Thursday, April 10, 2014

Blog Tour, Review & Excerpt: The Tartan MP3 Player (Book 1 of Highland Secrets) by C. A. Szarek

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C.A. is originally from Ohio, but got to Texas as soon as she could. She is married and has a bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice. She works with kids when she’s not writing. She’s always wanted to be a writer and is overjoyed to share her stories with the world.

Visit C.A. Szarek on her blog,  Twitter, FacebookGoodreads and websiteC.A. Szarek is also author of Collision ForceChance Collisionand Sword's Call and Love's Call.

Book One in the time travel, fantasy romance series, Highland Secrets! 
She never believed in magic… 
Claire McGowan, Scotophile and historical romance novel addict, finally saves up enough for her dream vacation to Scotland.She never imagines she’ll get sucked back to the seventeenth century while running on the beach—that’s what she gets for exercising when she should be relaxing.He knows with a harsh certainty magic exists...The Fae have taken his brother—Laird of his clan. Duncan MacLeod finds a bonnie naked and confused lass. He’s convinced Claire arrived in 1672 through the Faery Stones—a magical portal he’s been scouring the lands for over the past six months.At last, he has someone who’s been through the Faery Stones and can help him find them—and get his brother back.Duncan promises to help Claire get home, even though his desire to have her wars with his vow.Torn between familiarity of the present and what she wants in the past, can Claire help Duncan find his brother and get back to the future? Will she even want to?

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My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I am intrigued by anything time travel, so choosing to read Tartan MP3 Player was a no-brainer for me. What fascinated me more than the storyline, though, was learning that C. A. Szarek was a YA author writing her first paranormal romance. How would that translate? I just had to know!

Claire first thinks she is dreaming: she's running naked on a beach and all she has with her is her MP3 player. Then she realizes she can feel things like pain and cold, and not too soon after she sees Highlanders coming over a cliff toward her. Dream? Or nightmare?

Duncan McLeod (oh, yes! Highlander!!!) likes what he sees, though. What red-blooded man wouldn't enjoy seeing a beautiful naked woman right in front of him? Despite having his pick of women as the Laird, he's drawn to Claire despite his better judgement. It gets more complicated when she tells him she can remember nothing!

After a talk where Claire establishes she's from the future, Duncan makes a deal with her. She helps him find the Faery Stones, he'll help her get home. How they do that (and what they must do to get there) just serve to cement the attraction they feel for each other.

This book is a quick, light read but that doesn't mean it isn't enjoyable. There is a fast-paced story in the background, however what brings it to life are the two main characters. Claire is such a sweetheart and I especially love how her normal, modern quirks are a glaring contrast to Duncan's Old World characteristics. He himself is such a gentleman (despite so quickly and calmly accepting Claire's outlandish claims) with his self-control and almost boundless patience. Thankfully she landed on this man's property and not with a total goon!

Despite not ending The Tartan MP3 Player with a cliffhanger - unusual these days for a series of novels - I'm still left with several questions.  Why does Janet, Duncan's sister, speak in a modern way? What happens to the Fae soldier Xander? And I'm sure Claire will see her sister Jules again, but how? What will Alex and Alana do about her father? And exactly what does the MP3 player have to do with time travel since it's the only thing that seems to be able to go between times? I guess I'll just have to wait for C. A. Szarek to finish writing the next installment to find out.


“Who goes there?” A deep, accented voice made her jump.
Her MP3 player crashed to the sand, the wires from her headphones ripping over her shoulders as they flew away from her body, but she didn’t go after the devices. 
Claire’s heart kicked into overdrive, and she shot her arm across her naked breasts. Plastered her palm over her bare sex.
“Okay, don’t like this dream anymore.” Her voice jumped up an octave.
Why can’t I wake up?
Maybe a touch of fright would make her wake the hell up.
“Ummm….hello?” Claire ventured even though her pulse pounded in her temples. She didn’t see the voice’s owner, but she was stuck now. 
Not like I can run and hide.
She wasn’t fond of a stranger seeing her nude, even if gym time had given her a rockin’ body.
Claire smirked. Her sister would’ve declared her egotistical right then and there.
Three figures came into view, standing atop a grassy overhang and staring down at her. Two men and a boy.
“Lass?” One asked.
Okay, no more Scottish Highlander romance novels before bed for you, Claire McGowan. But at least she’d placed the accent.
All three were dressed in period clothing. Like—seventeen hundreds or something. The tallest one had a tartan kilt on. 
The man who’d spoken was older, wearing a thick grey beard he was currently scratching, as if he was trying to figure her out.
Well, duh. Naked girl on the beach at the ass crack of dawn should do it every time.
The boy looked about ten. He scrambled down the incline, stopping about three feet from her and staring. Wide blue eyes. Dark, messy hair that needed a good cut.
Claire backed up, squeezing her eyes shut. “Seriously, wake up.” Though she should pat herself on the back for the vivid imagination—if she didn’t have to cover her tender parts—she would’ve so been on that.
This place looked and felt real.
“Are ye Fae?” The kid’s brogue was thick, but his voice was high, making him sound younger than she’d guessed.
“Wh-what?” Claire asked, taking another step back.
“Angus, hush.” The last man admonished. His voice was familiar; he’d been the one who’d called out first.
He jumped down to the beach with little effort.
Claire almost forgot to cover herself as she gazed up at him. 
Had to be about six-five or six-six. 
Definitely had a foot on her, for sure.
Blue eyes, like the kid. Long black hair that flowed in the wind. He was wearing a kilt, and had the same tartan pattern strewn across his body, shoulder to waist and held down with a belt, but no shirt beneath. A huge, defined pec peeked out and her stomach fluttered.
Good job, Claire. At least you dreamt up someone yummy. 
The model on the cover of the book she’d been reading before bed had nothing on this guy.
“Lass? Are ye all right?” His voice was concerned, as was his expression. He spoke gently.
Way to go on the stutter, Clair-bear. Her sister’s nickname popped into her head with ease. It should’ve grounded her, but she still didn’t wake up.
“She talks funny, uncle!”
How can he tell? 
She’d said two words, literally.
“Where am I?” Claire whispered. The sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach made her shift on her feet. 
“Isle of Skye.” The boy jumped up and down. “We were supposed to go fishing. But I found ye, instead.”
“Hush, Angus MacLeod,” the man said, but there was amusement in his tone. However, he didn’t take his eyes off Claire. 
A tremor slid down her spine when his gaze travelled her frame.
Still. Naked.
She wanted to sink into the sand, her earlier confidence about her body gone. Claire shivered, her teeth chattered.
“Jesu, lass. Yer freezin’.” The huge man unbelted the plaid from his waist and whipped it off his torso. It was a separate piece from his kilt, and now he stood before her bare chested. His accent was as thick as the boy’s, but she could make his words out clearer. 
Sexy as hell.
“Yeah, kinda naked over here.” A nervous titter fell from her lips and made Claire wince.
“Is she Fae, uncle?” Angus asked.
“Ye’ve been spending too much time with my father. Da, stop clouding the lad’s head with faery tales,” the man called.
The old guy on the hill chuckled. “Och, then ye shouldna leave the lad with me when you go off.”
“Like I have a choice.”

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Twinsie Jo

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