Tuesday, December 26, 2023

REVIEW: Too Good to be True by Kristen Ashley



I love it when the writers I adore do something a little unexpected and while I know this isn't KA's first go around with the supernatural, this is the first of her supernatural works I've read. And truth be told, it isn't all that supernatural as it is alarming that such strange things are happening in this remote estate house in England.

Daphne and her stepmother have been invited to Duncroft to meet Daphne's sister's new beau. We quickly learn that Daphne and her sister, Portia, have a sometimes antagonistic relationship because of the way their father has set up their trust funds. We also learn that Lou, the stepmom, is also not a favorite of Daphne's sister and so before they've even arrived to Duncroft, we're primed for some tense and/or awkward moments. And sure enough, from the second they arrive, it's realllll uncomfortable. Portia's boyfriend's parents are distant and cold, the boyfriend is flighty, and there seems to be something off about the house (other than the rumors of it being haunted).

As the story progresses, we meet Daphne's soon to be love interest, Ian, get to know more about the ancestors who have come to some terrible endings (and some who have some epic love stories). We get to know Ian, Mr. Hottie, and we get to see the one dimensional characters who are his parents turn into more nuanced people than originally portrayed.

There are suspicious activities that abound and the closer we get to answers, the more intense things become between the characters. Things around the house are mysterious and cause tension, just as Ian and Daphne are becoming more intimate...learning who they are, what they like, and how they handle things when things go awry. 

Fun read that will have you flipping pages to get to the bottom of what, exactly, is going on.


Heiress Daphne Ryan is uncertain about spending a week at the sprawling country estate of the family of her sister’s boyfriend. For starters, she doesn’t get along with her sister. Then there’s the fact his family is old, wealthy aristocracy, and Daphne’s from brash, new American money.

Mostly, it’s that everyone knows Duncroft House is haunted by the ghost of a 1920s film star who died there. Deemed an accident, for nearly a century, people are sure it was murder.

Daphne doesn’t like scary things, say…haunted houses. She likes it less when strange things start happening to her when she arrives.

But she finds she has a surprising ally.

Ian Alcott, the heir to the earldom, is rich, gorgeous and just as concerned about the frightening things that keep befalling Daphne at his ancestral family home. As he moves to protect her, Daphne finds he’s also funny, kind and sexy as hell.

Indeed, he just might be too good to be true.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

REVIEW: Wreck the Halls by Tessa Bailey


Wreck the Halls by Tessa Bailey is absolutely a fun read for the holiday season. I can't think of one thing I didn't enjoy about it. This novel features two children of former rockstars (who now despise each other), Melody and Beat. From the very first time these two meet (as teens), you can sense the connection between these two. Then, fast forward years later and when confronted with an opportunity to reunite their mothers and make money that would each help them out of a situation, they reconnect and the sparks fly immediately. There's absolutely zero chance these two are going to be just friends, and I loved every second of their romance.

Bailey created two characters who just worked for me. Melody is hilarious and honest and unique. Beat is protective and kind and down to earth. The two of them together are an odd but perfect pairing. 

Despite some rough patches relating to trust, these two find their happily ever after and I truly was happy for that and yet sad for it to be over. This novel was funny and fun and sexy and a wonderful way to spend a weekend close to the winter holidays.

BUY IT: https://amzn.to/3u1Z2uH


Melody Gallard may be the daughter of music royalty, but her world is far from glamorous. She spends her days restoring old books and avoiding the limelight (one awkward tabloid photo was enough, thanks). But when a producer offers her a lot of money to reunite her mother’s band on live tv, Mel begins to wonder if it’s time to rattle the cage, shake up her quiet life… and see him again. The only other person who could wrangle the rock and roll divas.

Beat Dawkins, the lead singer’s son, is Melody’s opposite—the camera loves him, he could charm the pants off anyone, and his mom is not a potential cult leader. Still, they might have been best friends if not for the legendary feud that broke up the band. When they met as teenagers, Mel felt an instant spark, but it’s nothing compared to the wild, intense attraction that builds as they embark on a madcap mission to convince their mothers to perform one last show. 

