The Promise by R.L. Mathewson

This has always been one of my go-to contemporary romance series when I’m looking for a good laugh, lovable characters, and a steamy read that’s guaranteed to knock your socks off. 

What’s it About? 

How far would you go to keep a promise?

Reed Bradford never should have made that promise.

He’d barely survived the first time around, but now she was back, his best friend’s little sister, his one-time neighbor, and the woman that he never should have promised to protect. He never should have done a lot of things, like cross that line, but once he did…

There was no turning back.

Joey Lawson always had a plan, but unfortunately, mostly for her, sometimes those plans backfired. On her. This time would be no different. After the unfortunate incident that she felt was better not to think about, she found herself doing the one thing that she’d never survive.

Falling in love with a Bradford.

First Impressions

It’s been a number of years since I’ve engaged with this series, and I was absolutely thrilled to dive right back in again. This read pulls you in from page one with a cast of characters you can’t help but love. After all, who doesn’t adore a romance featuring neighbors who can’t stand each other in the beginning, but slowly start to fall in love the more time they spend together? I made my way through most of this read with a smirky grin on my face due to the hijinks of our main couple, not to mention the accident prone tendencies of our brilliant leading lady. Reed and Joey have known each other since childhood, when Reed constantly found himself having to get Joey out of the multiple predicaments she found herself in, including running from angry mobs of fellow high school classmates who couldn’t stand the twelve-year-old girl genius sharing their classroom. Joey couldn’t leave town fast enough after high school, but when she’s forced to take a sabbatical from her university teaching job due to her continued ability to rub people the wrong way, she finds herself back in her childhood home with her overbearing protector living next door. 

Although this is a Neighbor From Hell book, it doesn’t take long at all for Reed and Joey to transition from neighbors to roommates, as her childhood home proves to be unlivable due to years of abandonment. Reed can’t believe the tormentor of his youth has come back in full swing, and though he might grumble at her reappearance in his life he knows he can’t turn his back on her. Years before he made a promise to Joey’s grandmother that he would always watch over her vivacious granddaughter. Joey’s goal is to focus on fixing her grandparent’s house back up during her year off work, but when Reed insists she live with him to keep a roof over her head, the two spend a few weeks as insufferable housemates before finally giving into the sexual chemistry that’s been building between them. The fact they had to share a bed those first few weeks certainly helped advance things between them. While their sex scenes were positively delicious, their interactions outside of the bedroom (and broom closets and truck beds and office desks) presented the humor that I’ve always loved about this series. Joey is definitely book smart, but she oftentimes finds herself in awkward situations due to her inability to “read the room”, and Reed’s simultaneous frustration yet infatuation with this tornado of mayhem is what made it difficult to put the book down at the end of the night, and kept me coming back for more the next day. 

An Issue Here, There, and Possibly Everywhere

Overall I enjoyed and appreciated the place this novel fell within the series, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t without some flaws. The first half of this book was a pure delight, but after the halfway point certain elements in the romantic story line between Reed and Joey started to become repetitive, and things felt rushed and even unfinished towards the end. It became increasingly difficult at times to follow along with the dialogue as our lead couple would constantly interrupt each other as though to jokingly imply, “hey don’t go there”, but I had trouble determining where “there” even was, so some conversations were left feeling nonsensically unfinished. There were also several anecdotes which were introduced well and good in the beginning, but then we were never privy to the finer details or their conclusion, which left us wanting more. Even the concept of Joey renovating her grandparent’s house was abandoned almost immediately.

