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 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 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.



#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 fiancé 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.

Monday, October 16, 2023

REVIEW: Friends Don't Fall in Love by Erin Hahn



Friends Don't Fall in Love is the next book in a universe of interconnected characters. In this novel we get the story of Lorelai (a friend of Shelby's in Built to Last) and Huck. Huck, our lovable, geeky, sweet, smart, record producer has been in love with Lorelai since he was in a band with her ex-fiancé. And Lorelai? Well Lorelai has been in denial of her feelings about Huck since she's been in Michigan licking her wounds after being 'canceled' for a benign protest when she was a rising country music star. They both end up in Nashville, where they are working on her album, and it's during this time that they fall even further for each other. Of course they muck it up--lots of doubts, unspoken feelings, and poor communication, even though communication is what they're known for. And in the midst of all of this there are missteps with her comeback, followed by the best steps for her comeback; thank goodness for good friends in high places. Also luckily for them, they have a lot of outside help that nudges them into the right direction when it comes to *them*, making for a sweet and happy ending.

Friends Don't Fall in Love is fun, sexy, and sweet; it reminded me of a Taylor Swift song--lots of longing and love that leaves you feeling fully satisfied when it ends. 


Lorelai Jones had it all: a thriving country music career and a superstar fiancé. Then she played one teenie tiny protest song at a concert and ruined her entire future, including her impending celebrity marriage. But five years later, she refuses to be done with her dreams and calls up the one person who stuck by her, her dear friend and her former fiancé’s co-writer and bandmate, Craig.

Craig Boseman’s held a torch for Lorelai for years, but even he knows the backup bass player never gets the girl. Things are different now, though. Craig owns his own indie record label and his songwriting career is taking off. If he can confront his past and embrace his gifts, he might just be able to help Lorelai earn the comeback she deserves—and maybe win her heart in the process.

But when the two reunite to rebuild her career and finally scratch that itch that’s been building between them for years, Lorelai realizes a lot about what friends 
don’t do. For one, friends don’t have scratch-that-itch sex. They also don’t almost-kiss on street corners, publish secret erotic poetry about each other, have counter-top sex, write songs for each other, have no-strings motorcycle sex, or go on dates. And they sure as heck don't fall in love... right?

Erin Hahn’s 
Friends Don’t Fall in Love is about long-time friends, taking chances, and finding out that, sometimes, your perfect person was right there in your corner all along.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

REVIEW: Better Hate Than Never by Chloe Liese



Better Hate Than Never is a modern take on The Taming of the Shrew featuring Katerina and Christopher, two people who seemingly know each other better than most and have seemed to hate each other for most (?) or all (?) of their adulthood. 

Katerina is a traveling photographer who has a passion for causes and uses her passion and talent to tell those stories. Christopher is a venture capitalist whose firm invests in progressive causes. He shares a yard with her parents, parents who took him in after his died and he needed the love and guidance of someone who knew them better than his grandmother. Essentially, in his most formative years, Katerina's family was like his. They were close. Knew everything about each other. That knowledge fueled an antagonist relationship between Katerina and Christopher. All she wanted was his attention and respect and all he wanted was her love and to protect her and keep her close. Despite what they wanted, what they had was a relationship where she needled him about being a money sucking capitalist and he needled her about running away and never being home. Round and round they would go until her dad intervened and asked Christopher to try to stop. 

As anyone in a mutually antagonistic relationship knows, when one of the parties starts being nice, you get really suspicious really fast. So when Christopher tries to care for her, she's prickly and resistant until she sees his sincerity. Once she believes them, their love story is sweet and tender and respectful.

If you're familiar with the play that this novel is based on, you can definitely recognize many of the original features-lots of witty banter, lots of barbs, and a truly sweet ending. As a fan of the Shakespearean version, I can definitely recommend this one.



Childhood enemies discover the fine line between love and loathing in this heartfelt reimagining of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.

