Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Review: Highland Conquest by Heather McCollum

Highland Conquest by Heather McCollum
Series: Sons of Sinclair, Book 1
Publisher: Entangled: Amara
Genre: Historical Romance
ISBN: 9781640637474
Release Date: April 28, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Entangled

Cain Sinclair has a plan. In order to finally bring peace to his clan, he will wed the young female chief of their greatest enemy. Only problem: capturing her and forcing her back to Sinclair castle doesn’t exactly make her want to say yes. Ella Sutherland may be clever, passionate, and shockingly beautiful, but what she isn’t is willing.

Every attempt Cain makes to woo her seems to backfire on him. A gift? The kitten practically claws his eyes out. A competitive game of chess? Even when he wins, he loses. It seems the only time the two ever see eye to eye is when they’re heating up Cain’s bed. Still, the only thing Ella truly wants is the one thing he cannot offer her: freedom.

But when Cain discovers she’s been harboring a secret—one that could threaten both clans’ very existence—he’ll have to decide between peace for the Sinclairs or the woman who’s captured his heart.

Two strong, clever heads of opposing clans are the perfect match on and off the battlefield in Highland Conquest. Heather McCollum has kicked off her Sons of Sinclair with an engaging enemies-to-lovers tale.

Cain Sinclair was raised to be a conqueror. After the death of Cain’s mother, his father raised his sons to be the biblical Four Horseman, determined to see the Sinclairs rule a united Scotland. As the new chief of the Sinclair clan, Cain’s first order of business is to take over the holdings and people of their enemies, the Sutherlands. When he captures Ella Sutherland, the Sutherlands’ chief, Cain decides marrying her and absorbing her clan would be the best and most peaceful solution. Only Ella has no intention of submitting and giving away the birthright she’s held onto. It’s the perfect stage for a battle of wills, mostly because Cain and Ella are perfect for each other. If their clans weren’t warring, their love story would be a simple one. But duty and family are heavy burdens for each to bear.

Cain and Ella are strong, honorable characters who have their work cut out for them. Cain is trying to not only do right by his clan, but to live up to the legend his father wanted him to be. Ella was raised by a monster and has spent her life protecting others. Cain and Ella are easy to like and they have wonderful chemistry. Cain’s wooing and Ella’s escape attempts bring a liveliness and energy to what would could otherwise be a heavy book. There is a core of respect to the romance that I really enjoyed. And though Ella is Cain’s captive, there is expressed consent when things turn carnal. Everything about Cain and Ella’s romance worked and I was rooting for them to find a way to get their happily ever after. Both have hard choices to make throughout the story and sometimes the easiest road isn’t what’s best or what’s right for the one you’re coming to love and the people you hold dear.

Highland Conquest is the first book in the Sons of Sinclair series and I finished it looking forward to more. In particular, I cannot wait to see what Ms. McCollum has in store for the youngest brother, Bàs.


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.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Review: Home with You by Liza Kendall

Home with You by Liza Kendall
Series: Silverlake Ranch, Book 2
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9780593098028
Release Date: March 31, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

Anything is possible in Silverlake, Texas when love takes the reins…

Rhett Braddock swore to himself that he'd never return to Silverlake. But when the opportunity arises to buy a piece of his lost, happier youth, he's drawn to the community--and the family--he once loved. Mending fences might not be as hard as he thought--until he ends up in bed with his best friend's sister.

Julianna Holt is over Rhett Braddock. So what if he's a self-made billionaire? His less than flattering dash the morning after they spent the night together made it clear he wants nothing to do with her. Besides, she has her horses and the Holt stables to save.

So when Rhett buys the Holt property as a favor to her brother, Jules makes him feel as welcome as a skunk at a garden party…but is it possible that Rotten Rhett isn’t so rotten after all? Or is the Texas heat melting her resolve to hate him?

I adored Liza Kendall’s first Silverlake Ranch book, Walk Me Home, so I couldn’t wait to see what the authors had in store for the billionaire Braddock brother, Everett. I eagerly dove into Home with You ready to fall in love with Rhett and Jules. The good news is, I did love Rhett. The bad news? I didn’t love his story or the woman he fell in love with.

To start things on a positive note, Rhett was far more endearing than I thought he’d be, given the way his siblings talked about him in the previous book. After the death of his parents, Rhett was forced to leave Silverlake and attend a boarding school in order to capitalize on his brilliant mind and set him up for success. Unfortunately no one ever asked Rhett what he wanted, which was to be at home with his remaining family and become a rodeo cowboy. Still, Rhett became a glowing success, a self-made billionaire who uses his wealth and status as armor. He’s smart, hardworking, and super sexy, but also quite vulnerable. It was easy to fall in love with Rhett. Is he perfect? No. But his mistakes come from an honest place of trying to do right by everyone, even if sometimes misunderstands what the right thing to do is.

