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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Cover Reveal: Clutch: A Novel by Lisa Becker

Title: Clutch: A Novel
Author: Lisa Becker
Genre: Contemporary Chick-Lit Romance
Release Date: October 2015

clutch: a novel is the laugh-out-loud, chick lit romance chronicling the dating misadventures of Caroline Johnson, a single purse designer who compares her unsuccessful romantic relationships to styles of handbags – the “Hobo” starving artist, the “Diaper Bag” single dad, the “Briefcase” intense businessman, etc. With her best friend, bar owner Mike by her side, the overly-accommodating Caroline drinks a lot of Chardonnay, puts her heart on the line, endures her share of unworthy suitors and finds the courage to discover the “Clutch” or someone she wants to hold onto.
  
Mimi Johnson was casually dressed in a brightly-colored blouse with enormous turquoise jewelry and equally-oversized glasses. Despite that largesse, the only thing truly bigger than her personality (and her bosom) was her handbag. It was always perfectly matched to her clothing, shoes, and jewelry. She was like a walking Chico’s advertisement, if you added forty years, forty pounds, and a Virginia Slims cigarette. From her Mary Poppins-like bag, she pulled out a box, impeccably-wrapped in glossy pink paper with a white grosgrain ribbon bow. A cigarette teetered between her two fingers while she produced a lung-hacking cough.

“Open it… <cough, cough> …sweetie. Open it,” she said to her seven-year-old great niece, Caroline, a beautiful and vibrant girl with long blonde hair and oversized blue eyes.

Alive with anticipation, sweet young Caroline eagerly took the box and smiled up at Mimi. She gingerly removed the ribbon, planning to save it for later. The glossy paper was less of interest and she ripped through it quickly. She opened the box and gently lifted out a hot pink purse, adorned with pale pink flowers and rhinestones. An enormous smile overcame her. Caroline nearly set her own hair on fire from Mimi’s cigarette as she bounded into her aunt’s arms.

“Oh, thank you, Aunt Mimi. It’s lovely.”

And that was when Caroline’s love of handbags began. From big and loud ones that would make Mimi proud to unimposing wristlets, from bowler bags to satchels; it didn’t matter if they were made of canvas or calf-skin leather, were distressed or embellished with metal studs. Hell, she didn’t care if you called them pocketbooks or purses. She just loved them all – almost as much as she loved Mimi. 

By the time she was a junior in high school and well on her way to being class valedictorian, it was the hundreds of bags Caroline owned that helped her conceptualize her ticket out of her suffocating small Georgian town. She would design handbags. And it was Mimi who was her steadfast cheerleader. 

“Caroline, sweetie… <cough, cough> …you find something you love and you just hold onto it.” It had never mattered if Caroline was asking Mimi’s advice about a friend, lover, or career. The advice was always the same: “Find something you love and hold onto it.” 

Mimi’s words ever-present in her mind, Caroline headed to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and spent four years in Los Angeles learning everything there was to know to pursue her passion. Then, right out of college, she spent three years working in the design and marketing departments of two of the world’s leading high-end handbag designers.

She was schooled in beauty and how to accessorize the perfectly-coiffed women on the way to their Botox appointments. But Caroline was pulled by the nagging feeling that the very person who had inspired her career, Mimi, could never afford the bags she designed, even if Caroline used her generous employee discount on Mimi’s behalf. And God forbid Mimi would ever accept one as a gift, always preferring to give rather than receive. But Caroline believed there was no reason for anyone to be denied the ultimate in accessories. She saw an untapped market of designing beautiful and affordable bags, but she just wasn’t sure she was start-up potential. Again, it was Mimi who nudged her to learn the business side of things and apply to MBA programs. When Caroline was accepted to Harvard Business School, Mimi of course encouraged her.

“You’ve got this, sweetie. <cough, cough>,” she said. “It’s in the bag.”

