Oceans Away by Skye McNeil

Goodness gracious do the men on this Iowa farm know how to handle their wood! For chopping that is!

What’s it About? 

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Adopted as an infant, Ireland Leighton grew up in the heart of the Midwest. After inheriting millions from her biological parents, she is determined to help others any way she can. The only string is a business engagement with another millionaire. Ireland returns to Iowa years later to plan her brother’s tropical wedding. The festivities would be easier if her sexy ex-boyfriend stayed out of reach and her future wasn’t already planned.

Time suppressed his feelings for the girl next door, but Gideon Taggart isn’t about to let Ireland escape again. Farmer by day, veterinarian by choice, his second chance with his first love is far from easy. He soon discovers that no matter how much he loves Ireland, she’ll always choose her family over a future with him.

First Impressions

What struck me most with this novel was Ireland’s constant struggle between who she is now, and who she was six years ago when she first set out from her small Iowa hometown. Adopted at a young age, she grew up in a rather humble home, but was surrounded by a family who loved her. The sexy farm boy next door, Gideon, also showed her all the love in the world. But when Ireland becomes an adult she discovers the wealthy lineage of her deceased birth-parents, as well as a grandmother who is still alive and ready to show her the ropes of the family business. Ireland is drawn to the allure of this new millionaire lifestyle, and ultimately decides to pursue it by leaving Gideon behind, in spite of his pleas for her to remain. Fast-forward six years, and she’s finally coming back home for the first time since she left at the news that her brother is about to get married. What will it be like for this multi-millionaire businesswoman to return to her humble roots, not to mention see her sexy farm boy again after six years apart?

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Resentment

Needless to say, Gideon is rather resentful that she abandoned him in the dust all those years ago in pursuit of wealth. Surprisingly though, her family also makes a few jabs about her new lifestyle, specifically in regards to the paparazzi who are in constant pursuit of her. Now, it’s true, when Ireland traveled off to faraway places six years ago, she did lose touch with those she left behind, but I couldn’t help but feel that some of their resentment was misplaced. After all, this is a girl who went for years without knowing anything about her birth parents. Can they really fault her for wanting to discover more of herself, and take advantage of opportunities that weren’t available to her before? Yes, she lost touch with them, but in a way they also lost touch with her. We never really hear mention of them trying to reach out to her during that time, or help her adjust to what must have been a very emotional and confusing time.

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With this first foray into travel, freedom, indulgences and massive wealth, it seems Ireland engaged in some questionable acts that got her plastered across the tabloids. When Ireland returns home, this spoiled party girl image is the one Gideon and her family call to mind. Never mind the fact that she has since adjusted into a responsible adult, taking the reigns of her family business and growing her wealth and success to incredible heights. She’s obviously matured into her role as a businesswoman, as well as philanthropist helping those less fortunate, and yet surprisingly her friends and family still seem to view her as a rather spoiled princess. It’s as though they judge her for those few initial mistakes she made upon the discovery of wealth rather than who she was her entire life up until that point, as well as the successful person she’s become since then.

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Iowa vs. the World

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking. A romance novel set in a small mid-western Iowa farm town. How exactly is this a beach read? Well don’t worry, our story takes place about half the time down on the farm, and the other half down in Barbados. This change of scenery is a crucial feature, as it hearkens back to the moment when Ireland and Gideon first called it quits. Upon discovery of her birth-family’s wealth, the endless possibilities of the world called to Ireland in a way they never had before, probably because now they could become a reality rather than just a pipe-dream.

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For Gideon, the responsibilities of his family’s farm keep him grounded to the land. She pleads with him to go with her, he pleads with her to stay. Compromise never seemed to be part of the picture, and we see this struggle hold true even after Ireland returns home. The question of Iowa vs. the world was always a question of one over the other. You can’t help but be surprised that with Ireland’s immense wealth, not to mention access to a private plane, that the possibility of her splitting time between Iowa and Barbados never really entered the equation. Again, considering how much of this novel is split between her traveling back and forth from Iowa to Barbados, you’d think she’s demonstrating rather effectively how things could have been a compromise rather than a competition. Although…if you ask me there’s certainly no competition between the two!!

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Jealousy Rears It’s Ugly Head

When Ireland comes back home, Gideon can’t keep away from her, or prevent himself from teasing flirting with her any chance he gets. When her soon-to-be business partner, Mason, arrives on the farm to get to know and see Ireland in her home environment, Gideon’s jealousy kicks into overdrive. A few growls ensue, as well as some make out sessions thrown up against a barn stall door. He tries to show her that the chemistry between them is stronger than anything she might have for Mason, and that despite the last six years apart their feelings for each other are just as strong as ever. Just when Ireland starts to warm up to the idea of a future with Gideon, of working out the limitations of distance to their relationship, what does Gideon do? He pushes her away. Harrrrrd.

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Gideon is convinced that Ireland has her sights set on Mason, and that his immense wealth will draw her to him more than Gideon’s wholesome Iowa ways ever could. He believes Mason would provide Ireland with all the things she could ever want in life, whereas his lack of money would be a disservice to her. Interestingly, this not only highlights Gideon’s own self-deprecating view of himself, but once more a rather negative view of Ireland that money would mean more to her than love. As though his love and her own massive amounts of wealth would never be enough for her, but that she’d turn her back on love in favor of even more wealth than she’s already built for herself. True, she turned her back on him all those years ago, but when she comes back to him, declaring her love, demonstrating through both words and actions how she feels, he turns his back on her. It seemed rather unfair and hurtful to her emotions for him to initially reel her in towards him through his initial bouts of jealousy, then just when she’s ready to fall into his arms he pushes her away.

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

Series: The Atlas Series, book 2.

Final Impressions: I think one key aspect we were missing here was the goodbye scene of six years ago. What exactly was said at the moment when Gideon and Ireland were on the cusp of ending their relationship? Perhaps a prologue featuring their goodbye would have provided an added window into the hurt that Ireland’s actions had on Gideon. The fact of the matter is all we really see firsthand is Ireland’s devotion to those less fortunate, to her family, and to continuing a successful career as a businesswoman. This made it difficult to understand the “spoiled princess” title that others placed on her. I think we also needed to see some additional scenes of Ireland interacting with her grandmother who she didn’t even know existed for the majority of her life, and more of an explanation on why it took so long for her grandmother to reach out to her. It’s briefly covered at the end, but we never see a conversation play out between these two women. Maybe even a moment showing her grandmother interacting with her adoptive family would have been enlightening!

