Going Down on One Knee by Christina Hovland

For a cute, romantic, funny read…hot damn was this thing surprisingly sexy!

What’s it About?

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Number-crunching Velma Johnson’s perfectly planned life is right on course. That’s a lie. Sure, she’s got the lucrative job. She’s got the posh apartment. But her sister nabbed Velma’s Mr. Right. There has to be a man out there for Velma. Hopefully, one who’s hunky, wears pressed suits, and has a diversified financial portfolio. He’ll be exactly like, well… her sister’s new fiancé.

Badass biker Brek Montgomery blazes a trail across the country, managing Dimefront, one of the biggest rock bands of his generation. With the band on hiatus, Brek rolls into Denver to pay a quick visit to his family and friends. But when Brek’s sister suddenly gets put on bed rest, she convinces Brek to take over her wedding planning business for the duration of her pregnancy. Staying in Denver and dealing with bridezillas was not what Brek had in mind when he passed through town, but there is one particular maid-of-honor who might make his stay worthwhile.

Velma finds herself strangely attracted to the man planning her sister’s wedding. Problem is, he ticks none of the boxes on her well-crafted list. Brek is rough around the edges, he cusses, and doesn’t even have a 401(k). But trying something crazy might get her out of the rut of her dating life–so long as she lays down boundaries up front and sticks to her plan…

First Impression

Every once in a while, my sister will ask for romance novel recommendations from me, and sometimes she’ll say she’s in the mood for something “cutesy”. Cutesy is sort of a level beyond cute, where some scenes are just so freakin’ adorable you want to giggle and squeeeee in delight. This novel perfectly embodies the definition of a “cutesy” read! It didn’t take long at all before I started to have a permanent grin on my face whenever I opened this baby up on my Kindle. Sure, it started to hurt after a while, but in the most fabulous way possible. The banter back and forth between our lead characters is everything, not to mention their dynamics with the lovable secondary characters. The fact that one of Brek’s good male friends is a florist, so he and his buddies all converge at the flower shop to drink some beers and discuss Brek’s love life was such a hoot. Your toes will inevitably curl in delight with this one!

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A Biker Handles Bridezillas

Brek had just planned to be in town for a short visit when his sister unexpectedly ended up on bed rest towards the end of her pregnancy. She’s desperate to have her wedding planning business succeed, so who does she enlist to help her out with some upcoming weddings but her unbelievably supportive badass biker brother, Brek. The first wedding he’s in control of basically crashes and burns in a rather over-the-top way. From a dog gagging on a pearl necklace, to the mother-of-the-bride sitting down on a box of melted chocolates, everything that could go wrong does go wrong. This was perhaps the one part of the book that I thought, mkay let’s tone it down juuuust a bit. Overall though these weddings are really the linchpin that bring Brek and Velma together as a team when she agrees to help him out with the planning logistics. They go from meager acquaintances to unexpected roommates, unlikely friends to passionate lovers. It’s fun to see their relationship play out and develop into something special that neither was really expecting.

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From Avoiding Commitment to Seeking it Out

An interesting feature of this read was both Brek and Velma’s approach to commitment, as well as to their own newfound relationship. Basically, both see this thing as short term. He doesn’t check any of the boxes in her 5-year plan spreadsheet for a possible groom, but she sees this as an opportunity to live life a little on the wild side and break out of her comfort zone. For him, he’s insistent that he’s just passing through Denver. True, his family and close friends are here, but his life is on the open road managing a band. Settling down just isn’t in the cards for them.

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As their time together lengthens though Brek comes to discover that, “He wanted Velma. He also wanted freedom. The two wouldn’t mesh well. But he wasn’t willing to give up either one. There had to be a third solution.” What I found so interesting in this romance was that Brek was the first to consider making changes in his life for Velma, and as a matter of fact is the first to say “I love you”. They both seemed so set in their ways, and while we knew they’d break eventually I guess I just never thought it would be Brek to be first.

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The Doomed Spreadsheet

Keeping in line with her accounting ways, Velma keeps a spreadsheet with an algorithm to determines her suitability with men she’s gone on dates with. We can all see that this spreadsheet of hers is gonna come back to bite her in the ass eventually. Brek ultimately discovers his entry in Velma’s spreadsheet, and his measly score of a 4 out of 10. According to the spreadsheet rules that’s not even good enough for a second date (even though they’ve been going out for a while now). What follows is a romance novel trope that I must say I’m not a huge fan of, and that’s when one person refuses to listen to an explanation by the other. Velma goes after Brek several times to explain that she loves him, and that she’s finally realized the spreadsheet could never account for feelings and emotional connection. And yet, Brek continually turns his back on her.

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Mkay, here’s my problem. I know it must have hurt like a son of a bitch to see his name on that sheet, and with such a low score to boot. Velma should have deleted the thing long ago, and the fact she even bothered to fill out the columns with his information was a low blow. But, he loves this woman. He’s considering making huge changes in his life for her. She’s already hinted at how she doesn’t hold as much weight behind the spreadsheet as she once did. If you truly love this woman as much as you say you do, the least you could do is treat her with enough respect to listen to her when she’s trying to speak to you. Don’t throw a temper tantrum and essentially tune out what is obviously an honest and heartfelt plea for understanding.

