Q is for Quality Express #atozchallenge #amwriting

Quality Express hotel doesn’t exist anywhere (that I know of) except in my mind.

It Ain’t Me, Babe

It’s Friday night at the Quality Express. The lights in the bar are low. Candles flicker on tables. It’s more ambiance than you’d expect for a hotel that caters to business travelers. Continue reading


Review of Hold Her Again


Hold Her Again

Shannon Stacey

October 23, 2017

Carina Press

Blurb: A country-music star returns home to win back the woman he loves in this charming holiday novella from New York Times bestselling author Shannon Stacey 

Ava Wright isn’t happy to see her high school sweetheart rolling into their hometown a few weeks before Christmas. He’s only come back to bury his estranged father, but there’s no way she’ll be able to avoid him. No one can: he’s become a country-music superstar since going solo and leaving Ava behind.  Continue reading

Legends Lost

I’m a book blogger and a writer, but beneath those two items you might have noticed that I have a huge love of music of all genres. Despite a suburban upbringing, I have loved country music from a young age. Continue reading

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree

Thurmount Holidays Series: Day 1, Day 2. While they are intended to be read as standalones, you might want to read them all.

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree

We didn’t spend Christmas in Thurmount last year because we were doing a bunch of small tours along the east coast and down south that were supposed to be Christmas themed, but we would only sing one Christmas song usually something sweet like “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve.” The rest were from our album “The Thurmount Trio Does. Not.” Just for the record, pun intended, I hated the title. I did protest, much good that that did. I mean, really, does the title make much sense to you?

Our manager, Joel, said to me: “Kayla, rolling your eyes that much doesn’t change a thing. Except they could get stuck like that.”

Who is he? (Get stuck like that?) My mother? Eyeroll.

So here we are in Thurmount getting ready for the tree lighting ceremony. I have heard that Blake is going to sing “O, Christmas Tree,” but I haven’t seen him. You can be sure that I’ve been looking for him. The last time I saw him was at the Grammy Awards when he, Will, and I won a songwriting award. Will and I wrote most of the song, but Blake changed a single word, “woman” to “girl” and put himself down as a songwriter. Of course, he included it on his solo album, which is the only reason why we won. He gyrated his pelvis in the video and the girls/women loved it; he was like Elvis reincarnated.

Will comes up alongside of me and is blowing into his hands to warm them up. It was a gray day that has turned into a clouded evening with that pink hue to the sky that says snow’s on its way.

“Hope I can play the guitar,” he says. He shoves his hands in his coat pockets. He isn’t looking at me, but I can tell something is different. The last thing I’ve ever wanted was for him to be unhappy.

“I hope you can, too,” I say and elbow him. This time he does look down at me and grins. I feel a tingle in my abdomen and think: what the hell?

“Here we go.”

My heart skips. Blake strides onto the stage wearing tight faded jeans, cowboy boots, a long sleeved black shirt that hugs his muscles, and a black hat. No jacket. I think he might be taking his macho cowboy status a little too far, but there are numerous fire pits around the stage. He looks good, but he always has with his square jaw and blue eyes and very short cut light brown hair.

“We got to get ready,” Will says.

I stand there for a moment to watch Blake get situated behind the microphone. Everyone is clapping around us, but it’s muffled on account of the gloves and mittens. It’s actually a funny sound. A few hoots and hollers and some women screaming: “Blake!” round out the welcome for him. I look around. Jasper, Will, and I have done okay with our brand of folkie-pop music, but Blake is their country music star.

I follow the path that Will took to the side of the stage and we watch Mayor Everton light the tree and then Blake sings “O Christmas Tree.” A few members of the high school band, which yours truly was once a member of, are providing the music because Blake never really learned how to play anything, except a few strums on the guitar, which suffices, I guess. He shares his love with the audience, smiling as he sings, and then he glances at me and his eyebrows arch upwards and his smile turns into a grin that makes me feel flushed. His gaze doesn’t rest on me long. He’s a true performer now and he knows that it’s all about making the audience love you.

The moment his song is over the crowd roars. It’s a nice sound. The women are very vocal. He takes off his hat and waves it above his head.

“Love you, my friends and family of Thurmount!” he yells.

We wait by the steps for him to descend. He grins at me again.

“Damn, Kay, you are looking mighty fine,” he says.

I grin back. “You too.” I wink. It’s what I do.

He throws his arms around me, which catches me off-balance and the next thing I know, I’m falling backward into a dip and he kisses me. The crowd hoots. That’s mainly men. The women aren’t having it. When he rights me, I feel dazed and actually raise my fingers to my lips and stare at him.

