Under A Painted Sky (2015)

by Stacey Lee
ASIN/ISBN: 9780606383912
Publication: March 17,2015

Under A Painted Sky is Lee’s debut novel. I’m a few years behind, but it could have been worse. I might have missed it altogether. It’s a stunning debut that immediately hooked me from the first line: “They say death aims only once and never misses, but I doubt Ty Yorkshire thought it would strike a scrubbing brush. This harrowing tale of the long and dangerous trek west on the Oregon Trail is told through Samantha, a young Chinese girl who accidentally kills a man in self-defense. Although only trying to protect herself, she knows she will be charged with murder simply because the law will not take the side of a Chinese girl. Samantha is rescued by Annamae, a slave who seizes the opportunity to pursue her freedom, and together they flee west disguised as young men, Sam and Andy. En route to their destinations, they’re joined by cowboys Cay, West, and Peety, individuals also fleeing from circumstances of their own.

Lee is able to convey the harsh realities of the Oregon Trail from stampedes to the threat of bandits on the loose, but she provides a more nuanced tale by having the main character be Chinese American, someone born in the U.S. yet still viewed as perpetually foreign. Utilizing a person of color as the main character provides a different perspective of the world during this period. Anti-Asian sentiment is featured prominently in the story beginning with the predicament Sam finds herself in and the all-around vitriol environment from the use of racial slurs to how she is generally treated. One of the more pivotal moments strikes when Sam appears on a wanted poster except the picture isn’t her at all, feeding into the stereotype that all Asians look alike. Lee also captures the U.S.’s racist history through Andy’s stories about her siblings, which are heartbreaking as she relates them to Sam. 

Sam and Andy’s relationship is the highlight of this story. They start as strangers thrown together by extenuating circumstances and are forced to trust one another. This shared experience forces them to bond with each other but eventually, it grows into something stronger. They look out for one another and inspire courage in each other. They begin to regard each other as more than friends; they begin to feel like sisters.

Found family is a heartwarming trope I love, and I especially enjoyed it here as Sam, Andy, and the trio of cowboys slowly worm their way into each other’s hearts. The conversations they have are often hilarious, and Cay’s antics provide much-welcomed comic relief. As their fondness for one another grows, Sam also develops a crush on one of the cowboys. Unexpectedly, I was gutted by the romance in this novel and was left upset for a few days. It wasn’t even a full-blown romance but more of an unrequited crush. I would reread some of the scenes over and try to make better sense of why it affected me so much but would come away slightly more devastated each time, repeatedly breaking my own heart. (I don’t understand why Lee did this to me!! Why???) I’m attributing it to having connected with Sam and the pain that comes with having a crush.

Overall, this was such a wonderful read centered around loss and friendship. I couldn’t put it down, and even after I finished reading it, I still didn’t want to. I just kept right on thinking about it. Stacey Lee is a phenomenal writer and reminded me why I used to adore historical fiction. If she is at the helm, I’ll be reading more books from this genre.

Unraveled (2021)

by Alexia Chase
ASIN/ISBN:B08P5SPHPD
Publication: January 28, 2021
Series: The Everyday Hero World

(Review at the end)

Goodreads
Amazon: US | UK | CA | AU

Alexia Chase’s Unraveled is a fast-paced, emotionally charged, sexy, contemporary romance written in K. Bromberg’s Everyday Heroes Worlds project.

Can a man who’s been burned find love with a woman who’s full of sunshine and happily ever afters? 

Kameron Willoughby

His mom walked out the door when he was twelve and never looked back. That was Kameron’s first taste of a woman letting him down, but certainly not the last. 

Over the years, he’s caught his high school girlfriend with his best friend. And his last girlfriend used him to humiliate another woman. To say he’s bitter and looking to lick his wounds is an understatement. 

When his cousin offers him a place to stay in Sunnyville, he jumps at the chance. Little did he know, he’d meet Little Miss Sunshine herself. 

Layla Malone

She’s looking for Mr. Right, and he has some big shoes to fill. The men in her family have loyal hearts and a helping spirit. The biggest complaint people have about her is that she’s always rushing off to rescue someone. Why’s that such a bad thing? 

The first time she meets Kameron, she’s wrangling ducklings when one accidently falls into a rainwater drain. 

Kameron couldn’t be farther from what she’s looking for. He’s grumpy, doesn’t like animals, and thinks she’s a do-gooder. Every time they meet, she’s jumping headfirst into helping someone, and he’s lecturing her on taking unnecessary risks. 

What happens when two people, who have nothing in common, keep getting thrown together? 

One thing that’s soon apparent – they have an undeniable scorching chemistry that has them both unraveling. 

Will they stay enemies? Do they have more in common than they think? 

Can Layla show Kameron that there’s light after the darkness? Or will Kameron destroy Layla’s belief that life is sunshine and rainbows? 

This story is filled with breaking preconceived notions, resolving miscommunications, learning to appreciate your past, and healing old wounds. 

There’s also some duck wrangling, cat rescuing, sexy firefighting, and an eighty-year-old man’s rushed delivery to a nursing home before his erectile dysfunction medication wears off. 

Are you ready to enjoy the next Everyday Hero? Kameron’s one Grumpalicious fireman. 


EXCERPT

Layla

Between Gertrude and I, we manage to corral three of the baby ducks into the park as several customers file out of the café to cheer me on. 

