Interior designer Tessa McKenzie has built a good life far from her Washington hometown. She intends to get back to it--as soon as she sells the cluttered Victorian house and antiques shop she inherited from her sister, Emily. But leaving Apple Valley a second time won't be so easy. There's her grieving nephew, Alex, to consider. And there's Sheriff Cade Cunningham, the adolescent crush who could easily break her heart again if she let him.
To Cade, Tessa was simply his high school sweetheart's kid sister. But now there's no denying she's a beautiful and caring grown woman, one he'd like to get to know. Except that Tessa is determined to leave again. If Cade wants to change her mind, he'll have to show her that small-town life has its lovable side--and that he does too. Most of all, he'll have to convince Tess they're good together, and that every step has led her right where she was always meant to be. . .
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THE HOUSE ON MAIN STREET
By Shirlee McCoy
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2013 Shirlee McCoy
All rights reserved.
Some days are just meant to be crappy. Obviously, this is one of them.
Tess McKenzie grabbed a pile of wrinkled magazines from a dusty shelf and tossed them in a garbage bag. Three weeks before Christmas and this was how she was spending her time. Not strolling through the mall or window-shopping in downtown Annapolis, but standing in an old house in Apple Valley, Washington, sorting through her sister's collection of trash and fighting back tears.
She hated crying.
She hated this.
Emily gone. Dave gone.
Life completely turned upside down.
"Are you planning to throw everything away?" Aunt Gertrude griped. Perched on a rickety stool a couple of feet away, a cigarette dangling from between her fingers and a Santa hat on her head, she looked like an ancient Christmas elf with an attitude.
Tess lifted an ugly porcelain dog with a crack down its middle and dropped it into the bag. "If it's all as junky as this, yes."
"One man's trash is another man's treasure," Gertrude said, taking a puff of the cigarette and blowing smoke into the musty air.
"Sometimes it's just another man's trash."
"Emily and Dave did the best they could with what they had. You just tossing it all away is a travesty. They deserve more than that." At seventy-two, Gertrude had lived enough life to say what she liked and what she didn't, and she didn't like Tess's plans to clean the place out and sell it.
It had to be done.
If the massive pile of outstanding bills Tessa had found in her sister's desk drawer was any indication, it should have been done eons ago.
She didn't say that to Gertrude, because she'd said it a thousand times since the funeral. Set in her ways and stubborn as old Ms. Peach's mule, Gertie refused to see reason. She wanted life to go on the way it had been. Same crumbling Victorian house. Same little junk shop on its lower level. Same town. But things had changed, and changed in a big way. There was nothing either of them could do about that.
"Are you planning to wear that hat all day?" Tess changed the subject.
"It's tradition. The kids love it."
"What kids? We haven't had a customer all day."
"We will. This time of year, we always get kids looking for stuff to buy for their moms and grandmas for Christmas. Emily hung all the best ornaments, just like she does every year." She gestured to the Christmas tree that stood in the corner of the room, its synthetic branches bowed under a hodgepodge of grimy Christmas decorations. "It looks dang pretty, if you ask me. But you won't."
"I never need to ask. You're always more than willing to share your opinion," Tess muttered, her throat tight. She could picture her sister standing near the tree, completely ignoring the mess and clutter of the room as she hung those ornaments. That's the way Emily had been. Eager to see what she wanted to see rather than what she needed to.
"Humph." Gertrude puffed on her cigarette again. "That's like the pot calling the kettle black."
"You're right," Tess agreed. She was trying, really really trying to be reasonable, but dealing with Gertrude wasn't easy. "The tree is ... nice," she lied. "We just need to clean the ornaments."
"Why? They're clean enough."
"To hang in this shop? Sure. To sell? Not even close."
"Whatever you say, Tessa Louise."
"Anyone with eyes in her head would say the same. The whole place is a junk pit. I don't know what Emily and Dave were thinking." There. She'd said what she was really thinking, and she didn't regret it. Much.
She carried the trash bag into the foyer, the hard, hot lump in her throat nearly choking her.
This was hard.
Harder than she'd thought it would be.
In for the funeral and back home. That's what she'd planned, but Emily and Dave had left the house to her.
The house and Alex.
