Thursday, February 13, 2020

Review: Wild Nights by Katherine Garbera

Wild Nights by Katherine Garbera
Series: Jokers Wild, Book 2
Publisher: Entangled: Brazen
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9781640638655
Release Date: February 10, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Entangled

Master illusionist Nicholas Pine has learned the hard way that nothing—and nobody—is what they seem. So when he runs into sexy antique shop owner, Zelda Quincy, he knows there’s more to her than meets the eye. Still, what he sees is very, very intriguing…and he can’t get her out of his head.

Zelda has spent her whole adult life running away from her family’s reputation. She’s changed her name and tried to move on. The last thing she wants is to return to the world she left behind, even with someone as hot as Nicholas by her side.

But after one hot night––she’s addicted––and so is he.

Too bad the skeletons in Zelda’s closet won’t stay hidden for long…

Magic and Sin City are simply made for each other, just like Nicholas and Zelda. The bright lights of Vegas and the spectacle of Nicholas’s illusions are a dazzling backdrop for a sleek and sexy romance in Wild Nights.

Nicholas and Zelda are both likeable characters with old wounds that their burgeoning romance brings to the surface. Zelda comes from a famous magic family, but after a trick went horribly wrong in her teens, she’s put the world of magic behind her. Mostly. Having changed her name and moved across the country, Zelda can’t quite resist the allure of magic and runs an antique shop that specializes in magic props. Zelda doesn’t want to get sucked back into the world she grew up in, mostly because of the painful memories it brings up. So when sexy magician Nicolas Pine comes to her shop looking for his stolen Houdini water cabinet, Zelda tries to resist her attraction to him. But the pull between them can’t be denied and the longer he and Zelda are together the harder it is for her to tell him the truth about her family.

Love and lies have gone hand-in-hand for Nicholas for so long that he’s always on the lookout for Zelda to betray his trust in some way. With this kind of setup, it’s easy to see the drama coming from a mile away. That being said, the way things played out actually worked pretty well. Both Nicholas and Zelda are self-aware enough to recognize their issues and what triggers them and though there is some expected drama, it still feels fairly organic. The romance between them takes a while to build, then goes full-speed halfway through. I do wish the pacing had been a bit faster in the first part of the book and that the emotional component had been slowed down and allowed to develop more naturally in the second.

Magic and illusions are like catnip for me, so I was very eager to dive into Wild Nights. Once the pacing picked up I enjoyed the story immensely. I haven’t read the first Jokers Wild book, One Night Gamble, but this book easily stands on its own. That being said, I liked Katherine Garbera’s writing enough that I’ll definitely be reading the rest of this series.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Review: The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa

The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9780062909879
Release Date: February 4, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

A wedding planner left at the altar? Yeah, the irony isn’t lost on Carolina Santos, either. But despite that embarrassing blip from her past, Lina’s offered an opportunity that could change her life. There’s just one hitch… she has to collaborate with the best (make that worst) man from her own failed nuptials.

Marketing expert Max Hartley is determined to make his mark with a coveted hotel client looking to expand its brand. Then he learns he’ll be working with his brother’s whip-smart, stunning—absolutely off-limits—ex-fiancée. And she loathes him.

If they can nail their presentation without killing each other, they’ll both come out ahead. Except Max has been public enemy number one ever since he encouraged his brother to jilt the bride, and Lina’s ready to dish out a little payback of her own.

Soon Lina and Max discover animosity may not be the only emotion creating sparks between them. Still, this star-crossed couple can never be more than temporary playmates because Lina isn’t interested in falling in love and Max refuses to play runner-up to his brother ever again…

A wedding planner left at the altar who is forced to work with the best man who helped ruin her wedding-that-wasn’t? Sounds like a great recipe for an enemies-to-lovers romance to me. But to say I’m divided on how I feel about The Worst Best Man is pretty accurate. I didn’t enjoy the first half of the book and there are a few times I contemplated just not finishing it. I’m glad I resisted, for the second half is wonderful.