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

Series: A Mile High Matched Novel, book 1. I am definitely going to continue with this series, just try and stop me! But please don’t. I am so ensnared with the supplemental characters in this book I can’t wait to see them get their own shot at a happily ever after!

Final Impression: This is a delightfully fun and lighthearted read, not to mention a perfect option for the beach. Velma and Brek are such lovable characters that you root for them throughout the entire novel. Although slightly predictable, it’s just the kind of cutesy read you need to put a smile on your face.

Smut Level: Just because it’s lighthearted doesn’t mean this thing won’t get steamy! These two come up with some pretty clever sex locales, including Brek’s motorcycle! The scenes themselves never get too dirty or raunchy though. Just some good steamy fun!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 314 Pages.

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Up Too Close by Andrea K. Stein & Sawyer Stone

“A life without adventure. Or a life with too much adventure?” Which would you choose?

What’s it About?

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CeCe Ahlstrom, massage therapist to the rich and famous, is done with men. Her last rich boyfriend tried to kill her on an ill-fated cruise through the Grenadines. Now she’s determined to get on with her life but can’t find the funds to get to her next spa gig in Portugal. Then along comes notorious womanizer Captain René Baudoin. He’s hell on the hearts of women, he can handle any storm at sea, yet he might have met his match in a leaky old boat. He needs a first mate crazy enough to help crew the wreck known as the Tourbillon across the Atlantic. Destiny draws CeCe and René together, but things are not what they seem. He struggles with a family secret that could destroy his future and CeCe will have to face a truth not even she knows yet. Out on the open sea, René and CeCe soon find themselves…UP TOO CLOSE.

First Impression

CeCe and René are determined to cross the Atlantic without any sexual funny business popping up between them. In order to entertain the idea of such an undertaking, René has to constantly remind himself to view CeCe as though she were a six-foot-four hairy Turk. Yeah…we’ll see how long that little mental trick works out 🙂 One of the seemingly principal features of René’s personality is that he is a hell of a flirtatious Frenchman. It’s an aspect that was strikingly clear in the first book, and we see it carry over into this second book as well. His attempts to reign in his flirtatiousness when in CeCe’s presence sometimes proves too difficult to maintain.

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However, as CeCe and René develop a more deep and meaningful relationship on their trek throughout the Caribbean we see that René’s flirtatious personality almost disappears entirely. Not gonna lie, I was kind of torn with how I felt about this! I’m not saying I wanted him to flirt with others, but the cute sexual suggestions that he and CeCe would throw back and forth at each other during the start of their journey were really the cornerstone to the comedic aspect of the novel. It’s nice that René matures to realize how important CeCe is to him, and that he no longer has the desire to be the playboy French captain he’s developed a reputation for. I just wish there had been a continuation of his flirty side so that it didn’t feel as though we lost a fun part of what made René, well, René!

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A Dog Named “Dog”

Before CeCe and René get too far along in their journey we see them pick up another unexpected passenger, and that would be René’s grandmother’s Portuguese water dog named Chienne. Aka dog. Aka…bitch. While I would identify myself as a cat person, even I would be the first to admit that this dog is freakin’ adorable. Hands down, the standout feature of the book for me. Chienne forms the final piece of this mismatched family in the middle of the ocean. The fact that the dog hates René, yet loves CeCe makes the dynamics between all three characters all the more fun. Of course by the end of the book we see Chienne open up to René, and it just breaks your heart a bit. In a good way though!

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The Supplemental Joys of Life

One of the key features of the first book that I absolutely loved was all of the delightful secondary characters. However, it seemed like this element was sort of missing in this novel. Sure, we get an introduction to Rene’s grandmother towards the beginning, and CeCe’s family towards the end, but throughout the majority of the novel we just see this rag tag group of three sailors out on the open ocean. Yes, I’m including Chienne in that sailor count! Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved Chienne, and could probably just read a book about all of his canine adventures, but I think seeing a few more supporting characters throughout the middle of the book could have helped balance out the fun of the novel.

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We do get another peek of one of the more elusive and crazy characters from book one, which is Devin Manning. He’s funding this little expedition to Portugal, and is the most intriguing of wannabe James Bond spy characters. Unfortunately we didn’t see as much of him in this novel as I would have liked. The few glimpses we caught of him in book one seemed appropriate, but I felt like as we move along in this series it would be fun to learn just a bit more about him and his background. Instead, he’s probably even more of a mystery now than he was in book one. Hopefully in book three we’ll finally discover some kind of method to his madness. Although I could also see him being a continuous mystery character who pops up whenever he feels like it.

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An Unexpected Journey

It was kind of tricky to track how far along our couple was in their journey. True, we are provided with the longitude and latitude of their location at the start of every chapter, but maybe a map image would have helped a bit more to visualize their progress…or lack thereof. There was such build-up to this strenuous journey, and yet the bulk of the novel seemed to involve CeCe and René traipsing throughout the Caribbean. Then all of a sudden they’re in Portugal. With the turn of every page I kept wondering, ok, when are we gonna start the crossing to Portugal? Once we got to the half-way point I actually became convinced that we’d never get there. Imagine my surprise when lo and behold we finally get to the last few chapters and we’re basically transported there in the span of a chapter or two. Is it really that quick? Do I need to take a week off work for a fabulous sailing adventure across the Atlantic? Yeaaaaah…no. Let’s face it, a storm at sea is basically a guarantee.

