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Mafia and CEOs and jerks, oh my!

After reading and reviewing nearly 300 books in the past six months, I finally did it- I made me a blog. Am I more official now? It seems to be so. And so it must be.

Profile: Compulsive reader. Romantic suspense/contemporary romance/dark romance/NA romance addict. Particularly fond of mafia, forced/arranged marriage, secret baby, kidnapping, and dark alpha heroes.

If these genres blow your skirt up, as they do mine, check out my reviews. If you are like me, you are forever chasing that next elusive five-star read. Make it easy on yourself, and just cheat off of mine. I won’t tell.

I’m just out here doing my part for humanity. These books won’t read themselves.

#naromance #romanticsuspense #contemporaryromance #zerotohero #books #bookreviews #darkromance

*COMING SOON* Five Steps Ahead (Dark Shadows, Book 1)

Five Steps Ahead by Samantha Baca

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Five “loved it” stars!

Coming in August 2020 from author Samantha Baca- her newest romantic suspense: Five Steps Ahead!

Heart-pounding. Intense. Thrilling.

This romantic suspense kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. I couldn’t put it down. I fought sleep to keep reading it, and woke up sleeping on top of my dead phone (true story). I had to know what would happen next. There were no lulls, no slow parts- the pacing was on-point to keep me interested, but not exhausted.

The layout of the book was genius, the first chapter featuring a scene much later in the book, then moving into the period leading up to that scene. Each chapter had a countdown to what I had already been told (via chapter one) would happen, and it was a masterful way to build the tension.

No fluff, no unnecessary scenes- each scene served a purpose, and moved the story along. It makes a book far more satisfying when the writing is tight. There was never an urge to skim any pages.

The chemistry between Max and Hannah was palpable. It probably helped that he was ten years older than her, and a detective (hello, age-gap with a man in a position of authority). Swoon.

I was also swooning a bit for Max’s friend Trevor… here’s hoping he gets a book, too. I’d be all over it!

I love that the author included some chapters from the villain’s POV. It adds that extra bit of terror, especially when he is unraveling and having crazy thoughts. It is clear by the end that there is something profoundly wrong with the villain- he is not just evil, but legitimately insane. As we all know, you can’t reason with crazy- you can just avoid it. But, what happens when you can’t avoid it because it is stalking you? Guess you’ll need to read Five Steps Ahead to find out.

Recommended for fans of romantic suspense!

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Roses are red. Violets are blue. You don’t see me. But I’m watching you.

Hannah Anderson gave up her adolescence to care for her ailing father, so when she gets to attend NYU, she’s eager to experience everything the city has to offer. But when an online date ends with her drugged and unconscious, and mysterious notes start appearing in her apartment, freedom no longer seems like all it’s cracked up to be.

Detective Max Romano has had more than his share of heartache. Serving and protecting is his life and leaves no time for romance. When his sister goes missing after meeting a guy from the same dating app, he’s hellbent on keeping Hannah from becoming the next victim.

Now in cramped quarters, Max is up close and personal with all the reasons he can’t get involved with Hannah. But their chemistry is combustible. Giving in to their attraction is inevitable, but letting their guard down could prove fatal as the stalker is always five steps ahead.

*COMING SOON* Fragile Lies (Fragile Hearts Standalone Series #2)

Fragile Lies by Lilian Harris

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


4.5 “really, really liked it” stars!

Gut-wrenching. Angsty. Emotional.

I didn’t know what to expect going into this, and dove in blind. Didn’t even read the blurb. And I am glad I did. It made it that much better, not knowing what was coming around the bend. Of course we all know that friends with benefits is a ticking time bomb… if it goes on for too long, someone WILL catch feelings. Every time. That, death, and taxes are the surest things in life.

This author kills it with writing feelings and angst. There is a particular part in the book that just spoke to me, deep down. Spoke to that bruised part of my heart that was hurt in previous relationships. The place where, even years later, it never quite healed. A truly brutal heartbreak can do that, leave that soft spot. This author found that spot, and gave it a sharp poke.

My poor heart aches for Lexi, already suffering with self-esteem issues after the discovery of her former fiance’s cheating ways, who now makes the terrible decision to engage in a friends-with-benefits situation with a charming, handsome man. What could possibly go wrong?