Caroline was sitting in Financial Reporting and Control on her first day of Harvard classes (and yes, the class turned out to be as boring as it sounded). That’s when she first eyed Mike, who was wearing a faded pair of Levi jeans, a washed-out vintage Rolling Stones T-shirt, and Converse sneakers. He oozed charisma. Turning her head away from him and back toward the front of the lecture hall, Caroline thought that if he were a handbag, he would be a grey leather tote – confident and dependable, but not trying too hard. 

Mike surveyed the large lecture hall as he walked in, a Starbucks coffee cup in each hand. After descending the steps slowly, he took a seat next to Caroline and planted one of the white and green cups on her desk.

Flashing a wide, dimpled smile, which she mused he reserved for getting girls to drop their panties, he said, “Here. You look like you’re going to need this.”

“Thanks,” she replied in a suspicious tone, turning her head sideways to look at him and raising an eyebrow.

“I’m Mike,” he said, again flashing a smile and reaching out for a handshake.

“I’m Caroline. Thanks for the…”

“Latte.” 

“Latte,” she confirmed. “Thanks. But just so you know, I’m not gonna sleep with you,” she said in an apparent attempt to establish up front she wasn’t taken in by his obvious charm. 

“I know,” he replied matter-of-factly. 

Before she could respond, Professor Beauregard, a stout man with excessive eyebrows, spoke up.

“Please take note of where you are seated. I will send around a seating chart for you to mark your spot. This will be your seat for the remainder of the semester.” 

“Looks like we’ll be seatmates,” Mike said, grinning at her.

“Looks like it,” she replied.

About three months into the first semester, Caroline learned that her fun-loving, easy-going new best buddy Mike wasn’t exactly who he appeared to be. 




In addition to clutch: a novel, Lisa Becker is the author of the Click Trilogy, a contemporary romance series comprised of Click: An Online Love Story, Double Click and Right Click. She’s written bylined articles about dating and relationships for “Cupid’s Pulse,” “The Perfect Soulmate,” “GalTime,” “Single Edition,” “Healthy B Daily” and “Chick Lit Central” among others. She lives in Manhattan Beach, California with her husband and two daughters. To learn more, visit www.lisawbecker.com.










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Book Title: Silk 
Author: Chris Karlasen 
Genre: Historical Suspense 
Release Date: 12/14/14 
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Book Blurb

Silk on the skin—luxurious, luscious..lethal.

London-Fall, 1888
The city is in a panic as Jack the Ripper continues his murderous spree. While the Whitechapel police struggle to find him, Detective Inspector Rudyard Bloodstone and his partner are working feverishly to find their own serial killer. The British Museum's beautiful gardens have become a killing ground for young women strangled as they stroll through.

Their investigation has them brushing up against Viscount Everhard, a powerful member of the House of Lords, and a friend to Queen Victoria. When the circumstantial evidence points to him as a suspect, Rudyard must deal with the political blowback, and knows if they are going to go after the viscount, they'd better be right and have proof.


As the body count grows and the public clamor for the detectives to do more, inter-department rivalries complicate the already difficult case.



Events of the day and the potential satisfaction of giving Napier a bloody nose dwindled. Questions about the murder crept back into Ruddy's thoughts. Morris joined him at his table in the rear of the pub with a Guinness, the popular beer of choice in hand. “You’ve got the look of a man whose thoughts are a long distance from London.”
“No, sadly my thoughts are fixed here in the city. I’m trying to figure out a clue. Ellis’s roommate said she’d sometimes meet with a well-dressed man, a man of means the victim indicated. They’d meet up at the fountain by the British Museum.”
“Don’t know the spot but then the museum isn’t my cup of tea.”
“Not the point. I’m saying it’s odd. What member of the upper class chooses to stroll through a public garden other than Hyde or Regents, where they can see and be seen by one of their own?”
“I agree the wealthy prefer the parks filled with others of their kind but it doesn’t mean a man can’t enjoy someplace different.”
“We interviewed the guard again. The one that discovered the body walks that half of the building. He told us the majority of their male patrons are natty dressers, but he never saw a man like that loitering by the fountain.”
“My guess is: the man is married and can’t afford to run the risk of being seen by a friend of his wife’s. Or, he might live or work in the area and the spot is convenient.”
“Or, he’s a murderer who’s noticed the victim walking through the park on a regular basis, saw it as an opportunity and cozied up to her.”
Ruddy took another swallow of his ale, mentally debating the merit of each theory. “I don’t think he lives in the area. If so, he’d have cut through the park more and been seen by the guards. Not sure about the married man having a tryst idea."
To Ruddy's way of thinking, if the man was married and looking for a tumble, he’d have met her someplace other than the gardens and at a better hour.
Instinct drew him back to his original sense of the culprit and crime. “I feel like this was a crime of opportunity. I’ve thought it all along and can’t shake the sense.”
“If he was just seeking a victim, then why haven’t you had more murders like this?” Morris asked.
Ruddy downed the rest of his beer and put his tankard on the edge of the table where June would refill it. “Everyone has to start somewhere. She might be number one.”