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Unbalanced

There are some humorous features to this novel which will definitely make you chuckle aloud. CeCe’s crazy family reunion in the city of Horta is sort of the climactic event for silliness. We even get a confrontational argument between CeCe and René in the midst of the reunion wherein they both have microphones to confess some of their biggest secrets in a crowded room full of CeCe’s friends and family. Kind of a cheesy scene, and ultimately I wish that more of these silly comedic elements could have been spread out more evenly across the breadth of the book. They’re all sort of reserved towards the end, which lends an unbalanced feeling to the book.

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We are introduced to René’s outspoken grandmother near the start of the book, and then we get a mad glimpse of CeCe’s crazy family at the end. The heart and soul of the book involves René and CeCe connecting both physically and emotionally alone in the middle of the ocean. The fact that their moments of romance are book-ended by some rather over-the-top, almost cartoonish characters means that you go through a bit of whiplash in regards to what tone is being set for the novel. I felt like either the other supplemental characters should have been toned down ever so slightly, or maybe we needed one or two additional comedic scenes towards the middle of the book to help with the overall flow of the story.

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

Series: Love Overboard, book 2. Just one more book left in this series, and I’m curious to see how it will come together.

Final Impression: Overall I’d have to say I probably enjoyed the first book in the series a bit more than this one. We saw a more well-rounded arch to the story line, and it was a funny read without being too silly. I definitely found myself chuckling with this read, but by the end it sort of crossed the line into being too silly. The premise and set up for this sequel was definitely still a hoot, and the moments where René and CeCe could truly escape from the pressures of their reality by spending alone time together in their romantic bubble on the sea were rather special. Chienne’s boisterous personality might just be the best feature of the series so far.

Smut Level: Sex on a deck in the middle of the ocean. Nothing around but the ocean breeze, lap of water against the hull, and what must be a ton of blisters in the ass. CeCe and René also somehow manage to 69 whilst on this boat. Is it just me, or does that seem like a rather dizzying activity. Probably opens a portal to the Bermuda Triangle or something.

Get it on AmazonClick Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Muirgen Publishing, LLC. 235 Pages.

Waiting for You by Rose Grey

Upon first glance of this book I had one thought, and one thought only: there better be a few scenes featuring this adorable dog on the cover, or else I’m gonna be peeved! Happy to say my wish came true, pretty much from the opening scene.

What’s it About?

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When Aidy Jones, hotel manager, sees Max Durrell in the lobby, she decides to join a dating service. Aidy knows what she needs and Max isn’t it. Her ideal man is attractive enough to have children with but not attractive enough to fall in love with. Ideally, he’ll also have some roofing skills.

Max Durell has returned to Demerest Cove to accomplish a lifelong dream. The Grand isn’t on the market yet, but convincing the eccentric owners to sell should be a piece of cake. His brothers will take care of the transaction. Max’s job is to flirt with Aidy Jones, the owners’ daughter, so she doesn’t interfere.

Flirting is easy. It’s friendship that’s the problem. Max can’t help enjoying Aidy and while he’ll never fall in love again (Been there. Bought the tux. Bride never showed up.) he is falling in like with her. Deeply in like. But any day now, The Grand will be his. And once Aidy learns Max is the one tearing her beloved hotel away from her, she’ll never want to set eyes on him again.

First Impressions

As far as meet-cutes go, this novel presents us with a good one. After all, it’s not every day you start a romance novel where the female lead literally falls into the arms of our dashing hunk by sliding down a hotel staircase banister holding a box of mice whilst being chased by a precocious young hotel guest behind her and avoiding an eager bloodhound running towards her. Phew, that was definitely a mouthful. Admit it though, pretty adorable. Although this novel does present us with a rather light-hearted and funny start, it does manage to expertly address the inner turmoil that both of our lead characters are suffering with.

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Aidy took on the role of manager eight years ago to help her parents with their failing hotel. The business is draining money, as well as Aidy’s patience, energy, time, and love life. She’s doing all she can to keep the hotel afloat, while at the same time shoving down all of her feelings deep within her. Her frustrations, anger, sadness. And then Max comes along. He becomes someone to confide in, a shoulder to cry on, and someone who seems willing to help and comfort her. However, Aidy has gotten so use to pushing her feelings aside to focus solely on the hotel, that she might just end up pushing her feelings for Max aside too. It seems like it’s just a matter of time before she breaks under the pressure. The question is, will Max be there to catch her?

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As for Max, he hasn’t been completely honest with Aidy about his presence at the Grand hotel. He’s there to keep an eye on things as his brothers go ahead with purchasing the hotel from Aidy’s parents. At first he basically lives life by the mantra that it’s not personal, it’s business. But as he spends more time with this selfless woman who will do anything to keep her home from falling apart, we see how Max is devastatingly conflicted when it comes to Aidy. He wants her to succeed, but at the same time his family’s purchase of the hotel will repair the reputation for him and his brothers in this seaside resort town. For his family to win, in a way it means Aidy must lose. The fact that Max is starting to fall in love with this headstrong woman makes his presence at the Grand all the more troublesome. Honestly I think this tumultuous aspect of the story with Aidy and Max both conflicted about their path in life and feelings for each other was probably the most intriguing and well developed feature of the entire novel.

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Delightful Shenanigans or Added Weight?