While dealing with rock star shenanigans, a 24-hour film crew, brawling Santas, and mobs of adoring fans, Mel starts to step out of her comfort zone. With Beat by her side, cheering her on, she’s never felt so understood. But Christmas Eve is fast approaching, and a decades-old scandal is poised to wreck everything—the Steel Birds reunion, their relationships with their mothers, and their newfound love.  

Monday, December 18, 2023

REVIEW: Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt


Honestly, when I first heard about this book I didn't think it was something I'd like. An octopus as one of the main characters?! Nope--it's just a road too far. But as more and more people I know read it and raved about it, I decided that I should give it a shot. So, I checked it out of the library and jumped in. Surprising to no one, my friends were correct: this is an excellent read.

The story follows Tova, an elderly woman who has experienced a lot of grief and loss and has internalized it all, making her seem a little closed off and cold. It also has sections where Marcellus, the octopus, opines on the things he observes from his tank at the aquarium Tova cleans every night, as well as sections with Cameron, a thirty year old lost soul, and Ethan, the grocery store own who has a huge crush on Tova. These four narrate the story of love and loss and family. Each of their stories are tinged with a little melancholy and a little hope. And it's this combination that really works to feel for them, even when you want to shake them and wake them up to who and what's going on around them. 

If you're like me and thinking this isn't the book for you, I'll tell you that I'm so glad I read it. It leaves you happy and smiling at the end. Definitely try it--don't let the idea of an octopus being a main character scare you off. 

SYNOPSIS: For fans of A Man Called Ove, a charming, witty and compulsively readable exploration of friendship, reckoning, and hope that traces a widow's unlikely connection with a giant Pacific octopus

After Tova Sullivan’s husband died, she began working the night shift at the Sowell Bay Aquarium, mopping floors and tidying up. Keeping busy has always helped her cope, which she’s been doing since her eighteen-year-old son, Erik, mysteriously vanished on a boat in Puget Sound over thirty years ago.

Tova becomes acquainted with curmudgeonly Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus living at the aquarium. Marcellus knows more than anyone can imagine but wouldn’t dream of lifting one of his eight arms for his human captors—until he forms a remarkable friendship with Tova.

Ever the detective, Marcellus deduces what happened the night Tova’s son disappeared. And now Marcellus must use every trick his old invertebrate body can muster to unearth the truth for her before it’s too late. 

Shelby Van Pelt’s debut novel is a gentle reminder that sometimes taking a hard look at the past can help uncover a future that once felt impossible.


Monday, December 11, 2023

REVIEW: Things We Left Behind by Lucy Score


I came to this series at the very end, with this novel, and while it can be read as a stand alone, I'm definitely kicking myself for not picking up the first novel and starting there because I'm certain that those two couples in those books had a fun time hating each other before loving each other, if Things We Left Behind is any indication. 

In this novel, Sloane and Lucian are currently mortal enemies but only after they were close friends in their younger years. As the novel progresses, their backstory is woven in and you come to understand why they're both so resistant to tolerating the other, despite the fact that their mutual friends adore them both, and Sloane's family sees him as nothing short of wonderful. Their current day selves are busy detesting the other and being successful as a head librarian (Sloane) and a businessman (Lucian). And as the bad guys --ones most likely first introduced at the beginning of the series-- insist on doing bad things, Sloane and Lucian find themselves thrown together a lot. Their banter and sexual tension are hilarious and cause the pages to turn quickly. As they spend more time together, they begrudgingly put aside some of their differences to scratch an itch they've had for quite a while; and though they'd love to keep it secret, that, of course, is impossible. 

Things escalate with the bad guys and with Sloane and Lucian and before you know it, they've find themselves bring down the baddies while falling in love. 

Yet another fun read by Lucy Score....one that just makes me look forward to what she's writing next. 

SYNOPSIS: There was only one woman who could set me free. But I would rather set myself on fire than ask Sloane Walton for anything.

Lucian Rollins is a lean, mean vengeance-seeking mogul. On a quest to erase his father’s mark on the family name, he spends every waking minute pulling strings and building an indestructible empire. The more money and power he amasses, the safer he is from threats.

