THE LAST CORRESPONDENT by Soraya M. Lane – Review & digital giveaway – CLOSED

  • In THE LAST CORRESPONDENT, It’s 1943. WWII is raging and the invasion of Normandy is on the horizon. Ella Franks is fired after her editor learns she’s a woman and using a fake man’s name. She refuses to “shut up” and is hired by the AP to do reporting on women’s issues from England. Once across the pond she meets war correspondents and sets her eyes on reporting from war-torn France.
  • Feisty American photojournalist Danni Bradford has been covering wars for years with her best friend and partner, Andy. She is always coming up against the brass for being a woman. She is determined to cover the events unfolding in Normandy, and to locate Andy’s sister, Vogue model Chloe, who has made her way to France disguised as a Moulin Rouge dancer. Once in France she follows her lover, Gabriel into the French Resistance.
  • Tragedy brings Danni, Ella and Chloe together, and they form a capable and efficient team. Each woman is determined to follow her dreams “no matter what”, and to make her voice heard over the noise of war.
  • In France, they face danger at every turn, even from the US soldiers. Danni, Ella and Chloe will have to rely on each other if they want to file their stories and survive. Will the adventure and love they find be worth the journey of their lives?
  • I’m always excited about a book that features smart, strong women, especially women fighting the status quo. THE LAST CORRESPONDENT was particularly interesting for me, since I was a journalist. (just in the US) The characters were all fleshed out and compelling. Somehow I felt proud of what they represented, making women equal to men. I read it in one sitting. You may need some tissues close by.

Soraya M. Lane graduated with a law degree before realizing that law wasn’t the career for her and that her future was in writing. She is the author of historical and contemporary women’s fiction, and her novel Wives of War was an Amazon Charts bestseller. 

Soraya lives on a small farm in her native New Zealand with her husband, their two young sons and a collection of four legged friends. When she’s not writing, she loves to be outside playing make-believe with her children or snuggled up inside reading.

For more information about Soraya and her books, visit

Social Media:



Twitter: @Soraya_Lane

Thanks to Suzy Approved Book Tours we have one digital copy to giveaway. Just tell us what you think about the news. We’ll choose a winner soon. Good luck.

GIVEAWAY: USA only please

EVERY LAST SECRET by A.R. TORRE – Spotlight & Giveaway – CLOSED

Welcome to Atherton. Watch your husband, watch your friends, and watch your back. Because all the ladies want the good life, but in some cases, it belongs to someone else. Not for long.

In A.R. Torre’s new novel, EVERY LAST SECRET (Thomas&Mercer)Cat Winthorpe has worked hard to get what she has: a gorgeous home; social standing; and William, her successful, handsome husband. Then a friendly new couple moves into the estate next door and Cat greets them with open arms and warm hospitality.

Neena Ryder isn’t a fellow lady of leisure. A life coach with off-the-rack dresses, personal issues, and a husband who hasn’t delivered, she’s anxious to move up in the world. This beautiful new town is a step in the right direction. It’s also making Neena aware of what she doesn’t have. Namely, William. When Neena’s infatuation escalates into obsession, it’s just a matter of eliminating a few obstacles to get the life she wants. The life next door.

As Neena’s secret fixation grows, so does her friendship with Cat. But beneath their cordial interactions is a wealth of temptations, secrets, and toxic jealousy. For both women, the desire for a perfect life can turn perfectly dangerous. I loved reading EVERY LAST SECRET. It was like one of those delicious treats you don’t want to admit to reading. It has everything you loved in “Dallas,” “Dynasty” or “Desperate Housewives.” Yummy! We have one copy to giveaway. Just tell us what thriller you’re looking forward to reading in 2021. Good luck. GIVEAWAY: USA only, please.