Smut Level: Hot daaaaang!! Ireland loves to get her hands on Gideon’s many tattoos, and he knows just how to make her moan aloud in ecstasy.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Hot Tree Publishing. 300 Pages.

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Run Away, Lizzy by Elizabeth J. Sparrow

Sometimes when you’re not sure how to deal with your feelings for someone, the only option left is to run away. 

What’s it About? 

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With knife-like precision, Reilly asked, “Lizzy, what are you going to do when I’m no longer around for you to run away from? Have you thought about that?”
Her mouth puckered in a catch of surprise. He realized that the little girl in her had assumed the game would go on until she said it was over.

1968: During one of her father’s raucous Hollywood parties, ten-year-old Elizabeth Jane (E.J.) Hatton meets twenty-two-year old Texan heartthrob, Reilly Donner while swinging from a fourteen-foot ladder and hoping for a soft landing. She falls hard…for him.

1982: E.J is drowning in sadness after the death of her adored father. Reilly swaggers back into her life (“arrogant, patronizing and in love with the sound of his voice”) as the director of her Uncle Wade’s latest project: a prime time soap opera. As the associate producer, she’s not about to swoon over her childhood crush who riles her up by renaming her “Lizzy”, and who teases and bullies her as if she’s a child in need of a firm hand. She does her damn best to avoid him while trying to ignore those little fluttering sensations in her stomach whenever he gets too close.

Reilly is mystified, frustrated and eventually, smitten with E.J’s elusive and at times, downright perplexing behavior. He pursues her with the stealthy determination of a bobcat stalking its next meal.

Conflict arises when the soap’s leading lady, an old flame of Reilly’s, sees his budding infatuation as a threat to her plans for a rekindled affair. She’s harboring a secret about Lizzy’s father – waiting for the opportune moment to reveal it.

First Impressions

This is a fun, quick read that will have you giggling along to the shenanigans of our female lead in one scene, yet also tugging at your emotional heart strings in the next. It’s set in the 1980’s, and in hindsight I can’t really say I understand why? I mean, it’s not that there’s anything wrong with the 80’s. Far from it. I am an 80’s baby after all. It just seemed like a somewhat peculiar time setting considering the era never really had a big impact on the story. They do make one reference which compares the budding TV drama they’re working on to Dallas, but other than that there aren’t many aspects of the 80’s which are highlighted front and center. In a way, our story could have been set in any decade, as long as it was one with television. Further incorporation of the time period probably could have added a fun nostalgic twist for many of us readers!

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The Passing of Time

It’s been many years since Reilly and Lizzy last set sights on each other. Back then she was just a precociously curious young girl with a crush, and he was a young stud cowboy making his way in Hollywood. Fast-forward 14 years and quite a lot has changed for these two. Lizzy just recently lost her father to a fast-acting illness, and she’s now trying to make a name for herself as a producer. Reilly still remains quite the stud, but he’s already made a name for himself as the next big thing in directing, and has been hired to take on the new TV soap opera that Lizzy is also working on. What will Lizzy do when she’s finally reunited with her childhood crush?

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As it turns out, she runs from him every chance she gets. She’s definitely still attracted to him, but she never thought her previously unrequited infatuation would suddenly be…requited. Reilly is stunned to discover that the girl he once knew is all grown up, and she intrigues him in a way he never expected. Why does she run and hide from his approach? It’s a predicament he’s determined to get to the bottom of. I must say we do get some pretty funny moments of Lizzy hiding behind doors and in secret cubby-holes to try and get away from this man. Especially considering other people on set have no problem leading him right to her secret hiding places in the hopes of getting them together. You can’t help but chuckle a time or two at her silly antics, but underneath it all there’s actually a deep grief impacting this young woman.

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“What are you so scared of?”

Running From Grief

As it turns out, Lizzy isn’t just running away from Reilly, or from finally confronting her feelings for him. She’s also trying to outrun the grief of her father’s death which chases her throughout the day, as well as every night when she closes her eyes to sleep. After his untimely passing, she’s even taken to wearing her father’s clothes as a way to feel closer to him. It’s a regressive reaction to his death, as she attempts to avoid growing up and moving on in life without her father. “Her behavior seesaws between young woman and little girl.” This overwhelming grief which impacts Lizzy’s life definitely packs a strong emotional punch to the reader, and we wonder if she’ll ever be able to escape from this dark cloud of sadness following her everywhere she goes.

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Thankfully, a saving grace has entered Lizzy’s life, and that would be Reilly. Up until this point, the majority of Lizzy’s friends and family have walked on egg shells around her, treating her as though she were a fragile object on the verge of breaking. But when Reilly arrives on set? He’s determined to finagle his way into her life any chance he gets. She might run, but he’ll make sure she doesn’t succeed in hiding. He sort of has a “tear off the band-aid approach” in how he deals with Lizzy, as he forces her to confront the feelings she has for him which she doesn’t really know how to deal with. However, I can’t say as much attention was focused on Lizzy confronting the grief over her dad’s death. Reilly is meant to act as a guiding light for her to finally move on, but we don’t get a full exploration into the heart of the issue so that Lizzy can ultimately begin the healing process in a healthy way.

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“Your body’s wanting one thing. Your head’s telling you to run away. But your heart knows what it needs and wants…me.”

The Villain-ess

In the midst of Reilly constantly chasing after Lizzy in her attempts to run from him, not to mention Lizzy’s inability to move on from her father’s death, we also see a minor side-plot involving the leading lady of the TV soap. She also happens to be an old flame of Reilly’s, and is aware of some former escapades involving Lizzy’s father. All in all, I must say this bit of drama seemed rather unnecessary. We have a short novel here at just around 100 pages, and we needed to focus as much attention on Lizzy and Reilly’s blossoming relationship as possible. This side distraction of a demanding aging actress just came across as a mild nuisance rather than anything that had a major impact on our lovebirds. The fact that this drama sort of fizzled out by the end of the story made it seem like a road we didn’t necessarily need to go down in the grand scheme of things.

