How Snowball Stole Christmas by Kristen McKanagh

Grab yourself a cup of hot cocoa and snuggle up in front of the fireplace so you can be whisked away to this magical holiday wonderland.

What’s it About? 

It’s Christmas time at the Weber Haus mountainside inn, where the official greeter, watcher, and matchmaker of the hotel’s resident humans is an adorably mischievous bundle of feline fluff named Snowball. Snowball takes her job very seriously –even if it means being a little more naughty than nice –and she’s ready to celebrate her third holiday season by making the purrrrfect match.

Most cats have nine lives, but Snowball is one of the very few with two jobs. Officially, she’s the Weber Haus inn’s greeter. Unofficially, she’s the town matchmaker. Her track record is the cat’s pajamas—until she meets her owner’s grinchy brother, Peter Diemer. Peter hopes to move the family bookstore to a busy location downtown—but someone else has outbid him for the last storefront.

Christmas is the ideal season for Lara Wolfe to fulfill her dream of expanding her home business into a real shop. Too bad someone is posting negative comments on the town forum. What kind of Grinch objects to a toy store?

Snowball is sure these two are a perfect match. They already have so much in common—books are a kind of toy, right? Now all they need to add to the mix is love, and Snowball has just the shenanigans up her furry sleeve to deliver a sweet romance in time to make the season merry and bright . . .

First Impressions

It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, as soon as you pick up a book in this beloved Snowball series, you will immediately be transported to all of the holiday comforts that Weber Haus has to offer. Not only will you become enamored with the characters this author artistically brings to life on the page, but you’ll also fall in love with the warmth that these reads evoke and envelop around you. Of all the books in this series so far, it’s fair to say this was my favorite couple of the bunch. Quite a few familiar faces (both human and of the furry variety) from the previous novels will make an appearance throughout, but Lara and Peter bring their own special personalities into the fray.

This novel opens with our two leading characters at odds with one another, but they don’t even realize it yet. Unaware enemies-to-lovers? Yes please! Peter has taken to crafting some rather negative comments on the town forum against the new owner of one of the most coveted shop locations in the area. Lara visited the town of Braunfels a few years before during a particularly melancholy Christmas, and she just knew it would be the idyllic place to open her toy store. Little did she know she would outbid a local man who was hoping to move his family’s bookshop to the prime location of little shops on the outskirts of Weber Haus. When Peter first meets this bubbly woman who “stole” the spot from him, he has every intention of staying as far away from her as possible. But a growing sense of guilt over his hurtful writing towards this caring and hardworking woman, not to mention a precocious matchmaking feline, will soon turn his entire world upside down.

The Lovable Grinch

It takes a few chapters for this book to find its feet, or paws for that matter, but once it does you’ll want to stay in this picturesque town bursting with lovable characters for as long as possible. Similar to the previous installments of this series, this book is fairly low drama from start to almost finish, but Peter and Lara have found each other after experiencing some rather life-changing moments which ultimately impact their unexpected newfound relationship. Upon first meeting, Peter is simply the surly Grinch living next door. It’s not that he’s your typical bah-humbug character who hates all things Christmas, but rather his sour mood is a result of a horrific accident months before which left him in a coma with massive brain trauma. He might be physically recovered on the outside, but his brain is still healing in a way where Peter’s personality isn’t quite what it used to be. He’s more prone to short-tempered outbursts and frustrations which have left even his closest family members wanting to keep their distance.

And yet, delightfully, none of this seems to phase Lara in the slightest. I kept expecting there to be a moment where Peter’s gruffness would prove too much for the outgoing toymaker, but she takes all of his minor moments of sourpuss attitude in stride. The fact Lara doesn’t know any of the details of his accident for the bulk of the book, and that she always tries her hardest to bring a smile and laugh to this Grinch of a man, demonstrates just how special a character she is in trying to find the good in everyone. Peter realizes that his accident changed him, but he also realizes that this at-times frustrating yet intriguing woman is bringing out more of the man he used to be. She heals him, she makes him better, and he can’t help but fall for her. Unfortunately, he knows it’s just a matter of time before the secret of his hurtful writing is revealed.