Except when it comes to the feisty small-town librarian that keeps him up at night…

Sloane Walton is a spitfire determined to carry on her father’s quest for justice. She’ll do that just as soon as she figures out exactly what the man she hates did to—or for—her family. Bonded by an old, dark secret from the past and the dislike they now share for each other, Sloane trusts Lucian about as far as she can throw his designer-suited body.

When bickering accidentally turns to foreplay, these two find themselves not quite regretting their steamy one-night stand. Once those flames are fanned, it seems impossible to put them out again. But with Sloane ready to start a family and Lucian refusing to even consider the idea of marriage and kids, these enemies-to-lovers are stuck at an impasse.

Broken men break women. It’s what Lucian believes, what he’s witnessed, and he’s not going to take that chance with Sloane. He’d rather live a life of solitude than put her in danger. But he learns the hard way that leaving her means leaving her unprotected from other threats.

It’s the second time he’s ruthlessly cut her out of his life. There’s no way she’s going to give him a third chance. He’s just going to have to make one for himself.


Tuesday, December 5, 2023

REVIEW: Among the Heather by Samantha Young



I'm really enjoying this Adair Family spin off series; it has the same feel with new characters who are connected to the Ardnoch Estate and the Adairs. And like the previous series, there's always a threat or conflict or attack from an outsider that adds additional tension to the inevitable romantic conflict(s) the two main characters have. 

In the case of Among the Heather, we are falling for Aria, the estate manager, and North, an actor in hiding, while they're falling for each other. Both Aria and North put up a good fight and try really hard to resist their chemistry and the innate draw they seem to have each other but despite the walls they throw up and the insults they exchange, they absolutely capitulate to all the things--the emotions, the chemistry, the everything. It doesn't mean that it was always easy--Aria has some serious trust issues--but they make it, thank goodness. 

While the question of who is behind the threats or whether or not they'll love each other is not a puzzling mystery, I didn't need it to be. The characters and their backstories, the way they connect, and the evolution of their relationship kept me invested and just in it until the very end. 

Looking forward to the next one, Through the Glen.

Among the Heather by Samantha Young is now live! 

He’s a disgraced actor. She’s the daughter of Hollywood royalty. Both are hiding in the Scottish Highlands, but despite their antagonistic attraction, they can’t seem to hide from each other…

North Hunter has worked hard to step out of the shadows of his orphaned upbringing into the limelight of Hollywood. He never imagined a dark moment from his childhood returning to destroy everything he’d built. Devastated, he finds comfort in the isolation of an exclusive members-only club in the Scottish Highlands, even if the club comes with a prickly estate manager who sets his blood on fire.

As the eldest daughter of a Hollywood legend, Aria Howard has learned the hard way that people will use her to get to her father. When her last relationship ended badly, Aria fled to Scotland. Running Ardnoch Estate provides distance from a life that has never fit comfortably. But when defamed Scottish actor North Hunter disrupts her sanctuary, Aria is on the defense. The cocky actor is the last thing she needs, and despite their searing attraction, Aria is determined to dislike him.

But one night of drunken forced proximity with North leads Aria to share insecurities seeded by her horrible ex. When North offers to prove her ex wrong by taking Aria to his bed for a no-strings distraction, they begin an affair neither expected. However, their fiery liaison leads to a deep emotional connection that unsettles them both, and North will have to break down more than Aria’s trust issues if they’re ever to have a future together. He’ll need to protect her from a past that just doesn’t want to stay buried… or lose something far more essential to his existence than his career.

  Download today or read for FREE with Kindle Unlimited

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Meet Samantha

Samantha Young is a New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. She's been nominated for several Goodreads Choice Awards. Samantha writes adult contemporary and paranormal romance, YA urban fantasy and YA contemporary fiction and is currently published in 31 countries.

She resides in Scotland.


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Monday, December 4, 2023

REVIEW: My Darling Bride by Ilsa Madden-Mills


This series had been so much fun. In My Darling Bride Graham needs a bride and he finds the perfect prospect in the girl who stole his car, Emmy. She had a good reason, I promise! Anyway, these two end up together because he needs a bride to receive his family trust (so that he can help his brother...) and she feels a little guilty (because of that theft incident) and a little hopeful about what she gets in the bargain. 