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

Series: Stand-alone.

Final Impressions: A quick read that will make you laugh, possibly cry, and definitely fan yourself from all the steam these two emit once they finally come together. If you happen to find yourself on a sunny beach you can probably finish it in one sitting! While Reilly definitely succeeds in getting Lizzy to stop running away from her feelings for him, I can’t say that we delved deep enough into Lizzy overcoming the grief of her father’s death. Reilly is starting to help her move past the pain, but I wish we had been able to focus more attention on her accepting her father’s passing rather than introducing the additional story of Reilly’s former bed-fellow. Keeping all of these components probably would have benefited from an additional 100 pages or so to fully flesh out and explore each story line.

Smut Level: This might be a romantic comedy, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have any steamy moments! You do sort of have to wait a bit until they’re featured, but you won’t be disappointed once they are!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. The Waxing Gibbous Press. 106 Pages

Their No-Strings Affair by Charlotte O’Shay

Just when you think life is throwing you nothing but curve balls, it might just throw a sexy Italian former SEAL turned security expert in your line of sight. Over and over and over again.

What’s it About? 

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Honey packs everything she owns and heads to NYC to jumpstart her art career. Her cheating boyfriend is history, and she finally acknowledges the truth of her mother’s mantra: Careers are forever and happily ever after isn’t in their DNA.

All she needs is a job and a place to live. What she doesn’t need is a taciturn, sexy, ballbuster but she’s woman enough to know the difference between need and want. Isn’t she?

Jake’s childhood was marred by tragedy and his future hijacked to a promise born of guilt. His failure drove him to a career as a SEAL and a security expert.

But it’s not enough. Now he’ll give up his freedom in reparation for the life he lost. Honey may be the last sweet stop on the road to a joyless future. If it’s what they both want, where’s the harm in a no-strings affair?

First Impressions

There are meet-cutes, and then there are meet-cuuuuuuuutes! There’s nothing better than a romantic meet-cute that puts a smirk on your face and makes your toes curl. The beauty of this novel is we essentially get three distinct meet-cute moments rolled into one relationship, and each scenario is just as smirk inducing as the next. Honey and Jake’s first meeting concludes rather quickly, but Jake can’t deny a moment of attraction to the little spitfire who wasn’t afraid to stand up and push back against his intimidating stature. As it would turn out, fate had more in store for these two. They’re drawn together rather serendipitously two more times, and it’s delightful how after each of these meetings they assume they’ll never see the other again. You can’t help but love the subsequent moments of shock, mixed with delight, when they reconnect again and again. Eventually they both determine enough is enough, and they decide to give into this attraction simmering between them. However, even though their affair might not have any strings attached, it does have a time limit.

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The Looming Deadline

We’ve all come across romances where the lead couple mutually decides to engage a no-strings-attached sexual relationship. No expectations, no heavy emotions, just sex. Aaaaand we all know that those never work out in romance novel land. An additional feature to this trope though that provides a bit of a twist to what we’re used to is the fact that Honey and Jake’s time together has an ending. They’re not just planning on jumping into bed with each other until things get boring between the sheets. Nope, they designate a time period together of one month. At the end of that month they’ll both go their separate ways. Honey will have an all important and time consuming internship beginning when that month is over, and Jake will be moving to Italy. This looming deadline results in both Honey and Jake wanting to take full advantage of all the time they have together.

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Now, a very small and cynical part of me wondered if the time limit to their relationship may have resulted in their emotional connection being put into hyper-drive. I even questioned if things may have eventually fizzled out between them had they not had this looming one month deadline hanging over their heads. However, something that squandered these musings was the fact that Jake and Honey truly did seem to have a connection that went beyond the physical. It wasn’t just sex. For either of them. This was particularly evident during a scene when they cooked dinner together, as they realize they’re both opening up to each other in a way they’ve never done with another person before. It seems like such a simple activity, making dinner, and yet it highlighted a level of intimacy to their relationship where they were both happy to simply be in each other’s presence, chatting, cooking away, and with their clothes on no less.

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“The rest of his life would be divided into the time before he met her and the time since.”

The Mothers

An intense and burning attraction isn’t the only thing that Jake and Honey share. They both have a rather complicated history with their respective mothers that helped shape who they are today. For Honey, her mother was always a wanderer; a woman caught up in her career who traveled from place to place with her daughter in tow. When Honey was just a teenager her mother married another man, and had twin boys. Not one to be tied down, it wasn’t long before Honey’s mom was off chasing another story, and her presence in her children’s lives was few and far between. Honey could have gone on the road with her mom, but even at a young age she knew she wanted to settle in one place, and ultimately the bulk of the care for her half-brothers fell on Honey’s shoulders. The lack of her mother’s presence in her life meant Honey didn’t always have a nurturing woman’s perspective to lean on when it came to relationships or friendships. It might not have resulted in the most stable childhood home environment, but the love for her brothers made her the caring and quirky woman that Jake couldn’t help but fall in love with.

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Honey’s relationship with her mother was no picnic, but it was a damn feast aplenty compared to the relationship that Jake had with his own mother. For years Jake has been plagued with nightmares wherein he relives the death of his brother when they were both young teenagers. Jake blames himself for his brother’s death, something which he became increasingly convinced of when his mother openly blamed him for the death as well. Cesco was the golden child that his mother preferred, and she always viewed Jake as a “spare”. Following Cesco’s death, she not only laid an enormous amount of guilt upon Jake’s shoulders, but she pressured him throughout the years to pick up the life that Cesco would have led by marrying into a wealthy Italian family to carry on their impeccable lineage.

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To see how this strong former SEAL could crumble under the weight of so much misplaced guilt was heartbreaking. He’s obviously hesitant to share too much of his past with Honey, especially seeing as it has an immediate impact on their time together. He’ll be moving to Italy at the end of the month to marry whoever his mother has deemed worthy for him. The fact he’s willing to give up the rest of his life in the hopes that fulfilling this familial obligation will make the nightmares featuring his brother go away was a straight punch to my emotional hand-basket! I did appreciate that while Honey does offer him some solace and comfort, it is ultimately Jake who must find the strength within himself to stand up to his mother to live his own life, and not the one she hoped Cesco would lead one day.