The Toymaker

Lara might be new to town, but she’s determined to make her toy shop a success. She’s overcome numerous obstacles to make this dream a reality, including a backstabbing boyfriend who maxed out her credit cards, an opinionated brother who seems convinced she’ll fail, and the death of her beloved grandmother who always had faith in her. As if moving to a new town and opening her store weren’t stressful enough, an anonymous local is also wishing for her downfall by spewing doubts on the town forum. When Lara’s brother insists that she look after his son over the holidays to deal with a family emergency, she’s almost convinced that the universe has it out for her. However, she refuses to let any of these hurdles stand in her way. She’ll do whatever it takes to make her shop a success, even if it takes up all her energy, and even if it means asking her Grinchy neighbor for a favor or two. Throughout the read the author does a phenomenal job of showing the constant tug-of-war happening between Lara and Peter. When Peter realizes his beautiful neighbor is the shop owner who outbid him, he tries his best to stay away, but soon decides to make it up to her by helping out with one favor during a busy moment in her toy shop. Let’s just say it involved a Santa costume.

Thinking that he was acting out of selfless kindness, Lara insists on repaying the favor, and what follows is an endless back-and-forth of both characters trying to help the other. These benevolent acts bring them closer together in a way neither expected, and those feelings of neighborly kindness naturally evolve into something deeper. Peter’s sense of protectiveness towards Lara also grows, especially when he sees how the hard work she puts into her business and loving care for her nephew is leaving her exhausted at the end of every day. He tries to help even more, and starts to voice his concerns that she’s doing too much, which of course results in her questioning his actions. Why won’t he let her fight her own battles? Is Peter just like her brother in thinking she’s bound to fail? Will he hurt her like her ex did? It was evident pretty much from the get-go that no matter how much holiday magic or meddling from a fuzzy fur ball might bring these two together, the reveal that Peter was the one behind the online vitriol would ultimately be the thing to push them apart. We were all hoping it wouldn’t happen, but it was surprisingly the most logical progression that upon discovering Peter was initially behind those hurtful comments about her business, Lara would need to take a step back to consider if she’s willing to give her heart over fully to this man. Luckily for us, not to mention Peter and Lara, one very determined and darling little fluffy wuffy kitty will do anything necessary to bring them back together again for a holiday happily ever after.

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

Series: Snowball, book 3. This is one of those series I will be happy to return to again and again. It’s also fun to see Snowball grow up from season to season, and I’m loving the implication that one day she might even find a little romance of her own.

Final Impressions: This read is a delightful bundle of heartwarming comfort. From the characters to the setting, you’re quickly enveloped in all of the warmth this small town has to offer. When the story was forming its initial foundation there were some descriptive scenes which felt a bit repetitive in nature, but it didn’t take long to become fully invested in finding out whether Peter and Lara would find their HEA. One aspect of Peter’s character which I wish had been explored more fully was the nature of his accident, and the hardships involved with adopting a new personality that he knows isn’t completely his own. Instead we see the moments of connection between Peter and Lara were grounded in discussion of how their jobs did or didn’t bring them happiness, which was definitely entertaining in its own right. I also appreciated how the author highlighted the growing pains involved with any new relationship. The constant balancing act between Peter wanting to protect Lara from exhaustion or pain, while also giving her the freedom and space to stand up for herself when fighting her own battles. It was interesting to see them find the path that worked for them.

Smut Level: A few passion-filled kisses here and there, but no hanky panky.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $9.99 Kindle Price. Kensington Publisher. 272 Pages. 

Irresistible by R.L. Mathewson

After a one-night stand results in pregnancy, Melanie learns that carrying a Bradford child not only leaves her craving allllll the food, but also craving the man who is reluctant to be the father. 

What’s it About? 

Aidan Bradford never wanted a family, but after having a one-night stand with the woman that he hadn’t been able to resist, he’s going to find himself getting exactly what he needed in this romantic comedy from New York Times bestselling author R.L. Mathewson.

There weren’t many things that Aidan regretted, but that night he’d spent with the woman that he couldn’t stop thinking about was definitely one of them. He’d always been careful, always did the right thing, and now…

Now, he had to figure out a way to fix this before it was too late.

Melanie still couldn’t figure out how one night could change the rest of her life. She should have done a lot of things differently that night. She should have turned him down, should have spent the rest of the night wallowing in self-pity like she’d planned, but that’s not what happened and now, she needed to figure out how she was going to survive this pregnancy with a Bradford doing everything in his power to make her fall in love with him.

First Impressions

Any good Neighbor From Hell book will contain a particular set of hallmark features which are emblematic of this classic laugh-out-loud series. From fraught neighbors turned lovers, to food consumption that borders on the obscene, and hilarious prank-filled family dynamics that leave you wanting more. This eleventh installment contained all of the above, albeit some were displayed a bit more prominently than others, whereas others you kind of had to dig a bit deeper to find the connection. It certainly felt like the entire Bradford family was present in this novel, including siblings, cousins, parents, spouses and children, that your head can’t help but spin at all the previous characters who make a reappearance, not to mention a few new ones who will clearly be the focus of a future novel.