Everything, Lexi. Everything.

I loved the writing in this book. There is a particular part that I wish I could discuss in this review, but I don’t want to ruin the discovery for future readers so I won’t. Suffice to say, Jax is an idiot. But, in my experience that is the natural state of men until they pull their heads out of their behinds and fix themselves. Some do that in their twenties, some in their thirties, and some never manage it.

This book is the first of a duet within a series, and ends on a cliffhanger. It deals with a sensitive subject (trigger warning is provided within the book).

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THEIR ARRANGEMENT IS PERFECT UNTIL IT ISN’T.

Since the devastation of her ex-fiancé’s affair, Lexi hasn’t felt a deep attraction to anyone, until she meets Jax. What begins with flirtatious texts, turns into much more.

But there’s one catch: he only wants to be friends…with benefits.

He’s gorgeous, funny, and well–she hasn’t had any action in a year, so she agrees. Though Lexi knows they’re temporary, her feelings for him aren’t.

Jax is used to hookups, but with Lexi, one night just isn’t enough. She’s beautiful, sassy, and everything he wants in a woman. With time, his need for her turns into something he never bargained for, but he knows he can’t have her.

His dark nightmares enslave him.
His secrets keep his heart locked away.
So he lets her go, knowing if he doesn’t, his demons would destroy her light.

Could he shatter all that keeps him prisoner or would their hearts be the only things left shattered?


Author Note: Fragile Lies is a steamy contemporary romance and isn’t suitable for those under 18. It contains strong language, sexual situations and references. It is the 2nd book in the Fragile Hearts series and part I of Jax and Lexi’s story. It contains a cliffhanger and must be read with Fragile Truths. Both books can be read as a stand-alone romance, but you first meet the couple in Fragile Scars.

Fragile Scars (Fragile Hearts Standalone Series #1)

Fragile Scars by Lilian Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Four “really liked it” stars!

Color me impressed! This book took an incredibly sensitive topic, and showed it from multiple angles (insider, outsider, adult, child). And she showed it respect while doing it. She described the fear of being in a relationship with someone unpredictable and explosive, even had the heroine being more bold with Ash (the abuser) when she was interacting with him from a distance (phone/text). In my limited experience, that’s how it was. It was easier to be brave when they weren’t there in person. I related to that.

From what I could find I think this is the author’s debut novel, and I am blown away. Striking a balance between plot-driven and character-driven can be really hard, even for authors who have written a dozen novels– too much of one or the other makes for a dud. But this book didn’t suffer that. I enjoyed the different personalities of the characters and at the same time was glued to the pages by the plot.

She also did a great job weaving in little extras (like the bunny) to make it a fuller, richer story. I’ll say it again– I’m truly impressed that this was a debut novel.

I generally read darker romances with anti-heroes, but this one spoke to me. The male MC was definitely more hero than anti-hero, but I really liked him. He swooped in and saved the day, and it worked for me.

I recommend this book to fans of contemporary romance who like a hero that saves the day. Because, really… who doesn’t?

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SOMETIMES THE DEEPEST SCARS ARE THOSE NO ONE SEES.

Lilah seems to have it all—a great job and a gorgeous boyfriend, but underneath the perfect exterior are bruises left behind by a monster who claims to love her.

Damian has a troubled past of his own. He vows to steer clear of love, that is until he meets Lilah—a woman whose secret is slowly consuming her. One look and he knows they’ve met before but he doesn’t know where.

Determined to help her escape the violent relationship she can’t seem to leave, he befriends her, vowing to keep her safe, but protecting Lilah comes at a price.

When their attraction turns into passion and their secrets threaten to tear them apart, will they fight for one another? Or will their demons swallow them whole?

***Fragile Scars is a steamy contemporary romance with suspenseful undertones and isn’t suitable for those under 18. It contains strong language, sexual situations and references. It is the 1st book in the Fragile Hearts series. All the books in the series are interconnected standalone romances with a different couple, but past couples and characters do make an appearance in later books.