The other primary example of this was a reference to some kind of major embarrassing frat house snafu that Joey filmed of Reed in college, and then put on YouTube for all to see. It was identified many times as the thing that Reed had trouble forgetting and forgiving when it came to Joey coming back into his life, and yet shockingly we never actually find out what exactly happened! It’s just mentioned in hushed tones and pushed aside as though we’ll eventually see some big reveal or confrontation between the two later on, but it was dropped entirely from the story. This was also true for other seemingly crucial backstory elements, including a tragic accident that claimed the life of Joey’s mother, as well as the fact Joey has apparently suffered from debilitating panic attacks ever since. These events seemed to have an essential impact on the woman Joey is today, and it’s not that we just received a surface level glimpse of what these factors were, but rather it felt like we only got bits here and there with major pieces missing from the telling entirely. 

Finally, we were introduced fairly early on to two students in Reed’s school who I fell in love with almost immediately, Jen and Shawn. Jen is a definite troublemaker who looks forward to the idea of suspension, scoffs at the concept of detention, and has no problem wreaking havoc and pulling pranks on authority figures. Shawn is an autistic young boy who keeps to himself, but latches onto Joey when she comes to substitute teach at their school. I was so excited to see how these characters would be further incorporated into Reed and Joey’s story, but again while we see a strong start to their introduction, both of their stories flatline at the halfway point where there’s ultimately no development in their stories. This was especially true for Jen, as I was hoping that after Joey started substitute teaching at the school these two eccentric ladies would be able to connect over the fact nobody else seems to understand them. Maybe Joey could have succeeded in getting Jen to open up in a way Reed couldn’t in the past, and serve as an inspiration for this teenager to set goals for herself. Instead it would appear that Jen remains just as troublesome and lacking drive as she was when we first met her. It was also slightly troubling to see how closely Jen and Joey’s personalities, mannerisms and even troublemaking ways mirrored each other. I couldn’t help but have a feeling of ickiness as Reed became increasingly infatuated with Joey considering he has a teenage student who is essentially a carbon copy of the woman he’s falling in love with. 

Series: Neighbor from Hell, book 10. Even though this installment was not without it’s flaws, I still enjoyed the ride overall, and will continue on with this series. 

Final Impressions: This book had a very strong and entertaining start, though things tapered off towards the end. I almost think the author was possibly trying too hard to keep things light and funny, that it resulted in some of the more serious elements which were introduced in the beginning to be pushed aside or abandoned completely by the end. Once Reed and Joey start exploring a sexual relationship together their interactions both within and outside of the bedroom start to become rather repetitive. Speaking of repetition, be prepared for Reed to constantly refer to Joey and his annoying brother, Matt, as the little brat/bastard to a point where it gets slightly annoying. I’m definitely starting to nitpick here, as overall this was still a fun read, but there were definitely certain elements which could have been tweaked to make this a truly stellar read. 

Smut Level: Early on in their roommate relationship Joey and Reed find themselves sleeping in the same bed, and let’s just say Joey has a tendency to flip and flop about where she would end up snuggling up and wrapped around Reed like a barnacle. I also lost track of the number of times Joey ended up in a position straddling Reed’s lap. Yes please!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Add audible narration to purchase for $1.99. Rerum Carta Industries, Inc. 278 Pages. 

The Viscount’s Christmas Temptation by Erica Ridley

Well that went quickly! Here I thought this would be a nice historical read to last me through the holiday season, and it surprisingly just lasted me through my morning coffee. If you’re looking for a quick, fun read during the holidays to kill time as your turkey bastes, if you need a few minutes away from family, or are looking for a break from wrapping presents, this one might do the trick.

What’s it About?

Certain individuals might consider Lady Amelia Pembroke a managing sort of female, but truly, most people would be lost without her help. Why, the latest on-dit is that rakish Viscount Sheffield is canceling the fête of the year because he hasn’t time for silly soirees. He doesn’t need time—he needs her! When a flash of lightning destroys the venue for his family’s annual Christmas ball, Lord Benedict Sheffield intends to enjoy a relaxing holiday for once. But after twelve days of beguiling Lady Amelia’s guerrilla tactics, he’s up to his cravat with tinsel . . . and tumbling head over heels in love.