She blinked back tears as she opened the front door. Cold air streamed in, the crisp, hard bite of winter cooling her hot cheeks. Sunlight dappled the wide front porch and fell on the piles of garbage bags she'd already thrown there. She tossed the new one on top.
Her arms ached, her back hurt, and her heart?
It throbbed hot with a sickening mix of grief and anxiety.
She should be in downtown Annapolis making the presentation she'd been preparing for two months. Ten apartments designed for comfort and ease of living, no expense spared on materials. Everything top-notch and high-end. She'd slaved over the presentation because winning the contract would have brought her a step closer to becoming a partner in Master's Design Incorporated. Something she'd wanted from the day she'd joined the interior design firm seven years ago. She wouldn't get there now. Not with her boss stepping in and making the presentation. Not when she wasn't sure how long she'd be in Apple Valley, or how soon she'd be back at work.
"Close the door. You're letting all the warm air out," Gertrude called from the bowels of the house. Probably still perched on the stool, smoking that damn cigarette.
"What warm air? This place is freezing." Tess walked back inside and grabbed a new trash bag, ignoring Gertrude's narrow-eyed glare as she shoved an armful of stained-beyond-salvation linen napkins and something that looked like an overcoat and smelled like sweat and urine into the bag.
Where had Emily and Dave gotten this stuff?
A glossy ceramic clown lay on the floor, its cracked and smiling face mocking her. She tossed it in with the rest of the garbage.
"Hey! I liked that clown." Gertrude finally managed to move her skinny behind from the stool.
"Barely. All it needs is a little glue." Gertrude pulled the clown out of the bag, frowning at its cracked head.
"All it needs is a decent burial."
"I'll fix it tonight and add it to my collection." Gertie completely ignored her.
"Your room is already filled with more trash than the Apple Valley dump. You need to clean it out. Not add more to it."
"There's no reason for me to clean anything out."
"The house will sell more quickly if—"
"I don't want it to sell."
"Do you have to be so difficult, Gert?" Tess snagged the clown from her aunt's hand and shoved it deep into the bag.
"Who's being difficult depends on which side of the argument you're on," Gertrude responded sagely, wiggling her drawn-on eyebrows, the Santa hat bobbing on her orange hair.
Tess gave up.
Facts were facts. A huge Victorian on three prime acres in the middle of town was money in the bank. Which was a whole lot better than junk on shelves.
She shoved an armload of Reader's Digest magazines into the bag, her fingers nearly numb with cold. She needed to buy gloves, a hat, maybe a scarf. Things she had at home but hadn't had the presence of mind to pack.
"Did you hear me, girl? I don't want to sell this place."
"Yeah. I heard you, Gertie. I've heard you every single one of the five million times you've said it," Tessa muttered as she dragged the overstuffed bag out the front door.
Out with the bad. In with the good.
There was no good in this situation.
Just a truckload of bad and a porch so burdened by bags of garbage it might collapse at any moment.
She tossed the bag into the yard, enjoying the satisfying crack and thud as it hit sparse dry grass.
"You pick that bag up. You pick it up! Hear me?" a skinny little man called from the yard next door, his white hair standing up in a halo around his wrinkled face.
She wanted to ignore him. She really did. "I'll have everything out of the yard by the end of the month, Mr—?"
"Beck. Zimmerman Beck, and the end of the month isn't good enough. You think I want to look out my front door and see a dump every morning for the next three weeks?"
"You don't want to see it, just don't look out your door, old man!" Gertrude chose that moment to step outside, an old blanket around her shoulders, the Santa hat flopping to the left side of her head.
"I'm two years younger than you, Gertrude, so if I'm old, you're ancient and looking every minute of it."
"Mr. Beck, I assure you, I'll have this mess cleaned up as soon as humanly possible." Tess stepped in front of Gertrude, half-near tempted to toss a bag over her aunt's head and throw her out with the rest of the trash.
"Not good enough," Beck said, his hands on his hips, his body vibrating with the force of his indignation.
"It's going to have to be." She bit back a sharper reply. No sense arguing with the guy. She'd do what she could as quickly as she could because she wanted out of Apple Valley just as desperately as Zimmerman Beck wanted the yard cleaned up.