Author Note: Below is a trigger warning for those who may need it. Please stop reading now if you don’t want one. This story contains graphic violence and sexual assault, which may not be suitable for some readers.

Untouchable

Untouchable by Sam Mariano

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


DARK romance

Wow… this turned out to be quite different than I anticipated. In a GOOD way.

I had read a few reviews, so I expected dark. But this started out REALLY dark. Still, throughout the story the author did an excellent job of building out the characters, and turning around my opinion of Carter. I did eventually end up rooting for him. And after the way the book started… well, at the beginning I did not see myself rooting for him. Unless it was rooting for him to get hit by a bus.

I ended up LOVING this book. Would love to see more, maybe about some of his friends? Particularly the friend toward the end? Just a thought. 🙂

Edited 4/26/20: We ARE getting a book for the friend at the end who has since been dubbed Restaurant Guy! No word yet on title, release date, etc., but it is on the schedule!

Also, read this a second time recently, and loved it just as much as I did the first time. Lawd, this author can write the hell out of a book.


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The bully isn’t supposed to win…

Senior year was off to a rough start: lube in my locker, panties on my front porch, unimaginative name-calling. See, I got a player suspended from the football team for harassing me, and in my small Texas town, you don’t mess with the football players—even if they mess with you first.

I didn’t care if it was an unpopular thing to do; I stood up for myself… and in doing so, opened Pandora’s Box.

I never dreamed I would attract the attention of locally worshipped star quarterback, Carter Mahoney. Never imagined his coveted attention would turn out to be such a nightmare. Beneath his carefully constructed façade lurks a monster, a predator looking for the perfect prey to play with. Now, since I’m the girl no one likes or believes, I guess I’m the perfect target for his dark games and twisted desires.

After surviving my first encounter with his casual depravity, all I really want is for Carter to leave me alone.

But all he seems to want is me.


WARNING: This book is provocative. It is categorized as DARK ROMANCE for a reason. If you are a reader with certain triggers or sensitivities common to the dark romance genre, PLEASE heed the author’s note at the beginning of this book.

Lucca (Made Men #4)

Lucca by Sarah Brianne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


As delicious as I’d hoped!

Kidnapping? Yes, please. Mafia? Yes, please. Kidnapping AND mafia? SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY! 💵

I had been waiting for this book, reading Vincent and Chloe for the purpose of getting to this one.
Don’t get me wrong- I enjoyed those two books (Vincent more than Chloe, but whatevs), but they were appetizers for the Lucca main course.

Oh man, this book had it all- nefarious villain still angling for his evil plan, mafia, kidnapping, age gap (oh yeahhh), sexy times, action, and suspense. Phew! Be still my beating heart.
In this book we find out the extent of Lucca’s infatuation with Chloe, and how long it has been going on. We also FINALLY get the story of what happened to her four years prior, and also some more dirt on just how horrendous her parents are (spoiler alert: extremely damn horrendous- I would say worse than Lake’s mom and stepfather). And boy, if I don’t just love me some good back story.

I was glad the author had Chloe take her time warming up to the idea of human contact. A lesser author might have had her go from “Jesus- stay away from me” to “Jesus- come inside me!” within two days. This author gave Chloe some breathing room. Let her dip her toe into the pool little by little. There was some coaxing along the way. But as Lucca said- he never asked her to do something he didn’t think she could handle. He didn’t rush her.

I found the resolution of one of the plot points (around 65%, roughly) to be a bit oddly located. There was still a considerable number of pages left, and only the remainder of the romantic story line to carry it. What I’m saying is… it felt early to me. I also thought the way the villain handled it seemed odd.

BUT, that’s neither here nor there. It is still a five-star for me!


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Lucca was made the underboss, being what nightmares are made of.
Chloe was scarred by her past, learning too young that nightmares are real.
He has waited long enough to claim her soul, but he must take it from the devil first.
Her soul might have been better off claimed by the devil.
The only way to save her from her past is to delve into his.
The world as she knows it will come crashing down.
 
I’m the fu**ing boogieman.
I’m just a fu**ing freak.