“Bet you missed me as much as I missed you,” he says. That should be something you say and then wait for a response, but he just disappears into the throng of his waiting fans all of whom want an autograph.

I still feel dazed as I climb the steps. Will won’t look at me. He looks everywhere but at me.

It’s a little warmer on the stage, but not a lot. I pick up my guitar and join Will at the microphone. I do the talking most of the time. I can talk your ear off; it’s one thing I’m definitely good at.

“So good to be home, y’all. Anyone want to rock around a Christmas tree?”

We launch into the song. The crowd gives us a nice welcome. Not as nice as Blake’s, but nice just the same.

I smile and sing and look around the faces. I see Blake still in a swarm of fans. He doesn’t look up at us. I can tell he’s too busy flirting.

I look at Will. He’s smiling, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. I hit his hip with mine, which takes him off guard, but he doesn’t miss any of his fancy guitar play as he glances at me. I wink. He rolls his eyes and then the smile does reflect in them and his eyes are so steady and honest and blue. I see so much feeling in them that I almost stumble over my words and have to look away.

I feel a little like the world has suddenly tilted on its axis and I have to grip hard to stay on.

end 12/7/2016

S. Darlington

Review of Dream Maker


Dream Maker by Erin McCarthy

Publisher: Loveswept

Publication Date: October 18, 2016

Woot! We got us a country music novel!!!

Avery has just arrived in Nashville from a small Kentucky town with the hopes of making it as a songwriter when she discovers that the man she’s been involved with forever and presumed she would marry has been cheating on her. So she gets angry and tells him to drop her off, but then she forgets her purse in his car. Shane, a music producer, has just left party when he sees Avery angry and yelling and standing in the middle of the road. He rescues her. But what seems like Shane rescuing Avery might just be the other way around.

It’s novels like Dream Maker that make me do a little happy dance and it’s not just because they center around one of my favorite topics, music. No, it’s because it’s fresh and the heroine, Avery, is strong and sassy and no one puts her in the corner and if they tried she’d kick their butt. She doesn’t need anyone to fight her fights for her. She has a very strong sense of purpose and of integrity, which is why when she sees that Shane is the brother of one of her favorite singers she leaves and doesn’t try to get in contact.

Likewise, Avery is the kind of woman that makes a ladies’ man like Shane think twice about continuing to play the field, except that his dad was not the greatest role model and he’s afraid of turning out like him.

When Avery and Shane reconnect, there’s still some fireworks, but Shane is like a bulldozer who wants Avery regardless of the cost—to her. I guess that’s the beginning of where Dream Maker powered down just a tad for me and Shane lost some of his initial likeability that seemed to stem from his sensitivity. However, McCarthy  brought the novel back online and Dream Maker had a satisfactory conclusion.

I enjoyed this first taste of the Nashville Nights series and will certainly seek out the first.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

From Amazon: Dream Maker

rating: butterflybutterflybutterflybutterfly(4 out of 5 butterflies)

Joe’s Gone

It’s Friday and I can hear the revelry from the honkytonk shutting down for the night and I wait for the call. It’s not every Friday night that it comes, but more often than not it is.

It’ll be something like, Lacey, I’m sorry to call, but Joe’s here . . .

It doesn’t matter that Joe and me haven’t been together for five years or that he’s with the bottle blonde who refuses to be awakened after midnight. I’ll go and pick him up, his breath reeking of Jim Beam, and I’ll almost drag him to my guest room where he’ll sleep it off until midday when I’ll hear something that sounds a lot like crying, but can’t be, because men in his family just don’t do that.

Or there’ll be those other times, when I’m leaving the guest room, but he’ll grab my wrist and beg me to lie with him for just a little while and he’ll hold me close and his bearded face will rest against my cheek and I will think that this is enough, so much enough, for now.

It’s 2:15 am when the call comes.


“Hey, Will.”


“Okay, I’ll be right there.”

“Lacey, Joe’s passed.”

I almost ask what he’s passed when the meaning’s absorbed. I whisper something into the phone, I don’t know or remember what. I sit back on the bed and look at the clock because we were in it together.

I don’t know what to do with my hands or my thoughts. I fold my arms across my chest and then look imploringly to the ceiling.

Joe’s gone. The words don’t fall gently from my lips. Joe’s gone. No matter how many times I try them on, they feel alienated from me.

Tears start then and my lips repeat the same words over and over again.

That’s when I realize that the worst times I had with him were still better than the best times with anyone else.

Joe’s gone.


end 11/11/2016

S. Darlington


Review of Something I Need


Something I Need by Lena Lowe

Publication Date: September 14, 2016

Sometimes a book comes along, grabs you, makes you continue reading, and all the while you’re thinking: well, this can’t continue. This book can’t continue to be this awesome. The author is going to drop the proverbial ball and the book will ultimately just be really average. Something I Need by debut author Lena Lowe never drops the ball!

