Out Too Far by Andrea K. Stein & Sawyer Stone

An exciting and humorous conclusion to the Love Overboard series!

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Rania Elsaeid is the brilliant engineer aboard the 115-foot yacht, the Bonnie Blue. She’s also a deadly, well-trained security guard. She keeps her cool when everything around her heats up. Morris “Moj” Johnston, internationally famous music producer, is on a much-needed vacation cruise through the islands of the Indian Ocean. He’s not looking for love but trying to heal a broken heart. When Moj meets Rania, everything changes. Suddenly, they find themselves on the run from pirates, lost on a deserted island, and dangerously close to going…OUT TOO FAR!

First Impressions

It’s always sad to see the end of a series, but this final installment in the Love Overboard trilogy manages to keep you giggling as Rania and Moj navigate their love in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Both characters are dealing with the stresses of life. She’s lying low, trying to keep off the radar so her crazy ex doesn’t find her. As for Moj, he’s keeping busy as a famous music producer, trying to keep his mind off the recent and untimely death of his wife. Neither is looking for love, but once their eyes lock during a crowded music festival, there’s no going back. The connection between them is immediate. While they’re initially hesitant to explore anything physical between them seeing as she’s working on the yacht he’s chartered, it’s not long before fate pushes them to take things to the next level.

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Funnily enough, the moment when they decide to finally give into the desire which has enveloped them since they first met is not the moment I would have guessed would be the most opportune for sexy fun times. Moj and Rania find themselves stranded on a seemingly deserted island with kidnappers, albeit hilariously incompetent ones, hot on their tail. This is the moment where I’d be freaking out, convinced that starvation and dehydration would soon portend the end of it all. However, Moj and Rania take an entirely different approach, seeing this deserted island as an opportunity to finally get some privacy from all of Moj’s fame. Sure, they need to explore the island for water, food, discover whether or not it actually is deserted, but they first choose to look at the silver lining of the situation. Beautiful beach, just survived an adrenaline inducing escape from kidnappers…seems like the perfect time to get naked, no? Priorities people!

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“There is maybe one chance in hell we’re going to survive this ordeal. I say we make the most of the time we have left…”

The Need to Stand Aside

Something I really loved about this read, and the series as a whole for that matter, was that we were presented with a strong female lead character. Oftentimes throughout the books we find it is the ladies who are stepping up to protect the gents, or help them out of a sticky situation. This holds true in the character of Rania, a strong woman who can take care of herself, and has been trained by the very best to do so. Moj on the other hand, is a man who was determined to take care of his first wife who died from cancer. Caring wholeheartedly for others is part of his very nature, and the concept of stepping aside to let Rania take care of herself is one he’s struggling with. Where his first wife needed him, Rania doesn’t really need him at all. Even though their time together has been brief, it’s not long before Moj can’t imagine what life would be like to have Rania pulled away from him so suddenly.

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By the end of the novel, Moj finally accepts that when it comes to attempted kidnappers and matters of international espionage, his interference would probably cause more harm than good. He succeeds in stepping aside to allow Rania to shine in all her bad-assery. The final scene is quite funny even though it’s the climax of everything coming together, and it’s described in such perfect detail I could practically see it playing out in my head like a movie. Moj still worries for Rania’s safety, that’s something that will never go away completely, but he can learn to let her take care of herself when necessary. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t need him at all. She needs his presence in her life, she needs his love and support, but she doesn’t need him to treat her as a damsel in distress. If anything, Moj is the one who needs her protection and strength in certain moments. There are many times where they learn to place their full trust in the other person in order to make it out of a sticky situation, and acknowledge that there are some things they can’t do all by themselves. Sometimes they need a shoulder to lean on.

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

Series: Love Overboard, book 3. It’s always fun to see the earlier characters from the series come back in the end, although it was kind of disappointing that the couple from book 2 never made a surprise guest appearance.

