Cover Shot! The Lost Wolf’s Destiny by Karen Whiddon

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café.  I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share.  More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents.  There is an allure to a beautiful cover.  Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

I’ve been impressed by some of the latest Harlequin Nocturne covers.  They used to be so cheesy, but there’s been a lot of improvement across all the Harlequin lines.  I love the vivid colors here, and while I love how dramatic that dress is, I pity any heroine who has to make a fast getaway wearing it!

The Lost Wolf’s Destiny by Karen Whiddon will be in stores September 2013


A desperate mother. A scarred man. A powerful bond… The moment he saw Blythe Daphne on the television news, Lucas Kenyon knew three things: she was a shapeshifter, like him. She was the most desirable creature he had ever seen. And she was in terrible danger. 

Now, the wolf in Lucas is driving him to save Blythe and her young daughter from a man he knows is evil personified. A man who believes all shapeshifters are demons straight from hell. But Lucas knows he must never reveal the secret that threatens to tear him apart—not even to the one woman who could heal him

Interview with Kait Ballenger, Author of Shadow Hunter!


Please welcome debut author Kait Ballenger to the virtual offices today. She’s here to chat about her debut release Shadow Hunter, which is part of the After Dark anthology.  Please take a second to say “Hi” after the interview!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Kait Ballenger] Wife. Author. Mother to 3 furry 4-leg babies. MFA student. Future professor. Bellydancer. World Traveler. Caregiver to elderly w/ dementia. Biggest love: my family

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Shadow Hunter?

[Kait Ballenger] Of course! I love to talk about the E.U boys and their series.

Shadow Hunter is a short prequel novel to my Execution Underground paranormal romance series. The Execution Underground is a covert international organization of supernatural hunters and the series focuses on the six hunters who make up the Rochester, New York division of the organization. Each major city has their own division and each hunter specializes in a type of supernatural creature. Though the story takes place before the full division is formed, Shadow Hunter focuses on the future leader of the Rochester division, Damon Brock, who specializes in hunting and slaying vampires. Damon arrives in Rochester gunning to destroy the vampire responsible for the death of his friend and hunting partner. But there is another vampire hunter in town, one who is not sanctioned by the Execution Underground: Tiffany Solow. When their paths initially cross, they butt heads initially, both unwilling to give in to the other. But it turns out that Damon and Tiffany have a lot more in common than they think, beyond just hunting vampires and their problems extend way beyond whose territory is whose.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Kait Ballenger] Shadow Hunter is Damon’s origin story (he and Tiffany have their own full length book later on in the series), so it’s kind of hard to explain since he walked into my head pretty much fully formed with a life background to match. Characters come to me fully fleshed out. So I guess I’ll defer to the series concept…

When I came up with the initial idea for the series, I took inspiration from other authors I admire and combined it with ideas I thought were fresh and hadn’t been done before to try and create something unique. I really enjoy the format of J.R Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series and how each book focuses on a specific brother with alternating third person points of view between the hero and heroine. As a result, when I decided to write a paranormal romance, I knew I wanted the series to be set up in a similar fashion since I enjoy that style and I wanted to focus on the male characters. Other authors I took inspiration from were Laurel K Hamilton and Charlainne Harris. I wanted to have strong, kickass heroines like Anita in Hamilton’s Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series and with the super hot sex to match. I also wanted to have a narrative voice as strong and unique as Charlainne Harris in her Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Series. With those aspects in mind, I had to come up with my own twist. The idea came really naturally. The unique thing about my series in the world of paranormal romance is that most of the characters are completely human. Though one or two of the Execution Underground members has a bit of supernatural DNA in them, in the majority they’re just humans who’ve been exceptionally trained to fight the supernatural. So rather than a paranormal romance where the hero is a vampire or some other type of supernatural hunk, my heroes are normal guys, who also just happen to be crazy weapon-wielding badasses.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Tiffany?

