Finder Keeper of My Heart by Vina Arno

Emma is convinced a message in a bottle holds the key to her future happiness. When she meets handsome Avery bathing nude under a waterfall in Hawaii she believes he’s the one she’s been waiting for all these years. Oh honey let’s be honest, his rock-hard abs and bare tushy helped with that decision too!

What’s it About?

Emma Munroe, a Juilliard senior, snags a plum role on Broadway a few weeks before her twenty-first birthday. She travels to Hawaii with her best friends to celebrate. When she gets lost in a jungle during an impromptu hike, she happens upon a waterfall—and a naked hunk bathing underneath it. When she finds out his name is Avery Bell, she’s dumbstruck. She believes she’s meant to love someone named Avery. It all goes back to a message in a bottle she found when she was nine, a letter written by a soldier called Avery to his sweetheart named Emma. He’d written it in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack during World War II. Since then, Emma has been searching (and saving her virginity) for her own Avery. But Avery Bell is as mysterious as he is irresistible. Emma learns about his family secrets and bitterness. In the course of this vacation, an accident and a tragic death will shake both of them to the core. Her singular faith in him—her unwavering belief in love and destiny—proves to be his saving grace.

First Impressions

Emma is a carefree, spunky actress with a whimsical tendency to create word mashups to find the perfect way to describe any situation. Avery is a tech nerd who prefers the quiet solitude of nature to the company of others. These two couldn’t be more mismatched, but when their paths cross in the middle of the Hawaiian rainforest, they’re inexplicably drawn to each other. They challenge each other to look at the world around them in new ways, and open their eyes to the possibility of something different in life. As if that wasn’t enough of a reason for Emma to start falling for Avery, his very name has her convinced they’re meant to be.

Years before, Emma discovered a washed-up message in a bottle from WWII where a man named Avery professed his undying love for a woman named Emma. Since that day, Emma has always believed the love of her life would be named Avery. Seems like a somewhat silly reason to love someone, and in a way I think it resulted in Emma overlooking a rather important red-flag detail when it came to Avery. Namely, that he already has a girlfriend waiting for him back in civilization.

The Other Woman

Upon first meeting, Avery is initially annoyed with this carefree spirit who has interrupted his solitude in the jungle. It doesn’t take long though for her inquisitive nature to win him over, and it’s not until a passionate make out scene that he reveals he already has a girlfriend. Now, they’re on a bit of a break at the moment, but they haven’t officially broken up yet either. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the classic Ross and Rachel Friends debate of whether or not Avery’s kisses with Emma could be construed as cheating considering that he and his girlfriend were “ON A BREAK!!”

I think that what most rubbed me the wrong way about this couple was that even after Avery admits he is already involved with another woman, this fact doesn’t really deter Emma. She continues to flirt and tease Avery, initiate kisses with him and shockingly almost seems upset when Avery refuses to sleep with her. As for Avery, he tries his best to say no, but can’t deny his time with Emma is making him re-think continuing his relationship with his girlfriend. What kind of bothered me though is that when his girlfriend comes to town for an unexpected visit and he admits that he and Emma have kissed several times, he gets agitated when his girlfriend greets Emma with coldness and an underlying sense of hostility. I mean…did he really expect these ladies to become best buddies and go shopping together or something? Of course they’d be wary spending any time together, and having to pretend to be cordial.

*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Stand-alone.

Final Impressions: This is a romance where seemingly polar opposites are able to learn from and challenge each other. Avery teaches Emma how to appreciate the slowness and beauty of nature, somewhat taming this whirlwind of energy. Emma is able to get Avery to live in the moment, and be more carefree and indulgent in life. While I didn’t agree with some of the choices they made in their relationship, or Avery’s interactions with his girlfriend, the situation wasn’t really presented as though we are supposed to agree with every decision they make. Instead, we see that they’re humans who err and learn from their mistakes.

Smut Level: These two spend most of the book pining after each other, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their hot and heavy moments. Especially when it comes to stumbling upon the other bathing naked out in the open.

Secret Baby, Second Chance by Jane Godman

Note to self: if at any point it feels like I’m the lead in a romance novel, don’t choose that as a time to go rock climbing. It just has bad idea written all over it.

What’s it About?

She’s alive! Vincente Delaney has finally found his girlfriend, Beth Wade, who disappeared a year and a half ago, alive. But he’s shocked to discover someone with her: their child, a little girl he never knew about! Once upon a time, lone wolf Vincente never expected forever with Beth, but now he must put everything on the line to protect her and their family.

Beth was forced to leave Vincente to protect everything she held dear. But now the threat to her loved ones’ lives has reared its ugly head again. As danger approaches, she and Vincente must delve into her past to cast out the darkness jeopardizing their future.

First Impressions

Vincente hasn’t seen Beth in almost two years. Their relationship had always been filled with heated passion back then, and could best be described as an on-again/off-again tumultuous roller coaster ride. Nothing quite like loud arguments interspersed with sexy make-up sessions against a wall. When she left town two years ago, Vincente initially wrote it off as her having another heated reaction to their relationship. However, when a serial killer made his way through their small town whose victims closely resembled Beth, Vincente started to fear the worst for his long-lost beloved. It’s only after the killer was stopped at the end of the last book that Beth’s hidden location has now been discovered. Vincente is not only pleasantly surprised to discover Beth is still alive, but overwhelmingly shocked to realize she has a baby daughter in tow. The timing of everything means she left town all those months back pregnant with his child. Yeah, get yourselves ready for another one of those heated arguments!!