Katerina Wilmot and Christopher Petruchio shared backyards as kids, but as adults they won’t even share the same hemisphere. That is, until Kate makes a rare visit home, and their fiery animosity rekindles into a raging inferno.

Despite their friends’ and families' pleas for peace, Christopher is unconvinced Kate would willingly douse the flames of their enmity. But when a drunken Kate confesses she’s only been hostile because she thought he hated her, Christopher vows to make peace with Kate once and for all. Tempting as it is to be swept away by her nemesis-turned-gentleman, Kate isn’t sure she can trust his charming good-guy act.

When Christopher’s persistence and Kate’s curiosity lead to an impassioned kiss, they realize “peace” is the last thing that will ever be possible between them. As desire gives way to deeper feelings, Kate and Christopher must decide if it’s truly better to hate than to never risk their hearts—or if they already gave them away long ago.

Monday, October 2, 2023

REVIEW: A Winter in New York by Josie Silver


This is the second Josie Silver novel I've read and it packed an emotional punch. The story  really is of Iris, a woman with no family to speak of, absolutely alone in the world, finding a family and love and security. She leaves a horrible situation in London and begins to find her footing in New York, only to be thrown for a loop when she discovers an important piece of her family history. A place that was meaningful to her mother, the person she's currently grieving. When she visits this place, a gelateria, she discovers a family and history that are enmeshed with her own, the only catch is that the one person who knows how she's connected is hospitalized and her desire to help the family will require that she keep secrets. Keeping secrets in and of itself isn't problematic, until you learn more about the Belotti family (owners of the gelateria) and how they view secrets and lies and honor and trust. So, Iris keeps the secrets, does her best to help and not harm, and ends up falling madly in love with Gio, the person running the shop. As the story progresses, her guilt and shame become more and more of a burden, and you can't help but just want her to spill all of the secrets and just come clean. As the ending nears, the angst and helplessness just kept increasing until you just knew something had to happen. It did. It was super sad, and then it wasn't, and then some unexpected things happened, and yes-the happily ever after happened too. 

Something about Iris being an adult orphan just punched me in the gut. All she wanted was her mom back and in lieu of that, a family to belong with and to. She wanted love and warmth and connection and she found it and the idea that it could go away just got to me. The way Josie Silver described the Belotti family interactions and dinners were so vivid and reminded me so much of my family--I really connected to it all. I also really appreciated how she described various NYC scenes; they felt iconic and picturesque and I wanted to live in those scenes. 

So here I am in the blazing hot heat of Louisiana in July, wishing for a Winter in New York

PS-I know it's an impossible dream, but I really would love more of the Belotti family. I feel like there are many more stories to be had. 



A young chef stumbles on a secret family recipe that might lead her to the love—and life—she’s been looking for in this stunning novel.

When Iris decides to move to New York to restart her life, she realizes she underestimated how 
big the Big Apple really is—all the nostalgic movies set in New York she’d watched with her mom while eating their special secret-recipe gelato didn’t quite do it justice. 

But Bobby, Iris’s best friend, isn’t about to let her hide away. He drags her to a famous autumn street fair in Little Italy, and as they walk through the food stalls, a little family-run gelateria catches her eye—could it be the same shop that’s in an old photo of her mother’s?

Curious, Iris returns the next day and meets the handsome Gio, who tells her that the shop is in danger of closing. His uncle, sole keeper of their family’s gelato recipe, is in a coma, so they can’t make more. When Iris samples the last remaining batch, she realizes that 
their gelato and her gelato are one and the same. But how can she tell them she knows their secret recipe when she’s not sure why Gio’s uncle gave it to her mother in the first place?

Iris offers her services as a chef to help them re-create the flavor and finds herself falling for Gio and his family. But when Gio’s uncle finally wakes up, all of the secrets Iris has been keeping threaten to ruin the new life—and new love—she’s been building all winter long. 

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