They start off trying to make it a business arrangement, friends only...but we all know how that goes and the fact that they're attracted to each other and actually like each other as humans means that there is no way that they're going to keep it business only. Of course the problem is that one of them decides to let go and fall in love and one of them tries desperately to not be open to the vulnerabilities of love. Sandwiched in between all of this is some family conflict, history of abuse, a stalker-ish ex, the fear of CTE, and some serious debt. Fortunately all of this is resolved in a funny, love-filled ending that will have me continuing to return to this series until there isn't another book to read. (I seriously can't wait for Jasper to meet his match...I have some guesses as to whom that might be).

 BUY IT: https://amzn.to/3RiYvOy


In a sizzling romance that sparkles with wit and depth, two wounded souls meet by chance in the desert and agree to get married, and their lives will never be the same.

On a normal day, Emmaline Darling isn’t a car thief. She’s just a simple girl who runs a bookstore and adores cats. But when she’s stranded in the desert and needs to get away from her dangerous ex-boyfriend, she picks her only option: swiping the keys to a famous football player’s Lamborghini and speeding away.

Football star Graham Harlan is in chaos. First he took a hit on the field that left him with a near-death experience, and now he’s promised his brother he’ll get married to secure the family inheritance. Trouble is he isn’t even seeing anyone.

Then a mystery woman steals his car. With his usual stubbornness, he tracks her all the way to Manhattan and gives her an ultimatum: marry me or I’ll press charges.

Her choice is obvious, only neither of them expect the sparks that ignite between them.

As the end of their arrangement looms, will Graham take a chance on love or let his darling walk away forever?

Friday, December 1, 2023

REVIEW: The Fake Mate by Lana Ferguson


Having read Lana Ferguson's first novel, The Nanny, I knew that I had to try The Fake Mate, even if it wasn't something I'd usually try. If you're also a fan of her but uncertain if this would be something you like, I can bet that you most likely will. While there are some shifter events and episodes that aren't in your typical non-fantasy romance, for the most part The Fake Mate does have all of the elements of a 'typical' romance, plus the fun that Ferguson brings to the novel. There are moments of hilarity, deeply felt emotional turmoil, and just overall fun. You'll find The Fake Mate to be a fun and sexy quick read.

 BUY IT: https://amzn.to/46SHFeD


Mackenzie Carter has had some very bad dates lately. Model train experts, mansplainers, guys weirdly obsessed with her tail—she hasn’t had a successful date in months. Only a year out of residency, her grandmother’s obsession with Mackenzie finding the perfect mate to settle down with threatens to drive Mackenzie barking mad. Out of options, it feels like a small thing to tell her grandmother that she’s met someone. That is, until she blurts out the name of the first man she sees and the last man she would ever date: Noah Taylor, the big bad wolf of Denver General.
Noah Taylor, interventional cardiologist and all around grump, has spent his entire life hiding what he is. With outdated stigmas surrounding unmated alphas that have people wondering if they still howl at the moon, Noah has been careful to keep his designation under wraps. It’s worked for years, until an anonymous tip has everything coming to light. Noah is left with two options: come clean to the board and risk his career—or find himself a mate. The chatty, overly friendly ER doctor asking him to be her fake boyfriend on the 
same day he’s called to meet the board has to be kismet, right?
Mackenzie will keep her grandmother off her back, and Noah will get a chance to prove he can continue to work without a real mate—a mutually beneficial business transaction, they both rationalize. But when the fake-mate act turns into a very real friends-with-benefits arrangement, lines start to blur, and they quickly realize love is a whole different kind of animal.

Monday, November 27, 2023

REVIEW: Knockout: A Hell's Belles Novel by Sarah MacLean



Oh how I adore the Hell's Belles. They're nothing but a delight to read and even though I want to stretch out the reading, I know that I'm going to speed through because I just can't help myself. I've been waiting and waiting for Imogen and Tommy's story for a long time and it was just as fun as I hoped it would be. She's sleuthing and exploding and he's sleuthing and brooding at how she seems to beat him to every case he's investigating, which means that there's lots of banter and fun happening between these two. While they're both racing to figure out who is destroying businesses, Imogen is secretly pining for Tommy and Tommy is busy denying that they could ever be a thing. When will the men get with the program and capitulate? Probably never, which makes all of these love stories so much fun to read. The push and pull, the insecurities, the falling in love....all of it makes for an entertaining 5 out of 5 stars read. 

