Sunday with a Sassy Shopaholic: Hair Fruits by Cien-Banana Conditioner and Banana 3 in 1 Hair Mask (Garnier Fructis Hair Food Conditioner and Hair Mask Dupes)

This week during a trip to the supermarket, I was happy to find that the Hair Fruits range by Lidl was still in stock. It’s a limited time offer, so I thought it might have been sold out quickly.

The name and packaging reminds me of the Fructis Hair Food haircare range, which I’d like to try.

Hair Fruits by Cien come in two varieties: Banana and Mango. I bought the Banana conditioner and the Banana 3 in 1 Hair Mask. There was also shampoo available, and the Mango-scented products were also available in shampoo, conditioner and hair mask.

The products were on a Buy One, Get One Half Price offer: the first product cost 2,68€ and the second was half price, 1.34€. Each product contains 400ml, so I thought the price was good.

The smell of the banana products is authentic.

Superdrug Chocolate Orange Facemask

I love anything to do with chocolate and was pleased when I got this mask in my Christmas stocking in the past.

The mask is very liquidy and dripped a little into the sink. It’s warming and relaxing. It looks like dark chocolate and is easy to remove. It smells like chocolate orange and has a rich texture.

My advice is wear an apron or cover your clothes when applying and wearing it.

Overall, using this mask is far from the luxurious experience I thought it would be, and I’m disappointed.

Verdict: 6/10

Comparison Post: I Heart Makeup Chocolate Lipgloss vs Chocolate Lipstick. Both in the Shade Cookie Dough.

Of these products, I have had the lipgloss the longest as it came out years ago. I’ve used it so much but have some product left which I’m pleased about.

The lipgloss has a clear tube with the product name and brand in fuchsia, a gold lid and a doe foot applicator. The product is a mid-toned pinky brown and applies well. It feels very comfortable on the lips.

It’s a very neutral colour and the lipgloss really smells like cookies.

This year, I found a chocolate lipstick in the same shade. I was keen to try it and wanted the same shade as the lipgloss so I could easily compare the two.

The lipstick is creamy and applies well. It’s comfortable. Both it and the gloss are infused with cocoa extract. The lipstick packaging is brown and the middle is like a 3D fuscia chocolate bar which has the same melted.effect look as the brand’s famous chocolate eyeshadow palettes or chocolate highlight palettes, some of which I have.

I found the lipstick has less of a cocoa scent than the lipgloss.

Verdict: Both are great for different reasons. The gloss has more of a scent and applies well.

The lipstick is creamy and the packaging is more statement than the gloss although the gloss packaging is pretty.

Both are comfortable to wear.

Price-wise, I bought the lipstick on offer for 4.90€ and it’s usually 5.99€

Harlequin Trade Publishing August 2022 Romance Blog Tour: Long Past Summer by Noué Kirwan

Author: Noué Kirwan
ISBN: 9781335448828
Publication Date: August 2, 2022
Publisher: HQN Books

Book Summary:

With the Southern charm of SWEET HOME ALABAMA and the emotional complexity of IN FIVE YEARS, LONG PAST SUMMER is a sparkling second-chance romance from debut author Noué Kirwan, written from the author’s own perspective in the Black community.
It’s hard to move on from a broken heart—and harder to move on from a broken friendship.

Mikaela Marchand is living the polished life she always planned for: a successful New York lawyer, with a promotion in her sights and a devoted boyfriend by her side. She’s come a long way from the meek teen she was growing up in small town Georgia, but the memory of her adolescence isn’t far—in fact, it’s splashed across a massive billboard in Times Square. An old photograph of Mikaela and her former best friend, Julie, has landed on the cover of a high-profile fashion magazine advertised all over the city. And when Julie files a lawsuit, Mikaela is caught in the middle as defense lawyer for the magazine.

Not only will she have to face Julie for the first time in years, Mikaela’s forced to work closely with the photographer in question: the former love of her life–and Julie’s ex-husband–Cameron Murphy. Mikaela needs to win the case to get her promotion–and as a junior partner, she has no margin for error. But unresolved feelings still exist between Cam and Mikaela, and jealousy always made Julie play dirty…

With flashbacks to summers of first loves and fragile friendships, Long Past Summer looks at the delicate and powerful thread that binds and breaks friends and flames.

About the Author:

Noué Kirwan is a Bronx, NY native, raised between there and the Bay Area of Northern California. A graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, she currently, and for many years, has lived in Harlem, New York. When she’s not consuming copious amounts of media–binging TV shows, devouring movies, hoarding comic books and inhaling romance novels–she’s writing herself, dreaming up lives for formidable women and the men who love them.

Contact Noué:

Author Website:
Facebook: N/A

Where to Buy

Barnes & Noble:


