Today’s review is for The Escort, by Laura Marie Altom, as part of the Tasty Book Tours Blog Tour. I was given a free copy of the book by NetGalley, in exchange for this honest review. I’m also excited to welcome Laura to the blog, while she talks to us about how her past career influences her books and how fans can help her write her books! We also have another giveaway, courtesy of Loveswept, for a Loveswept mug, Flirt mug, and some great ebooks.
In Laura Marie Altom’s scorching new Shamed novel, perfect for fans of J. Kenner and Tracy Wolff, a broken heart pushes a rugged loner to the breaking point—until a not-so-innocent affair changes everything.
When the woman he loves marries billionaire Liam Stone, Nathan Black swears off dating and playing by the rules. He’s also tired of being broke. His new gig as a male escort isn’t exactly legal, but the cash will help him build a solid future. Then there’s Carol Moore, Liam’s personal assistant. She and Nathan always seem to get paired up at Stone family functions—and always seem to end up in bed together. She’s definitely intriguing. But how could a good girl like Carol settle down with a screw-up like Nathan?
After Carol’s dreamy boss gets hitched, crushing any chance of them getting back together, she finds herself hooking up with the bride’s best friend. Nathan is hot, adventurous, and just a little bit dangerous. But when one of their sexy games goes too far, Carol discovers how out of control Nathan’s life really is. And before long Carol is forced to choose between her safe old life and the bad boy who makes her feel like the woman she’s meant to be.
“What’d you do this weekend?” Lena asked Monday afternoon near the end of my shift. At twenty-five, the candy-apple-redheaded checker was a divorced single mom who’d left her husband for another woman. Since her wife had then cheated, Lena never missed a chance to proclaim she only screwed dick.
“Sleep.” Once I’d finished stocking, Mel, my manager, had put me on sack duty.
At least I hadn’t pulled cart duty. It was pouring outside, and for July, too damned cold.
Lena was okay, but she was a talker, and I’d just as soon keep to myself.
“Look at that . . .” She nodded to the newest edition of People. Liam and Ella graced the cover. Even though I knew Ella had sold the wedding’s photo rights to the magazine with the intent of all profits going toward her battered women’s charity, that didn’t mean I had to enjoy staring at the damn thing for the rest of my eight-hour shift. “Can you even imagine what her life must be like? I read the story on my break, and Dave Matthews sang at the reception. He’s cool and all, but if I had that kind of money, I’d want Kanye or Rihanna.”
“Yeah.” Thank God, a customer wheeled her cart to our line’s conveyor.
She was a regular—a serious looker. I guessed her to be in her mid-thirties. In subtle ways, she reminded me of Carol—always wearing swanky lady suits and mile-high heels with red soles. Carol wore her hair up. Our customer wore her long blond hair down and razor straight. The store catered to a mostly affluent crowd, but aside from buying premium liquor, they ate just as shitty as the rest of us. Uma Rosemont—I knew her name from multiple times eyeballing her Black Amex—had a thing for Häagen-Dazs Rum Raisin and Cool Ranch Doritos. Oh—and Fancy Feast cat food for an apparent feline friend. She bought lots of other stuff, too, but those three were on heavy rotation.
“How are you?” Lena scanned the usual Doritos, followed by grapes and bananas.
“I’m well, thank you. And you?” Carol had smelled like orange blossoms, but Uma smelled of roses. The scent was overpowering—like a walking flower-scented air freshener.
“Okay, I guess. My little girl’s running a fever, so I had to keep her home from daycare. The manager wouldn’t give me the day off, so I had to ask my mom to watch Alissa.” She scanned a half-dozen more items. “Mom usually doesn’t mind, but she had some church meeting today and got pissy about missing it.”
“I’m sorry.” Uma took her fancy wallet from its matching fancy purse. “That’s got to be rough.”
I liked that about Uma—the way she seemed genuinely nice every time she came in.
She glanced my way and smiled.
I returned the favor.
Uma asked me, “Do you have kids?”
I laughed. “Nah. Most days, I can barely take care of myself.”
Uma laughed. “I know the feeling.”