Final Impressions: This was a sexy, funny read, and a great conclusion to the series. Some scenes were a bit over the top, and other areas could have been explained more fully, such as Rania’s past with her ex. However, it’s still a fun and silly read that’ll have you giggling along. Aside from the delight of having a strong female lead character, my other favorite part would have to be our would-be kidnappers. At the start you worry about how they might cause trouble for Moj and Rania, but as the story progresses you see they are hilariously inept at being criminals, and I was shocked to find myself liking them more and more with each new scene.

Smut Level: The first time Moj and Rania do the deed it’s on the beach of a deserted island they’ve been stranded on. I can’t imagine how much sand must have gotten into some extremely uncomfortable places.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Muirgen Publishing, LLC. 211 Pages.

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Delectable by R.L. Mathewson

When Kasey first sets her sights on Reese Bradford, one perfect nickname comes to mind. Yummy. Sooooo yummy.

What’s it About? 

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Reese Bradford is a typical Bradford, he enjoys his food, is easy on the eyes, and has a killer smile, but there’s one thing about him that he doesn’t want anyone to know about, which of course is the first thing that his ex-fiance makes sure that everyone finds out about after she leaves him for his best friend. Out of options, he reluctantly heads out of town to spend the summer in the cottage that he’d rented for his honeymoon only to find himself tormented by a woman that never should have crossed his mind twice.

More intrigued than he’d ever thought possible, he can’t help but wonder about the woman that made him smile.

First Impressions

This is another classic addition to the Neighbor From Hell series. It’ll put a smile on your face, make you giggle in delight, and even blush a time or two with the sexual escapades of our lead couple. There usually isn’t a ton of drama to a book in this series, but there are some lovable themes which connect them all. First and foremost is the infamous Bradford stomach. An endless gut that doesn’t seem to get full no matter how much food is consumed. The fact that this novel features a Bradford male falling for a woman who runs a cooking website? Stand back ladies and gentlemen, you’re about to see something reaaaaally special.

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Another feature that each novel in this series shares is also something which sets them all apart. Distinct lead characters that you can’t help but fall in love with. R.L. Mathewson isn’t afraid to provide us with delightful characters who break the mold when it comes to typical romance novel leads. Throughout this series we’ve seen full-figured female leads, adorable nerds, and even virgins. The leads of this ninth novel pull our hearts in once again, and include a single mother who had her daughter when she was just a teenager, as well as a sexy male virgin police officer. That’s right folks, we have a 29-year-old male virgin here. That’s the ultimate white whale, the sparkliest of unicorns, the needle in the haystack of Romancelandia.

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Bedding the Virgin

Kasey and Reese are both hesitant to take their physical relationship to the next level, and for good reason. She hasn’t been with anyone since the death of her husband over seven years ago. The few times she’s dated since his untimely death from cancer have left her feeling guilty, as though she’s betraying his memory. She simply feels she’s not ready to take that next step yet, but Reese is the first man to make her consider the notion. As for Reese, he’s a 29 year old virgin. He’s never wanted to take that next step with a woman unless he was convinced he could take care of her in every way possible. The fact that Reese is still trying to navigate his own life, and figure out what he truly wants to do, means he’s never felt like he was in the right place to take care of someone else wholeheartedly. I must say, while I completely understand why they were both hesitant to become physically intimate with each other, I was quite disappointed at Kasey’s initial reaction to his admission of virginity.

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Simply put, she doesn’t believe him. Now, I get it’s a concept which seems completely foreign in today’s day and age. Here we have a gorgeously sexy and caring police officer who’s also handy with a tool belt. How could a man so flirtatious and good looking possibly be a virgin?! However, he’s also never given her a reason to think that he’d make something like that up. She’s convinced he’s lying in order to show her his sensitive side, and trick her into going to bed with him. Perhaps if he had been pushing her repeatedly to jump into bed with him before this moment, I may have understood her point of view. The thing is, he’s always taken things slow with her. When he discovered her hesitancy to go out on a date with him due to the grief she still feels over the death of her husband, he didn’t goad or pressure her into moving on. He chose to keep things friendly between them. So why would he be going to such lengths now to get her into bed by creating a false back story of virginity? It just seemed like an insensitive assumption, not to mention it would have been a complete break with the caring personality which Reese had shown her up until this point.