I lean down and swoosh my arms in the air as another puffball waddles toward the yellow center line. “Oh, no, you don’t.” 

At my exaggerated movements, the duckling shots into the grass like a fox is hot on his tail feathers. “Good job, little one.”

By now, cars on both sides of the road have come to a complete stop. Mayor Winston steps out of his Cadillac. He leans against the door with his arm resting over the top edge. “Beautiful day, isn’t it?”

I swipe a strand of hair out of my eyes, but it continues to swirl. “Yes, it is.”

He chuckles as Gertrude darts to the side of the road and frantically quacks at a duckling that has wandered down the cement gutter. “She sure has her hands full with this batch. I don’t think they’re going to make it.”

“You and me both,” I sigh in utter frustration. There’s no time to make idle conversation. I jog to catch up with them before another unsuspecting driver ends up running over the little family. 

Not that there’s anywhere for vehicles to go. The road to the south is blocked by the Mayor and a couple other drivers who’ve stopped to chat with him. And from the north, a large 4×4 is angled sideways to block traffic. 

I squint. Who’s that? I don’t recognize the vehicle. Before I can catch a glimpse of the driver, the pipsqueak on the loose slips between the rails of the drain grate and disappears. 

“Oh, shit.” My heart skips a beat. I run to the covered trench and stare inside with my co-parent quacking and fluttering her head from side to side. How am I going to get you out of there? 

“What are you doing?” A deep voice booms from behind me.

My mouth drops, and I pivot on my heel. Holy hotness, Batman. The man, who has apparently emerged from a monster truck with dual tailpipes, strides across the pavement. 

The muscles in his shoulders and neck ripple with each movement. When did superheroes start wearing low-hung jeans and wifebeaters? I swallow over the dry ball of lust in my throat and straighten my back. “Gertrude’s baby duckling fell into the drain.”

He yanks the sunglasses off his face, and the darkest pair of brown eyes stare at me in utter disbelief. Then, he glances in all directions. “And that warrants this mess?”

I jerk backward. “What mess?”

“This.” As he waves his hand in a circle in front of him, his eyes flash with contempt. “You’re holding up traffic. All the lookie-loos are out gawking. And the Mayor’s over there holding an impromptu press conference.”

I spin around to see Mayor Winston grinning from ear to ear as he uses his hands to talk. Tracie Atherton and Max Parson have their cellphones up as they appear to be recording his conversation. Welcome to Sunnyville, California. 

“Then, move on.” I shrug. “It doesn’t have to be your business.”

The man purses his lips. “Yes, it does. We received a call at the fire department, and I’m the lucky one who got the assignment.” 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexia ChaseMy name is Alexia Chase. 

I specialize in quick, dirty, and sweet short stories and novellas with some novels for your reading pleasure. I write for busy working mothers who admire and acquire books that provide the full escape of a novel but don’t have a lot of time. 

More importantly, I offer insta-love, smutty sex, and swoon-worthy moments that will leave you with a flushed face and a giddy smile. Quick – pray no one is watching and wondering what in the hell is wrong with you because no one else looks that happy. 

People who have read my books have the following to say: 

“This insta-love story is extremely funny, a quick read and just filled with so much good and filthy stuff. I cannot recommend this book enough to anyone that likes Alexia Chase or is just thinking about picking one of her books up for the first time. Just make sure you are reading this where you can laugh out loud and get a crimson face when you read the erotic sex scenes.” LF Books 

“I’ve read a lot of books written by Alexia Chase; she has done a great job at writing another good short story; she is one of my favorite authors. I can’t wait to read more of her books.” Jeanne Richardson

My writing gives busy women that sixty-minute escape they need when they can’t afford a trip to the Caribbean with their secret lover, Dimitri.  My Soul Sisters don’t even have time to get away from the kids to take a shower. 

Quick. Dirty. Sweet. Alexia Chase Logo

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REVIEW

**I was provided a copy of the book by Give Me Books as part of the promotional campaign. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Unraveled is an instalust, opposites attract novel about grumpy firefighter Kameron Willoughby who temporarily relocates to the small town of Sunnyville, California and meets pocket full of sunshine Layla Malone. Kameron’s past with women prompts him to dismiss Layla as well as her positive outlook on life but he can’t stop thinking about her…and all the things he’d like to do to her. Although Kameron’s gruff exterior should be a turn off to Layla, she can’t seem to stop thinking about him either.

The lust is immediate, starting as soon as our leads meet one another. A few pages in and Kameron is already thinking things he shouldn’t whereas Layla is immediately attracted to him although not so much to his personality. I wasn’t bothered by the instalust but I didn’t feel much chemistry between Kameron and Layla beyond the initial attraction they had to one another, which could likely be attributed to the somewhat superficial interactions they had with one another before feelings got in the way. Because of a lack of chemistry, I wasn’t as invested in their relationship. The pace of the book is similar to the lust between Kameron and Layla, scorching fast. There are a few cute scenes. I think the beginning with the mother duck and ducklings stopping traffic was likely my favorite. I wasn’t a fan of Layla needing saving multiple times, which then required Kameron to repeatedly step in. If it was established early on that she was klutzy before Kameron’s appearance, I think I wouldn’t have minded as much. Readers looking for a quick, light read to start off the year may enjoy Unraveled.