[Kait Ballenger] Headstrong. Intelligent. Fearless.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Damon had a theme song, what would it be?

[Kait Ballenger] The first song that comes to mind is Passive by A Perfect Circle. That song always gets me in the mood to write and it’s what I imagine playing any time I write a scene set in a dark, shady night club (like inside Club Fantasy in the opening of Shadow Hunter). Aside from that, it also is just a pretty much perfect song for Damon.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Tiffany is never without.

[Kait Ballenger] Her stake. Tiffany is always prepped for fighting vamps. After both her parents and then later her brother are killed by vampires, Tiffany is always ready to battle the undead.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Damon’s bedroom?

[Kait Ballenger] The first thing you’d never find in Damon’s bedroom is Tiffany’s underwear—they’re in the living room, of course because they’d have been stripped off before they even reached the bed. The other two things you’d never find in Damon’s bedroom would be Viagra and lube. He’d never need them, especially when Tiff is around. 😉

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Tiffany’s greatest regret?

[Kait Ballenger] This won’t make sense for those who haven’t read the book yet, but Tiffany’s greatest regret is not having forgiven B sooner.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Kait Ballenger] Music really gets my creativity flowing, but I can only listen to it before I write, not while I’m writing. Reading a really good book or watching a really well-written T.V show or movie get me in the mood to write as well. I start thinking about how amazing the writing I just read/saw/heard is and I just want to create some of my own.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Kait Ballenger] Silence. A comfortable place to sit or lie down. And more silence haha. I’m not particular as long as I’m comfy and it’s quiet.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Kait Ballenger] I don’t get as much time to read as I like, but the last book I read that really knocked my socks off is Kate SeRine’s The Better to See You, the second novel in her Transplanted Tales series. I can’t get enough of those books. I’m dying to read Along Came a Spider soon.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Kait Ballenger] Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K Rowling hands down is what turned me on to reading. There’s no exaggeration there or second guessing there. Up until I was in fourth grade I was considered a “non-reader” in school. I really struggled with reading and was way below the normal level for my age, so as a result, I really hated it. I hadn’t found anything gripping enough that would hold my attention, because I was struggling to read through the words. Then I got my hands on the Harry Potter books and everything changed. I grew up in the greater Detroit metropolitan area, so in winter occasionally it would be so cold and icy we couldn’t go out for recess. My teacher at the time, Ms. McCartney, decided to start reading the first Harry Potter novel to the class when we had to stay inside. I was so intrigued by it I asked if I could borrow her copy to take home over Christmas break so I could keep reading. My mother, knowing how I struggled with reading, saw this and immediately bought me the first three books in the series for Christmas (those were the only ones out at the time) and I devoured them. I re-read them over and over until the next book came out, and then I did the same with the next book. Eventually, my mom and my aunt (both who have always been big readers) started passing me similar books—fantasy novels by other authors—and I started reading those too. That love of fantasy later branched out into a love of the paranormal genre. I honestly can’t express how grateful I am to Rowling for writing those books. Not only did her novels change my entire life by making me a better reader, and thus a more educated person in general (I actually started enjoying school not long after that), but she made me want to be a writer. I think if I met her I’d cry hysterically lol. Her writing changed my life, even though she has no clue who I am. That’s powerful and I hope I can do the same thing for someone one day.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Kait Ballenger] When I’m not writing I like to spend time with my husband and my family. We all love to play board games together. My husband and I also love to watch movies and TV together, specifically Supernatural and Law and Order SVU. I have two cats named Elliot and Olivia after the characters. I also love to read, of course, and I also love to dance. I’m an Egyptian cabaret bellydancer (I used to dance professionally at regular gigs, but not on a regular basis anymore).