First Impressions

Throughout the first chapter I honestly wasn’t too sure if I was going to be a fan of our female protagonist, Lady Amelia. She’s responsible for managing her brother’s household and is almost annoyingly efficient at it, foreseeing and anticipating a solution for every possible hiccup that could possibly arise. It would appear as though nothing can ruffle the feathers of this stoically put together lady! When Amelia realizes her single status might be preventing her beloved brother from seeking out a wife of his own, she takes it upon herself to finally find herself a respectable husband before she turns 30, the day after Christmas. Which is only a mere fortnight away! Attending an annual Christmas ball with the highest echelons of society seems like the perfect venue to pick a suitor, but when Amelia discovers an unfortunate stroke of lightning has ruined the traditional choice of venue for the ball she decides to step in with her practical planning and management skills to ensure the party proceeds as planned. And cue the fortuitous meet cute with the devilishly handsome Viscount Sheffield.

The meeting of these two characters is when I became more endeared to our leading lady, and when the fun truly begins! The viscount is a studious man who devotes himself to work from 8am to 8pm, and frivolous fun from 8pm to 8am. He’s immediately taken with the spitfire who bursts into his life, determined to set his annual Christmas ball to right. While he’s been attracted to countless actresses and courtesans throughout the years, he’s never been intrigued by such a bold and outspoken woman before, and it doesn’t take long before she inserts herself into his every waking thought. Viscount Sheffield becomes determined to show Lady Amelia how to have fun in life, and let her hair down so to speak, a truly impractical concept from her viewpoint. She in turn tries to get him to break his insistence on dividing his life into these twelve hour blocks with no possibility of mixing things up every once in a while. Their focused determination to impact each other’s idea of normal makes them the perfect match!

A Tease of Something More

As previously mentioned, I had no idea going into this read that it was going to be so brief in terms of word count. The short length felt like a tease or preview of what this book could have been. I almost wish there was an option to purchase a more full-length version of their romantic tale, as it would have been fun to dive deeper into what we only scratched the surface of viewing. Seeing as their entire romance evolves in the twelve days leading up to Christmas, an entire chapter devoted to each day would have been an intriguing way to organize a longer book.

It also would have been fun to see Viscount Sheffield throwing Lady Amelia a bit more off balance from her perfectly planned ideas, but it’s only hinted at briefly though a sweeping kiss under some holly and whisking her away to a masquerade for some unexpected dancing before another lip-lock. Just one more instance of him successfully surprising her would have been a treat, but for the most part she manages to have the upper hand of staying calm, cool and collected through most of their interactions. It ultimately felt like she had more of an impact on uprooting his way of life than he did for her in return. A few more appearances of traditional Christmas elements beyond just a sprinkling of holly balls throughout a ballroom also would have been a joyful delight. The fact we don’t even see a small gift exchange between our main characters, or the decorating of a Christmas tree seems almost blasphemous for a holiday romance!

Series: Dukes of War, book 1.

Final Impressions: This was certainly a fun, cute, quick read, but I think I would have loved it even more as a full-fledged novel. It seems like a good introduction to the writing style of the author, as well as a jump start to the series, which I wouldn’t be opposed to exploring further!

Smut Level: We do get a delightfully passionate kiss below some mistletoe! No tumbles between the sheets for this holiday read.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.75 Paperback Price. Intrepid Reads. 146 Pages.

Futures Entwined by Ayla Asher

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

What’s it About? 

Does a former mean girl deserve a happy ever after?

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

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

That’s Why They Call it Falling in Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron

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

What’s it About? 

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

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

The Joys of Social Media

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

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

Series: Stand-alone

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

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

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

Madly Inn Love by Amelia Foster

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

What’s it About?

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

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

 Bitter Pasts and Family Chaos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highland Games by Evie Alexander

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

What’s it About? 

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

First Impressions

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

Not Quite What You Expect

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

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

Overreaction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Twelve Days of Snowball by Kristen McKanagh

A romantic Christmas inn, two stubborn yet misunderstood enemies, one precocious yet fluffily adorable kitten, and a partridge in a pear treeee!!

