the end is every girl's dream. And I love watching them get to their HEA If you are a fan of small towns, quirky characters, a little sexy time, & happily ever afters read Once a Charmer (& the other 2 books in the series :)) I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
Dalitza More than 1 year ago
A wonderful mix of angst, sexiness and romance. Sharla Lovelace has a delightful way of producing a story with just the right amount of feels, steam and romance that easily engage me from the start. I have enjoyed reading her books which provide a lovely escape every time. With this third book in the Charmed in Texas series, she has once again recaptured the good and not so good quirks of living in a small town. In Once a Charmer, we catch up with Bash Anderson and Allie Greene, whose lives have been intertwined since childhood, have been the best of friends for an entire lifetime and are all the family each other have along with Allie’s teenage daughter, Angel. Theirs is an angsty yet sizzling tale about courage, learning to leave the past behind and open themselves to the possibility of wonderful happiness beyond friendship. As a single mother, Allie had spent the past fifteen years taking care of her daughter while running the family dinner and generally being a loner. Sure she could count on her best friend Bash for anything, including being a father figure to her daughter. Until she thought his life was in danger and hurried to help him. The rush of seeing him unharmed propelled her to kiss him and to her surprise he kissed her back. Ever since then, he’s been staring in her nightly dreams but during the daylight hours he seem to be avoiding her. Fate strikes hard when and out of towner brings unwelcome news to Allie and stirs trouble for Bash’s apiary, and to make matters more interesting someone nominated them to be the town’s Honey King and Queen. Will they have the courage to build a romantic relationship over their lifelong friendship? Neither of them could survive without the other, they had been each other’s support through just about everything. Even though they’re attracted to each other, they fight tooth and nail against it because the negative consequences of crossing intimate lines were just too dire to face. Until the desire is impossible to ignore and then the only thing that’s keeping them apart is Allie’s big chip on her shoulder and her fear of saying yes to the only man she’s ever loved. I loved Allie and Bash’s story. It had the exact amount of all the right things. I was on their team and rooted for them from start to finish, even though Allie’s inability to see the awesomeness of her love for Bash did start to frustrate a bit. I also loved the town and the recurring characters. There’s a lot more to build on, and I couldn’t be more excited about what’s to come. Lovelace adds a wonderful story to her series. Once a Charmer is book #3 in the Charmed in Texas series by author Sharla Lovelace. It is a standalone contemporary romance with a great balance between wit, steaminess, and heartfelt emotions.
sbart84 More than 1 year ago
One of my favorites from Charmed Texas- friends to lovers. Bash and Allie have been friends forever and never wanted to jeopardize that until "that kiss". Allie has always been busy with raising her daughter, running the local diner and helping her father that has dementia. Bash owns a beehive company and his life revolves around Allie and her daughter. Love these characters and the quirky town of Charmed Texas, genuine and fun loving. Many laugh out moments. I highly recommend this story, along with the rest of the other stories set in Charmed
cest More than 1 year ago
3.5 STARS! I absolutely LOVE the Charmed series… Sharla Lovelace has become one of my go-to authors and I read anything she writes and drop everything else when she releases a book. I adore this small town series and even more I LOVE that Once a Charmer is a best friends to more type of romance. Allie and Bash have been friends since they were teens, always there for each other through thick and thin and delivering babies They could always rely on each other, talk to each other honestly until… the kiss that changed everything. Now they are just weird with each other, not knowing how to act and having feelings for each other that they can’t ignore. Couple that with the issues with their businesses, teenager growing up problems and the King and Queen of Charmed contest and readers will be taken on a journey of best friends to lovers that will make your heart skip a beat rooting for them to open up their eyes and hearts to that something more. That being said… Once a Charmer is not my favorite of the series. While I love the push and pull of being afraid to move forward in a relationship changing the dynamic of what you are used to, I hoped for more conversations, more heart to heart, more romance, more heat when it came to Allie and Bash. I just wanted more. Their scenes together are electric and spark but I wanted them to stop beating around the bush, second guessing everything—I wanted to feel more! Hopefully I am making sense. Despite this, I LOVE THIS SERIES and Lovelace’s writing and this town has grown to be something like family to me that I just can’t get enough of—I want the happily ever after for all. I can’t wait to see whose story is up next!