Let’s get the bad out of the way, shall we? Lina was left at the altar by Andrew, who hints that his brother and best man, Max, may have said something that spurred him to ditch his own wedding. Since he was drunk at the bachelor party, Max doesn’t remember what he said. Three years later, Max and Lina are paired together to present a pitch that could be a big deal for Lina’s business and help Max get out of his brother’s shadow at work. The problem is, Lina still holds Max responsible for what happened on her wedding day. Why, when it was Andrew who left her at the altar and didn’t even have the decency to tell her himself? I’m not really sure. It would have made sense if (1) Lina had been in love with Andrew and still brokenhearted three years later (she wasn’t, she isn’t, and she barely spares him a thought) or (2) Lina and Max had a friendship or some form of relationship before the wedding that made Max’s behavior feel like a betrayal (they barely knew each other). Since neither of these are the case, Lina’s attitude toward Max and the ways she tried to punish him came across as juvenile, even though I can see why Lina might have wanted a target for her anger and embarrassment (even if that target didn’t deserve it). I wanted to shout at Max to cut his losses and run for it. What made me stay with this book was Lina’s relationship with her loving family and author Mia Sosa’s infusion of Brazilian culture. Lina is a first generation Brazilian American and Ms. Sosa does an incredible job of weaving her heritage into this book. She also does a great job of showing why Lina tries so hard to control her emotions, confronting the bias and dismissiveness Afro-Latinx women face in the workplace when emotions get involved. Ms. Sosa does this so well that I stuck with the book even though I was incredibly frustrated by Lina and Max’s interactions. I’m so glad I did.

Once Lina and Max start to lean into their mutual attraction and the emotional pull between them, The Worst Best Man shines. The two of them start to grow, to confront their fears, wounds, and vulnerabilities. The second half of this book is fantastic; funny, heartwarming, charming…there’s so much to enjoy. I loved that Max was a safe space for Lina to let down her guard. He’s a genuinely good, thoughtful, dependable man who deserves to be seen for all that he is on his own. And I love that Max saw the real Lina and fell for all that she is. He doesn’t try to change her professional image, doesn’t suggest she become someone else to win a job, but supports her every step of the way. It’s not a smooth road to happily ever after for these two, but you understand the bumps in the road and it becomes easy to root for them. So while I’m torn on how to rate this because I had such differing views on the first versus the second half, I will say that I was very happy with how Lina and Max’s story ended and I’m looking forward to reading more of Ms. Sosa’s work.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Review: The Story of Us by Teri Wilson

The Story of Us by Teri Wilson
Publisher: Hallmark Publishing
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9781947892705
Release Date: February 4, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

A bookstore owner…
her former high school sweetheart…
And a box of old love letters
that could change everything.


Jamie always adored True Love Bookstore and Café, and now she’s the owner. But businesses are struggling in her small town, and her beloved store is threatened by a new retail development scheme.

Sawyer, Jamie’s former high school sweetheart, startles her when he comes to town for the first time in fifteen years. She soon learns he’s the architect of the proposed development and he’s there to sell local business owners on his plan. Sawyer had no idea that Jamie had bought the bookstore and poured everything she had into it. If he takes it over, he’ll break her heart a second time.

Jamie’s discovery of a box of old love letters and valentines might hold the key to saving her shop. And after all this time, could love be in the cards for Jamie and Sawyer, too?

The Story of Us is a love letter to books, community, and – most importantly – love in all its forms. Teri Wilson manages to deliver a Valentine’s romance that is incredibly sweet without ever edging into saccharine territory.

Jamie may be on a romantic hiatus – the current love of her life is her cat, Eliot – but she believes in true love. More importantly, she believes in True Love Bookstore and Café, the bookstore she owns that has been her lifelong dream. Jamie also loves her picturesque Oregon town, but the business district is suffering and a retail development company is closing in, determined to crush the district and turn it into a generic retail space. Jamie is determined to save her bookstore and the business district, but she doesn’t count on the architect the developers send in: Sawyer, Jamie’s high school sweetheart.

Sawyer and Jamie are at loggerheads for much of The Story of Us. Both of them have opposing goals and have solid reasons for trying to swing the town council vote their way. How this storyline plays out is predictable, but any other outcome would have been unsatisfying given the circumstances. Being on opposing sides is no match for true love, especially when Jamie discovers old valentines and love letters in her bookstore. Both were an incredibly sweet touch; the letters especially as they have an important lesson for Jamie and Sawyer. The push-pull of love that never died versus opposing goals did start to drag a bit, I will admit. Still, I could not help but be charmed by the delicate sweetness of the story overall. The Story of Us is a lovely romance with nods to The Shop Around the Corner/You’ve Got Mail, which makes it a perfect Valentine’s Day read.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Review: Marriage on Madison Avenue by Lauren Layne

Marriage on Madison Avenue by Lauren Layne
Series: Central Park Pact, Book 3
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9781501191633
Release Date: January 28, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Can guys and girls ever be just friends? According to Audrey Tate and Clarke West, absolutely. After all, they’ve been best friends since childhood without a single romantic entanglement. Clarke is the charming playboy Audrey can always count on, and he knows that the ever-loyal Audrey will never not play along with his strategy for dodging his matchmaking mother—announcing he’s already engaged…to Audrey.