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Kait Ballenger] Readers can connect with me via my author Facebook page and Twitter, if they want to chat. If anyone just wants to send me fan mail though, they can send it to my email, which can be found on my webpage I’d seriously love to get some fan mail at some point. I can’t promise I’ll respond, but I’d love to try.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

Shadow Hunter, which is part of the After Dark anthology, from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the links below:

About the book:

A timeless seduction A unique temptation And a whole world of dark desires…

From New York Times bestselling author Gena Showalter

The Darkest Angel

Winged warrior Lysander has been alive for centuries, and yet he’s never known desire-until he meets Bianka. Spawned from the bloodline of his enemy, the beautiful but deadly Harpy is determined to lead the untouched Lysander into temptation. He may try to evade her attempts, but even the most iron-willed demon assassin can resist for only so long….

And from debut author Kait Ballenger

Shadow Hunter

Vampire hunter Damon Brock’s first assignment with the Execution Underground is Rochester, New York, a city crawling with the undead. But he isn’t the only hunter in town gunning for vamp blood. Tiffany Solow is fierce and ruthless when it comes to slaying the monsters that destroyed her family-and she works solo. But being alone is no longer so desirable when she meets the mysterious hunter who wants more than just her turf. As they work to massacre the local covens, the line between good and evil blurs when they are forced to decide between their lifelong beliefs… and their newfound hearts

Review: What a Texas Girl Dreams by Kristina Knight


Title: What a Texas Girl Dreams

Author: Kristina Knight


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:


Monica Witte has life the way she likes it. She comes home to be babied every few months and the rest of the time she has no strings holding her back. But after her horse is injured in a rodeo performance, Monica knows it’s time to come home and face her family – warts and all.

Trickett Samuels works best on his own. The large-animal vet likes his quiet life in the Texas countryside. When Monica Witte blows into town, demanding a quick fix to her horse’s big issues, his life is turned upside down. Trickett doesn’t understand Monica’s need to perform before perfect strangers or why she wants to keep the truth of their relationship from her family. And the more he gets to know her, the more he wonders if he can convince this Texas girl that having roots will only help her soar higher.


When I was approached by the author to review What a Texas Girl Dreams, I hesitated for about a millisecond.  How could I turn down a book about a vet and a rodeo star with an injured horse?  I couldn’t!  I can’t resist books with horses, even though they are becoming the bane of my existence (yes, Elle, I am referring to you). 

Monica Witte competes on the rodeo circuit, and she likes her life just the way it is.  Living out of a suitcase, racing barrels with her trusted horse Jinx, hooking up with no commitments when the mood moves her.  After she meets Trick, a large animal vet practicing in her small hometown in Texas, her mind is more on the man than on the barrels.  After Jinx is injured at a rodeo, she sets aside her pride and heads back home, hoping the rehab her horse and then hit the road again.  But when Trick examines Jinx, the prognosis isn’t good.  He suggests that Jinx’s career might be over, but Monica won’t accept that.  She thinks that Trick is trying to keep her in Lockhardt, close at hand.  When therapy sessions don’t seem to be helping, Monica starts to worry that he might be right.  Then she starts itching to be home in Austin, training her other horse, despite her feelings for Trick.  She just wants to be on the road again, safe from her confusing feelings for him.  She’s not cut out for a long term relationship, and being in Lockhardt has her so confused she doesn’t know what to do.

At first, I did not like Monica.  She seemed so selfish to me.  It’s obvious that her horse has a catastrophic injury, but she doesn’t want to accept it.  Instead, she thinks that Trick is just trying to make her stick around so they can continue the affair that she started with him a few weeks ago.  She thinks that if she just increases the rehab time, Jinx’s leg will get better and she will be able to compete with him again.  Then I started see that most of Monica’s behavior is based on fear.  Fear that Jinx won’t get better.  Fear that she’ll fall in love with Trick and then make him hate her because the rodeo is in her blood.  Fear of what she’ll do and who she’ll be if she can’t race barrels again.  Once I understood that she’s just afraid of being hurt or of hurting Trick, I started to like her.  A lot.  It just took a few chapters to see where she was coming from.