JaneN17 More than 1 year ago
Frustratingly Beautiful!! I LOVED this story! I am not normally a fan of best friends turned lovers but this story was so much different than the usual, it had me enthralled. This story is beautifully written and it was easy for me to get swept up in all the feelings the characters were going through. There are also some really fun parts the had me LOLing throughout. This is my favorite story so far in this series!! Highly recommended!!
KindleKat64 More than 1 year ago
I like this series by Sharla Lovelace and I really enjoyed this book. This was a wonderful, sweet, funny, heartwarming friends to lovers romance that takes place in that awesome small town of Charmed Texas. Throw in an odd pageant event, some teen angst and drama, some seriously steamy moments and some other quirky moments and interesting characters for sure and color me hooked. I really like Bash & Allie because they are very relatable characters who are not perfect but are definitely perfect for each other yet they have been dancing around each other for quite a while now. I loved watching their friendship finally turn that corner. Talk about hot and steamy!! They have such an incredibly strong friendship that was truly bonded when Bash delivered Allie's baby at age 17. They are both so worried about messing that up and the implications that could have on them and Allie's 15 yo daughter Angel that they almost don't give into their growing romantic feelings for each other but I'm so glad they did! There were so many enjoyable moments in this book and I highly recommend this series!
Bette313 More than 1 year ago
I am loving this series and this may be my favorite story yet. Bash has always been a favorite character of mine and seeing him and Allie finally pursue their attraction to each other was great fun. In the past they didn't want to jeopardize their friendship but now they need each other to help save their businesses and they've been paired up for a local contest forcing them to spend time together and see each other differently. Everything seems to be blowing up at once but they have each other and should be able to weather anything~ A great book that can be read standalone but I do recommend both the book and the series to everyone.
ytcruz More than 1 year ago
This the first book I by this author and I have to say I was “charmed”. This a heartwarming , and touching story . Allie Greene , a single Mom to a teenage daughter, whom she had when she was in HS, is a strong character whose life revolves around her daughter, the family diner and a father stricken by dementia. Her best friend, confident, father figure to Allie and at times a lead protagonist in Allie’s dreams is Bash Anderson. Bash owns a beehive company and until a couple of months before, there was no question the two of them were just friends. Until The Kiss. To complicate matters, Allie has unexpectedly had her world shattered and her livelihood put in danger. How much more can she handle and overcome to survive? The plot is complex, and the characters well developed. I would have liked a little bit more romance , but all in all, a story that engaged me from the start. I was gifted this copy. The opinions expressed are solely my own.
CathyGeha More than 1 year ago
Once a Charmer by Sharla Lovelace Charmed in Texas #3 Sebastian “Bash” Anderson is a beekeeper with big plans that were somewhat foiled in book two of this series. He spent time in the military just out of high school but has settled into Charmed, Texas and is growing his business. His best friend Allie Greene and her daughter Angel are close as family to Bash and have been since Angel’s birth. The BFF are there for one another through thick and thin BUT a kiss between them a few months before this book begins has put a glitch in the easy flow of their friendship that fifteen year old Angel doesn’t help much as she begins to act out a bit. This story is more than a friends to lovers themed book. It has a pageant to win, a bad guy to foil, businesses to save, a date gone wrong and a few that go right, a man with magic at his fingertips and love – true love – to be found. This is a story of family, of community, of friendship and oh so much more. I thoroughly enjoyed it and believe you will, too. I hope there will be more books in this series and eagerly wait to find out who might star in the next book by this author. Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington-Lyrical Shine for the ARC – This is my honest review. 5 Stars