 
Praise

From Net Galley:
"Quick paced, fun, thrilling, and addictive read."
"Excellent plot, well thought out."
From Amazon:
"Great read-will keep readers turning pages."
"Classically writer story, riveting and finely honed."
"One of the best books I've read in a long time."
 
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Meet the Author


 

I was born and raised in Chicago. My father was a history professor and my mother was, and is, a voracious reader. I grew up with a love of history and books.


My parents also love traveling, a passion they passed onto me. I wanted to see the places I read about, see the land and monuments from the time periods that fascinated me. I’ve had the good fortune to travel extensively throughout Europe, the Near East, and North Africa.  

I am a retired police detective. I spent twenty-five years in law enforcement with two different agencies. My desire to write came in my early teens. After I retired, I decided to pursue that dream. I write three different series. My paranormal romance series is called, Knights in Time. My romantic thriller series is Dangerous Waters. The newest is The Bloodstone Series. Each series has a different setting and some cross time periods, which I find fun to write.

I currently live in the Pacific Northwest with my husband and five wild and crazy rescue dogs.  



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Synopsis
He’s my art professor.
I’m his student.
With an electric connection and undeniable chemistry, I know it won’t be long until one of us cracks.
When the opportunity arises to pose naked for the entire art class, I can’t help the thrill of knowing he’ll be watching me.
While they all look past me with their eyes narrowed and concentrated, drawing only the lines and angles of my body, he sees right through me down to my vulnerability.
He sees more than just the physical aspects—he sees me.
That’s when I see the struggle in his features as he tries to stay in control.
How do we keep our distance when everything seems to be pulling us together?
What feels so right can only go wrong if we keep pushing the limits.
8-4 TEASER
Excerpt

PROLOGUE

ASPEN
I step inside the doorway, immediately hit with the mixed aroma of mildew and lavender from all the flower arrangements. I narrow my eyes, trying to adjust to the dim lighting. It’s eerily quiet, the service not due to begin for another hour.

My mother was hysterical all night long, crying in her room. I heard her through the bedroom door, but I didn’t go to her. I couldn’t.

I know she blames me.

Mom hadn’t said a word to me all morning, so I asked my older brother, Aaron, to take me early. I want to see Ariel before everyone else starts arriving. See her one last time.

I walk down the short hallway and into the room her service is being held in. Chairs are all lined up perfectly, row by row. The room will probably fill up quickly of family and friends, all coming to give their condolences.

I swallow as I step closer, her casket already open. I notice faint music playing overhead through the speakers. It’s meant to sound soft and soothing, but I don’t know how anything can soothe away the ache burning in my chest.

I glance around and notice the walls look as if they were painted a hundred years ago. The faded beige carpet is almost nonexistent. Flowers surround her on one side and a table of vanilla scented candles on the other. Nothing in this whole room represents her except the collage board of pictures she had hanging in our room. She made it two summers ago and had been adding pictures of her friends and us ever since. It captures every part of her personality.