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Series: A Neighbor From Hell, book 9. One of my favorite romance series of all time.

Final Impressions: While this definitely wasn’t the strongest addition to the Neighbor From Hell series, it’s still a fun, cute read. You can’t help but fall in love with all of the characters, and feel as though we’ve been granted permission to enter their world. There were certain aspects of the story which didn’t come full circle for me, and could have been fleshed out in more detail. While the reasons for Reese’s virginity are discussed quite clearly between him and Kasey, as well as the breakdown of his most recent relationship, something I felt we didn’t receive as much information about was Kasey’s background with her former husband and his family. Overall though, it’s still a great beach read that you won’t want to put down.

Smut Level: Our male lead is an officer of the law. You just know handcuffs are mandatory at some point.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Rerum Industries, Inc. 315 Pages.

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Off the Market by Audrey Wick

Opposites attract in this sweet Texas romance that will leave you smiling, and craving BBQ too! Good thing we get some delightful comfort food recipes to try out at the end of the novel.

What’s it About? 

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Quinn LaFayette is in her inaugural year as library special programs director of Last Stand, but when the kickoff performance for the children’s summer program goes terribly wrong, she has to save face as well as her job. She has a surprise advocate in Cole, whom she did her best to ignore in school. Seven years has only made Cole more appealing, but Quinn is determined to resist the sparks that fly between them because they are too different.

Restaurant owner Cole Hutchinson is no bookworm, but thanks to his fast-thinking antics, he ends up saving the day at the library and earning Quinn’s praise in the process. He’s tempted to seek more, but he’s juggling plenty of female attention from gracing the June edition of Modern Texas magazine featuring barbeque. Cole’s not interested in revisiting a woman from his past, but there’s something about Quinn that he can’t quite ignore.

Can Cole prove that opposites really do attract?

First Impressions

“The jock. The bookworm. Opposite interests. Opposite personalities. Opposite means of interacting.” Quinn’s memories of Cole from high school aren’t necessarily negative, but rather of a man who simply ran in different circles. While she could certainly appreciate his charm and good looks, she acknowledged the two would never have anything in common. When their paths cross again years later, Quinn is shocked to see the former jock run to her rescue in her moment of need. As the summer progresses these two former acquaintances grow closer than either ever thought possible, and Quinn discovers that Cole Hutchinson has matured into a caring man who no longer craves the spotlight of fleeting attention.

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Cole too realizes that this woman is making him want things he’s never desired before, and as she starts to share herself and her love of books with him, he admits to himself that Quinn is a woman he can’t let get away. It was enchanting to see these two nurture their feelings for each other, and especially to see how Quinn’s initial surface-level opinions of this man from high school could change so vastly. Something we don’t really explore though is what Cole thought of Quinn back in the day. He’s certainly smitten with this somewhat shy librarian now, but what about back then? Did he see her as a quiet bookworm? Someone cute, but perhaps beyond his league intellectually? Did he even notice her at all? Even though I loved their tale of romance from start to finish, a further exploration of their history could have been an interesting addition!

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Taking a Stand

The first book in this series really highlighted the tense, yet lovable relationship between the Hutchinson brothers, both of whom are fighting to make their family BBQ joint a success. While this sequel certainly continues on with that theme, we also see the town of Last Stand come to the forefront as a character in its own right. The delightful townsfolk gather together to support and protect their own, yet in this second book we also see the flip side of that small town atmosphere in the shape of city council members who are rooting for Quinn to fail. They see the local library as a non-revenue generating entity that isn’t worth sinking money into. As Quinn encounters a few hurdles at the start of the summer with her reading program aimed at the children of Last Stand, we see Cole come to her aid in more ways than one as their feelings for each other start to deepen.

