Monday, January 16, 2017

"Trick Me Once" by Sharon Clare

Trick Me Once
(The Magical Matchmaker Series Book 3)
by Sharon Clare

Trick Me Once is the third book in The Magical Matchmaker Series by Sharon Clare. Also available: Love of Her Lives (read my blog post) and Rhapsody (currently FREE).

Trick Me Once is currently on tour with Bewitching Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my review, a guest post by the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Magic pushes them together. Reality pulls them apart.
Humiliated radio show host Jessica Stirling is a survivor, yet nothing prepares her for the stage trick that transports her across the country to a man suspiciously like the nineteenth-century folk hero idolized by Hollywood. About to lose her job, her life savings, and the home that matters to her more than love, she can’t stay stranded in the mountains with a dangerously appealing man who believes in elves.
Trapped in an Elvin world for a century, Scottish artist Aiden MacAuley is finally free and back on Earth. But he’s not home. He’s not safe. And he’s not alone. To prevent the destruction of his bloodline, he must get back to Scotland immediately. He can’t be distracted by the exasperating woman sent to him by a match-making elf, even if she does stir his lust like no woman has.
When she tries to heal the sins of his past, he can’t open his heart. There’s too much to lose and as the new guardian of the gate between the human and Elvin worlds, he isn’t free to fall in love.
Note: This book can be read as a standalone.

If she didn’t know better, she’d think she was in a log cabin in the mountains. This set design was fabulous. The scene out the window looked so real, she couldn’t help feeling a little respect for the Alfar family of illusionists.
She felt him come up behind her. Why was he standing so close? Without turning, she asked, “Please direct me to the manager’s office. I’d like to speak to someone about Finn’s disappearing lady trick.”
His soft snort sounded in her ears. “You’ll not be finding a manager’s office here. Where do you think you are?”
She was about to say she must be under the stage, but her throat clamped down on the words. Two squirrels skittered around the trunk of a tree. She’d assumed it was some kind of video screen, but if that were the case, she’d not be hearing the faint chitter of the grey squirrel on the defensive.
But it couldn’t be. It was impossible for her to be anywhere other than the Empire Theatre in Mesa, Arizona. “Where do you think we are?” she countered, gaze fixed on the squirrels.
“It was my hope to be in the Highlands, but the air’s not got the smell of peat, nor whiskey, nor sweet heather honey.”
She spun around then, and would have bumped into him if he’d not taken a quick step back. “As in Scotland? Very funny.”
“’Tis no jest.”
“No? Well then, you woke up on the wrong continent, buddy.” His pupils were slightly dilated, but his gaze was clear and steady. He obviously had quick reflexes, and he didn’t look delusional, but what did she know about psychotic episodes? His clothes looked like he’d been sleeping in them for longer than a quick nap. Perhaps he’d wandered into the theatre off the street. She took another step backward.
His sharp gaze flicked to that remarkably real backdrop. “How can you be sure?”
Because I’m sane. But she didn’t say that, of course. She was unsettled enough to not feel perfectly grounded herself. “If you can’t direct me to the manager, then I’ll find him myself, but this show is over.” She marched across the room, threw open the door to the pseudo living room, and stood dead still in the open doorway as a very alive, damp outdoor breeze blew in the scent of bug-infested woods, fish-filled lakes, and decomposing fungus.
She slammed the door shut, moved back to the bedroom and opened what looked like a closet door. Damn, a closet. She crossed the hall and whipped open another door—bathroom. Where were the stairs leading up to the theatre?
Perhaps she’d just thought she’d seen mountains when she’d opened the door in the living room—a mind warp from the stress of landing in a stranger’s bed. She headed back across the room, spared a quick glance at the stagehand who looked vaguely amused, and opened the door cautiously.
She stumbled across the threshold to stand on the wooden deck and face an illusion much too large to be contained to one theatre. Her lungs constricted. Tree-covered mountains stacked atop each other all the way to the overcast horizon. A liver-colored lake roiled in a pocket thirty feet below. Dark, dense woods pressed in on her like a surly crowd.