One of the things Rhett does is return to Silverlake and buy Holt Stables as a favor to his best friend, Grady, and his family. Only no one told Julianna Holt, Grady’s sister and Rhett’s one night stand that went horribly wrong the morning after. Jules is furious that her dream of one day taking over the family business has been shattered, even though she’s guaranteed a lifetime job as manager. I understood why she was furious at first because her parents and brother treat her like a child and don’t listen to her ideas for the stables. The problem is, the longer the book went on the more I realized that maybe the Holt family treats Jules like a child because she acts like one. She’s selfish, rude, and can’t even be bothered to take care of basic things all other adults do, like buy necessities. I gave Jules a lot of leeway to begin with (1) because of her history with Rhett and (2) I don’t mind deeply flawed characters so long as they grow. To me, Jules never grew as a character. The only time she considered anyone other than herself was when her aunt advised her, but even that was problematic. Her aunt Sue has a terrible and tragic backstory that has made her cynical and though that’s completely understandable, Jules should be aware enough not to follow Sue’s advice. Honestly, Jules’s love of animals was pretty much her only redeeming quality.

The romance between Jules and Rhett is a struggle for me to believe. I don’t understand why he falls for her and there’s a plot twist you can see coming that was aggravating because it forces their hands rather than requiring them to act like adults and come together naturally. There was so much false drama and quite a bit of sexism coming from secondary characters that I grew frustrated. I hate to say it, but I finished Home with You feeling like Rhett would be better off without Jules. Perhaps if they had spent some actual time as a couple their love story would have been more believable. Instead, it felt like their happy ending was shoved in at the end in a rather tone-deaf way given the incredibly emotional, heartbreaking scene that preceded it.

Despite the fact that Home with You made me angry at some points, I’m still looking forward to reading more Silverlake Ranch novels. There were things I enjoyed about this book: Rhett repairing his relationship with his siblings, his love for his old horse that made me cry buckets, and I do like the authors’ writing. But this book simply wasn’t my cup of tea and I wish Rhett had been given a more satisfying love story.


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.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Review: Dictatorship of the Dress by Jessica Topper

Dictatorship of the Dress by Jessica Topper
Series: Much “I Do” About Nothing, Book 1
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9780425276259
Source: Goodreads Giveaway
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

As the dress-bearer for her mother’s wedding, Laney Hudson has a lot more baggage than the bulky garment bag she’s lugging from New York to Hawaii. Laney is determined to prove she’s capable of doing something right, but running chores for her mom’s fairytale nuptials is proving to be a painfully constant reminder of her own lost love.

So when she’s mistaken for the bride and bumped up to first class, Laney figures some stress-free luxury is worth a harmless white lie. Until the flight crew thinks that the man sitting next to her is Laney’s groom, and her little fib turns into a hot mess.

The last thing Noah Ridgewood needs is some dress-obsessed diva landing in his first-class row. En route to his Vegas bachelor party, the straight-laced software designer knows his cold feet have nothing to do with the winter weather.

When a severe storm leaves them grounded in Chicago and they find themselves booked into the last available honeymoon suite, Laney and her in-flight neighbor have little choice but to get better acquainted. Now, as her bridal mission hangs in the balance, perhaps the thing Laney gets right is a second chance at love.

Air travel is unpleasant on a good day, so having travel plans go awry isn’t the scenario you’d think of for a classic “meet-cute.” Yet that’s exactly what happens in the utterly charming Dictatorship of the Dress. Jessica Topper’s first Much “I Do” About Nothing is a fast-paced, engaging read featuring two loveable characters brought together by chance.

Laney and Noah were so easy to adore. Laney is a former comic book artist and she’s so creative and fun that I wish she were real just so we could be friends. She’s had a hard time lately after losing a loved one, not to mention the pain and hardship that lead up to that loss (if I’m being vague, it’s to avoid spoilers). She also has a tumultuous relationship with her mother and being the dress bearer for her mother’s wedding (not to mention having her travel plans go awry) is bringing those family problems to the forefront. Laney is a wonderful mix of vibrancy and vulnerability and I so wanted her to get a happily ever after of her own. And Noah… Oh, Tech-Boy. He’s in over his head with a fiancée he doesn’t love who is constantly changing wedding plans without his consent, stomping over his feelings, and having her dear daddy try and bully him. Noah comes across as straight-laced, but meeting Laney opens him up, helps him find the person he was that has been lost over time. The two of them seem like opposites, but they fit so incredibly well. Their romance was so fun to watch unfold and I practically devoured Dictatorship of the Dress because I couldn’t wait to see how things would work out for them.

One thing I was concerned about going into Dictatorship of the Dress was the possible cheating element and I’m sure that’s a concern for others. Noah is engaged and his fiancée being a total nightmare (which she is) isn’t an excuse to cheat in my book. Fortunately it isn’t in Noah’s either. I can’t say how things play out or I’ll spoil the whole story, but suffice it to say Ms. Topper makes it work perfectly.

Dictatorship of the Dress is both tons of fun and deeply emotional. What other story would give you moving past grief, finding love, and encounters with a pack of Elvii? I adored this book from beginning to end.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free in a Goodreads giveaway. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Review: Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai

Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai
Series: Modern Love, Book 2
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9780062878137
Release Date: April 21, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

OMG! Wouldn’t it be adorable if he’s her soulmate???