PRIMAL CALLING by Barry Eisenberg – Spotlight * Interview * Giveaway – CLOSED

While rummaging through the attic, high school senior, Jack Davies, is surprised to find his never-before-seen birth certificate, revealing a startling bit of information that changes his life. In PRIMAL CALLING by Barry Eisenberg, the story his mother told about his birth, he discovers, is revealed to be a lie, shattering long-held beliefs and the trust he had for her. Jack becomes obsessed with discovering the truth, leading him down a dangerous path. Faced with unanswered questions and confounding obstacles at every turn, Jack finds himself deeply enmeshed in an intricate world of national security and international intrigue. Relationships are tested as his every move is tracked by a group of mysterious people. Who are they? Whose side are they on? Who can he trust? And, most importantly, who will he ultimately become? WE ASKED BARRY A FEW QUESTIONS!

1. Where did you come up with this premise?

It was by chance, actually. I had heard the tail-end of a story on my car radio about a young man searching for the father he had never met. Over the next few days, I kept imagining the journey he must have traveled and thought I’d write a short story about that quest. The more I wrote, the more immersed I became, and almost before I knew it, Primal Calling, the novel, was born. 

I am currently working on a novel about a family faced with the difficult decisions about how to care for an aging, declining parent. This story was inspired by our family’s actual experience, as I reported in The New York TimesLessons on Living from My 106-Year-Old Aunt Doris, and the overwhelming response I received. 

2. We are all intrigued by books about secrets. Why?

Secrets are the things hidden between the layers of our public selves. I would venture that most secrets have purpose – from the benign, as in planning a surprise, or deeper psychological stockades built around couching pain, burying guilt, coping with grief, or squelching desire, among many other possibilities. Some are good at keeping secrets; others will burst at the seams without the ability to divulge their own or be granted license to share another’s. Some will carry their secrets forever, like an unwanted tattoo. Some secrets are burdens and some are energizing, but all, if told, are revelatory. Writers give their characters secrets to let readers in between the layers to learn about them — what motivates, what inhibits, why they are who they are — and to build mystery and suspense. Authors parcel out clues, building suspicions, enticing readers to speculate, and opine about truths and deceptions. Unraveling them can be very satisfying, and being surprised by their reveal can make for very exciting reading.

3. What is your one line pitch for this novel?

Primal Calling is a tale of international intrigue ignited by a young man’s search for the father he never even knew he had, but, at its core, it is a journey of self-discovery and a family’s pursuit to reconcile love and trust.

4. I see you’re a health care consultant. What do you think about this virus? The state of our health care system, or lack thereof?

The pandemic has exposed the fact that if you are Black, Hispanic, or poor, your chances of getting high quality care and surviving the COVID-19 virus, and many other health problems, is lower than that of other segments of the population. This should be regarded as a national disgrace and a call for action. Ultimately, the question of health policy is about whether we think health care is a right or a privilege. Increasing numbers of people believe it is a right. And health policy has moved in this direction over the past one hundred years, though it’s been two steps forward, one back (occasionally three back!) and we still have a long way to go. The last thing anyone should worry about when they or a loved one gets sick is whether they can access and afford good quality care. I have a recurring fantasy that we may someday have a national discussion about health policy without it being politicized. 

5. Explain your research.

Doing research is a means of honoring readers. It demonstrates that we have done the work necessary to bring authenticity to the fact-based parts of our stories. My background in conducting research, including getting a doctorate in the social sciences, has proven very helpful in my fiction writing. Primal Calling required considerable research in the areas of oil exploration, adoption and custody, and international espionage. These seemingly unrelated areas are woven together in the book. I also do much research in three areas related to my work as a faculty member in the State University of New York. One involves what it takes to lead a health care organization today. I co-authored a book, Mastering Leadership in Healthcare: A Vital Resource for Healthcare Organizations which discusses the growing complexity of health care systems and the challenges their leaders face. I also do research in physician-patient communication. It seems that every patient has a story about an experience that lacked clarity, thoughtfulness, and kindness. Why is that? And finally, I have been writing about the consolidation of colleges and universities, comparing it to what began in health care about 25 years ago, and is likely to accelerate now because of the pandemic. Thanks to FSB Associates we have one copy to giveaway. Just tell us how the virus is affecting you. It has totally changed my life. I try my best to stay in the moment. We’ll choose a winner soon. Good luck. GIVEAWAY: USA only please.