While I appreciated the attempt at including a family tree at the start of the novel, the presentation of it in a simple list form rather than as an actual tree which showed how all the different branches inter-connected felt like a missed opportunity for clarity. Aidan, Melanie, and their little one were lovable and welcome characters to add to the tree, but with so many faces popping up throughout this novel it was hard to keep track of who was a relation versus a potential love interest. While I typically love seeing previous couples making a reappearance, it became a bit overwhelming in this eleventh book. I think we’ve reached a point in the series where some characters are clearly more memorable than others, and maybe highlighting just a select few rather than every single couple that came before would result in a bigger nostalgic impact. This was definitely a fun read where I enjoyed getting to know Aidan and Melanie, but I have a feeling going forward they probably won’t be standout memorable characters to add to the tree. 

Rejecting to Embracing Fatherhood

The concept of the novel was intriguing as we are thrust into the midst of an unplanned pregnancy, with Melanie finally finding the courage to admit to her one-night stand from months ago, Aidan, about the little bundle he left cooking in her oven. Why has it taken her this long to confront him? It’s explained away as a combination of long-lasting debilitating morning sickness with the fact that Aidan made it strikingly clear the morning after their drunken night together, upon realization that their condom broke, that the last thing he wanted was to become a father. I was hoping we would have the chance to more fully explore Aidan’s hesitancies and fears regarding fatherhood, but ultimately we are really only presented with a surface level explanation that he worries he’ll either 1) never live up to the wonderfulness his parents represented or 2) somehow become like his uncle who abandoned his cousin when he was a child…? You can’t help but feel that neither excuse was legitimately warranted, as backed up by the fact that upon hearing these comments Melanie openly admits he’s being pretty stupid. The honesty and witty sarcasm these two lovebirds hurled back and forth at each other was entertaining, but you never get the sense that there was any real development to who they were as characters. We knew from the beginning that Aidan was a good guy, who in no way hated or begrudged children in any way, so it was no surprise to see him jump fully on board with fatherhood almost immediately upon Melanie walking back into his life. 

Sugary Sweet Neighbors

The two other fundamental elements to any installment in this series involves: food and living arrangements. Let’s start with the first. Goodness gracious golly me, the food obsession involved with women who are pregnant with a Bradford spawn is no joke. Seriously, it was repeatedly featured in almost every single chapter of this book to the point where you are basically left worrying for the physical health of Melanie and her unborn child. The fact that the sight of any vegetable has her running to worship the porcelain throne was pretty funny at the beginning, but to see how the crux of her diet involves the consumption of sugar mixed with sugar, piled high with sugar and then rolled in sugar became…kind of nauseating after a while. Your stomach will practically churn from the constant description of Melanie’s obsession with junk food during her pregnancy, and I kind of feel like I need to eat an apple to counteract the sugar high I got from reading this one. 

And now for the feature that really let me down. Neighbors. It’s right there in the title of the series. You expect to see two neighbors, oftentimes with a tension-filled background, slowly turn from enemies-to-lovers. Two tropes for the price of one! Alas, to say these two spent any time as neighbors was definitely a stretch of the imagination, and I’d say they liked to teasingly push each other’s buttons rather than classify them as “enemies”. At the start of the novel we see Melanie worrying over the fact her best-friend roommate has now moved out, and she can no longer afford the two bedroom apartment on her own with a baby on the way. When Aidan finally discovers the truth of her condition, he insists she move into the apartment building he owns so he can keep an eye on her, especially seeing as her doctor has ordered strict bed rest throughout the next stage of her pregnancy. What could be more convenient than moving in across the hall from him? Well, it feels as though they live “next door” to each other for about a minute. It doesn’t take long before Aidan is sharing her bed, initially for the purpose of providing her snuggle comfort during her pregnancy, but things quickly evolve into cohabitation. I felt like I missed out on the fun and craziness of the somewhat toxic neighborly relationship this series is known for. 

Series: Neighbor From Hell, book 11. While the last two books in this series have been mild letdowns, it’s still a fun-filled series as a whole. I’m definitely excited to dive deep into the next installment, as it involves a Bradford who is a single father, and has sworn off love until his children are fully grown. Yeah…like that’ll work!