I don’t see any wedding rings < eyes emoji >

Breaking: #CafeBae and #CuteCafeGirl went to the bathroom AT THE SAME TIME!!!


One minute, Katrina King’s enjoying an innocent conversation with a random guy at a coffee shop; the next, a stranger has live-tweeted the entire encounter with a romantic meet-cute spin and #CafeBae has the world swooning. Going viral isn't easy for anyone, but Katrina has painstakingly built a private world for herself, far from her traumatic past. Besides, everyone has it all wrong...that #CafeBae bro? He isn't the man she's hungry for.

He's got a < peach emoji > to die for.

With the internet on the hunt for the identity of #CuteCafeGirl, Jas Singh, bodyguard and possessor of the most beautiful eyebrows Katrina's ever seen, offers his family's farm as a refuge. Alone with her unrequited crush feels like a recipe for hopeless longing, but Katrina craves the escape. She's resigned to being just friends with Jas--until they share a single electrifying kiss. Now she can't help but wonder if her crush may not be so unrequited after all…

Girl Gone Viral is a genuinely sweet romance with two protagonists so kind and giving that you can’t help but be swept into their love story. The beginning of this book is familiar if you remember the “Plane Bae” viral phenomenon in 2018, where someone grossly violated the privacy of her neighbors on a plane by tweeting out their interactions, reporting on what they said, speculating on their actions, and generally weaving a story without their knowledge or consent and feeding it to Twitter. In Girl Gone Viral a similar situations happens to former model Katrina King and it’s horrible. Katrina has anxiety and a panic disorder and she’s worked hard to build a life where she feels safe going to even a few places without worry. She guards her privacy and with good reason, so it was even more heartbreaking to watch that privacy be violated when she speaks to a handsome stranger in a café. After someone live tweets the interaction (and makes up some things to go along with it) and it goes viral, Katrina feels the need to get away. Her bodyguard (and longtime crush with amazing eyebrows), Jas Singh, sweeps Katrina off to his family farm in Northern California… And that’s where things get really interesting.

Katrina and Jas are so kind and self-sacrificing that they trip over themselves trying to give the other what they want. It’s incredibly sweet, but their wariness and caution have also kept each from revealing their true feelings to the other. Getting out of their normal routine may just be the push these two cinnamon rolls need to take a risk and let their feelings show. Author Alisha Rai takes what would otherwise be a fairly straightforward romance and gives it depth and breadth by introducing real-world issues into the story. As previously mentioned, Katrina has a panic disorder. I love that she’s so matter-of-fact in how she copes and how Jas interacts with her in the midst of an attack. Mental health problems can’t be cured, only managed and I appreciated that it wasn’t sensationalized but that we see how Katrina builds her world around her to accommodate her needs without shame. Jas also has very real-world issues to face in this story. The military veteran suffers from PTSD and he struggles with communicating and asking for what he needs, even when he’s among those who love and care for him. Add in family drama for both heroes and you have a very full story, but Ms. Rai weaves everything together effortlessly.

From the start of Girl Gone Viral it’s clear that Jas and Katrina are in love with each other, but their actual romance is slow to burn. I do wish I had seen more of them together once they were romantically linked, but it wasn’t too big an issue for me because they operated as a team so well from the start of the book. I really enjoyed Jas and Katrina’s romance and I know I keep using the word “sweet” but it fits them perfectly (even when things get spicy). Girl Gone Viral feels modern in every way, but there’s a timeless quality to the gentleness and quiet strength of Jas and Katrina’s characters that means this book will be enjoyable for years to come.


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.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Review: Badger to the Bone by Shelly Laurenston

Badger to the Bone by Shelly Laurenston
Series: The Honey Badger Chronicles, Book 3
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: Paranormal Romance
ISBN: 9781496714404
Release Date: March 31, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

She’s the woman he’s been hired to kidnap. But ZeZé Vargas has other ideas… like getting them both out of this nightmare alive. Just one problem. She’s crazy. Certifiably. Because while he’s plotting their escape, the petite Asian beauty is plotting something much more deadly…

Max “Kill It Again” MacKilligan has no idea what one of her own is doing with all these criminal humans until she realizes that Zé has no idea who or what he is. Or exactly how much power he truly has.

But Max is more than happy to bring this handsome jaguar shifter into her world and show him everything he’s been missing out on. A move that might be the dumbest thing she’s ever done once she realizes how far her enemies will go to wipe her out. Too bad for them Zé is willing to do whatever it takes to keep her alive . . . and honey badgers are just so damn hard to kill!

Return to the weird and wonderful world of Shelly Laurenston’s Honey Badgers Chronicles with Badger to the Bone. Max’s book is a rip-roarin’ ride that’s a whole lot of fun, even though there are a lot of missed opportunities.