But what starts out as a playful game between two best friends turns into something infinitely more complicated, as just-for-show kisses begin to stir up forbidden feelings. As the faux wedding date looms closer, Audrey and Clarke realize that they can never go back to the way things were, but deep down, do they really want to?

Marriage on Madison Avenue is a sweet confection of a book. I’ve been excited to read Audrey and Clarke’s story ever since I first saw them together in Passion on Park Avenue and Lauren Layne did not disappoint. Marriage on Madison Avenue is the literary equivalent of sunshine and rainbows – it made me incredibly happy while I was reading it and I hated having to look away from the book for even a minute.

Audrey is simply one of the most loveable heroines you’ll ever meet. She may have grown up a pampered Upper East Side princess and her job as an Instagram influencer is not one many take seriously, but she works hard at her job and is so genuinely sweet and charming that you cannot help but love her. Her best friend since childhood, Clarke, has always been there for her and they seriously have the best friendship. I’ve adored their interactions all throughout the Central Park Pact series and I love how they’re always there for each other, no matter what. Clarke may look like a hunk and have a playboy image, but he also works hard at his father’s company and there’s far more to him than others see.

Clarke and Audrey have faked an engagement before to get out of a situation, but this time something’s different. This time the two of them are starting to see what is crystal clear to everyone they know: that Clarke and Audrey are made for each other. They know they love each other and that is never in question throughout the book (another thing I loved), but what they can’t see is that they’re also in love with one another. Both of them are wary of risking their hearts. For Audrey having found out that her boyfriend was married shook her to the core and Clarke has a past of his own that makes him want to guard his heart. A fake relationship with their best friend is easy for both of them. Until new and uncomfortable feelings start to arise. Feelings that make their fake engagement feel all-too-real. How things play out, I won’t reveal. Suffice it to say Ms. Layne takes readers on a wonderful journey in one of the best friends-to-lovers stories I’ve ever read. Everything about Audrey and Clarke’s journey worked for me and I think it’s in part because Ms. Layne make the core love and friendship at the base of the relationship so strong and that strength shines. It’s the little moments Ms. Layne includes throughout the story that just bring everything in Audrey and Clarke’s relationship together. Their slide into love feels fated and though it’s not a smooth path to happily ever after, I was cheering them on every step of the way.

Audrey and Clarke are the heart of Marriage on Madison Avenue but the friendship between Audrey, Claire, and Naomi is vital to the tale as well. Their friendship had had an unusual beginning, but these three strong, independent, very different women are a treat to read about. Their support, rapport, and genuine caring are what makes me love the Central Park Pact series. Though you don’t have to have read Passion on Park Avenue or Love on Lexington Avenue in order to enjoy this book, you’d be missing out on two charming stories of love and friendship. Marriage on Madison Avenue was the perfect ending to a wonderfully entertaining trilogy. It’s bright, endearing, and hits all the right notes.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Review: Her Scandalous Pursuit by Candace Camp

Her Scandalous Pursuit by Candace Camp
Series: The Mad Morelands, Prequel
Publisher: HQN
Genre: Historical Romance with Paranormal Elements
ISBN: 9781335041449
Release Date: January 28, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Thisbe Moreland is used to men not taking her seriously. As a scientist, she’s accustomed to being the only woman at lectures and meetings, her presence met with scorn and derision. So it comes as a pleasant surprise when she sits next to a handsome young man who is actually interested in having a conversation about science.

Desmond Harrison cannot believe his good fortune when he sits next to Thisbe—she’s intelligent and incredibly beautiful. He longs to see her again—but he’s ashamed of his low birth. Not to mention his employment with the infamous Professor Gordon, a formerly respected scientist who turned to spiritualism and is now deeply scorned.

When Professor Gordon demands that Desmond recover an artifact for him—an ancient object reputed to have terrible power, known as the Eye of Annie Blue—Desmond realizes that only Thisbe holds the key. Desmond must choose between his love for Thisbe and his loyalty to his mentor…but humanity’s very future will depend on his choice.

Two scientists from very different worlds come together in the delightful Her Scandalous Pursuit. Candace Camp returns to her Mad Morelands series with a prequel featuring the eldest Moreland, Thisbe.