The Suspense of Confrontation

Hands-down, the best part of this novel was when Vincente discovered Beth’s secret location, and the confrontation which ensued over the fact that she hid the identity of their daughter from him for all this time. This is when we see the most heated and intense moments between them, where you can’t tell if Vincente will yell in frustration, storm out in anger, or shove Beth up against a wall to demonstrate that his feelings for her never went away. Or heck, maybe a nice dose of all three scenarios is in order. This is also when we find out that these characters are don’t with serial killers, as Beth admits the reason she left all those months ago was because she and the members of her rock climbing group are being threatened and picked off one by one by an unknown enemy. When the killer also uncovers Beth’s secret location, Vincente has no choice but to bring her and their child back home with him to protect them.

From Lonely Bachelor to Playful Father

Once Beth and Vincente go back to their hometown, this is when things almost progress too smoothly as far as their relationship is concerned. Vincente, who has always been the consummate bachelor, quickly transitions into the ideal dad, and he and Beth fall back into their passionate ways in no time. As members of Beth’s former rock climbing group continue to be killed, and our two leads even have a confrontation or two with the villain, we constantly wonder who the killer is and why they’re so intent on this vendetta of revenge. There’s a few curveballs and false clues thrown into the mix to keep you guessing from start to finish. I will say the ultimate reveal of the killer and their motivations, as well as the fact another member of the climbing team was suspicious of this killer for quite some time was slightly disappointing. It seemed as though the identity of the killer could have been discovered and revealed years beforehand, and without the need for additional deaths. Still, it was an intriguing and entertaining ride, with a few suspenseful scenes at the top of steep cliffs to keep you on the edge of your seat!

*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Sons of Stillwater, book 3. I didn’t read books 1 or 2 in this series, but could still follow along fairly easily with the events of this book. Sure, it may have been more enjoyable to reconnect with former characters from the previous two novels, but it was still fun to meet these characters for the first time.

Final Impressions: This was a suspenseful and passionate read. Overall I think the first half was more engaging than the latter half, but it’s still entertaining on the whole. I would have liked to see more of the hot and cold dynamic between Beth and Vincente sustained into the second half, but could also understand the need to push this aside to focus attention on the murder at hand.

Smut Level: Passion and sexual chemistry was always something that Beth and Vincente had in spades. Two years apart has changed a lot of things, but certainly not that important detail!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Harlequin Romantic Suspense. 288 Pages.

Try as I Smite by Abigail Owen

Try as I Smite by Abigail Owen

We have all the mages, angels, demons, windigos and Charles Dickens Christmas Carol references you could ever possibly want for some holiday spirit. Now, whether that holiday is Halloween or Christmas is anyone’s guess!

What’s it About? 

Alasdair Blakesley is the head of the Covens Syndicate. He shouldn’t need to look beyond the witches and warlocks he governs, or his own abilities, to solve any problem. But a demon infestation means he can’t trust anyone who may be possessed. The last person he wants to ask for help is also the only person who can fix this, so he sucks up his pride and storms into her office.

And she turns him down cold.

As the owner of Brimstone Inc., Delilah’s passion is helping others with their supernatural problems. But Alasdair is the last man Delilah wants to tangle with. The infuriating man sees too much and demands even more. And did she mention the way he sets her body on fire? Not that it matters—demons are the only things with which she cannot interfere. Too bad a higher power steps in and sends them both on a crash course of each others’ pasts, presents, and futures. How is a Christmas Carol nightmare supposed to solve his demon problem without breaking the rules she’s bound by?

First Impressions

As far as I’m concerned, Alasdair and Delilah are the king and queen of penetrating stares, smirking grins, and the ubiquitous eyebrow lift. From the first moment we witness these two in a room together, or office to be precise, we can’t wait for the eventual moment when they’ll rip each other’s clothes off to devour one another. Now granted, Alasdair is currently encountering a bit of a demon problem in which his fellow mages are being possessed by their enemies in a hellish attempt at demonic world domination, but…ya know…his sexual chemistry with Delilah is still forefront in our minds. Priorities!

A Demonic Christmas for the Ages

When Alasdair comes to Delilah for help with ridding his people of demons, she surprisingly refuses to assist him herself. This shocks Alasdair considering she’s known throughout the supernatural world for helping those in need. While he is rightly pissed off at her initial refusal, and assumes it stems from her personal dislike of dealing with him, we can tell there’s a secret reasoning behind Delilah’s rebuff. She doesn’t leave him out in the wintry cold completely though, and instead sends him to another woman for help…her mother. Rather than solve his problem for him, Delilah’s mother proceeds to send both Alasdair and Delilah through a Dickens-like Christmas Carol journey, observing scenes from their past, present, and future.

These scenes are supposedly the key to Alasdair’s solution, but as he spends more time trapped with Delilah through all of these emotional moments in time, he can’t help but feel increasingly linked with her as each vision passes. They become connected in a way that is special and all-consuming, and even though he needs to get back to his people, Alasdair also doesn’t want this time with Delilah to end. A gripping need starts to envelop them, and before long they’re more entranced with each other than the scenes playing out before them. Hands down my favorite point in the entire book was when they’ve been transported to a new scene, and Alasdair essentially declares he doesn’t care what lesson this particular glimpse is supposed to teach him, and instead he proceeds to ravish and taste Delilah all over while pushing her up against a wall. Makes things a bit more interesting than your typical Christmas Carol rendition, doesn’t it?

Being Consumed with Possession

My regular readers will have undoubtedly seen me utter the phrase many times throughout the years that considering how many books I read it really does take a lot for a story to surprise me. I can usually guess at some point where the plot is going to lead. However, I must say this battle against possessive demons truly had me on the edge of my seat in anticipation from start to finish. I never really knew where the story wanted to take me, and there were a few twists and turns along the way that I didn’t see coming. Something I did appreciate throughout the read was the emphasis on Alasdair and Delilah discovering that they were always stronger together than they could ever be apart from each other. It wasn’t about him rescuing her as a damsel in distress, or her opening his eyes to a woman’s worth, but rather that their connection as a unit was everything worth fighting for.

