Read Write Love

A Few Good Books - Honoring Memorial Day

One of the blessings and curses of being a working freelance writer is that so much of one's time is spent on other people's projects.  I usually read 10-15 books a month for Kirkus, have projects pop up unexpectedly from clients, and still try to keep in mind a gazillion article ideas I want to pitch.

sentimental journey

Some get pitched. Some get published.

Like today's article on the NPR book blog, that honors Memorial Day and the men and women -- including my grandparents --who fought on the battlefield and on the homefront during WWII through some great novels.  

You can read it here.

And while I might be embarrassed that I haven't had much to say at my blog recently, I also know that I'm launching an exciting event in late summer that will explain exactly how well my time has been otherwise spent.

I can't wait to share, and it won't be much longer until I can.

Until then, happy reading - and keep the romance alive.

~ Bobbi

And Then She Fell

Stephanie Laurens is practically a household name in historical romance circles, and her newest Cynster family novel gives us Henrietta's story.  Henrietta, known in London circles as The Matchbreaker, brings her family's talent for solving mysteries and uncovering truths to the art of Matchmaking, which unfortunately sometimes leads to the end of relationships.

She Fell

When her friend Melinda asks Henrietta to look into her flourishing courtship with James Glossup, they realize the relationship won't work.  Melinda wants a love-match, and James is not in love with her.  Melinda breaks it off, and James - who is also Henrietta's brother's best friend - is displeased, since he'd been depending on the marriage to fulfill a requirement for an inheritance that will maintain his family's estate and the many tenant families who live there.

Henrietta feels honor-bound to help James find a wife, and as the two spend time together, the more James realizes Henrietta is the woman he's been waiting for, and wants to spend his life with.  Convincing her is another story.

Meanwhile, Henrietta is the victim of an odd series of accidents, and James becomes convinced that, for some inexplicable reason, someone is trying to kill her. Investigating the mystery brings the two closer, and heightens the emotional stakes of the romance.  Now if they can both stay alive long enough to get to the altar, it's likely that lifelong happiness will be theirs.

As I understand it, this book hasn't gotten great reviews, which is a shame, but understandable to a degree. If you're a romantic suspense fan, then the 'mystery' in this book is a little weak and kind of random.  And if you're a straight romance fan, then a lot of the typical 'internal conflict resolution' that you may seek is taken up by the mysterious misadventures that befall Harriet.

However, while the book doesn't fall easily into either category, I think it works very well for these characters.  James isn't a high-drama kind of guy, and we don't see him falling willingly into the same kinds of antics that the Cynsters are famous for.  And honestly, since he's convinced that love is not for him - hence his unwillingness to mislead Melinda regarding his feelings toward her - he kind of needs the dramatic push that Henrietta's suspicious accidents offer to truly know his own heart.

These, I think, are the most touching parts of the book.  James realizing that he'd almost lost Henrietta forces him to examine how he feels about her.  And once it's established that he loves her - which does come kind of early in the book - they must figure out who's trying to kill her so that their HEA is no longer threatened.

It's atypical for a storyline, but - to me at least - it makes sense, and therefore it works.  Not perfect, perhaps, but still engaging and fun to witness.  And watching the two fall in love, after years of not paying attention to one another since they've known each other so long, is a particularly sweet and satisfying romantic arc in my opinion, and one Laurens does well here.  The characters are well-drawn and believable, and the dialogue sparkles between James and Henrietta.

I hope you'll give it a chance, and I'd love to hear what you think.

Avon has generously offered three copies of Stephanie Laurens' backlist title, The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae for a drawing from comments on this post.

Comment by 1pm EST Monday, April 8 to be entered.

Lisa Kleypas & Friday Harbor

Devil-in-Winter

In preparation for this post, I was trying to remember the first book I ever read by Lisa Kleypas.  I'm not completely sure, but I think it may have been A Wallflower Christmas.  Yes, I came a little late to the LK party, but I made up for it fairly quickly, dispatching The Wallflowers and The Hathaways in staccato time. (My favorite?  The Devil in Winter.) 