Lena shot me a dirty look. “I wouldn’t trade my little Alissa for anything. She’s awesome, but my ex is a dick.”
Uma glanced my way and raised her eyebrows.
When our gazes met, I couldn’t be sure, but thought we’d shared a moment.
She winked, confirming my suspicion.
While she swiped her Food Mart VIP Shopper card, and then paid in cash, I tucked the exchange in my mental back pocket.
When she left, and I started my inevitable turn at dragging dripping carts in from the lot, I couldn’t get Uma from my mind. I wasn’t into her, but I was curious. What kind of guy would a woman like her want?
Driving rain smacked sense into me.
The guy she’d want was Liam—just like every other woman on the fucking planet.
I raised my black hoodie against the assault, hunkering while steering the carts inside.
The fact that Uma was so similar in her look to Carol returned me to Saturday night. I shouldn’t have run away like a little punk. I’m a grown-ass man, and I should have stuck around to congratulate my friend. I should have done right by Carol, and held her hand through what had to have been an endless night of toasting and syrupy romance.
I turned to find Uma pulling alongside me in a gold-toned Mercedes.
“Want to meet later for coffee?”
“Sure,” I said. “I mean, I guess.”
“Way to make a woman feel special.” She feigned a pout. “We’ll have to work on that. Until then . . .” She winked. “The Beanery on Elm. Six?”
“Yeah. Okay.” I nodded. “That’ll work.”
She smiled and shook her head. “You’re rough around the edges, but I like you, Nathan.” She nodded to my white plastic Food Mart name tag. “See you later, alligator.”
Okay, that was strange, but not all that out of the ordinary. I occasionally got hit on by desperate housewives. Not to be cocky, but more than a few women have told me I’m decent in the looks department. Sadly, the vast majority of those women were on the prowl for nothing more than light flirtation—a taboo encounter to get their juices flowing. But every so often, a chick came along who lived life more dangerously than the rest. I suspected Uma fell into that category, but honestly, after being with Carol, I wouldn’t mind exploring her a bit more.
Which made no sense, considering I didn’t even have her number.
The rain fell harder, so I hustled to finish my job—not that it mattered. I was already soaked.
“You look like a drowned meth head,” Lena noted when I rejoined her at her checkout lane. “Got any to share?”
“What?” I didn’t think it was possible to hate this job more, but at that moment, I did. If rent hadn’t been due in a few days, I’d have walked out. ’Cause yeah, Lena, I’d totally been riding the meth train out in the fucking freezing-cold rain.
Writing by Committee
Writing by Committee
Social media—love it or hate it, it’s here to stay.
One thing I adore about my author Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/LauraMarieAltom) is that it gives me the unique ability to interact with my readers in fun new ways. Sure, we all laugh over puppy/kitten/baby videos and drool over hunks on Wet Wednesday, but one of my favorite things to do with readers is let them have a say in parts of my current works-in-progress.
A smidge of backstory:
Before I began writing, I had a thriving interior design career. I worked for two of the best-known architects in Northwest Arkansas, and had just been assigned to select the furnishings and finishes for the new Rogers, AR Public Library when I received the joyous news that I was not only pregnant, but with twins!
From day one, I was a mess—horrible morning sickness, high blood pressure, feet and ankles that looked more like footballs, etc. Barely into my third trimester, I went to my regular OB/GYN appointment, and they sent me straight to the hospital. I never practiced interior design again. After months of bedrest, my twins finally entered the world a little underweight, but otherwise healthy. The cost of daycare for twin infants was far more than I made working, so I became a stay-at-home mom, and loved every second of it!
Always an avid reader, I’d dabbled in writing my own romance novel, but never took it seriously until I now had the time to write during the twins’ afternoon nap. Fast forward twenty years and I’ve published over fifty titles.
All of which is a long way of explaining why my books feature unique architecture and furnishings—because deep inside me, there’s a frustrated interior designer who wants to get back to work! LOL!!
Now, because I spend so much time with each story’s setting, I decided it might be fun to include readers in the process. In The Escort, readers had three chances to shape the story’s settings or fixtures.