*A copy of this book was provided by an honest review*

Series: Brimstone INC, book 4. This is a great series full of fantastical characters. You don’t necessarily need to read all the books which came before, but you might as well!

Final Impressions: This is a quick and engaging read that you won’t want to put down! In a way it sort of reminded me of a Nightmare Before Christmas in that it’s really a fun batch of entertainment for either Halloween or Christmas. You no longer need to choose one over the other! This read allows you to have your cake and eat it too. Or lick the frosting off of Alasdair if at all possible.

Smut Level: Alasdair is so taken with Delilah he can’t help but take her up against a wall during one of their Christmas Carol-esque visions. If that’s not passion I don’t know what is!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Entangled: Amara. 123 Pages

Dangerous Currents by Kathryn Knight

Imagine traveling halfway across the world to escape the stresses of a former life. You’re experiencing some intense jetlag, so you decide to go for a calming walk with your dog along the beach, only to quickly discover the body of a dead woman along the way. Not exactly my idea of a relaxing beach getaway!

What’s it About?

When a costly mistake ends Malorie Montgomery’s career, she returns to Cape Cod in search of a fresh start. But her plans for a new—and quiet—life are quickly derailed when she makes a grisly discovery in the woods, and her screams bring the one person from her past she’d hoped to avoid. Dean Slater, the ex-boyfriend who broke her heart in high school, now lives in the beachfront community that was supposed to be her haven…and he’s just as hot as he was six years ago.

With his rough background, Dean always knew he wasn’t good enough for the kind, intelligent beauty who claimed his heart, but somehow he’d believed their love was strong enough to survive anything—until the tragic night she turned her back on him when he needed her trust the most. Despite their painful history, Dean can’t resist the instinct to protect her, especially when it becomes apparent there’s a killer in their town.

Their former chemistry soon reignites, but Malorie has long accepted that her dark family secret has destined her to a life alone. And when she uncovers evidence that makes her the killer’s target, a deadly confrontation threatens to destroy any possibility of a second chance.

First Impressions

This novel presents us with a second chance romance opportunity between two people from opposite sides of the track, Malorie and Dean. They fell in love senior year of high school, but their relationship deteriorated on prom night due to unfortunate misunderstandings on both their parts. Malorie was promptly whisked away to another continent for school, and it’s only now, five years later, that she returns to Cape Cod and crosses paths once again with her former flame. As if reuniting with the love of your life after so many years apart wasn’t awkward enough, Malorie and Dean’s reunion takes place after she stumbles across a dead body, and Dean came running to investigate her screams. As the murder investigation proceeds, there is some initial angst and animosity between them, but it doesn’t take long before Malorie and Dean find themselves falling back in love with each other.

From Second Chances to Murder, and Everything in Between

There were a lot of different story-lines happening in this book, each one just as gripping and entertaining as the next. There’s the slow reveal of what Malorie and Dean got wrong all those years ago, each of them starting out on a new business opportunity, opening themselves up again to the possibility of love, Malorie admitting for the first time some of the frightening battles her family has experienced with mental illness, and on top of it all the discovery at the start of the book of a murdered rape victim. Again, there’s a lot happening here!

While I did find each component thoroughly entertaining, there may have been a bit too much happening all at once. If I had to choose one story-line which probably could have been left out, or maybe incorporated more fully into the story, I’d probably have to go with the murder plot. It was definitely an exciting start to the book, and provided us with an unbelievably dramatic ending, but there was a good portion of the novel where it felt like this plot point was pushed to the side to focus instead on Malorie and Dean’s reconnection. That’s not to say it wasn’t a well constructed piece of drama! There were so many curveballs thrown in to make you suspect multiple characters of being responsible for the string of murders plaguing this small New England town. Overall though, I found myself forgetting several times throughout the read that these murders had taken place.

*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Stand-alone. Considering how much was going on with this read, I almost wonder if it would have presented well as a duet series!

Final Impressions: This was an intense read that will have you wondering from start to finish who dunnit, though it was somewhat busy with all of the different stories going on. The author did employ a great use of flashbacks to reveal what happened all those years ago between Malorie and Dean, as well as the complicated relationship between Malorie and her mother. We could seamlessly flow from present, to the past and back again in a way that felt natural, as though the characters were thinking back on everything all at that very moment. In my opinion the most unexpectedly moving story was Malorie revealing the complications of her mother’s paranoid schizophrenia, and how this struggle has impacted Malorie’s outlook on the choices she can make in her own life. It was a very emotionally revealing conversation between her and Dean that I wasn’t expecting!

Smut Level: They may have been separated for the last 5 years, but their love never went anywhere. Needless to say, they have a lot of lost time to make up for! We get to see some make out scenes up against a door, in the rain, and sex scenes filled with all the passionate intensity and urgency you could hope for.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Wicked Whale Publishing. 282 Pages.

Home in Your Arms by Charlotte O’Shay

Car trouble in the middle of a rainstorm. Finding shelter in an abandoned garage. A crackling fireplace and only one bed?! Oh yeah, this is definitely my kind of read.

What’s it About? 

After her sweetheart Joe dies in a road accident, twenty-four hours after he returns from Army service, grieving Karla Payne slams the door on love. Five years later, Karla’s tavern business is booming, and she owns her home, but she knows forever love has no part in her future. Headed to interview for his first civilian job, retired career Army 1st Sgt. Zane Blackthorne can’t resist visiting his late buddy’s beloved Vermont hometown. He also can’t resist looking up Joe’s sweetheart, Karla, who is an alluring mix of brains, beauty, and bravery. Loyalty to his brother-in-arms demands Zane fight his attraction to Karla. Besides, even if Karla wants him, she’ll never love him. Can Zane say goodbye to the woman he has no right to call his own? Even if his only true home is in her arms?