I've really enjoyed the Friday Harbor novels, and the elements of magic and the supernatural that have swirled through them.  I love the stained glass masterpiece at the vineyard in Rainshadow Road.  I love the ghost who haunts Alex, the least likely 'hauntee' ever, and how Zoe rescues his heart in Dream Lake.  I love the fairy house in Christmas at Friday Harbor.  And in Crystal Cove, I love the idea of a "soul-less" man who flies high and bright, only to die young, and of the woman who is cursed never to love, both fighting for a seemingly doomed chance at their HEA.

I know there are a lot of critics out there regarding this series, but I applaud Lisa Kleypas for taking on some new challenges and heading in some riskier directions.  She is a master storyteller, and her ability to write characters with the perfect blend of pluck and damage, while pairing heroes and heroines with the exact strengths and vulnerabilities that make it seem the two are absolutely perfect for each other -- if they can only get deep enough, past the surface of why they will never work -- is sheer genius.

crystal cove

Crystal Cove is probably the edgiest book LK's ever written.  With genetic witches, covens, and an eyebrow-raising sex scene - I found it fascinating, though, and a great representation of control vs. trust - I can understand why some of her fans might consider this one a little "out there."  But for me, the journey these two confused, wounded souls take is a fascinating exploration into the psyche, especially in the case of Jason Black.  And the relationship between Justine and her mother is well-drawn and intriguing.  The central idea of a woman who can't love and a man without a soul fighting for their chance at happy-ever-after is   kind of a new twist on romantic suspense, and I think it really worked.

New Lisa Kleypas novels are always an automatic read for me, and the Friday Harbor books were a soaring, successful departure from her typical romances.  Having said that, I can understand why they may not be for everyone.  However, as an exploration of romance, damaged souls, and the road to love, they contain Lisa Kleypas' typical flawless writing, sensual romanticism and breathtaking characterization.

They worked for me.

Lisa Kleypas and her publisher, St. Martins, have generously donated one set of all four Friday Harbor books to give away.  Leave a comment on this post with your favorite Lisa Kleypas couple and the title of the book (I know, it's hard to pick one - but you have to choose…) by Noon, Sun Feb 24th (EST) to win.  Additional entries for commenting on each post this week (Feb 14-20 - links below). Sometimes I get notified of comments, and sometimes I don't, so either "like" my facebook page so I can contact you easily if you win, or be sure to check back on this post on Monday, Feb 25th to see if you've won (or both!). 

Also be sure to see all of the other posts for this huge "Week of Romance" giveaway at Read~Write~Love.  We have Kristan Higgins, Molly O'Keefe, Jayne Ann Krentz, Lauren Dane, Sarah MacLeanAnne Gracie and Cindy Gerard.    (See the original post for more details.)

I plan to run regular romance reviews, recommendations and discussions here at Read~Write~Love, so come back often - and "like" my facebook page for notifications of new posts and contests.

Thanks so much!

Bobbi 

Killing Time

I think most Romantic Suspense fans know Cindy Gerard.  With her books you can depend on getting a good read, a sexy romance, and alpha males who know how to take charge and use a gun (as well as, often, helicopters, tanks, heavy artillery…).

killingtime

Killing Time is the first of a new series, The One-Eyed Jacks, which is a spin-off of her popular Black Ops books.  The One-Eyed Jacks will focus on four survivors of a mission gone awry in Afghanistan eight years ago.  In the initial scene of Killing Time we meet Mike Brown, who became the scapegoat for that mission, and who bides his time laying low in Peru doing odd, off-the-books jobs for a variety of generally off-the-books entities.

But on that day, the anniversary of the mission, Mike does what he does on every anniversary of that calamitous event - he goes to a bar with the intention of getting smashed. And when a gorgeous girl comes on to him, well, what's not to like about losing himself in the comfort of a warm beauty?

Unfortunately for him, the warm beauty is Eva Salinas, a CIA attorney whose husband was in Mike's unit and was killed on the day Mike would like to forget.  The more Eva learns about the mission, the less sense it makes, and she wants answers from the man she blames for her husband's death.

Even asking the questions puts her in danger, though, and pretty soon Eva and Mike are running for their lives, trying to put together the pieces of what really happened.  They'll make their way to Washington DC and then to a remote, scary paramilitary compound in Idaho to track down the truth and free themselves from a past of doubt and lies, while uncovering a dangerous, powerful enemy who wants nothing more than to protect his secrets.

