Futures Entwined by Ayla Asher

This might be the final book in the Ardor Creek series, but I have a feeling this won’t be the last time I visit this town and its special characters. This is the kind of series you’ll want to reread again and again.

What’s it About? 

Does a former mean girl deserve a happy ever after?

Heather Combs grew up in Ardor Creek, stuck in a home with zero love or emotional support. In response, she lashed out, becoming a popular but cold ice-queen. Hoping to escape her unstable home, she married her high school boyfriend, only to realize she’d entered into another emotionally unfulfilling relationship. Convinced she didn’t possess the capacity to love, she divorced her ex and left Ardor Creek.

Years later, Jeremy Kramer, a successful author and single dad to twin girls, moves to Ardor Creek and instantly falls for the small-town charm. His busy life leaves little room for love, even if newly-returned former bad girl Heather Combs continually catches his eye.

When Heather and Jeremy become neighbors, they quickly realize their chemistry is off the charts. But he’s a dad who prefers serious relationships and she detests feelings. After all, love has never been her forte, but in the hidden corners of her soul, she can’t deny her yearning for her handsome neighbor and his sweet, precocious girls…

First Impressions

When I found out this was going to be the last book in the Ardor Creek series, I told myself I was going to take my time with it. It’s been such an amazing journey that the last thing I wanted was for this final installment to end too fast. However, I was quickly reminded by the end of the first chapter that what I’ve loved about this series so much from day one is that the author is an expert at pulling you into her world of characters, and the last thing you want to do is put down any of her reads once you’ve picked them up. Ardor Creek has become one of my favorite literary places to visit, so I ultimately had to admit that I’d rather indulge in several hours of reading at once rather than prolonging the inevitable. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised then that I finished this sixth book in just three sittings! Seeing as I would usually tear through the first few books in one or two sittings, I suppose I did “take my time” with this one. As with every other read in the series so far, the primary reason it’s so easy to fall in love with these books is because we are presented with characters with whom we can’t help but fall in love. Their personalities make them relatable to us in a way where we keep coming back for more, and there was no exception this time around for our two lead characters. 

Jeremy is a single dad that I would kill to live next-door to. He adores his twin girls, is a best-selling writer, and he’ll do anything to take care of those he loves. As for Heather, I personally felt her personality mirrored my own in a lot of ways, which of course meant she’s been one of my favorite leading ladies of the entire series! However, I could also see how, just like with the residents of Ardor Creek, Heather might not be for everyone upon first meeting. She’s not afraid to say what she thinks, but also has the tendency to waffle between brutal honesty and multiple layers of sarcasm. Since we can’t necessarily hear her intended tone while reading, it’s important to remember that you often have to view her comments through a particular comedic lens. For example, there are a few times when she’d call Jeremy’s kids “heathens”, or remind him that boarding school is always an option, and I’d tense for a moment thinking that Jeremy might angrily blow up in response to her joking banter. That being said, I think what made Jeremy and Heather the perfect pair was that he could always master differentiating between her honesty and sarcasm, and this brashness is actually what endears her to him most. She’s unlike anyone he’s ever met before, and she too is enamored by his ability to see through her cheekiness and find the heartfelt woman she is on the inside. They might seem like polar opposites at first, but this is also what makes them the perfect fit for each other!

That’s Why They Call it Falling in Love

Jeremy and Heather can both recognize the sexual attraction they feel towards each other almost immediately, yet both are hesitant to give into that desire at the start. Neither is hesitant though to vocalize what they’re looking for in a relationship. For Heather, she’s not looking for anything serious. She’s hoping a good ole role in the hay with her sexy neighbor will meet the craving she feels towards him, and then they can both be on their merry way. As a recently divorced woman who is childless by choice, the last thing she’s looking for is a serious relationship headed towards marriage with a single dad with two daughters. As for Jeremy, while he can admit some sexy fun times with Heather would probably rock his world, he’s not just in this for a physical itch to be scratched. He recognizes something true and beautiful when it comes to this spitfire living next door, and he hopes she’ll take a chance on dating him before bringing any physical component into their relationship. And of course, this also means spending time with his daughters along the way. 

There were several components of this burgeoning relationship between Jeremy and Heather which positively tickled me pink. First, they are both open and honest with each other about what they do and don’t want in a relationship. Sure, what they initially think they want appears to be at odds with each other, but as they spend more time giving into the pull that’s bringing them together, their interests slowly start to coalesce as well. Secondly, this romance is the perfect example of what it means to fall in love. Neither is actively looking for love at this point in their lives. They’re both just living each day as it comes, but then when the right someone comes along they both start to fall into each other. Jeremy is quicker to admit to himself that something serious is on the table, but for the most part he does an amazing job of allowing Heather to explore and discover her feelings for him in her own time. There is only one instance towards the end of the book where Jeremy tries to rush her into taking the next step with him and his girls, and it definitely backfires on him. Eventually they come to be on the same page with what they want the future to look like, but the novel highlights how important it is for Heather to come to that realization on her own and in her own time. Love couldn’t be forced between them, but instead it was found. 

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

Series: Ardor Creek, book 6. A big part of me is so so so sad that this series has concluded, but at the same time I’m excited to see what other worlds this author might create for us going forward. Not to mention, we’re told there’s a chance that down the road we might have the opportunity to revisit Ardor Creek to focus on the children of the couples from these first six novels. 

Final Impressions: Another delightfully fantastic read. I appreciated the fact that we were presented with a female lead who is childless by choice, and how it’s portrayed as a completely normal thing rather than something to be scoffed at or psychoanalyzed. Jeremy can also appreciate her choice, as he too isn’t looking to have any more children beyond the two he already has. Something I would have appreciated to see a bit more of with this read was a focus on the development of Heather’s relationship with Jeremy’s daughters. We’re provided with a handful of adorable scenes of them together, as well as one climactic moment that surly solidified their connection. By the end of the read you don’t doubt that Heather has come to love these precocious twins. However, to go from never wanting children to accepting these two girls into her life was a big shift, and perhaps one more emotional heart-to-heart conversation between these ladies would have been the cherry on top!

Smut Level: The fact our leading man is a best selling author means we have a wordsmith on our hands. This single dad might seem easy going and kind of nerdy on the outside, but we have a dirty talker at work here ladies and gentlemen!!!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. 260 Pages. 

Upon Your Love by Marie Lavender

The Heiress in Love trilogy comes to a conclusion in this final book with some new and familiar faces making an appearance, but also some unfriendly ones who threaten to break apart the love these characters have found.

What’s it About?

The Hill family saga concludes as loyalties are questioned, faiths will be tested and undying love may come at a terrible cost…

Fara Hill, mother and faithful wife, is torn between her family at home and her urge to be at sea. Soon, she learns some disturbing truths. Was the past a fairy tale instead of reality?

Chloe Hill, loving wife and young mother, questions her faith when her husband sets an ultimatum she cannot meet. Will she be able to keep her marriage from falling apart?