First Impressions

Throughout this novel we see a proverbial third wheel which is a constant underlying presence in Karla and Zane’s relationship: Joe. He was the love of Karla’s life, and possibly Zane’s only true friend in the army. Joe tragically died five years ago, not in war, but rather from a hit-and-run accident that took place merely one day after his return from battle. During his time in the army, Joe always regaled Zane with stories of his quirky home-town and his girl. When Zane finds himself passing through this picturesque locale after leaving the army he can’t help but stop to see it for himself, as well as share with Karla how much his friendship with Joe meant to him. This shared connection with Joe and the retelling of his stories were the impetus which brought these two people together, and they soon discover how much they enjoy simply spending time with each other. However, while Joe’s existence and death brought them together, it also unexpectedly keeps them apart.

Not Worthy

As Karla and Zane progress in their relationship by taking things to the next step physically, eventually they have an argument about how to define their relationship. The fight itself did seem somewhat contrived, with Zane seemingly going into the conversation expecting an argument, and peppering Karla with question after question in an accusatory way about how she doesn’t want to put a label on them as a couple. This was definitely true as Karla wanted to stay together with Zane, but was uncomfortable defining them as boyfriend and girlfriend, or perhaps even being on the pathway to something more serious.

After this fight which puts their entire connection in jeopardy, Karla soon realizes that her desire to keep things undefined in her relationship with Zane stemmed from her not wanting to feel disloyal to Joe’s memory. After all, he was her first and only everything, and when he died Karla felt she didn’t deserve to find someone else to replace him. She never could have imagined someone like Zane to come waltzing into her life, and she certainly never expected their connection after just a few weeks could rival that which she experienced for years with Joe. Zane tries his hardest to convince her that it’s not about replacing or forgetting, but rather about opening herself up to the prospect of experiencing even more love in her life.

*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Deerbourne Inn. Just like the previous book in this series, Home in Your Arms was a quick read that I finished in just 3 days. Honestly, it would have been 2 days if I had just insisted on not bingeing another episode of Breaking Bad. I wish we could have seen a few more of the colorful characters of this small town we’ve come to know and love, but I’m really looking forward to continuing with this series!

Final Impressions: This is an enjoyable read with an important message about moving on after tragedy, and how to re-open your heart to love again. I appreciated that these two didn’t immediately fall into bed or lust with each other, especially seeing as how important Joe was to both of them. A quick wam-bam-thank-you-ma’am would have felt like a slap in the face to his memory. Instead we see how Karla and Zane are able to acknowledge at the start how much they enjoy the other’s company, and eventually their relationship naturally develops into something more. Not too fast, not too slow, just right!

Smut Level: Shockingly, there was no hanky panky during the rainstorm fireplace scene mentioned at the start of the review. However, we do get an up-against-the-wall kitchen scene later on which was just as delicious.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 114 Pages. 

A Timeline Restored by Rebecca Hefner

A Timeline Restored by Rebecca Hefner

Alas, the series had to come to an end at some point. We all hold our breath in collective anticipation, wondering if this group of friends will finally succeed in breaking the time loop cycle they’re stuck in to save the world.

What’s it About? 

The thrilling conclusion to the trilogy…Eli Hernandez spent decades cultivating an image of fear and domination as the nefarious leader of the New Establishment. Yet, deep inside, he still clutches onto the barest hope that his irredeemable soul has vestiges of virtue. Alora Castillo lost everything one fateful day long ago as Eli looked on, unable to stop the carnage. Resolved to detest him, she must forge ahead when they are thrust together as unlikely allies. As the ragtag team of time travelers strives to reconnect with their leader, dark forces hide behind the scenes, manipulating fate as the cycle carries on. Determined to succeed and prevent the past, the team battles the evil regime, unwilling to accept failure. But accepting the yearnings of the heart requires forgiveness—a concept Alora dismissed long ago, no matter how fervently she secretly longs for Eli’s embrace. Will the team save the world and prevent President Randolph from detonating the apocalypse? Read the electrifying finale now!

First Impressions

Each and every couple in this series was just as delightful and entertaining as the last, and these two just might be my favorite of the group. There was so much angst, passion and heated history between them that you couldn’t help but root for them to acknowledge how much love and adoration was lying just beneath the surface. In any given scene you couldn’t really tell if they would fight, scream, shove the other up against the wall to tear their clothes off, or a combination of all of the above. There’s a complicated past which exists between Eli and Alora which was constantly pulling them together, yet pushing them apart at the same time.

An Unforgivable Past

The history of Eli and Alora is fraught with tension, pain and distrust. Years ago, Eli’s father killed Alora’s entire family, and while he couldn’t find a way to save them all, Eli was able to convince his father to spare Alora’s life. Throughout the years they’ve been enemies, constantly fighting against each other. However, only recently have they discovered they’re actually allies, as Eli has secretly been finding ways to support their rebel cause and mission to bring down the New Establishment which is set on world domination. When Alora is captured by these enemy forces, Eli once again has to use his cunning to think of a way to rescue her. What better solution than to suggest a marriage of convenience? Loooove it!

While Eli is constantly demonstrating his will to protect Alora, there is still an underlying distrust she feels towards this man. After all, she’ll constantly associate him with that terrible day when her family was gunned down in front of her. They always say “actions speak louder than words”, and Eli’s actions certainly express an unbreakable devotion to Alora, but she still finds it difficult to accept his help towards her and her friends. When he eventually declares his love for Alora she sees it as the ultimate challenge to forgive and forget a past which has influenced her entire trajectory in life. It’s easy for us to berate Alora’s decision to constantly push Eli away, especially when we consider how many times he’s risked his own life to protect her. I lost count of the moments when I wanted to exclaim, “oh just forgive him already!” However, it’s also crucial for us to remember that tragic moment from their shared past which makes us understand why it is so difficult for her to pull Eli into her arms.