What’s it About?

Snowball takes her job as the “official kitty” at the Victorian B&B Inn, Weber Haus, very seriously. Greeting guests and keeping tabs on them is a full-time feline job, after all. However, being nice to Daniel Aarons is not on her to-do list. The handsome construction manager almost messed up her forever family, and she isn’t about to forgive him anytime soon . . .
 
But then someone new arrives at Weber Haus. Her name is Sophie Heidt—and she’s the B&B’s new manager. When Snowball goes missing on Sophie’s first day, Daniel, in charge of the new hotel wing, comes to her rescue by getting the cat to do what she does best: attack him.
 
It doesn’t take long for Snowball’s animal instincts to reveal that Daniel and Sophie are meant to be together. Unfortunately, Daniel keeps making a mess of things. It’s going to take some special insight and holiday cheer to bring them together. But if anyone can do it, Snowball can—even if she has to tolerate turtle doves, French hens, calling birds, and other fur-raising human traditions . . .

First Impressions

They say not to judge a book by its cover, but all it takes is one glimpse into those adorably solemn blue eyes surrounded by fluffy white fur, and I’m officially a goner. To be quite frank, if you can manage to read this book from start to finish without cracking one smile, you might just be a legitimate Grinch. This sweet, cute read will definitely put you in the holiday mood, and is the perfect read when you need a quick break from family mayhem throughout the season. There are remnants from the first book which are a delight to see again, including a portion of each chapter told from the point of view of the official troublemaking matchmaker of Weber Haus, Snowball the kitten. We get just a taste of her POV so that it remains fun and silly without venturing into eye-roll territory. Honestly, it was kind of my favorite part of each chapter when we got to see things through the eyes of such an innocent little heathen.

The other calling card of this series includes a picturesque wintery inn that we can clearly envisage in our mind’s eye, filled to bursting with the most lovable characters that are sweeter than a cup of hot chocolate. While the characters from book one remain absent for the vast majority of this read, and it was certainly easy to miss them, this absence does allow for our new primary characters of Sophie and Daniel to be featured front and center in their own right. Albeit with a familiar fluffy face to pop in every now and again to wreak havoc, yet also help these two strong personalities put their differences aside to find love during the holidays.

Former Enemies

Sophie and Daniel start things off by butting heads and essentially hating each other. Daniel is the head of a construction crew working on-site to add a new wing to this lovely small town inn, whose delays in finishing threaten to derail the bookings that Sophie is trying so hard to secure. As for Sophie, she’s our strong-willed manager who likes to keep to a schedule, and her constant questioning of Daniel’s timeline is enough to drive him mad. So we have two stubborn personalities who seemingly can’t stand to be around each other, and insist on doing everything themselves with no help from anyone. When the inn’s owners are called away to deal with a family emergency, basically leaving Sophie and Daniel to handle everything on their own, it creates the perfect environment where they can’t help but be thrown together at every turn.

I’ve got just one word for when you’re dealing with two people who can’t stand each other being forced to interact in fairly close quarters: excellent! This is the perfect example of enemies-to-lovers when it comes to Sophie and Daniel, yet we also see instances of enemies-to-friends when it comes to some of the other characters involved. Witnessing all of these distinct personalities open up and start to understand each other was pure holiday magic. From Snowball the kitten finally warming up to Daniel following her obvious disdain for him due to the events in book one, to a curmudgeonly old loner guest of the inn who opens up to share a few words of wisdom with Daniel when Sophie’s past comes back to threaten their relationship. There’s enough holiday cheer to make even the smallest of Grinch hearts grow ten sizes in delight!

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

Series: Snowball, book 2. I sincerely hope this series continues, and if it does I have a feeling we may have been introduced to a potential main leading man of a future book. If I’m right, I am so there!