Sarah MacLean being the queen of my historical romance heart has me dying for the next book in this series and once you read the last few pages of this novel, you'll see why. 

BUY IT: https://amzn.to/3ZnWdQs


New York Times bestselling author Sarah MacLean returns with the next Hell’s Belles novel about a chaotic bluestocking and the buttoned-up detective enlisted to keep her out of trouble (spoiler: She is the trouble).

With her headful of wild curls and wilder ideas and an unabashed love of experiments and explosives, society has labeled Lady Imogen Loveless peculiar…and doesn’t know she’s one of the Hell’s Belles—a group of vigilantes operating outside the notice of most of London.

Thomas Peck is not most of London. The brilliant detective fought his way off the streets and into a promising career through sheer force of will and a keen ability to see things others miss, like the fact that Imogen isn’t peculiar…she’s pandemonium. If you ask him, she requires a keeper. When her powerful family discovers her late-night activities, they couldn’t agree more…and they know just the man for the task.

Thomas wants nothing to do with guarding Imogen. He is a grown man with a proper job and no time for the lady’s incendiary chaos, no matter how lushly it is packaged. But some assignments are too explosive to pass up, and the gruff detective is soon caught up in Imogen’s world, full of her bold smiles and burning secrets…and a fiery passion that threatens to consume them both.

Monday, November 20, 2023

REVIEW: Icebreaker by Hannah Grace


I was hesitant, at first, about this novel. I don't know why I was, I just was. Boy was I wrong. I checked it out of the library and as soon as I started it, I knew I would be zooming through it. It's such a fun read. It has that fun frienemy feel, filled with lots of sarcasm and banter, especially with Anastasia and Nate (but let's not discount their friends--their friends and their shenanigans made this novel that much more fun to read). Once Anastasia and Nate get beyond their initial conflicts and get to know each other, their descent into love and friendship is perfect--it's not without its bumps in the road (some trust issues, impulsive reactions)--and fairly healthy. We see a young couple learn to communicate in healthy ways and push through some of their insecurities. I adore how much they both adore each other, stand up for each other, push each other's buttons, and give in to the love they feel. I also really appreciate Hannah Grace having sex positive characters and also shows a character who has consistent therapy sessions. Overall this is a 5 out 5 stars for me.


Anastasia Allen has worked her entire life for a shot at Team USA. It looks like everything is going according to plan when she gets a full scholarship to the University of California, Maple Hills and lands a place on their competitive figure skating team.

Nothing will stand in her way, not even the captain of the hockey team, Nate Hawkins.

Nate’s focus as team captain is on keeping his team on the ice. Which is tricky when a facilities mishap means they are forced to share a rink with the figure skating team—including Anastasia, who clearly can’t stand him.

But when Anastasia’s skating partner faces an uncertain future, she may have to look to Nate to take her shot.

Sparks fly, but Anastasia isn’t worried…because she could never like a hockey player, right?


Tuesday, November 14, 2023

REVIEW: Next-Door Nemesis by Alexa Martin



I've read everything by Alexa Martin and I know I can always count on smart and funny romance. In Next-Door Nemesis, we meet Collins, recently relocated to her parent's house due to an unfortunate viral video, and Nathaniel, her former best friend and now someone she thinks she detests. From the very first chapter, Collins and Nathaniel's run ins are hilarious and full of snarky vitriol and they keep running into each other because Nathaniel is living right down the street and part of the board of the HOA. As things escalate between them, they find themselves running against each other for HOA president. Interestingly, this is the turning point. They begin to rediscover their friendship, heal past hurts, and start to actually enjoy each other and even though they're running against each other, the friendship turns into love that the entire neighborhood delightedly follows--you can practically see the neighbors in lawn chairs and popcorn, watching them fall in love.

As always, both the primary and secondary character provide a lot of hilarious moments, a lot of heartfelt moments, and they make it hard to want to put the book down. Another excellent read from Alexa Martin.


After years of hustling, Collins Carter has finally made it...back to her parents’ house. Between tending to the compost with her newly retired dad and running into her high school nemesis at the only decent coffee shop in town, Collins realizes this subdivision from hell she swore she’d never return to is her rock bottom.