The first opportunity came when I needed to choose an awesome car for Nathan. (I know, picking a car isn’t the same as picking a sofa, but it still made for good Facebook fun!) After a week of toiling over luxury car pictures, I decided a Bentley would be appropriate for taking out Nathan’s wealthy clientele, but what I couldn’t decide was whether or not to go with the hardtop or convertible. I posted the following two pics to my FB page, and voila—one of the models won by a LANDSLIDE!! Since I don’t want to give any spoilers, you’ll have to read the book to find out which car won.
The next vote involved a party setting. I gave readers a choice between a ballroom or rooftop setting at the Phoenix Waldorf Astoria. I figured this would end up in a tie, but once again, my readers were VERY vocal about where they wanted this party held. I was happy to oblige, and hope readers will be pleased to find their winner in the story.
The last item up for vote in The Escort, involved a topic most every American woman has faced at one point or another—holiday table décor! LOL!! Ella, the heroine from Control and Possess, is hosting a massive Thanksgiving meal for family and friends, and wants the occasion to turn out just right. Keep in mind that Ella is now a billionaire’s wife, so she had to keep things classy.
Readers chose between three table settings. I figured that, as with the other votes, this one would also have a clear winner, but actually, a hot debate ensued.
To keep peace, I ended up borrowing elements from all of the proposed table settings, and crossed my fingers readers would be pleased with the results.
If there’s a frustrated designer in you, please be sure to stop by my FB page so you can get in on my latest book’s vote!! xoxo
The Escort was not what I expected, but I’m not complaining. When I read the blurb, I was picturing a sleek, sophisticated hottie working as an escort who would expect his woman to simply go along with things. I imagined a strong man who would seduce our heroine into accepting his lifestyle, until the end, when he decides on his own that he loves her too much to continue subjecting her to it.
But Nathan was a surprise: he was a hottie, sure, but he was not sleek and sophisticated anywhere but on the surface. He took the gig as an escort without fully realizing what he was agreeing to, and he struggled with enormous guilt over what he was doing to Carol. I really enjoyed this unique twist on a story that could have gone the way others before it have gone. Altom tweaked this story into something I’ve never read before, and did it to absolute perfection.
I felt a little confused by the backstory of the relationships between Nathan and Ella and Liam and Carol, but since I didn’t read the first Shamed novels (though I certainly intend to remedy that situation now), it makes sense that I might feel that way. It wasn’t enough to detract from my enjoyment of the story, nor did it make it difficult to follow the story.
The attraction between Nathan and Carol was immediate and hot, and watching their relationship grow, both physically and emotionally, was exciting. Wondering what would happen, if Carol would realize what was going on, if Nathan would find a way out of the mess he was in – it all had me eager to keep reading and disappointed every time I had to put it down to attend to real life.
This was a great book, with characters I enjoyed, settings that were both beautiful and fascinating, and a plot that had me on the edge of my seat waiting to find out what would happen next.
Find The Escort and the entire Shamed series on Goodreads.
Laura Marie Altom is the author of more than forty books in three different genres. Now that her kids are in college, Altom spends her days writing and chasing after a menagerie of pets: a mini long-haired dachshund named Cocoa, a Yorkie named Daisy, a mutt named Sweet Pea, and Domino—a black-and-white stealth cat she rarely sees. She’s happily married to her college sweetheart (go Hogs!), and when night falls, she steals a few romantic moments for herself with her own hunky cover stud.
You can enter the Rafflecopter giveaway and win:
One Loveswept Mug
One Flirt Mug
Ebook copies of:
- JUST A LITTLE CRUSH by Renita Pizzitola
- CRUSHED by Lauren Layne
- AGAINST THE CAGE by Sidney Halston
- POSSESS by Laura Marie Altom
- AFTER MIDNIGHT by Kathy Clark
- MAKE YOU BURN by Megan Crane
- MY HIGHLAND LOVER by Maeve Greyson
- BREAKING NOAH by Missy Johnson and Ashley Suzanne
- A FASHIONABLE INDULGENCE by K.J. Charles
- FORBIDDEN by Jacquelyn Frank
You can follow the rest of the tour here, to read more reviews, guests posts and interviews with Laura Marie Altom.