Badger to the Bone is Max’s story and for those who have read Hot and Badgered and In a Badger Way (which I recommend doing before reading this book) Max was the borderline sociopath MacKilligan sister. I was curious how Ms. Laurenston would turn her into a heroine without doing a character lobotomy. The answer is a bit of a mixed bag. Max is still deadly and full of attitude, but she’s no sociopath. She has previously unknown deep and longstanding friendships beyond her sisters and her best friend Dutch. She’s also far more stable and if not well-adjusted, then the closest approximation you’d find in this world. Because I’ve read the previous two Honey Badger books I found the lack of consistency in her character jarring, as Max didn’t so much grow as a character or reveal hidden layers as suddenly have those layers appear because it suited the story. In terms of storytelling, it felt like some shortcuts were taken. But that doesn’t mean I disliked Max – far from it. She’s violent and crazy, but also fun and caring.

A mad MacKilligan needs an unflappable hero, and ZeZé Vargas was a delicious one. Zé has no idea he’s a shifter at the beginning of the book so watching him discover this part of himself he never knew was a delight. Zé is so catlike it was hilarious and I can’t count the number of times he made me laugh. I really liked Zé and Max together, but their romance did feel at first underplayed and then rushed. I wish it had developed more organically. I also wish Zé had played a bigger role in the events of the story, but he was mostly an observer which was a pity.

There are a number of plots to be tied up in Badger to the Bone and a host of familiar faces from both this series and the Pride series show up to play a part. I can’t say much without spoiling things, but I did enjoy watching everything come together. If I had one issue it was that Max and Zé were distanced from many resolutions, which was a bit frustrating. I wanted them to be more important to their own story than they were.

Badger to the Bone is a difficult book to put a star rating on. There were so many missed opportunities that I am saddened by. However, I had a genuinely wonderful time reading this book. It was fast-paced, funny, and totally bonkers – I loved reading it. Ultimately this book is like cotton candy: thoroughly enjoyable but missing substance. But hey, who doesn’t like cotton candy once in a while?


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.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Review: Matzah Ball Surprise by Laura Brown

Matzah Ball Surprise by Laura Brown
Publisher: Entangled: Lovestruck
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9781682815427
Release Date: March 16, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Entangled

This Passover is starting to feel like the ten plagues might be coming back to haunt them before the weekend is over…one hilarious misstep after the next.

Gaby Fineberg just wants to get through Passover Seder without her “well meaning” family playing matchmaker. She needs a date, just for one simple meal—that includes singing, the history of her forefathers, and not one bit of yeast. The hot guy at her gym would be perfect. He probably hates bread, anyway, with a body like that. But when she finally works up the nerve to ask him...he doesn’t hear a word she said.

Levi Miller is deaf and happily single. Initially, he doesn’t know why this beautiful woman is talking to him, but it’s clear she needs help—and suddenly so does he. In a very complicated situation, Levi finds a simple solution. Gaby will pretend to be his new girlfriend to bail him out, and he’ll return the favor. But he didn’t bargain for a family dinner quite like this one…

Matzah Ball Surprise is a bright and fun romance that will make you smile. I admit I picked up this book simply because I’ve never read a romance set during Passover and I was thrilled to see one out there. I’m so glad I did, because Gaby and Levi are endearing characters and their love story is delightful.

I have been in Gaby’s place at Passover, so I totally sympathize with her wanting a fake boyfriend to play buffer against a well-meaning family. Gaby is a vibrant, colorful character who absolutely hates change (something I also sympathize with). She isn’t perfect, but she’s got a genuinely good heart and is on guard against being lied to because she’s been hurt before. Asking the hunky guy at her gym to be her fake date may have been a spontaneous act, but it was the best thing she could have done for herself. Levi is a sensitive, caring hero who will make you swoon. He’s a Deaf Studies teacher and is deaf himself, so he is patient and understanding while teaching Gaby how to communicate. Levi has his own family issues and an ex-fiancé who is making things complicated for him. Because he tries so hard to take care of everybody, Levi makes mistakes. But they’re mistakes that come from being too nice and giving a person, so you really can’t hold that against him. Gaby and Levi’s whirlwind romance is sweet and enjoyable, though there is some unwanted drama I could see coming due to the aforementioned ex-fiancé that I didn’t quite love. Still, they made Levi and Gaby made a wonderful couple and I liked their romance overall.

What makes Matzah Ball Surprise stand out are two things author Laura Brown weaves into the story incredibly well: (1) Passover and (2) two strangers – one hearing and one deaf – learning to communicate. It’s clear on both topics Ms. Brown knows what she’s talking about and the story is the richer for it. Both protagonists are Jewish, which I loved (it’s surprisingly rare to find this) and Ms. Brown does a fantastic job of showing Passover traditions, adding layers by portraying not only characters who keep Passover but those who are more lax. There are a number of things that felt incredibly real to me, but you absolutely do not have to be Jewish to enjoy this story. As for Levi and Gaby learning to communicate, this was incredibly well done. Gaby doesn’t pick up ASL overnight and it’s eye-opening for her how many things hearing people take for granted or do and are unaware that it excludes deaf people. Levi has grown up with a family who easily communicates with him and he has plenty of deaf friends. I appreciated his patience and instructiveness and found it added a lot to the story. There is a richness and a depth to this otherwise fluffy story that comes from injecting realness into the fantasy. All in all, Matzah Ball Surprise is a fun contemporary romance that – unlike matzah itself – is thoroughly enjoyable.


