#CrimeFicFridays | featuring the Harlequin Romantic Suspense novel “Guarding His Midnight Witness” (Honour Bond series, Book 4) by Anna J. Stewart

Posted Friday, 8 April, 2022 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

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This Spring, I have the pleasure of joy to be reading a select sequencing of stories writ by the lovely Ms Anna J. Stewart – of whom, I first became introduced to whilst reading the #BlackwellBrothers series via Harlequin Heartwarming! Whilst continuing to get to know her further through her guest appearances on @SatBookChat (the Saturday chat I’ve hosted since 2014 celebrating Romance, Women’s Fiction & Feminist Lit). You’ll find me reading selections from her Romantic Suspense stories for Harlequin as well as her wicked lovely series ‘Butterfly Harbour’ which is a celebration of family, community and new beginnings!

Full disclaimer: Spring usually arrives so fast & furious our Winter barely has time to make a proper arrival and departure – thereby, despite the fact, we’re being blessed this year with an extended Winter, my reviews for Ms Stewart will be peppered throughout the coming months – thereby arriving on Jorie Loves A Story throughout ‘Spring’ even as Winter starts to disappear.

Hence why I’m calling this special featured showcase of reviews:

Celebrating Spring whilst reading the stories of Anna J. Stewart!

I started this concentration in 2021 with the following reviews:
Undercover Heat and Colton on the Run

whilst I began this new concentration by sharing my review of:
Gone in the Night & Recipe for Redemption

Acquired Book By: Whilst speaking with Ms Stewart about being a guest on @SatBookChat in the New Year of 2021 (in late 2020) – I realised there was a whole collection of stories by her I haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading! The first series which charmed my heart was Butterfly Harbour – which we happily discussed during #SatBookChat in January, 2021 and the series I am concurrently reading this Spring, 2022. At the time, she mentioned to me she also writes for Harlequin’s Romantic Suspense and I was quite curious about those stories as I regularly read their Love Inspired Suspense novels. The key difference between the two is Love Inspired is their faith-based imprint and the Romantic Suspense stories are Contemporary and mainstream. I tend to be a hybrid reader of both mainstream and faith-based markets which is why I agreed to reading her Romantic Suspense releases.

I returnt to reading her stories within the Romantic Suspense imprint of Harlequin with “Gone in the Night”, as I previously shared my reviews on behalf of “Undercover Heat” and “Colton on the Run”. It is part of the Honor Bound series of stories – which begins with three women interconnected through a shared tragic past (ie. Eden, Simone and Allie) whilst it will expand and pivot to feature the McTavish’s after their story is told. As of Spring 2022 – there are five novels released in this series, though the series will expand into eight installments. (which I learnt during #SatBookChat in February, 2022)

I received a complimentary copy of “Guarding His Midnight Witness” direct from the author Anna J. Stewart in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein. Per the badge at the end of this review, I am also a member of the author’s Review Team.

NOTE: All the Press Materials for this series (Honour Bound) were provided by the author, Ms Stewart for use on my blog. Whether she gifted me the books herself or whether I purchased them – as I asked if I could use them as I blog about this wonderfully lovely series.

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a few notations about the series from “Gone in the night”:

Stewart writes fast paced Romantic Suspense – to where you nearly feel as if the momentum is going to swallow you whole as your reading one of her novels. In this particular installment of the Honour Bound series, Stewart shifts forward and backwards to re-anchour the reader into the drama of the series itself. You didn’t have to finish reading the first two novels in the series to gain traction in the third which was a blessing for me as I couldn’t quite reconcile reading the first two novels in this series but I was gripped by the third as if this were the first novel. Stewart gives a lot of layered re-hashing of the events which has plagued the three main characters of the series thus far afield as the Honour Bound series is a thread of stories connecting Eden, Simone and Allie.

