Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Review: The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon

The Ex Talk Rachel Lynn Solomon
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
The Ex Talk cover
ISBN: 9780593200124
Release Date: January 26, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Shay Goldstein has been a producer at her Seattle public radio station for nearly a decade, and she can't imagine working anywhere else. But lately it's been a constant clash between her and her newest colleague, Dominic Yun, who's fresh off a journalism master's program and convinced he knows everything about public radio.

When the struggling station needs a new concept, Shay proposes a show that her boss green-lights with excitement. On The Ex Talk, two exes will deliver relationship advice live, on air. Their boss decides Shay and Dominic are the perfect co-hosts, given how much they already despise each other. Neither loves the idea of lying to listeners, but it's this or unemployment. Their audience gets invested fast, and it's not long before The Ex Talk becomes a must-listen in Seattle and climbs podcast charts.

As the show gets bigger, so does their deception, especially when Shay and Dominic start to fall for each other. In an industry that values truth, getting caught could mean the end of more than just their careers.

The Ex Talk is a sprightly romance with entertaining banter, a wonderfully diverse cast, and a story that flies by. Rachel Lynn Solomon’s adult romance debut has a lot of charm and the concept of fake exes rather than fake dating was fresh and fun.

Outside of her job, Shay is kind of a hot mess and I liked that she didn’t have it all together, nor did she pretend to. The death of her father marked her as a teenager and their shared love of public radio has shaped her career. At twenty-nine she has devoted her entire career so far to Pacific Public Radio. But she has to deal with a sexist boss who takes her work for granted and throws praise on the new hotshot guy in the office. Shay takes an instant dislike to Dominic, partly because of jealousy and partly because of what she sees as his arrogance. However, Dominic is too cute for words. The twenty-four-year-old journalist with a master’s from Northwestern has confidence to spare but he’s not the arrogant jerk Shay first sees him as. Dominic is passionate about journalism and he still has his idealism that makes him feel fresh which I enjoyed. What I loved more is that Dominic isn’t always smooth and there are some things I will leave readers to learn about him which were adorable. I defy readers not to love Dominic and once Shay gets to know him it’s clear she can’t hold out either.

When Shay proposes the idea of two exes hosting a radio show her boss is enthusiastic. Only due to budget cuts he comes up with a twist of his own: Shay and Dominic pretend to be exes and host the show. The lie sticks in both their craws but with their jobs on the line they’re backed into a corner. Their bickering and banter does make for perfect radio and I honestly loved the show transcript clips Solomon wrote so much that I wish there were a lot more. The more time they spend together, the better Dominic and Shay get to know one another. And when that happens, love and lust start to simmer. I enjoyed watching them fall for each other and though the age gap is brought up a lot, it honestly isn’t big and – when it comes to relationships – Shay is a bit immature so if the five year gap wasn’t mentioned as much as it was I wouldn’t have noticed. Dominic and Shay are cute together and though their scenes together lost some energy when there wasn’t banter, I liked them and was rooting for them to make it.

The highlight of The Ex Talk was, for me, the characters’ love of public radio and podcasts. Solomon does a fantastic job of weaving in what goes on behind the scenes and I found it incredibly compelling. You can tell when an author loves something – it just shows in their writing and makes you start to fall for it too. So if you don’t come out of this read at least a little bit in love with public radio then I’d be surprised.

A rich and diverse supporting cast rounds out The Ex Talk and makes Shay and Dominic’s world feel more real. I really enjoyed Shay and Dominic’s friends and family and the way Solomon nods to multiple cultures and traditions. There’s also a really good emotional heft to the scenes with Shay and her mother. Grief and the loss of a loved one is a theme in this story and informs a lot of Shay’s choices, but it doesn’t take over the book and Solomon treats the heavier topics with the respect they deserve. All in all, I really enjoyed The Ex Talk. It has flawed but well-meaning characters, solid banter, and an enjoyable romance.

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, January 23, 2021

Review: Single Player by Elia Winters

Single Player by Elia Winters
Series: Slices of Pi, Book 3
Publisher: Pocket Star
Genre: Male/Male Erotic Contemporary Romance 
Single Player cover
ISBN: 9781501140983
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo
Elia Winters Reading Order

Matthew Abrams finally has the life he’s always wanted—a promising career as a programmer at PI Games, a decent apartment in a nice neighborhood, and a thriving social life. And he’s perfectly content until he has a one-night stand with Silas Benson, a biomedical engineer with a charitable side to boot. Suddenly Matthew is doubting his life choices and worrying he might not be living up to his full potential.

Silas Benson doesn’t have time for much else outside of work, and that’s how he’s always liked it. As a biomedical engineer, he’s at the cutting edge of advances in the field, and he’s not going to waste his life partying when he could be doing actual good in the world. After a one-night stand at his friend’s twenty-fifth birthday party, though, Silas feels his focus shifting toward a certain tall, dark, and handsome almost-stranger.

When an emotional breakdown requires Silas to take a leave of absence from work, Matthew rushes to his aid and teaches him the merits of frivolity. Silas is an unwilling student at first, but Matthew soon has him in the groove, which makes for one steamy, wild ride. But is this a forever sort of affair, or will Silas abandon Matthew’s wanton ways in favor of a life of serious-minded solitude?

Opposites attract in the sexy and oh-so-fun Single Player. Every time I read this book I’m drawn to Matthew and Silas. They’re complicated, imperfect men who make a perfectly wonderful, seriously hot couple.

