Category Archives: June

Spotlight, Guest Post & Giveaway: The Gate of Dawn by Marina J. Neary

Gate of Dawn cover2

About The Gate of Dawn

Welcome to 1880s Vilnius, a volatile Northeastern metropolis where Balts, Germans, Poles, Russians, and Jews compete for a place in the sun. After sustaining fatal burns in a fire instigated by his rivals, textile magnate Hermann Lichtner spends his final days in a shabby infirmary. In a hasty and bizarre deathbed transaction he gives his fifteen-year-old daughter Renate in marriage to Thaddeus, a widowed Polish farmer who rejects social hierarchy and toils side by side with his peasants.

Renate’s arrival quickly disrupts the bucolic flow of life and antagonizes every member of the household. During an excursion to the city, Renate rekindles an affair with a young Jewish painter who sells his watercolors outside the Gate of Dawn chapel. While her despairing husband might look the other way, his servants will not stand by and watch while their adored master is humiliated.

Taking us from the cobblestone streets of old Vilnius, swarming with imperial gendarmes, to the misty bogs of rural Lithuania where pagan deities still rule, The Gate of Dawn is a folkloric tale of rivalry, conspiracy, and revenge.



Guest Post

Reversing cliches
Historical fiction abounds with tales of skittish, voiceless child brides being married off to callous and lecherous older men. It’s a perfect scenario for a potboiler, because it’s guaranteed to generate a certain emotional reaction out of the female readership. Modern women will sympathize with the poor oppressed lamb and wait for her to be rescued by a dashing highlander/outlaw/starving artist (fill in the blank). But are the stock victim/exploiter roles always clearly delineated? What if the child bride becomes the aggressor, and the older husband becomes a victim? In my latest historical novel The Gate of Dawn (Penmore Press, 2016) I develop that scenario. We have Renate, an assertive, pragmatic fifteen-year old girl of German extraction giving her spineless thirty-year old Polish husband Thaddeus a run for his money. Did I say money? Oh, that’s right. There’s another twist. In this peculiar relationship, it’s the child bride who brings in the money in addition to her youth and promise of procreation. What in the world does her husband have to contribute? A chunk of infertile land with a sinister name Raven’s Bog where nothing grows, a chronically bleeding heart from too many bereavements, and a fantastic amount of religious piety. How in the world did those two end up together?

It started with a bizarre deathbed transaction …
Renate’s father, Hermann Lichtner, a textile magnate, sustains deadly burns in a factory fire instigated by his business rivals. Having only a few hours left to live, he summons his attorney to make a will. Hermann’s biggest dilemma is what to do with his adolescent daughter, who is now left a very wealthy orphan. As a progressive man, Hermann raised Renate to be the successor to his empire rather than a debutante, a future entrepreneur. The devastating fire that obliterated his textile business makes him change his plans. A fifteen-year old girl with a lot of money on her hands can attract all sorts of unsavory characters and get into a great deal of trouble. So the next logical step is to marry her off to a man who is not too predatory or unscrupulous. The only candidate Hermann Lichtner can think of is Thaddeus Dombrowski, a thirty-year old widowed Polish farmer.

Polish men have a reputation for being good husbands. They have the right balance of work ethic, good looks, Catholic guilt and sexual appeal that make them suitable for a lifelong relationship. Despite their physical strength, they are demure, quiet and submissive to their wives, always eager to lift heavy things around the house, always with a sheepish smile and a bottle of beer in hand. For a woman with a strong matriarchal/feminist streak a man like that would be dream come true. Our fifteen-year old heroine is not entirely blind to the advantages her marriage has to offer. The only problem is that Master Dombrowski is not the one who makes the decisions. It’s his Lithuanian servants. Soft-spoken and dangerously democratic, Thaddeus treats his servants as family members and gives them plenty of latitude. They eat at the same table and drink from the same beer barrel. From the moment the young bride arrives at Raven’s Bog, she antagonizes every member of the household. Before long, Thaddeus finds himself torn between his demanding, condescending teenage wife and his increasingly discontented servants, who hate the new lady of the house.