Final Impressions: There’s not much else to say about this light-hearted read other than it’s as sweet as a sugar plum, doesn’t have too much drama, it’s quick and will leave a smile on your face! I actually found myself more intrigued by the fun and silly moments than the few dramatic ones. Upon first starting this book I didn’t even fully register the title of The Twelve Days of Snowball, but when we start to see all of the elements from The Twelve Days of Christmas song start to make an appearance as Sophie and Daniel’s relationship evolves, I was positively tickled pink! It was such a festive feature of the read, as you were constantly wondering how five gold rings or a plethora of milking maids would show up. This is definitely a fun read for when you’re looking to relax and be entertained throughout the holiday season.

Smut Level: A few kisses here and there, but nothing more than that. I’ll admit to being slightly disappointed we didn’t see Snowball scheme her way into forcing Sophie and Daniel underneath any mistletoe.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $9.99 Kindle Price. Kensington Books. 194 Pages.

Resolutions Embraced by Ayla Asher

When our male lead is introduced as having Stephen Amell good looks, and a personality that’s a cross between Dolly Parton and Tom Hanks…I just knew we were in for something special here!

What’s it About?

She came back to win…and to rewrite a narrative created so long ago…

Chad Hanson has one true love: being mayor of Ardor Creek. With his charming personality, kind nature, and adoration of the small town, it’s as if he was born for the role. Although he dates constantly and loves playing the field, he’s never come close to falling for someone the way he loves his job.

Abby Miller left Ardor Creek after high school, determined to become something other than a pariah.  Chad Hanson had accidentally bequeathed her the name “Flabby Abby,” which destroyed any chance of making friends or having a normal high school existence.

Two decades later, Abby returns, fierce and confident after her tenure as a senior advisor for a prominent Washington D.C. senator.  Armed with her skills and experience, she begins an invigorating campaign to become the first female mayor of Ardor Creek…and to exact a smidge of payback against Chad.

Chad is blown away by his opponent. Drawn to her, he slowly realizes she might actually win…not only the election, but Abby Miller might be the first woman to capture his heart.

First Impressions

Throughout this series I have come to discover that my level of excitement to start every book increases with each new addition! However, while I adore the journey of romance we traverse with all our couples, I also find myself getting increasingly sad as the last page of each book grows ever closer. I fall in love with every couple we meet to the point that I don’t want to see their story end, even if I know another fabulous addition to the Ardor Creek series isn’t far behind. This sentiment also holds true for book four, as we finally get to see the tale of romance play out for our beloved Ardor Creek mayor which has been hinted at in each preceding novel. It is an enemies-to-friends-to-lovers romance that will leave you smiling and giggling, even when our couple is preparing for sexy fun times. Nothing better than some witty banter to get ya in the mood!

The Past Repeats Itself

Chad and Abby’s story actually began quite a long time ago in high school when both were running for student body president. Chad has always been presented as one of the most lovable characters in all of Ardor Creek, and we see that this was true even back when he was a teenager. And yet, when Chad realizes Abby has a legitimate chance of dethroning him in his reign as student president, he panics at the thought of losing a position he’s loved for the last few years. What follows ultimately turns out to be the biggest regret of his life when he incurs a hurtful nickname for Abby which results in her being a social outcast for the rest of their high school careers.

All of these years later, Chad is preparing to run for a third term as mayor in this small and sleepy town in Pennsylvania. It’s a job that means the world to him, and one that gives his life meaning. He’s convinced he’ll run unopposed, just like the last time he ran, but that expectation crumbles with the return of one very headstrong woman on a mission. Abby is not only determined to bring change to Ardor Creek by being elected as the first female mayor, but also to seek a bit of revenge against the man who ruined her life all those years ago. Let the games begin!