So, long story short, the Grand hotel is an utter disaster. It’s basically falling down around itself. The roof is leaking, the rooms are dated, the plumbing is shit (pun absolutely intended), the garden is overgrown, the elevators keep breaking, and mice have started popping up throughout the old structure. It seems as though each new issue, the nose twitch of every mouse, is supposed to add a sense of humor to the story. Almost as though, here we go again! What other shenanigans will Aidy encounter today on the job. However, while there was a mild comedic aspect to it in the beginning, I couldn’t help but feel more and more depressed for Aidy as the story progressed.

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Aidy is doing everything she can, pouring her heart and soul into this place, and sadly we see that no matter what she does it simply isn’t enough. With every toilet she manages to unclog, another temperamental guest will come with a complaint about something else. This woman is carrying around so much weight on her shoulders, and as more and more weight keeps being added through every additional setback I just wanted to shout out, “Oh please give her a break already!” Aidy is basically in a sinking ship in the middle of a hurricane, with nothing but a shot glass to try and bail out the water. However, on top of all these hotel breakdowns, there are two much more significant weights which are dragging Aidy down.

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Sky Lark and Lemon Karma

Yes, you read that right. Sky Lark and Lemon Karma. Aka, Aidy’s mom and dad. These two are a rather bizarre lot. They’ve adopted some pretty out there names for themselves, and have shed the societal labels of mother and father. In my opinion, the two were never worthy of the titles in the first place. My goodness are they terrible people. The author does a fantastic job of really making us hate them. They have never once paid their daughter for her work at the Grand, and yet speak to her as though they are doing her the favor rather than the other way around. They consistently undermine Aidy’s attempts to try and improve the hotel, and don’t even bother to tell her that they’ve entered into negotiations to sell the property. I’ve got two middle fingers pointed right at these two sad excuses for parents.

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Aidy definitely has her hands full when it comes to dealing with Sky Lark and Lemon Karma, but while growing up in the Grand hotel there were others that she came to rely on as surrogate parents. The staff. This is her true family. They have stuck by her through thick and thin, and remain loyal to her above her so-called parents. That being said, I really wanted to see more of a focus on her relationships with these staff members, specifically the doorman (owner of the beloved pooch on the cover), the head chef, and the head receptionist. Aidy states how these three characters mean the world to her, but it seems as though we really only get a surface look at these connections. I really wish we could have witnessed more moments where these three take on the maternal and paternal roles they are credited with. Sure, we see how each one basically warns Max to never even think about hurting Aidy, but I think there was more emotion which could have been brought to the table here.

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

Series: Durrell Brothers Trilogy, book 1. Oh I am definitely all in when it comes to the next two books in this trilogy. We get a few glimpses here and there of Max’s supportive, yet headstrong brothers, and I can’t wait to see what the author has in store for these two!

Should you read it? It’s gonna sound weird, but I almost wish this book had been billed more as a drama. The high points of the story always revolved around Aidy and Max debating over whether or not to take their flirtations further considering all of the personal drama they’re trying to hide from the world, and each other. Therefore, when we get these few glimpses of a disastrous online date for Aidy, or an annoyingly out-of-tune chorus group staying at the hotel, these moments of comedy almost seemed at odds with the emotional journey that Aidy and Max were traveling along. I almost wish the online dating aspect of the story had been replaced with more scenes of Aidy connecting with her familial staff. That being said, you definitely feel for the characters in this book. Whether it’s rooting for Aidy to succeed, for Max to open up, or for her parents to get a good slap in the face…you’ll have some pretty intense feelings one way or another!

Smut Level: Plenty of passionate kissing, but the sex scene itself isn’t discussed in detail. We go from a make-out panting session to the afternoon after.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Simply Romance Press. 296 Pages.