"You can tell that to the sheriff. I've already called him, and he'll tell you that there are bylaws. Bylaws."
"You called the sheriff ?" she said, her heart rate upping a notch or two.
The sheriff? was what she wanted to say.
As in Cade Cunningham?
The one man she absolutely did not want to see, no matter how long she had to stay in Apple Valley?
"Be glad I didn't call the health department. Place is a dump. Has been a dump for too many years to count."
"I'll show you a dump, you little weasel." Gertrude moved surprisingly fast for a woman in the eighth decade of her life, down the porch steps and across the yard, the blanket flying behind her like a cape.
"Calm down, Gertrude." Tess snagged her arm, pulling her up short before she could jump the rickety white picket fence between the yards.
"Not until I teach this horse's behind a lesson in manners."
"I'd like to see you try, you old battle-ax!" Zim hollered, his face mottled purple with rage.
Dear God! Was the guy going to have a heart attack while he stood at the edge of their bedraggled yard?
"How about you both just calm down?" Tess stepped between the two as a woman walked out of the bungalow across the street.
Having her sister and brother-in-law die hadn't been sucky enough. Being left a junk-pit in the middle of a town she'd sworn she'd never come back to hadn't been enough punishment for whatever wrongs she'd done. She was now going to have to stop a street brawl between two septuagenarians while the neighbor watched.
"Zim! I've been calling your house for a half hour," the woman called as she crossed the street. Pretty, with raven hair and deep circles beneath her dark eyes, she didn't fit the demographics of the neighborhood: Over fifty. Retired. Nosy.
"I've been hanging lights. Trying to get into the Christmas spirit. Tough to do when I'm living next door to a dump," Zim griped.
"Does that mean you're too busy to eat some of the gingerbread I just took out of the oven?" The woman ignored Zim's comment about the dump, which put her right at the top of Tess's favorite-person list for the day.
"Yes. Homemade whipped cream, too," she said as she met Tessa's eyes. "I'm Charlotte Garrison. Charlie to my friends."
"Charlie. Humph! A boy's name," Zim muttered, but his anger had fizzled out, his face pasty white once again.
"Tess McKenzie." Tess offered her hand. "Sorry about the mess. As I told Mr. Beck—"
"There's no need to explain. Your family is going through a lot right now. We understand that. Don't we, Zim?" she asked.
Beck had the decency to blush. "Now, I never said I didn't have sympathy for their loss."
"At times like this, it's good to extend a little grace," Charlotte continued. "If you need any help cleaning things up, Tess, just give me a call. You have my number, don't you, Gertrude?"
"You know I do," Gertrude snapped, but even she had lost her steam, her hat wilted, the blanket limp around her shoulders.
"Why don't you two take a break from your work, too? Maybe after Alex gets home? We can have hot chocolate and gingerbread together."
The mention of her nephew made Tessa's heart trip and her stomach churn. The house was easy. Start in one room, work her way through until it was empty. Alex she had no plan for, no idea how to begin connecting with him.
Just thinking about it made her head ache and her chest hurt. She cleared her throat, trying to remove the giant-sized lump suddenly lodged in it. "Maybe another day. I have a lot to do, and—"
"You don't have to explain. I understand." Charlotte smiled, hooked her elbow through Zim's. "Come on. Let's go inside before we turn to icicles," she said, leading him away from the fence.
"Hope she mixed some arsenic in that whipped cream," Gertie said, loudly enough to scare a couple of starlings out of the old pine tree at the edge of the yard.
"Shhhhh! Do you want to start the feud all over again?"
"As a matter of fact, I do. Zimmerman Beck is a pain in the ass. A little arsenic in his afternoon snack will make the world a better place."
"Will you please just shut up, Gertie!" Tess hissed, as Zim paused at Charlotte's door and shot a hot glare in their direction. Charlotte nudged him inside, offering a quick wave as she closed the door.
"Shut up? Is that what you just said to me? I raised you from the time you were knee-high to a peanut, and you're talking to me like that?"
"If you're going to act like a spoiled child, I'm going to speak to you like you're one."
"Let me tell you something, little miss. Zimmerman Beck has been hounding us for months, trying to get Emily and Dave to close down and sell this place. The man is a wretched old fart with no sense of humor and an ice-cold heart. So, when it comes to him, I'll say what I want, when I want, how I want, and you'll just have to deal with it!"