Mikaela took a deep, cleansing breath and rolled her shoulders back.
Breathe, she chided herself. She hadn’t even darkened the doorstep yet; a heart attack in advance of that seemed premature.
One of the doors to the gallery stood open in invitation, but it was the frigid air escaping from inside that was actually more enticing. It was unseasonably hot. A freak heat wave had made it a blazing, makeup-melting, fire-hydrant-opening, egg-sizzling-out-on-the-sidewalk day in New York City, in only early May. Still, Mikaela wouldn’t reward herself with the tempting relief offered inside. Instead, she just stood on the bottom step for yet another moment, lingering as the various city dwellers went about their business. Another typical Saturday afternoon along a cobblestoned street in Soho.
Despite its swank location, this art gallery was more nondescript than any of the other storefronts that lined the street, rather anonymously tucked in between several ultra-high-end fashion boutiques. Its entrance, an open doorway like an ominous black hole, sat among a sea of gleaming white and vibrantly colored doors. In the single large plate-glass window hung a poster advertising a photographer’s retrospective and the gallery’s address. Adorning the poster was a small reproduction of a picture that even now bedeviled Mikaela from no less than a magazine cover, a thirty-foot sign in Times Square and numerous subway station advertisements across the City. But now, looking at the size of the relatively unremarkable gallery, she guessed most of the exhibit’s undoubtedly extravagant budget must have gone to the rent on this place and the marketing for that poster alone.
The gallery itself was lo-fi, unassuming and minuscule, judging from her spot well outside of it. Mikaela pushed her sunglasses up off her face and peered through the dim doorway, head angling this way and that like an owl. Her feet remained rooted in place, fear-induced moisture popping out on her brow and nose, sweating through her carefully applied war paint. The problem was the sun made it hard to make out what further surprises might lie in wait for her on the other side of the door.
“It’s okay,” a voice said, startling Mikaela from behind.
Mikaela spun around. A young woman with a bright smile and a nearly white-blonde ponytail stood on the sidewalk below. She squinted without the benefit of her sunglasses, which hung neatly tucked in between her breasts on her floral ditsy-print sundress. One open blue eye appraised Mikaela, top to bottom.
“We’re open. They’re just putting the final finishing touches on everything but it’s all in there.” She took a step up onto the old wooden stairs then paused, waiting to see if Mikaela would choose to enter.
Rather, Mikaela stepped aside to let her pass with two large iced coffees in her hands.
Indecision still gnawed at her nerves.
“Is the photographer in?” Mikaela gave a courteous smile as the young woman continued past.
“Yup, should be. This is for him.” She raised one of the coffee cups. “He tries to come in for at least a couple of hours every day—he’ll probably be coming in more often leading up to the opening.”
Mikaela nodded as they changed places, backing down the steps as the young woman ascended. They continued to regard each other: the young woman with mild curiosity, Mikaela with acute wariness.
The young woman paused again at the top, just in the threshold. “Do you want me to get him?” She turned to the photo in the window then back to Mikaela. The beginnings of a smile curving the corners of her mouth. “Or tell him you stopped by? Miss…?”
For a split second, Mikaela saw the omnipresent photo in the window the way any stranger might.
Two girls on a swimmer’s platform on a summer day.
“Oh no, that’s not necessary.” Mikaela stood on the cobblestones again, heart thumping, resolve faltering. Not only the full glare of the sun but also her own discomfort burned her up, urging her retreat. She shielded her face with a palm, partially from shame, and hurried down the street.
She was half a long block away the first time she heard her name. She hadn’t heard his voice in over fifteen years, but she recognized it, quickening her steps.
“Mikaela!” he bellowed again over the ambient noises of the street.
It was still distant but closer.
Mikaela hazarded a quick glance over her shoulder. A figure made his way toward her, dodging pedestrians as he moved. Mikaela stepped into the street, raising her arm, waving her hand.
A passing yellow cab pulled over. She yanked open the door.
“Please drive,” she commanded. “I’ll tell you where to go in a second. Just pull off, okay?”
The cabbie eyed her through the rearview mirror then glanced farther down the street before understanding her hurry and doing as she requested.
A full minute later, he spoke, turning off the small bumpy street and merging into traffic on the smoother avenue. “Where to, miss?”
“Downtown Brooklyn, please.” Mikaela sighed. She swallowed through the lump forming in her throat trying to sort why his voice had upset her.
She had always imagined she would instinctively know if Cameron was in her city. Or that maybe they could walk past each other, simply another two strangers in a city of eight million. But today proved, for her, that wasn’t possible.
He is Cameron Murphy and I am Mikaela Marchand and as long as we remain who we are, that will always be a patently ridiculous idea.
Mikaela pressed the button lowering the window nearest her, sinking into her seat. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath of the thick, pungent city air that blew into her face as her cab sped down the windy expressway along Manhattan’s East River.