Final Impressions: This is a fun addition to the Neighbor From Hell series, though I did feel like we missed out on the “neighbor” aspect which I love so much from this author. The book leans heavily into the comedic side of things rather than the dramatic, even when dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. While I appreciated this light-hearted tone, it was kind of confusing how potential elements for drama would keep being introduced, but then never fully developed. From Melanie’s potential financial woes, to Aidan’s initial rejection of fatherhood, a deceitfully trouble-making sister to an ex who might not want to be an ex after all. Some of these dramatic plot points went nowhere, and others didn’t seem of much concern to our two leads. Instead the focus is on Aidan and Melanie sharing funny details about their pasts and getting to know each other so they could be on a solid foundation of friendship before their child arrived. Friendship quickly turned to love, and the rest is history. 

Smut Level: This was possibly the most compelling aspect of the entire book, as every steamy scene between Melanie and Aidan occurred when she was quite far along in her pregnancy. Following months of bed rest Melanie is finally given permission by her doctor to engage in more rigorous activity, and sex just so happens to be at the top of the recommendation list. To see how Aidan still desires Melanie more than anything with her rounded belly, swollen ankles and frightening food demands was both refreshing and adorable. These two get all kinds of steamy and creative in their positions. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Rerum Carta Industries, Inc. 275 Pages. 

Mai Tai’d Up by Alice Clayton

After breaking up with her fiancé on their wedding day, Chloe soon crosses paths with a blue-eyed, ginger-haired beauty who sets her heart aflutter. How does she know if he’ll prove to be the love of her life, or her rebound of the moment? 

What’s it About? 

The gossip mill in the seaside community of Monterey is churning about Chloe Patterson, the newcomer who is starting a sanctuary for rescued pit bulls. It’s rumored that she’s a former beauty queen (true) who ditched her fiancé the morning of their wedding (also true). And that while she’s not looking for a new man, the good-looking local veterinarian has his eye on her. Absolutely, positively true.

When Lucas Campbell isn’t at the family veterinary clinic, he’s paddle boarding in Monterey Bay. Recently single, he’s definitely not in the market for a new relationship, but he still can’t resist taking a second, third, and fourth look at the recent arrival of Miss Golden State.

Neither Lucas nor Chloe has any interest in being tied down. Being tied up, however—now there’s a thought. But are a few Mai Tais, a moonlit night, and the music of Frank Sinatra enough to allow them both to forget their past? Let’s hope Ol’ Blue Eyes knows what he’s doing.

Mix one part tiki, one part kinky, and a splash of old black magic matchmaking, and it’s time to be . . . Mai Tai’d Up.

Quick Review

Looking back on this series as a whole, it’s difficult to fully recreate the incandescent magic captured within the first novel, Wallbanger, but this fourth book perhaps gets closer than any other installment so far. The chemistry between Chloe and Lucas is strikingly electric from the first moment they catch eyes with each other across the mirror behind a bar, and the sizzling intensity simply continues to grow from there. They are both moving on from the aftermaths of broken relationships, both of which ended on their respective wedding days. While they can openly acknowledge the attraction which exists between them, neither wants to fall into a quick rebound fling with the other, but they also don’t want that to impact their ability to spend as much time with each other as possible before Lucas leaves town for 12 weeks as part of Vets Without Borders. The teasing banter and flirtatious quips exchanged between our two leads were some of the highlight features of the novel, and definitely hearkened back to some of that original magic we saw presented in book one. 

Sly smirks, brushes of the hand against one’s back, and even a hip check or two, it doesn’t take long before you’re practically salivating for these two to get together. Our anticipation builds with every turn of the page. And yet, the fact it takes almost the entire length of the novel for our solitary steamy scene to emerge was another mark of cleverness at how the plot ultimately evolved. The author could have easily had these two try and enter into a no-strings-attached fling from the very beginning. However, by allowing them both the time to process the end of their previous relationships, and spend time getting to know each other beyond their  physical chemistry, we’re more convinced than ever by the time Chloe and Lucas fall into those sexy fun times that they are finally doing so for the right reasons. 

All in all this fourth book was shaping up to be a stellar read, but unfortunately throughout the entire novel we were waiting for one obvious point of conflict to emerge, which was the fact that upon learning Lucas’s ex-fiancée left him standing at the altar on the day of their wedding, Chloe couldn’t bring herself to admit that she had left her own ex on their wedding day. I secretly kept hoping there would be another point of contention to arise between them, such as the concern about maintaining a long-distance relationship while Lucas was abroad for several months, or maybe even the fact that Chloe put herself in potential harm’s way by rescuing a battered pit bull at the center of an illegal fighting ring. But alas, it was in fact the super duper uber predictable secret that caused the drama to implode. The fact that this slight detail of omission held such strength for Lucas to threaten this beautiful relationship really put a damper on things, especially after Chloe clearly articulated her reasons and sincerely apologizes for keeping it from him. We do eventually get a happily ever after, but it was so disappointing to see the impressive arch of this novel interrupted with such a disappointingly predictable and unnecessarily over-exaggerated plot point.  