Matthew has been coasting along as PI Games, only doing what’s required and making sure he keeps his weekends free for bartending and gaming. He doesn’t feel the need to take on more responsibility even though he’s more than capable of it. He’s charming, open, flirtatious, and his personality draws you in because he’s so genuine. Silas is a genuine workaholic. His parents drilled into him from a young age that he has to use his mind and talents to work hard and do nothing else. The work he does as a biomedical engineer is important, but he’s breaking apart and can’t even see it. Silas also has mild Asperger’s and misses a lot of social cues, but when he’s at his best friend’s twenty-fifth birthday party he can’t miss the signals the smoking hot bartender is throwing his way. He and Matthew have serious chemistry and I loved their first heated encounter. But what grows from that is so much better.

I adored Matthew and Silas together. Matthew helps Silas learn to relax, which is heartbreakingly difficult for him. And Silas makes Matthew question the path he’s on. It’s not easy for Matthew and he definitely doesn’t like having to ask himself uncomfortable questions. There’s a hidden vulnerability to Matthew that’s less obvious than Silas’s and I wanted to hug both of them. As individuals, they are well-crafted, compelling characters. Together they are smoking hot and suit each other far better than you’d expect given how different they are on the surface. Their different outlooks and personalities do lead to some rocky moments, but I trusted Elia Winters to take them to a happily ever after that was satisfying and earned – and she definitely did.

Single Player is the third book in the Slices of Pi series and it can be easily read as a standalone. Fans of Even Odds and Tied Score will enjoy catching up with their favorite characters – I definitely did. It would also be remiss of me not to mention new supporting characters. Silas’s best friend, Dee, was the kind of character you wish were real so she could be your best friend too. Then there’s Zuul. Matthew’s rescue kitten threatened to steal the show with sheer adorableness but she also added to the story. I adored every book in the Slices of Pi series and Single Player is no exception. The characters are unique, the romances red hot, and the writing totally addictive.

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, January 18, 2021

Review: Hit Me With Your Best Scot by Suzanne Enoch

Hit Me With Your Best Scot by Suzanne Enoch
Series: The Wild Wicked Highlanders, Book 3
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Genre: Historical Romance 
Hit Me With Your Best Scot cover
ISBN: 9781250296429
Release Date: February 9, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

The MacTaggert brothers have one task:
Find English brides or lose their land!

Coll MacTaggert, Viscount Glendarril, is a big, brawny Highlander who doesn’t like being told what to do—not even by his exasperated English mother who is determined to see her eldest son wedded and bedded. However, when he comes to the rescue of an irresistibly beautiful woman, Coll discovers that he may have found his perfect match…

The challenge isn’t that Persephone Jones is famous, wealthy, independent, and smarter than anyone he knows. The problem is that she isn't interested in marrying any man—especially not a hot-headed Scot—even if he is the only man who seems to understand who she really is even when she’s not sure herself. When Coll learns that Persephone is actually a lady-in-hiding and someone is willing to kill her for what she stands to inherit…Well, Coll has never been one to turn down a fight. When hearts are involved, nothing comes between a Highlander and his lady.

Hit Me With Your Best Scot is a delightful read. I had my reservations going into the eldest MacTaggert’s story because Coll was a lot to handle in his brothers’ books, but Suzanne Enoch showed him to be a wonderful hero without changing him into someone else. Coll is blunt, brash, and brawny, his keen mind hidden beneath the exterior he uses to fool people who don’t want to look deeper. He has no patience for the rules of society and even less for his mother’s demand that he wed an Englishwoman within the next month or lose the funding for their family’s home and tenants. To stop his mother from meddling, Coll claims he’s engaged to Persephone Jones, the famous actress. He doesn’t really intend to wed her, but Persephone is the first woman who actually makes Coll want something more. Her wit matches his own and sparks fly between the two immediately. And when he finds out Persephone is in danger…well, nothing will stop him from protecting the woman who is fast capturing his heart.

Persephone is taken with Coll from the start as well. The handsome, straightforward Highlander sees the woman she is instead of the roles she plays. Persephone is a self-made woman who carries a secret and I liked her right from the start. She’s a woman who isn’t afraid of going for what she wants and desire isn’t something she’s afraid of. She and Coll are incredibly well-suited despite their different stations. I was rooting for them to get their happily ever after but first Persephone has to survive the attempts on her life. I enjoyed watching Coll learn the pieces of her past though I don’t believe the mystery is all that, well, mysterious. What I enjoyed more was the love story. Coll and Persephone fit into each other’s lives perfectly and their banter made the pages of Hit Me With Your Best Scot fly by. I enjoyed watching Coll charm her household (especially her cat, Hades). And though I felt like the climax of the book was a bit rushed, I was still so charmed by the book overall that I can forgive the hurried wrap up.

Hit Me With Your Best Scot is the third book in the Wild Wicked Highlanders series but it can easily be read as a standalone. Coll’s family members all play supporting roles and man, did Enoch make me want a novella for his parents. The Earl and Countess Aldriss are flawed characters who have definitely made bad calls as parents and as husband and wife but they have an undeniable chemistry that makes me yearn for their story. All in all, Coll and Persephone’s book was energetic, exciting, and wholly entertaining.