Gertrude turned on the heels of her sturdy white sneakers and stalked back in the house, slamming the door for good measure. The mound of garbage bags on the porch listed and fell, spilling trash onto packed earth and brown grass.
The crappy day just kept getting better.
Tess dragged one of the bags from the porch and started refilling it, absolutely refusing the tears that burned behind her eyes. They wouldn't bring Emily back and wouldn't clean up the mess that she'd left.
A cold breeze tickled the leaves that still clung to an ancient birch in the center of the yard and pushed an old swing that hung from one of its thick branches. Rusted metal chains creaked, and for a moment, Tessa was sure she heard her sister's laughter drifting on the air.
Always happy and laughing and carefree.
It didn't seem possible. Shouldn't be possible.
Tess cinched the bag and set it against the side of the house, the rumble of a car engine breaking the afternoon silence.
Please, don't let it be Cade. Please, don't let it be him. Please ...
A black-and-white cruiser pulled up to the curb, SHERIFF emblazoned on the side.
It was Cade. Of course. Because that was the way her day had been going.
He got out of the car, all lithe hard muscle and restrained power. Ten years hadn't put any paunch on his gut, taken any fullness from his dark brown hair. Hadn't done one thing to make him less attractive.
He met her eyes across the hood of his car.
"Tess," he said.
Just that, and she was back thirteen years, hoping and praying and wishing that he'd invite her to his senior prom. He'd invited Emily, of course. A year older than Tess, a year younger than Cade, and the most beautiful girl at Apple Valley High. There'd never been any doubt that the best-looking guy in school would ask the best-looking girl. Tessa had still dreamed, though, because she'd been just young enough and foolish enough to believe that dreaming could make something true.
She smiled, extended a hand, proud and relieved that it wasn't shaking. "Cade. It's been a long time."
"It sure has." He dragged her into his arms.
His shoulders had filled out.
His chest had broadened.
And his thighs ...
Man! His thighs!
They were like rocks. Only warmer, and a heck of a lot sexier.
"I've missed you, Tess," he murmured against her hair, and she felt the warmth of his breath trickling down her spine and straight into a place she'd locked up tight. There was nothing she could do about that, but she could sound as cool and unruffled as she wanted to feel.
This was Cade, after all. Her best childhood friend and her deepest adolescent crush. She knew how to put on an act when she was around him. She'd perfected it during the years he'd dated Emily.
"I guess you're here about the mess," she said. Cool as a cucumber. Absolutely unruffled.
"Your neighbor called. He thinks the house and property are eyesores. I can't say I disagree." He glanced at the house, shoved his hands into his coat pockets. His hair was just a little long, the ends brushing his collar. Soft looking. The kind of hair a woman would love to run her fingers through.
Excerpted from THE HOUSE ON MAIN STREET by Shirlee McCoy. Copyright © 2013 Shirlee McCoy. 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Not as developed as the first book
5 STARS I loved the House on Main Street. It has a good story. Strong characters, romance, mystery, touches your emotions in many ways, clean story. Tessa McKenzie has come back to Apple Valley to bury her sister and husband. She wants to clean up her house and sell it. Take her nephew Alex and her Aunt Gertrude back to Virginia with her. Tessa does not want to see Cade the man she had a crush on for years who liked her sister Emily. Gertrude raised both of her nieces in Apple Valley when their mom dropped the girls off at young age and disappeared. She does not want to move. She is feisty. Loves to argue with Tessa. Alex hardly talks, he loves to play piano and composes music. He has autisms. We meet a lot of characters of Apple Valley and a lot of them are single. It sets up for lots of stories to be told in the future. I know I want to come back to Apple Valley and read them. The setting is Apple Valley, Washington a small town A angel figurine that has been in the Riley family for generations is stolen. Alex has strong feelings for it. Gertrude things now the family is cursed because it is not kept in the Riley house and its her fault. I was given this book to read by Netgalley and Kensington Books and asked in return to give honest review of it when finished. publication: November 5th 2013 by Zebra Kensington Books 352 pages ISBN:1420132350
this was not as good a read as previous books. this was due to the four letter expressions throughout the read. Ms McCoy has a gift of writing and has written other better stories. The Aunt should come off as a "colorfull" character but after awhile is too much. I would have liked to hear more about her autistic nephew and his gift of music. Small town people donot talk like that although some do. Same as in other larger communities, not all need to use 4 letter words to express their feelings.