Series: The Cocktail Series, book 4. The first book is clearly the best, with this fourth book coming in second. Each book is light-hearted, and you’ll probably find yourself chuckling aloud a time or two with the silly antics our lead characters find themselves in. 

Final Impressions: Looking back at the synopsis of this book it’s kind of surprisingly deceptive. This small community doesn’t really seem absorbed at Chloe’s arrival into town. If the gossip mill were truly at work then the truth of how Chloe ditched her fiancé would have made it’s way to Lucas’s ears, thereby preventing the eventual blow-up argument between them about how she kept it a secret. There’s also an insinuation in the synopsis that there might be some possible kink to their relationship, especially considering the thought of “being tied up”. Alas, there is no tying up of lovers to be seen. The majority of the sensuality between Lucas and Chloe lies within their delicious flirtatious banter rather than physically coming together, which is reserved to just one scene towards the end of the book. You’ll find yourself smirking in delight every time they come together for a cocktail and some witty repartee. If the final point of drama between our two leads didn’t feel so contrived at the end of the novel, or perhaps could have stemmed from a less predictable area of contention, then this book would have been near perfect. 

Smut Level: You have to wait for it, but it’s worth the wait. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $8.99 Kindle Price. Gallery Books. 273 Pages. 

The Best Friend’s Guide to Taking Risks by Kadie Scott & Nicole Flockton

This is a must read for anyone who enjoys an all consuming friend-to-lovers romance. It will leave you smiling, giggling, and blushing from the chemistry between these two entertaining and lovable characters.

What’s it About? 

Everyone knows that the biggest risk you can take with your best friend is to cross a certain line.

When it comes to relationships, Hunter Lancing is not a risk taker. Between his parents’ terrible divorce and his own bad decisions, he’s been burned. Computers make more sense to him. Everything has a rule. Everything is defined. Like his computers, his best friend is defined, constant, and comes with rules he won’t break.

Part-time children’s party princess Natalie Morgan dances to the beat of a drum no one else can hear. The only person who truly gets her and is never scared off by her sometimes zany ideas is Hunter. But she has a big problem. Natalie keeps having all these…feelings…for her bestie.

But on a weekend getaway, a game of risky dares and one-upmanship that was supposed to just be for laughs may just end up with both of them crossing the friend zone line.

First Impressions

Natalie and Hunter have always been close friends, nothing more, but after a few interesting turn of events they can’t help but start to see each other in a different light. From Natalie running to her bestie for comfort following a tough day at work, to the possibility of Hunter leaving town…and maybe an unexpected glimpse or two of what’s lying in wait underneath their clothes, all of these moments combine to push their friendship into another category entirely. So much more than a simple friends-to-lovers romance, The Best Friend’s Guide to Taking Risks also presents us with a delightful case of opposites attract. The fact Natalie and Hunter’s personalities are so different from each other helps explain why it took so long for these two characters with such an obvious connection to take things to the next stage in their relationship.

Hunter is a rule follower, constantly looking to his computers and code for the answer. A straight-laced nerd, if you will. Natalie couldn’t be more distinct. She’s the fun-loving, energetic, children’s party princess. In spite of their differences, these two have no trouble turning to one another when it matters most. She helps him remember to play and let his hair down every once in a while. To look behind the code on the computer screen in front of him. Hunter might think Natalie does things that are off-the-wall, but he never judges her for it, or demand she tone things down. When others judge and look down upon her quirky ways, he manages to pull her back up again. He lets Natalie be…Natalie. And she loves him for it, just as much as he loves her for this whimsicality. They compliment each other even though they seem mismatched on the surface, and it’s during a short trip to Austin, Texas, as Hunter contemplates a possible future move there, that his relationship with Natalie is finally knocked into fifth gear.

The Perfect Blend of Comedy and Warmth

The true accomplishment of this book came from the idyllic blend of silliness with grounded emotional moments. There were some exceptional examples of our characters responding to perceived crises or dramatic moments in relatable, “believable” ways. When Natalie discovers that her best friend (who she is just now starting to feel the stirrings of something more for) mentions how he might be moving several states away, her response isn’t to throw a temper tantrum, declare that the move could break their connection, or highlight all the reasons why he should stay. Instead, she travels with him to show her support, and demonstrate how she only has his best interests at heart. She brings along her sparkling personality in an attempt to highlight all the great things Austin could potentially offer, even though the idea of him moving away is a difficult reality for her to face. If it’s ultimately what he wants, she’ll stand by his side as he makes the decision. Mixed in with her words of encouragement was an over-the-top card game which forced both Natalie and Hunter to engage in a slew of hilarious, and oftentimes embarrassing “risks”. The continuation of these playful hijinks throughout their time together in Austin, as well as upon their return to Sacramento, was undoubtedly a highlight of the novel. We can’t help but blush in embarrassment right alongside Hunter, yet also admire Natalie’s ability to role with the punches throughout the game. 