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, January 12, 2021

Review: The Forever Girl by Jill Shalvis

The Forever Girl by Jill Shalvis
Series: Wildstone, Book 6
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance 
The Forever Girl cover
ISBN: 9780062897855
Release Date: January 12, 2021
Source: Author
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Jill Shalvis Reading Order

When Maze returns to Wildstone for the wedding of her estranged bff and the sister of her heart, it’s also a reunion of a once ragtag team of teenagers who had only each other until a tragedy tore them apart and scattered them wide.

Now as adults together again in the lake house, there are secrets and resentments mixed up in all the amazing childhood memories. Unexpectedly, they instantly fall back into their roles: Maze their reckless leader, Cat the den mother, Heather the beloved baby sister, and Walker, a man of mystery.

Life has changed all four of them in immeasurable ways. Maze and Cat must decide if they can rebuild their friendship, and Maze discovers her long-held attraction to Walker hasn’t faded with the years but has only grown stronger.

The Forever Girl is a love note to the family you make. Maze, Caitlin, Heather, and Walker were briefly foster siblings but the bond they forged that one year is unbreakable and warmed my heart. Back together for Cat’s wedding after a period of estrangement, the four of them all have secrets that will be uncovered.

Maze is the impulsive one who is afraid of being vulnerable. She’d throw herself in front of a train for the other three, but her guilt and fears hold her back quite a bit. One of the things she’s afraid of? Her feelings for Walker. She’s been drawn to the strong and silent FBI agent since they were both teenagers but after an incident a few years ago she’s been avoiding him. Walker has had so many people walk away from him that my heart broke. He’s deeply caring and protective of everyone. Maze is the only person who can absolutely go toe-to-toe with him and I loved their chemistry. It’s clear from the start they’re perfect together but love isn’t enough when you have two people who carry deep-seated emotional scars. I was ready for the ups and downs in their romance and I had faith Jill Shalvis would bring them together in an organic, satisfying way.

The third point of view in The Forever Girl belongs to Caitlin. Cat has always been the one trying to keep everyone else together. She loves Maze, Walker, and Heather desperately and wants nothing more than her family to be together. She’s a bit of a wreck, engaged to a man who it’s no spoiler to say isn’t the one for her. Cat has always seemed so perfect that people don’t always catch how close to the edge she is until things fall apart. I adored Cat and wanted to see her stop going along with the flow, to claim the life she wants and tell anyone who doesn’t like it where they can shove it.

While we don’t spend any time in Heather’s head, she and Maze’s friend Jace do help complete the story. Heather is the youngest of the bunch and she’s got a bright spirit and a determined soul. And Jace is a sweetheart; an understanding friend who isn’t afraid to call Maze’s bluff. While the romance between Maze and Walker was engaging, the love between friends and siblings is every bit as important to this book as the romantic love story. These characters flow well together. They bicker, they laugh, and they come together when it counts, without reservation or judgment. Shalvis’s particular brand of humor and heart is on full display in The Forever Girl, making this the ideal story to curl up with and get lost in for a while.

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.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Review: Someday My Duke Will Come by Christina Britton

Someday My Duke Will Come by Christina Britton
Series: Isle of Synne, Book 2
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Historical Romance 
Someday My Duke Will Come cover
ISBN: 9781538717509
Release Date: January 12, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

Lady Clara Ashford had no intention of ever getting married. A rogue took advantage of her innocence when she was young, and she's spent her whole life trying to make sure no one finds out. But now that her sister is engaged, Clara's well-meaning aunt has set her sights on Clara. Desperate to avoid the matchmaking schemes, Clara's not sure what to do -- until her neighbor, the new Duke of Reigate, shows up on her doorstep in need of her help.

Quincy Nesbitt reluctantly accepted the dukedom after his brother's death, but he'll be damned if he accepts his brother's fiancée as well. The only polite way to decline is to become engaged to someone else -- quickly. Lady Clara has the right connections and happens to need him as much as he needs her. But he soon discovers she's also witty and selfless, and if he's not careful, he just might lose his heart.

Some books just capture your heart from the first page and don’t let go. That is exactly what Someday My Duke Will Come did for me. Christina Britton swept me away with endearing characters who made me smile and tear up and a romance I found it nigh on impossible to tear myself away from.

Quincy has launched himself onto the list of my favorite heroes. He’s sensitive, caring, and kind – a total sweetheart you could see anyone losing their heart to. He has charm and good humor to spare, but beneath the surface are old wounds from the death of his beloved father and the cruelty of his horrid mother. Quincy has dreams of seeing the world; dreams that are dashed when he learns that all three of his older brothers have died and he is now a duke. Having run away from home at fourteen and shaping himself into a self-made man, Quincy goes to the one person he knows he can talk to: another unexpected duke – his best friend, Peter. But it’s not Peter who becomes Quincy’s shelter from the storm of emotions swirling around him, it’s Peter’s cousin Clara.

Clara grabbed my heart as thoroughly as Quincy did. She raised her siblings after her mother’s death and has taken care of her family so thoroughly that at nearly thirty-one she finds herself at loose ends with her sister getting married and her family no longer needing her like they once did. Clara has no intention of ever getting married – a secret that pains her to this day prevents it. But her aunt is determined to see her wed and it’s getting stressful. Then Quincy shows up with his mother trying to foist an unwanted engagement on him and Clara has the perfect solution: they’ll pretend to be engaged until her sister is wed and Quincy sets the dukedom to rights. The problem is, the more time they spend around each other the harder it is for them to resist falling in love.