Portraying the heroine
I am fortunate to live close to New York City. I am also fortunate to have publishers who give me some creative latitude. They are open to the idea of me picking models for the cover as opposed to using stock images. I’ve seen enough historical novel covers featuring the same headless model. One of my friends from Historical Novel Society wrote an entire article giving great examples of the same cliche stock photo featuring a blonde woman with anachronistic hair and makeup used for various novel covers. Why rely on stock photos, when there are so many beautiful, unique, ethnic faces around?

To portray the above-mentioned child bride I chose a beautiful New York based modern dancer Logan Devlin, who is actually working in her chosen profession – something so many performing artists only dream of. As her name indicates, she’s of Irish descent. Old enough to vote but not old enough to drink, she can pass for a fifteen-year old. Her bone structure, coloring and expression were spot on. There are so many young female models on the website who fry their skin in tanning salons and put their natural hair through all kinds of torturous procedures to achieve that “ethnically ambiguous look”. Too many actresses end up with orange skin and streaky highlights. They reinvent themselves to the point where you cannot guess their age or their innate ethnicity. So it was very refreshing to find a young actress who takes pride in her natural Germanic complexion. I started planning a draft of The Gate of Dawn 15 years ago, so I had a pretty good idea of what the main characters looked like. So when I saw Logan’s head shot, I immediately thought: this is her!

About Marina J. Neary12274343_10154343296021978_2189503503859888400_n

A self-centered, only child of classical musicians, Marina Julia Neary spent her early years in Eastern Europe and came to the US at the age of thirteen. Her literary career revolves around depicting military and social disasters, from the Charge of the Light Brigade, to the Irish Famine, to the Easter Rising in Dublin, to the nuclear explosion in Chernobyl some thirty miles away from her home town. Notorious for her abrasive personality and politically incorrect views that make her a persona non grata in most polite circles, Neary explores human suffering through the prism of dark humor, believing that tragedy and comedy go hand in hand.

Her debut thriller Wynfield’s Kingdom was featured on the cover of the First Edition Magazine in the UK and earned the praise of the Neo-Victorian Studies Journal. After writing a series of novels dealing with the Anglo-Irish conflict, she takes a break from the slums of London and the gunpowder-filled streets of Dublin to delve into the picturesque radioactive swamps of her native Belarus. Saved by the Bang: a Nuclear Comedy is a deliciously offensive autobiographical satire featuring sex scandals of Eastern Europe’s artistic elite in the face of political upheavals. Her latest Penmore release, The Gate of Dawn is a folkloric tale of conspiracy and revenge set in czarist Lithuania.


Enter to win a Amazon gift copy of The Gate of Dawn. Open to US residents only. Ends 6/21/16.

Publisher: Penmore Press LLC (May 19, 2016)


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Filed under 2016, Fiction, June, Review

Review: The Wedding Chapel by Rachel Hauck


About The Wedding Chapel

An old, forgotten chapel holds the key to love and forgiveness.

Retired hall-of-fame football coach Jimmy Westbrook never imagined anything would come of his labor of love—building a wedding chapel for Collette Greer, the woman he fell in love with in 1949. But now a realtor wants the land the chapel sits on, and he sees no reason to hang onto the past.

Photographer Taylor Branson is trying to make a life for herself in New York. Leaving her hometown of Heart’s Bend, Tennessee, she put a lot of things behind her, including her family’s string of failed marriages. When she falls head-over-heels for Jack Gillingham, a top ad man, their whirlwind romance and elopement leave her with doubts. Jack, while genuine in his love for Taylor, can never seem to find the right way to show her he really cares.

When a post-mortem letter from Taylor’s Granny Peg shows up, along with an old photo, she is driven to uncover family secrets and the secret to her own happiness, starting with an assignment to photograph an unknown, obscure wedding chapel back in Heart’s Bend.

Taylor begins a mission to convince Jimmy that the chapel is worth saving—and that forgiveness and healing might happen within the chapel’s walls . . . for both of them.

