Highland Games by Evie Alexander

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

What’s it About? 

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

First Impressions

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

Not Quite What You Expect

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

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

Overreaction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Twelve Days of Snowball by Kristen McKanagh

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

What’s it About?

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

First Impressions

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

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

Former Enemies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resolutions Embraced by Ayla Asher

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

What’s it About?

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

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

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

The Past Repeats Itself

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

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

The Thrill of the Race

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

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

Find Someone Who Makes You Laugh

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

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

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

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

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

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

Truly Inn Love by Amelia Foster

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

What’s it About?

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

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

Realistic Characters

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

The Bliss and Blunders of Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Way the Story Goes by Samantha Chase

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

What’s it About?

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

If Looks Could Kill…or Resolve Everything

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

The Good, the Bad, and the Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sexy Filthy Boss by Piper Rayne

This sweet and steamy romance is the perfect example of why office romances are the best of bad ideas.

What’s it About?

He’s the sexy alpha male in the corner office who goes through assistants faster than free donuts in the breakroom.

I’m the assistant who was chosen to cover for his last fire.

The owner of the company is clear–hook the biggest client in our firm’s history and there’s a partnership for him and a promotion for me. Stipulation–we do it together.

It doesn’t take a tarot card-reading psychic to figure out where our story is headed… late nights, trips out of town, and more than a few awkward moments filled with sexual tension.

No worries though. I pride myself on my willpower. I can totally ignore his sexy grin, his rock-hard body and his dreamy brown eyes. I will not become the woman other women hate.

But it turns out that Enzo Mancini has a lot of layers and if I don’t stop peeling, I’m going to lose everything, including my dignity.

First Impressions

I will admit, based on the title of this read I think I went into it expecting something filthier than what we ended up getting! 🙂 While Enzo was definitely all kinds of sexy, and he certainly enjoyed his dirty talks and sexting, I’m not sure he ever exhibited any behavior deserving of the moniker “filthy”. For something like that I think we would have needed to see some office desk, elevator or stairwell sexcapades. Instead, we get some delicious slow-build of heat and flirtations which ultimately boil over into an explosive work trip with just one hotel room, followed by a plethora of heated scenes where Enzo and Annie finally give into the desires they’ve been pushing aside after the last few weeks of working together in such close proximity. These two may have taken some time to admit their willingness to give a go at a relationship, but it was fairly clear early on that Enzo wasn’t the difficult hard-ass he had been portraying himself to be. He actually has a soft spot for his family, a dedication to his work, and a growing need for Annie that extends beyond the bedroom. Things couldn’t always be smooth sailing though, and eventually we see how office romances aren’t just sexy affairs with no consequences.

Office Romance and Culture

This book does a fantastic job of not only showing us the potential pitfalls in exploring an office dalliance with a co-worker, or more accurately in this instance, a supervisor and subordinate. It also provided an unexpectedly profound window into office culture, and how even some good people with the best of intentions can sometimes be blind to the inequities around them. First things first, I appreciated that this read provided a glimpse at the realistic highs and lows of an office romance. Working together in such close quarters brought about a sense of closeness and chemistry that neither Enzo nor Annie could ignore forever. However, thankfully they reserved their physical relationship to moments outside of the office itself. Sure, there were a few times when Enzo tried to tempt Annie into a quickie with the office blinds closed, but it never resulted in anything, and surprisingly his suggestions came across as rather cringeworthy in their professional surroundings.

These two characters felt like real people rather than fictional strangers, so even though I would normally applaud some office desk sex in a romance like this, I almost appreciated it more that the author refrained from taking things that far. Although this novel was fairly light-hearted with some pretty comedic scenes between our lovebirds, as well as his family members, we also get a rather serious look at the outdated and sexist opinions which can still exist amongst the leadership of a workplace. Even though Enzo never really participated in it directly, we do see the impact of the fact he never noticed the realities of the situation around him until Annie opened his eyes to it.

Series: White Collar Brothers, book 1. I’ll continue with this series. Enzo’s family members were hilarious, and I’d love to spend more time with them.

Final Impressions: I enjoyed this read! Sexy, dirty-talking boss may have been a more apt title, though I understand it’s not quite as catchy. I loved Annie’s ability to put her ideas forward, and to have her voice heard when it mattered most. A strong heroine for sure! As for Enzo, he remains rather cocky throughout most of the book, but we get a fabulous grand gesture at the end that is hard not to swoon over.