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.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Review: Love Around the Corner by Amanda Weaver

Love Around the Corner by Amanda Weaver
Series: The Romano Sisters, Book 3
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9781488054013
Release Date: March 9, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Carina Press

The last thing Gemma Romano needs right now is her first love coming back home. She’s trying to keep her family’s bar from being bought up and developed into some glass eyesore, just like all the other family businesses in her beloved Brooklyn neighborhood.

Like it or not, she’s in charge of the Romano legacy, and she can’t afford to risk it—or her heart—on Brendan Flaherty. Not now and not ever again.

Brendan’s old neighborhood is changing fast, but some things are still the same. Gemma’s as devoted to her family, her neighbors, and the bar as she’s always been. And she’s still the one woman he can’t seem to forget.

Gemma’s determined to steer clear of Brendan at first. Not only did he break her teenage heart, but now he’s grown up to be a property developer—he’s the enemy. Staying away from him would be a lot easier if she didn’t find him so infuriatingly attractive. Their chemistry still burns as bright as it ever did. But their painful past is still there, too, and Gemma’s not sure she’s ready to risk her dreams, her business, or her heart on Brendan a second time.

I adore a good second chance romance and Love Around the Corner hits all the right notes. Gemma and Brendan’s story is chock full of emotion; love, fear, hope, distrust, and the terrifying sensation of taking a risk for a chance at something more all blend together wonderfully to create a satisfying romance.

Since the death of her mother, Gemma Romano’s focus has been on her family. She’s never truly allowed herself to dream, instead putting all her time and effort into making sure her sisters succeed and that she keeps the family bar running. The only moments she stole for herself were fourteen years ago when she lost her heart to – and then had it broken by – Brendan Flaherty. Gemma is sometimes a prickly heroine, but she’s easy to like and respect. She works so hard to keep her beloved family bar up and running, but times and her section of Brooklyn are changing and old fashioned bars simply aren’t drawing in new customers. I hated watching her struggle, especially when it’s clear she’s doing it out of a combination of love, fear of letting go, and a sense of responsibly, rather than true passion. I wanted to see her spread her wings, to take a chance on herself and her incredible talent in the kitchen.

Gemma is forced the face the music when Brendan comes back into town. Her first love is all grown up and hotter than ever, but he’s also a property developer – aka the enemy. Of course, Brendan isn’t the bad guy she wants to paint him as. Like Gemma, he’s done what he’s had to do to support his family from far too young an age. It was easy to adore Brendan, especially when he was so clearly head-over-heels for Gemma. They may not have been equipped to handle the curveballs thrown at them as teens, but those times serve as a solid foundation for their second chance at love. Ms. Weaver does an excellent job at conveying the depth of emotion that time, distance, and hurt feelings couldn’t break down. It’s clear Gemma and Brendan are one of those couple that are simply meant to be, even if Gemma is resistant and afraid to risk her heart.

Love Around the Corner is the third book in the Romano Sisters trilogy, but as I haven’t yet read The One I Love to Hate or Love and the Laws of Motion I can safely say this book stands on its own. That being said, after enjoying the family dynamic so much in this story I will definitely be picking up Jess and Livie’s books. Familial love is just as important to Love Around the Corner as the romance and it makes Gemma and Brendan’s world all the warmer for it. I truly enjoyed Gemma and Brendan’s book. It’s heartwarming, sexy, vibrant, and hopeful.


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.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Review: Murder at Pirate’s Cove by Josh Lanyon

Murder at Pirate’s Cove by Josh Lanyon
Series: Secrets and Scrabble, Book 1
Publisher: JustJoshin Publishing, Inc.
Genre: Male/Male Mystery
ASIN: B0826X61C9
Release Date: February 29, 2020
Source: Author
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N
Josh Lanyon Reading Order

Ellery Page, aspiring screenwriter, Scrabble champion and guy-with-worst-luck-in-the-world-when-it-comes-to-dating, is ready to make a change. So when he learns he's inherited both a failing bookstore and a falling-down mansion in the quaint seaside village of Pirate's Cove on Buck Island, Rhode Island, it’s full steam ahead!

Sure enough, the village is charming, its residents amusingly eccentric, and widowed police chief Jack Carson is decidedly yummy (though probably as straight as he is stern). However, the bookstore is failing, the mansion is falling down, and there's that little drawback of finding rival bookseller--and head of the unwelcoming-committee--Trevor Maples dead during the annual Buccaneer Days celebration.

Still, it could be worse. And once Police Chief Carson learns Trevor was killed with the cutlass hanging over the door of Ellery's bookstore, it is.

A quaint seaside town with picturesque streets, adorably-named shops, and pirate-themed celebrations…Pirate’s Cove is practically made for a postcard. It’s exactly the kind of change New York screenwriter Ellery Page needs. Well, it was until a dead body shows up in his newly-inherited bookstore. Ellery is having a hard enough time saving the failing bookstore and trying to keep the crumbling mansion he’s also inherited from falling down around his ears, so being accused of murder is almost enough to make him want to run screaming back to the city. If he wants to make a go of it in Pirate’s Cove, Ellery will need to think like the detectives in the books he sells and – much to the consternation of handsome the police chief Jack Carson – discover who is trying to frame him before time runs out.