Another critical development in Hunter and Natalie’s relationship, beyond them finally taking things to the next level in Austin, was in the aftermath of their passionate night together. I loved how we saw both of them internally struggle over how this might forever alter their friendship, but they ultimately verbalized how much they meant to the other, and admitted that they want to see where this thing might lead. When various relationships from Hunter’s past, including that of his ex-wife and his divorced parents, threaten to intrude upon his newfound physical connection with Natalie, we once again see him question how this might affect his future with his best friend. In some moments, he can clearly distinguish how his past is different from his present with Natalie, and convince himself to push forward in their relationship. In others, the uncertainties and fears overwhelm his ability to act with his heart rather than with his head. Throughout it all, Natalie never fails in her ability to notice when he’s struggling, offer her support or comfort, and in many cases is successful in talking through every new concern that might face them together as a couple. In the end there is only one pressing matter from his past which threatens to tear them apart. However, similar to the beginning when we saw how the prospect of being without Hunter impacted Natalie’s perspective, Hunter too must see a glimpse of how things would be forever altered if she wasn’t present in his life anymore. Is he willing to take that risk?

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

Series: Stand-alone (for the moment?). I need this to be a series featuring Natalie’s sisters. Please and thank you.

Final Impressions: On the whole this is a light-hearted and hilarious read that shows how two friends can unexpectedly start to view their relationship in a different light. In spite of all the silly moments, from embarrassing risk cards to a knight-in-shining-armor costume, this read did successfully manage to weave in some beautiful emotional displays of love, fear and friendship. I also appreciated how the authors threw several of my pre-conceived romance novel expectations out the window, such as avoiding misunderstandings or arguments over minor issues, while still throwing in some beloved tried and true tropes along the way. If you’re headed to the beach, you won’t want to leave this one behind!

Smut Level: This is the perfect example of a sweet read with a LOT of heat.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. 272 Pages. 

Secretly Inn Love by Amelia Foster

While I was secretly hoping we’d never see an end to this contemporary romance series, Secretly Inn Love provides us with a satisfyingly sweet conclusion to the Inn Love trilogy we’ve all come to love. You just might be inspired to start the whole thing over from the beginning again!

What’s it About? 

A songwriter in a slump and a heartbroken chef cook up a harmonious happily ever after.

Ryann Alden’s not looking for a relationship. She’s focused on making a success of the small town inn she and her sisters inherited. As the business takes off, however, tensions grow and she struggles to be seen as an adult instead of a helpless child by the older two. When she finds herself falling for the attractive guest that appears on their doorstep, the budding romance becomes the driving force to make Ryann demand more for herself and her new love.

Elijah Hansen’s reputation as Nashville’s songwriting superstar is at risk when the cutthroat industry has his creativity abandoning him. The impulse that has him hitting the road for a place where he can rekindle his love for song leads him to Willow Falls Inn and Ryann. A snowstorm strands him, but the emerald-eyed beauty that greets him may just be the muse he’s been missing.

Ryann and Elijah continue their whirlwind romance in a long-distance relationship that must survive the tests of his fame, the revelation of a family secret, and the miles between them.

First Impressions

A noble, red-headed Viking in the midst of an epic journey must seek shelter during a treacherous snowstorm, and soon finds everything he didn’t know he was looking for in the gorgeous inn-owner who provides him a room for the night. No need to adjust your screens ladies and gentlemen. We haven’t fallen through time to the days of Valhalla. Our enchanting romance takes place in the present day, and the Viking moniker is bestowed upon our exceedingly tall and handsome songwriter, Elijah, by the youngest of the Alden sisters during a meet cute that has them falling in smitten at first sight. I’ve enjoyed the heck out of this series, but I must say the author outdid herself with this final read, presenting us with two lead characters who are so adorably sweet you’ll practically have a toothache by the end of it.