As this is the third installment, the point-of-perspective is given to Allie whilst opening the door for Guarding His Midnight Witness when it comes to Jack McTavish. Through conversations during #SatBookChat, I learnt Stewart let her characters dictate the direction of the series which is why we are going to pivot from the girls’ to the McTavish’s in the next installments. I’m not sure where we will go from there as this is going to be an eight book series but the journey is one I am thankful to be taking after a bit of a hard go at the start of it.

Similar to the other Romantic Suspense novels I’ve read by Stewart, this one packs quite the emotional punch for her readers. A lot of this is rooted in psychological suspense undertones combined with emotional anguish and heartache; whilst inclusive of trauma and memory from the past which re-inflicts pain in the present. It is a layered story and one which is slow brewing – as Stewart sets the stage well in the beginning for the kidnapping case to serve as a catalyst for the story itself and let’s us re-hover of the past Allie, Simone and Eden have been surviving all along.

-quoted from my review of Gone in the Night

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As I came into this series a bit haphazardly, it might help other readers who are considering reading this series but are unsure where to begin it. As I disclosed on my review for Gone in the Night, it took me a bit to find traction within the series, as the first two novels just didn’t grip me as much as Allie’s story and it was through her story, I was pleasantly surprised to see the whole series open up for me as a reader as Stewart has brilliant continuity and interweaving threads of connection from one installment to the next; something she is known for throughout all her series (as I’ve read quite a few of her series from two imprints of Harlequin). She catches you up on the back-histories of these characters whilst giving you feeders of folly to consider for future. I love how she started to insert the pivoting sequencing into Gone in the Night by focusing on Jack McTavish and of course, how his story-line became a bit of a cliffhanger leading into Guarding His Midnight Witness.

It wasn’t a traditional cliffhanger, as the door was open for his character to return but there was a quasi-curiosity about how he would return and in what capacity (to avoid spoilers) due to the circumstances of the final chapters of the third installment. I was definitely curious how and where we would re-enter Jack’s life now in the fourth novel whilst seeing how within this fourth installment, how we would continue to pivot forward away from the girls (ie. Allie, Eden and Simone) even though I knew they would all be somewhat inclusive of the series even as it moves forward due to the found family aspect of the Honour Bound series overall.

Allie roots you into the series because of how emotionally connective she is to the crux of the story which evolves through the first three novels. She is the axis point in so many ways and because of that, I felt a closer connection to both her as a character and to the series overall. Her cover art is also a bit telling as she’s the only book so far which only features the female lead rather than showcasing both the heroine and the hero of the story. I’d say more but that might be considered a spoiler as well – so let’s just leave it here as a curiosity of noting the differences in covers.

And, this is of course how I came to appreciate the Honour Bound series. It isn’t necessarily because of the case files their investigating because this series does continue to push me past my own comfort zones and boundaries when it comes to Crime Fiction and Cosy Crime drama but at the heart of the series is a wonderful group of individuals who found each other and who have bonded to each other to create their own family. Their not just bound by fate or mutual respect/appreciation but they all have a sense of duty and honour within them as well.

Only the series by Harlequin Heartwarming and Romantic Suspense have I found I can dip in and out of series – not always, as sometimes the sequencing is required to understand the flow of a series – as I wouldn’t say I could move in/out of all the series I’m reading and find the same continuity or traction as I had within Honour Bound but there are more chances I could do this within these two imprints than I could with series published elsewhere. Therefore, if you’ve not yet discovered this series, be sure to know you can pick up the threads of it and move forward with the rest of us who were also late-comers to the Honour Bound series! I do advise starting with Allie’s story in Gone in the Night as it is a pivotal story within the series in regards to anchouring you to the beginning and to the next chapters of where the series now pivots forward.

NOTE: I personally spelt honor as *honour* however, if you follow the feeds on Twitter or other socially engaged platforms be sure to use the American spelling #HonorBound to find other readers who are sharing their bookish reactions to the series. I am only spelling it differently as I review it on my blog but note the official title all the same. For me, honor is honour but that’s just a personal quirk.