Monica hasn’t had a happy childhood.  Her father couldn’t commit to one woman, and he fathered three children with three different women.  Then he remained a distant figure in her life.  She barely knows her siblings, and she has allowed all of these factors to convince her that a committed relationship is impossible for her.  She’s too much like her father and has too much drifter in her to settle down with one man and raise a family.  From the moment she meets Trick, though, she is obsessed with him.  He’s on her mind day and night, and she just can’t get him out of her head.  What she thinks she wants with him is a no commitment fling;  she makes him promise to keep their relationship a secret and to not let her family know anything about it.

What I liked about Trick is that he realized that Monica was skittish as newborn filly, and he gave her the space she asked for – at first.  When he decides that things need to be a little more agreeable for him, he starts courting her.  I thought he was sweet and thoughtful, and that he weighed his need to have Monica by his side with her fear of committing.  He never pushed too hard, and he let her think she was calling the shots.   He was willing to compromise to keep her, even if she wasn’t as willing to do the same.

What a Texas Girl Dreams is a fast, passionate beach read, perfect for an afternoon by the pool.  I’m curious to read more by Kristina Knight, because this book pushed all the right buttons for me.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by author

Giveaway! A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin

Thanks to Egmont USA, I have a new copy of A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin to give to one of you!  Entering is easy! Just fill out the widget below.  US mailing addresses only, please.

About A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin (Egmont USA, July 23, 2013, $16.99 U.S. / $19.99 CAN.):

A hint of Recovery Road, a sample of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and a cut of Juno. A Really Awesome Mess is a laugh-out-loud, gut-wrenching/heart-warming story of two teenagers struggling to find love and themselves.

Two teenagers. Two very bumpy roads taken that lead to Heartland Academy.

Justin was just having fun, but when his dad walked in on him with a girl in a very compromising position, Justin’s summer took a quick turn for the worse. His parents’ divorce put Justin on rocky mental ground, and after a handful of Tylenol lands him in the hospital, he has really hit rock bottom.

Emmy never felt like part of her family. She was adopted from China. Her parents and sister tower over her and look like they came out of a Ralph Lauren catalog– and Emmy definitely doesn’t. After a scandalous photo of Emmy leads to vicious rumors around school, she threatens the boy who started it all on Facebook.

Justin and Emmy arrive at Heartland Academy, a reform school that will force them to deal with their issues, damaged souls with little patience for authority. But along the way they will find a ragtag group of teens who are just as broken, stubborn, and full of sarcasm as themselves. In the end, they might even call each other friends.

A funny, sad, and remarkable story, A Really Awesome Mess is a journey of friendship and self-discovery that teen readers will surely sign up for.

About the Authors:

Trish Cook is the author of Notes from the Blender, So Lyrical, and Overnight Sensation. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and daughters. You can visit her online at

Brendan Halpin is the author of Notes from the Blender, How Ya Like Me Now, Forever Changes, and Donorboy, an Alex Award Winner. He lives in Boston with his wife, Suzanne, their three children, and their dog. You can visit him online at

US mailing addresses only, please.

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The Sunday Post and Stacking the Shelves–June 23rd Edition


The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba of The Caffeinated Book Reviewer.  This is a weekly meme where we can share news of the week and highlight new books received.

I’ve been busy catching up from my mini vacation last week, so I didn’t get to do much (including reading) other than work.  Sad face.  I did take Bumble to the park yesterday.  He hurt himself slipping on the kitchen floor a couple weeks ago, and after a trip to the vet, he is allowed to go on controlled leash walks.  It was hot and humid, but he really enjoyed himself.  He was given a fright when some bikers popped out of trail onto the walking path, but otherwise, he wasn’t phased by much.  It was his first time to the park.

Poppy gets to participate in a puppy play date today; I will be glad when Bumble can go again, because keeping him quiet isn’t easy.  They are both little bundles of energy, and the visits with their canine buddies settles them right down – for about two days!  Hopefully he can go next time.