The Thrill of the Race

This novel definitely presents us with an interesting premise, as we are essentially rooting for both of our main characters to win, even if we know that’s not technically possible. Then there’s the issue of their complicated history which brings such a compelling dynamic to both the campaign and the evolution of their relationship. For our fun-loving mayor Chad, while initially surprised at suddenly having some unexpected competition, he’s actually looking forward to the challenge of a race he’s convinced he’ll win.

Not only that, but he’s also eager to have the opportunity to finally apologize and make it up to Abby for the wrong he caused in high school. For Abby, she’s constantly questioning his motives, wondering if his apparent regret is genuine, or if he’s trying to throw off her campaign. Or maybe he’s just that desperate to be loved by everyone? It seems that both characters come to the realization at roughly the same time that their past had a larger impact on their present than what was initially thought, but also that it’s time to put the past behind them and finally move on. Once they achieve that, then they can finally move on to the good stuff!

Find Someone Who Makes You Laugh

Of all the couples we’ve seen so far, Chad by far is my favorite male lead. He has an endearing silliness about him that pulls you in from the get-go, and while you want to slap him upside the head for the lasting hurt he caused Abby, you also realize his regret and desire to make amends is one-hundred percent authentic. As soon as he and Abby can put that history aside and start to work towards a common goal together, this is when the fun of the read truly begins. They are probably the most playful of any couple so far, and their personalities are alike in a way where they complement each other exceedingly well as a couple. Even during sex they had the ability to joke and play with each other that you’ll find yourself simultaneously giggling and blushing from their banter. At times you almost forget they were once enemies, as have quickly become so in-sync with each other that it seems like they have been and will be best friends forever.

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

Series: Ardor Creek, book 4. Even though I didn’t want this story to end, I also can’t wait to see what comes next!

Final Impressions: In looking back at all of the fun I’ve had with this series so far, this may have been the book that made me smile the most. The mayoral race between Abby and Chad starts things off with a bit of fun competition, and once their relationship officially starts they both kind of let their true silly personalities fly free. I loved how relatable this couple felt, from their nightly routing of brushing their teeth before bed and sexy times, and sometimes even feeling so bloated and exhausted from an oversized burrito that sex simply isn’t gonna happen. The author always shows us the real and even unglamorous side to a relationship that it helps establish the foundation of their characters as people we might really know. They become our friends, and we feel part of the group. Abby’s drive and ambition made her a character we couldn’t help but admire, and Chad’s propensity to sometimes drop the playful persona to show us a glimpse of how vulnerable he can be underneath makes us fall in love with him even more. Who knew that was even possible?!

Smut Level: Three words: edible…strawberry…lube.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. 218 Pages.

Truly Inn Love by Amelia Foster

She’s been given a second chance at love with the man she left behind all those years ago. Will these two be able to overcome the mistakes of the past to find a future of happiness together?

What’s it About?

Life choices separated them, but fate proves they are truly in love.

Inheriting the Willow Falls Inn from their aunt and uncle was a gift the Alden sisters couldn’t pass up. With each sibling facing upheaval in their personal and professional lives, eldest sister Gavynn sees returning to the place they called home as the fresh start they all need. But the century old Victorian picks their return to show its age with broken pipes and a mess that makes Gavynn question her choices. But the real chaos comes in the form of the handyman dispatched to rescue them.

Cade Donaldson was finding a new kind of normal after his father’s heart attack. The family construction business flourished under Cade’s management while the older Donaldson recuperated and his routine gave him much needed predictability and comfort. That is until the girl who left Cade without so much as a goodbye came crashing back into his life without warning.

The adolescent bond they formed lingers under the surface, but ghosts they each battle threaten the new future hanging just within reach.

First Impressions

This is a delightfully sweet, light-hearted second chance romance that you’ll want to be sure and bring along on your next beach vacation. Gavynn and Cade were high school sweet hearts with a connection that went right to the heart, but that all ended when Gavynn left for college, breaking up with Cade in a hand-written letter that was bare as to the reasons why. When Gavynn and her sisters move back to Willow Falls to fix up and reopen an inn left to them by their late aunt and uncle, it’s not long before their paths cross with contractor Cade. The love of her life. And my goodness does it sound like this man grew up good. Some chin scruff and a tool belt on top of a killer smile, with a distinct tendency to waggle his eyebrows when he’s feeling cheeky. Seriously, gotta consider the whole moving to a small town to open a business in need of repairs…thing.