Personal Delivery by Ainsley Booth

This novel seriously made me consider buying large amounts of products I don’t need online in the hopes of getting a hot ass delivery man to bring me his large…package. Ok, I think I might have to hide my credit card. It’s in pretty immediate danger of taking a hit.
What’s it About?
35116165I recognize the sound of his truck turning off in front of my building. Not only do I recognize it, but my pulse picks up and I get all hot and bothered. Then I hear the low growl cutting out, followed by the clank of metal as he pulls up the back door to grab my package…Grab my package? That sounds so dirty. Which is probably appropriate given some of the fantasies I’ve had about him. My obsession with the new, mysterious delivery driver is crazy. Intense. Distracting. The last thing I need is to be crushing on a six-foot-something distraction with a dirty grin. But my friends have other plans.
First Impressions 
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Because I had the same first impression upon reading the synopsis. Have I somehow stumbled onto the set of a porn flick? We have a sexy delivery man in his tight uniform that shows off all his muscles, and a beautiful woman home all alone, just waiting to invite him in. Perhaps for a glass of lemonade? And I’m not gonna lie folks, at times this novel does read borderline porno. It’s hot, sexy, and bursting at the seams with some downright filthy dirty talk. We’ve got kitchen counter coupling, hallway stumbling foreplay, and the discovery of some new erogenous zones.
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I must say though, I just loved that Jana admits to herself how much it seems like a porno scenario, and uses this as a reason to try and keep as much of a distance from Jake as she can. Alas, he proves too enticing to resist. Although this book highlights the sexy side of a new relationship, it’s also light-hearted fun, and our male lead shows an affinity for cats and kittens for crying out loud. He’s also not afraid to admit his true feelings for Jana, even if he’s never experienced this kind of close connection with another woman before. Jake knows what they’re feeling for each other is the real thing, and will do whatever it takes to put his heart on the line. And…again…the guy likes kittens!!! What’s not to love here people?!?!
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Lack of Drama
Every once in a while, especially if you’re lounging around somewhere on a beach, it can be fun to read a sexy romance that is relatively drama free. After all, I’m sure we can all attest to the fact that we encounter enough drama in our every day lives, from work to school and even our TV viewing. Who needs more of it in their romance reading?! That being said, I was pretty shocked that for the entire novel, we are entirely drama free!
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Like, no misunderstandings or spats between our lead characters, no negative external factors. I kept waiting around for some kind of inevitable dramatic reveal or impact on the plot, but it never came. Honestly, it kind of made for a surprisingly refreshing, yet also a pretty lackluster read when all was said and done. I mean, come on, you can’t even have a typical disagreement over leaving the toilet seat up? Hogging the covers? SNORING?!?! This might be the most copacetic couple I’ve ever encountered.
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Options Galore
I think what was even more surprising than the lack of drama in this novel is that there were SOOOO many different opportunities where a bit of drama or intrigue could have been established. First and foremost, the entire premise of how Jake and Jana meet is based on a misrepresentation. Jake is actually a billionaire who recently purchased a delivery company, and he decides to play a little undercover boss scenario by making deliveries for the company with a truck and uniform. As for why he felt compelled to do this? It’s briefly mentioned that he wants to see how the company works from the ground up, but I really wish this concept had been expanded on a bit more.
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I feel like we only scratched the surface of his underlying motives, and some more depth would have been appreciated. Anywho, flirtations are flying high between Jana and delivery man Jake, and eventually they fall into bed together. It’s after this first coupling that Jana soon sees Jake’s true identity featured on the news as the billionaire that he is. Shockingly, she really isn’t that upset about it, and they never even have an intense discussion about it. If anything, she seemed more upset by the fact that she now believes this places him way out of her league rather than focusing on the fact that he was kind of deceptive about who he truly was when they first met.
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Another area I was surprised we never experienced any conflict over is that they’re both pretty busy with their respective job responsibilities. She’s constantly busy thinking and drawing up new artistic greeting cards series, and of course, he’s the billionaire with his hand in multiple cookie jar ventures. I kept waiting for one or the both of them to start feeling neglected due to their distracting time commitment. Again though, what I thought would be an inevitable confrontation never comes. If anything, Jana almost seems to get upset at one point that Jake starts to focus more attention on her rather than his work. This was another area where I think more of an exploration into what our characters were thinking would have been helpful. Perhaps Jana didn’t want Jake to feel like he had to give up an important part of his life to be with her? Maybe she was worried if she allowed Jake to give up his time at work to be with her he would soon demand the same of her? I don’t know, but just some areas thought could have used more depth.
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I will say there was one area lacking in drama that I absolutely loved, and definitely earned a chuckle or two. When Jana discovers the truth of Jake’s true identity, she is not only intimidated by his massive amount of wealth, but also about his former lovers. Glorious beauties the lot of them, and even a few models thrown in there too. Towards the end of the novel Jake surprises Jana with an invitation to accompany him to the Met Gala, and her hilarious response was, “How many supermodel ex-girlfriends do you have?…It always matters. There will be some super awkward meeting at the Met Gala. I’ve seen how it goes on TMZ.” I mean it’s such a common trope we see in romance novels, especially when a wealthy male lead is involved. The fact that this novel not only poked fun at the concept, but then avoids an eventual run-in entirely was something I actually found to be quite funny. Well done.
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Series: Billionaire Secrets, book 1. I’ll continue with this series. We are introduced to quite a number of other fun characters, and it should be fun to see them each find their own romance. Maybe even with each other in some instances!
Should you read it? This is a fun and sexy read that definitely leans heavily on the sexy side of things. I think certain parts of the story, as well as Jana and Jake’s relationship could have used some more depth. It was also pretty surprising to have a read completely lacking in drama, especially when there were so many different opportunities presented which could have resulted in an argument or two between our lovers. But if you’re looking for a fun read with an adorable couple that will help you escape the drama in your own life you just might get a kick out of this one.
Smut Level: Holy shit you guys. Honestly I think this is one of those reads that is too hot to take to the beach. It might cause you to spontaneously combust from a spike in dirty-talk temperatures. Maybe save this one when you’re stuck in a cold cabin and you need to warm up a bit.
Get it on Amazon: Click Here. FREE on Kindle (as of writing this post). Amazon Digital Services LLC. 178 Pages.

Fat Girl Begone! by D.E. Haggerty

A female lead with a 38E bra size, weighs 160 pounds, wears a size 16 shirt and thinks dieting suuuuucks? Well that’s the most refreshing thing I’ve ever seen.

What’s it About? 

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I’m a total mess. My boyfriend dumped me – get this – because I diet too much. Not because I’m fat, mind you. Of course, this spurs me into the diet-fitness-revenge-plan of the century, which leads me to the gym and a scorching hot personal trainer. I even manage to make some cool new friends, including a millionaire if you can believe it. Things are looking up! Naturally, that’s the moment my ex decides he wants me back, the personal trainer asks me out, and my millionaire male buddy decides to throw his hat in the ring. But that’s not enough drama. No, not for me. Because I’ve also lost my job and decided to start my own business. Just call me Ms. Drama.