We lived on farmland with only fields surrounding us. No neighbors or friends to play with meant we’d learned to entertain ourselves. I remember the day she got a new camera for Christmas and immediately started taking pictures—of everything. We’d giggle and snap pictures of each other, torment Aaron and take his picture when his girlfriend was over, and take about a hundred pictures of our pets. I smile at the memories but at the same time feel like crying because now there won’t be anymore. The memories we’ve made the last fourteen years are all I have left of her.

When Pastor Jay asked us to bring in our favorite pictures of her, I knew immediately she’d want these. I step closer and examine them, even though I’ve looked at it every single day for the past two years. Somehow today, it looks different.

There’s the one of us standing in front of the middle school on our first day of seventh grade. We were assigned different homerooms and weren’t happy about being apart. Another one shows us with our dog, Fudge, the first day we brought him home from the shelter. We’ve only had him for six months now. He was a rescue and she said she knew he was the perfect fit for our family.

After tracing the lines of each picture, I slowly walk to her casket. I pleaded with my mom to let her wear her favorite purple dress, but she refused. She said it was an ‘occasion’ dress, AKA—a happy occasion. Instead, she picked out a dark, navy blue dress that she absolutely loathed wearing. My lip curls up on one side thinking how much she’d hate wearing this dress right now. She hated wearing dresses in general, but now, oh she’d be so pissed. Part of me wants to laugh at the irony and the other part wants to rip it off her and sneak the purple dress on.

I glance down at her, curling my fingers tightly around the edge of her casket. She looks flawless, almost like she’s just sleeping. Even looking at her right now, seeing that she isn’t breathing anymore, it hasn’t all sunk in.

For the first time in days, I let myself cry. I cry harder than I ever have, I’ve held the tears in, trying to remain strong for Mom, but I can’t do it anymore. I release all the pain I’ve kept inside and apologize to her over and over.

“I’m so sorry, Ari. God, I’m so, so sorry.” I blink, wiping my cheeks off. “You hated that nickname,” I say, letting out a short laugh. I exhale a deep sigh. “I’m going to miss you so much,” I whisper, reaching for her hand. “I’m going to miss you sneaking in my bed and sleeping with me every time a storm hit. I’m going to miss staying up late on weekends, gossiping about Brady Carmichael and all the guys on the basketball team. Or the girls who think purple lipstick is in.” I chuckle softly to myself. “I’m even going to miss arguing with you over who gets to use the shower first. It was like our little tradition, I guess.” My lips soften, curling up on both sides at the happy memories. “Truthfully, I’m going to miss everything about you.” I lean down and kiss the top of her forehead. “I love you.”

I hear footsteps in the hall and take that as my cue to start heading out. People will be arriving soon, and I’m not quite sure I’m strong enough to deal with everyone. Half feel sorry for me and the other half blame me.

I’m not sure which one is worse.

“Aspen…” I hear my dad’s deep voice. I turn and face him, his lips set in a firm line, his eyes as empty as I feel right now. “Your mother wants to talk to you.”

I swallow at his tense features, but nod and follow him out of the room. He’s barely speaks or looks at me now. I’m only a constant reminder of what happened—of who he’s lost—of how our lives are forever changed.

He leads me to a small room on the other side of the hall where she’s sitting with her nose buried in a handkerchief.

I stand in front of her and wait. I’m not sure what to say to my mom right now—or anyone for that matter. I’m not sure there’s anything I can say.

“I need to hear the story one more time,” she chokes out. “I need to hear why my baby girl is dead.”

Her head is low and she refuses to look at me. I’ve told her and the police the story several times already, but every day since the incident she’s demanded to hear it again.

“Mom…” I begin, my eyes filling up again. “I can’t. Not again.”

“Tell me!” She raises her voice, finally tilting her head to look up at me. Her face contorted in a mixture of grief and disgust.

I do as she says. I repeat the story the same exact way I did the first dozen times. No matter how much it hurts to talk about, I explain what happened.

“How could you let that happen?” she mumbles. “How could you be so careless? I just don’t understand!”

“Mom, it’s not Aspen’s fault…” Aaron interrupts, stepping next to me.