Adrienne Bellamont Hill, born of a valiant captain and a fiery redhead, is untamed to her core and will bow to no man. Then Christian du Plessis enters her life with an offer she can’t refuse. Discovering the man behind the polished gentleman, she is drawn to him in many ways. Holding out for love is a family tradition, but can she resist the temptation of passion?

Christian finds this young woman to be a fascinating challenge, and is torn between keeping his distance from her and succumbing to her charms. A fierce battle of wills ensues as he sees she is much more than he ever imagined. But danger lurks, threatening to destroy everything…Can these two strong-willed individuals unite in the cause before time runs out?

First Impressions

Of all of the books in this series, Adrienne and Christian were hands-down my favorite couple of the bunch. A large contributing factor to this probably had to do with the fact that they spent more time in each other’s presence than the previous two couples, who were seemingly constantly separated by scheming relatives or large swaths of ocean. Aside from mere proximity however, this couple also shone brightly due to their authentic chemistry which was blanketed with a playfulness you couldn’t help but fall in love with. If the progression of Adrienne and Christian’s relationship had remained the primary focus of the book from start to finish, we could have had a real winner on our hands. Unfortunately, this read was inundated with not only romantic updates for the couples from the previous two books, but also the telling of new romances involving Adrienne and Christian’s best friends, two servants of the Hill family, and even a throwback romance relayed via the journal entries of Adrienne’s grandmother.

Each romance was sort of told in subsequent blocks, which meant that just when the going was getting good with Adrienne and Christian, we’d take a massive pause of a few hundred pages to get a glimpse at four or five other romances involving different characters before we finally got back to our main couple. At least…I’m assuming they were our main couple? Therefore, while they may not have been separated by the physical distance that was common in books one and two, instead we as the audience were separated from them by a slew of other romances. We’re not only rooting for Adrienne and Christian to find their happily ever after, but also Elena and Pierce, Eric and Claudette, and for the happiness to be maintained between Fara and Grant, Chloe and Gabriel, and if I’m being totally honest I completely forgot the names of the grandparents. There were just too many people to keep track of!

Some Shared Dramatic Details

Although we’re dealing with a slew of Hill family women across multiple generations, they do have the tendency to share a few similarities when it comes to the love in their lives. First and foremost, there’s certainly a propensity for them to be involved in somewhat compromising situations (at least for the time period) before marriage. Whether it be premarital sex and pregnancy, which was by far the most common scenario, or being caught in the midst of a passionate make-out session with a man on a balcony at a party, these ladies eventually walk down the aisle with their devilish rakes with whom they couldn’t deny their sexual attraction. As if that wasn’t enough of a shared circumstance, most of these women find themselves having the most intense of arguments and disagreements with their spouses over their overprotective natures.

The men in this novel can’t entertain the idea of any kind of harm befalling their beloveds, that they go to over-the-top extremes of sheltering and patronizing their women in a way that comes across as misogynistically caveman-ish. The fact that these women have so much crossover when it comes to some of the more contentious points of their lives makes you wish there could have been more diversity in the dramatic plot points throughout the story. Instead it came across as rather repetitive, with an intense craving for something different to occur. The few times we do get new introductions of suspense in this novel, it surprisingly revolved around one of the secondary characters, but Adrienne and Christian manage to insert themselves into the fray on more than one occasion. While these moments did help pick up the pace of the read, it also felt odd that none of the drama was borne from vengeance towards either of our primary characters. 

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

Series: Heiress in Love, book 3. The sun has set on this historical romance series. 

Final Impressions: Even though I enjoyed the evolution of Adrienne and Christian’s relationship from strangers scheming to get their best friends together to ultimately becoming lovers, there were simply too many other couples highlighted throughout this story. It prolonged the novel to over 700 long, drawn-out pages, and unfortunately this book was one where you felt the length of every page. If we had been able to edit out the majority of story involving the other characters, as well as the sometimes unnecessarily overly detailed scene descriptors, this book probably could have easily come in at under 400 focused pages. 

Smut Level: We get some pretty steamy scenes of the fun happening behind closed doors, and even one involving late nineteenth century lingerie!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. Solstice Publishing. 705 Pages.

Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron

Consider yourself warned that you shouldn’t try to read this book on an empty stomach. The countless descriptions of fresh bread, as well as Indian and Tanzanian delights will leave you salivating. 

What’s it About? 

When it comes to bread, Reena Manji knows exactly what she’s doing. She treats her sourdough starters like (somewhat unruly) children. But when it comes to Reena’s actual family—and their constant meddling in her life—well, that recipe always ends in disaster.

Now Reena’s parents have found her yet another potential Good Muslim Husband. This one has the body of Captain America, a delicious British accent, and lives right across the hall. He’s the perfect, mouthwatering temptation . . . and completely ruined by the unwelcome side dish of parental interference.

Reena refuses to marry anyone who works for her father. She won’t be attracted to Nadim’s sweet charm or gorgeous lopsided smile. That is, until the baking opportunity of a lifetime presents itself: a couples’ cooking competition with the prize of her dreams. Reena will do anything to win—even asking Nadim to pretend they’re engaged. But when it comes to love, baking your bread doesn’t always mean you get to eat it too.

First Impressions

As soon as my best friend failed with her covid sourdough starter bread-baking attempt, I knew it was time to give this audiobook a listen. This romantic comedy has an unbelievably strong start filled to bursting with flirtatious banter, sexy accents, a curry dish or two, not to mention a fake engagement. I’ll freely admit that I’m a huge fan of a fake fiancé story line, and upon discovering that the premise for entering into this phony relationship was due to a love of baking I was fully on board. That being said, I’m usually not a huge fan of romances revolving around reality TV, but seeing as this reality show centered on cooking rather than a bachelor-type dating show, I was willing to give it a try. Surprisingly, I quickly found myself wishing that the TV show filming could have been featured a bit more prominently than it was! Most of Reena and Nadim’s cooking show antics were filmed at home by friends rather than on a studio set, throwing a twist into the typical reality show trope we may have come to expect in Romancelandia. 

Even though I found myself wanting more focus on the cooking competition aspect of the plot line, one must admit that the nature of these two being able to film privately away from the prying eyes of a studio audience or full camera crew granted them the freedom to be more natural and at-ease with each other. The seamless chemistry and friendship that Reena and Nadim were able to develop was as delectable as any egg curry or bhajia recipe you might come across. It was such an entertaining transformation seeing Reena initially wanting to keep her distance from Nadim seeing as he was someone her parents wanted to set her up with, to slowly discovering that she was always either having a blast cooking or chatting with him, or constantly thinking about the next time they might be able to spend time together. What started out as a neighborly friendship and fake engagement begins to evolve into something that isn’t so fake anymore, and the fact their connection so strongly revolved around food meant I was hooked! Any time we got to spend with Reena and Nadim in their cooking bubble was an absolute blast, but unfortunately the external forces of family drama and misunderstandings threatened to tear them apart in a way that was somewhat frustrating to behold.  