*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Prevent the Past, book 3. Something I loved about this entire series was that in addition to being presented with an engaging couple, we’re always exposed to a strong and admirable female lead. This final book in the series was no exception to that delightful feature!

Final Impressions: Eli and Alora were certainly a captivating couple of characters, but just as entertaining was the family we’ve followed throughout this entire series. They’re not necessarily a family bound by blood, though some are unknowingly connected in that way. Rather, they’re a family of their own choosing. They’ve fallen in step with each other, and are honored to fight and die by each other. It was such a beautiful and honest form of familial devotion. We are constantly kept guessing as to how this team will succeed in saving the world, and if it’s even possible to break out of the time cycle loop in which they constantly fail in their ultimate goal. It’s a fun guessing game right up to the very end. The final aspect of this novel which I enjoyed was the fact that while Eli was the first to say he loved Alora, and constantly tried to fight for her affection, in the end we see that she must now fight for him. The fate of their relationship didn’t just lie in one or the other, but instead they each had to step up to the plate.

Smut Level: Eli and Alora have a chemistry which is off-the-charts explosive.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Reading Goddess Press, LLC. 218 Pages. 

Snowball’s Christmas by Kristen McKanagh

Snowball’s Christmas by Kristen McKanagh

A delightful Christmas romance to get you in the holiday spirit! Believe me when I say, this year especially, it’s not too early to pick up this read.

What’s it About? 

Snowball—an aptly named bundle of feline fluff—is thankful to be spending her first Christmas in the comfort of Weber Haus, the Victorian B&B run by Miss Tilly. Emily Diemer, who cooks for the guests, dotes on Snowball, but she’s not thrilled about another new arrival at the B&B: Miss Tilly’s nephew, Lukas. Which is odd, because Snowball’s animal instincts tell her that Lukas and Emily should definitely be friends. Everything Emily needs is in this quaint community—including, she hopes, the chance to open her own bakery one day.

She doesn’t think much of Lukas for leaving his aging aunt to struggle while he jets around the world taking photographs. But now that he’s here, helping to spruce up the property and getting mixed up in Snowball’s antics, she begins to soften a little. Until she learns what he has planned . . . Lukas is going to sell Weber Haus so that Miss Tilly can retire. But Snowball is certain that this B&B, and these people, are supposed to be her forever home. Somehow she has to get these stubborn humans to see things through the wisdom of a cat’s eye and a kitten’s loyal, loving heart . . .

First Impressions

In this enchanting Christmas romance we see a small snippet of each chapter told from the point of view of an adorable kitten. I mean, just look at the fluffy wuffy cuteness that is the cover art, and tell me you’re not intrigued! As if that wasn’t enough, we have a snowy landscape at a picturesque Inn, two people who fall in love, and German Christmas traditions and food on top of everything. When I told my friends these fabulous details they all said the same thing: “This book was made for you”. While reading this book, believe me when I say it will leave you with a smile on your face pretty much from start to finish, and for a few days afterwards. You’ll probably chuckle aloud a time or two, and your toes will curl with glee. If it doesn’t? Well you just might be the Grinch of the holiday season.

A Personal Connection

This was exactly the kind of romance book I didn’t know I needed right now. Initially I thought it was way too early in the season for a snowy Christmas read, but it was simply the perfect amount of light-hearted fun and romance necessary to escape all the stresses of the world. And my goodness there’s seemingly too many stresses to count! I also felt a personal connection to this read, not just because I can’t say no to a book featuring a fluffball of fur as one of the characters. As someone who lost her own Oma earlier this year, it was special for me to read about the connection between the character of Emily and her own Oma who recently passed. To witness another woman who had such a loving relationship with her Oma, and one who also had a culinary influence on her life dang near brought tears to my eyes!

My sister and I basically grew up in my Oma’s kitchen. She taught me how to make spaetzle, kartoffelsalat und blaukraut.

A Pinch of Love, a Scoop of Fun

This novel presents us with the perfect recipe of a romance: the book has soul, and these characters have heart. Even during moments which cause friction, we can see that the decisions of Emily and Lukas come from a good place. For example, the synopsis introduces us to the fact that Lukas wants to sell his aunt’s Inn, and while I went into this read expecting to see him as a somewhat selfish character, I was surprised to find that his goal of selling the Inn was bred solely from the desire to ensure his aunt was being taken care of. Emily was also intent on hating Lukas for a good portion of the read, as she couldn’t help but see him as a neglectful nephew to the woman she’s come to love as family. Her oftentimes childish fixation to dislike Lukas became a bit easier to understand when we see it was due to her love of Aunt Tilly.

Even Snowball the kitten had the best of intentions during her moments of craziness! Sure, she could be such a little troublemaker at times, but she just wanted these silly humans to fall in love and kiss already! For those of you who aren’t cat people (firstly, how dare you?), don’t let that deter you from this read! Snowball was unbelievably adorable in all her fluffy cuteness, and at times even took on the characteristics of a dog. She would fetch things (even if not asked for), she was snuggly and affectionate, and could even follow direction…kind of.

*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Stand-Alone.

Final Impressions: This is a must-read for the holiday season! For those of you who might not be in the mood for a Christmas read at this point of the year, at least be sure to add this to your holiday “to be read” pile. I didn’t want to put it down, whether I was in the bath, it was before bed, or I needed to hop on a zoom call for work!