Together and separately, Quincy and Clara are simply wonderful. Clara is kind, nurturing, strong, and quietly vulnerable. Her family has leaned on her for so long it was lovely to see her find someone she could turn to. Quincy has strong shoulders and a soft heart and I loved how he never pressed Clara to open up to him, but rather let her know he was there for her and proved it. The two of them made me smile so often. There’s playfulness and joy in Someday My Duke Will Come and it balances out the elements that tugged on my heartstrings. The love story develops organically and I was rooting for Clara and Quincy every step of the way.

Someday My Duke Will Come is the second book in Britton’s Isle of Synne series but having not read A Good Duke Is Hard to Find I can safely say you can jump in here. Peter and Lenora do play strong supporting roles in this book and I cannot wait to go back and read their story. I loved how supportive Clara’s family was and how Britton portrays love in all its forms in this book. It would be remiss of me to discuss this book and not highlight Peter and Quincy’s friendship. It was such a joy to me to see an openly loving, supportive male friendship portrayed in this story. I hadn’t realized how much I’ve missed that in historical romances in particular until I came across here.

Someday My Duke Will Come was a delight from beginning to end. It’s a sprightly book with good humor and heart, but there’s also honest, raw emotion that tugged on my heartstrings. I cannot wait to read more of Christina Britton’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.

Review: All the Colors of the Night by Jayne Ann Krentz

All the Colors of the Night by Jayne Ann Krentz
Series: Fogg Lake, Book 2
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Romantic Suspense with Paranormal Elements 
All the Colors of the Night cover
ISBN: 9781984806819
Release Date: January 5, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

North Chastain possesses a paranormal talent that gives him the ability to track down the most dangerous psychic criminals. When his father suddenly falls into a coma-like state, North is convinced it was caused by a deadly artifact that traces back to the days of a secret government program known only as the Bluestone Project. North knows his only hope of saving his father is to find the artifact. He is good when it comes to tracking down killers, but to locate the relic he’s going to need help from a psychic who knows the shadowy world of obsessive collectors, deceptive dealers and ruthless raiders…

With her reputation in ruins after a false accusation, antiques expert Sierra Raines is looking for a fresh start. She turns to the murky backwaters of the paranormal artifacts trade, finding and transporting valuable objects with a psychic provenance. When North Chastain approaches her for help, Sierra takes him on as a client, though not without reservations. North represents the mysterious Foundation, the secretive organization established to police the underworld populated by psychic criminals and those, like Sierra, who make a living in the shadows of that world.

North and Sierra soon find themselves at the scene of the Incident, which occurred decades ago in Fogg Lake. The town and its residents were forever changed by the disaster in the nearby Bluestone Project labs. The pair unearths shocking truths about what happened that fateful night, but they are playing with fire—someone in town knows what they’ve discovered and will do anything to make sure the secrets stay buried.

Magic and science make interesting bedfellows in All the Colors of the Night. Jayne Ann Krentz’s second Fogg Lake book delves further into her world of auras, light energy, psychics, and the obsessive quest for power and the ability to harness the paranormal.

North is a cleaner for the mysterious Foundation, but he’s losing his paranormal abilities. He can feel the clock counting down and isn’t sure what to do with himself once he goes psi-blind. But before his powers leave him he has to make a trip to the Pacific Northwest to find a way to save his father who was attacked because he found an artifact that traces back to a secret government program people would kill to learn more about. Sierra is a go-between who deals in the undergrown world of artifacts with psychic provenance. Together the two of them must solve the mystery of who attacked North’s father and why. I liked learning more about the Bluestone Project and the artifacts that came from it. I can’t say much because it’ll spoil the story but we delve deeper into the history of the project and the major players who may have developed light-based weapons.

Krentz weaves an engaging story with action that’s made all the more interesting by the paranormal elements at play. Sierra and North both have unique psychic gifts that aid them on their quest and I was fascinated by the way light, crystals, and auras are used in this story. North and Sierra have solid chemistry from the start so it was easy to see they’d make a good couple. They work well together in the way of many a Krentz hero and heroine so if you’ve been reading the author’s books for a long time you’ll fall into the rhythm pretty quickly. The romance moved at a steady pace over the course of the story but I did feel like it was a bit rushed at the very end.

All the Colors of the Night is the second book in the Fogg Lake series but Krentz provides enough information that you can jump in here if you would like to. And if you’re a fan of her Arcane Society series (written as Amanda Quick), you are sure to delight in the nods to that series. All the Colors of the Night doesn’t bring any surprises, but it’s a satisfying story nonetheless. I am looking forward to seeing how some of the questions left open are answered in the final Fogg Lake 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, January 4, 2021

Best Books of 2020

2020 was a horrible year in many ways and I can’t lie and say I’m not glad to leave it behind. However, 2020 did bring with it some wonderful reads and it’s pure pleasure to look back on them before I dive into an exciting new year of books. In 2020 I read 146 books, including a few re-reads that I fell in love with all over again. I tried 56 debut/new-to-me authors and discovered some wonderful authors whose backlists I cannot wait to dive into. And finally, I participated in my eleventh A to Z Reading Challenge, a fun challenge that usually leads me to at least a couple of books I might not have moved to the top of my TBR pile otherwise.