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New York, New York

I am a city girl through and through, but I will be the first to admit that New York City is not my favorite town. There are big cities, and then there’s New York. It’s a whole other level of huge that simply isn’t for me. Something that Charlotte O’Shay managed to do with this novel was turn New York City into a primary character. Throughout the novel we see the city come alive to act as both friend and foe to our lead couple. It succeeds in drawing them together, yet also acts as a barrier which can separate them. I appreciated that at the start of the book we do see a darker side to the city, and how it can prove to be an imposing obstacle to a newcomer like Honey. It’s not as though things are all sunny and perfect like in a Friends apartment scene.

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And yet, we also see that in spite of it’s size, Honey and Jake succeed in surreptitiously finding each other numerous times in such a huge city throughout the span of the book. It would seem that fate doesn’t see the Big Apple as such an imposing force. One of my favorite scenes in particular was when Jake chose to share a special tradition from his childhood with Honey. They’re able to connect over a unique feature of the city, and it’s a special moment that makes it seem as though Jake and Honey have been able to find a small corner of intimacy just for themselves in the midst of the hustle and bustle of NYC. Now, is the representation of what can happen in New York 100% accurate? Probably not. Unless of course you know of another sexy security expert willing to rent out a floor of his fully-furnished and renovated townhouse for a reasonable price that I just didn’t know about 🙂

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

Series: City of Dreams, book 3. It was so much fun to see a few glimpses here and there of the characters from the first two novels.

Final Impressions: Based on how the story began with our characters coming together so many times in some rather comedic circumstances, I initially assumed this was going to be a rather light-hearted tale. I should have known that this series has a tendency to pack in some emotional punches, and this third novel proves no exception. Jake’s complicated relationship with his mother was especially intriguing, and you can’t help but hold your breath in anticipation at their eventual confrontation. I do wish Honey could have had a similar heart-to-heart moment with her own mother, but at the end of the day this story is about Honey and Jake. A key feature to the success of their relationship wasn’t just sexual compatibility, even though they have that in spades, but rather the natural ease with which they could simply be with each other. In these moments Jake didn’t have to worry about living up to his mother’s expectations, and Honey didn’t have the added burden of looking after her brothers or supporting herself in the city. They could simply forget all their worries and enjoy being themselves with each other. But yes, sexual compatibility was definitely a plus!

Smut Level: When you have a scene involving a man giving a tour of his newly renovated kitchen to a potential love interest, you can practically guarantee one thing with absolute certainty. At some point or another…we’re gonna have some kitchen counter sex!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 234 Pages.

To the Max by Elle Aycart

What do you get when you have a pregnant thirty-something living with a devilishly handsome stuntman in the same house? As it turns out, a damn good time! Oh, and don’t forget to throw a couple of guinea pigs in there too.

What’s it About? 

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Forensic accountant Annie Griffin has always suspected she’s a bit jinxed, so when she finds herself 35, single, temporarily homeless, and pregnant on a technicality by a gigolo, her fears are confirmed.

Adrenaline junkie and professional stuntman Max Bowen needs a house-sitter to watch after his pets while he’s out of town. Annie needs a place to stay. Standard quid pro quo. No biggie. She can handle that, whatever hellhounds he owns. Until Max, the most sought-after bachelor in the county, comes back ahead of schedule and suddenly she’s roommates with a 27-year old sex God who turns out to be so much more than what she expected.

Max might have had the attention span of a humming bird on crack when it comes to women, but that was before Annie. Her quirkiness and sweet contradictions soon captivate him, not that she’s inclined to give him the time of the day. With his reputation preceding him, he knows the odds are badly stacked against him, but he will do his best to prove her that he’s what she needs, stuck-up socialite grandmothers, doomsday preppers, groupies, pregnancy hormones, and repentant biological dads be damned.

First Impressions

Right from the get go, you can’t help but feel that our two main characters are polar opposites. Annie is 8 years older than Max. She’s a rule follower, and a straight-laced accountant. She also happens to be pregnant following an uncharacteristic one-night stand with a gigolo. Max is the handsome playboy about town. The daredevil. The stuntman. A bit cocky, but not in an annoying way. When Annie’s apartment undergoes renovations, she agrees to pet-sit for Max when he’s called out of town for a film shoot. When said shoot is unexpectedly put on hold he has no choice but to return home, and the two opposites suddenly find themselves as roommates. How could this possibly end well?!

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However, as it turns out there’s an easiness to their relationship that you can’t help but adore. These two simply enjoy being in each other’s company, which neither would have guessed at the start. What begins as an unlikely friendship eventually develops into something more the longer they live together. In my mind there’s nothing better than a romance involving two friends who learn there’s a deeper emotional connection between them. The fact Max and Annie can have fun with each other by simply hanging out and watching TV is an added bonus, like whipped topping on a sundae. And her pregnancy hormones ratcheting up their sexual need for each other is the cherry on top.

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Mommy and Me

Surprisingly, Annie’s pregnancy doesn’t turn Max away, but instead actually draws him closer. Don’t worry, it’s not like he has a creepy pregnancy fetish or anything. He’s just happy to take care of her, every part of her, in whatever way he can. Once their relationship starts to become something intimate, he’s sure to specify that the fact she’s pregnant and alone isn’t the only reason he pursues a relationship with her. It’s not some outdated sense of obligation, since it was actually Annie’s personality which drew him in from the beginning. Max simply realizes that she and the baby are a package deal, and it thrills him to think he can take care of them both. One back rub leads to another…and next thing you know this friendship has evolved into full on sexual delights.

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Blood isn’t Always Thicker than Water

This novel isn’t all rainbows and guinea pigs, as we actually dive deep into a discussion of wealth, and the importance of family. Throughout this series we have seen the strength of the Bowen brothers, and this familial bond is just as strong in this novel as it was in the previous two. However, we come to the shocking realization that the Bowen patriarch isn’t Max’s actual father. His biological father was actually a mean drunk who Max had only met twice in his whole life. For all intents and purposes, Nate Bowen has always been and always will be his father. To summarize a very compelling quote of Max’s, any guy has the ability to make a baby, but that doesn’t necessarily make the man a father. Sometimes a family you choose can be stronger than the one you’re born into. The parallels of how Max sees himself playing a role in the life of Annie’s baby, even if it isn’t biologically his, couldn’t be more distinct. He might not technically be the child’s father, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be the best dad possible.