Warning: Bad language, bumpy roads, and embarrassing moments ahead. But there’s also more than a bit of romance and even, if we’re lucky, love. Fingers crossed. Not endorsed by or affiliated with any brand of tequila.

First Impressions

When this novel first started I had a plethora of assumptions of how the story would progress, which was influenced by not only the synopsis of the story, but also the title. I figured we’d be dealing with a slightly overweight female lead who starts a diet and gets in shape with the help of a personal trainer. She must proceed to slim down considerably which causes her to become irresistibly beautiful to said personal trainer, and they end up with a fairy tale-like happily ever after. Well, I have never been so happy to be wrong on so many different accounts in my life!

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Although our female lead does proceed to get a bit more physically fit throughout the novel, the main focus is really so much more on how she gains confidence, and that is what draws men to her like a moth to a flame.  It was just so empowering to know that you don’t have to dramatically drop from a size 16 to a size 6 in order to find love. You don’t need to starve yourself, or lose all of the junk in your trunk in order for a man to think you’re beautiful. You just need to be happy with yourself, happy with your life, happy with those around you, and it’s just a matter of time before you’re happy in love. And sure, a few trips to the gym won’t hurt, but they aren’t required. Who knows though, you might also just happen to find the future love of your life waiting for you at the smoothie bar!

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The Dreaded Gym

Another one of the first things I assumed about this book was that it would all be about dieting, exercise, and in general making me feel guilty for baking a double chocolate chip fudge cake when I live by myself. But lo and behold this book really doesn’t lay on the guilt trip about how you should hit the gym 5 days a week, or anything like that. Instead we see how our female lead, Everly, has been having  a pretty bad week after her boyfriend of many years dumped her unexpectedly after complaining about her continually giving up on her many attempts to diet and lose weight. In a drunken blackout, she signs up for an entire year of private training sessions at her local gym and vows to get in shape so that she’ll make her ex, Josh, unbelievably jealous and beg to get her back.

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Now I know what you’re thinking, why doesn’t she just say to hell with it once she sobers up from her binge night and just drown her sorrows in a vat of ice cream? Simple. Not only does Everly’s best friend kick her butt to the gym with her sexy as sin trainer, but she comes to grow an incredible support network of sassy gal pals, the aforementioned sexy trainer, and a geeky guy friend with incredible abs. I must say in addition to our lovable lead, I 100% fell in love with all of her incredible friends who try their hardest to show Everly that she’s beautiful on the inside and out. They let her know that she doesn’t need to lose 50 pounds to be beautiful, but instead encourage her to get fit to the point where she finally feels comfortable in her own skin, while also being there for her when she needs to break her diet by indulging in some tequila.

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Looking Beneath the Glasses

I couldn’t help but identify with Everly’s character, from her relationship woes to her stresses at work, and especially her lack of confidence in her body image. But that’s why her support network is everything and more, especially Carter, her geeky guy friend who might just be on the verge of becoming something more. These two are the epitome of relationship goals, and are so freakin’ adorable you can’t help but fall in love. At the start we just assume that Everly is the one lacking confidence in their relationship, for Carter is ripped with sexy abs, not to mention a millionaire.

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What could a guy like him ever see in a girl like her? But although Carter seems like the perfect male, we see that he too lacks confidence, and holds Everly up on a pedestal where he also wonders what she could ever see in him. Awwww, swoon worthy. Lastly, he’s unbelievably supportive of her goals to lose weight, yet continually lets her know that she’s beautiful just the way she is, and her continuing diet is totally up to her rather than something she should feel pressure to maintain. Mkay, Everly girl I love ya, but not gonna lie I might need to kick your ass to steal Carter for myself.

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A Tequila or Two

One feature of the novel that I must admit I wasn’t a huge fan of was Everly’s propensity to get blackout drunk to the point where she couldn’t remember crazy antics from the night before. It sort of indicates her inability to know her own limits, as well as highlight a concern that when unable to deal with the pressures of life with food she instead turns to alcohol as a crutch. However, this was never really addressed as a concern in the novel, but instead was almost featured as a comedic character trait. And I will admit, Everly did get into some pretty funny hi-jinks while intoxicated.

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Personally I thought it was kind of disappointing we could never really experience those moments as they happened though. Instead we get the short abbreviated version the next morning from one of her friends who happened to witness it all since Everly herself couldn’t remember. I think it would have made the story all the more enjoyable if Everly had just gotten a bit tipsy which made her loosen up rather than drinking to the point where she couldn’t remember anything. Just goes to show that when you limit your calorie intake, getting drunk happens a bit more quickly than you might be used to!

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

Series: I think this is just a stand-alone, but I think it would be hilarious if we could either get a series, or maybe just one novel of short stories featuring the romantic exploits of Everly’s hilarious gal pals from her Zumba class. They were a riot!

Should you read it? This is definitely a fun and comedic read all about being happy and confident with yourself. Whether that entails losing weight, trying new things, dating someone new, or venturing out for a new job opportunity, this book highlights that sometimes it’s worth taking the risk. You might be terrified at first, but as long as you give it a solid effort, and maybe have a few close friends who have your back, you can do anything. A cute beach read that’ll make you giggle, and empathize with someone who hates dieting and going to the gym just as much as you do.