The Joys of Social Media

Family plays a crucial role in Reena and Nadim’s relationship, even if they try to keep their private life separate from the prying eyes of their intrusive relatives. At the start of the novel, the silly antics and kooky personalities of Reena’s many family members were a bit of a hoot, as she tries to balance her frustrations over their meddling with a strong sense of family duty which permeates their conversations. The fact that Reena might ultimately have to admit the benefit that their interference brought into her life through Nadim is a struggle she tries to avoid at every turn. This causes Reena to try and keep her relationship with Nadim a secret for as long as possible, as she not only doesn’t want to admit they were right, but she knows with absolute certainty that as soon as the truth comes to light her family will try to insert themselves into their lives even more than they already do. After some time, their constant insistence on honesty within the family, even though each and every one of them is trying to keep something secret from the others, became exhausting. The most frustrating aspect of the read though was the inevitable twist that almost tore Reena and Nadim apart. 

In the midst of Reena’s growing infatuation with her neighbor, we find that she is almost desperately searching for any minor slight which could bring an end to their relationship. It all starts with her discovery of a photo of Nadim on a fancy yacht with friends. She latches onto his chic hairstyle, clothing, and rather over-the-top surroundings as a way to convince herself that he is somehow obsessed with status, wealth and outward appearance, even though there hasn’t been any indication during all of their time together that this was in any way true. The heaviest nail in the coffin though is when Reena tries to piece different social media posts together by people she’s never met before as proof that Nadim has been secretly engaged to another woman throughout their entire relationship, even going so far as to declare that a post by the patriarch of a family rival is “the truth” without ever bothering to confront or ask Nadim directly about what she was seeing. Let me put it this way, when you try to rely on Facebook and Instagram posts to reveal the true nature of the man you’re falling in love with…it’s probably not the best idea. All in all, this was the one major fault in the entire read, as there were a slew of other avenues which could have been utilized to put a wedge between Nadim and Reena. The path chosen seemed an unnecessarily immature choice for our characters. 

Series: Stand-alone

Final Impressions: This read presents us with a fantastic beginning and progression of Reena and Nadim’s relationship before an unfortunate blip towards the end puts a damper on the plot as a whole, before ultimately pulling everything back together for a smile-inducing conclusion. In addition, it’s possible this book tried to be too many things at once by introducing an overwhelming plethora of romance novel tropes, including neighbors, a fake engagement, reality TV, a secret relationship and finally a big misunderstanding that could tear our lovebirds apart. Most of these themes were enjoyable in their own right (aside from the one), but having so many present in one read, not to mention the revelation of Reena’s struggles with mental health, as well as her somewhat contemptuous relationship with her parents and one sister in particular, was a tad too much to squeeze into one read. I probably would have preferred more focus and attention on Reena’s lack of self-confidence and battle with anxiety as the primary hindrance to her happiness with Nadim rather than a social media post. I realize the one was influencing the other, but the discussion of mental health really didn’t seem to receive the amount of attention it truly deserved. Overall though this was a fun read that had me giggling throughout, and seriously craving some delicious curry dishes every time I picked it up!

Smut Level: For a romantic comedy I definitely wasn’t expecting our male lead to have a foot fetish! While we never encounter any scenes with too much explicit detail, there are definitely some passionate moments thrown in to keep you coming back for more.  

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $9.99 Kindle Price. Forever Publishing. 369 Pages. 

Untouched Heroes Vol 1: A Men’s Health Charity Anthology

What’s better than an anthology featuring romantic tales of virginal male heroes finding their happily ever after? How about the fact that all proceeds go to Movember! Help join the cause of raising awareness about men’s health issues such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and men’s suicide.

What’s it About?

Sweet and sexy, funny and fierce, Untouched Heroes brings together eighteen new and established voices in two books. One heck of a Manthology. Turning the Virgin Trope on its head, these sassy, steamy novellas include tales of pure, divine rods and men going to great lengths just to lose that V Card. Get ready to giggle, gasp, and cry as you carouse this one-of-a-kind collection. Best of all, it’s for a great cause – All proceeds from these anthologies will go to Movember, raising awareness about men’s health issues such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and men’s suicide.

Immortal Beginnings by Rebecca Hefner: Can a Deamon who has never felt a lover’s touch win the affection of a beautiful but wary Vampyre widow?

Authors included in Volume 1 are: Daphne Elliot; Klaudia Miel; Rebecca Hefner; Kate Seger; Linda Marie Pankow; Thomas Van Boening; Michaela Cole; Trissy Lee; Christopher Stanfield

Authors included in Volume 2 are: Mary Morano; Natalie Parker & Lizzie Stanley; Paula Dombrowiak; CJ Ferrell; JLynn Autumn; Brandi Lane; Linda Marie Pankow; Shauna Jared; Reese Jett

First Impressions

When I found out one of my absolute favorite authors had written a secret novella for the Etherya’s Earth series that was going to be featured in an anthology which would benefit Movember I simply had three words to say: sign…me…up! That, and a lot of incessant squealing and hand flapping in excitement. Even though I only had enough time to read Ms. Rebecca Hefner’s work before the release date, I wanted to be sure and get a review up in time so that as many of my readers as possible could take advantage of this opportunity to support such an amazing cause. For those of you who are also a fan of the Etherya’s Earth paranormal series, you won’t want to miss this beautiful short story, Immortal Beginnings. While it doesn’t feature any of the primary characters from the series we’ve come to know and love, you’ll quickly become enamored with the romance between deamon Dragos and vampyre Raina. You’ll have no problem finishing this novella in one sitting, and yet there is so much story to unpack between these two characters. Fangs down, of all the short stories featured in the Etherya’ Earth series so far, this was undoubtedly my favorite. I can only hope we’ll get a glimpse of this couple again in a future full-length novel.

Letting Go of the Past

Yes, this novella does feature a virginal male hero which I was fully on board for, but beyond this amazing trope of a more experienced female lead guiding her man in the ways of pleasure, we were also presented with two complex characters who are trying to find their way in a new world unlike anything they’ve known before. Etherya’s Earth has been plagued by war for centuries, but its inhabitants are finally living in a time of peace, when vampyres, deamons and slayers can coexist rather than fight against each other. This is the setting upon which our novella opens, as deamon Dragos is trying to live a “normal” life away from the world of deamon caves and constant fighting which he’s only known up until this point. As for Raina, she is now a single mother trying to adapt to life following the death of her “bonded” in the final battle against the evil deamon Crimeous. These two unlikely neighbors are able to push aside their troubled pasts to find happiness and pleasure with each other in the present, and the promising hope of something even more permanent going forward.