Cindy Gerard is a great writer, who knows how to tell a rip-roaring good story with lots of guns, explosions, and sexy men who aren't afraid to die, but are gonna make it really messy for you if you try to kill them, and even messier if you go after their women.

I read an ARC copy of this book a few months ago, and before writing this, I went online to see some of the other reviews by different people, and was surprised by some of the negative comments.

I think this is a transition book, and I think Gerard did an excellent job with that sometimes difficult work.  I thought the romance was sweet, and watching Eva and Mike move from enemies to allies to lovers was realistic and moving, especially for the short time they're on a misogynistic cultish compound that treats spouses like chattel.

The explosive scene that brings down the villain was a little over-the-top, and asks us to suspend our disbelief slightly, but it was fun and made sense for the characters involved.

I really enjoyed this book, and found it to be classic Cindy Gerard, with a sexy, emotionally wounded hero and a hot yet touching 'enemies to lovers as the truth plays out' story arc.  Introducing readers to the other One Eyed Jacks and involving them in the high-octane resolution to the external conflict of the book was a fun twist, though I expect, considering the abruptly mysterious end to the villain, we haven't  seen the last of him in the series.

I look forward to seeing the rest of the One-Eyed Jacks pair off with the women strong enough to tame them.  From the glimpse we had of them here, it's going to be an interesting ride, and a great set of stories.

It's a fun read!

Cindy Gerard and her publisher, Pocket, have generously donated five copies of the book to give away.  Leave a comment on this post by Noon, Sun Feb 24th (EST) to win one.  Sometimes I get notified of comments, and sometimes I don't, so either "like" my facebook page so I can contact you easily if you win, or be sure to check back on this post on Monday, Feb 25th to see if you've won (or both!). 

Also be sure to see all of the other posts for this huge "Week of Romance" giveaway at Read~Write~Love.  We have Kristan Higgins, Molly O'Keefe, Jayne Ann Krentz, Lauren Dane, Sarah MacLean and Anne Gracie.  Plus, the awesome additional prize of a full set of Lisa Kleypas' Friday Harbor novels.  (See the original post for more details.)


The Autumn Bride

This book was such a charmer!  Governess Abigail Chantry saves her abducted sister and another young woman from a brothel, taking the maid who delivered the distress call with them.  Having nowhere else to go, she takes the girls back to her employers' home, which causes her to lose her job (nice folks, those).

autumn bride

With her limited funds, Abigail rents a tiny room in a bad neighborhood, but their hopes in a better future dwindle when none of the women can find decent work.  Desperate, Abby breaks into the quiet mansion next door through the third floor window, looking for some small something that will buy them some food and a little time.  Instead she finds an aging, sick baroness whose staff is neglecting her while taking advantage of her home and money.

Abigail takes charge, saving Lady Bea from the despicable domestics, and she, her sister and friends - calling themselves The Chance Sisters - begin to nurse the older woman back to health, giving her a new energy and desire to live.

Meanwhile, Lady Bea's nephew, Max, who left years ago to restore the family's fortunes, has heard from a friend of Lady Bea's that something untoward is happening in her household.  Returning to London soon after the girls have moved in, he mistakes Abby and the girls for the people who mistreated Lady Bea.

It's not long before Max realizes the truth of it, and loses his heart to the amazing woman who saved his aunt and takes care of all the people around her, transforming her own little corner of the world through gentle determination and a loving nature.  Too bad he's promised to another, because the sparks between Max and Abigail are like nothing he's ever known -- and he's been around the block (and the world) a few times.

This charming, adorable book is simply wonderful, and Abigail is a terrific heroine.  Generally sweet and amiable, but pushing when she needs to push, fighting when she needs to fight, yet always maintaining a loving nature, a cheerful, pragmatic joie de vivre, and a strong moral compass, Abby somehow makes miracles happen for her and the people she loves just when they need them the most.

Read this lovely book - you'll be glad you did.

Anne Gracie has generously donated three copies of the book to give away.  Leave a comment on this post by Noon, Sun Feb 24th (EST) to win one.  Sometimes I get notified of comments, and sometimes I don't, so either "like" my facebook page so I can contact you easily if you win, or be sure to check back on this post on Monday, Feb 25th to see if you've won (or both!). 