I read a number of excellent books last year, but below are my top ten reads of 2020. All of the books on this list were first-time reads (and not necessarily published in 2020) because re-reads are generally books that are already favorites of mine. 

Wit and Sin - Best Books of 2020

My Top Ten Books of 2020

Note: The books are alphabetized by author as I love them all equally.

Beauty and the Clockwork Beast cover

1. Beauty and the Clockwork Beast (Steampunk Proper Romance, Book 1) by Nancy Campbell Allen

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Kiss My Cupcake cover

2. Kiss My Cupcake by Helena Hunting
My Review

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

My Last Duchess cover

3. My Last Duchess (The Wildes of Lindow Castle, Book 0.5) by Eloisa James
My Review

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Murder at Pirates Cove cover

4. Murder at Pirate’s Cove (Secrets and Scrabble, Book 1) by Josh Lanyon
My Review

Amazon | B&N | Kobo

Marriage on Madison Avenue cover

5. Marriage on Madison Avenue (Central Park Pact, Book 3) by Lauren Layne
My Review

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

When the Earl Met His Match cover

6. When the Earl Met His Match (Wedded by Scandal, Book 4) by Stacy Reid
My Review

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Entangled

The Pearl cover

7. The Pearl (The Godwicks, Book 3) by Tiffany Reisz
My Review

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The Return cover

8. The Return (The Original Sinners – The Chateau, Book 2) by Tiffany Reisz

Amazon | B&N | Kobo

Alpha Night cover

9. Alpha Night (Psy-Changeling Trinity, Book 4) by Nalini Singh
My Review

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Hairpin Curves cover

10. Hairpin Curves by Elia Winters
My Review

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Saturday, January 2, 2021

Review: The Fiancé by Stefanie London

The Fiancé by Stefanie London
Series: Close Quarters, Book 4
Publisher: Harlequin Dare
Genre: Erotic Contemporary Romance 
The Fiance cover
ISBN: 9780369702319
Release Date: January 1, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Harlequin

I may be a barely employed, soon-to-be-homeless teacher/waitress, but that doesn’t mean I’ll marry any creep my mum brings around. Some guys like short and curvy! And I haven’t given up on the dream—the love of a man who makes me hotter than a Melbourne summer night.

Getting caught in a supply closet with CEO Daniel Moretti is the cherry on top of my day from hell…until the heat in his dark eyes makes me want to rip off my spaghetti-sauce-stained catering uniform. Daniel can’t risk more salacious rumors, so he proposes a deal—I agree to be his fake fiancée and he’ll help me get back on my feet.

Moving in to Daniel’s luxurious loft puts us in close quarters. And it’s not long before we’re saying yes all night long! But Daniel wants nothing to do with passionate love, and I won’t settle for anything less. Could a fake engagement lead to true love…or am I only fooling myself?

The Fiancé is sexy, fun, and a truly enjoyable romance to be swept away by for a few hours. I love a wound-tight hero who is undone by a straight-shooting heroine and Daniel and Ava gave that in spades.

Ava is a teacher who has had a run of bad luck. She isn’t able to land a permanent job as a teacher, has to work at night for a catering company, and now her apartment is being sold and there’s no way she can find a place like it at a rate she can afford. It seems like the cherry on top of a s--- sundae when she’s caught in the supply closet with Daniel Moretti. She can’t afford to lose her job if her boss thinks she’s hitting up supply closets with clients, but Daniel offers an interesting proposition: he’ll help her get back on her feet if she agrees to pose as his fiancée. Ava is a kindhearted, hardworking woman who can’t catch a break and I felt for her. There are elements of Cinderella as she’s swept away by Daniel and finds herself living a life so far from her normal. And Daniel is a Prince Charming…just a flawed, emotionally scarred one. Daniel knows image is everything and he needs Ava’s help to stave off false rumors that are threatening his company and his relationship with his brother. Daniel has seen firsthand the toxic side of love. His parents’ marriage was a disaster – to put it mildly – and he’s scarred and afraid to open up because of it. He keeps himself apart from everyone, but Ava isn’t about to let him hide behind his walls.

A fake relationship becomes all-too-real almost immediately thanks to the irresistible pull between Ava and Daniel. Their chemistry is fantastic and Stefanie London cranks the heat on high to devastatingly sexy effect. I love the heat and the heart as Ava and Daniel become more and more intertwined. So if you’re looking for a sexy Cinderella story where things only get better after midnight, The Fiancé is the perfect read for you.

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, January 1, 2021

2021 A to Z Reading Challenge

I've had a blast doing this challenge for the past few years and I can't resist doing it again. I've discovered a few now-favorite books I might not have otherwise noticed because of this challenge :)

Challenge details:
- Duration: January 1, 2021 - December 31, 2021
- Read 26 books which titles begin with the letters of the alphabet.
- You may ignore articles like A, An and The at the beginning of the title.
- For the letter X, any book title with the letter X in it is acceptable if you can't find one that begins with X.
- You can sign up anytime.
- Please only list books you have read. You can read them in any order.
- A book only counts once, so you can include a re-read the first time you read it.