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Money also plays a rather pivotal role in Max and Annie’s relationship. The eventual discovery of Annie’s immense familial wealth makes Max start to question whether or not he’s worthy of her. She’s an heiress, even though to him she’s always been down to earth. While she’s never been one to flaunt her wealth, it doesn’t negate the fact that Max and Annie seemingly come from two very separate worlds. He can’t help but wonder if Annie would still want to be with him had he grown up in the trailer park with his true biological drunken father. It’s a rather emotional moment to see our somewhat cocky and surefire Max suddenly question whether or not he’s good enough for a woman who has quickly become the most important thing in his life. I might not have been expecting this intimate look at what truly makes a person who they are; money, blood lines, the people you surround yourself with; but it ended up being an important feature of Annie and Max’s relationship.

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Pahk the Cah in Hahvahd Yahd! 

I love an accent. I always say I have an ear for them, and can usually tell in a movie or TV show when a primary character is attempting to mask their true accent. With this audiobook I must say the accent employed by the narrator was a bit much. This novel takes place in a suburb of Boston, so our male lead has a stereotypical Boston accent. Now, none of the female characters receive this similar New England treatment! Oh no, it’s a privilege reserved for the sexy Bowen boys alone. And I gotta say, every time I heard the narrator’s thick Boston accent used for Max, I was immediately reminded of Ben Affleck’s character in Good Will Hunting, but it was exaggerated to the n’th degree, as though he was trying to sell me a hot dog at Fenway Park. It seemed unnecessarily over-the-top, especially considering at no point in the novel does the text mention that these men have a thick Boston accent.

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Series: Bowen Boys, book 3.

Final Impressions: This is a surprisingly funny read at the start. Annie and Max make for some entertaining roommates. From her pregnancy cravings, to his love of his two adorable pet guinea pigs, this book isn’t short of laughs. Or steaminess! My goodness do these two get down and dirty. No way will they let her belly come between them. The development of their friendship into something more felt incredibly natural and heartfelt. The whole thing comes together with an unexpectedly suspenseful finish that I did not see coming. All in all, a fun beach read!

Smut Level: Holy sex swing do these two get creative. It takes some time for them to start something sexual, but once they do? You’ve got some erotically charged, dirty talking, squirty sex scenes.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 334 Pages.

Loving Disaster by Alex L. Michaels

An entertaining adventure story from start to finish! We have an ancient treasure map, a klutzy female lead, and a muscled guide with a temper. All the ingredients necessary for a fun romance!

What’s it About? 

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When Aster Persephone Ainsley-Drummond set out to find Professor Bartholomew H. Pemberton, her mission was to recruit, hire or otherwise convince the mysterious archeologist to help her reach the elusive, mythical place called El Mourat. When Hunter Pemberton woke up from a drunken stupor, his mission was to avoid, ignore, kill or kiss the stunning redhead who appeared out of nowhere with a delusional plan that would get them robbed, killed or both.

But another day, another dollar, and soon the world’s unlikeliest pair will find themselves on a mission to solve the riddle of an ancient map, discover just how many times things can go wrong in a row and maybe stop arguing long enough to realize how crazy about each other they actually are. One thing’s for sure… in this story, lessons will be learned. A shy, awkward librarian may find out that sometimes Professors don’t look like Professors… at all. And a hunky Professor may find out it’s better not to contradict, provoke or lose your heart to someone called Aster the Disaster.

First Impressions

This novel has a wonderful comedic blend and adventurous spirit that reminded me so much of some of my favorite movies featuring a bookish female lead and a seemingly ill-mannered male hero. The setup of our story is particularly reminiscent of the Mummy, or Romancing the Stone, with our heroine on a quest for a hidden treasure in a foreign land. Aster is definitely out of her depth in the sense that she’s more of a bookworm than an explorer, but seeing as it was the last wish of her late grandfather for her to head out on this journey, Aster is determined to stay the course. She can’t do it alone though. Enter her drunken guide, Hunter.

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He’s the most skilled man for the job, yet also seems like the most incompetent upon first meeting. He’s rude, crude, has a nasty temper, and the last thing he wants is to lead this clumsy city girl around the jungle on a hunt for a mythical treasure. They don’t get off to the best start, and as their mission progresses they’re not shy about openly sharing how much they hate each other. They also can’t deny the underlying sexual tension simmering just below the surface. Neither wants to admit an attraction to the other, but they constantly find themselves drawn together more and more, and even a few scenarios where they have to pretend to be a couple. I’m always a sucker for a scene à la Leap Year where our lead couple must play the ruse of a married couple in order to find shelter for the evening, and are inevitably goaded into proving their love through a sensual kiss. This book definitely doesn’t disappoint in that sense either!

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Arrogance and Sarcasm

While Aster has the bookish personality of the female leads from the Mummy or Romancing the Stone, Hunter was a wonderful blend of the dashing male leads in those movies with a little bit of Indiana Jones mixed in there as well. He’s arrogant, sarcastic, and even though this isn’t a movie, you can easily envision a delightful smirk playing across his face at so many points throughout the story. Hunter initially has no intention of accepting Aster’s proposal of following an ancient map into the unknown so that he can keep the ultimate treasure as a reward. His initial goal was to take her back to civilization, but funnily enough the more he tries to lead her away from the trail of the treasure, the more adventure and shenanigans they inevitably encounter. From thieves to ruffians, princes with ill intentions and women with their sights set on Hunter. It’s non-stop excitement from the moment these two literally bump into each other in a dingy bar in the middle of nowhere.