Then the homeowner’s association complaint arrived.

Nathaniel Adams always dreamed of a nice, quiet life in his suburban hometown. Or at least that’s what he thought until Collins moved back and sent his quaint, organized life into a tailspin. He thought Collins was infuriating ten years ago, but when she announces she’s running against him for HOA president, all bets are off.

From secret board meetings to vicious smear campaigns whispered over backyard fences, Collins and Nate sink to levels their sleepy suburb has never seen before. But as hate turns into lust, these two enemies are forced to reckon with the feelings they’ve ignored for years. If only there were bylaws for real life.

Monday, November 13, 2023

REVIEW: Heated Rivals by Katee Robert



We all knew after Dark Succession that it was only a matter of time before Carrigan and James had another run in and we all knew it would be fireworks. They did and it was. In Heated Rivals, we follow along as they try deny their attraction because of how problematic it would be for their pride and their family rivalry. The more they try to deny it though, the more attractive they become to each other. Unfortunately, Carrigan is being forced into a marriage that will benefit her family and James is absolutely not on that list. So even though all she can think about his him and all he can do is think about her, she feels like she has no choice but to select someone her father approves of. ....and that is the first three fourths of the novel....they're push and pull to want each other and deny each other. The last fourth is where it gets juicy. Loyalties are tested, family decisions are huge and on the line, and the end leaves you just waiting for what will happen with next. 

I'm digging the weaving of the narrative of the other siblings into each of these novels and wonder where they'll end up and with whom.


Carrigan O'Malley has always known her arranged marriage would be more about power and prestige than passion. But after one taste of the hard-bodied, whiskey-voiced James Halloran, she's ruined for anyone else. Too bad James and his family are enemy number 1.

Hallorans vs. O'Malleys-that's how it's always been. James should be thinking more about how to expand his family's empire instead of how silky Carrigan's skin is against his and how he can next get her into his bed. Those are dangerous thoughts. But not nearly as dangerous as he'll be if he can't get what he wants: Carrigan by his side for the rest of their lives.

Monday, November 6, 2023

REVIEW: Crowne Jewel by C.D. Reiss


Our Mini Review:

I bought Crowne Jewel because it's the next in the series and I was curious about which sibling would be taken down by love. Turns out it was Lyric falling in love with an ex, Anton, who broke her heart, now works for her dad, and ends up being her body guard when she starts being threatened. As you'd expect, they both still care for each other and while they try to deny it, and then try to treat their 'new' thing as a casual sex thing, there's no way that that's going to be the end of it. So, while Anton is trying to figure out who is behind the stalking, and Lyric is doing her best to ignore Anton's demands for her safety, the constant undercurrent is how much they don't want to, but can't help caring for each other. The start of this one was a little confusing for me but once I found my bearings, I flew through the pages, as I typically do with any C.D. Reiss novel and while it's probably not my favorite, it was still entertaining. 

BUY IT: https://amzn.to/3rh8EjY


Protect me at all costs.

That’s the mission my father placed on Anton Markov—my new bodyguard. Shield me from a ruthless, faceless stalker. The menace hijacked my online presence, levied chilling threats my way, and promised to unleash a barrage of damage to me personally and professionally.

There’s one problem with Anton.

It’s simple. I despise him.

He stole everything years ago—my heart, dreams, and dignity. With a four-line farewell note stuck to my kitchen table, he broke my heart and almost my spirit.

But it seems Anton has his own collection of grievances over what happened in New York, and he’s not willing to let them go.

It’s complicated. He hates me.

As my stalker escalates his threats, Anton and I are thrust closer together. His smoldering good looks, irresistible charm, and unwavering dedication to my safety blur the line between lovers and enemies.

He claims that he can't protect me if he falls in love with me. With the danger closing in, we’re about to put that theory to the test.

Crowne Jewel is a standalone with a hot protector, wounded soldier, an ex you never thought you'd get over.
The story includes non-binary besties, a past abortion that no one feels guilty about, and a hundred right ways to act with an independent woman.
The danger to Lyric is real and manifests in stalking, ugly threats, and descriptions of violence that may take some readers out of the story.
Oh, also role-play shenanigans, a guy who stands up for her when she's speaking, and two people who bring each other sandwiches in case they're hungry.