But they couldn’t be in the mountains. That was impossible. Arizona was desert. There was no such thing as magic, no disappearing lady.
She felt the blood drain from her face as reality struck.
She was losing her mind. This must be exactly what had happened to her nana. Every day, sitting in the Sunshine Acres Nursing Home, Nana thought she was living on her childhood farm in Saskatchewan, talking as though she were on the prairie, seeing the farm house, her mommy and daddy. Thinking it was all real.
Jessica had sudden early-onset dementia. Sinking to the deck, she wrapped herself up in her arms. She felt the vibrations of the stagehand walking around her, heard the smooth gait of his boots on the wood, and she would have chuckled if her voice worked—she’d thought he was crazy. If ever there was a kettle calling the pot black, she was that kettle.
“I’m not sure what Finn told you,” he said, “but you seem ill-prepared to be here, and that’s not good.”
An insect buzzed by her ear. Bugs! She swatted at it. “Yes, I’m quite ill-prepared—quite ill, period. I see mountains and a lake. How’s that for ill?”
“I see. And there were no mountains or lakes where you came from?”
She peered up at him. “Not mountains like these. I live in the desert.” She massaged her temple—maybe that would bring much needed blood to her head. “I’ve been under a lot of stress lately, and…my brain must have tried to compensate, but now it snapped. I’m seeing things that can’t possibly be there.”
He crouched down in front of her. “Your mind is sound, woman. You see mountains because we’re in the mountains. Finn sent you here because he likes to play games.” He slipped his hand over hers and pulled. “Come, stand up.”
At least he saw the mountains, too—a tiny acknowledgment. She tugged her hand away. She may be losing her mind, but she could still stand on her own two feet. One deep breath sent a good supply of oxygen to her head as she stood up. “Just so you know, your explanation does not make me feel better. People can’t go from the desert to the mountains in the blink of an eye. It’s impossible.”
His grin didn’t hold much humor. “Not impossible. People can’t. But elves can.”
He’d just re-established he was, indeed, crazier than she. “You see elves. Oh my, that’s good news. Maybe we can get adjoining rooms at the funny farm.”
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"Often when a story set just outside reality, the reader is asked to suspend their belief. But when the supernatural world is crafted by a master, time travel becomes part of reality. Sharon Clare is such a master, her storytelling flows with such ease, her characterizations and descriptions are so rich, that I'm pulled along without thought to where, or when, I am." ~ Sherry Isaac
"Imaginative, romantic, sexy, funny and magical all make this a delightful read." ~ Wendy Catalano
"I found Jessica's obsessed behavior even humorous at times. Between her past issues and Aiden's past, very long past at that, made their relationship very difficult. With more unusual paranormal events happening, such as time travel, distance trekking, shape shifting it was easy to stay interested right to the last page." ~ Tommie Mead
"Once again, Sharon Clare delivers a stellar read. I devoured Trick Me Once, the third in her Magical Matchmaker series, on the first read. The page-turning plot and complex character arcs (and, the sex scenes) led me to read it a second time, with just as much admiration for her lyrical voice, and her ability to embed nuances of emotion and character history. It was a delight to have Elven Trickster, Finn, back; conjuring mischief and bringing soulmates together. Clare's ability to suspend this reader's reality as Aiden and Jessica cross centuries and worlds is a unique talent. Character back-stories place them in a position to heal emotional wounds from the past. As the relationship unfolds, they find themselves able to understand and mitigate the drive each possess in the present. Her sensual scenes are steamy, hot, yet tastefully done - worthy of a dog-eared page had I not read the Kindle version." ~ Gloria R
"Remarkably fluid writing and an exceptional story line with strong characters makes this book a joy to read. The premise that love conquers all is the center of the book." ~ Evonne Hutton