November 2001
A female sheriff’s deputy handed Mikaela a moist towelette. Mikaela took it and wiped the black ink off her fingers.
“We’ve called your parents, who said they’d be here soon, but we haven’t finished processing you yet.” The deputy raised an arm and waved over an extremely tall young man in a dress shirt and khakis. “As soon as we’re done with this, someone’ll take you to stand in front of the judge and then your folks can spring you.”
Mikaela nodded, meticulously removing every drop of ink from her fingertips.
“Stay here. Cam’ll finish up with you,” she instructed gruffly before switching places with the young man and walking away.
Mikaela and the photographer stood staring at one another for a moment before he leaned forward and whispered, “Judge came in special to arraign y’all. Your parents must be pretty important, huh?”
“Not mine, hers.” Mikaela nodded down the hall in the direction of her best friend, Julie. Julie leaned against the high-top intake counter chatting with the desk sergeant and another deputy. “Her daddy’s a judge too, but Georgia Supreme.”
“Oh, so a real muckety-muck then?” He reached into a tub on a nearby desk and handed her several more wipes.
“I suppose.” Mikaela eyed the stack of wet wipes in her hands.
The young man mimed wiping his own face in a circular motion.
“I gotta take your mug shot,” he explained.
“You? Aren’t you a little young to be a deputy?”
“I’m not… A deputy, I mean. Just takin’ the pictures. Grade two, office support. But I can’t photograph purple-faced perps.”
“Oh.” Mikaela obediently scrubbed at her face, yet every towelette came back with more purple paint. After the fifth one, she stopped.
“Can I please just wash my face in the bathroom?”
The photographer shrugged and directed her down the hall.
Inside the restroom, Mikaela made for the sink and the large mirror above it. She had a hard time, right then, remembering why she had been so obsessed with this “senior prank” for so many years. Although Mikaela could admit, up until she’d had breakfast that morning, she’d still been so excited. Even as she and Julie applied their purple-and-gold face paint, and Mikaela’s little sister, Vanessa, affixed two glittery wigs of opposing colors onto their heads, they’d all giggled with an almost frothy enthusiasm.
“Trust me—no one will ever forget this!” Julie had promised, pulling Mikaela up the vaguely damp football tunnel to the thundering beat of the Harmon Spartans’ fight song—and also Mikaela’s heart.
“Yeah, ’cause we’ll be laughingstocks.”
“We’ll be legends!”
Arm in arm, they’d marched toward the light as the shaggy foil tips of the itchy wig tickled Mikaela’s face.
And as usually happened, Mikaela could feel Julie’s seemingly limitless enthusiasm for high jinks begin to permeate the layers of her own innate reserve.
But now, standing under the harsh fluorescents of the police station bathroom, Mikaela just ripped off the moronic gold tinsel wig and ruffled her short brown hair trapped beneath it. It sprung wild, thick and curly from her scalp, freed from the loose plaits she’d had it in earlier. She took a deep breath and regarded herself, still covered in purple greasepaint. Was it worth it?
She knew that was going to be her father’s first question for her and she didn’t have an answer. Julie had been right—no one in this town would ever look at her the same again. Especially not after the two consecutive cartwheels and back handsprings she’d done on the fifty-yard line while school security chased Julie around the end zone during halftime at their high school’s final football game of the season. At the time, more than half of the stands roared in appreciation. Mikaela stifled a little smirk remembering it.
Of course, that was probably because most of the Tri-County area now knew her better than her own gynecologist did.
But the truth was, for those two hundred and eleven seconds, it had been utterly wonderful. Mikaela let loose and was completely herself, joyful and free and brimming with the most intense hopefulness and excitement about what lay ahead after graduation. Not only for herself but every single young person there. In fact, it had been three and half of the finest minutes of her life.
That is until sheriff’s deputies tackled her to the ground and dragged her off the field in handcuffs. Now, Mikaela stood in the mirror wearing only an extra-large Spartans T-shirt, her pink Keds, the remnants of particularly noxious paint on her face and a slightly lopsided Afro. She was a mess.
“Pull it together,” Mikaela said to the grotesque, mocking face in the mirror.
She pressed the dispenser until there was a mound of soap in her palm. Then, using paper towels to scrub, she washed most of the face paint off in three cycles. Her face was tender from the effort by the time she emerged from the ladies’ room.
“I was just about to come in there lookin’ for you,” the young man said as she stepped out. He stood in front of the door, facing it like a sentry.
“Sorry, it was a lot of paint.”
“Yeah, no kidding. I had no idea what you looked like under all that stuff.” He guided her back toward the intake area.
She glared up at him with lingering suspicion. “And what, were you taking bets?”
Mikaela had always been sensitive about her looks. A month from eighteen, she was still knobby kneed and gangly, with barely a B-cup. The only sizable things on her remained her hips and an ass that kept her from being one long, unbroken straight line from the back of her head to the back of her heels.
“Takin’ bets on what? That you weren’t a Purple People Eater?” He chuckled. “No, I just wondered. Step over there.” He pointed to a plain wall notched with height markings, in front of which stood a camera tripod. “Take this.” He handed her a placard to hold.
“I didn’t know you guys really did this.” She examined the slate with her name, the date and booking ID on it.
“We do.”
Mikaela was not this person. Not a person who got arrested. She was not prepared to forever be identified as one.
“You misspelled my name. Tell me, is it like a parking ticket? You mess it up, and I get to go free?”
“I wish.” He smirked. “You’re funny. What’s misspelled?” He walked up to her looking over her shoulder for the error.
Mikaela could tell what soap he liked to use and the fact that he’d brushed his teeth or eaten something cinnamony recently. She considered that as his eyes met hers briefly. This close, there were flecks of green in the blue of his irises.
“Um, it—it’s actually k with an a before e in my first name. M-i-k-a-e-l-a.”
“Well, Mikaela with a k-a-e, I’m Cameron.” He underlined a small name tag on his crisp white shirt with a flourish of his hand before reaching for the placard.
Their fingers brushed as he took it from her, whisking it back to the booking desk as she stood waiting. She chewed on her nails, staring for a moment at the bulletin board on the far wall. A collection of real-life FBI wanted posters lined it. She paid particular attention to the mug shots and shook her head at the realization that she was about to have one of those too.
A wolf whistle pulled Mikaela’s attention to Julie, standing down the hall. She laughed, galloping around the hall on an imaginary horse until one of the officers made her stop.
Cameron came back from around the desk to hand Mikaela the placard.
“Let’s try that again,” he said.
Julie made a face, mouthing the words “He’s hot” and fanning herself while his back was turned.
Mikaela attempted to hold in a snicker. Cameron looked over his shoulder but saw nothing. “What?” He smiled, trying to read her expression.
Mikaela’s stomach tensed, the kaleidoscope of butterflies that resided in there all suddenly banking hard left as his eyes searched her face for a clue. She shook her head, looking down for somewhere to put her eyes. Her fingers ran over the placard’s velvety felt board and sharp white plastic letters.
“Are you ready?” Cameron asked.
“Seems the real question is—” she cocked her head “—are you?” The second the words were out of her mouth she wondered where they’d come from.
His eyes widened and he chuckled again.
Embarrassed, Mikaela nodded, averting her eyes and stepping back to the wall.