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As a bookworm myself, I was understandably drawn to Aster’s character. Nothing like backpacking through the wilderness and choosing to bring an 800 page book along. When it came to Hunter I loved his sarcastic wit, his strength, and the naturally slow way he realized that his frustrations with Aster were born from a desire to make sure she would be safe and out of harm’s way. The only thing I didn’t care for when it came to Hunter was the fact that by trying with all his might to deny these burgeoning feelings for Aster, he had the tendency to get mean. He’d yell and scream at Aster because of his frustrations, and I couldn’t help but feel that at times it crossed the line from sexual tension into actual real tension. Aster also has a few choice words for Hunter throughout the novel that make you cringe at their harshness. By the end they both have sort of a light-bulb moment where they realize in the heat of ultimate danger how much they actually care for each other, and that the thought of losing the other is their biggest fear. It’s definitely a saving grace moment to help remedy all of the fights and bitter words they’d exchanged pretty much from opening bell, but there were a few scenes here and there that I think could have been toned down in how scathing they were.

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Curses Abound

No adventure novel would be complete without a good ole fashioned curse or two, and this little diddy has curses flying left and right. Except, they’re not necessarily the curses you’d expect! We have no cursed treasures or relics, no old craggy witches placing curses on the innocent. Oh no, these curses are a bit more…humorous. Let’s start with Aster. My goodness is this poor girl cursed with bad luck! It seems to follow her everywhere, and Hunter’s fortifying strength proves no match for the calamities following Aster in her wake. Her friends don’t call her “Aster the Disaster” for nothing! It seems like every mode of transportation they encounter breaks down in some dramatic fashion, from buses to jeeps and getaway cars. They get shot at, arrested, sick, pursued by unsavory characters, you name it. Aster’s trademark bad luck definitely ran the risk of being over-the-top, which at times it certainly was, but I must admit I loved every single minute of it. These misfortunes simply added to the overall fun and humor of the story, and had me chuckling aloud a time or two.

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As for Hunter, the more time he spends with Aster the more he becomes convinced that he’s been beset by a curse. And it’s not just because her bad luck is rubbing off on him by mere association, although that does play a minor role. Instead he insists that Aster has bewitched him in some way, as he’s seemingly become possessed by an all consuming need for her. Hunter has always been a lone wolf, yet he continually finds himself inextricably drawn to this walking disaster. Other women no longer hold any appeal for him, and by the end of the story he’s astounded to admit that the bachelor lifestyle no longer seems as enticing. He’s intoxicated by her vanilla scent, and becomes enraged at the thought of anyone else having her. His need for her is downright painful at times, especially considering whenever they start to make progress in the physical sense they’re consistently interrupted, adding to a very serious case of blue balls. At first Hunter assumes once he gets Aster into bed the “spell” will be broken, but through their various adventures it becomes clear that this curse is here to stay.

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

Series: Bookworms & Alphas, book 3. This might just be my favorite book of the series so far. It’s humorous, sexy, and it was fun to lose ourselves in a foreign land right along with our characters.

Final Impressions: An entertaining read to be sure! At times the shenanigans and misfortunes which befall Hunter and Aster are slightly over-the-top, but never to the point where it becomes an annoyance. Aster and Hunter are both determined to hate each other, so whenever they feel the hint of a simmering passion coming to the surface they try and lash out at each other in the hopes that those lustful feelings will simply disappear. If only it were that simple! This is the one area which had some over-the-top arguments that I think could have been toned down a bit. All in all though, a fun tale of adventure.

Smut Level: Hot damn I need a shot of tequila or something after this one. It surprisingly takes quite a long time before Hunter and Aster finally seal the deal, which was expounded by the fact that they were interrupted every time they started to rub up on each other. At one point though Hunter reaches his breaking point, and enough is enough. What follows is some lust-filled and steamy hair pulling, moaning, licking, pushing up against a wall, dirty talking sexy time.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 177 Pages.

Cupid Comes to the Lonesome Buzzard Ranch by Hebby Roman

Who would have thought that a weekend which starts off as such a disaster could so quickly transform into one of romance, and dare I say even love!

What’s it About? 

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Les Springer, a widowed rancher, hasn’t stopped grieving for his wife. When three of his friends cook up a Valentine’s Day weekend at his B&B, chaos ensues. The three cowboys go to an online dating site to find matches. The only problem is, no one ends up with who they pick…almost. Jackson Coleridge, Les’ best buddy, kisses the wrong woman at the wrong time…in front of the wrong woman. Jiggs Davis, Les’ ranch foreman, gets drafted at the last minute to squire one of the matched ladies…but she’s no lady. Jayce Fulton, Les’ rodeo champion friend, tries to corral the lady no one wants…until she turns on him.

Harper Lewis, a social media guru, is divorced and thinks she’s looking for a husband…until she realizes she wants more. Can the cowboy she’s chosen meet her expectations? Lillian Mayfield, a widowed accountant turned florist, comes across as stiff and formal and still…grieving. Is she ready to open her heart and discover a new love? Cheyenne MacPherson, part Navajo and a sculptor, is dedicated to her work and feels the weekend is…one big mistake. Can a handsome cowboy change her mind? Eva González, Les’ widowed cook and housekeeper, misses her children and longs for a sense of…family. Is she ready to start a new family with the man she loves?

First Impressions

I just loved the premise of this romance with how every person was meant to be paired with someone else. Each couple really has their distinct personalities and characteristics which make their particular relationship unique from those around them. Although, I will say it definitely didn’t help that 3 of the 4 male leads had names that started with a “J”. Made it a bit tricky in the beginning to remember who exactly we were dealing with! After a while we get to know them all fairly well, and I appreciated the balance in how each couple received the appropriate amount of attention they deserved. You also can’t help but love the fact that these are handkerchief men! There are a few moments throughout the story where a few of our leading lads seem to whip out a handkerchief at just the right moment. Now, if that’s not the sign of a gentleman, then I just don’t know what is!

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“Never, at any crisis of your life, have I known you to have a handkerchief.”

Online Dating Run Amuck

While I definitely enjoyed the haphazard way each couple eventually found their suitable partner, I sort of wish the impetus for what brought all these characters together was slightly different. This is one hell of a blind date when you think about! Some of these women are traveling rather lengthy distances for this romantic weekend, and the idea of four women who don’t know each other traveling to a B&B with a name out of a horror film to meet with four for men they’ve never met before…well it actually kind of sounds like the start of a horror film!