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
Aiden MacAuley is sent back to Earth one hundred years after being trapped in Alfheim, an Elvin realm. Aiden's mission is to act as gatekeeper between Earth and Alfheim. But someone is determined to see him fail, and he finds himself somewhere in the Appalachian Mountains - nowhere near his home on the Isle of Skye. Enter Finn, a mischievous matchmaking elf who has been exiled from Alfheim. King Oberon has promised to rescind Finn's exile if he finds Aiden his eternal love-mate. So Finn (literally) drops Jessica - a reporter who has lost her reputation, her job, and her life savings all in one day - straight into Aiden's bed!
Trick Me Once is an action adventure/romantic comedy/paranormal romance that you won't want to put down. The story alternates between the human and Elvin worlds, both of which are populated by complex and interesting characters. I especially loved Jessica's cute habit of using poetry to calm herself down. The chemistry between Aiden and Jessica is undeniable, climaxing (excuse the pun) in exquisitely written sex scenes. Aiden and Jessica discover the magic and the power of true love. And so will you.

Guest Post by the Author
Character Development
I want to thank Books Direct for hosting me today to share my release, Trick Me Once, a new light, paranormal romance in The Magical Matchmaker Series.
One of my favorite aspects of story-telling is character development. I love giving my characters limiting beliefs and defensive behaviors they must overcome to find love and happiness. A limiting belief is something about ourselves or the world we believe to be true, but isn’t really true at all.
In Trick Me Once, the heroine Jessica is a woman who survived a childhood crisis that shaped her life. The decisions she makes as an adult still come from the terrified place of a little girl, and now that she’s all grown up, she doesn’t see her behavior as self-defeating. To her, life is about survival, and she has good reason for it.
Jessica has a couple limiting beliefs. First, she believes she can’t depend on anyone but herself and secondly, she believes money equals happiness.
Many of us are affected by our pasts. For years (okay, maybe decades), I struggled to overcome beliefs I adopted from my much younger self when I was trying to navigate dysfunctional relationships.
For me, everything is much clearer now, and for Jessica? Well, she’s got some work to do.
Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of Trick Me Once, just after Jessica has a run-in with a neighbor who heard about her work crisis:
The only way to get on your feet was to get off your arse, Jessica’s grandfather had often told her. She would honor his memory by heeding his advice, and after four days of brooding, she was ready to face the world, to find the rainbow after the storm.
Okay, Grandpa, I’m on my feet again. She held her head up high. She’d survived worse than a career setback. And she hadn’t been fired from her job, just asked to take a few days off until the media found someone else to bully. And to step down from Let’s Talk Entertainment, but she still had a job. So it was the midnight shift. She could learn to sleep during the day.
With the Arizona wind on her face and the sun’s heat warming the top of her head, she began to feel her spirit brighten.
Then she walked by the bus stop where her gaze landed on a bold advertisement. She froze like a lamppost. Her mood took a dark tumble.
An ad for the Aiden MacAuley movie blazed from a signpost like a finger-pointing reminder of Jessica’s downfall. If she was bombarded with any more reminders of that nineteenth-century, Scottish, folk-hero—aka the bane of her existence, the blight on her career, the curse that wouldn’t let go—she’d lose her delicate hope for an optimistic future.
But she refused to face her apartment walls again until dinnertime.
Twenty minutes later, Jessica gritted her teeth while her stylist trimmed her hair with a pitiful apology in his eyes that said, “too bad you’ve suffered public humiliation.” Only when he complimented the natural shine in her chestnut hair, her perfect eyebrows, and clear, glowing skin, did she feel a little blessed. Truly, she had much to be thankful for.
As she left the salon, she even managed a smile for an oddly dressed man who gave her the once-over as she passed. The smile felt like a long-lost friend on her lips.
“You, princess, are our lucky winner today!” The man on the sidewalk handed her a ticket. “The one-hundred and fifth person to walk by the theatre wins free entrance to our afternoon matinee performance.”
Jessica scanned the street and counted three people. “One hundred and five? How long have you been standing here?”
“I would stand for all time to meet the likes of you, a woman aching to escape the mundane and do with an afternoon of magic, fantasy, and adventure.” Silver, shimmering hair hung nearly to his waist, under a black leprechaun-like hat that revealed his appealing face—and not a wrinkle in sight. His eyes swept up at the corners, and his irises sparkled with iridescent blue. Must be contact lenses. The sun glinted off a brass belt buckle peeking out from his long, emerald waistcoat, worn over a crisp, wing-collared white shirt. Black knee-high boots were polished to a shine.
“Unfortunately an adventure isn’t in my budget.” She glanced at the ticket he’d handed her. Markus Productions: Magician and Illusionist. “You’re a magician?”
The glint in his eyes was like a schoolboy’s. “No, not me. I only dabble. T’would be a shame to let a free ticket go to waste. It’s just about to begin and you have my guarantee, there’s no other show like it on Earth.”
She checked her watch—1:55. “No surprise fees?”
“Not another cent.” The exotic looking man opened the door to the theatre and gave her shoulder a little nudge toward the entrance.
“Then, yes, I’ll take your offer. Thank you.” She’d watch the magic show because entertainment that wasn’t Hollywood and had nothing to do with Aiden MacAuley was just what she needed to nourish her budding good spirits.
I hope you enjoyed this excerpt. Unfortunately, things go horribly wrong for Jessica at the magic show. She may think she’s overcome the worst life can throw at her, but her troubles are just beginning!
Thanks again, Books Direct, and thank you kindly for reading. You are very much appreciated!

About the Author
Sharon Clare writes light, paranormal romance with a little magic, a little suspense, and a little humor.
She’s always been fascinated by the idea there’s more to the world than we perceive. That’s why she created Finn, a mischievous, match-making elf, from a world just a wee bit off Earth who believes every time love is experienced, energy empowers our worlds.
Life has enough difficult times, so it’s important to Sharon to write novels where happiness ultimately triumphs. She helps her characters overcome their demons, open their hearts, and find the love everyone deserves. When you reach the end, she strives to leave you in a happy place.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win one of five ebook copies of Trick Me Once by Sharon Clare.