Smut Level: This is a sweet read without any hanky panky.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $9.99 Kindle Price. Kensington Publishing. 240 Pages

Wicked in a Kilt by Anna Durand

She has three rules in life: no sex, no love, no marriage. He intends to seduce her to break all three.

What’s it About? 

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Calli Douglas has avoided romance for five years, bound by a promise she never should’ve made to a man she doesn’t love. Now, he refuses to let her go. When she leaves her backwoods hideaway to attend her cousin’s wedding, Calli has no intention of meeting a man. But fate has other plans–in the form of one scorching-hot Scotsman.

Aidan “Don Juan” MacTaggart is the living embodiment of carnal pleasure and seductive prowess, but he longs for love and commitment. The moment he sets eyes on Calli, the stunning American captivates him. Though she’s sworn off sex and romance, unraveling the mystery of why tantalizes Aidan almost as much as her sensual curves.

As their passion for each other inspires them to explore their steamiest desires, a deeper bond takes root. But when secrets from both their pasts threaten their happiness, they must confront their fears or lose everything.

First Impressions

The meet-cute of our main characters was by far the best feature of this read. After all, there’s nothing quite like a case of mistaken identity where our male lead is thought to be the tardy stripper for a bachelorette party. Aidan might run away at the prospect of removing his clothes in front of a room full of ladies he doesn’t know, but he’s not afraid to run into the arms of Calli after this brief misunderstanding. Following this rather abrupt first meeting, Aidan is surreptitiously invited by the bride-to-be to attend the wedding, and he and Calli share a romantic dance or two. This is when things moved a bit too quickly for me. Calli goes back to Michigan after the wedding, and when Aidan calls her up from Chicago he offers to drive the 3-4 hours up to meet her so they can…hang out? Maybe this is why I’m still single. Calli saw it as a sweet gesture, I saw it as slightly creepy. Upon his arrival at her humble abode we see him try to woo her into taking a chance on him by throwing all of her steadfast rules out the window.

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It Runs in the Family

Playing a board game together. Sharing his favorite brand of whiskey with her. Making their first time special by lighting a bunch of candles. Sounds like some sweet and romantic ways to connect, don’t they? Of course they do! These are all the things which worked for Aidan’s brother, Lachlan, who was the male lead of book one as he successfully wooed Erica into being his wife. Aidan tries his darnedest to replicate as many of his brother’s romantic gestures with Calli in the hopes that it will tear down her walls, and she’ll open up to the idea of falling in love with him.

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That in and of itself was kind of…off-putting…considering he’s known this woman for all of about 2 days before he determines she’s destined to be the American wife he’s been searching for. The fact that he constantly references Lachlan and Erica’s relationship throughout their time together, and reveals that he’s employing some of the same tactics used by his brother makes it even more surprising to me that Calli didn’t throw this sexy-as-sin Scot out on his firm behind. He asks her to give him four weeks to try out a relationship, as that’s how long it took for Lachlan and Erica to fall in love. Even with this four week timeline he proposes to her after just one week, acknowledging that he doesn’t love her yet. Coming on a bit strong, buddy!!

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The Cat’s Outta the Bag

Similar to book one, this novel presents us with our two leads keeping secrets from each other which eventually come to light towards the end of the book. Calli’s secret is that she married a man right out of college so he could get a green card, and over six years later he refuses to give her a divorce as he’s always been in love with her. I must say, this side story was resolved so quickly and easily after it was revealed to Aidan that it felt like a wasted opportunity for more exciting drama. Aidan stays pretty much out of the ordeal entirely, which on the one hand was refreshing, as it allowed Calli to handle matters on her own. But on the other hand it never really felt fully incorporated into the story, so it was more like a side annoyance that never rose to the level of being truly important.

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As for Aidan’s back-story, and the climactic reasoning that threatens to end his relationship with Calli, all revolves around an ex girlfriend. This ex has been calling him a lot lately, demanding money as compensation for an accident that was in no way, shape, or form Aidan’s fault. When his ex reveals she’s pregnant, claiming the child is Aidan’s, he’s willing to give up his newfound love for Calli to marry his ex…an idea which is quickly abandoned before it even has a chance to fully take shape. However, that one moment of doubt causes Calli to start questioning the rapidity of their entire relationship, which Aidan subsequently judges her for. As a reminder…these people have only known each other for a span of two weeks. It was never clear to me why things had to be all or nothing for their relationship. Why does Aidan have to propose after one week even though he knows he doesn’t love her yet? Why are the only two solutions either getting married and moving to Scotland, or breaking up? Whatever happened to dating?

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Series: Hot Scots, book 2. Overall I enjoyed the romance in book 1 better, but I’m still intrigued to see what’s in store for our next MacTaggart brother.

Final Impressions: The progression of this novel was extremely similar to that of the plot from the first book, albeit it never quite reached the same level of excitement. I simply wasn’t as connected to Aidan and Calli as I was to Lachlan and Emily. Even when we compare the side stories of Emily being framed for a crime she didn’t commit, and Calli fearing the discovery of her sham marriage, Emily’s tale of misery was far more interesting. Something else which distracted from the romance between Calli and Aidan was the fact that we are introduced to their respective siblings later on in the novel who proceed to have a love affair of their own, and I must say I almost wanted to see more from that couple! I did enjoy the meet-cute, and some of the teasing seduction initiated by Aidan, but overall their relationship felt off and extremely rushed.

Smut Level: There’s nothing quite like finding a secluded spot after a soothing summer’s drive to appreciate the scenery…and maybe have sex against the car door.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Jacobsville Books. 228 Pages.

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A Destiny Reborn by Rebecca Hefner

A Destiny Reborn by Rebecca Hefner

This series follows a team of time travelers who travel to 2035 to prevent a nuclear apocalypse. Considering how this year is going…maybe they should have set 2020 as their destination!