Smut Level: This read gives us the perfect combo of a slow burn in the first half, followed by some steamy sexiness in the second half. Let’s just say Enzo and Annie manage to work through all their condoms the first night they spend together in the hotel.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. 328 Pages.

Mister McHottie by Pippa Grant

This is the epitome of an enemies-to-lovers romance, with an abundance of hate screwing thrown into the mix. Toss in a propensity for our lead characters to prank each other every chance they get, and what’s not to like?

What’s it About?

The best enemies make the best lovers….

There are three things I hate: 

Bratwurst in any form, my neighbors boinking like farm animals at 3 AM, and Chase Jett.

Mostly I hate Chase Jett. It’s been 10 years since he took my virginity – I’d make a bratwurst joke, but the unfortunate truth is that it would have to be a brat-best joke, and yes, it kills me to admit that – and now he’s not only a billionaire, he’s also my new boss.

Turns out our hate is mutual. And this kind of hate is horrifically twisted, filthy, and banging hot. I just might have to hate him forever.

First Impressions

Pretty much from page one you can tell this is going to be a fun, silly ride filled with down-to-Earth and sarcastic lead characters. Various chapters are told from alternating points of view between our somewhat hyper female lead and our smirkingly delicious male lead. The narration of the novel definitely plays out in a way that makes us feel part of the inner circle of friends for our characters. At times with Ambrosia’s chapters especially, we almost see her stream of consciousness as she gets especially frustrated when confronted with the tormentor of her childhood, Chase. They haven’t seen each other in years, having pulled endless pranks throughout their younger years which eventually culminated in an explosive argument (and sex) in the back of a bratwurst wagon. Upon reconnecting years later when billionaire Chase buys out the company Ambrosia works for, it takes mere seconds for all of their old frustrations and prankful ways to immediately resurface. And with all that supposed hatred comes another kind of frustration…sexual frustration.

A Sultry Romantic Comedy

As the first few chapters of this novel played out, I merely expected this to be a light-hearted, fun-filled romantic comedy with plenty of pranks and sarcastic comments hurled back and forth between Chase and Ambrosia. And while that was certainly true, the element I wasn’t expecting was the explosive heat and dirty-talk-filled sex scenes which permeate this entire read. Even though I can’t say the transition from spewing insults to sticking their tongues down each other’s throats was a seamless one, it was certainly an enjoyable one. I remember listening to this audiobook as I cleaned my dishes, and when Chase and Ambrosia were arguing in an elevator together I though, “oh, this should be fun,” and the next thing I know Chase has her bent over with her clothes ripped off, and he’s slapping her bum. That was definitely an unexpected escalation for their first sexual foray in adulthood. As the book progresses we see these two characters constantly trying to either avoid or one-up each other before their frustration ultimately builds into them tearing their clothes off, and continuing to exchange insults as a humorous form of foreplay.

Series: Girl Band, book 1. I think I’ll continue with this series. It’s full of crazy antics and even crazier characters you can’t help but love.

Final Impressions: If you’re looking for a fun read that will leave you giggling, yet also sweating from the steam burning between these two, then this might be a read you’ll want to try. The sarcastic dialogue of Ambrosia reminded me of my own personality at times, though it was also a challenge to follow her fast-paced stream of disconnected thoughts, even if it lent an air of fun casualness to the read. Overall it was a cute, silly, passionate read with a few flaws littered throughout, but it came together in the end for an awwwww-filled conclusion.

Smut Level: Elevator sexy fun tiiiiiimes!! The tone of this book might read light-hearted comedy, but my goodness do the sex scenes escalate into something fully charged with heat and eroticism.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Bang Laugh Love LLC. 184 Pages.

Hearts Reclaimed by Ayla Asher

This small town romance is a must read for your next beach vacation. Or mountain cabin retreat. Or a standard Tuesday night. Just read it!

What’s it About?

Two weary souls find each other against all odds…

Ashlyn Rivers left her cheating fiancé behind and moved to Ardor Creek to revamp her life. Done with men in general, she has plenty to focus on, like building her new business and renovating her house for the local haunted homes tour. Falling in love is definitely not on the agenda.

Scott Grillo lost his family in a tragic accident several years ago. Still processing the loss, he throws himself into his contracting business, pushing away the loneliness and heartache.

When Ashlyn blazes into Scott’s life, he turns down her request to renovate her house, vowing to squelch the desire she stirs deep inside. But Ashlyn is a force to be reckoned with and Scott finds himself longing for her embrace each day she remains in Ardor Creek.

Can these two disillusioned souls reclaim their hearts and choose to love again?