HERE SHE IS: The Complicated Reign of The Beauty Pageant in America by Hilary Levey Friedman – SPOTLIGHT & GIVEAWAY CLOSED

AND THE FIRST RUNNER UP IS – (screams) and a new Miss America is announced…. The other forty nine girls place a crown on the winner, she’s handed roses…. and makes her first walk down the center podium while wild cheers are heard from the audience. HERE SHE IS (BeaconPress) by Hilary Levey Friedman is a new book that reveals the relationship between beauty pageants and feminism.

Many predicted that pageants would disappear by the 21st century. Yet they are thriving. America’s most enduring contest, Miss America, celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2020. Why do they persist? In Here She Is, Hilary Levey Friedman reveals the surprising ways pageants have been an empowering feminist tradition. She traces the role of pageants in many of the feminist movement’s signature achievements, including bringing women into the public sphere, helping them become leaders in business and politics, providing increased educational opportunities, and giving them a voice in the age of #MeToo.

Using her unique perspective as a NOW state president, daughter to Miss America 1970, sometimes pageant judge, and scholar, Friedman explores how pageants became so deeply embedded in American life from their origins as a P.T. Barnum spectacle at the birth of the suffrage movement, through Miss Universe’s bathing beauties to the talent- and achievement-based competitions of today. She looks at how pageantry has morphed into culture everywhere from The Bachelor and RuPaul’s Drag Race to cheer and specialized contests like those for children, Indigenous women, and contestants with disabilities. Friedman also acknowledges the damaging and unrealistic expectations pageants place on women in society and discusses the controversies, including Miss America’s ableist and racist history, Trump’s ownership of the Miss Universe Organization, and the death of child pageant-winner JonBenet Ramsey.

Presenting a more complex narrative than what’s been previously portrayed, Here She Is shows that as American women continue to evolve, so too will beauty pageants.
Hilary Levey Friedman, PhD, is the author of Here She Is: The Complicated Reign of the Beauty Pageant in AmericaandPlaying to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture. She is part of the Department of Education at Brown University, where she teaches courses on topics like afterschool activities, sports, and qualitative methods. She is also a Fellow at the Taubman Center for American Politics and Society.
Prof. Levey Friedman is currently President of the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Women (RI NOW). She is also a member of the Public Policy Committee of the United Way of Rhode Island and the Platform and Issues Committee of the Rhode Island Democratic Party. Additionally she volunteers as an active Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). She is a civic leader as well, having served as Chair of the East Greenwich Democratic Town Committee, as an Affordable Housing Commissioner in the town of East Greenwich, RI, and as a Board of Trustee at Temple Torat Yisrael.
Prof. Levey Friedman grew up in the suburbs of Detroit where she graduated from Marian High School. As an undergraduate at Harvard she discovered sociology, graduating magna cum laude with highest honors in 2002 and writing her honors thesis on child beauty pageants. She then earned an MPhil from the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences as a Gates Cambridge Scholar at the University of Cambridge, where her dissertation was about fashion and national identity. Following her time in England Prof. Levey Friedman matriculated at Princeton University, from which she earned a PhD in Sociology in 2009 as both a Spencer Dissertation Fellow and as a Harold W. Dodds fellow. During graduate school her research focused on competitive after-school activities (chess, dance, Kumon enrichment classes, and soccer). Prof. Levey Friedman completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard University quantitatively studying youth sports injuries, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The mother of a first grader and a third grader, she spends whatever spare time she has reading (anything and everything!) and watching a variety of (reality) television shows and documentaries. We have one copy of HERE SHE IS to giveaway. Just tell us your thoughts about beauty pageants. We’ll announce a winner soon. Good luck. GIVEAWAY: USA only, please.