Challenge Completed: December 7, 2021

My List:
All the Colors of the Night by Jayne Ann Krentz – 1/8/21
Becoming by Michelle Obama – 2/20/21
Combustion by Elia Winters – 2/14/21
Duke Heist, The by Erica Ridley – 2/7/21
Earth Bound by Christine Feehan – 3/6/21
Fiancé, The by Stefanie London – 1/2/21
Ghost of a Chance by Josh Lanyon – 3/25/21
Hit Me With Your Best Scot by Suzanne Enoch – 1/16/21
In Case of Emergency by Keira Andrews – 1/16/21
Just a Bit Obsessed by Alessandra Hazard – 1/16/21
Kissing Under the Mistletoe anthology – 9/6/21
Lady’s Formula for Love, A by Elizabeth Everett – 2/13/21
Murder on the Links, The by Agatha Christie – 1/29/21
Neon Gods by Katee Robert – 5/27/21
One Thing Leads to a Lover by Susanna Craig – 3/23/21
Persuasion by Jane Austen – 4/14/21
Quiet in Her Bones by Nalini Singh – 2/20/21
Requiem for Mr. Busybody by Josh Lanyon – 2/28/21
Someday My Duke Will Come by Christina Britton – 1/10/21
To Sir, with Love by Lauren Layne – 6/27/21
Undercover Duke by Sabrina Jeffries – 5/23/21
Very Punchable Face, A by Colin Jost – 2/17/21
Wild Sign by Patricia Briggs – 3/16/21
EX Talk, The by Rachel Lynn Solomon – 1/26/21
Yuletide Kiss, A anthology – 9/29/21
Zall’s Captain by Amber Kell – 12/7/21

2021 New (to me) Author Challenge

I've done this challenge for the past eleven years and discovered some amazing authors along the way (not hard to believe since I've read 651 debut/new-to-me authors in that time). It's fun for me to look back on these lists, especially when I see authors who are now auto-buys for me.

The Challenge: Read 20 or more books this year by authors you’ve never read before.
Dates: January 1, 2021 - December 31, 2021

My list:

1. Author: Christina Britton
Title: Someday My Duke Will Come (Isle of Synne, Book 2)

2. Author: Keira Andrews
Title: In Case of Emergency

3. Author: Rachel Lynn Solomon
Title: The Ex Talk

4. Author: Samantha Young
Title: Much Ado About You

5. Author: Elizabeth Holmes
Title: HRH: So Many Thoughts on Royal Style

6. Author: Erica Ridley
Title: The Duke Heist (The Wild Wynchesters, Book 1)

7. Author: Elizabeth Everett
Title: A Lady’s Formula for Love (The Secret Scientists of London, Book 1)

8. Author: Nina Bocci
Title: A Vineyard Valentine

9. Author: Kathleen Marple Kalb
Title: A Fatal Finale (Ella Shane Mystery, Book 1)

10. Author: Jim Butcher
Title: Storm Front (The Dresden Files, Book 1)

11. Author: Rosie Danan
Title: The Intimacy Experiment (The Roommate, Book 2)

12. Author: Sherra Aguirre
Title: Joyful, Delicious, Vegan: Life Without Heart Disease

13. Author: Alexis Hall
Title: Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake (Winner Bakes All, Book 1)

14. Author: Sam Heughan
Title: Clanlands: Whisky, Warfare, and a Scottish Adventure Like No Other

15. Author: Graham McTavish
Title: Clanlands: Whisky, Warfare, and a Scottish Adventure Like No Other

16. Author: T.J. Klune
Title: The House in the Cerulean Sea

17. Author: India Holton
Title: The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels (Dangerous Damsels, Book 1)

18. Author: Janna MacGregor
Title: Where There’s a Will (The Widow Rules, Book 0.5)

19. Author: Harper St. George
Title: The Devil and the Heiress (The Gilded Age Heiresses, Book 2)

20. Author: Stuart Reardon
Title: Gym or Chocolate? (Gym or Chocolate, Book 1)

21. Author: Jane Harvey-Berrick
Title: Gym or Chocolate? (Gym or Chocolate, Book 1)

22. Author: Gabby Allan
Title: Much Ado about Nauticaling (Whit and Whiskers Mystery, Book 1)

23. Author: Julie Murphy
Title: If the Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy (Meant to Be, Book 1)

24. Author: Laura Miller
Title: Raw. Vegan. Not Gross.: All Vegan and Mostly Raw Recipes for People Who Love to Eat

25. Author: Lucy Parker
Title: Battle Royal (Palace Insiders, Book 1)

26. Author: Amelia Grey
Title: “Christmas at Dewberry Hollow” (in the Kissing Under the Mistletoe anthology)

27. Author: Christi Caldwell
Title: “Wishing Under the Mistletoe” (in the Mistletoe Christmas anthology)

28. Author: Tirzah Price
Title: Pride and Premeditation (Jane Austen Murder Mystery, Book 1)

29. Author: Sonya Lalli
Title: A Holly Jolly Diwali by Sonya Lalli

30. Author: Denise Williams
Title: The Fastest Way to Fall

31. Author: Wendy Warren
Title: Moonlight, Menorahs and Mistletoe (Holliday, Oregon, Book 1)

32. Author: Katie Oliver
Title: Pride, Prejudice, and Peril (A Jane Austen Tea Society Mystery, Book 1)

33. Author: Rachel Kapelke-Dale
Title: The Ballerinas

34. Author: Jodi Payne
Title: A Whole Latke Love

35. Author: Gwenda Bond
Title: Not Your Average Hot Guy (Not Your Average Hot Guy, Book 1)

Books I've Read in 2021

For the past eleven years I've kept track of the books I read and it's been quite a fun project. I read so much that everything tends to blend together in my mental library and it's fun to look back and see what I've I've read, loved, and want to re-read (and - on the rare occasion - want to avoid). Plus, it's great to share and compare lists with other book bloggers.