First Impressions

In a word, this book is fantabulous. I finished it in one day it was that good. The first thing I noticed almost immediately with this read was that it made my face hurt from the constant grin I had plastered on my face, starting at about page three. It was quickly evident that this was a small fictional town I wish I could move to as soon as possible, and have a BBQ with all the delightful town residents you can’t help but fall in love with. Above all of that though, the two lead characters in this read have a chemistry that electrifies you through the page. A friendly flirtatiousness that makes you want them to rip each other’s clothes off, yet also drag out the delicious playfulness for as long as possible. I was thrilled that throughout this entire read, while we see Scott and Ashlyn’s relationship evolve from client/contractor to friends to lovers to something more intimate, they never lost their sense of playfulness with each other. It’s a detail that will make your toes curl and keep that smirk of satisfaction constantly on your face.

In the Face of Tragedy

Now don’t let that introduction fool you, this book isn’t all light-hearted flirtations and a sexy shirtless contractor on top of a ladder…although both of those details are certainly present! We do get a few serious notes built in, especially as Scott confronts the idea of opening his heart fully to Ashlyn as their relationship progresses, while also balancing this against the loss of his wife and baby daughter years before. And I would say this was a concept that the read as a whole manages with absolute perfection: balance. When I first read the synopsis and learned that Scott was still struggling with the death of his loved ones I was concerned that we’d be dealing with an overwhelming emotional read.

And while there are certainly some emotional scenes that left a tear or two in my eye as Scott opened up to Ashlyn about the tragic loss of his family and his fears at allowing Ashlyn into every corner of his heart, these emotionally heavier scenes were intertwined so beautifully with the scenes of playfulness and sensuality between Scott and Ashlyn that I was never left feeling the book leaned too heavily one way or another. It would have been easy for Scott to have just been all ready for a new relationship, and for the author to simply push the harsher realities of that emotional confrontation to the background. But that doesn’t happen here. On the flip-side, it would have been easier to rely more heavily on the inner struggle Scott faced in moving on with someone new, and leave the comedy bits out entirely. The fact the author could so seamlessly blend the two themes together made it feel even more reminiscent of true life and love being filled with the most spectacular highs juxtaposed against tragic lows. Again, a beautiful balance.

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

Series: Ardor Creek, book 1. I had to force myself not to immediately dive into book two! It’s a rule of mine to always try and break up the books in a series with another read.

Final Impressions: Read…this…book. It’s a five-star read that presents us with fun, sexiness and even a bit of drama. Something I appreciated even more than the smile this book left on my face was how our characters reacted to the drama with which they were presented. Every reaction felt entirely authentic. Nothing was overblown for the sake of unnecessary drama. Their reactions seemed like those I might have, or someone I know might have, once again lending an air of reality and balance to the read as a whole.

Smut Level: In a way this book sort of reads as a romantic comedy, but that doesn’t mean our characters avoid the subject of sex. They’re more than happy to explore each other’s sexual fantasies and even enjoy a good pounding out on the front porch.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. 168 Pages.

This is Not a Horror Movie by Sara Dobie Bauer

“I‘ve wanted to taste your words for years—and see if they taste as sweet as you make them look.” Not gonna say no to that request!

What’s it About?

Emory Jones loves two things: horror movies and Connor Nichols. For the past four years, Emory, Connor, and their families have vacationed side by side on Longboat Key, Florida. Eighteen-year-old Emory has pined for his neighbor from behind the covers of Stephen King books, but college boy Connor has never noticed him. Probably because Emory looks like Jack Skellington with good hair.

Emory anticipates another predictable summer of sunburn and disappointment. Instead, he ends up with a mystery on his hands when a beloved beach bum goes missing, and Connor volunteers to help with the search. Turns out it’s not just scary movie cops who are worthless, so the boys start an investigation of their own—leading them straight to an abandoned beach resort.

Despite the danger, Emory and Connor grow closer, but as Emory’s gay dreams start coming true, so do the horror movie tropes he so loves. Even though he knows that sex equals death in slasher flicks, Emory can’t keep his hands off the guy of his teenage dreams.

First Impressions

I’ll admit, I initially approached this read with a smidge of hesitancy. While the title might insist this is not a horror movie, the dramatic cover art and synopsis would suggest otherwise. And I…don’t…do…HORROR! What can I say, I blame Freddy Krueger. That bastard gets ya in your dreams, and when my sleep is compromised we’re gonna have problems. However, while there were definitely some scenes in this novel which involved horrific actions and even deaths, I somehow found myself giggling with glee throughout the majority of this read! If I had to sum up the experience in just a few words? Pure delight!!