Also be sure to see all of the other posts for this huge "Week of Romance" giveaway at Read~Write~Love.  We have Kristan Higgins, Molly O'Keefe, Jayne Ann Krentz, Lauren Dane, Sarah MacLean and, tomorrow, Cindy Gerard.  Plus, the awesome additional prize of a full set of Lisa Kleypas' Friday Harbor novels.  (See the original post for more details.)


Crazy Thing Called Love

When I picked up this book, I recognized the name 'Molly O'Keefe,' but I couldn't remember what book or story I had read in the past.  I will never forget again. 

Crazy Thing Called Love reminded me of Susan Elizabeth Phillips' writing and story lines (similar to the Chicago Stars) which is high praise from me indeed, since if you know me personally or follow me here at all, you'll perhaps know that SEP is one of my two all-time favorite writers.* 

crazything

Maddy loved her husband when he was a rising hockey star and they were both too young to know how to navigate even the normal strains of marriage, much less the kinds of stress a professional athlete's schedule and lifestyle can add.  But one too many misunderstandings and subsequent prideful posturings is simply too much for her to bear.

Leaving him, Maddy follows her own dreams, working hard to earn a degree and land a job in the newscasting world.  It's been fourteen years since she put Billy Wilkins behind her, and now she's Madelyn Cornish, a popular morning news show host in Dallas.  Billy's in Dallas, too, in the last throes of his career.  When her production team sets up a celebrity makeover for the sexy bad boy hockey player -- behind her back -- she's furious, but can't get out of it without giving away the secret that she was once married to him.

Working with the only man she's ever loved leaves Maddy feeling off-balance and out of sorts.  Billy can't believe that the icy anchor is the same woman who was once his wife, and he's determined to melt that cool exterior with the explosive sexual chemistry that's as hot as ever between them.  Meanwhile, the production team is digging into Billy's life, and they'll uncover some secrets that change everything and force Maddy and Billy to revisit their hopes, dreams and definitions of success.

There were so many things I loved about this book. I know a lot of people don't like flashbacks, but MO transitions from the past to the present a number of times, unfolding the story of their childhood, relationship and marriage in a way that was really powerful and elegantly done, at least for me.

It also informs the characters in ways that make us forgive Maddy and Billy for being almost unlikable at times in the beginning of the book, and shows a really touching arc of change, acceptance and forgiveness over the course of their story.

Oh, and that sexual chemistry I mention?  Yeah. This couple sizzles.  Billy loves it, and Maddy hates it.  Makes for even greater sexual tension.

Molly O'Keefe's Crazy Thing Called Love is a winner, and if you haven't discovered her yet, this will be a great introduction.

Molly O'Keefe has generously donated five copies of the book to give away.  Leave a comment on this post by Noon, Sun Feb 24th (EST) to win one.  Sometimes I get notified of comments, and sometimes I don't, so either "like" my facebook page so I can contact you easily if you win, or be sure to check back on this post on Monday, Feb 25th to see if you've won (or both!).

Thank you!


You can read about my love for SEP here, if you're interested.  And I do hope to get back to my 'Book-A-Day' plan soon.  There's a lot going on these days,** but the response to these posts has been very positive, and I hope you'll spread the word about ReadWriteLove.

** I do usually try to respond to comments individually.  As you likely know, life is what happens when you're making other plans, and when I was in the process of putting this week-long giveaway together, my beloved great uncle - my last living blood relative of my parents' generation and my mother's godfather - died.  So I've been on the road with my mother, driving to the funeral, visiting with family, and saying good-bye to a great man with all the many people who loved him.  I've managed to get the posts up, but haven't been able to follow up as I usually do.  I hope you'll forgive me, and I'd like to say to all of you, thank you for your replies, and for the many lovely compliments you've posted here regarding the reviews.

I love the romance genre, and I look forward to sharing books and thoughts about romance with all of you.  Thank you for the wonderful support and enthusiasm. 

Bobbi xoxo

Dream Eyes

If you're a romance fan, it's hard not to know Jayne Ann Krentz.  Whether she's writing as Amanda Quick, Jayne Castle, or JAK, you're guaranteed a book with a great plot and authentic characters that'll keep you guessing.  And no matter what else is happening, you know that while those characters are chasing clues and dodging disaster, they'll also be falling in love in sigh-worthy ways.

dreameyes

There aren't many authors with as many books as JAK. The fact that they're all  consistently well-written, uniquely engaging and fresh  is a huge bonus.  And those heroes! {yum}

Just by chance, I had finished Crystal Gardens (Amanda Quick) right before Dream Eyes landed in my TPR pile, so it was particularly interesting to see the psi-crystal connection between these two books and time periods.