Smut Level: We have flirtations galore, but no detailed sex scenes in this one. We just get one brief build up to sex at the very end of the novel.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.49 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 208 Pages.

Captured Memories by Katherine McIntyre

A second chance at love. Can Liv and Zane overcome their troubled pasts to find love with each other, or will it be too heavy a burden to bear?

What’s it About?

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After the incident that caused Liv Morozov to drop out of college, years later she’s still trying to pick up the pieces of her life. She’s managed to carve out a career for herself as a photographer, but when it comes to guys? Her issues send them running for the hills, every damn time. Zane Parata has declared himself off-limits for relationships. Between trying to maintain sobriety and the long hours he works as a chef, no one wants to deal with his brand of damage, and he wouldn’t want to burden them in the first place.

When Liv shows up at Cupid’s Café, she never expected to find Zane, her brother’s former best friend who had vanished one day and never returned. The sparks that surged when they were both teens rekindle stronger than ever, and all too fast, Liv and Zane entangle in each other’s lives, breaking their own rules. Except with both struggling with the demons from their past, the love that’s begun to grow is one lapse away from shattering the two of them beyond repair.

First Impressions

I feel like there is one quote from this novel which perfectly encapsulate the power of the love story being told: “I’m never going to be an easy choice.” Here’s why this sentiment, and the tale love presented to us in this book is absolute perfection. Their love is intense, it’s raw, and most importantly, it…is…real. This story shows us how life is full of unexpected challenges, and to be quite frank, it can be an absolute bitch at times. However, while these external forces can sometimes test the relationship of our lead couple, they never break it. This isn’t one of those romance novels where a simple misunderstanding causes an unnecessary amount of drama, and results in our lovers spending time apart. Oh no. These characters fight for each other, and hold the other up if they’re ever at risk of falling down.

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These two have also been through hell and back. They are scarred lead characters who have experienced emotional and physical turmoil in their pasts. But they don’t just love each other in spite of these troubled pasts, they love who the other person is because of how these experiences have shaped them into who they are today. “I’m never going to be an easy choice” shows that their lives might be complicated, they might be thrown a couple of curve balls along the way, but in the end they will always choose the other. I’ve got all the goosebumps here people!

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An Unbreakable Bond

I think the reason I enjoyed this tale of love between Liv and Zane so much is that the novel primarily just focuses on them. Sure, we are introduced to a few supplemental characters along the way, but for the most part we are encapsulated in a little Liv/Zane bubble that you never want to see burst. They are aware pretty early on in the book when they meet again after so many years that a LOT has happened during that time apart. Liv was raped in college, which impacts the physical relationship these two start up pretty quickly. Zane is a recovering alcoholic who still feels the constant pull of the bottle.

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While some would run away from getting romantically involved with another person with such deep-rooted issues, these two refuse to be scared off. Zane does remain convinced for a large portion of the novel that it’s just a matter of time before Liv realizes how messed up he truly is and hightails it out of there, but he’s going to embrace every possible moment he can between now and when that day might come. In addition, he vows to take things at her own pace, refusing to rush her into a physical relationship before she’s ready.

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A Tough Road Ahead

I also loved that this novel demonstrates how past experiences such as theirs won’t simply be forgotten and magically healed forever by the power of love. Even after they build up to the point where Liv is ready to have sex with Zane, she asks him to realize that there might be a moment down the road where she could be triggered to flinch or push away from his touch.

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At the same time, Zane’s reality is that while he might attend AA meetings multiple times a week, and go for long periods of time without drinking, there will be times where the allure of the alcohol could force him to take a step back from socializing. And they both get it!! They understand when others won’t. They realize that life can be a constant struggle for some people, but they’re there to help and support each other. LOOOVE!

A Step Away From Perfection

At this point I think you can tell I really enjoyed this novel, and while I think the love story described is damn near perfection, I must admit there were a few flaws. The first I consider to be the main flaw, and the one I found to be the most perplexing. The impetus for Live and Zane to reconnect after so many years is that they both receive a cryptic invitation to visit Cupid’s Café where, “an admirer looks forward to meeting you”. Zane is humorously intrigued, and decides why the hell not? Liv is convinced she’s being taunted by her former rapist, and goes to confront him. When they both show up and their eyes lock through the crowded café the rest, as they say, is history.

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But that my friends is the flaw. The rest is history. Who the hell sent them these letters?!?! We never find out. There’s no clue or suggestion if it’s one of their friends, a matchmaking café proprietor, or just the cosmos being all funky. I was absolutely shocked that our lead characters never even bother to discuss it with each other. Now, I will say that this is the third book in this Cupid’s Café series, so maybe the one sending invitations is presented in a previous novel? Maybe it will finally be a big reveal when the series comes to a close? I don’t know but give me something!!!!

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The one other flaw was relatively minor all things considered, and in the end sort of turned into a positive. Our novel opens with Liv on a date from hell, which abruptly ends when she hears the trill of her date’s phone and it immediately reminds her of the night she was raped. When she returns home to find a mystery envelope inviting her to meet someone from her past she’s immediately convinced it can be only one man, her rapist. Her reason for going was decidedly to finally find justice after so many years. Instead, she finds Zane waiting for her.