Jodi Thomas, Sharla Lovelace and Scarlett Dunn
  • Best-selling authors, Jodi Thomas, Sharla Lovelace and Scarlett Dunn share three novellas in a collection featuring three Texas cowboys in THE COWBOY WHO SAVED CHRISTMAS(Kensington). The Civil War is over, Christmas is coming and its time for three rugged cowboys to hang up their spurs and settle down.
  • FATHER GOOSE by Jodi Thomas. Dispirited by war, when Trapper Morgan accepts a job hauling five little rich girls to Dallas, all he cares about is the money. He doesn’t expect they’ll awaken his spirit – or that their intriguing nursemaid, Carolina, will awaken his heart. And when danger strikes as Christmas Eve nears, he definitely doesn’t expect Carolina and the girls to risk their lives – for him.
  • THE MISTELTOE PROMISE by Sharla Lovelace. A catastrophic storm, an ailing herd and a falling ranch have left Texas rancher Josie Bancroft in danger of losing everything her father worked for. Still, she’d rather die than merge with her neighbor rancher Benjamin Mason, the man who broke her heart years ago, on Christmas Eve. As old sparks fly and secrets are revealed, however, Ben is determined to help Josie – and prove this time around can be different. That the misunderstanding of Christmas past need not define their future.
  • CHRISTMAS ROAD by Scarlett Dunn. Yellow Fever has hit Clint Mitchum’s hometown and taken this father and siblings, leaving Clint ever more cynical. Racing homeward to be at his mother’s side, Clint finds a note from her, asking that he help her caregiver, a young woman named Amelia. Assuming his mother has passed, in his grief Clint ventures out to search for Amelia – and finds the best of gifts – just in time for Christmas.
  • We’re lucky to have one copy of THE COWBOY WHO SAVED CHRISTMAS to giveaway. Just tell us your plans for the upcoming holidays. We’ll choose a winner soon. Good luck. GIVEAWAY: USA only please.

THE GREEN BEACH FILE by K.A. Perry – Review & Giveaway – CLOSED

Are you looking for a legal mystery to keep you engaged? K.A. Perry’s THE GREEN BEACH FILES (PermutedPress) might be just the read for you. It taps into love and nature while keeping you flipping pages to find out the ending. It’s definitely different from most mysteries I’ve read.

Two people have turned up dead in the small tourist beach town of Mayfield, Connecticut and it has everyone wondering whodunnit.
The town is split over a possible high end development that may be built and it’s pitting residents against one another.

Jenn is a town lawyer who discovers the first murder victim. She’s not looking to become involved in solving the murder, but it’s the way things work out. The mystery keeps sneaking into her regular work, so she’s distracted from day to day responsibilities. Her love and respect for the local nature, along with her entertaining and dysfunctional family, keep Jenn in the middle the fight over land preservation.

The pristine beach is between New York and Boston. Are these residents or developers extreme enough to commit murder? The mystery is complicated and interesting. I enjoyed reading THE GREEN BEACH FILE. It was a murder mystery without the normal gore and it was funny at times. I never knew there was so much to learn about fireflies!
  • Thanks to Kate Rocks Book Tours we have one copy to giveaway. Just tell us your thoughts about preserving nature. I personally think its incredibly important to save nature and our planet for future generations. We’ll announce a winner soon. Good luck.