Upon first reading this novella, I was so worried we’d ultimately discover that Dragos was responsible for killing Raina’s husband in battle, but thankfully we focus instead on what it means for these two to explore a relationship together at this particular point in their lives. For Dragos, he has only known the horrors of war. At one point in the story, Raina offers to bring him salve for a burn on his arm, and he reveals that it is the first time he’s been voluntarily touched by another in all of his centuries on this Earth. The glimpses of vulnerability we witness for this weathered soldier are almost enough to bring a tear to your eye, as you realize that beneath the tough exterior lies a man who simply craves the soft touch of another. He has craved Raina since she first moved in next door, and when she finally offers herself to him, he can’t help but fall hard and fast for this loving woman and caring mother.

For Raina, she initially worries that Dragos will feel more for him than she could ever reciprocate, especially considering she’s the one to touch and physically please him for the first time ever. Even though a letter from her belated husband clearly states he hopes she can move on to find happiness with another during her immortal life, she can’t help but keep a part of herself back from Dragos in a foolhardy attempt to prevent herself from falling for this deamon. Dragos is willing to accept any part of her she’s willing to give, but can Raina acknowledge that there’s room in her heart for both Dragos and her former bonded? That giving her heart to this man doesn’t mean she’s replacing the memory of her husband, but rather she’s allowing herself the opportunity to move on and make new memories that can co-exist with rather than take over those of the man she loved before. Again, there’s definitely a lot of emotional baggage to unpack in such a short novella!

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

Series: Etherya’s Earth, book 4.5. I’m pretty sure I’ve said it before, but I’ll repeat it here for posterity: I will read anything and everything this author ever releases.

Final Impressions: Loved it, adored it, consider myself officially smitten. It’s not simply the tale of a male losing his v-card, but also an observation of how two people can put aside their traumatic pasts, and convince themselves they are worthy of love. How it’s possible to open up one’s heart again after having found and lost true love before. We not only fall in love with Dragos and Raina, but also Raina’s two adorable sons, Galen and Ekon. There is so much to love about this novella, and I’m excited to see what else this anthology has in store!

Smut Level: The first time this series presented us with a deamon falling for a vampyre we were privy to the most alpha of males who was well-versed in the ways of pleasure. This time around, Dragos might not have the experience, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a quick study in the ways of pleasure, or dirty talk for that matter. As a former soldier, he is more than capable of following all the sultry orders that Raina has to give in the bedroom.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Tarina Anthologies. 668 Pages.

Madly Inn Love by Amelia Foster

Some couples like to refer to each other by cute names such as “sweetie” or “honey”. The terms of endearment chosen by the leads of this book include the Greek goddess of the Underworld and “slimy weasel”. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is. 

What’s it About?

Blake Alden’s sister made the proposition to return to Willow Falls at the perfect time, when Blake needed a fresh start. But the path to a new beginning was littered with bumps, the biggest being the County Program Manager who repeatedly stalled granting the business license they needed to reopen. After the third letter requesting yet more information, Blake makes a trip to the courthouse, ready to fight the man bent on driving her insane.

Keeping his name free of any black marks or scandals is at the top of Mason Richmond’s to-do list. Right below climbing the small political ladder he’d envisioned for himself. Even if that means being stricter with his best friend’s girlfriend and her family to avoid any hint of favoritism. However his overzealous caution results in a fiery goddess showing up in his office and turning his carefully ordered world into chaos.

Blake sees Mason’s fledgling campaign for Maine state representative as an ideal chance to not only show him why the inn would benefit his public persona, but also give herself a much needed shot of excitement she missed since being back in the small, sleepy town.

First Impressions

Madly Inn Love is one of those rare and special books where the sequel may have surpassed the fun of the first novel in the series. Where Truly Inn Love set the stage and the scene of this world we’d been given a glimpse into, this second novel lets us dive deep to truly get to know and fall in love with the characters and this small town they call home. The author was getting her feet wet building the foundation in book one, but it felt as though from page one of this sequel she was fully prepared to take us along on this journey of ambition and love between Blake and Mason, and I for one was completely on board to go along for the journey! Twists, turns, bumps and all. We were first introduced to our love birds in the first novel as secondary supporting characters to the main couple, but even then I think we could see their personalities shining through, desperate to take center stage.

While I definitely enjoyed the couple from book one, it felt more like we were observers to their story, watching the events pass along all the while knowing their happily ever after was just around the corner. When it came to Black and Mason though, we quickly become fully invested in their story to the point where it feels as though they are friends we know beyond the page. They may have started off, not quite enemies per se, but definitely rivals who were wary of each other. As they spend more time together throughout the length of Mason’s campaign, we see how their volleys of witty banter, and even flirtatious insults, slowly start to break down the walls they’ve built up to protect themselves from anyone who might try to get too close. As these walls fall down piece by piece, the fun and vulnerable sides to their personalities start to shine through, and they slowly start to recognize a kindred spirit in the other.

 Bitter Pasts and Family Chaos

Blake and Mason start things off on a rather rough foot when our story opens, as Mason is causing continuous delays in issuing a business license to Blake and her sisters for the most seemingly innocuous of technicalities. After storming into his office ready for a fight, she leaves with not only the license they need to reopen their late aunt and uncle’s inn, but an offer to be his campaign manager during his run for state representative. Mason certainly wasn’t expecting this woman to waltz into his office one day, but her determination and ambition for success endeared her to him. Both of these headstrong characters were stuck in a rut in their lives, going along day by day through the motions. However, the more time they spend together the more they awaken in each other the drive for something more. The fact they eventually develop a romantic and physical relationship honestly seemed like the most natural evolution of their connection from foes to quasi colleagues, friends to lovers. Even though they might try to keep things light and casual at the start, the discovery and confrontation of their past familial pains result in their connection growing deeper each and every day. 

In book one we discovered the sad past involving Blake’s parents, who were more invested in living their own lives than taking care of or showing any affection towards their three daughters. One day they were dropped off to live with their aunt and uncle, and when their parents died in a tragic accident, Blake and her older sister came together to care for their youngest sibling. The lack of parental love followed by death took a toll on the Alden sisters, with Blake especially feeling the need to close off her emotions to reflect an aura of strength and dependability that her sisters so desperately needed at the time. Now that they are all grown, Blake is almost trying to find her place and purpose in life seeing as its become increasingly clear that her sisters can take care of themselves. When she discovers that Mason was also “raised” by an unloving mother who only found disappointment with every choice he made in life, she finds yet another thing to admire about this man. He refuses to crumble to the pressures of his powerful mother, and also wants to make a political name for himself without relying on the influence of his family name. His true family stems from the friends who have chosen to be part of his life rather than the family he was simply born into. The difficult pasts these two characters had to overcome made them the strong people they are today, willing to stand up and fight when faced with any kind of adversity. It’s yet another reason these two couldn’t help but fall in love. 

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

Series: Inn Love, book 2. When I saw who the lead characters of this novel were, I couldn’t wait to get started. Knowing that book 3 will focus on the youngest Alden sister, I’m practically giddy with anticipation. 

