To the Max by Elle Aycart

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

What’s it About? 

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

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

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Mommy and Me

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

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Blood isn’t Always Thicker than Water

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

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

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Pahk the Cah in Hahvahd Yahd! 

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

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Series: Bowen Boys, book 3.

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

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

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

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Loving Disaster by Alex L. Michaels

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

What’s it About? 

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

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

First Impressions

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

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

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Arrogance and Sarcasm

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

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

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Curses Abound

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cupid Comes to the Lonesome Buzzard Ranch by Hebby Roman

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

What’s it About? 

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

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

First Impressions

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

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

Online Dating Run Amuck

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

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

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Speed Dating

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

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

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My Favorite Couple?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hooking Up by Elsie Young

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

What’s it About? 

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

First Impressions

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

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

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Reading Through Your Fingers

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

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

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

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A Quirky Family for a Quirky Lady

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Going Down on One Knee by Christina Hovland

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

What’s it About?

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

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

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

First Impression

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

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A Biker Handles Bridezillas

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

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From Avoiding Commitment to Seeking it Out

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

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

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The Doomed Spreadsheet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Up Too Close by Andrea K. Stein & Sawyer Stone

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

What’s it About?

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

First Impression

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

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

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A Dog Named “Dog”

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

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The Supplemental Joys of Life

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

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

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An Unexpected Journey

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

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Unbalanced

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waiting for You by Rose Grey

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

What’s it About?

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

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

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

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Delightful Shenanigans or Added Weight?

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

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

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Sky Lark and Lemon Karma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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