COMING HOME FOR CHRISTMAS by RaeAnne Thayne – Review & Giveaway – CLOSED

  • Get ready for the 10th book in the 11 part series of RaeAnne Thayne’s, “Haven Point series (Harlequin).” Luke finds Elizabeth seven years after she left. And he hopes its going to be a much brighter Christmas, for him and their two kids this year.
  • Luke’s wife and the mother to his children Cassie and Bridger, left them seven years ago, without a word and since then, Luke has been under the suspicion of killing her. It’s made it tough for the three of them to live under the glare of rumors.
  • Luke finds out his wife is in Cannon Beach, Oregon and he leaves Haven Point, Idaho to bring her home and for her to tell the truth to the District Attorney who wants to lock him up. Once he arrives, he gives her an hour to pack for two nights. She tries to make small talk and he’s full of rage and ignores her for most of the eight hour trek in his truck. His temper is peaked and he kisses her out of anger. He tells her she can’t see the kids.
  • Once she’s sitting down with the DA and telling her story he realizes he’s made a mistake. She really had to leave and she’s suffered so much. He brings her home to meet the kids, her children, but 10-year old Cassie wants nothing to do with her. Christmas is just around the corner and he’s mad that he’s falling for her all over again and Elizabeth thinks he hates her. He invites her to stay longer and they start being seen together to squash rumors and celebrating the season.
  • I don’t want to tell you anymore, but I can tell you you’re going to need a lot of tissues to finish COMING HOME FOR CHRISTMAS. You’ll end up loving the Hamilton family. It’s the perfect book to read while sipping tea of hot chocolate. It’s about love, secrets, trust and gratitude.
  • We have one copy to give away. Just tell us how you plan to celebrate the holidays. We’ll pick a winner soon. Good luck. GIVEAWAY: US only, please.

CLAIMING THE RANCHER’S HEIR by Maisey Yates – Spotlight & Excerpt

An explosively hot, enemies-to-lovers romance from New York Times bestselling author Maisey Yates!Arrogant, infuriating, insufferable…

And the sexiest man she’s ever met.

Wren Maxfield hates Creed Cooper, but now she’s working with the wealthy rancher over the holidays! Those strong feelings hide undeniable chemistry…and one wild night results in pregnancy. Now Creed vows to claim his heir. That means proposing a marriage in name only. But as desire takes over, is that a deal they can keep?

From Harlequin Desire: Luxury, scandal, desire—welcome to the lives of the American elite.

Gold Valley Vineyards


Creed Cooper was a cowboy. A rich, successful cowboy from one of the most well-regarded families in
Logan County. He also happened to be tall, muscular and in possession of the kind of good looks a lot of
women liked.
As a result, nearly nothing—or no one—was off-limits to him.
No one except Wren Maxfield.
Maybe that was why every time he looked at her his hands itched.
To unwind that tight bun from her hair. To make that mouth, which was always flattened in
disapproval—at least around him—get soft and sexy and get all over his body.
And he had that itch a lot, considering he and Wren were the representatives for their respective
families’ vineyards. Rivals, in fact.
And she hated him.
She hated him so much that when she saw him her eyes flared with a particular kind of fire.
Fair enough, since he couldn’t really stand her either.
But somehow, years ago, a piece of that dislike inside him had twisted and caught hard in his gut and
turned into an intensity of another kind entirely.
He was obsessed.
Obsessed with the idea he might be able to use that fire in her eyes to burn up the sheets between
Instead, he had to listen to her heels clicking on the floor as she paced around the showroom of
Cowboy Wines, looking like a smug cat, making him wait to hear whatever plan it was she’d come to tell
him about.
“Are you listening to me?” she asked suddenly, her green cat eyes getting sharp.
She was dressed in a tight-fitting red dress that fell to the top of her knees. It had a high, wide neck,
and while it didn’t show a lot of skin, it hugged her full breasts so tight it didn’t leave a lot to the
Even if it had, his imagination was damn good. And it was willing to work for Wren. Overtime.
She had on those ridiculous spiked heels, too. Red, like the dress. He wanted to see her in only those
He wasn’t into prissy women. Not generally. He liked a more practical girl. A cowgirl who would be at
home on his ranch.
Wren looked like she never left her family showroom, all glass walls and wrought iron furniture.
Maxfield Vineyards was the premier wine brand for people who were up their own asses.
And still, he wanted her.
That might be her greatest sin.
That she tested control he’d had firmly leashed for the last eighteen years and made him want to
send it right to hell as he burned in her body.
Of all the reasons to hate Wren Maxfield, wanting her and not being able to do a damn thing to make
himself stop was number one on the list.
He looked around the Cowboy Wines showroom, the barrels with glass tabletops on them, the heavy,
distressed beams that ran the length of the room.
And then there was him: battered jeans and cowboy boots, a hat for good measure.
Everything a woman like Wren would hate.
A testament to just why there was no reason to carry a burning torch for her fine little body.
Too bad his own body was a dumbass.
“I wasn’t listening at all,” he said, making sure to drawl it. As slow as possible. He was rewarded with