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Throughout the whole novel I kept waiting for the inevitable scene where Liv and Zane would be confronted with this man from her past. So imagine my surprise when it never comes! No glimpse from across the street, or even a more intense confrontation, nothing! Now, in hindsight I’m actually happy we were never presented with a threatening scene between Liv and her rapist. I think that scenario, combined with Zane confronting his own struggle with alcoholism, would have made the whole plot seem too artificially orchestrated. I guess I just would have preferred that it wasn’t implied at the outset that it could have been a possibility. I sort of felt like I was anticipating something I had no need to worry about for the whole book!

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

Series: Cupid’s Café, book 3. I kind of want to go back and read the first few novels from this series to see if I missed out on our mystery letter writer inviting our lovebirds to Cupid’s Café.

Should you read it? This is an emotional roller coaster of a read that shows you just how powerful, yet difficult love can be. While I definitely loved both of these characters, I personally found Liv to be truly inspirational. She survived a trying ordeal, and was brave enough to share what happened with Zane even though she thought it would put distance between them. Then when Zane experiences a relapse with his alcoholism she chooses to stand by him and refuses to give up even when Zane tries to convince her that she’d be better off without him. It’s such a refreshing contrast to your typical romance novel drama.

Smut Level: Liv and Zane recognize that after all these years their bodies still crave each other, though this sparked attraction is put slightly on hold after Liv experiences a trigger from her rape. But Zane sticks by her side and is willing to take things slow. Just because it’s slow, don’t think it isn’t delectable!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.03 Kindle Price. After Glows Publishing. 200 Pages.

 

The Home Court Advantage by N.M. Silber

Nothing quite spices up a courtroom like sex between opposing counsels in the jury holding room!

What’s it About? 

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Gabrielle and Braden have fallen in love and face a bright future together if they can just survive all of the crazy people they encounter, like anonymous napkin droppers, UFO enthusiasts, crooked businessmen, nude drunk drivers, and a woman who tries to break into jail. When the gavel falls will the verdict be happily ever after? Come join the fun as the sexiest couple in the Philadelphia Criminal Court System shares more witty banter and red hot lovin’ with a dash of mystery thrown in. The story that began with The Law of Attraction concludes with lots of love and laughter in The Home Court Advantage.

First Impressions

I remember not only being pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed the first book in this series, but also my surprise that it ended on a bit of a cliffhanger. After all, we’re mainly dealing with a romantic comedy here, what could we possibly have to continue story-wise in a whole other full-length novel? Turns out…not much of anything. I gotta say, all in all while this second book did provide me with a fair number of chuckles, it was pretty much entirely unnecessary. The resolution to the story line from book one could have easily been answered in just one more chapter at the end of the first book. Instead what we have are just a series of over-the-top shenanigans and sensually detailed sex scenes that prolong us from finding out what sadly isn’t even a very exciting conclusion to the question of who was sending our heroine cryptic messages.

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A Not-So-Unique Sequel

I’ll admit I do still love the characters presented in this novel, and I’m beyond excited to see some of the other characters highlighted with their own stories in books going forward. As for this novel, it’s basically just a continuation of what we saw in book one. The end of the previous novel ended with us questioning who could have possibly sent Gabrielle these messages considering her top three suspects were all cleared, and this book opens pretty much right after the end of that first book.

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Unfortunately that main mystery story is pushed to the background almost immediately to instead focus on our lead couple going through their usual courtroom antics and sexual dalliances. Some of these courtroom scenes were fun, short chapters to intersperse the other things going on in the book, but there was one unbelievably long chapter with various cases one after the other that just seemed out of place. In need of some editing for sure.

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As for the sexual dalliances, holy shit definitely turned up the dial in this one! Not gonna lie, some were borderline porn, especially considering in one scene the characters kept saying it would be a great thing to write Playboy about. The scene in question had the lead characters wandering into the jury sequester room to “let off some steam”, and another case with judge and lawyers started up as they tried to…finish. While comedic, it was a bit much, almost like trying too hard to be funny and sexy.

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From Notes to Stalking

Then we get to the drama of the story that comes back form book one. In the first Gabrielle was receiving notes from an anonymous someone who was warning her to stay away from Braden. Things are slightly ratcheted up in this one as she starts to see and sense someone following her. Thankfully she chooses to share these sightings with Braden, and the two remain relatively calm about the whole thing for the entirety of the novel. Their cool-headedness actually made it kind of a boring read. They just never seemed too worried about it.

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In the previous book Gabrielle employed the help of her friends to try and figure out who was writing these secret messages to her. In this sequel she asks for their help yet again, but just like with the sex scenes things are heightened up to the Nth degree in this book to the point where they are just over the top sitcom level shenanigans. Again, trying too hard, and ultimately unnecessary. Let’s just say a UFO enthusiast group gets involved.

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Series: Lawyers in Love, book 2. Although I wasn’t a fan of this second book I’m definitely continuing with the series. The next novels focus on the friends of our lead couple finding their own true loves, and I’m beyond excited.

Should you read it? As a whole, this book wasn’t needed. There were funny parts and sexy parts, but plot-wise it should have all been resolved at the end of book one. I did enjoy the development of the friends group we’ve got going, and we were able to see the introduction of how some of these friends will pair off into something more going forward.

Smut Level: Daaaaaaamn. These two are freakin’ saucy, and they certainly up their dirty talk level. Made me blush a time or ten, and that isn’t always easy to do.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Mendelssohn Levy Publishing. 232 Pages.