Murder at Pirate’s Cove is a delightful cozy mystery with interesting characters and a quirky town I can’t wait come back to. I admit, cozy mysteries aren’t my usual fare but I love Josh Lanyon’s writing so of course I wanted to give this a try. I’m so glad I did, for this book was a fast-paced, fun, and completely addictive.

Ellery isn’t a detective – heck, he doesn’t even read mysteries – but when someone’s trying to frame you for murder, you (at least in fiction) put on your deerstalker cap and get to work. Ellery has a bright, engaging personality that drew me in even when he’s at his most exhausted and frustrated. He’s also readers’ entree into the world of Pirate’s Cove with its cleverly named stores and gossipy residents. I enjoyed the bits of Pirate’s Cove that were introduced in this story and I cannot wait to learn more as the Secrets and Scrabble series goes on. The most intriguing character in Pirate’s Cove is its police chief, Jack Carson. We only get a taste of the real man behind the badge in this story, but oh, what a deliciously intriguing taste it is. There’s no romance in Murder at Pirate’s Cove, but the energy fairly crackles between Ellery and Jack and I can’t wait for the promise of what’s to come.

The question of who murdered the rather unlikable Trevor Maples is at the center of the story and the mystery itself is wholly engaging. I loved watching Ellery put everything together and Ms. Lanyon keeps the twists coming while still making it believable. Since this is a cozy mystery there is no on-page violence or sex, but even to a non-cozy reader like myself the book isn’t missing anything from the lack of it. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Murder at Pirate’s Cove and I cannot wait to learn more about Ellery, Jack, and the residents of Pirate’s Cove!


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.

Review: Bad Bachelor by Stefanie London

Bad Bachelor by Stefanie London
Series: Bad Bachelors, Book 1
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9781728213774
Paperback Reissue Date: March 3, 2020
Source: Publisher/Purchased by Reviewer
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Everybody's talking about the hot new app reviewing New York's most eligible bachelors. But why focus on prince charming when you can read the latest dirt on the lowest-ranked "Bad Bachelors"—NYC's most notorious bad boys.

If one more person mentions Bad Bachelors to Reed McMahon, someone's gonna get hurt. A PR whiz, Reed is known as an 'image fixer' but his womanizing ways have caught up with him. What he needs is a PR miracle of his own.

When Reed strolls into Darcy Greer's workplace offering to help save the struggling library, she isn't buying it. The prickly Brooklynite knows Reed is exactly the kind of guy she should avoid. But the library does need his help. But as she reluctantly works with Reed, she realizes there's more to a man than his reputation. Maybe, just maybe Bad Bachelor #1 is THE one for her.

Bad Bachelor is the kind of book I hate to stick a rating on. I absolutely loved the main characters, the romance, and Stefanie London’s writing. But the story also had some big drawbacks that kept me from falling in love with the book overall.

Let’s start with the good, shall we? I adored Reed and Darcy. Darcy is a librarian and the black sheep of her family. She’s hardworking and cares so much, which I absolutely loved. She’s also incredibly vulnerable between the contentious relationship with her mother and the way her engagement ended the day before she was supposed to be married. She has walls a mile high, but that’s nothing compared the walls Reed has around his heart. Reed is rich, polished, and a PR whiz. But no one sees the man beneath the glossy exterior…until Darcy. Reed has seriously deep old wounds he doesn’t allow anyone to see and they make him unwilling to open his heart and trust any woman. He’s dedicated to his job and being the best, not because of ego, but because the money allows him to care for his ailing father. Aside from wanting to push people away, Reed’s pretty much the perfect hero. He and Darcy are dynamite together and I loved watching them put together a fundraiser for her library. They’re a perfect match even though on the surface they seem nothing alike. The fact that they outwardly seem so different but inwardly have a lot in common is what makes them such an appealing couple. Their love story is easy to fall into and Ms. London makes it impossible not to root for them.

I adored Darcy and Reed so much that I hate to say anything bad about Bad Bachelor. However…the Bad Bachelors app plot was beyond aggravating. The Bad Bachelors app is – in essence – a Yelp review site of New York City’s bachelors. In a place as big as NYC, the number one “Bad Bachelor” isn’t a predator, criminal, abuser, liar, user, addict, cheater, or even someone who doesn’t tip well. No, it’s – brace yourself for the horror – a man who doesn’t want to commit. It’s necessary to roll with this premise or the entire book falls apart, so I knowingly went into this willing to suspend disbelief. The problem is, the more I saw Reed’s hard work being torn apart, his personal and professional reputation being shredded by this popular app, the more sour the taste in my mouth. The more the popularity of the app grew, the more it was like watching a good person be repeatedly kicked in the face not just by bitter and shallow exes, but workplace rivals and possibly internet trolls. The last bit is not altogether implausible, which makes it all the more depressing.