Check out my current contests!  See the Contest Widget on the Sidebar to enter!

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews to share new additions to our library.  Click here to learn more about it.

New Arrivals at the Café:

Ruroni Kenshin Restoration Vol 1 by Nobuhiro Watsuki

The Crown of the Blood by Gav Thorpe

Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher

Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel by Diana Lopez

Changeling by Philippa Gregory

Stormbringers by Philippa Gregory

The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle

The Princess Must Die by Stephanie Dray (Free for the Kindle)

Unleash the Curse by Alexa Egan

Contaminated by Em Garner

Logitech Wireless Mouse M310 (Blue Shards) – I got tired of the cord for my old mouse getting in the way all the time, so I bought a wireless one.  This one is kind of clunky – I’m not sure that I like it, which is what happens when you purchase something based on the color instead of performance.  Still on the fence about it.

A great big thanks to the publishers for their continued support!

What did you get? Please leave links and share!

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Win Quarantine: The Saints by Lex Thomas

Thanks to Egmont USA, I have shiny new copy of  Quarantine: The Saints by Lex Thomas  to give to one of you! Entering is easy! Just fill out the widget below.  US mailing addresses only, please.


About Quarantine: The Saints by Lex Thomas (Egmont USA, July 9, 2013, $17.99 U.S. / $20.99 CAN.):

McKinley High has been a battleground for the eighteen months since a virus outbreak led to a military quarantine of the school. When the doors finally open, Will and Lucy think their nightmare is finished. But they are gravely mistaken.

As a new group of teens enters the school and gains popularity, Will and Lucy join new gangs. An epic party on the quad full of real food and drinks, where kids hook tip and actually interact with members of the other gangs, seems to signal a new, easier existence. Soon after, though, the world inside McKinley takes a startling turn for the worse, and Will and Lucy will have to fight harder than ever to survive.

The Saints brings readers back into the dark and deadly halls of McKinley High and the Quarantine series.

About Lex Thomas:

Lex Thomas is the pen name for the writing team of Lex Hrabe and Thomas Voorhies. Their first novel, QUARANTINE: THE LONERS, earned a starred review from Booklist, and Huffington Post Books called it "one of the best books that I have ever read."

Lex received a BA in Drama and English from the University of Virginia and has worked as an actor, director and writer. Thomas graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design, and now writes, and exhibits his realist oil paintings in Los Angeles.

Lex and Thomas met in a writers’ group in Los Angeles. Their friendship developed as they tried to blow each other’s minds with clips from bizarre movies. In 2005, they became a screenwriting team, and found that writing with a friend is much more fun than doing it alone. Visit them at

Here’s what reviewers are saying about Quarantine: The Loners:

“In a frenzy of modern day “Lord of the Flies” type awesome, Lex Thomas delivers a fresh, furious, action-packed, relentlessly exciting read in Quarantine!” — The Bookish Brunette

“It’s easy to see why the movie rights to Quarantine: The Loners were snapped up so quickly… The book is chock-full of action-packed sequences, thrilling mystery, and a blossoming romance in the midst of the worst conditions.” — Novel Novice

“The writing was very dynamic and I had so much fun reading this book. This novel has everything I like in YA horrors/thrillers: a mind-blowing creep factor, dynamic action, plenty of unexpected plot twists, and overwhelming intensity. It was a thoroughly gripping novel, and though at times I felt very disturbed by the horrid events and vividly painted scenes on its pages, I couldn’t bring myself to put it down.” — Bookish Evie

US shipping addresses only, please.

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Cover Shot: Charming by Elliott James

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café.  I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share.  More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents.  There is an allure to a beautiful cover.  Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

I just can’t resist a guy with a sword.  Bonus points for the leather jacket!