My Review

I enjoyed this book more than I imagined.

Hauck manages to bring two couples, one from the past, the other from the present with four points of view. Their back story’s unfold slowly alternating from past to present. Jimmy and Colette’s story reaches from late 1940-50’s to present. Jack and Taylor’s story is present day.

Hauck delves into hard-hitting relationship issues, while the couples try to reconcile the challenges faced with ease and difficulty complete with starts and stalls. A few weighty surprises unfold providing more obstacles for the foursome.

Of the four points of view I was compelled by Jack the most. He’s wounded, closed off, struggling with his feelings, his story and craving to be more touched me. Not a surprise a majority of men resemble Jack in some form, his issues are affecting.

Spirituality was lightly sprinkled throughout the narrative, yet what was given was powerful. As the story progresses the messages increase in both momentum and strength. The wedding chapel is the apex of the story symbolizing healing, hope and forgiveness, beautifully demonstrated by Hauck.

Beautiful story of forgiveness and second chances. Quite a compelling and moving narrative with lovely messages.

About Rachel Hauck51-utIDAGrL._UX250_

Rachel Hauck writes from sunny central Florida.

A RITA finalist and winner of Romantic Times Inspirational Novel of the Year, she writes vivid characters dealing with real life issues.

She loves to hear from readers. She also loves to encourage new writers and sits on the Executive Board of American Christian Fiction Writers..

A graduate of Ohio State University with a BA in Journalism, Rachel is an avid OSU football fan. She hopes to one day stand on the sidelines in the Shoe with Urban Meyer.

An avid Diet Coke fan, she is caffeine free. Sometimes you just have to compromise.

She’s never skied or jumped out of an airplane. She leaves such hijinks to Jason Bourne.

Published November 17th 2015 by Zondervan

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Filed under 2016, Fiction, June, Review

Excerpt & Giveaway: Untamed by Diana Palmer


Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: HQN Books (June 30, 2015)

Stanton Rourke lives life on the edge. The steely mercenary is dangerous in every way…especially to Clarisse Carrington’s heart. She and Rourke were playmates as children, but she’s not the innocent girl he once knew. When tragedy robbed Clarisse of her entire family, her life was changed forever. Besides, she’s a grown woman now, and there are secrets that hold her back from succumbing to her pursuer. As she struggles to keep her distance, sparks as hot as a Texas summer fly between them. But danger is following Clarisse, leaving her no choice but to rely on Rourke, even as the old wounds lying dormant between them flare up again…


Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

About Diana Palmerdianapalmerphotobigw

An icon in western romance, Diana Palmer has been writing with Harlequin since 1980 and has published over 180 titles, with over 61 million books sold! When not writing, Susan’s hobbies are gardening, knitting, crocheting, astronomy, archaeology and animals. She also has dogs, cats, birds and lizards.


Enter for a chance to win a $100 Visa Giftcard, please complete the giveaway form below. Open to US residents only. Ends 7/15/15

Thrilled to be included in the tour for Diana Palmer’s Untamed. Be sure to click on the TLC banner to check out the entire tour schedule. Thank you TLC!

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Filed under 2015, Excerpt, Fiction, June

Review & Giveaway: The Festival of Insignificance by Milan Kundera

The Festival of Insignificance (429x648)

•Hardcover: 128 pages
•Publisher: Harper (June 23, 2015)

A story filled with varying degrees of humor not lacking in seriousness. I’m a huge Kundera fan finding enjoyment in all his works. I found this novella delightful.

The book centers around our existence, with time we begin to be less significant. We will fade from memories or be remembered in embellished ways by those never really knowing our intricacies.

“Insignificance, my friend, is the essence of existence,”

Kundera points out the fact insignificant things in life are the most beautiful and often ignored as well as unappreciated. Stop and smell the roses, hear the beauty in children’s laughter, the most minute in life matters – all these overlooked insignificant things create the joy in life, breathe life into you.