Final Impressions: One of my very mild, minimal critiques of book one was that it didn’t really have all that much conflict or drama at the end of the day. That theme continues in this second book, where we’re sort of constantly waiting for the second shoe to drop, but it never does. Surprisingly though, I couldn’t have been more thrilled that this was the way the story played out! I fell in love with these characters so deeply, that if anything had threatened the possibility of their happily ever after I think I may have thrown my Kindle at the wall. The fact that Blake and Mason could always remain fairly level-headed when confronted with a challenge in life was admirable, especially when you recognize the strength they drew upon from each other to stand up tall rather than crumble under pressure. This delightful romance had me smiling, giggling, and cheering for our couple literally from page one until the final word of the novel. I was almost upset to see this story end, but I can’t wait to see where book three will take us!

Smut Level: Blake and Mason were positively delicious. They try as long as possible to tamper down the chemistry simmering between them seeing as they develop a kind of professional relationship when Blake becomes his campaign manager. Let’s just say though that their attempts are futile, and it doesn’t take long before they’re getting all hot, sweaty and bothered. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Sweet Heat Books. 205 Pages. 

The Cursed King by Abigail Owen

The battle of the dragon clans has been building to this final moment. When the smoke and ashes clear, we can’t help but wonder who will emerge victorious to rule over them all. Let the battle commence!

What’s it About?

He will burn. She will rise.

Airk Azdajah, the rightful King of the White Clan, spent half a millennium being tortured by the false High King Pytheios. The only reason he’s alive is a curse— the man to kill Airk will be consumed in his own fire. Which is why Pytheios kept Airk alive, barely, unable to shift in his prison cage, driving the creature half of him into madness. Airk escaped, but he’ll never be truly free. What good is a king who can never let his feral dragon loose, never fly, and never lead his people? He’s better off dead.

Angelika Amon is the last unmated phoenix. The problem? She has no powers. Zip. Zilch. Angelika hates being dormant, especially now that her three sisters are blissfully mated to powerful dragon shifter kings and are very much part of the fight to take down the rotting king Pytheios, their parents’ killer. What good is a useless runt of a phoenix in a battle to save the dragon kingdom?

Desperate to find some way to help, she offers herself to Airk as a mate — just for political leverage. But a dormant phoenix is no damn use to him just like a dragon who can’t shift is no use to her. Until Pytheios sets his sights on Angelika for himself…

First Impressions

I think a very real part of me is still in disbelief that this incredible series is finally over. We have been enveloped in this story of dragon shifters, phoenixes, kings vs. king and good against evil for not only four books in this Inferno Rising series, but also an additional five primary works in the companion Fire’s Edge series. It’s definitely possible I’ll be going through an intense period of withdrawal over the next few months. However, I’m also thrilled that we could close out this series with two leading characters who once again manage to capture our hearts in the midst of perhaps more crushing adversity than any other dragon or phoenix has experienced so far in either series. Honestly, I didn’t even know that was still possible at this point! Every novel has presented us with two destined mates who somehow face debilitating challenges head-on, all in the hopes of saving their clans from the centuries of manipulative rule at the hands of a mad-king drunk from power. We’ve always seen two strong lead characters who are stronger together as a pair than apart, and while that is also true in many ways of Angelika and Airk, this is really the first time that we’ve examined a couple who are seen by both themselves and others as a liability.

They are determined to join in the fight against King Pytheios, but before they can do that they must first prove their worth to those who constantly try to push them to observe from the sidelines. Angelika might be a phoenix like her powerful sisters, but unlike them any power she may have been willed by her dying mother lies dormant within her. Instead, her primary strength involves convincing other dragons to join in their fight against evil. Airk on the other hand has almost too much power within him. After centuries of imprisonment by King Pytheios, and his dragon trapped within his mind with no ability to fly free, this beast has become a feral creature within him rather than a seamless part of him. To release his dragon now would run the risk of never being able to rein him back in again. Something Airk fears even more though than his dragon overtaking his very existence is the possibility of his creature harming Angelika in the process through her determination to have them mated. He can try to fight their connection as much as he wants, but if this series has taught us anything, it’s that two destined mates with this amount of scorching natural chemistry will never be able to stay apart for long.

The Culmination of Kings and Queens

Even though I didn’t want to see this series come to an end, I must say it was one of the more perfect examples of how to bring a long-running series to a close. We saw all of the key players from the previous novels, the companion series, and even a surprise appearance from those in another series by this author that I didn’t even realize was going to play a role in the events of this final book! The beauty of how all of our characters came together in this ultimate battle wasn’t just that we see how willing they were to support each other, or that we were granted one final opportunity to be in their presence before having to say goodbye. Instead, it highlights that no one character, or even one couple from this series, would have been able to face King Pytheios alone. It literally takes every single one of them joining together as an ultimate source of power to even stand a chance in the face of such evil.

Another feature of this series which is highlighted particularly well in this last book is the political struggle for power over the dragon clans. Up until this point, we’ve always known that King Pytheios is the premier representation of evil, unwilling to give up his reign. We are also privy to the extremes he’s gone to up to now in order to not only assume power, but to keep it. He betrayed his rulers, his people, and even his family to stay on the throne. And while part of this can be explained away as someone consumed with power, this final book reveals how much he believed his actions were in fact for the betterment of dragons everywhere. In a way, he too thought he was on the side of right, battling against those who were trying to take their society backwards to the way things used to be living under the rule of phoenixes rather than dragons. It finally provides a window into why King Pytheios fought with such ferocity. It wasn’t simply that he didn’t want to give up power, it’s that he also believed in what he was fighting for, however misguided and based in misconceptions he may have been in the end.

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

Series: Inferno Rising, book 4. I may have secretly wished this series could last forever, but I’m also happy with how everything finally came together for a satisfying conclusion. If anything, it makes me even more excited to see what Abigail Owen will have in store for us next!

Final Impressions: There are two critical details to keep in mind before starting this read, which can also apply to any final book in your favorite series. 1) Treasure each and every turn of the page that you get to spend with these characters for the last time. I can only keep my fingers crossed that maybe one day in the future we’ll see a light-hearted follow up novella which details what our characters are up to following the concluding events in this book. 2) Seeing as this is the final novel, all bets are off. You never know which characters might survive or ultimately fall to the forces of evil. It adds a thrilling level of suspense as you constantly wonder how or if our heroes will succeed. While the progression of some events were a bit tricky to follow along with logistically, overall this was a breathtaking and electrifying climax to the series.

Smut Level: Airk may be a virgin seeing as he’s spent centuries trapped alone in an isolated mountain prison, but that doesn’t mean he’s uneducated in the ways of pleasure. When a secret friend brings him a copy of the Kama Sutra, his years of study benefits Angelika in every way possible.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Entangled: Amara. 419 Pages.

Unforeseen Love by Taylor Dawson

If there is just one thing I can be grateful to this book for, it’s making me realize how happy I am to no longer be in high school, and during a time when social media reigns supreme. Although, the flip-side of this is it also made me realize how old I am to be totally flummoxed by the things kids do nowadays. Why, back in my day…!