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I think the one change I would have liked above everything else was if these women could have known each other and been friends before coming to the ranch. As a single woman, I don’t know if I’d travel such a long distance to go to a somewhat solitary cabin to meet with men who have seemingly put the call out for four women to come meet them for skiing and bridge over Valentine’s Day. But…then again maybe that’s why I’m single. Maybe instead if this had just been a group of girlfriends who decided to get away for a fun weekend of skiing, and then just happened to be swept away by the men on this ranch/B&B it may have felt slightly more realistic.

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Speed Dating

We definitely have several whirlwind romances taking place over this one Valentine’s weekend! There were a few moments throughout the book where you can’t help but question if our couples are moving too quickly in their search of love. The fact that these characters spend approximately four days together, and by the end some are openly declaring their love makes you wonder if these couples will still be together a month from now, let alone a year. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I wasn’t as bothered by these expeditious tales of love as I probably would have been if we’d been dealing with couples in their mid-twenties.

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Practically all of these couples are in their 40s or 50s, and most have found love before. They know what it feels like to fall in love, and they can recognize when someone is special. For most of the people presented here they quickly acknowledge that what they feel for the person in front of them is something strong and unique. In some cases it’s reminiscent of what they felt for a past love, and in others it’s something stronger than anything they’ve felt before. Now granted, not everyone is ready to walk down the aisle by the end of the weekend. Some just seem willing to see where this new relationship will lead, whereas others are willing to make big moves and changes in their lives. Again, it was nice to see that not everyone fit into the same mold.

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My Favorite Couple?

There are a number of cute couples to enjoy here, but if I had to choose my favorite it would probably be Les and Lilly.  They are clearly drawn to each other, yet both find themselves pretty consistently referencing their deceased spouses. The romance which develops between them might not be the steamiest, or one which receives the most attention when all was said and done. That being said, I think the message which was shared from their romance was my favorite of the bunch. Seeing as all of these couples are older than your typical romance novel lead characters, it’s not just the fact they’re in their 50s that makes their romance unique. Nor is it the fact that both have been married before, and are just now taking the chance to open up their hearts again to someone new. Rather, the aspect of their relationship which I found the most compelling was that in those moments where they couldn’t help but reference a memory from their late-spouse, the other person encouraged them to discuss it.

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Neither was made to feel guilty for bringing up their beloved on several occasions, and they were never pressured to “move on”. Both of these characters could understand the difficulty of losing the love of your life, as well as the undeniable fact that some scenarios they encounter or places they’ll go will undoubtedly remind them of their wife or husband. While many people would view this constant remembrance of a previous loved one as an annoying or troubling characteristic, for Lilly she actually saw it as a representation of how devoted Les could feel for another person. It was something to be celebrated. You can tell that Les feels a slight sense of embarrassment over the fact that he brings up his late wife on several occasions, but instead of reprimanding him for it, Lilly actually encourages him to share the memories of his wife. He also does the same when it comes to the few times Lilly is reminded of her deceased husband, Doug. Both can acknowledge that they were in love with these people, and even though they’re gone, their memories live on. It’s nothing to be ashamed of or try to hide.

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

Series: Stand-alone. Since finishing I keep going back and forth debating whether or not I would have liked to see each romance broken out into its own novel. It would have allowed us to get to know each couple on a deeper level, but I also don’t know if the premise of how they came together could have held up if we had four individual books. Maybe another 100 pages would have been great!

Final Impressions: Could there have been maybe one less couple involved? Mayyyybe. I did enjoy how different each couple was, but at times it almost seemed like we may have been dealing with too much back and forth between our various characters. Especially considering we’re dealing with under 250 pages, to have four distinct couples was definitely a lot. I also found it a bit hard to get behind the premise of four solo females agreeing to travel to an oddly named B&B to meet four men they’ve never met over Valentine’s Day weekend to possibly find romance. That being said, we do have plenty of cute stories at work here, and you come to appreciate their struggles, their hesitancies, but also their undeniable connections.

Smut Level: Some of the relationships have some heat to their stories. These folks may have just met, but that doesn’t prevent some from getting a bit…handsy…at the dinner table 😉 Nothing overly detailed or outrageous though!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Estrella Publishing. 224 Pages

Hooking Up by Elsie Young

A female lead who is a fan of Five Guys burgers? Finally, someone I can relate to!! Although…she also seems to have a rather unhealthy obsession with blue cheese. Just when I thought we could be friends, girl!

What’s it About? 

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I’m Eiley Murphy and my life is spiraling out of control. I’ve renamed the male lead in my ballet company “Bitcherina,” yes, I’m the principal female dancer, but right now, that’s not going so pretty good. As a matter of fact, I don’t know if I’ll have a job next week. And, the gorgeous distraction to end all distractions has finally noticed me after a year of drooling over him from afar. You’d think that would be a good thing, but Trey, William Cuthbert Layton III – for real – gets around a bit too much, if you know what I mean, and I see nothing but heartbreak in my future. So I obsess, and confess all to my sisters and my BFs, Brett and Valerie. Frankly, everyone’s pretty sick of me right now, so Trey better get himself together since I’m about ten minutes away from doing something even more stupid than usual.

First Impressions

You know, upon first reading the synopsis for this little romance, I mistakenly assumed that we’d be seeing a romance play out between Eiley and her “bitcherina” dance partner in the ballet. As it turns out, this male dancer simply remains a thorn in her side for the majority of the novel as she attempts to find a way to melt his tough exterior. The romantic part of the story involves a guitarist that Eiley has a mildly stalker-like obsession with. While Eiley has obsessed over this musician for the past year, their first one-on-one interaction involves him apologizing before kissing her in front of his band mates. Eiley is rather shocked that all of her dreams are apparently coming true at such an unexpected moment, and is even more surprised after the fact when this guitarist, Trey, asks if she would pretend to be his girlfriend to get an unwanted admirer off his back. As we contemplate whether or not this “fake” romance between Trey and Eiley will develop into something more, I must say I found myself even more entranced by the relationship between Eiley and her “bitcherina”, whose actual name is Basil.