NOW LIVE: Shadow Man (Grayson Duet #1)

Shadow Man

Grayson Duet: Book One

By Catherine Wiltcher

AVAILABLE NOW & FREE IN KU

#shadowman #santiagoseries #catherinewiltcher #cartelromance

✫ Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2THCLNc

✫ Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2TunNLG

✫ Amazon AUS: https://amzn.to/39sLmtC

✫ Amazon CA: https://amzn.to/39u96Of

✫ Add to your TBR: https://bit.ly/2R96iOg

SHADOW MAN is a brand new mafia romance from the author of the bestselling Santiago series… 

This is the first part of a duet, but there are NO emotional cliffhangers.

Genre: Mafia/Cartel Romance 

Cover design by ME Kusel, Steamy Designs

Add to Goodreads: https://bit.ly/2R96iOg

Synopsis

Cause and consequence:
Two words that haunt me.
When I was stolen, I learned to hate.
When he saved me, I learned to fear.
I ran from him, following a trail of the dead, from Miami all the way to Colombia.
Now I’ve fallen into darkness again, and he’s the only one I see.

But he’s a shadow man.
A bad man.
A soldier.
A killer.


The red right hand to the devil himself.


We’re a dirty contradiction: I’m the girl who can’t be touched, whom he refuses to set free.
We’re a dangerous obsession: There’s damage running deep in both of our souls.
Caught up in a cartel war I want no part of.
Trapped between love and hate.
One night will change everything…

For years, Joseph Grayson killed in the name of Dante Santiago.
Now, he kills for me.

Stalk Catherine:

Facebook:                        https://bit.ly/2SVOdmR

Facebook Group:            https://bit.ly/2M6Bg6X (‘Dante’s Devils’)

Goodreads:                      https://bit.ly/2M8EKFO

Twitter:                            https://bit.ly/2SORh3R

Instagram:                       https://bit.ly/2sjtmy2

Bookbub:                         https://bit.ly/2sxiVal

Meet the Author

Catherine Wiltcher is a former TV producer and a self-confessed alpha addict. Her writing is best described as sinfully sexy, and her characters always fall hard and deep for one another. 

She lives in the UK with her husband and two young daughters. If she were stranded on a desert island, she’d like a large pink gin to keep her company. Cillian Murphy wouldn’t be a bad shout, either…

For book and blog updates, please visit www.catherinewiltcher.com

REVIEW: Shadow Man (Grayson Duet #1)

Shadow Man by Catherine Wiltcher

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Five “loved it” stars!

Oh, I had been waiting impatiently for this one! I needed Joseph’s story like I need blueberry scones. Which is to say—a lot. Because I need blueberry scones a lot.

Joseph, El Assasino, is every bit as hot (but also delightfully cold) as I knew he could be. His infatuation with Anna has only grown since the first moment he laid eyes on her during the Santiago trilogy. He saved her from a physical Hell, but he is struggling with how to save her from the trappings of the Hell in her own mind. He is used to enemies he can kill. Maim. Cut. When the enemy is figurative, and requires Anna to willingly take part in the slaying, the problems start. How can he save someone who doesn’t WANT to be saved?

Or, does she?

Anna is all over the place at the beginning- apathetic, chasing the next high. Accepting the bad things that happen rather than fighting. And what she seems to be most afraid of is Joseph; her feelings for him. She is also afraid of her own brokenness; wondering if she can ever be fixed after what she endured while in captivity. So what does she do?

She runs. Right into trouble’s warm, waiting arms. And her name is Viviana. Her new “friend.”

“You want to disappear,” she states again, blinking slowly. “I can help you.”

Instead of a safe haven, Anna finds more danger than what she left behind.

I ran a thousand miles to escape from men exactly like them.





I loved the growth Anna experiences during this book- rising from a quivering, hollow woman into a fierce force to be reckoned with. And when she gives in to her attraction to Joseph? Explosive. Fire. Oh my. Just excuse me for a minute…



This book has it all- action, suspense, and steam. Also violence, secrets, reveals, and a twist I sure didn’t see coming.

Tick.
Tick.
Boom.


I loved “seeing” the characters from the previous Santiago books. It was like seeing old friends. And Dante? He is just as hot as ever. Might be time for yet another re-read of the Santiago trilogy.