What’s it About?

Love. Trust. Loyalty. Unforeseen Love is intriguingly dramatic with a shocking twist…

Ever since freshman year at Ocean Shores High, Alex Lovell has been tormented by rich heiress Cynthia Higgs -the most popular girl in school, along with her clique of friends who are known by everyone as “the In Group.” Powerless and miserable, Alex has always envied Cynthia’s popularity and hopelessly crushed on her handsome quarterback boyfriend, Rick McCullin. Now come senior year, Alex finally gets what she wants in the most unexpected way and her perspective drastically changes. Ultimately this influences her to go on an adventure of love that not only changes her life forever, but also puts her in an unthinkable situation of grave danger.

Will Alex be able to handle her new life? And even more, will she manage to keep both herself and her love alive?

First Impressions

The primary pitfall of this book is that it tried too hard to be too many things. From a cautionary high-school tale detailing the torments of bullying, to a passionate romance with a celebrity, finally culminating in a mini-horror story of revenge, it felt as though three very distinct novels were shoved together into one. Sure, the characters were primarily the same from start to finish, and a few details of the initial high-school storyline came back to make a reappearance in our “trapped-in-a-house-with-no-escape” tale at the end, but everything was left feeling far too disjointed rather than a cohesive read. Considering this was a fairly lengthy read at over 400 pages, I almost think the progression of events could have benefitted from being cut down the middle into two books. High school bullying focus for book one, moving on with unexpected celebrity encounter for book two. And I guess, throw in the psychotic revenge story wherever it fits best? Or…honestly maybe just toss it aside entirely. As it stands, there’s too much going on in one read, especially when we realize that all of the events are supposed to have taken place over the span of just under a year.

Reality Presented in Unrealistic Ways

There are some books you read that are so engaging you can’t put them down. Others you find yourself needing to take a break from time to time, putting the book down so you can catch your breath. Whether it be from an overly intense read, or one so steamy that it’s literally too hot to handle. Unfortunately, I regularly found myself having to take a break from this book for another reason: frustration. Many of the scenarios, dialogue, and even the actions of our female lead simply extended too far beyond the realm of believability. This was definitely disappointing seeing as the book really is trying to highlight some crucial issues for discussion, including bullying and escaping toxic relationships. However, the execution of how these important topics were presented is where the let-down came in.

The unbelievable nature of the read starts off pretty immediately, shortly after we discover that Alex is being harshly bullied by a clique of popular high school kids, in particular by the leader of the crew, Cynthia. This torment and torture has been going on for years, yet upon receiving a pool party invite to Cynthia’s house, Alex is willing to show up even while acknowledging that some kind of vicious prank must be behind the invite. When she pulls up to Cynthia’s street to find a bunch of her classmates entering the mansion dressed in their best formal-wear, Alex admits to herself that she’s been duped. Rather than drive home for a quiet night with her true friends, she proceeds to go into the house in her casual pool party attire amidst the rich teens in their flashy tuxes and fancy dresses. She subsequently goes along every step of the way as Cynthia and her minions slowly carry out their excruciatingly obvious plan of humiliating Alex by giving her a hideous makeover, and convincing her put on an ugly dress for an impromptu fashion show for their classmates. It’s possible this slow build was utilized in an attempt to build the suspense of the prank, but instead it kept building the level of frustration as we wonder why Alex would have ever exited her car in the first place, or why our villains never attempted even a little bit to camouflage their dubious intent.

We’re never really provided with a realistic justification or explanation for why she went along with their ministrations, or why they were so intent on making her life miserable, and this is just the teeniest of examples of the countless ways our characters will engage in inexplicable behavior that will only leave you scratching your head in confusion. As the novel progresses we see Alex constantly ignore blatant red flags for avoiding troublesome situations, and also declare her love for men she’s only known for a hot second. In addition, each and every authority figure will push aside concerning issues involving teenagers in a way that makes no sense, wealthy characters will only refer to their large houses as “mansions”, and women are only referred to as “chicks”. The fact we aren’t really presented with any likable characters in the midst of so many outlandish scenarios meant I constantly found myself needing to take a break from this read, and sadly it became increasingly difficult to want to pick it back up again.

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

Series: Stand-alone? This book ends so abruptly, practically mid-scene, that you can’t really tell if there is supposed to be a sequel, or if it was an attempt at an intense ending.

Final impressions: Overall this book just wasn’t my cup of tea, even though there was definite potential for an engaging read highlighting the issues that teenagers encounter nowadays. Unfortunately there were too many story-lines going on, many of which didn’t seem to have any clear resolution. Our characters also found themselves in endless confrontations and scrapes that could have been avoided, or were too unbelievable in their execution that you can’t help but leave feeling frustrated. There were parts of the celebrity romance tale I did enjoy, but it almost felt out of place being book-ended by two other exaggerated plot points.

Smut Level: For a high-school tale there are certainly some steamy and even X-rated adult scenes involved, including a sex tape.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. 415 Pages.

The Duke Heist by Erica Ridley

Chloe has become an expert at blending into the background. When the one man she’s always had her eye on finally sees her, she starts to wonder what a lifetime in his embrace could be like.

What’s it About?

Chloe Wynchester is completely forgettable — a curse that gives her the ability to blend into any crowd. When the only father she’s ever known makes a dying wish for his adopted family of orphans to recover a missing painting, she’s the first one her siblings turn to for stealing it back. No one expects that in doing so, she’ll also abduct a handsome duke.

Lawrence Gosling, the Duke of Faircliffe, is tortured by his father’s mistakes. To repair his estate’s ruined reputation, he must wed a highborn heiress. Yet when he finds himself in a carriage being driven hell-for-leather down the cobblestone streets of London by a beautiful woman who refuses to heed his commands, he fears his heart is hers. But how can he sacrifice his family’s legacy to follow true love?

First Impressions

This is definitely one of those novels where it feels as though we’ve been dropped into the fun mid-story. There are a slew of characters who are difficult to distinguish from one another, each one with an exuberantly over-the-top personality. It seems like we’ve already missed the introduction to who they all are, as well as their dynamic with not only the Duke of Faircliffe, but also the rest of society at large. It was tricky to determine at the outset if Chloe and her rag-tag group of misfit orphan siblings were dedicated to helping those less fortunate in British society, or if they were just extremely talented con-men. While it’s kind of a blend of the two at times, rest assured that it’s more the former than the latter. I was so thrown by the missing backstory that I even double-checked a time or two to see if this was in fact the first book in the Wild Wynchesters series, or perhaps if this was a spin-off series of another which may have provided that missing introduction I was hoping for.