In stores September 2013



John Charming isn’t your average Prince…

He comes from a line of Charmings — an illustrious family of dragon slayers, witch-finders and killers dating back to before the fall of Rome. Trained by a modern day version of the Knights Templar, monster hunters who have updated their methods from chainmail and crossbows to kevlar and shotguns, he was one of the best. That is– until he became the abomination the Knights were sworn to hunt.

That was a lifetime ago. Now, he tends bar under an assumed name in rural Virginia and leads a peaceful, quiet life. One that shouldn’t change just because a vampire and a blonde walked into his bar… Right?

Character Interview with Tash Sinclair From Nikki Logan’s My Boyfriend and Other Enemies

Please welcome Tash Sinclair to the virtual offices today! Tash is the heroine of Manga Maniac Café fave Nikki Logan’s My Boyfriend and Other Enemies.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in five words or less?

[Tash Sinclair] Creative, optimistic, stoic, damaged.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you share a typical day in the life of Tash Sinclair?

[Tash Sinclair] I need a proper breakfast to fuel the physicality of my glassblowing so, most days, I have a biggish feed before heading to the studio. I walk or run the couple of kilometres to Fremantle (because it really doesn’t matter how sweaty I am on arrival, I’m only going to get sweatier) and simply pull on overalls and safety gear on top of my running gear. And then I work solidly all morning at the furnaces blowing glass and working on my art pieces. If I’m not the trial or creation phase of a new piece then I might head out somewhere inspiring to draw or design and gather ideas. But most of the time I’ll be in the studio either trialling new features and perfecting them or working on a commission.

End of day I’m pretty filthy so I walk home again (if the weather is truly awful I’ll inflict myself on the public transport system), shower straight up and then spend a few hours doing business admin before heading out or fixing a meal. After that it’s just me, my sofa and my DVD collection.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words come to mind when you think of Aiden?

[Tash Sinclair] Stubborn. Judgmental. Hot.  Though if you tell him that last one I’ll deny it. He doesn’t need the ego boost.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you find most exasperating about him?

[Tash Sinclair] Aiden is very driven by past experience and this closes him off to new ones, sometimes. He’s much slower to forgive and forget than I am. He can also be irritatingly obtuse for such a bright man.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could change one thing you’ve done in your life, what would it be?

[Tash Sinclair] My father. My life, and my mother’s would have been so different without him. And although I totally believe that growing up with him made me stronger I also believe I would have found a different reason to be strong. So maybe way back on that day in my childhood when he first tried to use me against my mother I would have called him on it.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?

[Tash Sinclair] Mum’s old mobile phone. I use it to access her voicemail when I really, really need to hear her voice and I never know when I’m going to get hit by a bout of sorrow and need to take the edge off.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t feuding with potential boyfriends?

[Tash Sinclair] Well, that’s kind of a sport for me–I love a good mental spar. And being a self-employed artist I don’t have a whole lot of time to do things not related to work but when I do I guess it’s exhibitions to see what other artists are doing, trolling through the markets looking for unique, hand-made fashion. Oh and I love the football—AFL all the way!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you share your dreams for the future in five words or less.

[Tash Sinclair] Success. Happiness. Peace. Love. Family.  For me it feels like those five things are so intertwined I can’t have one without the other. So it’s a work in progress.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

[Tash Sinclair] No problems, thanks so much for having me. Let me know if you’re ever looking for a nice glass piece for the Manga Maniac Café foyer. Happy to do you a deal on something original and naturey.

About the book:

Tempted by trouble…The moment Tash Sinclair sets eyes on family rival Aiden Moore she knows she’s in trouble. His vendetta against her is bad enough, but the fact that she finds Aiden outrageously attractive makes everything a million times worse!

Tash and Aiden clash immediately, but everyone knows that the line between love and hate is paper-thin. As the fireworks fly will Tash and Aiden spontaneously combust—or will Tash do the unthinkable and fall for her own worst enemy? After all, you should keep your friends close, but maybe your enemies the closest of all…!