This is book one of a duet, but didn’t end on a brutal cliffhanger. It ended the same way a season of Outlander ends: with a setup for the next part of the adventure. It was perfect. I am excited for the next book as opposed to on the edge of my seat and angry, left without the resolution of an intense scene. So, thank you for not doing that to us! ❤

I find that the more I read, the more fussy I get. Books that I loved a year ago just don’t do it for me anymore. My list of go-to, always-good authors has dwindled. But, Catherine Wiltcher will always be on my list. I have yet to read a book of hers that didn’t have me fighting sleep and flipping pages.

Highly recommended, as always. And safe even for those who are otherwise bingers since it doesn’t end on a brutal cliffhanger.

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SHADOW MAN is a brand new mafia romance from the author of the bestselling Santiago series…

“Richly layered & unique… All-consuming and flawlessly written” – Sammy, Just Let Me Read

Cause and consequence:
Two words that haunt me:
When I was stolen, I learned to hate.
When he saved me, I learned to fear.
I ran from him, following a trail of the dead, from Miami all the way to Colombia.
Now I’ve fallen into darkness again, and he’s the only one I see.

But he’s a shadow man.
A bad man.
A soldier.
A killer.
The red right hand to the devil himself.
We’re a dirty contradiction: I’m the girl who can’t be touched, whom he refuses to set free.
We’re a dangerous obsession: There’s damage running deep in both of our souls.
Caught up in a cartel war I want no part of.
Trapped between love and hate.
One night will change everything…

For years, Joseph Grayson killed in the name of Dante Santiago.
Now, he kills for me.

Shadow Man is the first part of a duet, but there are NO emotional cliffhangers.

Vincent (Made Men #2)

Vincent by Sarah Brianne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Liked it more than expected

Four “I really liked it” stars!

I’m gonna hit you all with some truth real quick: I decided to read Vincent and Chloe exclusively to get through to Lucca’s book. In fact, I was tempted to skip both and go straight to Lucca. I LOVE me an intimidating, extra alpha hero. Is it hot in here, or is it just Lucca? 🔥

Down, girl… it’s not Lucca time yet. Focus, for fu%&’s sake.

Okay, back to Vincent. I really liked how possessive Vincent is, because evidently I have some kind of unhealthy issue with that on top of an affinity for characteristics of intimidation and extreme alpha behaviors. Sigh. I also got a kick out of Lake refusing to be “owned,” and staying strong in the face of her family’s abuse. That said, she came across a bit bratty in her dealings with Vincent. I also thought she was a bit bratty in the part with her grandparents. That was hardly her worst living situation, and yet her reaction to it after even such a short period of time was pretty over the top. It made her seem dramatic and ungrateful.
I definitely loved seeing more of Lucca, Amo, and Chloe. I got a kick out of the charismatic character of Sadie even though she was a bit of a psycho. I didn’t say I want to hang out with her (I don’t- bi#@h be crazy)- I just said I enjoyed her character in general.

Anyway, I am liking this series more than anticipated. I picked it up after seeing it recommended ad nauseam in a couple of my Facebook reader groups, and I have not been disappointed.
I’ll read Chloe’s book in the interest of continuity, but truthfully, I just want more LUCCA.


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Vincent knows the glamorous side of the Mafia, being born a soldier.
Lake lives on the opposite side of the tracks, born the daughter of a soldier.
The light and dark side of him are at constant war, but he is letting his darkness reign.
She is trying to find peace, and she will soon be far enough away to find it.
Discovering that his boss owns her, showed him how little he knew her.
Knowing all about him only makes her want to hate him.

I’m a fu**ing made man.
I’m just fu**ing trailer trash.

*WARNING*
This work of fiction is intended for mature audiences only. All sexually active characters portrayed in this ebook are eighteen years of age or older. Please do not buy if strong sexual situations, violence, drugs, child abuse, and explicit language offends you.

*NOTE TO READERS*
This book is a stand alone story. However, to receive the full experience ‘Nero (Made Men, #1)’ is recommended before.

Nero (Made Men, #1)

Nero by Sarah Brianne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Oooh- I LOVE me a good high school bully story!