Monday, October 30, 2023

REVIEW: Come As You Are by Jess K Hardy



Come As You Are by Jess K. Hardy was a fun surprise. I saw it on NetGalley and decided to give it a shot and am so glad I did. This novel about a family ski lodge/mountain trying to not get eaten up by a corporate entity and a ragtag group of men in a sober living facility was heartwarming and thoughtful. Ashley, the lodge owner, is on the struggle bus--her ex-husband wants to buy out her family's legacy, her mom seems to undermine her at every turn, she's understaffed, overworked, and still grieving the loss of her dad. Madigan, the owner of the sober living home, is looking for steady employment for the men he's in charge of and at the invitation of Ashley's mom, approaches Ashley with a proposition: she gets workers for less than what she's used to having to pay and his men get an opportunity to gain skills and show responsibility, while living clean and sober. Once the shock of it all wears off, Ashley grudgingly accepts the deal and what ensues is a journey of discovery and hope mixed with fear. 

Madigan and Ashley begin to get to know each other and show one another that it's okay to want things, that you can actually trust people with your heart, and that it's okay to be vulnerable with those that you trust. Of course there are missteps and misunderstandings but what I really appreciated about these characters is that they actually communicated about things, listened to each other, and tried to be respectful of what the other one needed. I loved that Hardy made Madigan a big softie; it's nice to see a man be real with his emotions and to see it on the page. I appreciated how she wrote Ashley too; that she showed a character who had unfortunate, but realistic, fears and judgement about the men she was hiring and how she learned about how wrong she was. 

Come As You Are was a great weekend read: sweet, romantic, honest, and heartwarming. I look forward to the next book in this series. 


He'll win her heart one mixtape at a time.
Ashley Cooke will do just about anything to save her struggling ski hill. When she hires the men from a local sober living home for the season to cut costs, even she thinks she's gone too far. With her credit cards maxed, her cheating ex-husband intent on buying the mountain out from under her, and record-breaking snow in the forecast, she can't afford to be distracted by the six-foot-tall bearded and tattooed sober living home owner moving onto her mountain.

Recovering addict and ex-grunge rocker Matthew Madigan has devoted every minute of the last decade to the men residing at his sober living home. When he meets tightly wound and adorably flustered Ashley, desires he's put on the back burner for years start to simmer. Immune to his infamous albeit rusty charm, Ashley presents a challenge he can't resist. When she offers to give him skiing lessons in exchange for his help training her St. Bernard rescue dog, he jumps at the chance to ride next to her on the chairlift despite his debilitating fear of heights.

During bunny hill shenanigans, chairlift confessions, and steamy cabin serenades, Madigan teaches Ashley that a person's past doesn't define them, and Ashley shows Madigan that the men he helps aren't the only people who deserve a second chance. When sabotage threatens both the men and the mountain, Ashley and Madigan will have to decide if they're only having a winter fling, or if the mountain isn't the only thing worth fighting for.
Perfect for fans of Elsie Silver and Lyssa Kay Adams, Come As You Are is a steamy, later-in-life, small-town, redemption romance with lots of heat and even more heart!
Content notes: Addiction, divorce, mourning the loss of a parent

REVIEW: The Predictable Heartbreaks of Imogen Finch by Jacqueline Firkins



As with Marlowe Banks, Redesigned, I was happily surprised with the depth there was to this romance. The Predictable Heartbreaks of Imogen Finch is a quiet romance that mingles grief and love in a way that feels real; it never feels overdone or shallow...it hits just right.

In this novel, Imogen Finch is coming off her kazillionth break up when Eliot Swift, the true owner of her heart, returns to town to take care of things after the death of his father. Fairly quickly we learn that both Imogen and Eliot consider the other one 'the one that got away' and they decide to take some time to explore what being together would be like. Interspersed with that are little vignettes of Imogen's various failed love affairs and snapshots of town life in their home town, a town Eliot couldn't run away from fast enough when he graduated from high school. And mixed in with all of that is an exploration of what it means to love yourself, what it means to be responsible to and for others, and what it means to truly give space to those around you to grow and learn about themselves. 