Bad Bachelor has good characters, an engaging and sexy romance, and a background plot that just left a bad taste in my mouth. Darcy’s two best friends, Remi and Annie, are featured in the next two Bad Bachelors books. I loathed Annie and will likely pass on her story, but I adored Remi and I love Ms. London’s writing so I will definitely be reading the next book in the Bad Bachelors series, Bad Reputation.


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

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Review: The Bachelor by Sabrina Jeffries

The Bachelor by Sabrina Jeffries
Series: Duke Dynasty, Book 2
Publisher: Zebra
Genre: Historical Romance
ISBN: 9781420148565
Release Date: February 25, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Sabrina Jeffries Reading Order

Lady Gwyn Drake has long protected her family’s reputation by hiding an imprudent affair from her youth. But when her former suitor appears at Armitage Hall, manhandling the heiress and threatening to go public with her secrets, it’s Gwyn who needs protecting. Her twin brother, Thorn, hires Joshua Wolfe, the estate’s gamekeeper, to keep her safe in London during her debut. As a war hero, Joshua feels obligated to fulfill the assignment he has accepted. But as a man, it’s torment to be so very close to the beauty he’s fought to ignore…

With handsome Joshua monitoring her every move, Gwyn would prefer to forget both the past and the parade of money-seeking bachelors at her coming out. But Joshua is unmoved by her attempts at flirtation, and the threat of blackmail still hangs over her. With danger closing in, Gwyn must decide which is the greater risk: deflecting a scoundrel’s attempts to sabotage her—or revealing her whole heart to the rugged bodyguard she can’t resist…

A vibrant lady and a wounded war hero are a match just waiting to happen in The Bachelor. After seeing sparks fly between Gwyn and Joshua in the first Duke Dynasty book, I couldn't wait to read their story. The result was a bit of a mixed bag for me.

At thirty, Gwyn would definitely be on the shelf (even as the daughter of a deceased duke and sister of three current dukes) if it weren’t for her fortune. But Gwyn has a secret she believes might keep her from the love she dreams of and when her past comes back to haunt her in the form of a blackmailing villain, it’s clear she’s in over her head. Help comes in the form of Joshua Wolfe, a wounded war hero determined to regain his position in the military even though he’s injured. Gwyn is bright and lively, but secretly vulnerable and Joshua is grumpy, hurting, and unhappy with his current place in the world. They’re clearly begging for a wonderful love story and I did like them together. Their romance ticked all the boxes, but there was a bit of the usual Sabrina Jeffries magic missing in their story.

Gwyn’s former suitor who is now blackmailing her adds an edge to the story. Malet is a villain worth loathing and I wanted to see Gwyn free of him. There’s an added twist to the Malet storyline to further draw Joshua into it that I’m not sure was absolutely necessary, but I was game to go along with it if only to see our protagonists bring Malet down. But the tension Malet brought to the story had nothing on the push-pull between Gwyn and Joshua. Joshua doesn’t want to be attracted to Gwyn and she doesn’t care for it when he runs hot and cold. Class differences aren’t really an issue; Joshua may be the impoverished cousin of a duke, but since that duke is Gwyn’s half-brother (and Joshua’s sister is married to one of Gwyn’s other half-brothers) nobody has to worry about their family approving of the match. And speaking of their muddled family tree, the family dynamics at play in The Bachelor were a delight. The love, frustration, and interference siblings bring is on full display in this book and adds depth to the story. I loved watching Gwyn and Joshua interact with their family members, so even though this book was just an ok read for me, I really cannot wait to read the next Duke Dynasty book.


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.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Review: A Taste of Sage by Yaffa S. Santos

A Taste of Sage by Yaffa S. Santos
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9780062974846
Release Date: May 19, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

Lumi Santana is a chef with the gift of synesthesia—she can perceive a person’s emotions just by tasting their cooking. Despite being raised by a single mother who taught her that dreams and true love were silly fairy tales, she decides to take a chance and puts her heart and savings into opening a fusion restaurant in Inwood, Manhattan. The restaurant offers a mix of the Dominican cuisine she grew up with and other world cuisines that have been a source of culinary inspiration to her.

When Lumi’s eclectic venture fails, she is forced to take a position as a sous chef at a staid, traditional French restaurant in midtown owned by Julien Dax, a celebrated chef known for his acid tongue as well as his brilliant smile. Lumi and Julien don’t get along in the kitchen--to say Lumi is irritated by Julien’s smug attitude is an understatement, and she secretly vows never to taste his cooking. Little does she know that her resolve doesn’t stand a chance against Julien’s culinary prowess.

As Julien produces one delectable dish after another, each one tempting Lumi with its overwhelming aromas and gorgeous presentations, she can no longer resist and samples one of his creations. She isn’t prepared for the feelings that follow as she’s overcome with intense emotions. She begins to crave his cooking throughout the day, which throws a curveball in her plan to save up enough money and move on as soon as possible. Plus, there’s also the matter of Esme, Julien’s receptionist who seems to always be near and watching. As the attraction between Lumi and Julien simmers, Lumi experiences a tragedy that not only complicates her professional plans, but her love life as well…

I adore a good culinary romance and I couldn’t wait to read A Taste of Sage. I enjoyed Lumi and Julien’s love of cooking and the way author Yaffa S. Santos writes those scenes will make foodies and non-foodies alike salivate. Lumi’s gift for Dominican fusion creations and Julien’s traditional French cooking were the highlights of this book, but unfortunately there wasn’t much else that I loved.