Excerpted from Long Past Summer by Noué Kirwan. Copyright © 2022 by Noué Kirwan. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

Harlequin Trade Publishing August 2022 Romance Blog Tour: The Second First Chance by Mona Schroff

Author: Mona Shroff
ISBN: 9781335453464
Publication Date: August 2, 2022
Publisher: HQN Books

About the Book:

For fans of Katherine Center’s THINGS YOU SAVE IN A FIRE and Jill Santopolo’s THE LIGHT WE LOST, THE SECOND FIRST CHANCE is a deeply emotional romance about two neighboring families, the Voras and the Desais, who experience a devastating fire and the fallout it creates in their lives–particularly for Dhillon Vora and Riya Desai, who struggle to admit their feelings for one another.
On one terrible night, everything changed.
Riya Desai has struggled to move beyond the devastating fire that claimed the life of her brother, Samir, and set her on a path she never anticipated. Determined to keep other families from experiencing the loss that hers did, she’s become a firefighter herself, but it hasn’t been an easy road. The other firefighters are her fire hall are overwhelmingly white–and entirely male. As a rookie and as the only woman at the station, she has to keep proving herself, over and over, in a way her male colleagues never have to. Oh, and her other problem? Her family thinks she’s a paramedic–they have no idea she’s a firefighter, and she knows they won’t be happy about her running into fires instead of away from them.
Dhillon Vora is a healer. After the fire that killed his father, he becomes a vet, his faithful dog Lucky–who survived the fire at the Voras’ and Desais’ townhouses–behind his side. On a visit to the fire hall across from his clinic, he is dumbfounded to find the girl next door, Riya Desai. Riya has become a firefighter? Dhillon is livid. And–though he can’t really admit it–kind of impressed. Even though he knows, deep down, that he’s never stopped loving Riya, he isn’t sure he’s ready to have her in his life again. Especially if he has to worry constantly about her safety.

THE SECOND FIRST CHANCE is not only a deeply moving tale of two people learning to love each other again, but an uplifting story of two families overcoming tragedy with hope, love, and the unbreakable bonds that keep us shining together even through our darkest hours.

About the Author:

Mona is obsessed with everything romantic, so she writes romantic stories by night, even though she’s an optometrist by day. If she’s not writing, she’s making chocolate truffles, riding her bike, or reading, and is just as likely to be drinking wine or gin & tonic with friends and family. She’s blessed with an amazing daughter and loving son who have both gone to college. Mona lives in Maryland with her romance-loving husband.

My Review:

The Second First Chance was a great novel about many themes, from moving on past a traumatic event to staying true to yourself. It teaches us a lot of life lessons. This is my first book by Mona Scroff and I definitely want to get more of her books. The characters and writing were strong.

Thanks to Mona Scroff and Harlequin Trrade Publishing for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review.

My first book of the Dewey’s 24 Hour Reverse Readathon July 2022.
4 stars.

Contact Mona:

Author Website:

Where to Buy:

Barnes & Noble:


A dark brown Lab-pit mix puppy raised its head to look at Dhillon as he entered the exam room. Dhillon’s joy was instant, which was why he loved his job. His nurse, Shelly, was right behind him with the brief introduction.
“Dr. Vora, this is Scout. She is being brought in by today Firefighter Ian Walsh. Scout was found abandoned at one of their scenes and is currently under the care of the Howard County Fire Department.”
It was at the word firefighter that Dhillon tensed. He made eye contact with the man and extended his hand, anxiety flooding through his system, increasing his heart rate and beading sweat on his upper lip.
Shelly threw him a worried look. He ignored her.
“Good morning. I’m Dr. Vora.” Dhillon found his voice but focused on the leashed puppy as the man’s walkie-talkie emitted an irritating squeal. “Everything okay?” Dhillon nodded at the walkie-talkie. “We can reschedule if you have to go.”
The Lab-pit puppy twitched her ears and raised her head at the squawk. Shelly made a cooing sound and went over to pet their patient. Any remaining anxiety Dhillon might have had melted away as he took in the befuddled pup. The firefighter didn’t even look at the puppy.
“Nah. It’s all good. I’m supposed to get the pup tended to, so let’s just do it.” The firefighter shook his hand.
Dhillon nodded to Shelly as she moved from the dog’s side to the computer so she could enter the information they had so far. He got down on the ground where the puppy had lain down. fallen asleep. “She looks like my Lucky.”
“You mean that older dog out front? With the scarring?”
“Mmm-hmm.” Dhillon picked up Scout and let her climb into his lap. He played with her a moment. He held a small treat out and watched her track it as he moved it from side to side. She lifted her mouth to grab it, but Dhillon made her wait another second before letting her have the treat and a scratch cuddle under her chin. Best part of being a veterinarian. He glanced at Walsh, who watched him with a scowl. “Lucky was caught in a house fire.” Dhillon tried to keep his voice neutral. It wasn’t this man’s fault that Lucky was burned. He stood, bringing Scout with him.
Her coat looked almost pure black, and her big brown eyes reminded Dhillon of Lucky’s when he’d been a puppy. For a moment, Dhillon was dragged back to the day he brought Lucky home from the SPCA. Best day of his life. Well, maybe second best.
“The vet at the time was the previous owner of this practice. He did excellent work. Shelly here used to work with him. That scarring barely reflects how bad his injuries were.”
Dhillon laid Scout on the rickety old exam table which stood in the middle of the room. Nice shiny coat, alert and playful. “How old is she?”
“Uh…maybe ten weeks. I’m not entirely sure. We just got her. Our station’s new recruit found her on scene, no collar, nothing. She hasn’t even been chipped yet, as far as we know. We’re keeping her at the firehouse for now until we find her a home.” Ian shook his head and pursed his lips.
“Why not take her to the SPCA? They can help find her a home.”
Ian shook his head. “Our new recruit insists that’s not necessary. She thinks someone’s going to claim the little thing.” He shrugged. “My experience says not likely.”
Dhillon turned to Scout, the sight of the puppy putting a grin on his face again. “I know someone who’d say the same thing.” Or used to know, anyway. Sadness flitted through him for an instant before it was replaced with resignation. He’d given up his chance to keep knowing her long ago.
Dhillon scratched the puppy’s belly. “I can chip her today.” He held out a small treat and softly said, “Sit.” Scout flipped over and sat on the table. He rewarded her with the treat.
He looked in Scout’s ears and checked her teeth and paws, dictating his assessment to Shelly as he went along. The puppy looked cared for, healthy. Maybe three months old. Obviously, the guys at the firehouse had cared for her. “Does she eat well?”
Ian shrugged. “We have her dog food, but a lot of the guys spoil her, slipping her a bit of meatball, steak, hot dog. Not me, though. You can believe that.”
“Can any of you take her home?”
Ian shook his head. “But there’s always someone at the station because we do twenty-four- and forty-eight-hour shifts. She works out with us. The new recruit is teaching her to sit, stay, come. Even to go fetch gear. Like that’s practical.” Ian shrugged, as if taking care of a dog was really not his idea of firefighter work. “You know anyone who would want her?”
Dhillon had a thought flash through his mind. Nah. She was likely too busy, and honestly, she might even have a dog already for all he knew. Running into her occasionally outside the house didn’t really give him much information about her life. “No. But I can keep an eye out.” He continued with his examination, prepping Scout’s shots as Shelly held her.
“Are you Indian?” Ian asked.
Dhillon sighed, knowing the reason for this question. Ian knew someone who was Indian. “Yes. Well, my parents are from India, but I was born here.” Dhillon barely afforded Ian a glance. He approached Scout and administered the shot. Scout gave a small yelp.
“It’s okay, sweetie,” Dhillon cooed softly. “Just one more.”
“Just asking because the new recruit—who’s all about this dog—she’s Indian.”
She? Dhillon snapped his attention back to Ian and could not refrain from raising an eyebrow. Interesting. An Indian woman firefighter? Didn’t see that every day.
“Maybe you know her?”
Dhillon did his best to not roll his eyes as he focused on administering the second shot, but a sigh escaped all the same, as did a small hmph from Shelly. Just because he and this firefighter were both Indian didn’t mean they knew each other. “I doubt it.” He ran a gentle hand over Scout’s head and body as if to soothe away her discomfort.
If someone he knew was a firefighter—male or female—he’d already know.
Scout turned a full circle, sniffing, then promptly peed on the table.
Ian scowled at the puppy and stepped back. Shelly made a move to grab the paper towels, but Dhillon was closer. He shared a look with Shelly as he cleaned up the mess. “Potty training can take some time. Helps if she has a crate, where she feels safe.”
Ian shook his head and put out his hands. “I saw a crate in the bunk area. Desai would know.”
Dhillon’s heart skipped a beat. “Desai?” It couldn’t be. Desai was a common-enough Indian last name. Could be anybody.
He stared at Ian, who continued, completely unaware of Dhillon’s rising panic, as blood pounded through his body, his heart rate increased. “The new recruit. Who wanted this dog. The Indian girl. Riya Desai.”
Of all the names Ian could have said, that was the absolute last one he wanted to hear.
It couldn’t be her. The Riya he knew would never run into a fire. As far as he knew, she had the same reaction to anything fire-related that he did: panic and anxiety.
But then again, he didn’t really know anything about her, did he? They never really talked anymore, outside of uncomfortable pleasantries when they were forced together. Riya avoided him, and he avoided Riya.
Dhillon’s heart hammered in his chest, and the blood drained from his head. He fought to maintain professional composure as he continued his examination of Scout. “It’s a common name.” Dhillon tried to sound casual, as if he really believed his own words. He needed to believe them.
“Brown skin, dark brown eyes.”
Really? That was his description? Dhillon took a breath so he wouldn’t lay into this guy. He fought fires, after all. Saved people.
Some people.
“She’s a paramedic, too. Which helps because we have to do EMT training.”
Dhillon’s stomach plummeted, and his head spun. It was his Riya. Dhillon clenched his jaw. Well, it was the Riya Desai that he knew.
She’d never been his.
He should have picked up on it when Ian said she was teaching Scout to get gear. It was exactly what she had taught Lucky to do when they were young teenagers. Go get their backpacks or books or whatever they had forgotten. Lucky would do it, too. For her. Even though Lucky was really his dog.
What the fuck was she doing going into fires? She’d never bring back what they’d lost.
Ian was still talking. “Between you and me? She’s hot. She has the sexiest mole just below her ear, and she is stacked.” Ian put his hands in front of his chest to indicate large breasts, and Dhillon saw red.
“You know, I actually do know her.” He stared Ian down. “She grew up next door to me. So you’ll want to shut up now.” He didn’t usually talk to patients this way, but this guy was asking for it, and technically Scout was his patient. And she seemed fine with it.
“Oh, dude, sorry. I didn’t know she’d be like a sister to you.”
“She’s not a sister to me. Just a neighbor.” Dhillon had spent too much time imagining kissing that mole to look at Riya like a sister. “Either way, isn’t she your colleague? Maybe show a little respect?”
Ian waved him off. “Whatever, she won’t last long. Doubt if she can do the job.”
Oh, she could do the job. Riya and Dhillon may not be best friends anymore, but one thing he did know was that Riya Desai was fantastic at whatever she put her mind to. If she was the rookie in the department, that meant she’d made it through the academy. Since she made it through the academy, Dhillon knew she had put her mind to becoming a firefighter a long time ago.
Dhillon finished up with little Scout and—reluctantly—handed her back to Ian. “Scout will need another set of shots in one month.” His mouth moved as if by rote as he doled out instructions, but his mind was spinning.
What the fuck had Riya gotten herself into now?