Jonte Williamson has come to Nashville, TN from Australia to pursue her dream of being a country music star. But the first day upon arriving, it seems like everything is going to hell in a handbasket. The room in the apartment she was supposed to have has been snatched up and she’s tired and homeless.

Cash, the owner of the bar, Rock on Nashville, sees Jonte and decides that she is drama. He likes to avoid drama, but there’s something about her puppy-dog eyes that makes him say things that he would never say if he were rational. Like: Want a beer? Want some food? Stay with my sister?

I liked this book from the get-go. Lena Lowe’s writing style is refreshing. Cash and Jonte are both interesting, developed characters. Cash has a vulnerable flaw that has made him keep most people, especially women, at bay, until he meets Jonte. And, Jonte is a welcome change from the typical heroines who lack self-esteem. When the relationship hits a snag, she doesn’t moan and cry and beg, even though she is hurting. She goes on with her life. That is so worth a fist pump! While I realize that some readers won’t like that because they love the angst and drama, I applaud it. It’s just so much in the “life is too short to cry over spilled milk” vein. Clean it up and move on!

The book is also a lot of fun. I can’t tell you how many times I caught myself smiling while reading. To me that is the mark of success for a romance. Make it charming. Make it fresh. Make it sexy….oh, yes, this book is sexy. When Cash and Jonte get together, feisty and wisecracking, the sensuality roars.

The secondary characters, Dolly, Cash’s twin sister; Tanner, Cash’s best friend since they were young; Dean, Jonte’s piano-playing new colleague; and Seb, Jonte’s drum-playing new colleague and brief boyfriend, are all great and definitely advance the story. There’s a great scene with Jonte, Dolly, Dean, and Seb derived from the True American drinking game played on New Girl that is a hoot.

And, of course, if you’ve been reading my reviews, you know that one of the biggest draws for me is if a book is at all music-related. Yes! Jonte sings and plays the piano and learns how to play the guitar. There is music and auditions and fun.

Fortunately for us, Something I Need is part of Lena Lowe’s new series  xoxo Nashville. The next story belongs to Dolly and Tanner. The third belongs to Dean (YEA!!!!!) which makes me very happy because by the end of Something I Need, I was adoring Dean. I am looking forward to reading more of Lena Lowe’s work and I sincerely hope she keeps it as stimulating and varied as Something I Need.

From Amazon: Something I Need, such a deal at $0.99 on kindle for the rest of September!

I received an ARC from Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

rating: butterflybutterflybutterflybutterflybutterfly (5 out of 5 butterflies)


Something I Need
Lena Lowe
(xoxo Nashville, #1)
Publication date: September 14th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance

Jonte Williamson has a dream: become Nashville’s next big star. Finding herself unexpectedly homeless hot off the plane wasn’t part of her grand plan.

Cash Bellini is a simple man: he loves his twin sister, Dolly, hates country music, and stays far away from anything more complicated than that.

When Jonte stumbles into Cash’s bar, helping out the homeless country music wannabe is the last thing on his agenda. Pity someone forgot to send the memo to his too-big heart and meddling twin. Throw in a pair of baby blue cowboy boots, a pool table and a splash of tequila, and these two are set to ignite in a hot sexy mess! Will either of their hearts survive the tug-o-war between what they want and what they need?

Goodreads / Amazon

Blog Tour!

September 19th
Alina Melinda’s Reads >> Excerpt
Obsessed Bookworm´s World >> Review
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Liz Gavin’s Blog >>Review
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Badass Bloggettes >> Top 10 List
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September 22nd
Archaeolibrarian – I Dig Good Books! >> Excerpt
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All in One Place >> Review
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Books,Dreams,Life >> Review
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Crazy Beautiful Reviews >> Playlist
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Never Too Many To Read >> Review
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Books 2 Blog >> Review
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Author Bio:

Lena lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and three daughters. She completed a MA in Writing in 2013 and has been working on a New Adult series based in Nashville. The first book in the series, Something I Need, was a 2014 RWA Contemporary Romance Stiletto finalist in the New Adult category.

In early 2015, Lena and her family spent 5 weeks road tripping across the US. It was an amazing once in a lifetime family holiday and research for her debut series all rolled into one!

Lena is an avid reader, especially in the New Adult genre. She is a mad Colleen Hoover, Samantha Young and KA Tucker fan, and is more than a little bit in love with Becca and Krista Richie’s Addicted series, Jay Crownover’s Marked Men series and Kylie Scott’s Stage Dive series.

Website / Facebook / Goodreads



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