“Insignificance, my friend, is the essence of existence,” another friend proposes. “It is all around us, and everywhere and always. It is present even when no one wants to see it: in horror, in bloody battles, in the worst disasters. It often takes courage to acknowledge it in such dramatic situations, and to call it by name. But it is not only a matter of acknowledging it, we must love insignificance, we must learn to love it.”

A humorous yet powerful glimpse into our existence while taking the time to embrace the smallest of pleasures we are often blind to.

About Milan KunderaMilan Kundera

The Franco-Czech novelist Milan Kundera was born in Brno and has lived in France, his second homeland, since 1975. He is the author of the novels The Joke, Farewell Waltz, Life Is Elsewhere, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Immortality, and the short-story collection Laughable Loves-all originally written in Czech. His most recent novels Slowness, Identity, and Ignorance, as well as his nonfiction works The Art of the Novel, Testaments Betrayed, The Curtain, and Encounter, were originally written in French.


Enter for a chance to win a copy of The Festival of Insignificance, please complete the giveaway form below. Open to US residents only. Ends 7/6/15

Thrilled to be included in the tour for Milan Kundera’s The Festival of Insignificance. Be sure to click on the TLC banner to check out the entire tour schedule. Thank you TLC!

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Filed under 2015, Fiction, June

Review & Giveaway: All the Single Ladies by Dorothea Benton Frank

All the Single LadiesHardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (June 9, 2015)

In the depths of the Lowcountry of South Carolina, three unsuspecting women are brought together by tragedy and mystery.

I’m not completely on board with DBF but I have to give the authoress credit outstandingly describing the surroundings of South Carolina. From delicious food, warm people, humidity so thick you can slice it with a knife, turncoat weather, stifling heat and of course the hospitality and mannerisms, you feel as if you’ve stepped knee high into it all. Extremely atmospheric.

I wasn’t of the mindset of the three female protagonists by any means. Lisa was way too preachy on her marijuana bandwagon, became stale after a while. Carrie’s dire financial situation provoking her to hunt for a husband to take care and support her, utter madness, her actions certainly didn’t gain her points with this reader. Her behavior was unflattering. Suzanne experienced an unhealthy relationship long ago and therefore swears off men. I had absolutely nothing in common with these women, as a feminist I cringed. I will say the attempt to confiscate the items was ludicrous.

A contrived narrative of justice, love and friendship, perfect for the beach or airplane.

About Dorothea Benton FrankDorothea Benton Frank

New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank was born and raised on Sullivans Island, South Carolina. She divides her time between the New York area and the Lowcountry.

Find her on the web at, or like her on Facebook or Twitter.


Enter for a chance to win a copy of All the Single Ladies, please complete the giveaway form below. Open to US residents only. Ends 7/2/15

Thrilled to be included in the tour for Dorothea Benton Frank’s All the Single Ladies. Be sure to click on the TLC banner to check out the entire tour schedule. Thank you TLC!

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Filed under 2015, Fiction, June

Review & Giveaway: Love May Fail by Matthew Quick

Love May Fail (429x648)Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Harper (June 16, 2015)

A story of the great highs and lows of existence: the heartache and daring choices it takes to become the person you know (deep down) you are meant to be.

Gotta say the characters in this book did absolutely nothing for me, zero connection.

Portia was a poor example of a feminist. In fact the whole feminist rant was out of place and all wrong in this narrative. It was all bark and no bite. What was portrayed as feminism was poorly executed. Don’t get sucked in by the pro feminist hype this book claims to deliver, all wrong.

To be blunt the narrative was a mess. Stays on course and suddenly veers off track in a big way. Messy would be kind. The ending was bland and nonsensical, felt out of place.

Very strange overall, leaving you scratching your head asking (not in a good way) What the heck did I just read? It felt very fragmented, poorly stitched to weave a story never coming together. Must say I was disappointed and I didn’t expect much going in. Not Quick’s best work, hope to see a marked improvement next time.

About Matthew QuickMatthew Quick

Matthew Quick (aka Q) is the New York Times bestselling author of several novels, including The Silver Linings Playbook, which was made into an Oscar-winning film, and The Good Luck of Right Now. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has received a PEN/Hemingway Award Honorable Mention. Q lives with his wife, the novelist-pianist Alicia Bessette, on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

Find out more about Matthew at his website, follow him on Twitter, and connect with him on Facebook.