Realistic Characters

Something I really appreciated about this read is how mature our two main characters could be when it came to approaching the subject of their past. Let’s face it, Gavynn’s actions were pretty unforgivable, and it could have been so easy for Cade to give her the cold shoulder for however long he wanted to over her past mistake. And yet, aside from some initial awkwardness at their unexpected reconnection over a burst water pipe, for the most part these two realize pretty quickly that the feelings they had for each other never fully went away. More importantly, these feelings are still strong enough to be worth exploring after all this time apart. Cade also allows Gavynn to explain her reasons for leaving on her own terms, when she is good and ready to do so. He never demanded an explanation, and I was pleasantly surprised that the author presented us with a reason that was quite easy for us to understand and sympathize with.

The Bliss and Blunders of Family

Family plays a critical role in the progression of events for our characters in this read. After all, it was dedication to and a love of family which brought Gavynn and her sisters back to their aunt and uncle’s inn, as well as the reason they were willing to pour their life savings into such a risky venture. However, family is also what prompted Gavynn to call things off with Cade when she headed off to school years before. She saw the downfall of her own family at the hands of her irresponsible and selfish parents. They married and had children far before they were ready, and were so enamored with each other that they had no qualms about leaving their three daughters behind with relatives so they could go gallivanting off on their own adventures. Gavynn was abandoned, yet also taken in by family, and she feared that she and Cade were at risk of falling into the same trap as her parents. Only by leaving Cade behind could she live and experience life on her own, and at the end of the day she found her way back to him when the time was right.

An intense fear of losing family is also what causes Cade to almost screw things up once again for this young couple. After his father’s heart attack one year ago during which Cade had to perform life-saving CPR on his dad, Cade subsequently moved in with his parents to always be close by should his father take a turn for the worst. The fear of involving himself so closely with Gavynn that he might be absent when his parents need him most has him act rashly towards his relationship with her, merely out of love for his family. Family was an important theme to be sure, as well as fighting hard to correct mistakes which were made with the best of intentions.

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

Series: Inn Love, book 1. I was looking forward to reading this book. I am absolutely giddy with delight at the prospect of reading book two. The fact I don’t have it at the ready on my Kindle is pure torture.

Final Impressions: This is a cute read with very little conflict, as we instead focus on Cade and Gavynn learning how to love each other again. It was refreshing to see them act as mature adults who have the same hopes, fears and propensity to flub up sometimes, just like the rest of us! They were relatable, personable characters, and even though we didn’t have a ton of drama we did still cover some very poignant discussions on the importance and tribulations of family. Cade and Gavynn were an entertaining couple, but the dynamic between the Alden sisters simply stole the show. I can’t wait for them to get books of their own!

Smut Level: Cade might live with his parents, and Gavynn with her sisters, but that doesn’t mean these two can’t find some time alone to rock each other’s worlds.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Sweet Heat Books. 166 Pages.

The Way the Story Goes by Samantha Chase

This sweet read essentially presents us with mini versions of some of my favorite romance novel tropes. From enemies (though brief) to lovers, and neighbors (though temporary) falling in love, all surrounded by a beautifully picturesque beach setting. What’s not to love?

What’s it About?

Thriller writer Mia Kingsley has been hit with a serious case of writer’s block and she needs a little peace and quiet. A beach front property in Magnolia Sound seemed like the perfect escape and just the change of scenery she needs to get the words flowing again. That is, until her noisy neighbor starts running power tools and blasting music at all hours of the day and night. Before long, the next victim in her story starts to bear an uncanny resemblance to the contractor next door.