Lumi Santana is a likeable heroine and she’s easy to care about, especially after the heartbreaking closure of her restaurant. I hated seeing her dream shattered and I was rooting for her to succeed professionally every step of the way. In the meantime, Lumi has to pay her bills and that means taking a job as a sous chef at a traditional French restaurant owned by mercurial chef Julien Dax. Julien is shown to be a hot-tempered snob in the beginning, but that kind of fades. Julien isn’t an easy character to pin down, mostly because he isn’t as well-drawn as Lumi. Julien is, in essence, whatever the plot needs him to be at any given moment. He’s temperamental, he’s rude, he’s smitten, he’s obsessed, he’s devoted… There are some hints at depth to his character, but because he’s so inconsistent nothing really sticks out. Their romance is rather shallow and seems based on lust and a shared love of food more than anything else. I wanted to like them as a couple, but I really couldn’t work up any enthusiasm and simply did not care about their romance.

A Taste of Sage starts off as a fairly straightforward opposites attract story and I was totally ready to enjoy this beloved trope. But partway through things seem to just fall apart. There’s an overreliance on Lumi’s gift of synesthesia to further the plot and there’s also a minor “bad guy” who may not be so bad after all…? I can’t be entirely certain because many of the characters simply change according to what the plot calls for. I did like Lumi’s friends and would like to explore their characters more. But aside from Rafelina and Jenny, the rest of the supporting cast is thinly-drawn and inconsistent in their behavior. I also didn’t like that Ms. Santos defined every single heavy character by their weight and in incredibly frustrating terms. I grew tired of hearing people referred to as “portly,” “fleshy,” and “Michelin Man.” For example, I would have liked to learn more about Julien’s sister and the family dynamics that are brought up and then dropped, but sadly all I know about her is that she works in HR and is – to use this book’s term – “portly.”

A Taste of Sage had potential, but ultimately missed the mark for me. I enjoyed the culinary aspects of the story and Lumi was an interesting heroine for much of the book, but I wasn’t sold on the romance, the inconsistent characters, or the dropped storylines.


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 16, 2020

Review: The Demigod Complex by Abigail Owen

The Demigod Complex by Abigail Owen
Series: Brimstone Inc., Book 1
Publisher: Entangled: Amara
Genre: Paranormal Romance
ISBN: 9781682815427
Release Date: February 17, 2020
Source: Publisher/Purchased by Reviewer
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Entangled

When Lyleia Naiad was head-hunted by Brimstone, Inc., for her job as Executive Assistant to a high-powered billionaire demigod, she was given one directive—do NOT fall in love with Castor Dioskouri. Doesn’t matter if he’s the son of Zeus and can electrify a room with a single glance. As an ex-nymph, she possesses a unique ability—a gift from the goddesses to protect nymphs from the randy gods—to resist her boss's charms.

Or so she thought.

He insists she accompany him to an alpha wolf shifter mating ceremony, an event where the pheromones fly, and so do clothes...and inhibitions.

Goddesses save her, because Castor has stolen into Lyleia’s heart, and she’s not so sure she can hold out much longer…

*This novella was previously self published but has undergone a complete re-edit. Scenes were added, things were changed, but the kissing still remains!

The Demigod Complex is a fun spin on the Greek gods and nymphs. I so enjoyed Castor and Lyleia’s story that it was impossible for me to put it down.

Leia is a nymph who lost her spring and – by extension – her family centuries ago after angering a powerful entity. She’s never been fully happy since, but she’s come back to life working as Castor Dioskouri’s Executive Assistant. Though he’s the son of Zeus, his demigod status doesn’t prevent Castor from also knowing loss. He’s been living half a life since his wife died so long ago. He requested Brimstone, Inc. send him an assistant who wouldn’t fall for his charms, which is why they sent Leia, whose powers as a nymph provide her with a natural resistance to gods. What that natural resistance doesn’t cover is the attraction between the two that springs naturally. It’s clear from the start that Castor and Leia are made for each other. But both are afraid to open their hearts and take a risk; Leia especially since she fears an old enemy may be coming for her again. But when the two attend an alpha wolf shifter mating, the additional pheromones may be enough to get them to lose their inhibitions and take a chance on a happily ever after that would last for eternity.

There’s a crackling energy between Castor and Leia that makes it easy to fall into their romance. Author Abigail Owen knows how to pack a punch in a short space and sets the foundation for the romance quickly allowing readers to be swept up in a love story that’s both sexy and heartwarming. Leia and Castor are both powerful and protective in their own ways and I absolutely adored these two. Ms. Owen weaves mythology wonderfully into this modern day boss/secretary romance and the appearance of gods, nymphs, and shifters give familiar tropes a fresh new feel. All in all, The Demigod Complex is a fast-paced, sensual, action-packed read and I cannot wait to see what’s next in the Brimstone Inc. series!


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

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.