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When Quinn has to make her case in front of city council for their support of her position, you can’t help but feel a hint of Leslie Knope in Parks and Recreation, standing up for what’s right in her small town. This of course means we must also encounter a villain in the shape of a city planner whose advances Quinn once rebuked, and therefore he’s out for revenge against her. As the story progresses we see Quinn start to become increasingly concerned about all the obstacles and malice being thrown her way by the city council, and wonders if there will be a place for her much longer in this small Texas town. While our concern for Quinn continues to grow, and we hold our breath in anticipation wondering if she’ll end the summer on a high note, this intriguing story line does sort of fizzle out a bit by the end. There are some questions which aren’t fully answered, and the character who has grown into our villain exits the story rather abruptly. A more fleshed out culmination of these events would have resulted in a smashing success of a read!

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Southern Comfort

If you were to seek out any of my friends and ask them what two things I’m addicted to most in this world they would most likely tell you the following: romance novels and cookbooks. My Kindle has over 1000 romance novel titles, and my bookshelf is literally buckling under the strain of cookbooks featuring practically every cuisine imaginable. Therefore, the fact that this series combines adorable tales of romance with a sampling of comfort food BBQ recipes at the end of each novel means I’m in a swirl of romance-culinary heaven. Check out some of the scrumptious delights this series has provided below!

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Bubba Hutchinson’s Country Biscuits

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The LaFayette Family BBQ Muffins (best thing ever!!)

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Cole Hutchinson’s Corn Casserole

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Wanda Hutchinson’s Peach Cobbler

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

Series: The Texas BBQ Brothers, book 2. There are only two Hutchinson brothers at this barbecue joint, and we’ve seen both of their tales of romance. Can they discover an illegitimate or long-lost brother of some kind so this series doesn’t have to end?!

Final Impressions: This is a cute, fun, quick read that will have you rooting for our main characters on multiple fronts. From Quinn’s struggles making the summer reading program a success, to Cole and his brother seeking to keep their family’s BBQ restaurant a local success story. Interspersed throughout is the natural development of their relationship which is also reminiscent of the romance from book one. These characters feel like your friends, and their affection comes across as completely real. There was the introduction of some contrived drama between Quinn and Cole towards the very end which seemed somewhat unnecessary, and while I was slightly disappointed that the development of our local villain didn’t entirely come full circle, overall it’s a delightful sequel that’s perfect for the beach.

Smut Level: This story is much more focused on Cole and Quinn developing their attraction into affection rather than lust. It’s a sweet read devoid of sex, with a few intimate kisses here and there.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Tule Publishing.

Nailed Down by Chelle Bliss

Kane is a rather intimidating hunk of a man who likes to refer to himself as the “Storm”. Sometimes he even has to threaten to give people a weather lesson should they annoy him too much. Oooooookay then.

What’s it About? 

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He’s the hottest handyman on TV, but he only has eyes for his best friend.

Kit Carlyle isn’t just some woman. Beautiful? Yep. Seductive? Damn straight. She’s also my best friend and my co-worker. But, hell, I’m a guy with a pulse. Every once in a while, I look at her and think filthy things.

But when her cousin dies and leaves her with a long as hell and sexy bucket list, Kit turns to me for a helping hand. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a woman in need. Besides, I’m not about to let another man steal away my girl, occupy her bed, or fill my shoes.

But as the stakes get higher and the items become hotter, I’ll have to face the toughest challenge of all: admitting I want more than Kit’s friendship. I want to make her mine.

First Impressions

A sexy bucket list? Yes please. A friends to lovers romance? Sign me up! The synopsis of this book has everything, and definitely seemed like it’d be right up my alley. It’s definitely a cute read, with some highlight moments, but I must say they summary of what we’d be in store for did ultimately leave me wanting. Particularly when we take a look at that bucket list which is described as being “long and sexy”, and increasing in heat as Kane and Kit start to cross things off that list. My mind definitely ran wild with erotic possibilities. Perhaps some elevator sex? Toys? Alas, in the end the list came across as rather tame in terms of sexiness. Adventurous, or adrenaline inducing may have been a more apt descriptor. Below is a slightly abbreviated version of the 10 items Kit’s cousin designated for the list.