a subtle flare of heat in those eyes. “Make it more interesting next time, Wren. Maybe do a dance.”
“The only dancing I’ll ever do is on your grave, Creed.”
The sparring sent a kick of lust through him. They did this every time they were in a room together.
Every damn time. No matter that he knew he shouldn’t indulge it.
But hell, he was afraid the alternative was stripping her naked and screwing her against the nearest
wall, and that wasn’t a real option.
So verbal sparring it was.
“What did I die of?” he asked. “Boredom?”
Those eyes shot sparks at him. “It was tragic. You were found with a high heel protruding out of your
chest.” Her magic lips curved upward and he felt it like she’d pressed them against his neck.
“Any suspects so far?”
“Your own smart mouth. Are you going to listen to me or not?”
“You’re already here. So am I. Might as well.”
He leaned back in his chair and, for effect, put his boots up on the table.
Her top lip curled up into a sneer, and that thrilled him just as much as if she’d crossed the room to
straddle his lap. Okay, maybe not just as much, but he loved that he got to her.


He’s a Bollywood superstar, she’s a personal assistant… And their one night proves that keeping things professional will be impossible in this passionate and uplifting Cinderella romance from Tara Pammi.

A brief encounter… A forbidden fairy tale!

The hottest actor in Bollywood, Vikram Raawal has found love countless times—when he’s playing a role. In real life, he’s given up on finding a soul-deep connection and prefers to focus entirely on his career. Until at a masquerade ball, one woman leaves him craving more…

Naina Menon’s first impression of drop-dead gorgeous Vikram left much to be desired. But then one heart-stopping night shows her there’s so much more to him than his celebrity persona. Still, he’s a billionaire, and she’s a humble assistant. Is passion enough to bridge their different worlds?

From Harlequin Presents: Escape to exotic locations where passion knows no bounds.


Vikram Raawal walked up the steps of Raawal Mahal, his family’s two-hundred-year-old palatial ancestral bungalow. It was the only property his parents had left unsullied by their still-tempestuous marriage of forty years. 

The muggy October afternoon was redolent with the pungent aroma of the jasmine creeper that his grandfather had planted for his wife all those years ago. 

His grandparents had shared a love story that couldn’t be recreated by all the glittering sets and stars of Bollywood. If not for the fact that Vikram had very clear memories of them—Daadu and Daadi sitting side by side listening to ghazals on the gramophone, sharing stories with him and his younger brother and sister, Daadi keeping silent vigil by her husband’s side as he vanished away into nothing…he would have scoffed at even the idea of such a love. 

But he had seen it. He’d been a part of it. He’d found comfort and joy in its shadow. And today, at the age of thirty-six, memories of that love hit him hard. 

He was lonely, he admitted to himself, as he walked through the gated courtyard toward the main bungalow. The strains of an old ghazal played on the gramophone player, sinking sweetly into his veins, slowly releasing the pent-up tension he’d been carrying. He laughed at the mural his younger brother, Virat, had painted on one wall where a profusion of plants and flowerpots sat on an elevated concrete bench. 

The cozy bungalow, full of sweet memories and peaceful childhood associations, was his favorite place in the world. And yet, he had avoided visiting for almost two months, using out-of-country shoots and overloaded scheduling as excuses. 

But here in this place where he was just Vikram and not Vikram Raawal, Bollywood star, and the chairman of the family production company Raawal House of Cinema, he couldn’t lie to himself. 