Excerpted from The Second First Chance by Mona Shroff. Copyright © 2022 by Mona Shroff. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

Used Products and Life Update: July

My used products this month are:

Aquarich Gel Cleanser for Normal/Combination Skin

Professional Macadamia Nut Oil Conditioner

Tropical Summer Tropical Fresh Pink Grapefruit Face Mask

Eyeshadow Pencil in Bronze Shimmer

Lipliner in Love Letter (this and the above products are all from Cien by Lidl).

L’Oreal Elvive Arginine Shampoo

MUA Eyeliner Pencil in Snow White

This month has been a month for book-related events. There was a virtual readalong for Shari Low’s new book One Last Day of Summer. This ran from July 18-23. All those posts are on my blog. The following post contains a schedule for the week. It felt good to do another readalong and I have liked the ones I’ve done by Boldwood as I like their books.

It was Dewey’s Reverse Readathon and my 4th year taking part in that (my first was 2018).

I also have a shopping haul post this month

and I reviewed a Huda Beauty lipstick dupe, W7 Mega Mattes lipstick in Exposed.

W7 Mega Mattes Lipstick in Exposed

Point Last Seen by Christina Dodd

Author: Christina Dodd
ISBN: 9781335623973
Publication Date: June 21, 2022
Publisher: HQN Boo

About the Book:

From New York Times bestselling author Christina Dodd comes a brand new, standalone suspense about a reclusive artist who retrieves a seemingly dead woman from the Pacific Ocean…only to have her come back to life with no memory of what happened to her. With a strong female protagonist, a chilling villain, and twisty secrets that will keep you turning the pages. Perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell, Karin Slaughter and Sandra Brown, POINT LAST SEEN, will have readers keeping the lights on all night.
When you’ve already died, there should be nothing left to fear… When Adam Ramsdell pulls Elle’s half-frozen body from the surf on a lonely California beach, she has no memory of what her full name is and how she got those bruises ringing her throat.
Elle finds refuge in Adam’s home on the edge of Gothic, a remote village located between the steep lonely mountains and the raging Pacific Ocean. As flashes of her memory return, Elle faces a terrible truth—buried in her mind lurks a secret so dark it could get her killed.
Everyone in Gothic seems to hide a dark past. Even Adam knows more than he will admit. Until Elle can unravel the truth, she doesn’t know who to trust, when to run and who else might be hurt when the killer who stalks her nightmares appears to finish what he started…

About the Author:

New York Times bestselling author Christina Dodd writes “edge-of-the-seat suspense” (Iris Johansen) with “brilliantly etched characters, polished writing, and unexpected flashes of sharp humor that are pure Dodd” (ALA Booklist). Her fifty-eight books have been called “scary, sexy, and smartly written” by Booklist and, much to her mother’s delight, Dodd was once a clue in the Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle. Enter Christina’s worlds and join her mailing list at

Contact Christina:

Author Website
Twitter: @ChristinaDodd
Facebook: Christina Dodd
Instagram: @christinadoddbooks