Hands down, Elijah and Ryann were my favorite couple of the trilogy, and in addition to his tall stature and gingery mop of locks which earns him his Viking title, Elijah also takes the cake when it comes to the most romantic leading man, a title which Ryann awards him constantly throughout their relationship. These two are clearly beguiled with each other at first meeting, and although their initial time together in the same location is brief, we see things naturally evolve from initial intrigue to texting, lengthy phone calls and video dates for a long-distance relationship interspersed with short trips to see each other. This is one of the few romance novels I’ve encountered where the scenes of our lovebirds apart are just as swoon-worthy as the ones of them together. Elijah’s thoughtfulness to plan the perfect dates for them, even when they are hours apart, will have you tilting your head to the side with a smile and an “awwwww” as we cheer on this couple in their search for a happily ever after. 

Sisterly Love

I lost track of the number of times throughout this read that I was expecting an explosion of drama or tension between Elijah and Ryann. Would their long-distance dating prove to be too difficult to maintain? Perhaps their first in-person meeting after so much time apart would be filled with uncomfortable awkwardness. Could Elijah’s fame get in the way of their happiness? Or maybe Ryann would assume that Elijah only wanted to continue spending time with her because she was inspiring him to write some of his best music. Again, so many times that I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop on the adorable couple I’d come to love. And yet, by some kind of refreshing miracle, this never happens! Elijah and Ryann’s love story is essentially drama free, and I can’t reiterate how invigorating this was! To see two adults act as adults, with an ability to communicate clearly and with no propensity for jumping to conclusions or misunderstandings? I’d swear I thought I’d died and gone to Heaven! It allows us to more fully enjoy the sweet romance playing out on the page when we’re not constantly waiting for something unexpected to be lurking behind every corner. 

That’s not to say this book wasn’t without it’s emotionally charged scenes. However, rather than existing between Elijah and Ryann, it instead occurs between Ryann and her two older sisters. We came to know and love Gavynn, Blake and their respective beaus in the first two books of the series. Their dedication towards revitalizing their aunt and uncle’s beloved inn to it’s former glory was only surpassed by their love and friendship with each other. That familial loyalty took a crushing blow at the conclusion of the second novel though when Ryann overhears how her sisters have been hiding the truth from her about their parent’s disinterest and negligence since their death years before. It’s a betrayal that makes her take a step back to look at her life from a distance, and come to the realization that Gavynn and Blake have always treated her as a child rather than the accomplished young woman she’s become. When Elijah comes on the scene, he’s yet another reason Ryann finds the need to assert herself and declare a bit of independence when it comes to her relationship with her sisters. She’ll re-examine what she wants out of life, and how Elijah might fit into it.  

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

Series: Inn Love, book 3. I know the saying that all good things must come to an end, but I’m not gonna lie I would absolutely love if we could see some kind of holiday novella down the road to take a peek at what the Alden sisters are up to after the conclusion of the series. 

Final Impressions: This is such a sweet read. Elijah and Ryann are so clearly smitten and the fact that they continue to make each other laugh, surprise one another, and seemingly still get butterflies of excitement when in each other’s company will leave a permanent smile etched upon your face from start to finish. Putting the romantic element aside (although…who would ever want to do that?!) this novel is also an interesting exploration of sisterhood, and acknowledging that you can’t always treat a younger sibling like the baby of the family, even if they will always appear that way in your eyes. It’s a rather bumpy road for the Alden sisters to ultimately find mutual respect for each other once again, and once they do they remember how much stronger they are as a team. Albeit one where they all understand the need to break off and do their own thing every once in a while, and most likely with their respective hunks on hand to keep them fully entertained. 

Smut Level: Just because this is a sweet read doesn’t mean it’s lacking in heat! Considering how much time Elijah and Ryann have spent apart during the start of their long distance relationship, it’s no surprise that when the opportunity presents itself for some in-person one-on-one time together, they’re ready to take full advantage of being in the same place…and the same bed for that matter. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Sweet Heat Books. 160 Pages. 

BFF’ed by Kate Aster

Two BFFs start to wonder if it’s time to explore the desire simmering between them. This is one friends-to-lovers romance you won’t want to put down!

What’s it About? 

Mason Adler: Hot. Cocky. Sugar-coated Bad Boy.

The type of man who knocks the big “O” clear to the front of the alphabet every time.

Wrap up that eight-pack with Navy khakis and top it off with a shiny SEAL Trident, the kind that makes the girls swoon.

That’s Mason. My best friend.

For me, he’s off limits. Now that I’ve finished college, I need to focus on my writing career. And without his help, I don’t stand a chance.

But I need something from him. Something only he can give me.

So I’ll pull the blinds. I’ll toss my inhibitions. I’ll call it “research.” And I won’t let my heart get involved, especially with him leaving at the end of the week. Leaving me … even though my very soul is still in his grasp.