“Mama, I’m sorry,” I burst out through a new wave of tears. I’ve apologized to her and Daddy over and over. But I know they’ll never forgive me.

I’ll never forgive me.

Aaron wraps an arm around my shoulders and cradles me to his chest. I hear my mom huff in disapproval. I push against his chest, wiping the tears off my cheeks as I storm off.

I’ll never forget the way her eyes widened in fear as she fell to her death. The way her body lay on the ground, motionless. The way her voice begged for my help as she screamed on the way down.

I’ll never forget.

I don’t tell Mom and Dad those things though. The images already haunt me in my sleep. The sound of her screaming has woken me up the past two nights. Every time I attempt to fall asleep, her dead eyes appear in my mind. It’s no use, I tell myself. There’s barely a difference between existing and sleeping now.

Life without her is pointless.

People start arriving, so Mom, Dad, Aaron, and I all stand in the front near her casket. I swallow my emotions down and refuse to cry. I shut down. I shut everything down. I let them hug me and say how sorry they are for our loss. I let them cradle my head as they press me against their chests. I let them squeeze my hands as they tell me how much she will be missed. I let them do whatever they need to express their feelings. But I don’t cry. I quietly thank them and look down at my feet.

When the service is over, we gather at the cemetery to bury her. A large bouquet of white lilies rests on her closed casket. I step forward and pull one out for myself before they lower her in the ground. Mom and Dad do the same, but they don’t look at me. Dad wraps his arm around her shoulders, holding her close as she cries.

I grip the obituary program tightly in my hand and stare down at her picture displayed on the cover. Mom used her most recent school photo from this past year, although it hadn’t been her favorite. I don’t know why though, she looked stunning as usual—bright smile, sparkling green eyes, and flowing golden blonde hair.

Underneath it reads, Loving Daughter and Sister. Gone too soon, but never forgotten. 4-10-1995 to 4–10-2009.

She died on our birthday.

I swallow as I take it all in. April tenth was our favorite day. We’d wake up early to Mom making us our favorite breakfast—the only day of the year she’d make it—Belgian waffles with melted cream cheese frosting drizzled on top and then slathered in homemade maple syrup. She used fresh blueberries—instead of frozen—on top. She called it our special birthday breakfast and every year we looked forward to it.

After breakfast, we’d rip our presents open from our parents and later on exchange the ones we made for each other. For the last few years, we’d talk Mom into letting us skip school for the day. She wouldn’t even bother arguing with us, knowing she’d eventually cave anyway. So when we woke up on our birthday five days ago, we’d done everything the exact same.

We laughed all through breakfast. Mom was going on and on about how she couldn’t believe how grown up her baby girls were getting and how old that made her feel. Aaron was three years older than us, but apparently he was born out of wedlock and didn’t count in her aging process.

After we finished eating, Mom handed us each a card and watched as we ripped them open. We both squealed when we saw the hundred-dollar bill tucked inside.

As we wrapped our arms around her, she lectured us. “Don’t spend it all in one place, girls!” We then begged her to take us to the mall so we could of course spend it on clothes and makeup.

“You’ll have to wait until your father gets back,” she said, piling the dishes into the sink. We ran upstairs and got dressed, setting our money down on the dresser and running back outside. It was warm for April, just a slight breeze in the air.

It was perfect.

I smile at the memory of our birthday traditions. It was something we’ve always shared. Should have shared forever.

She’d always tease me about how she was older, granted it was only by three minutes, but now the day would be pointless.

A painful reminder of what happened.

Of what I lost.

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About the author

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Brooke Cumberland is a USA Today Bestselling author who's a stay-at-home mom and writes full-time. She lives in the frozen tundra of Packer Nation with her husband, 4 year old wild child, and two teenage stepsons. When she's not writing, you can find her reading love stories, listening to music that inspires her, and laughing with her family. Brooke is addicted to Starbucks coffee, leggings, and anything sweet. She found her passion for telling stories during winter break one year in grad school and she hasn't stopped since.
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