Austin Coleman never wanted to come back to Magnolia Sound. But sometimes, life takes an unexpected turn and the only way to get back on your feet is to go home. His plan is to avoid all things connected to his past, and renovating a beach house in the off-season is just the way to do that—there’ll be no neighbors and no distractions. Or so he thought until he almost maims his sexy neighbor with a flying sink. Despite his best efforts, trouble follows everywhere he goes.

At first she wanted to kill him. Now she wants to kiss him. Sometimes you have to wait and see where the story goes.

First Impressions

This novel has an adorable meet-cute, and poses the question of what we would do when presented with a noisy neighbor who does construction, blasts loud music and sings horribly off-key all the live long day. Some of us might knock on the door to politely ask if they would mind keeping things down. Others might call the cops out of sheer frustration. Certain people, such as myself, would probably just sit and stew in silence while secretly hoping the universe finds a way to punish them. Mia Kingsley chooses to take the authorly approach by writing this inconsiderate noise-maker into her next novel so she can kill him off in her fictional story rather than in real life. Simply perfect.

If Looks Could Kill…or Resolve Everything

Once Mia sets sights on Austin for the first time however, and he gracefully cleans and wraps an injury on her foot, the rest (as they say) is history. The romance which developed between these two was so adorable. They both acknowledge that whatever is formulating between them is temporary considering they both have professional lives far away from this sleepy seaside town where they’ve met. However, while there is an obvious physical connection that they immediately choose to explore, their interactions aren’t solely reserved to the bedroom. They go on dates, he teaches her how to ride a bike, she allows him to introduce her to his mother’s book club, etc. All of this time they spend outside of the bedroom, having conversations and really getting to know each other, makes it more believable that when faced with the possibility of going home they both question if this newfound romance is worth making drastic changes in their life for.

The Good, the Bad, and the Family

The concept of family plays a critical role in the lives of our characters, both positive and negative. Not only the family they were born into, but the friends they’ve chosen in life who have essentially become family throughout the years. For Austin, family has always been a bit of a sore spot. His mother’s family was viewed as “from the other side of the tracks”, marrying up into his father’s wealthy family. And yet, it was his father who abandoned him, his mother and his brothers when he was just a boy. While he’s always loved his immediate family, the actions of his father had a direct impact on him misbehaving as a youngster, with the entire town and his more uppity family members looking down on him. However, it’s his cousins who have now drawn him back into their world, making him realize he truly belongs even if he still questions whether or not he does.

As for Mia’s family, she was shown love and support all throughout her childhood. It’s really only as she spends more time with Austin and his family that she realizes how much her parents are like Austin’s more judgmental and wealthy relatives. She has the stark realization that her mother and father would look down on Austin just as his rich relatives have, and she wants to spare him the humiliation of ever having to be at the receiving end of their vitriol. However, the fact she isn’t willing to introduce him to her family when he brought her into his leaves Austin feeling like Mia is ashamed to bring him fully into her world. Only when these two listen to the words of wisdom from their best friends and cousins do they realize they’re still worth taking a chance on.

Series: Magnolia Sound, book 7. This is the first book I’ve read in this series, and I’m now tempted to go back and start from the beginning! I could still follow along with the story even though I came to the party rather late, but I can tell we’ve been introduced to a lot of previous characters who were the featured couples of earlier books.

Final Impression: This is a sweet beach read, and I really enjoyed seeing Mia and Austin’s romance develop following such an adorable meet-cute. I also appreciated how open they were about each other’s pasts, though the hiccup with Mia’s parents and Austin’s reaction to not being introduced to them was a bit frustrating. Everything ultimately comes together for a sweet ending that will have you going “awwwww”.

Smut Level: These two have turned foreplay into an art form, especially making use of the elevator in Mia’s beach rental. However, these scenes always ended in a fade-to-black conclusion.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Chasing Romance Inc. 270 Pages.