It wasn’t until I finished the whole novel that I discovered there’s actually a novella called The Governess Gambit which takes place before this first full-length book of the series. In simply reading the synopsis of that prequel it seems like it probably contained all of the important foundational details that this book needed. And I must say, it was a pretty frustrating discovery! Either there needed to be a full summary and re-introduction of the key players first thing in this book, or that novella should have been more clearly labeled as book one. While I think it would have helped matters significantly had I read that book first, I don’t believe it would have changed the fact that this read presents us with a rather slow-moving start. Even the primary feature of the synopsis which piqued my interest in the first place, the fact Chloe kind of unknowingly kidnaps a Duke, plays out fairly quickly and isn’t really the basis of the plot in any way. It’s not until roughly the half-way point where things really start to come together as Chloe and Lawrence become more fully entrenched in each other’s lives.

The Orphan and the Duke

Chloe and Lawrence may have spent more of this novel apart than together, thinking and pining after each other rather than engaging directly, and yet their impact on each other’s lives cannot be ignored. Their growing connection and attraction forces them to look inward, and contemplate how they’ve both arrived at this point in their lives. For Chloe, we hear about her background growing up on the streets of London, abandoned by her family before being adopted by a lonely Baron who wanted to provide a better life for orphans who society had turned away from. In order to survive on the streets, Chloe had to blend into the shadows to survive. As a pickpocket, and even after her adoption, she continued to live life without drawing unnecessary attention to herself. By spending more time with Lawrence, she has to emerge more into society so that she can further infiltrate his world. This slowly evolving visibility makes her realize that deep down she’s always craved the possibility of being seen and fully embraced by her peers.

Lawrence’s revelations are also connected to his past and complicated relationship with family, in particular his troublesome father. For years Lawrence has tried to remedy the reputation of his family name following the countless debts his father plunged them into. Only by marrying a wealthy woman can Lawrence guarantee that all his debts will be paid off, and his future children might look upon him proudly rather than with shame. However, the misfit Chloe starts to make him question if he can give up all of that security to have her permanently ensconced in his life, especially when he considers how the rest of society refuses to accept her and her untraditional siblings. We ultimately see a vital struggle of pride versus money and love, and we can’t help but wonder which one will win out in the end.

Series: The Wild Wynchesters, book 1 (technically, but not really). I’m not 100% sure I’ll continue with this series, although I will admit the premise of the next book is intriguing seeing as it focuses on a f/f relationship in history.

Final Impressions: It took a bit too long for the story to really get going for my liking. When it finally did I appreciated the inward reflections that Chloe and Lawrence both spent on their own lives, though having more opportunities for them to connect naturally in society rather than constantly via hijinks and deceptions would have benefitted the overall development of their relationship. The ending of this book is stronger than the start as we see the Wynchester clan learn to accept another into their fold who they once considered an enemy, and it will certainly leave a smile on your face.

Smut Level: It takes a while to get there, just like with the rest of the plot, but once we do things certainly don’t disappoint! We see plenty of steamy detail to make up for the wait.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. Forever Publishing. 353 Pages.

Highland Games by Evie Alexander

This romantic comedy not only had me considering giving up city living to move to a remote Scottish cabin with no electricity or running water, but to also get a pet rat. So yeah…pretty phenomenal when you consider potential impact on my future sanity.

What’s it About? 

Zoe’s always played it safe, just as her parents wanted. But when her great-uncle dies and leaves her a ramshackle cabin in the Scottish Highlands, she decides it’s time to change her life. Upping sticks seems like a good idea in her cosy flat in London, but the reality is very different. There’s no electricity or running water, the roof leaks and there’s no front door. If that wasn’t bad enough, she’s moved up in the depths of winter and her scorching hot neighbour wants her out. Rory’s got a fifty thousand tonne problem. If he can’t make Kinloch castle profitable, he’s out of a job. He needs a clear head, but there’s someone living in the cabin he saw as his own and she’s turned his world upside down. Rory needs Zoe out of Scotland, and out of his life. The trouble is, she has no intention of leaving. Let the games begin…

First Impressions

This fantastically sweet read has a little bit of everything for everyone. Are you looking for a hilarious tale of enemies-to-lovers with laugh-out-loud moments from start to finish? Pick up this book! How about two stubborn characters often confined to working in a tiny cabin together where their sexual tension can simmer to an epic boiling point? This one’s got it! A sinfully sexy Scot who not only dons a kilt, but wields a sword, growling at the top of a castle? Okay sure, but hands off because he’s mine. We even have an adorably cute Dumbo rat that will immediately have you Googling what the heck a Dumbo rat looks like, subsequently followed by a search to see if there are any pet stores nearby that carry some. Sure, that might not have been an element I thought I needed with my romance read of the week, but it shockingly turned out to be one of my favorite features of the entire read.

Not Quite What You Expect

This brings me to the other distinguishing aspect of this novel which thoroughly delighted me: it wasn’t afraid to turn expectations and common romance tropes on their head to keep you both surprised at the turn of events, but also continually entertained. For example, we’ve all come across romance novels before where a pet plays an important role towards our characters, but the standard default options are typically dog (which this book also has), or cat. I can honestly say this is the first one to have presented a Dumbo rat as a fluffy companion and sounding board for the musings of our female lead. Then we have to look at the romantic comedy lean of the book itself. You can’t help but smile and chuckle to yourself at the witty banter and silly antics which our characters engage in with each other. They’re both convinced the other couldn’t possibly be interested in exploring something further considering the rocky start to their relationship. Therefore, we get a fabulously slow build of attraction and desire.

When we finally reach the moment where they can’t hold back anymore I wondered for a moment if we’d just get a few chaste kisses followed by a fade-to-black moment considering the light-hearted and comedic air of the novel so far. Nope! We get full on steam with plenty of licking, biting and essentially climbing of each other that they could set a four-poster bed aflame from the heat. And it’s not just that we’re rewarded with one scene of sexy fun times. We have enough to keep us over-heated throughout an entire Scottish winter. I was also pleasantly surprised that we see some rather emotional and heavy discussions around memories of family, loved ones lost, and even Rory’s struggle in securing love and care from his mother. These moments where our characters could lay their hearts bare, and open themselves up to emotional vulnerability was something I wasn’t expecting after such a fun-filled start, but it was the perfect balance for the read as a whole.

Overreaction

Rory and Zoe both have fiery personalities which not only put an initial strain on their interactions with each other, but this stubbornness also manifests itself in some of their responses to each other as the novel progresses. For Rory, he typically responds in one of two ways when his frustrations with Zoe reach a tipping point. He will either 1) retreat, or 2) resort to childish teenage pranks. These pranks definitely kick off the hilarity at the start of the novel. While Rory hopes his actions will result in Zoe fleeing back to the city in a huff, he doesn’t anticipate that she can sometimes rise to the challenge, and surprise him with her ability to face hardship head-on. As for Zoe, her frustrations are often manifested in the heat of the moment, with very little thought to the possible repercussions of her actions. In a way, we can’t be too surprised by her impulsive nature.