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The Honour Bound series:

More than a Lawman by Anna J. StewartReunited with the P.I. by Anna J. StewartGone in the Night by Anna J. Stewart

Guarding His Midnight Witness by Anna J. StewartPrison Break Hostage by Anna J. Stewart

More than a Lawman (book one)

Reunited with the PI (book two)

Gone in the Night (book three) | (see also Review)

Guarding His Midnight Witness (book four)

Prison Break Hostage (book five)

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View the list and keep tabs on this series via Fantastic Fiction!

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Published by: Harlequin Romantic Suspense (@HarlequinBooks) | imprint of Harlequin

Converse via: #ContemporaryRomance, #RomanticSuspense and #HonorBound

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#CrimeFicFridays | featuring the Harlequin Romantic Suspense novel “Guarding His Midnight Witness” (Honour Bond series, Book 4) by Anna J. StewartGuarding His Midnight Witness
by Ms Anna J. Stewart
Source: Direct from Author

Detective Jack McTavish can’t afford another slip up. So when artist Greta Renault claims to have witnessed a murder without a shred of evidence, he’s tempted to walk. Jack’s gut propels him to pursue this case—and his attraction to Greta. Soon, not only is his job on the line, but Greta’s life is, too…and only Jack can keep her safe.

Genres: Contemporary (Modern) Fiction (post 1945), Crime Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense



Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

Heat Factor for Romance
five-flames

ISBN: 9781335626752

Also by this author: Undercover Heat, Colton on the Run, Gone in the Night, Recipe for Redemption

Series: Honour Bound


Also in this series: Gone in the Night


Published by Harlequin Romantic Suspense

on 13th October, 2020

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 280

NOTE: One of the reasons I’ve come to love reading Stewart’s Contemporary Romantic Suspense novels through Harlequin is her ability to write a wickedly delightful slow-burn romance. However, her stories in this imprint are also very ‘heated’ romantically in regards to how the romance is explored and definitely has more heat in it than most of the romances I regularly read by Harlequin because this series and imprint is different than the others I read – especially for content inclusions. Thereby if you’re new to this imprint just know this is writ more like a traditional Contemporary or Historical Romance. This particular story was definitely at the upper end of the flame index – if there were a 5.5 option, I would have used that one!

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a note about the author’s note:

It was quite curious because I was surprised Stewart didn’t like Hitchcock until she re-watched Rear Window – as Hitch has been a mainstay in my life for wicked good psychological suspense for years! I’m a huge appreciator of how he paints his stories alive with camera and allowing the actors to transport us through their narrative into the heart of the suspense itself. Dial M for Murder, North by Northwest, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Vertigo, Rear Window, The Lady Vanishes and Notorious are the ones I appreciate the most. I have no interest in Psycho or The Birds because those were too akin to Horror and I’m not a fan.

After reading how she found inspiration in Rear Window and also from Gaslight (one of my top favourites for Ingrid Bergman — I had a feeling I was going to be right at home within the pages of Guarding His Midnight Witness. I miss watching TCM (ie. Turner Classic Movies) but found there is a script based service for the Classics available via Roku and one of these months, I want to try it out and see which films I can start to binge watch again as Classic Movies are a passion of mine. For now, I’m wicked happy to follow her inspiration and see where it shall lead me.

my review of guarding his midnight witness:

Jack McTavish is one of those kinds of blokes who doesn’t want someone else to tell him about his own story – on the level that, in this particular case, having suffered a greatly traumatic injury and has thus recovered from it (be sure to read the harrowing details at the end of Gone in the Night) – he doesn’t want others to treat him differently, walk on eggshells or even insinuate he’s half the bloke he was before the incident. He has a self-preserving grit about him which serves him well as a detective but he also has an internal strength and fortitude about him that means business; which is why he doesn’t like the effect of everyone’s supposed kindness towards him to sound as if it holds more pity than sympathy. You can immediately tell his state of mind but you can also recognise he’s a survivor – which is why seeing him back on the job questioning the call he was dispatched on felt good to see him back at what he loved to do.