Okay, so this wasn’t a traditional bully romance in that the bully (or bullies, as it were) is not the the hero. Which sounds weird to say if you aren’t traditionally a reader of bully romance. But I digress…

“I don’t want to see you ever touch another guy again. You can kiss and hug your father and brother, but if I find out you’ve touched another guy—I don’t give a shit who it is—they won’t live to let it happen again.”

Nero was HOT! So possessive. So protective. Gah- I loved it! He hadn’t noticed Elle during their entire high school tenure, and then halfway through senior year a twist of fate threw them together. It wasn’t a coincidence that he suddenly noticed her, but she has no idea what drove it. As Nero’s feelings for her develop he starts to worry about the big lie between them, and what it could do to them if/when it came out. Oh, the delicious angst!
I love mafia romance. I love bully romance. And now the romance community has been gifted a mafia bully romance? Be still, my quivering lady bits!

That part at @ 66%? JESUS. I have a whole new respect for cupcakes. And also, now I want a cupcake. And a Nero to share to it with. And not in that order.

If you are a fan of possessive heroes, and bully reads, then I definitely recommend this book!


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Nero is the king of Legacy Prep, living a life of power.
Elle is the school’s punching bag, living a life of fear.
The only good girls Nero knows jump in his bed when he tells them to.
The closest Elle has come to a bad boy like him is in the cafeteria line.
The mob boss gave him orders to find out what she knows.
Her mouth is sealed.

I just want to be a fu**ing made man.
I’m just a fu**ing waitress.

Bully Me: Class of 2020

Bully Me: Class of 2020 by Shantel Tessier

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Bully Me: Class of 2020 is an anthology of bully reads. This review is for Sam Mariano’s Prequel to The Boy on the Bridge. I will add to it as I finish the other stories in the anthology.

YES! I need more! I need the rest of Hunter and Riley’s story!

“Don’t torture me, Hunter.”
“This isn’t what it feels like to be tortured by me, Catnip.”


It took me a few pages to get into this one (literally only a few), but then it was off to the races in pure Mariano style! Riley’s adolescent tension was so perfectly on point. I remember vividly what it felt like to have a young crush. The butterflies. The ache in your chest. The insecurity. It is captured beautifully here. Her excitement that this boy, this COOL boy, likes HER (well, I definitely can’t relate to that part, but I can imagine). Not that she cares if he is “cool,” but it just adds to the difficulty surrounding their potential relationship.

I definitely felt like the other shoe was about to drop at any moment– this isn’t an anthology about warm and fuzzies, after all. The anticipation of knowing it would happen, but not knowing when, turned it up a notch.

His own mother thinks he’s a bully. Maybe I’m the fool for thinking he’s not.

Of course, in THIS situation, it seems Riley’s insecurity (and her mother’s wariness) were warranted.

“What you did today… that was just cruel.”
Hunter shrugs. “Never claimed to be a nice guy.”


When things go south, they go real south.

It’s a good thing he’s standing close, because I can’t get out much beyond a whisper. “I’m so sorry.”
With a knowing little nod, he says, “Not sorry enough, though. Don’t worry. You will be.”


Riley hopes maybe it will blow over. Maybe he will let it go. But this is Sam Mariano…

He will definitely not let it go.

“No one can hold a grudge quite like my son.”

I can’t wait to get my grabby hands on the rest of the stories in this anthology– the 24th can’t come soon enough!!


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Loving your tormentor isn’t easy, especially when they collect broken hearts and parade them around like trophies. They’re the bad boys, the alpha a**holes, and the thorns in our sides. They push us past our limits, turn us on, and break us.

They’re our bullies.
They’re the class of 2020.

Eight bestselling authors are teaming up to bring you eight unique brand-new stories about the guys we love to hate.

This anthology benefits one of the largest anti-bullying organizations in the world, and all proceeds will go toward helping to support victims of bullying.

Note from the authors
Bully Me: Class of 2020 is a collection of novellas that includes a mix of standalones and prequels that will later be expanded upon.

Shantel Tessier
Callie Hart
CoraLee June
Siobhan Davis
Kaydence Snow
K Webster
C.M. Stunich
Sam Mariano