After all, it’s what got her to live in a cabin in dire need of renovations on the cusp of a harsh Scottish winter with few plans as to how she’ll manage all of the fixes on her limited budget. However, you also can’t help but wonder if she takes things too far sometimes, such as when she discovers a massive secret Rory kept from her, so she chooses to respond by ramming his parked van repeatedly with her truck. Ok…a small part of me was cheering her on, but another real part of me wanted to chastise her overreaction. Seeing as this scene took place towards the end of the novel, which had slowly transitioned away from the outright comedic moments to more serious conversations, it seems a heartfelt confrontation outlining her disappointment with Rory’s secrecy could have had a larger impact than taking out her frustrations on his vehicle. Her impulsive tendency to overreact and over-act became rather trying towards the end.

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

Series: The Kinloch Series, book 1. Definitely intrigued to continue on with this series, though I’ll also admit the synopsis of book 2 has me questioning if things might be a bit over-the-top plot-wise. Oh well, you can’t judge a book by its cover or synopsis!

Final Impressions: On the whole, this is a delightfully hilarious read with plenty of heart and sexy fun times to fill you with all the warm and fuzzies. I probably could have finished it in one sitting if my bedtime and shocking addiction to Masterchef Australia didn’t constantly get in the way. The characters really steal the show here, from our stubborn lead characters, to Zoe’s supportive childhood friends, a fluffy Dumbo rat you can’t help but love, and a villainous mother you love to hate.

Smut Level: Why would Rory want pudding for dessert when he can just have Zoe splayed out on the kitchen table?

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Emlin Press. 370 Pages. 

Baby, It’s Cold Outside by Kait Nolan

It’s not often that I find myself jealous of a fictional character who drives her car off the road in the midst of a snow storm. However, when said accident literally delivers her into the comforting arms of a sexy rescuer who brings her back to his cabin to warm up? Color me green with envy.

What’s it About?

A grumpy lumberjack
Former Army Ranger Harrison Wilkes isn’t actually a lumberjack, but he’s doing his best impression while hiding out in the mountains of East Tennessee. He needs to rest, recharge, and stay the hell away from people, while he wrestles with ghosts from his past and figures out his future. Neither includes a snowbound rescue of his favorite author.

A runaway writer Ivy Blake is on a deadline. Her hero is MIA, and she’s desperate to find some peace, quiet, and inspiration to get her book—and her life—back on track. She doesn’t plan on driving off a mountain. Or the mysterious stranger who shows up to save her.

Who’s rescuing who?
When Winter Stormageddon traps them together, Ivy finds the inspiration she didn’t know she needed in her real-life hero. As more than the fireplace heats up his one-man cabin, they both find far more than they bargained for. This intuitive author just might have the answers Harrison’s looking for, but will their newfound connection survive past the storm?

First Impressions

The first three-quarters or so of this book was everything I wanted it to be and more. Experiencing a severe case of writer’s block, Ivy sets off to spend two weeks at a remote mountain inn and spa where she can get away from the distractions of life to focus on nothing but the fast approaching deadline of her next book. As if her situation wasn’t already dire enough, the last thing she has time for is to get lost during a snow storm that is increasingly hazardous with each windy bend in the road. When she drives through a guard rail with her car suspended between a tree and a craggy dip into darkness, she realizes her situation just went from bad to abysmal. That being said, she must have done something good at some point in her life to not only be rescued by an extremely capable former soldier, but a breathtakingly sexy one to boot.

Throughout this whole rescue scene, former soldier Harrison quickly realizes through the witty banter with this strange woman that she is no damsel in distress, and she probably could have succeeded in eventually getting herself out of this predicament if he hadn’t come along. When they arrive at Harrison’s cabin things really start to heat up as they have to work together to warm Ivy back up after so long in the cold. I mean, is there anything better than a warm fire, removing some wet clothing and clutching your muscled rescuer close underneath the same blanket? Why yes, yes there is and it’s called “ONLY ONE BED”!! Yasssss please!! The fact Ivy is an author who can call attention to this being a standard romance novel trope can only bring a smile to your face. As you can imagine, it doesn’t take long before some innocent clutching and rubbing up against each other for warmth quickly turns into something more salacious.

Working Together

After a meet-cute and first night together to make your toes curl, the best scenes of the book take place over the next few immediate days as Ivy relays her reasons for being out on the road to break through her writer’s block. This is when Harrison reveals that he too is a writer, and they proceed to bounce ideas off of each other, exchanging ideas in a way that inspires the words to finally start flowing freely from Ivy. And this is a hallmark of their entire dynamic from here on out in the story that is purely delicious: neither is entirely reliant on the other to get out of any scrape or problem, but rather they work best as a unit. There were so many features of this dynamic that were utterly fantabulous.

First and foremost, it’s not that Ivy just stumbles across a sexy man, and his mere physique is what inspires her to take her story in a certain direction. Not at all! The fact Harrison is also a writer and even a fan of her writing means that he has an almost insider’s perspective into her characters, as well as a knowledge of her work’s story arch that proves beneficial to discussing possible avenues the plot can travel. In addition, it’s not that Harrison just tells her how to write herself out of her predicament. He didn’t simply have all the answers that Ivy couldn’t manage to see right in front of her. It was only by brainstorming and exchanging ideas together that she started to see where the story could go. It was a beautiful creative partnership that lent itself well to justifying how they were able to fall so hard and fast for each other.

867-530…Wait, What’s Your Number Again?

Alas, there has to be a hiccup for our characters, and in my mind this was the one area where the story faltered. It certainly makes sense that there had to be something which broke into this bubble they’ve created for themselves of lengthy writing sessions interspersed with sexy fun time rewards. However, I personally was not a fan of the method selected, which was essentially a case of massive miscommunication and misunderstanding all caused by what? Never having exchanged phone numbers. Just like our novel started off by bringing our characters together due to an intense storm, we see that a perfect storm of mishaps including no sharing of digits, no notes left on a bed-side table, no forwarding address left at the inn, and a rush to conclusions threaten to tear our lovebirds apart. What can I say, the fact an almost perfect and fairy-tale two weeks together could almost be completely ruined from a case of “I didn’t get your number” in this day and age was just a little silly to me. I almost wish the story had taken place in the eighties or early nineties when cell phones and social media didn’t completely dominate our everyday lives, when it could have been a more believable stumbling block.

Series: Rescue My Heart, book 1. I might continue with this series.

Final Impressions: The way these characters ultimately ended up in the same cabin together was an entertaining build-up, and while the sexy fun time scenes were fantastic, the moments that Ivy and Harrison could act as contemporaries, sharing ideas over their craft was truly special. Although I wasn’t fully behind the climactic turn that tears our characters apart, I did appreciate the way the author is able to bring them back together for a happily ever after grand gesture of romance.

Smut Level: This novel will definitely have you craving a romantic mountain escape with that special someone in your life so you can light a fire together. Whether it’s in the fireplace or in the bedroom is totally up to you.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. FREE as of the writing of this review. Take the Leap Publishing. 195 Pages.