Greta on the other hand was an artist with a sharp mind who just happened to stop Jack in his tracks so to speak on first meeting! I had a good smirk over how these two had instant chemistry even if they were meeting under more serious circumstances. I loved how ethereal Stewart penned Greta’s personality and presence in the scenes with Jack and Bowie (his short-term partner, whilst his partner is on holiday) as it evoked Old Hollywood and the artist eras of the past where creators like her could be isolated from society whilst they allowed their muses to find them. She was the kind of artist who appreciated being round people but she needed to find the solace and solitude away from them in order to create her art. I respected that and she was one of those characters you felt you could connect with as soon as she started to talk.

One key thing Jack and Greta shared was a sense of foreboding about their respective careers – both of them were individually questioning their place in the universe and the purpose of their lives if they lost the one thing which made them sane: their jobs. And, though for both of them, their work was more than just a job – Greta was an artist who drew inspiration out of the synergy of her creative eye and Jack was wicked good at solving cases which gave him a sense of duty. Yet, neither of them were happy or content because they were both going through a crisis they didn’t know how to resolve. And, that made this story wicked interesting to read!

My favourite mysteries and suspense novels have one thing in common: interesting and beguiling characters who keep you turning the pages! In this instance, Greta is a no-nonsense kind of woman who feels it’s her duty to help Jack solve the mystery despite his best intentions of disentangling her from being so directly connected to his own case. The irony of course is that he too would like to stay in her constant company but for a different reason altogether which matched her own inclinations as well. It was definitely one of those meetings of the mind where despite the events which brought them together it was the connection, the instant bond and the chemistry they shared which meant more than the dangers lurking in the shadows. They were a wicked good match for each other especially since they shared something in common which united them: wounded souls with a desire to find the light and joy they felt was missing out of their lives.

The interesting bit for me is how Stewart showcased Greta’s talent in art with her sketches of the crime as it was witnessed. This was especially brilliant on several fronts – because I have long appreciated sketch artists and those who are able to illustrate on demand everything they see in a visual medium. It is an a different layer of insight than mere words as art speaks to the heart and soul; our eyes take-in so much everyday and for those who can draw and illustrate even one memory of what is observed is incredible. My own inclinations to draw are keenly high but my ability is another matter entirely. Perhaps one day I can develop it further. For now, I was duly intrigued by this part of the story and how those illustrations played such a key role in Jack’s investigation.

Seeing Cole with Jack (as they are partners on the force) reinforced Jack’s sensibility as a partner and how he fared better working as a team than as a solo investigator. As some cases, like this one, weren’t entirely as they would appear – whilst Stewart also brought back some of the family from the first installments of the series, including Vince. It not only tied the series together as it shifts forward featuring Jack and Ashley, but it also gave further insight into what kind of honor binds these characters together and what truly motivates them to seek out the truth irregardless of the dangers they could entangle themselves inside. Whilst Ashley was an intriguing woman of her own making being Jack’s younger sister and yet, she surpassed him a bit whilst growing up despite the fact their now on even ground. Ashley was formidable in her own right and it was her beside manner as a doctor which reveals the most about her character. She truly cares about people and she goes above and beyond to understand them; clinically and personally.

The closer Jack and Greta came to finding out the truth about the case, the more intimately closer they were becoming together. They had an electric connection and once they realised how connective they were whenever they were around each other, the more their passion combusted until of course, neither one of them saw reason to hold off the inevitable. At least, they had Cole the voice of reason in the background but what I loved more was how Jack encouraged Greta to release herself from being a hermit. She had isolated herself so long into her own little niche of a world that she had forsaken the normalcy of having friends and family outside her own shadow. It was how Jack was able to merge his found family into his current situation with Greta which made me smirk the most – they were all there as readily and causally as they always were – ready to greet someone new into the fold and as they always picked people they knew they could trust, Greta fit right in with all of them. So much so, I had a feeling Greta herself was confused about how quickly she merged into sync with Simone, Allie, Eden, Ashley, Cole, Vince, Max and Jack.