Where to Buy:
Barnes & Noble


A Morning in February
Gothic, California
The storm off the Pacific had been brutal, a relentless night of cold rain and shrieking wind. Adam Ramsdell had spent the hours working, welding and polishing a tall, heavy, massive piece of sculpture, not hearing the wailing voices that lamented their own passing, not shuddering when he caught sight of his own face in the polished stainless steel. He sweated as he moved swiftly to capture the image he saw in his mind, a clawed monster rising from the deep: beautiful, deadly, dangerous.
And as always, when dawn broke, the storm moved on and he stepped away, he realized he had failed.
Impatient, he shoved the trolley that held the sculpture toward the wall. One of claws swiped his bare chest and proved to him he’d done one thing right: razor-sharp, it opened a long, thin gash in his skin. Blood oozed to the surface. He used his toe to lock the wheels on the trolley, securing the sculpture in case of the occasional California earth tremor.
Then with the swift efficiency of someone who had dealt with minor wounds, his own and others’, he found a clean towel and stanched the flow. Going into the tiny bathroom, he washed the site and used superglue to close the gash. The cut wasn’t deep; it would hold.
He tied on his running shoes and stepped outside into the short, bent, wet grass that covered his acreage. The rosemary hedge that grew at the edge of his front porch released its woody scent. The newly washed sunlight had burned away the fog, and Adam started running uphill toward town, determined to get breakfast, then come home to bed. Now that the sculpture was done and the storm had passed, he needed the bliss of oblivion, the moments of peace sleep could give him.
Yet every year as the Ides of March and the anniversary of his failure approached, nightmares tracked through his sleep and followed him into the light. They were never the same but always a variation on a theme: he had failed, and in two separate incidents, people had died…
The route was all uphill; nevertheless, each step was swift and precise. The sodden grasses bent beneath his running shoes. He never slipped; a man could die from a single slip. He’d always known that, but now, five years later, he knew it in ways he could never forget.
As he ran, he shed the weariness of a long night of cutting, grinding, hammering, polishing. He reached the asphalt and he lengthened his stride, increased his pace.
He ran past the cemetery where a woman knelt to take a chalk etching of a crumbling headstone, past the Gothic Museum run by local historian Freya Goodnight.
The Gothic General Store stood on the outside of the lowest curve of the road. Today the parking lot was empty, the rockers were unoccupied, and the store’s sixteen-year-old clerk lounged in the open door. “How you doing, Mr. Ramsdell?” she called.
He lifted his hand. “Hi, Tamalyn.”
She giggled.
Somehow, on the basis of him waving and remembering her name, she had fallen in love with him. He reminded himself that the dearth of male teens in the area left him little competition, but he could feel her watching him as he ran past the tiny hair salon where Daphne was cutting a local rancher’s hair in the outdoor barber chair.
His body urged him to slow to a walk, but he deliberately pushed himself.
Every time he took a turn, he looked up at Widow’s Peak, the rocky ridge that overshadowed the town, and the Tower, the edifice built by the Swedish silent-film star who in the early 1930s had bought land and created the town to her specifications.
At last he saw his destination, the Live Oak, a four-star restaurant in a one-star town. The three-story building stood at the corner of the highest hairpin turn and housed the eatery and three exclusive suites available for rent.
When Adam arrived he was gasping, sweating, holding his side. Since his return from the Amazon basin, he had never completely recovered his stamina.
At the corner of the building, he turned to look out at the view.
The vista was magnificent: spring-green slopes, wave-battered sea stacks, the ocean’s endless surges, and the horizon that stretched to eternity. During the Gothic jeep tour, Freya always told the tourists that from this point, if a person tripped and fell, that person could tumble all the way to the beach. Which was an exaggeration. Mostly.
Adam used the small towel hooked into his waistband to wipe the sweat off his face. Then disquiet began its slow crawl up his spine.
Someone had him under observation.
He glanced up the grassy hill toward the olive grove and stared. A glint, like someone stood in the trees’ shadows watching with binoculars. Watching him.
No. Not him. A peregrine falcon glided through the shredded clouds, and seagulls cawed and circled. Birders came from all over the word to view the richness of the Big Sur aviary life. As he watched, the glint disappeared. Perhaps the birder had spotted a tufted puffin. Adam felt an uncomfortable amount of relief in that: it showed a level of paranoia to imagine someone was watching him, but…
But. He had learned never to ignore his instincts. The hard way, of course.
He stepped into the restaurant doorway, and from across the restaurant he heard the loud snap of the continental waiter’s fingers and saw the properly suited Ludwig point at a small, isolated table in the back corner. Adam’s usual table.
Before Adam took a second step, he made an inventory of all possible entrances and exits, counted the number of occupants and assessed them as possible threats, and evaluated any available weapons. An old habit, it gave him peace of mind.
Three exits: front door, door to kitchen, door to the upper suites.
Mr. Kulshan sat by the windows, as was his wont. He liked the sun, and he lived to people-watch. Why not? He was in his midnineties. What else had he to do?
In the conference room, behind an open door, reserved for a business breakfast, was a long table with places set for twenty people.
A young couple, tourists by the look of them, held hands on the table and smiled into each other’s eyes.
Nice. Really nice to know young love still existed.
There, her back against the opposite wall, was an actress. Obviously an actress. She had possibly arrived for breakfast, or to stay in one of the suites. Celebrities visits happened often enough that most of the town was blasé, although the occasional scuffle with the paparazzi did lend interest to the village’s tranquil days.
She wasn’t pretty. Her face was too angular, her mouth too wide, her chin too determined. She was reading through a stack of papers and using a marker to highlight and a ballpoint to make notes… And she wore glasses. Not casual I need a little visual assistance glasses. These were Coke-bottle bottoms set in lime-green frames.
Interesting: Why had an actress not had laser surgery? Not that it mattered. Behind those glasses her brown eyes sparked with life, interest and humor, although he didn’t understand how someone could convey all that while never looking up. She had shampoo-commercial hair—long, dark, wavy, shining—and when she caught it in her hand and shoved it over one shoulder, he felt his breath catch.
A gravelly voice interrupted a moment that had gone on too long and revealed too clearly how Adam’s isolation had affected him. “Hey, you. Boy! Come here.” Mr. Kulshan beckoned. Mr. Kulshan, who had once been tall, sturdy and handsome. Then the jaws of old age had seized him, gnawed him down to a bent-shouldered, skinny old man.
Adam lifted a finger to Ludwig, indicating breakfast would have to wait.
Ludwig glowered. Maybe his name was suggestive, but the man looked like Ludwig van Beethoven: rough, wild, wavy hair, dark brooding eyes under bushy eyebrows, pouty lips, cleft in the chin. He seldom talked and never smiled. Most people were afraid of him.
Adam was not. He walked to Mr. Kulshan’s table and took a seat opposite the old man. “What can I do for you, sir?”
“Don’t call me sir. I told you, call me K.H.”
Adam didn’t call people by their first names. That encouraged friendliness.
“If you can’t do that, call me Kulshan.” With his fork, the old guy stabbed a lump of breaded something and handed it to Adam. “What do you think this is?”
Adam had traveled the world, learned to eat what was offered, so he took the fork, sniffed the lump and nibbled a corner. “I believe it’s fried sweetbread.”
Mr. Kulshan made a gagging noise. “My grandmother made us eat sweetbread.” He bit it off the end of the fork. “This isn’t as awful as hers.” With loathing, he said, “This is Frenchie food.”
“Señor Alfonso is Spanish.”
Mr. Kulshan ignored Adam for all he was worth. “Next thing you know, this Alfonso will be scraping snails off the sidewalk and calling it escargots.”
“Actually…” Adam caught the twinkle in Mr. Kulshan’s eyes and stood. “Fine. Pull my chain. I’m going to have breakfast.”
Mr. Kulshan caught his wrist. “Have you heard what Caltrans is doing about the washout?” He referred to the California Department of Transportation and their attempts to repair the Pacific Coast Highway and open it to traffic.
“No. What?”
“Nothing!” Mr. Kulshan cackled wildly, then nodded at the actress. “The girl. Isn’t she something? Built like a brick shithouse.”
Interested, Adam settled back into the chair. “Who is she?”
“Don’t you ever read People magazine? That’s Clarice Burbage. She’s set to star in the modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s…um…one of Shakespeare’s plays. Who cares? She’ll play a king. Or something. That’s the script she’s reading.”
Clarice looked up as if she’d heard them—which she had, because Mr. Kulshan wore hearing aids that didn’t work well enough to compensate for his hearing loss—and smiled and nodded genially.
Mr. Kulshan grinned at her. “Hi, Clarice. Loved you in Inferno!”
“Thank you, K.H.” She projected her voice so he could hear her.
Mr. Kulshan shot Adam a triumphant look that clearly said See? Clarice Burbage calls me by my first name.
The actress-distraction was why the two men were surprised when the door opened and a middle-aged, handsome, casually dressed woman with cropped red hair walked in.
Mr. Kulshan made a sound of disgust. “Her.”