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It was such a compelling story to see Basil’s initial animosity towards Eiley eventually transform into a kind of friendship. If we compare the two relationships which were developing side-by-side, we see that in Eiley’s romantic relationship with Trey she does some pretty crazy things at times to try and win his affection. However, when it comes to the friendship which is forming between her and Basil, she discovers that to win his respect she needs to push herself to become a better dancer, and demonstrate her dedication to their art-form. As they slowly become friends, Eiley seems to draw out the softer side of Basil to the point where he’s able to loosen up a bit and enjoy life more. In a way, they both bring out the best in each other. In my opinion, this was where the heart of the story lay, and I found myself perking up a bit in excitement every time we’d encounter a scene involving Eiley and Basil together. If anything, I wanted more of this story line, and the romance involving Trey almost seemed like an interruption! Definitely not what I was expecting at all!

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Reading Through Your Fingers

I feel like there are a few different situations we encounter when reading that will make us want to peek through our fingers as the words flow across the page. Sometimes a scene might be particularly scary, sexy, or maybe we just really want to make sure we don’t skim ahead to reveal a major plot twist before we get to it. And then there are the situations that this novel presents us with in abundance…embarrassing ones. Poor Eiley! There are so many scenarios where everything that possibly could go wrong does go wrong for our ballerina, and you can’t help but feel embarrassment on her behalf. Sometimes you sympathize with her blunders and awkward social moments when she apparently can’t get anything right, even though she’s trying her darnedest. And there are those other times when the absurdity of the situation is so unrealistic you can’t help but roll your eyes at her over-the-top antics. I think the problem here was that overall Eiley felt like an extremely relatable character, but during some of these crazy scenes our ability to relate to her on a personal level is almost broken.

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One such example involves Eiley crashing a restaurant where she thinks Trey is having dinner with another woman. She gets into an argument with this woman who seems insistent on having Trey all for herself, so Eiley understandably boasts about all the orgasms Trey has given her. Unfortunately she sort of forgot about her surroundings and caught the attention of the other diners. And Trey. And his grandmother. A humorously awkward moment to be sure. But then when Eiley gets so embarrassed she grabs a live lobster from the arms of a passing waiter, holds it out in front of her to make some kind of point with this woman, and then makes an embarrassing exit with said lobster and takes it to a bar before heading home with it still clutched in her hands? You can’t help but wonder when the hell this would ever happen in real life. It was an attempt at humor that sort of takes you out of the scene because it’s so over-the-top.

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There was another moment when Eiley and Trey were making out in a car during the middle of the day in a fairly busy parking lot, and some police officers interrupt them thinking that Trey is taking advantage of a teenager due to Eiley’s small stature. Sure, had me giggling for a bit and blushing on behalf of the embarrassment both characters were undoubtedly experiencing. But then to find out the whole situation was recorded by the On-Star setting in her car, and the technician then put it on YouTube, which resulted in it going viral and ending up on a radio show? Um…what? A bit of restraint would have been beneficial. Instead we see that the line from humor to absurdity is constantly being straddled.

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A Quirky Family for a Quirky Lady

Family is an important element of this story, and while there were definitely some good moments which highlighted this feature, I felt some aspects could have been tightened up just a bit to really make those familial scenes pop. The weekly dinners involving Eiley and her many sisters at a local diner were quite a hoot. They all have a mutual obsession with bacon, and they play a game each week called “I Hate My Life”, where they go around the table sharing their most embarrassing moment from the past week. The winner doesn’t have to pay for their dinner, and ever since Eiley and Trey started their fake romance she’s been treated to a fair number of free meals. It was a lot of fun to see the sisters go around the table to share their embarrassing tales of woe, and the only issue I had with these many rounds of “I Hate My Life” was that the dinner scenes became somewhat repetitive as the novel progressed. It was also tricky at times to differentiate between all the sisters and their respective lives considering our only interactions with them were during these round table confessionals. I think a few more scenes involving Eiley and her sisters outside of the grease-filled diner world would have helped us get to know them even more.

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There are some other familial elements which are introduced fairly late in the book. While some of these were very interesting, it seemed like we didn’t get enough time to explore them all fully, which made it seem as though there were just too many things going on at once. Similar to the shenanigans Eiley constantly finds herself in, some restraint upon introducing so many elements pretty late in the game could have benefited the overall flow of the story. For example, we hear mention throughout the story of Eiley’s crazy aunt Psyche, and while she definitely seems like a neurotically fun character, we don’t actually meet her “in person” until the tale is well under way.

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She also introduces some family mystery regarding a long dead Uncle Seamus who hid some kind of family treasure. Upon the urging of her aunt, Eiley sort of takes up the case of finally trying to find out what this treasure might be by referencing old family letters and photographs. Now, I’m not gonna lie, it was probably one of my most favorite side stories that we saw presented in the novel, and one of the most heartbreaking as we hear through one of Seamus’s letters how he lamented over the death of his one true love. However, at the same time I sort of had to question how it fit into the rest of the story involving our ballerina falling for her rock star. In the end Eiley and her sisters have an assumption as to what this hidden treasure might be, but we don’t even see them locate it. If this had been an element which was introduced to strengthen the relationship between Eiley and her sisters I might have understood its presence in the book, but they already had a strong bond. Again, while enjoyable, you can’t help but question what the purpose was.

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

Series: Stand-alone for the time being? I could see some future novels involving Eiley’s sisters being fun reads.

Final Impressions: Personally, I wish the setting of Washington, DC had played a somewhat larger role in the story, but…what can I say? As a DC resident I’m slightly biased. There were a lot of different events at play in this novel, and while many were definitely fun and enjoyable, I think some areas could have been fine-tuned to really pull the whole novel together into one cohesive story. The scenes involving Eiley and her temperamental dance partner were probably my favorite. It’s where we witnessed an emotionally honest progression of a relationship, and if anything I would have liked to see more between Eiley and the “bitcherina”. Her evolving relationship with Trey started strong, but it sort of fizzled at the end, which is ironic considering this is when their connection is supposed to be at its highest point. Eiley is quite the quirky character, and she’s definitely over-the-top from time to time, but she’s still a warm-hearted and well-intentioned chica.

Smut Level: Five orgasms in one night? Not too shabby. Unfortunately it also resulted in a few broken bathroom fixtures 🙂

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Boroughs Publishing Group. 271 Pages.