While there are some funny moments, I felt a sense of nostalgia and longing tinged throughout and it's that combo that enriched an already good read. When you throw in some really interesting secondary characters and a moodiness that almost begs you to sit back and reflect on your own evolution, how can you not enjoy The Predictable Heartbreaks of Imogen Finch.


Jacqueline Firkins's The Predictable Heartbreaks of Imogen Finch is a beautiful story of friendship, and second chances at love.

Imogen Finch has just been through her seventeenth breakup. She saw it coming, so she's not as crushed as she might be, but with all seventeen of her exes leaving her for other partners, she's come to believe a prediction her well-intentioned and possibly clairvoyant mother made over twenty years ago: that Imogen would never come first at anything or to anyone. Is her love life failing due to a magical curse? Insufficient effort? Poor timing or personality mismatches? Everyone has opinions on the matter.

Imogen's ready to give up altogether. But when Eliot Swift, her secret high school crush, returns to their small coastal town after a decade of nomadic travels, Imogen has new motivation to try again. Eliot's full of encouragement. He suggests that her curse is not only imagined, it's easily breakable. All they need is one win--
any win--and she can believe in love, and in herself again.

From trivia games to swimming races to corn-shucking contests, the pair sets out to snag Imogen her first first. But when victory proves more elusive than Eliot anticipated, and when his deep-seeded wanderlust compels him to depart for far away places, Imogen fears she's destined to remain in second place forever. Fortunately for them both, sometimes magic lingers in the most unexpected places. And love is far from predictable.

Monday, October 23, 2023

REVIEW: Unfortunately Yours by Tessa Bailey



Unfortunately Yours is the second book in the Vine Mess Series. It follows the story of Natalie (Julien's sister from book 1) and August. If you read the first book, you might remember Natalie and August's initial meeting and it wasn't a great look for either of them, really. He came on too strong and she took offense. There was a scene...a mess...one that made an impression on the people of Napa Valley. Fast forward a few months and they're married?! It seemed unbelievable, based on their last public interaction but they quickly show the town that they're serious...or seem to be. From behind the scenes, we get to see the machinations that bring them together. We get to see their initial plotting and planning and they whys. We also get to see how madly in love they are. As much as they resist it, they cannot seem to make the fake marriage fake. 

While the vast majority of this novel focuses on their antagonist relationship, there's a nice bit of space devoted how they're made--what makes them who they are and why they are. We get to see them put their armor down and begin to trust each other, to tell their stories, and to find the person they can trust to be there. We get to see Natalie open up and flourish and we get to see August become even more of who we've come to love--a huge teddy bear: sweet, kind, loving, and protective.

Really loved this one. Loved the evolution of them as individuals but especially loved to see their evolution as partners.

BUY IT: https://amzn.to/46SPj93


#1 New York Times bestselling author Tessa Bailey is back in Napa Valley with this hilarious rom-com about a down-on-her-luck heiress who suggests a mutually beneficial marriage of convenience to a man she can’t stand... only to discover there’s a fine line between love and hate.

After losing her job and her fiancĂ© in one fell swoop, Natalie Vos returned home to lick her wounds. A few months later, she’s sufficiently drowned her sorrows in cabernet and she’s ready to get back on her feet. She just needs her trust fund to finance her new business venture. Unfortunately, the terms require she marry before she can have the money. And well, dumped, remember?

But Natalie is desperate enough to propose to a man who makes her want to kill him—and kiss him, in equal measure. 

August Cates may own a vineyard, but he doesn’t know jack about making wine. He’s determined to do his late best friend proud, no matter what it takes. Except his tasting room is empty, his wine is disgusting (seriously, he once saw someone gag), and his buddy’s legacy is circling the drain. No bank will give him the loan he needs to turn the business around... and then the gorgeous, feisty heiress knocks on his door.

Natalie has haunted August's dreams since the moment they met, but their sizzling chemistry immediately morphed into simmering insults. Now, a quickie marriage could help them both. A sham wedding, a few weeks living under the same roof, and then they can go their separate ways—assuming they make it out alive. How hard could it be?

There’s just one thing they didn’t account for: their unfortunate, unbearable, undeniable attraction.

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