He hadn’t wanted to expose himself to his daadi’s brand of perceptiveness. He hadn’t wanted her to see how unhappy he’d been of late. How…unsettled in his own skin. 

The raucous burst of a man’s laughter punctured his thoughts. It was Virat. 

For a few seconds, Vikram considered turning around and walking out. His recent argument with his brother had been far dirtier than their usual headbutting over projects for Raawal House. Being called arrogant and dominating by a brother that he loved and respected had…shaken him.

The laughter came again and Vikram’s curiosity trumped his reluctance. He walked through the grand salon, filled with his grandfather’s trophies and accolades from a career that had lasted close to five decades in Bollywood.

Vijay Raawal had not only been a celebrated actor and director but had built his career from the ground up after traveling the country with a theater group for years. Started his own production company, and taken the industry in a new direction. Made mainstream films, art projects, and careers of many stars and never once lost his integrity.

How had his grandfather sustained such a glittering career in such a superficial and cutthroat industry? Had it been simply the unconditional support Daadi had offered him through everything?

After fifteen years and numerous box office hits in Bollywood, Vikram had suddenly found himself filled with a strange feeling of discontent all of a sudden. But it was more than creative burnout. In a cinematic twist, he’d found himself wanting the same kind of support and affection from someone that Daadi had given Daadu while knowing that he wasn’t actually capable of returning it.

In a crazy moment of impulse, he’d asked his best friend Zara to marry him. Thankfully, Zara had instantly said no. That he had even considered marriage in the first place—even if it was to his oldest and longest friend, showed how unlike himself he was currently feeling.

He nodded at Ramu Kaka—his grandfather’s old manservant, as old and comfortingly familiar as the bungalow itself.

The first thing that hit him as he entered the expansive sitting room was the subtle scent of roses. Every inch of him stilled as he stood over the threshold, his long form hidden from his daadi and Virat by the L-shaped angle of the hall. They were lounging on the divan, while a number of their servants stood huddled by the other door that led to the huge kitchen. Every mouth twitched in varying degrees of smiles.

In the middle of the room, kneeling on the rug, was a young woman with her face in profile to Vikram. Evening sunlight filtered through the high windows in the room and lit up her silhouette. The first thing he noted was the dark halo of her hair, curly and thick like her very own crown, that swung from side to side every time she moved her head, and huge glittering earrings that reminded him of the crystal chandelier Mama had spent thousands of dollars on in some Italian boutique.

The earrings swayed enchantingly every time the young woman moved her head. And she did it a lot. His mouth curved.

Wide eyes, pert nose and a lush mouth moved in constant animation, along with her plump body. Almost anesthetized by seeing size zero bodies on movie sets, he let his gaze return to the voluptuous lines of her body with a curious fascination. A white cotton kurta hugged her breasts, a long chain of glittery beads dancing over them. 

White stones on tiny half-moon gold hoops glinted in a perfect line over the shell of her left ear, winking mischievously in the waning sunlight. With her multihued skirt spread out around her in a kaleidoscope of colors, she was a gorgeous burst of color against a gray landscape. 

Full of life and verve and authenticity he hadn’t seen in a long time. 

A thrilling sliver of excitement bloomed in his gut even as he frowned at the oversized stuffed teddy bear on the floor in front of her. Suddenly, the woman opened her mouth and screamed. 

The cry was deep rather than shrill, perfectly modulated, and eerily familiar. 

Vikram watched in increasing fascination as she extended her arms and bent to scoop up the stuffed toy from the ground into her arms. The gold and silver-colored bracelets she wore on one wrist tinkled at the moment, adding their own background score to the entire scene. 

And then it came to him. 

She was enacting a scene. From a recent movie. His latest action thriller. 

She was…mocking him? 

She was imitating the cheesiest line he’d ever said in front of a camera and she was doing a fantastic job of pinpointing everything he’d hated about the movie and in particular, that scene.