Enter for a chance to win a copy of Love May Fail, please complete the giveaway form below. Open to US residents only. Ends 6/29/15

Thrilled to be included in the tour for Matthew Quick’s Love May Fail. Be sure to click on the TLC banner to check out the entire tour schedule. Thank you TLC!

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Filed under 2015, Fiction, June

Summer Dreaming $250 Cash Giveaway


Summer Dreaming $250 Cash Giveaway
June 21st to July 15th

An Amazing Group of Authors & Bloggers have joined with me to bring you 1 fabulous prize!!! We’re giving away $250 in Paypal Cash to help you do something you have been dreaming of this summer.



I Am A Reader
Raven Haired Girl
The Discerning Reader
Author Inger Iversen
Kelly’s Lucky You
The Lovely Books
Ann’s Afterthoughts
Bella Street’s Time Travel Romance
Erin Richards
Bonnie Blythe Pure Romance
Glistering Bs Blog
Rachelle J. Christensen
Krysten Lindsay Hager author
Serena Clarke
Lori’s Reading Corner
Pauline Creeden, Author
Simple Wyrdings
Author Deb Atwood
Jennifer Peel
Melissa M. Frye
Suzi Love
Penner Publishing
Chicas Love to Read
Kimber Leigh Wheaton
Maureen’s Musings
Room With Books
LeahSay’s Views
The Stubby Pencil’s Library
Author Sheralyn Pratt

Giveaway Details

$250 Paypal Cash

Ends 7/15/15


Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use money sent via Paypal. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author, bloggers and publishers on the sponsor list. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Review & Giveaway: The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall

The Wolf Border (428x648)

• Hardcover: 448 pages
• Publisher: Harper (June 9, 2015)

A literary masterpiece about the reintroduction of wild wolves into the United Kingdom.

I was expecting a plot focusing on wolves, needless to say that’s not what was delivered. The plot focuses on Rachel, her pregnancy and dysfunctional family along with a myriad of other personal challenges. The wolves aspect serves as a minimal secondary narrative, what was introduced was fascinating only leaving me hankering for much more.

Rachel is a peculiar character – intricate, aloof, loner, incredibly private, fiercely independent and a commitment phobic. She possesses a keen eye for observation which creates her interaction with others enlightening. I found her lukewarm in the beginning, came to understand her more in the middle and felt a warmth towards her in the later part of the story. Her passion and softer side is exposed when she is immersed in the world of her beloved wolves. She grows as a woman managing to slough off her rough untouchable exterior, her heart softens, she’s less rigid.

I must say the pace was lethargic, unbearable at times. Don’t expect this to be a fast pace read by any means, the snail wins the race here. Hall’s fluid graceful prose kept me from calling it quits.

Despite being let down by the summary, Hall’s stellar writing kept my attention. Her manipulation of language more than compensated for flaws. Vivid depictions of the surrounding areas, wolves were quite stunning.

About Sarah HallSarah Hall

Sarah Hall was born in 1974 in Cumbria, England. She received a master of letters in creative writing from Scotland’s St. Andrews University and has published four novels. Haweswater won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (overall winner, Best First Novel) and a Society of Authors Betty Trask Award. The Electric Michelangelo was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (Eurasia Region), and the Prix Femina Étranger, and was longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. Daughters of the North won the 2006/07 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the James Tiptree Jr. Award, and was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction. How to Paint a Dead Man was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won the Portico Prize for Fiction. In 2013 Hall was named one of Granta‘s Best Young British Novelists, a prize awarded every ten years, and she won the BBC National Short Story Award and the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Find out more about Sarah at her website, and connect with her on Facebook.


Enter for a chance to win a copy of The Wolf Border, please complete the giveaway form below. Open to US residents only. Ends 6/26/15

Thrilled to be included in the tour for Sarah Hall’s The Wolf Border. Be sure to click on the TLC banner to check out the entire tour schedule. Thank you TLC!