This list is only of books and novellas I've read and finished (though if I read an entire anthology, I list only the anthology title). The books are listed in the order I read them and if I write a review for a book I link it here as well.

There are sure to be many wonderful stories on the list, but the ones with a ** by them are ones I highly recommend.

1. The Fiancé (Close Quarters, Book 4) by Stefanie London
2. An Offer From A Gentleman: The 2nd Epilogue (Bridgertons, Book 3.5) by Julia Quinn (re-read)
3. All the Colors of the Night (Fogg Lake, Book 2) by Jayne Ann Krentz
4. Someday My Duke Will Come (Isle of Synne, Book 2) by Christina Britton **
5. The Forever Girl (Wildstone, Book 6) by Jill Shalvis
6. Hit Me With Your Best Scot (The Wild Wicked Highlanders, Book 3) by Suzanne Enoch
7. Just a Bit Obsessed (Straight Guys, Book 2) by Alessandra Hazard
8. In Case of Emergency by Keira Andrews
9. Little Red Riding Crop (The Original Sinners) by Tiffany Reisz
10. Single Player (Slices of Pi, Book 3) by Elia Winters (re-read)
11. The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon
12. The Murder on the Links (Hercule Poirot, Book 2) by Agatha Christie
13. Much Ado About You by Samantha Young
14. HRH: So Many Thoughts on Royal Style by Elizabeth Holmes
15. The Duke Heist (The Wild Wynchesters, Book 1) by Erica Ridley
16. A Lady’s Formula for Love (The Secret Scientists of London, Book 1) by Elizabeth Everett
17. Mummy Dearest (The XOXO Files, Book 1) by Josh Lanyon (re-read)
18. Combustion by Elia Winters
19. First Comes Like (Modern Love, Book 3) by Alisha Rai
20. A Very Punchable Face by Colin Jost
21. Quiet in Her Bones by Nalini Singh
22. Becoming by Michelle Obama
23. A Vineyard Valentine by Nina Bocci
24. A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, E.G. Keller (Illustrator) (re-read)
25. Air Bound (Sea Haven/Sisters of the Heart, Book 3) by Christine Feehan (re-read)
26. Requiem for Mr. Busybody by Josh Lanyon
27. The Devil in Her Bed (Devil You Know, Book 3) by Kerrigan Byrne
28. Earth Bound (Sea Haven/Sisters of the Heart, Book 4) by Christine Feehan (re-read)
29. A Fatal Finale (Ella Shane Mystery, Book 1) by Kathleen Marple Kalb
30. Mystery at the Masquerade (Secrets and Scrabble, Book 3) by Josh Lanyon
31. Wild Sign (Alpha & Omega, Book 6) by Patricia Briggs
32. When He Was Wicked: The 2nd Epilogue (Bridgertons, Book 6.5) by Julia Quinn (re-read) **
33. The Viscount Who Loved Me: The 2nd Epilogue (Bridgertons, Book 2.5) by Julia Quinn (re-read) **
34. One Thing Leads to a Lover (Love and Let Spy, Book 2) by Susanna Craig
35. A Ghost of a Chance by Josh Lanyon
36. Storm Front (The Dresden Files, Book 1) by Jim Butcher
37. The Intimacy Experiment (The Shameless Series, Book 2) by Rosie Danan **
38. Faithless in Death (In Death, Book 52) by J.D. Robb
39. How to Catch a Duke (Rogues to Riches, Book 6) by Grace Burrowes
40. Persuasion by Jane Austen (re-read)
41. Joyful, Delicious, Vegan: Life Without Heart Disease by Sherra Aguirre
42. The Soldier and the Spy (Society of Beasts, Book 2) by Annabelle Greene
43. Heiress in Red Silk (A Duke’s Heiress, Book 2) by Madeline Hunter
44. Highland Warrior (Sons of Sinclair, Book 2) by Heather McCollum
45. A Fatal First Night (Ella Shane Mystery, Book 2) by Kathleen Marple Kalb
46. Like Cats and Dogs (Whitman Street Cat Café, Book 1) by Kate McMurray
47. The Lady Has a Past (Burning Cove, Book 5) by Amanda Quick
48. Wet and Reckless (Private Pleasures, Book 4) by Samanthe Beck
49. Poirot Investigates (Hercule Poirot, Book 3) by Agatha Christie
50. Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake (Winner Bakes All, Book 1) by Alexis Hall
51. Undercover Duke (Duke Dynasty, Book 4) by Sabrina Jeffries
52. Clanlands: Whisky, Warfare, and a Scottish Adventure Like No Other by Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish
53. Sanditon by Jane Austen
54. Neon Gods (Dark Olympus, Book 1) by Katee Robert **
55. One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
56. The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune **
57. The Queer Principles of Kit Webb by Cat Sebastian
58. Love For Beginners (Wildstone, Book 7) by Jill Shalvis
59. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (re-read)
60. Once Upon a Royal Summer by Teri Wilson **