Ooh my! The ending on this one – it truly eclipsed my heart because I was expecting a shocking surprise and I was given more than one by the time the story concluded! It was such a satisfying ending though – I didn’t want it to stop because I had become so connected to Jack and Greta! Theirs was one of those old-fashioned romances where neither of them felt they’d ever find someone and yet, their connection to each other was marred a bit by an evolving case and a crime which needed to be solved. Stewart pulls at your heart-strings with this one – from her capacity to write such an intricate and spellbinding psychological suspense to knitting a brilliantly lovely romance with two characters you’ll not soon forget. I ached to read more chapters of this one – hardly able to put it down even for an hour, much less a day whilst in the end, my heart cheered for Jack and Greta all over again. They truly had an incredible journey – one that only Stewart could have conceived and given us.

on the contemporary romantic suspense styling of anna j. stewart:

There is a wicked enveloping of night in the opening pages of Guarding His Midnight Witness wherein you can feel the chill in the night air as much as the emptiness of walking the street alongside a seasoned detective. I’ve come to love how Stewart chooses to illuminate the scenes within her novels and when it comes to the Suspense ones in particular, it is how she tucks you close into a scene with her descriptive narrative which gives the best impression of ‘where’ she’s taking us both visually in the moment and throughout the length of the story. I especially appreciated in this installment how she elected to talk about the climate – how oppressive heat can change your mood and how welcome a cooler night is between Spring and Summer.

One of the best parts of reading this novel was the setting: Sacramento! I used to follow a vlog about two women who were sharing their lives living in different cities across the United States – one of their locations was Sacramento and it allowed me to peer into that city in a way only a resident could due to how open they were with sharing their lives on a vlog. I’ve sometimes read stories set there or have seen tv series or movies set there as well but you don’t always get that interpersonal vibe about a place like you can from a novel or a vlog. I enjoyed returning to Sacramento through Jack and Greta’s eyes because of how Stewart placed us into the history of the city but also through the lens of what we can expect to see if we were there in today’s world.

If I found myself struggling to connect with the first two novels of this series before feeling rooted within the third (Gone in the Night) – I felt I literally devoured the fourth as I caught myself ploughing through Guarding His Midnight Witness! The reason of course is the continuous thread of familiarity woven into the backbone of the series itself. As I had mentioned previously, Gone in the Night beautifully tied together the first trilogy of stories within the first half of the series and Guarding His Midnight Witness evokes a wonderful centre of gravity to push through into the next batch of installments as if you’ve returnt home to find a familiar friend awaiting your arrival.

I’m grateful I met Jack in Gone in the Night as that part of his life and this new story which picked up so brilliantly after the last concluded is a wonderful new course of curiosity for me as a reader. Even the ways in which his sister Ashley was becoming introduced to us felt causal and natural – and that’s continued credit to Stewart on how she built the series.

And yet, it was how she managed to merge Rear Window into Gaslight which truly captivated me – because similar to Ingrid Bergman (the star of Gaslight) I nearly didn’t realise what was happening! Stewart has such a deep appreciation for both films, she exudes their essence whilst twisting the inspiration they gave her into a chillingly realistic suspenseful novel of her own style! I was on the very edge of my seat – waiting, patiently and nearly with trepidation to turn the pages because I knew at some point, I was going to be in for a shock! That grip of delight within the story-line is what held my eye to the pages and what kept my heart on full alert!!

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I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!
Especially if you read the books or were thinking you might be inclined to read them.
I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst
readers who gravitate towards the same stories to read.
Bookish conversations are always welcome!

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LibraryThing banner provided by librarything.com and used with permission.

This review will be cross-posted to LibraryThing.

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#SatBookChat logo badge created by Jorie in Canva.

Ms Stewart has been an active guest during #SatBookChat for the past few years – anchoured to her new releases for Harlequin Heartwarming and Harlequin Romantic Suspense – which is their Contemporary imprint not to be confused with Love Inspired which is their INSPY Contemporary Romantic Suspense imprint I regularly read. On 26th February, 2022, she dropped by #SatBookChat to discuss the Honor Bound series with us whilst answering my questions about how she approached writing the series inasmuch as we discussed the Butterfly Harbor series (where I learnt the final chapter is arriving this Spring, 2022 with the twelve release), her new non-Harlequin Romantic Suspense release (which is grittier, read more violently described) and of course, we referenced the third series interlinked to the Blackwells arriving in August, 2022 as well. Because of course I couldn’t not mention the Blackwells!