Thisbe is a scientist who has the support of her family and the freedom provided by her station to attend lectures and meetings, even if the men there don’t take her seriously. I enjoyed her fearless nature and the way she wouldn’t let sexism stop her from pursuing her studies. When she meets Desmond at a lecture, she’s delighted to find a man who is willing to talk with her as an equal. Desmond was a total sweetheart. He’s patient, kind, and protective, though that last quality tends to get in his way at times. Desmond is very conscious of his “low birth” – especially when he finds out Thisbe is a duke’s daughter – but he cannot deny the pull between them. Thisbe comes from a very unconventional family and is unconcerned with their difference in stations. While some suspension of disbelief is required for how casual the Morelands are and how much freedom Thisbe has to be alone with Desmond, I was happy to go along for the ride. Thisbe and Desmond fit extremely well and were so easy to root for, even when misunderstandings or misplaced honor get in their way.

The romance between Desmond and Thisbe might have been better suited to a novella if it weren’t for the subplot filling out a good portion of the book. Desmond is working for a disgraced scientist who is obsessed with finding Annie Blue’s Eye, an ancient artifact rumored to possess supernatural powers. At the same time Thisbe begins to have nightmares connected to the Eye’s creator. When Desmond learns Thisbe has a connection to the Eye, it sets off a chain of events that lead the two of them on a dangerous pursuit. I can’t say much about this plotline for fear of spoiling the story. For me, this storyline slowed down the book at times and wasn’t as interesting as the romance, but that could just be personal preference.

Her Scandalous Pursuit is a prequel to the Mad Morelands series and having not read the other six books I can safely say it stands alone. Fans of the series will undoubtedly be thrilled to see their favorite characters before their happily ever afters. And I enjoyed this welcoming, loving, intellectual family so much that I cannot wait to read the rest of the series (Thisbe’s youngest brothers, the Greats, were especially charming). All in all, Her Scandalous Pursuit is a thoroughly entertaining read.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Wife After Wife by Olivia Hayfield

Wife After Wife by Olivia Hayfield
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Fiction
ISBN: 9780593101834
Release Date: January 21, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Divorced. Murdered. Died. Divorced. Departed. Survived.

A modern take on the life and marriages of Henry VIII, if he were a 21st century womanizing media mogul rather than the king of England.


Master of the universe Harry Rose is head of the Rose Corporation, number eighteen on the Forbes rich list, and recently married to wife number six. But in 2018, his perfect world is about to come crashing to the ground. His business is in the spotlight--and not in a good way--and his love life is under scrutiny. Because behind a glittering curtain of lavish parties, gorgeous homes, and a media empire is a tale worthy of any tabloid.

And Harry has a lot to account for.

Wife After Wife is a fresh and imaginative retelling of the story of Henry VIII and his wives. I wasn’t sure how such an expansive story would work when whittled down to one book, but Olivia Hayfield manages it wonderfully, getting the spirit of the real life inspiration and events right while modernizing the story. Spanning from the 1980s to 2018, Wife After Wife is by turns entertaining and tragic.

Whether you know Tudor history or not, this book stands on its own, which is a mark of a good reimagining. Harry Rose’s journey from wealthy playboy to aging mogul facing the music in the modern area is as breezy and frustrating as the man himself. Harry has charm and self-esteem to spare, but he also has this irritating ability to absolve himself of any wrongdoing. Whether it’s cheating on a wife or something even worse, Harry always manages to make himself the victim or the hero, depending on the situation. He’s not a likeable character, but he’s a compelling one and you can see why each of his wives are drawn to him. Ms. Hayfield does a fantastic job with Katie (Catherine of Aragon), Harry’s first wife. She’s an honest-to-goodness kind and generous woman. She’s not saintly, nor is she perfect, and her battles with loss and depression broke my heart. She’s a well-drawn, complex character who is easy to adore and she has a core of strength and kindness which make her shine. Equally well-drawn is Ana (Anne Boleyn). She’s talented, whip-smart, and ambitious. I have a huge soft spot for Anne Boleyn, so it was incredibly easy for me to love Ana. As with her real-life counterpart, I loved and hated her trajectory, watching Harry pursue her and know she was going to give in. I pretty much hated Harry than during Ana’s time in the spotlight, but I did enjoy their tumultuous relationship until its tragic end.

Wife After Wife loses some steam after Ana is out of the picture, which is a pity. But I did love how Ms. Hayfield brought to life the rest of Harry’s wives, with the notable exception of Janette (Jane Seymour), who I found unbearably obnoxious. Anki was a fun and creative spin on Anne of Cleves and Clare (Catherine Parr) rounded out the wives perfectly. The most compelling of the latter four wives was Caitlyn (Catherine Howard). She was the most interestingly crafted alongside Katie and Ana; everything about her storyline broke my heart and once again I found myself loathing Harry. To say he’s an imperfect character would be an understatement, but Ms. Hayfield does an incredible job of blending the loathsome with the charming, creative, and sometimes loving man.