First Impressions

I went into this book with zero expectations, and came out of it with a silly grin on my face and simply smothered in all the warm and fuzzies you could possibly ask for. This might be a short read you can probably finish in one sitting, but it’s chock full of emotional depth, comedy, and plenty of sexy fun times to keep you satisfied. Mason and Freya have been best friends for over two years, ever since she sought out the help from this real-life Navy SEAL to give her military romance novel a bit more realism. While the two could immediately acknowledge an instant attraction to the other, they’ve never taken their relationship further than friendship, with a bit of reading advice and home cooking thrown into the mix as well.

Even if they wanted to take things further, they could never quite get the timing right. When one would break up with their current fling the other was just getting involved with someone else. It’s not until the week that Mason plans to move four hours away to his new SEAL headquarters that they’re both free of other attachments, and the encroaching distance makes them both realize how much they’ve come to rely on each other for companionship in the last two years. The thought of having so much space between them is seemingly more than either of them can bear. But it’s not just the fast approaching moving date, nor their newly single status which finally pushes these two into each other’s arms. Oh no. It’s something inexplicably more delicious. 

A Bit of Help to “See” the Scene

Freya has been working on her premiere military romance novel during all the time they’ve known each other, and Mason often gives her feedback on new drafts she submits to potential agents wanting her to switch up her manuscript with a SEAL shifter, a billionaire SEAL, a cowboy, and the most recent request of a SEAL with a few BDSM proclivities. Her frustrations and difficulties with agents will most likely ring true for many other authors out there, and you’ll find Freya a relatable heroine that you root for immediately. Mason may have been her sounding board and second set of eyes for all things military details and SEAL realism in her book (qualifying grounds for knighthood if you ask me), but this is the first time he’s provided feedback on what her characters get up to in the bedroom. And it’s during one of his reviews that he insists the scene which Freya has written of her heroine and hero going from missionary position to doggie style in one swinging move simply isn’t physically possible. 

Freya insists he help her act out the scene (clothes on of course), but it doesn’t take long during their, what turns out to be lengthy, acrobatic maneuvering that the physical connection they assumed existed between them all this time comes barreling to the forefront as something they can no longer ignore. When Freya asks Mason to help her act out being tied up to her headboard to see what people could possibly find so exhilarating about bondage, things finally reach a boiling point between them. These scenes were both hilarious, yet smoldering in their intensity, and I for one loved this unique way of bringing two friends together into a physical relationship. Something I wasn’t necessarily expecting from this short read was the emotional connection we as readers will feel for our two lead characters as they struggle with the debate of whether or not to take things to the next step in light of Mason’s impending move in two day’s time, the harsh realities of a long distance relationship, and if giving into their physical desires will negatively impact the friendship they’ve built over the last two years. 

Twenty Thousand Sunsets

As with any great romance, we as readers are convinced of not only the sexual chemistry between Mason and Freya, but their emotional connection as well. The fact the author managed to solidify this connection in under 200 pages should be applauded. I’ll admit there were a few moments that tugged at the heartstrings, and had the tears starting to well up a bit. As the novel progresses we begin to see that many of the interactions that Freya has had with Mason throughout the years have been the inspiration for the characters within her book, oftentimes causing her to reach for her phone to take notes on the perfect coupling of lines which would come to her whilst in his presence. The two days they spend wrapped in each other’s arms really cause the words to start flowing, and we see that Mason was not only the inspiration for one of her main characters, but has also become her creative inspiration. He’s the man who makes her want to write, to make her stick to the story she really wants to tell, and ultimately the man she wants to watch twenty thousand sunsets with. Mason and Freya succeed in achieving a happily ever after that we’re convinced is going to last through any hardship, any distance, and any mission he might be called away upon, for their love is steeped in friendship. 

Series: Brothers in Arms, book 1. I am 10,000% going to continue on with this series. You’re telling me that Mason has BROTHERS?! Heck yeah, sign me up! 

Final Impressions: Don’t forget to bring this book on your next beach vacation, cabin getaway, or heck even if you’re looking for something to read on a Sunday morning. It will make you laugh, possibly cry, and definitely blush as the slow build between friends eventually boils over into a cacophony of passion. In a way it does seem surprising that it took so long for these two to take their relationship to the next level, especially considering we find out that Mason was flirtatious as hell upon first meeting. However, in the end it’s the thrill of the ride as they make their way from best friends forever, to lovers and lifelong partners that makes this read a keeper.  

Smut Level: What starts as a hilarious demonstration of the complexities of Freya’s written sex scene quickly escalates into something sinfully more intriguing. These two could never regret taking their friendship to the next level, after all, who could regret sex that good?  

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. FREE Kindle Edition! 198 Pages.

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.