I had intended to start to feature this series and Butterfly Harbor in February, but had to push forward my reviews into March instead. “Gone in the Night” kicks off three #CrimeFicFridays this March whilst my next #SaturdaysAreBookish features “Recipe for Redemption” as the kick-off to a review series for Butterfly Harbor leading up to the 12th and final release coming in April, 2022.

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This review is part of my #CrimeFicFridays showcases:

#CrimeFicFridays banner created by Jorie in Canva.

This review for #CrimeFicFridays is part of my featured selections of reviews & stories which align directly with my passion for reading Mysteries, Suspense & Thriller novels; wherein this is one part of a three-part series of reviews for Harlequin Romantic Suspense feauring the Honour Bound series. Concurrently,  I am reading “Gone in the Night”, “Guarding His Midnight Witness” and “Prison Break Hostage” of which is arriving on Jorie Loves A Story this March and April during #CrimeFicFridays.

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whilst courtesy of the author:

Review Team badge for Anna J. Stewart made by Jorie in Canva.

This is the debut of this lovely badge I’ve created to reflect the fact I am part of the Review Team for Anna J. Stewart. As such, per my usual disclosures when I have a connection to an author – I approach each story I read by an author with fresh eyes and give my honest impressions of how a story sits with me as a reader. I treat each book as a ‘new experience’, whether I personally know the author OR whether I am reading a book by them for the first time or continuing to read their releases as they are available. In regards to being on an author’s review or street team – each story is uniquely told in of its own and my opinions and thoughts upon those stories are reflective of each experience I have with reading the stories I am given an opportunity to read.

About Ms Anna J. Stewart

Anna J. Stewart

USA Today and national bestselling author Anna J. Stewart writes sweet to sexy romance for Harlequin's Heartwarming and Romantic Suspense lines as well as ARC Manor. Early obsessions with Star Wars, Star Trek, and Wonder Woman set her on the path to creating fun, funny, and family-centric romances with happily ever afters for her independent heroines and the men who love them.

A former RWA Golden Heart nominee, Anna’s books have finaled in the Daphne DuMaurier and National Reader’s Choice awards. Her sweet romance RECIPE FOR REDEMPTION was recently turned into a holiday movie for UPtv (A CHRISTMAS RECIPE FOR ROMANCE) which aired during the 2019 holiday season.

Since her first novella with Harlequin in 2014, Anna has written and published more than forty romances in multiple sub-genres. Anna lives in Northern California where she deals with a serious Supernatural and Jason Momoa addiction and two slightly nutty cats named Rosie and Sherlock. When she's not writing, you can find her cooking and baking, binge-watching classic TV and cooking shows, attending fan conventions, or heading to the movies.

You can read more about Anna, her books, and the writing workshops she offers on her website linked in this biography.

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{SOURCES: Cover art for the Honour Bound series “More than a Lawman”, “Reunited with the P.I.”, “Gone in the Night”, “Guarding His Midnight Witness” and “Prison Break Hostage”; synopsis for “More than a Lawman”, “Reunited with the P.I.”  and “Guarding His Midnight Witness” as well as the author’s photograph and biography were all provided by Anna J. Stewart and are used with permission. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets embedded by codes provided by Twitter. LibraryThing banner provided by librarything.com and used with permission. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: #CrimeFicFridays, #SatBookChat badge, Celebrating Spring reading Anna J. Stewart stories banner, Anna J. Stewart Review Team badge and the comment box badge.}

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Friday, 8 April, 2022 by jorielov in 21st Century, Book Review (non-blog tour), Contemporary Romance, Crime Fiction, Modern Day, Post-911 (11th September 2001), Romance Fiction, Romantic Suspense, Suspense




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