61. The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels (Dangerous Damsels, Book 1) by India Holton
62. Where There’s a Will (The Widow Rules, Book 0.5) by Janna MacGregor
63. Fool Moon (The Dresden Files, Book 2) by Jim Butcher
64. History of Us (Friendships and Festivals, Book 2) by Stacey Agdern
65. A Duke in Time (The Widow Rules, Book 1) by Janna MacGregor
66. To Sir, with Love by Lauren Layne
67. A Scot to the Heart (Desperately Seeking Duke, Book 2) by Caroline Linden
68. The Devil and the Heiress (The Gilded Age Heiresses, Book 2) by Harper St. George
69. Death at the Crystal Palace (Below Stairs Mysteries, Book 5) by Jennifer Ashley
70. Gym or Chocolate? (Gym or Chocolate, Book 1) by Stuart Reardon and Jane Harvey-Berrick
71. It Happened One Summer (Bellinger Sisters, Book 1) by Tessa Bailey **
72. While We Were Dating (The Wedding Date, Book 6) by Jasmine Guillory
73. Last Guard (Psy-Changeling Trinity, Book 5) by Nalini Singh
74. Much Ado about Nauticaling (Whit and Whiskers Mystery, Book 1) by Gabby Allan
75. Men Are Frogs (Fairy Godmothers, Inc., Book 2) by Saranna DeWylde
76. If the Shoe Fits (Meant to Be, Book 1) by Julie Murphy
77. Scandal at the Salty Dog (Secrets and Scrabble, Book 4) by Josh Lanyon
78. Donald Duck: Mountain Climber by Walt Disney Company
79. Raw. Vegan. Not Gross.: All Vegan and Mostly Raw Recipes for People Who Love to Eat by Laura Miller
80. Battle Royal (Palace Insiders, Book 1) by Lucy Parker
81. A Good Duke is Hard to Find (Isle of Synne, Book 1) by Christina Britton
82. Hitched to the Gunslinger by Michelle McLean
83. The Highlander's Pirate Lass (The Brothers of Wolf Isle, Book 2) by Heather McCollum
84. A Duke Worth Fighting For (Isle of Synne, Book 3) by Christina Britton
85. Breaking Badger (The Honey Badger Chronicles, Book 4) by Shelly Laurenston
86. Playing it Safe (Sydney Smoke Rugby, Book 7) by Amy Andrews
87. Grave Peril (The Dresden Files, Book 3) by Jim Butcher
88. Kissing Under the Mistletoe by Suzanne Enoch, Amelia Grey, and Anna Bennett
89. A Song of Flight (Warrior Bards, Book 3) by Juliet Marillier **
90. Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune **
91. Mistletoe Christmas by Eloisa James, Christi Caldwell, Janna MacGregor, and Erica Ridley
92. A Yuletide Kiss by Sabrina Jeffries, Madeline Hunter, and Mary Jo Putney
93. Pride and Premeditation (Jane Austen Murder Mystery, Book 1) by Tirzah Price
94. A Holly Jolly Diwali by Sonya Lalli
95. Love and Latkes (Friendships and Festivals, Book 3) by Stacey Agdern
96. Well Matched (Well Met, Book 3) by Jen DeLuca
97. The Rake Mistake (The Wild Wynchesters, Book 1.5; Heist Club, Book 1) by Erica Ridley
98. The Perks of Loving a Wallflower (The Wild Wynchesters, Book 2) by Erica Ridley
99. Archangel’s Light (Guild Hunter, Book 14) by Nalini Singh **
100. Hollywood Heroine (Heroine Complex, Book 5) by Sarah Kuhn **
101. The Wit and Wisdom of Bridgerton: Lady Whistledown’s Official Guide by Julia Quinn
102. The Fastest Way to Fall by Denise Williams
103. Forgotten in Death (In Death, Book 53) by J.D. Robb
104. All the Feels (Spoiler Alert, Book 2) by Olivia Dade
105. The Becoming (The Dragon Heart Legacy, Book 2) by Nora Roberts
106. Moonlight, Menorahs and Mistletoe (Holliday, Oregon, Book 1) by Wendy Warren
107. What the Cat Dragged In (Whitman Street Cat Café, Book 2) by Kate McMurray
108. The Hanukkah Mice by Ronne Randall, Maggie Kneen (Illustrator) (re-read)
109. Pride, Prejudice, and Peril (A Jane Austen Tea Society Mystery, Book 1) by Katie Oliver
110. The Ballerinas by Rachel Kapelke-Dale
111. A Whole Latke Love by Jodi Payne
112. Zall’s Captain (Planetary Submissives, Book 3) by Amber Kell (re-read)
113. Girls Before Earls (Rogues to Lovers, Book 1) by Anna Bennett
114. Not Your Average Hot Guy (Not Your Average Hot Guy, Book 1) by Gwenda Bond
115. Elves with Benefits (Reindeer Falls, Book 4) by Jana Aston
116. Body at Buccaneer’s Bay (Secrets and Scrabble, Book 5) by Josh Lanyon
117. One Night with a Nutcracker (Reindeer Falls, Book 5) by Jana Aston
118. The Bachelor on the Shelf (Reindeer Falls, Book 6) by Jana Aston
119. Better Off Wed (Love and Let Spy, Book 3) by Susanna Craig
120. A Scoundrel of Her Own (Sinful Wallflowers, Book 3) by Stacy Reid
121. It Happened One Midnight (Fairy Godmothers, Inc., Book 3) by Saranna DeWylde