The mystery in Dream Eyes is intriguing, but the added tension of the psychic stress, power and attraction Judson and Gwen share give the storyline additional texture and depth.  The sexual tension between Judson and Gwen is as potent as an electrical fire, and with so much going on in the book, in less deft hands, something would be sure to get dropped, tangled or mishandled, but JAK glides through the complicated plot with her typical ease and skill, pulling it all together in ways that leave the reader feeling distinctly satisfied, yet left with the bittersweet emotion one gets when they've finished a really good book.

(So it's a good thing she wrote the last chapter as a great intro to the next one!)

The mystery is intriguing without being graphic, the suspense part keeps you on the edge of your chair without making your hair stand on end, and Judson is completely believable with both a gun in his hand and the psi ability to read a murder scene. Gwen as his soul mate -- down to her possessing the exact skills that will help him heal from a recent tragedy if he can only bring himself to trust her with his psyche (umm, internal and external conflict perfection?) -- is brilliant in its combined simplicity and complexity.

Add in a serial killer, a suspicious sheriff, crystals exploding, ghosts visiting (in a unique way, of course) and cameras and mirrors creating smoke and mirrors - and you have a winning concoction of action, adventure, suspense, paranormal elements and romance.

{sigh}

Enjoy!

Jayne Ann Krentz has generously donated five copies of the book to give away.  Leave a comment on this post by Noon, Sun Feb 24th (EST) to win one.  Sometimes I get notified of comments, and sometimes I don't, so either "like" my facebook page so I can contact you easily if you win, or be sure to check back on this post on Monday, Feb 25th to see if you've won (or both!).

Also be sure to see the Valentine's Day post for information on the whole "Week of Romance" contest - with multiple copies of seven books being given away as well as one prize of a full set of Lisa Kleypas' Friday Harbor novels.

Thank you! 

One Good Earl Deserves A Lover

I'm tempted to simply say here, "Read this book" and leave it at that.  I mentioned in my NPR Valentine's Day essay that there were a ton of great historical books out there, and there are.  But this one is special. 

onegoodearl1

The heroine, Pippa, is one of the most unique characters I've seen in a while, and she is wonderful, adorable, amazing, sweet, bold - so many words to describe her, all rolled into this bundle of wit, heart and intelligence that leaps off the page, and wins the heart of the most notorious rake in London, Mr. Cross.  who is also her brother-in-law's partner as owner of the most popular gaming hell in London.  

Intrepid Pippa is headed into a marriage of convenience and worries abut her duties in bed.  She is a woman of science, so decides to reasearch the subject by approaching Cross for information.  He categorically refuses her, while hating himself for being attracted, intrigued and stymied by the woman who won't take 'no' for an answer, but has the most innocently charming questions -- which make them devastatingly seductive.

This love story is sweetly tender, and watching these two fall in love while determinedly trying to remain true to their own moral compasses - which demand they keep each other strictly off limits - is fun, heart-wrenching and inspiring.  Watching Pipps take on the male-dominated gambling world (including a brilliant Ocean's Eleven-inspired con) and her own inhibitions is sheer, sparkling wonder.

Read. This. Book.

(I also decided to post about this book today, because Sarah MacLean is doing a cute set of blog posts about bespectacled women on her site -- which kind of celebrates a nerdiness, too -- and today is my sister's birthday.  My older sister is the first friend I ever had, and would go to the ends of the earth to help the people she loves.  She started wearing glasses when she was 9 years old - the first of any of our friends to do so - and she is probably my favorite bespectacled lady of all time. And she loves sci-fi and Dr. Who, so kinda wonderful-geeky, too…).

Sarah MacLean and her publisher, Avon,  have generously donated five copies of the book to give away.  Leave a comment on this post by Noon, Sun Feb 24th (EST) to win one.  Sometimes I get notified of comments, and sometimes I don't, so either "like" my facebook page so I can contact you easily if you win, or be sure to check back on this post on Monday, Feb 25th to see if you've won (or both!).

