Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Book Spotlight ~ Her Name Was Lola by Karen Janowsky ~ #BewitchingBookTours ~ Contemporary Romance

Her Name Was Lola
Karen Janowsky

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: eXtasy Books
Date of Publication: 12/22/23
ISBN:  978-1-4874-4027-5
Number of pages: 300 
Word Count: 8,859
Cover Artist: Martine Jardin

Tagline: Sometimes you have to lose your heart to gain your dream.

About the Book:

Lover of fairy tales Lola Nelsson learned at an early age that darker truths lay behind their bright facades. At twenty-two, she still hopes for her fairy tale to come true before she graduates college. But she hasn’t met her prince yet and she doesn’t know how to navigate the real world. Then a handsome man at a conference catches her eye. She’s sure he’s out of her league, but tries to get his attention anyway. And she’s successful… until she isn’t.

Only one thing matters to Professor Vance Anderson—gaining tenure. Known as Dr. Casanova on campus, he’s a true love ‘em and leave ’em kind of guy. For now though, he’s sworn off the distraction of women. When he spots a beauty of a different sort at a conference, he can’t stop thinking about her.  But when she accepts his invitation to his room, his insecurities kick in. Everything goes well… until it doesn’t.

The night ends disastrously, and it’s all over. Until Lola and Vance wind up in a working relationship, making it impossible to avoid one another. The situation can only end in one of two ways. They’ll either end up madly in love or they’ll want to kill each other. Before they can discover their real feelings, they need to learn to trust themselves. Only time will tell if their fairy tale is sweet or dark.

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Read an Excerpt:

From behind Lola, a pleasant, male alto voice said, “Hi, I’m Vance.”

She turned around and found her five-foot-four self face-to-solid-chest with GQ. Taking a step backward and sure she’d turned pale, she looked up at him. The peeling name badge on his lapel said, M. Vance, but his last name was hidden by a shadow. “Oh, hi. I’m Lola.”

Vance held a shot glass in each hand. He was smiling, lips pulled back a little too much, as if he was unsure of himself. “Your friend told me I was being very obvious about staring at you and to go introduce myself. She said to give you this.” He handed her a whiskey.

His eyes were the color of freshly mown grass with silver flecks of dew at sunrise. When they locked on hers, her hands began to sweat, making the glass slip through her palm when she took it from him.

She grabbed it with the other hand at the last second. “Oh. Okay.”

He clinked his glass against hers, downed the shot, then smiled at her again. His upper lip had a minutely askew cherub’s bow.

Knocking hers back as well, Lola did her best not to react to the five-alarm fire scorching through her esophagus. She was reasonably sure smoke was about to billow from her nose and ears. Then that warm, melty feeling crept in.

Okay, Naomi. Here goes. “To be honest, I was watching you too.”

“Were you now?” He arched his eyebrows.

Silently thanking Naomi, Lola asked, “So, are you a visiting speaker?”

“I’m attending. I teach at Jewett College. You?”

“I’m at Jewett also. Library science department.” Hopefully he wouldn’t ask what she did there.

She’d tell him the rest later…if they hit it off.

His fingers lingered over hers as he took the drink glass from her hand. “Another?”

One was her usual limit, and balancing on heels after two was inadvisable. “Yes, please.” She let him guide her through the crowd surrounding the bar.

He offered her an empty barstool and stood next to it as he waved at the bartender. “How long have you been at the college? I don’t recognize you.” He lowered his eyes and raised them to her again, offering an uncertain smile as he smoothed his hand over his thigh.

Looking down, she noticed her topped-off glass. “I’m going into my fourth year.” Lola swirled her fresh drink and watched the amber liquid make slow, wavy circles. She saw a chip in her pale pink nail polish and fought the urge to tuck it into her palm. “What about you? Where do you work?”

“In the English Department.”

GQ—or probably Dr. GQ—Vance—shivered a little when he slid his hand toward hers until their fingertips were millimeters apart. A tiny static spark jumped between them and they both chuckled.

Lola drank half of the shot. “What do you teach?”

“Comparative and European literature. My specialty is fairy tales.”

“I’ve been obsessed with fairy tales—the real ones, not the kids’ ones—for as long as I can remember.”

Vance leaned against the bar. “Same.”

A new song began, and they listened as he played with his tie for a few moments. “After watching you in action, I’m not sure I can keep up, but feel like a dance?”