What’s it About? 

Thrust into a world they barely comprehend, two time travelers are forced to survive with only each other as allies.Claire Finch, the kind, bubbly scientist, has sacrificed her hidden dreams for the cause: to prevent the apocalypse and save the world.Cyrus Montgomery, a tough, stoic soldier weary from the battle scars of war and barren dystopia.Together, they traverse the unfamiliar circumstances, both fighting and denying their mutual attraction.But destiny can be manipulated by unseen forces, and as they navigate the uncharted timeline, they discover a united strength they never possessed apart…and learn that true love ultimately prevails if the warnings of the past are heeded with caution and diligence.

First Impressions

The first novel in this series focused on a team of scientists and other heroes who were determined to finish building a time travel device, and go back to 2035 to prevent the moment in history when everything went wrong. At the end of that first novel we saw some team members successfully travel back in time, but ultimately discover they were stuck in an endless loop of traveling back only to continuously fail in their pursuit, so that everything could start back up again from the beginning. This second novel opens with two members of the team who overshot the 2035 destination, and instead find themselves in 2002 separated from the rest of their team.

I’ll admit, I was a bit wary to discover this installment finds our lead characters separated from the rest of the team, as the family dynamic between all of the characters was one of the standout features of the first novel. Would Claire and Cyrus be able to provide enough of that chemistry to replace the connection we saw from the group? While I did miss some of that friendship we glimpsed throughout the team, believe me when I say that Claire and Cyrus have enough playful banter between them to keep you entertained, not to mention their solitude pushes the plot forward in other meaningful ways.

A Shining Light

My initial apprehension over the missing crew members quickly turned to pleasant surprise at the discovery that their absence would allow Claire to come into the spotlight and shine all her own. It seems as though even Claire was surprised to find that she’s a bad-ass in her own right. While she definitely appreciates having Cyrus there with her in this strange time to help guard over her, Claire never fully falls back on him to protect or rescue her from trouble. Living in this other timeline away from the group makes her realize an inner strength she never knew she had. She also has the chance to reflect on what she really wants out of life.

Even though they were shocked to find themselves essentially stuck in a time so distant and different than their own, Claire now acknowledges that she wants to stay in this timeline. She and Cyrus can help research and set the groundwork needed to help their team in the future, but there will no longer be this sole driving motivation of needing to save the world resting on their shoulders. They finally have the chance to live a life of their own choosing, not to mention be surrounded by enough bountiful food to have french toast for breakfast, lunch, or dinner whenever they feel like it.

Standing Right in Front of Her

Rather than being solely focused on time travel and saving the world, living in this other timeline also allows Claire to admit what she wants in life more than anything else. Cyrus. She’s loved him for years, and has always sensed an underlying attraction from him as well. Only when they now have the opportunity to spend time alone with each other does Claire discover just how much Cyrus has been pushing his feelings for her to the side. He continuously tries to push her away, declaring that she deserves someone better who is also closer to her in age.

Claire doesn’t know when or why Cyrus convinced himself that he wasn’t good enough for her, or that she wasn’t strong enough to go after what she wants. And she wants him. A life together with him. Claire refuses to let Cyrus push her aside, and it was unbelievably refreshing to see this woman find the strength within herself to no longer be relegated to a corner. She’s not afraid to fight for him, or show him all the reasons they belong together.

*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Prevent the Past, book 2. I can’t wait to see where this series goes, especially in regards to whether or not our team can break the loop they’re all stuck in to succeed in saving the world.

Final Impressions: This second novel definitely starts and ends with a bang, but throughout much of the book we see Cyrus and Claire play more of an observatory role in relation to the dramatic events leading to the apocalypse. I’ve always considered romance novels as an escape from the harsh realities of the world, and while the connection between our two lead characters provided that pivotal escape at times, this series also demonstrates how far political aspirations and beliefs can plunge the world into absolute chaos. All things considered, it was a tad depressing at times to witness the realism lying within this futuristic plot. Nevertheless, you’ll fall in love with Cyrus and Claire, and hope that somehow this team will succeed in finding a way to prevent the past.

Smut Level: Cyrus’s broken ankle might have him limping around town on crutches, but it certainly doesn’t slow him down in the bedroom! We see a few dominant tendencies emerge from Cyrus, but nothing that goes too over the top. Their chemistry is simply delicious.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Reading Goddess Press, LLC. 176 Pages

I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself. Here’s one more parting image of the wonderfully gorgeous Idris Elba for your viewing pleasure. The smile, the sprinkling of salt and pepper through the beard, sighhhhhh!!!

Djimon Hounsou was also considered for a considerably long time.

Driven by Fire by Eden Rayna

Who knew the sleeper cab of a semi-truck could be such a delectably sexy place an afternoon delight?!

What’s it About? 

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When Piper walks in on her boyfriend with another woman, she ends up alone, walking the highway leading into Fort McKay in Northern Alberta. Piper realizes how much she’s sacrificed for this relationship—her friends, her lifestyle, and most importantly, her career as a chef—and she determines to leave this small town behind and reclaim her independence. But when a semi-truck pulls up behind her and lurches to a stop, she fears her night is about to get worse.

Desperate for some respite from his gossip-worthy life, tech millionaire Brandon takes up long-haul trucking after a messy divorce. While driving into Fort McKay, he sees a woman walking on the side of the highway. Trying to be a gentleman, he pulls over and tries to offer her a ride. She refuses—yet the look in her eyes makes him feel protective of her at first sight.