I liked this book. Thought that the characters were well done
Read books by this author before but I was disappointed with this one. All the cuss words were distracting. No graphic sex. Not a chaste romance either. Won't be buying the rest of the series.
This is okay, I guess... I might like the story more if the characters are more likable. I personally found "Jacob" to be an as<_>shole. Maybe you could develop his character more?
Please post comments at results with no story.<p> I got this idea from a real story.<p> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~<p> "Ah, Jacob l've been looking for you!" The mail carrier called from her delivery van. The fat bi<_>tch, obviously too lazy to get out of the van, was waving her hand in a "come here" motion.<p> "Ma'am?" I asked as politely as l could, walking up to her. "Why do you call me?"<p> "I've got a package for you! Its in the back. Go on ahead and grab it out of the van. You will have to life the door up."<p> Dumb as<_>s, l thought to myself as l walked to the back of the van and lifted the door. There sat a rectangular box with a 'careful heavy' sticker on it. Hmm maybe thats why she didn't bother getting out to grab it. I looked around and then picked it up, expecting heavy as it said. Instead l jerked up and almost fell backwards. Dumb thing weighs at most five pounds. Maybe less.<p> "Yeah thanks for the sticker idiots," l muttered under my breath, clearly irritated.<p> "What was that?" The fat lady asked as l started out the back door of the van.<p> "Nothin' bi<_>tch," l said muttering the last part. I walked towords my house carrying the package, and she took of with a "have a nice day!"<p> I grunted and pulled my keys from my pocket, opening my door and setting the box down in my living room. It's not much of a house, but it's good enough. Only problem is the fact that this house's back door wont open due to some ja<_>ckas<_>s teenager and a hot glue gun.<p> I grabbed the box cutters from the kitchen, and walk back to the package in the living room. I squat down cutting the tape off the top of the package and replacing the box cutters in my pants pocket.<p> As l reach to open the box, l notice the return address sticker, it reads:<br> From: 666 13 st. Satan TX<br> To: 284 West hollyridge Ave. Denny TX<br> Have fun old sh<_>it!!!<br> What the heck? Stupid teenagers! Another prank l'm sure. Old my as<_>s! I am 34 respectably. Whatever, l think as l finish opening the box. Inside is something almost as confusing as the label itself.<p> "Is that an old set of army figures?" I mutter looking at the label picture on the box. It sure looks like it. The kind that are green or tan and don't move. They just stand on a piece of plastic, so you can stand it up.<p> "Great deals!" I read the box aloud, "contents: 12 automatic rifle militia men, 8 helicopters, 6 tanks, 5 medics complete with tents, 4 jeeps 3 anti aircraft launchers, 2 bazooka men, and one-"<p> Jacob frowned at the box. Was it just him or did it move? No thats stupid. He reached back down to move the flap of the box that had fallen back in the way, and reached down towords the box.<p> As his fingers touched the container, there was a loud pop noise and the lid shot up into the air, slamming into the cieling hard enough to leave a crack.<p> "Da<_>mn kids!" He yelled an octive higher than normal, as he scurred back his heart racing.<p> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~<p> More will be at the next res. Please comment at a result with no story. ~§єЂ
Wonderful story, will look for more in this series! About 250 pages.
I was so sad when I turned the last page of this book! I wanted to live in Apple Valley, a small picturesque town, beautifully depicted. Filled with charming and loveable characters, The House on Main Street is such a touching story about family, love and letting dreams go for something unexpectedly wonderful. All of the characters are so loveable, especially Aunt Gertrude, who will undoubtedly leave you giggling throughout the entire book, and Alex, who will pull at your heart strings from the very moment you meet him. It's just a wonderful read from beginning to end! I can't wait for the next book in the series!!