Excerpted from Point Last Seen by Christina Dodd. Copyright © 2022 by Christina Dodd. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

Boldwood Books Readalong Event One Last Day of Summer by Shari Low Day 6 #BoldBookClub #OneLastDayofSummer

Today is the last day of the readalong and the flatlay theme is: “A sunset photo”.

Here’s a sunset photo in a city close to my heart: Madrid Spain.

Flatlay: A sunset photo (Photo credit:

There’s no book club question today but I’ll end this post by saying how much I thoroughly enjoyed the event and One Last Day in Summer. Thanks to the Boldwood Books team and Shari Low.

Dewey’s Reverse Readathon July 2022

I’m excited for the Reverse Readathon once again and I’ve taken part in it since 2018.

The books I’ve chosen this session are.

Small Town Big Magic (Witchlore #1) by Hazel Beck

and The Second First Chance: A Novel by Mona Scroff.

Both are books that I’m on blog tours for. Small Town Big Magic will be on my blog on August 6 and The Second First Chance will be on my blog on July 31. Both (and other books) are part of the same blog tour, the Harlequin Trade Publishing August 2022 Romance Blog Tour.

The Readathon doesn’t start until 2AM my time but I’m so keen to start these books that I’m going to start early.

I’ll be updating my posts here, as well as on my Twitter@theglitzqueen and Goodreads account.

If you like my posts, feel free to suscribe to my blog and follow me on Twitter and Goodreads.


Opening Survey!

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

Madrid, Spain

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

Both of them, but especially Small Town Big Magic.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

I’ll leave the snacks until tomorrow because it’s late here now. But I had some chocolate ice cream earlier.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I love makeup

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

I’m most looking forward to getting through more books on my list and I won’t do anything differently. I’ve taken part many times before and always enjoy the event.

I’m five chapters in to Small Town Big Magic and am enjoying it. As always, I’m using Voiceover to read out my NetGalley ebooks.

23rd July 2022 14.42

Mid-Event Survey!

What are you reading right now?

I’m over half way through Small Town Big Magic.

How many books have you read so far?

I’m still on the first one.

What book are you most looking forward to for the second half readathon? Finding out what else happens in Small Town Big Magic and hoping to get through as much as I can of The Second First Chance by Mona Scroff.

Have you had many interruptions? The interruptions were breaks I took and they were needed for things like eating and I watched some TV.. How did you deal with those? Just fitted them in.
What surprises you most about the readathon, so far? How much I was looking forward to it and how fast it’s going as always.


I finished Small Town Big Magic and am now starting The Second First Chance by Mona Scroff.


I’m on chapter 5 of The Second First Chance.


Chapter 9 of The Second First Chance and I hope to maybe get another chapter (or more) in before bed.

The Readathon is much-needed and has come at the right time in my life. Despite the heat, the event has been relaxing.

Closing Survey!

How would you assess your reading overall?


Did you have a stategy, and if so, did you stick to it?

Just went through my books

What was your favorite snack? Ice cream

Wanna volunteer for our next event? Stay tuned for the recap post! Yes, I’d love to do the event as a reader.

Boldwood Books Readalong Event One Last Day of Summer by Shari Low Day 5 #BoldBookClub #OneLastDayofSummer

Today’s flatlay theme is: Dream location. I have so many: Central and South America, Australia, Thailand, but had to pick just one. And the winner is….

Flatlay: Dream Location (Photo credit:

This is the last book club question:

“If you’d have been in the row behind them and heard everything play out, is there any one question you’d have wanted to ask any of the characters?”

I would have asked if I could have joined them on their holiday as I would want to get to know all of them better and this would be a good way to do that. I can’t think of any one single question to ask. They are all interesteing characters.