Wife After Wife is a delightfully creative retelling of history. The life and times of each decade really blend well with the story – more so than I ever could have imagined. All in all, the larger-than-life characters made this an entertaining read and I definitely would love to read more about Harry and Ana’s daughter, Eliza.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Review: Almost Just Friends by Jill Shalvis

Almost Just Friends by Jill Shalvis
Series: Wildstone, Book 4
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9780062897800
Release Date: January 21, 2020
Source: Author
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Jill Shalvis Reading Order

Piper Manning’s about as tough as they come, she’s had to be. She raised her siblings and they’ve thankfully flown the coop. All she has to do is finish fixing up the lake house her grandparents left her, sell it, and then she’s free.

When a massive storm hits, she runs into a tall, dark and brooding stranger, Camden Reid. There’s a spark there, one that shocks her. Surprising her further, her sister and brother return, each of them holding their own secrets. The smart move would be for Piper to ignore them all but Cam unleashes emotions deep inside of her that she can’t deny, making her yearn for something she doesn’t understand. And her siblings…well, they need each other.

Only when the secrets come out, it changes everything Piper thinks she knows about her family, herself…and Cam. Can she find a way to outrun the demons? The answer is closer than she thinks—just as the new life she craves may have already begun.

After the death of her parents Piper Manning was charged with raising her siblings when she was still a child herself. Now her siblings are grown and Piper is an EMT. She has struggled and works herself nearly to the ground, but there’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel. If she can fix up the lake house and the cabins her grandparents left Piper and her siblings, she’ll finally be able to sell and go to school to become a physician’s assistant. Then her siblings return to Wildstone, each carrying secrets that will knock Piper off her stride. If she wasn’t already reeling, the arrival of Camden Reid would do so. After meeting on a dark and stormy night, the super sexy DEA agent and Coast Guard reservist becomes the first person Piper has been able to lean on in forever and that scares the heck out of her. Piper can’t afford to lose her heart, not when she’s finally going to leave Wildstone. But sometimes fate – and family – have other plans…

Love, loss, and finding your way home are at the heart of Almost Just Friends. Jill Shalvis is a master at blending the light and the dark, at finding humor in the everyday even as her characters struggle to heal and find their place in the town they call home.

Piper is the kind of heroine who is easy to root for. She has spent her whole life taking care of others and the weight of the responsibility she carries is nearly crushing her. I loved her strength, her resilience, and the fact that she wasn’t perfect, even though she sacrifices so much for others. She can be cranky, she can sometimes try to put her siblings on the path she thinks they should be on rather than listen to what they want, but given what she’s been through it’s absolutely understandable. She’s carried a heavy load her whole life and I loved watching others step up to help her, especially Cam. He’s hot, protective, caring, and is dealing with the grief of losing his brother when he meets Piper. Cam also knew responsibility from far too young an age, so he gets Piper. He doesn’t critique or try to change her eccentricities, but appreciates her for all that she is and steps up to the plate to help, which I loved.

While Piper and Cam are the heart of Almost Just Friends, Piper’s siblings are every bit as important to the story. Winnie, Piper’s youngest sibling, has always been kind of a wild child. But life has lately thrown her a curveball and she’s determined to grow up and become the person she’s meant to be. Her path isn’t what her sister would have chosen for her, but I enjoyed seeing Winnie step up and work to shape her own destiny. And Gavin, Piper’s troubled brother, probably had my favorite storyline of the whole book. Gavin is a recovering addict who has come home to make amends and forge a new life. A life that – if he has his way – will include the first and only man he’s ever loved. Gavin owns his mistakes, faces his demons head-on, and is determined to prove he has matured and is in control of his life. I loved watching Gavin come into his own and his story made me melt at times.

Almost Just Friends is the fourth book in the Wildstone series but it can easily be read as a standalone. Family is front and center in every book in the series and is as important as the romance. I loved watching the Manning siblings come together, was invested in Cam and his father healing from their losses and becoming a unit with Piper, Winnie, and Gavin. No relationship in this story is perfect, but that’s what makes this book a perfectly entertaining read. It’s a messy, heartwarming, engaging story of growing up, moving on, and love in all its forms and I couldn’t have been more entertained.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.