Sharing my thoughts~ Tessa's secret crush on Cade led her to bolt for the East Coast when Cade announced he was marrying her sister. Although that marriage never materialized, Tessa stuck it out in Annapolis and created a new life while Cade stayed in Apple Valley and became the sheriff he'd always said he was going to be. Back in town only to clear out the house after her sister's death, Tessa's now the guardian of her special needs nephew and a crazy aunt. I liked the quirkiness of all the characters, especially Aunt Gertrude. "Perched on a rickety stool a couple of feet away, a cigarette dangling from between her fingers and a Santa hat on her head, she looked like an ancient Christmas elf with an attitude." McCoy does a fantastic job creating the setting and small town drama of Apple Valley. I felt as if I trudged beside Tessa and Cade down a snow kissed Main Street. I could hear the hush fall over the tiny chapel as Alex poured out his heart on the piano, and then the sniffles of all the blue-headed ladies. I could even imagine the junky yard that separated Tess from her neighbor's. Apple Valley seems to grow on Tessa, too. "People sniffed and sobbed, and Tess was pretty sure someone snapped a photo. No doubt they'd be on the front page of the morning newspaper, but she didn't mind. In Apple Valley people cared about the little things, the quiet things, the things that were easy to miss if one didn't look carefully enough." Initially, Tessa was angry that her sister had left her another mess to clean up. Tessa worked through the whole range of emotions, from anger to grief, and finally to acceptance of her new family unit. I appreciate how this story prompted me to delve deeper into relationships, specifically within my own family. And why does it take someone dying to make us realize how special they are? To yearn for one more day? I'm a long-time fan of Shirlee McCoy's Love Inspired Suspense books, so when I found out she was writing a series for Kensington Books, I was curious about how her writing style would vary. I would have enjoyed this book more without the colorful language. I appreciated that it didn't contain any graphic bedroom scenes and that the "heat" level didn't require a loss of clothes. Actually, the higher intensity made the characters and the story seem much more realistic to me. :) Overall, if you're looking for an emotional journey with a satisfying ending, McCoy delivers big time! Disclaimer: Sending a big thank you to Kensington Books and NetGalley for providing me with a review copy of The House on Main Street. The opinions expressed here are my own, and I received no compensation.
AND SO DOES YOUR MOM!!!! OOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
The House on Main Street By: Shirlee McCoy Copyright: November 2013 Publisher: Zebra In Apple Valley, Washington, friends are always near, neighbors have no secrets—even if they'd like to—and long-held wishes have a way of coming true… Interior designer Tessa McKenzie has built a good life far from her Washington hometown. She intends to get back to it—as soon as she sells the cluttered Victorian house and antiques shop she inherited from her sister, Emily. But leaving Apple Valley a second time won't be so easy. There's her grieving nephew, Alex, to consider. And there's Sheriff Cade Cunningham, the adolescent crush who could easily break her heart again if she let him. To Cade, Tessa was simply his high school sweetheart's kid sister. But now there's no denying she's a beautiful and caring grown woman, one he'd like to get to know. Except that Tessa is determined to leave again. If Cade wants to change her mind, he'll have to show her that small-town life has its lovable side—and that he does too. Most of all, he'll have to convince Tess they're good together, and that every step has led her right where she was always meant to be… This is not your everyday contemporary romance. This is a story of a sister who died along with her husband at the hands of a drunk driver, and a sister who left home to make her own way in life without having to clean up her older sister’s messes anymore. Tessa built up a life on the East Coast and after seven long years is about to reap the benefits of all her hard work. Finding out that her sister has left her everything including all her debts and her ten year old autistic son is almost too much for her to deal with. Her plan of cleaning out the family home, selling it and moving her nephew and senior citizen aunt back east with her is the best she can think of. Meeting her old crush Cade who is now the town sheriff isn’t making things easier either. Cade wants her to stay in Apple Valley and is doing everything he can to make it happen. The crotchety neighbor next door is doing all he can to get them cited for the condition of their property hoping that he can buy it on the cheap. This puts a lot of stress on Tessa’s already stressed out nerves. What happens to this family and how Tessa decides to stay and build her sister’s decrepit home and “Antique Shop” into a money making business with the hope of supplying her old boss with quality items for his very successful decorating business. You will cry, cringe, laugh and love The House on Main Street. FTC Full Disclosure: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher who asked only for a fair and impartial review.