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Filed under 2015, Fiction, June

Review & Giveaway: Love at First Flight by Tess Woods


What begins as a flirty conversation between strangers quickly develops into a hot and obsessive affair with disastrous consequences neither Mel nor Matt could have ever seen coming. Mel’s dream life turns into her worst nightmare.

“The verb love is what counts, not the feeling of love. When you feel love, it’s selfish, it’s just for you and it affects nobody but you. But when you act love, you are committing the act of loving somebody.”

Infidelity is a dicey subject matter to tackle. I was hesitant to read this book being of the mindset it would somehow exploit and validate a reason and promotion of betrayal – I WAS WRONG.

Tess Woods takes on infidelity complete with the pleasure and pain, anguish and joy such an act commits. She beautifully displays the emotional and mental wreckage not limited to the parties involved but the children as well. Woods in no way glamorizes infidelity and she doesn’t allow her characters to either. Providing an in depth glimpse into the chaos and aftermath infidelity leaves long after the offense is committed.

The narrative is raw, brutal and heartbreaking. I felt as if I was spying on the parties involved, witnessing their ecstasy and sorrow. Their trials and tribulations became mine, I was completely invested in the entire cast. A very realistic view of infidelity.

Woods gives the reader three varied characters. You learn of them intimately which allows you to feel their pain, regrets, delight. Characters so well-developed you find it difficult to dislike any of them, instead you empathize, sympathize and feel for them with your heart and mind.

Full of twists and a compelling ending, this book was amazing especially given the subject matter. Tess Woods demonstrates her talent, creativity and emotional depth with this incredible and memorable portrayal of one woman torn. POWERFUL.  PROVOKING.  AFFECTING.

tess woodsAbout Tess Woods

Tess Woods is a health professional who lives in Perth, Australia with one husband, two children, one dog and one cat who rules over all of them. Love at First Flight is her first novel for HarperCollins. When she isn’t working or being a personal assistant to her kids, Tess enjoys reading and all kinds of grannyish pleasures like knitting, baking, drinking tea, watching Downton Abbey and tending to the veggie patch.

Find out more about Tess at her website and connect with her on Facebook and  Goodreads.


Enter to win an iBook voucher for Love at First Flight (vouchers EXPIRE June 25) by completing the giveaway form below. Open Internationally. Ends 6/22/15


Filed under 2015, Fiction, June

Review & Giveaway: The Wrong Man by Kate White

The-Wrong-Man-430x648-199x300• Paperback: 336 pages
• Publisher: Harper Paperbacks; First Edition edition (June 16, 2015)

A compelling thriller of mistaken identity and psychological suspense about an accomplished career woman who thinks she’s met the man of her dreams–but instead he turns out to be her worst nightmare.

A perfect beach read. Certainly won’t keep you on the edge of your seat. Entertaining but felt a bit contrived.

The characters are matte, they felt awkward, their interaction amiss. The narrative predictable and mediocre, slightly implausible. The ending prognosticate – by far the most excitement offered. The writing was far too casual, an unpolished feel, dialog was way off, stilted.

Despite its flaws, the clever intended premise, it’s a great means to escape reality. A low-grade thriller with a sharp romance angle, with more than a few foreseen twists and turns.

About Kate White

Style: "Neutral"

Style: “Neutral”

Kate White, the former editor in chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, is the New York Times bestselling author of the stand-alone novelsHush, The Sixes, and Eyes on You, as well as the Bailey Weggins mystery series. She is editor of The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. She is also the author of popular career books for women, including I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: How to Ask for the Money, Snag the Promotion, and Create the Career You Deserve.

Find out more about Kate at her website and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


Enter for a chance to win a copy of The Wrong Man, please complete the giveaway form below. Open to US residents only. Ends 6/24/15

Thrilled to be included in the tour for Kate White’s The Wrong Man. Be sure to click on the TLC banner to check out the entire tour schedule. Thank you TLC!

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Filed under 2015, Fiction, June