Lola blinked then nodded. The rest of the room bobbed slightly with her head. She slid off the stool, and he rested his hand on the small of her back as they wound through the crowd. Heat radiated through the thin fabric of her dress.

He took her hand in his. They were about five paces from the dance floor when a man caught her shoulder, causing her and Vance to stumble backward.

“You’re not gonna pass by without a hello, are you?” The tall, thin man had brown roots and blond tips. His hand was sweaty and his words slurred.

Vance looked at her. “Do you know him?”

Sobering, she shook her head, grateful that the world didn’t move with it.

The man sidled closer and squeezed her shoulder more tightly.

Letting go of her hand, Vance took a step toward him.

Lola tugged her shoulder away and pulled a hair stick from her updo. Stepping closer, she waved the tapered end at the stranger.

He gasped and stepped backward, letting go of her shoulder.

“Leave me alone.” She kept her voice as quiet and stern as she could.

The man muttered, “Slut,” as he retreated.

Lola replaced the stick through what was left of her updo.

Vance licked along his teeth. “You’re already full of surprises.”

The night’s cool dampness draped around the crowded dance floor, covering them like an airy shawl as they found their way to an open space.

“Remind me never, ever to upset you.” He spread his fingers over her mid-back and held her hand to his chest. His heart beat against her palm as he held it there, his hand cool and dry.

They looked at each other and smiled.  He said “ever.” As in future tense. As in "long term." I should probably let him know I’m a student now. That could wait a few minutes more.

She inhaled a mix of tangerines, leather, and something else—ginger, maybe—that she could almost taste as his scent hovered between them. She moved closer, and their hips touched.

There was an unmistakable twitch against her. She was sure it was a trick of the lights that made him appear to blush.

This might happen.

He took a half-step back, face pink against the white lights that  outlined him. She imagined using her finger as a silver gel pen around his jaw, under his cheekbones, and across his forehead, illuminating his face. He brought his hand farther down her back.

She raised her voice over the music. “So, what’s your favorite fairy tale?”

He lowered his head closer to hers. Their mouths were centimeters from each other. “What?”

She asked again.

He said something.

She tilted her head up. “Didn’t catch that.”

Chuckling, he leaned in until his mouth was close to her ear. Cupping it, he repeated,

“It’s hard to talk here. Do you want to go somewhere quieter?” The whiskey on his breath had mellowed to spiced caramel, and his voice melted through her.

The imaginary talking mice scampering under her skin morphed into butterflies. “Okay.”

Holding her hand, Vance led her into the lobby. Her heart thumped like a scared rabbit’s as he threaded his fingers between hers. She glanced toward the quieter, emptier bar, but he kept going straight toward the elevator bank.

“Grimm, Andersen, or Perrault?” Vance winked.

Lola bit her lip and released it. “Why do you ask?”

Vance seemed to stare at her mouth. Narrowing his eyes, he stopped and gave her a closed-mouthed smile. “Good to know whether you’re into physical pain, mental torture, or happy endings.”

“What?” Lola froze as her jaw dropped.

Vance tilted his head back and laughed. “I’m kidding.” He headed toward the elevators again, but Lola couldn’t move. He stumbled back. “I’m harmless. I promise.”

She glanced around the vast lobby, checking for security officers.

“I didn’t mean to upset or scare you.” Leaning in, he lifted the back of her hand to his lips, then smiled that same smile that had dissolved her into a puddle the first time she’d laid eyes on him.

“All right.”

He led her into an empty elevator.

This is happening.

Inside, he let go of her hand and took a step back. “Is it okay to go up to my room? I should’ve asked first.” He gave that earlier, uncertain smile, revealing a tiny dimple in his right cheek and lighter green bands surrounding his irises.

“That sounds perfect, Vance.” Lola’s mouth and throat went dry as he hit the button for the eleventh floor. For the first time in her life, she was going to say, “Yes.”

About the Author:

Karen wanted to be an author and/or Wonder Woman when she grew up. One of those jobs was already taken, though. She lives with her husband, son, and six cats in Maryland, where she works as an English professor. Karen received her MA in literature and creative writing from Florida State University. When she isn't writing, she can often be found sitting at a friend's dining room table drinking wine and playing RPGs, hanging out at the local Indian restaurant with her bestie, or curled up in bed with a few cats, listening to the rain and either reading a book or watching a BBC mystery.

Website and blog: https://karenjanowsky.com

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