Also check out the posts on Lauren Dane's Going Under and Kristan Higgins' The Best Man from yesterday and Thursday.

Going Under

This is the first book I'd ever read by Lauren Dane, but it won't be the last.  The heroine, Molly, is a genetic witch who lives in a time of crisis.  When a mega-villain (the shadowy Magister, who manifests and is vanquished in a previous title in the Bound by Magick series) attacks the planet's paranormal population -- who'd previously existed under a shroud of secrecy -- their existence becomes known; they are "outed" and referred to as The Others. 

GoingUnder

 In the wake of the fear and violence of The Magister, mistrust toward The Others rises.  Hate groups spring up and start acting out against witches, vampires and shape shifters who had previously lived quiet lives among the normal population.  A loud, vocal minority demands separations, curtailment of rights, and begins labeling Others as evil, unnatural, and a litany of judgmental terms designed to present them as "less" - deserving, privileged or human - than themselves.

Molly, a brilliant PR tactician who loses the successful firm she started to her partners -- pretty much simply for being a witch -- approaches a powerful witch clan, Clan Owen, and offers to be their spokesperson, which leads to her basically becoming the spokesperson for all Others, everywhere -- and, for the haters, The Face of the Enemy.  Hence, a huge target.

Enter Gage, a security specialist for the clan, who in effect becomes Molly's personal bodyguard, because, well, things get personal.

The sexual chemistry betwen these two is sizzling, and for a while they convince themselves it's just an affair, but as tension and intimacy tighten their bond, they have to admit to themselves and each other what really matters, and overcome fear and uncertainty to commit to their feelings for each other and a hope in the future, difficult as that is.

Dane does a truly terrific job of telling the story of a world coming apart.  Molly faces regional and national political enemies and violent mobs, and creates a network of allies from the various Other factions, as well as reasonable people who begin to see frightening parallels to historical situations that led to horrific consequences.  

Dane's pace is fast, while ratcheting the tension of a world gone awry with skill and precision.  Molly shines as the woman tasked with taking on the world, literally and figuratively, and her conflicted relationship to her own anger at the situation, and her professional need to be a voice of reason at all times is deftly and realistically portrayed.

Definitely worth a read - a touching, hot romance, and a good reminder of how quickly lives are threatened and the world can splinter when fear is allowed to rule.

Lauren Dane and her publisher, Berkley,  have generously donated five copies of the book to give away.  Leave a comment on this post by Noon, Sun Feb 24th (EST) to win one.  Sometimes I get notified of comments, and sometimes I don't, so either "like" my facebook page so I can contact you easily if you win, or be sure to check back on this post on Monday, Feb 25th to see if you've won (or both!).

Thank you, and good luck - it's a great book!

The Best Man

I love Kristan Higgins!  I like all of her books, but I will say that I've particularly enjoyed the last few, with the exception of Just One Of The Guys - which was my favorite, until this one.

As usual, all the characters are distinct and very quirky.  And KH manages, in her inimitable way, to combine heart-wrenching emotion with comedy that at times nearly borders on slapstick, but always retains a relatable humanity.  (The early restaurant scene with the San Francisco boyfriend is a jaw-dropping, comic masterpiece.)

KHbestman

The touching love story between Faith Holland and Levi Cooper --  the girl who got abandoned at the altar and the best man who convinced the groom to "come out" at his wedding, thus abandoning her  -- forces these two characters to look beyond the surface of each other and see the hurt, lonely soul underneath.  A ribbon of past history exists between them, some events which they acknowledge (if only to themselves), and some they don't even know about.  KH does a wonderful job of excavating the emotional minefields in each of their pasts, and tells their individual and shared stories in a masterful way.

A book you're nearly guaranteed to laugh and cry over, and an exceedingly satisfying romance.  The book comes out on 2/26, so by the time the contest is over, it won't be too much of an "advance copy" - but this way, if you win, you'll be tempted to buy a copy for your favorite co-romance-fan, since you'll love it so much. 

Kristan Higgins has generously donated five copies of the book to give away.  Leave a comment by Noon, Sun Feb 24th (EST) to win one.  Sometimes I get notified of comments, and sometimes I don't, so either "like" my facebook page so I can contact you easily if you win, or be sure to check back on this post on Monday, Feb 25th to see if you've won (or both!).

Good luck - it's really a great book!

Bobbi



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