When Piper and Brandon have a chance encounter the next day, the chemistry between them is undeniable. Neither is looking for love, but they end up spending a hot afternoon together. Brandon’s awaiting business in Edmonton and Piper’s newly-single mindset allow both to say goodbye quickly and get on with their lives. But wildfires raging in the area force Brandon to stay in Fort McKay, leading to a smouldering week with Piper. Despite Piper’s reluctance to depend on another man and Brandon’s determination not to fall in love, they both start to realize how incredible they are together. Piper opens up in ways she never knew possible, and Brandon remembers how it feels to love someone.

As the wildfires rage closer, evacuation orders pressure the lovers to decide on their future. Piper’s friend Danielle knows these two are falling in love and implores Piper to take a leap in this passionate relationship. But Piper has to make her own decision: Will she keep her promise to reclaim her independence, or will she follow Brandon back to his life in Edmonton?

First Impressions

I’m not gonna lie, the opening scene of this sexy romance reads like the start of a horror film. We have a young, beautiful woman walking alone by the side of the road on a dark and smoky night, as a semi-truck slowly follows behind before offering her a ride. If I were in Piper’s shoes I’d probably collapse in a mess of tears. Highlighting a sense of realism to the story, she does remain extremely wary of this driver, denying his offer of a ride to proceed on her path into town. Had she willingly jumped into his cab willy-nilly it probably would have been difficult to continue reading! However, this opening scene perfectly captures the personalities of our characters. Piper is a strong-willed woman with spunk who can take care of herself. As for Brandon, our truck driver, he’s actually a caring, compassionate man who puts his whole heart into those he loves. The question is whether or not Piper is prepared to receive the full force of his affections…not to mention his sexual stamina.

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Can You Make One Week Last Forever?  

After they both find their way into town, Piper and Brandon’s paths continue to cross, and they can’t help but exchange smoldering glances of lust which quickly turn to physical expressions of their desire. In the beginning, both are under the impression this will be a one-night stand to blow off some steam as a forest fire slowly encroaches upon this small mountain town. It doesn’t take long before they realize that something more meaningful is simmering between them. Brandon is more willing to admit to himself that they’re starting to develop a relationship which he wants to continue beyond his short stay in her town. He’s been single for so long following a nasty break-up with his ex, so he understands that the emotions stirring for Piper are uniquely special.

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Piper is definitely more timid in acknowledging that she wants more time with Brandon. Her feelings for him have evolved so quickly, and the last time she followed her impulsive nature for another man she wound up in a tiny oil town for 5 years, abandoning all her career ambitions along the way. While she would love to see where things with Brandon might lead, she also doesn’t want to make the same mistake in running away with him. She only just broke up with her boyfriend one week ago, a relationship which lasted for years and was all wrong for her in so many ways. The night of the break up was also the same night when she took that lonely walk along the side of the road that Brandon happened upon. Piper might try her darnedest to convince both herself and Brandon that they should keep their fling short and sweet, but he certainly delights in trying to persuade her that he knows how to treat her right.

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A Billionaire Trucker

The one feature of this read which I found a bit hard to swallow was the fact that Brandon was simply moonlighting as a trucker. He’s actually a wealthy tech billionaire, but following the publicly disastrous break-up with his ex he chose to get away from the stresses of his world by hitting the road. It provided him with a sense of anonymity and peace that he’d been craving for some time. I definitely understand plot-wise why Brandon has this secret other life. It lends a sense of suspense to his growing relationship with Piper, as she wonders how long they’ll have together until he finally has to leave town. We as the audience constantly question what Piper’s reaction will be when Brandon admits the truth about his wealth. Therefore, while I can’t say it was necessarily a realistic feature for this tech billionaire to turn to trucking, it did create some interesting twists and turns to the story. I almost wish though that he had simply been on a cross-country road trip of some kind, as it still would have allowed Piper and Brandon to cross paths while he hid his true identity.

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There’s certainly no hiding the sexual chemistry of Piper and Brandon’s relationship, as these two have trouble keeping their hands off of each other. A constant shadow over their shoulder though is the fire bearing down on their community. Brandon has plans to evacuate on a private plane, and he has every intention of bringing Piper with him. It was easy to assume that the discovery of Brandon’s wealth would strike a crushing blow to their relationship as a reflection of his inability to be completely honest with her. However, I was pleasantly surprised at the emotional maturity we see towards the end of the novel as everything comes to light. While Piper was noticeably upset about Brandon’s secrecy, she can acknowledge that money isn’t a deciding factor in their connection. Instead the bigger wedge which comes between them is the fact that when the fire finally reaches them she doesn’t want to feel forced into choosing Brandon simply because they have to evacuate at the same time. True, their connection is stronger than anything she’s ever felt before, but things have still evolved so quickly in the span of just one week. Piper refuses to let a fire, or a billionaire with access to a private jet, sway her into making another impulsive decision in life that she doesn’t feel fully ready for.

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Driven by Fire, book 1. I’d love to see what comes next.

Final Impressions: Their meet-cute may have bordered the line of horror film vs. rescuing a damsel in distress, but these two soon develop a red-hot chemistry that is off-the-charts. Things do drag a little bit in the middle as their sexual escapades continue in a variety of unique positions, and they both have internal musings about how long this fling will last. You’ll fall in love with these characters along their journey, and sympathize with the difficult decisions they must make as the dangers of mother nature threaten to tear them apart. Piper realizes that she’s at risk of making another impulsive choice to follow a man she barely knows, and would rather choose him on her own terms, at her own time. Granted, we ultimately see Brandon come running after her in the end rather than the other way around, which was a tad disappointing. However, it was still a sexy and intriguing read!

Smut Level: From somewhat sleazy motel rooms, to kitchen counters and the cab of his semi-truck, these two can’t keep their hands, lips or tongues off of each other.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. FriesenPress. 341 Pages.

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