  1. Go zip-lining
  2. Buy something frivolous
  3. Go whale watching
  4. Find someone to give you a mind-numbing, toe-curling, can’t breathe, moan-worthy kiss that ruins you for all other men
  5. Run a half marathon
  6. Shake hands with the president
  7. Camp out in the mountains
  8. Sing in front of a crowd of more than twenty people
  9. Have sex with someone other than yourself
  10. Fall in love

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See what I mean? Not quite the sauciest of lists. While Kane agrees to assist Kit in crossing as many items off the list as possible, only three of them would directly have an impact on their friendship crossing over into something more intimate. We soon discover that while these two have been friends for years, there’s also been an underlying yearning that neither has wanted to act upon. Until now of course. Both are hesitant to act on their desires for the fear that it might interfere with their friendship. However, with the first touch of their lips, the sizzling electricity which ignites between them ensures there’s no going back to mere friendship.

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The Games We Play

As Kit and Kane continue to check items off her bucket list, they soon come to the conclusion that there are deeper emotions developing between them. While they can both admit to themselves that they’re in love, they simply can’t voice it to each other. It’s even evident to their close friends and colleagues what’s going on. Towards the end even our lovebirds themselves can sense that something bordering on love is building in the other person, yet they both remain tight lipped about how they feel! Therefore, in order to try and nudge him into making a move, Kit tries to make Kane jealous by flirting with another man she knows is a sleazy playboy. Kit admits to feeling like a juvenile brat for playing games with Kane, but that still doesn’t prevent her from playing said games.

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Juvenile is correct. She’s so insistent on setting up this scenario to get him to declare how he feels, that you can’t help but question why she felt the need for him to act first. Seems to me like it would have saved them both a lot of time and energy, not to mention sped up their physical escapades, if she’d been the first to simply voice what she was feeling. At one point Kit even declares that Kane was “emotionally stunted” for not being able to admit how he felt and needed to “man up”. I’d have to counter and ask why she doesn’t “woman up”? Hell, I’m not even asking for her to say she’s fallen deeply in love with him. Merely admitting she’s starting to feel something more than friendship would have been enough to at least test the waters.

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Series: Nailed Down, book 1. I think I’ll continue on with book 2 which features Kane’s brother.

Final Impressions: There are definitely some sweet moments between Kane and Kit, but I felt like there were some important areas which only received a surface-level kind of introduction. It was as though there was a missing layer of depth which could have contributed to a fully fleshed out story. For example, we never learn how Kit’s cousin died. We were also never given the chance to see how Kit and Kane interacted as friends before the death of her cousin. Our book opens with Kit’s return from the funeral, and the introduction of the bucket list. We just sort of dove right into these feelings of lust simmering between them, without ever seeing their previous normal, everyday interactions as buddies. This contrast of a before and after could have helped us connect even more with our characters to see how things have truly changed between them.

Smut Level: Kane is described as a generous, but not a gentle lover. The first time Kit and Kane ever fool around beyond just a kiss is in his truck. Then the first time they actually do the deed is up against a wall. They certainly like to take things up a notch, even if their ultimate consummation doesn’t happen for quite some time.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. FREE Kindle Price. Bliss Ink LLC. 250 Pages

Oceans Away by Skye McNeil

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

What’s it About? 

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

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

First Impressions

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

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Resentment

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

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

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Iowa vs. the World

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

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

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Jealousy Rears It’s Ugly Head

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

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

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

Series: The Atlas Series, book 2.

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

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

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

Run Away, Lizzy by Elizabeth J. Sparrow

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

What’s it About? 

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

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

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

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The Passing of Time

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

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

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“What are you so scared of?”

Running From Grief

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

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

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

The Villain-ess

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

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

Series: Stand-alone.

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

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

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

Their No-Strings Affair by Charlotte O’Shay

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

What’s it About? 

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

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

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The Looming Deadline

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

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

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

The Mothers

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

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

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

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New York, New York

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

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

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

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

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

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

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