Perrysburg, Ohio

So what made this such an enjoyable read considering my aversion to all things horror? Simply put: Emory Jones. At first I questioned how much I’d have in common with our main character. After all, he’s an 18-year-old gay male who loves all things horror, and I’m, well…not. I might love a good beach read, but the concept of reading a horror book on the beach is a nightmarish concept to me!! However, I found myself quickly developing an amazing kinship with this fictional character the author has presented to us. Not only are Emory and I from the same small Ohio town, but we also went to the same high school, vacationed a mere 8 miles apart from each other some summers, and while neither of us are into sports we both knew who the primary rival high school was across the river. We both grew up in an environment feeling like there must be something bigger and better out there beyond the borders of this small Ohio town where high school bullies reigned supreme.

Beyond these mere coincidences of geography though, Emory’s close connection with his sister Liz involved some of my favorite banter and hilarity of the entire novel, and also felt reminiscent of the close relationship I have with my own sister. And then there’s Connor. The hunky neighbor boy that Emory has pined after for countless summers, yet can only admire from a distance. Surely Emory is not at the same level as this beautiful man? He is constantly left feeling inferior, something I’m sure many of us can sympathize with. Honestly I think most readers will find something within these down-to-Earth and realistic characters that they can also identify in themselves. The narrative format itself was even something I could relate to, as we constantly have to navigate the rather filter-less and quick-moving inner musings of Emory’s mind. Sure, it took some time to get used to and follow along with his line of thinking, but nevertheless it seemed similar to how my own mind is known to wander whenever I think to myself. The author does such a fantastic job of pulling us into Emory’s world where we can associate with all of his insecurities, fears, joys, embarrassments and even moments of love.

A Romantic Paranormal Horror Comedy?

Considering the number of times I giggled aloud to myself while reading this book, it definitely falls within the categorization of a comedy, but it also touches upon the romance and horror categories. Let’s tackle the more prominent of themes, which would be the lovey-doveyness between Connor and Emory. Yet again, all I can say is it was a pure delight! They’ve been summer buds for years, with Emory always dreaming of more with this hot jock. However, it’s only this summer before college when Connor finally discovers that Emory is gay, and Emory simultaneously discovers that Connor is bisexual. After this jaw-dropping realization Connor lays all his cards out on the table, and the two finally decide to give into the desires they’ve kept hidden from each other for so long. And I must say, the sheer joy and playfulness that these two men share with each other left me with a dopey grin on my face, and more head-tilt “awwwww” exclamations than I care to admit.

Now for the horror. Again, typically this is something I loathe, but in this instance the author somehow managed to present it in a way that was still comedic in its approach. What can I say, this woman is a master!! Several moments reminded me of the movie Scream where our characters, who are essentially experts when it comes to horror tropes, would oftentimes relate the situations happening around them to how a horror film or book would typically play out. Emory would often lament the fact he was no longer a virgin seeing as the virgin is usually the last one standing at the end of a horror movie. People never tell the adults what’s happening? Well let’s be upfront with them from the beginning! Should we involve the cops? Eeesh, that never goes over well in the movies. It helped add a sense of levity to the “horror”. Now, I will say the drama of the story took a rather unexpected turn towards the end that had me going, “huh, mkay so I guess we’re really doing this!!” At times I was left wanting a bit more depth and back-story for some of the more villainous characters, but at the same time I could appreciate that staying on the surface in some respects allowed for more of the comedic underpinnings of the plot to shine through.

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

Series: Stand-Alone

Final Impressions: I don’t quite know what I was expecting with this one, but I thought it was so much fun! It’s a great summer read to bring along to the beach. Just consider yourself warned you’ll probably laugh aloud a few times and be smiling to yourself. I could see how some aspects might not be everyone’s cup of tea, including Emory’s penchant for a wandering and fast-paced inner dialogue, as well as the fact that the horror aspect became a bit outlandish towards the end. However, I personally appreciated both of these features, as it helped me relate to Emory on a personal level, and the somewhat ridiculous nature of the horror story was kind of needed for me to feel less scared as I was reading it! Ultimately, it helped the novel lean more towards the comedy category rather than the horror.

Smut Level: The make out scenes in this novel were scorching hot! However, the one sex scene was more of a “fade to black” moment.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. 280 Pages.

Her Patriotic Prince by Ayla Asher

I can’t remember the last time I was so sad to see the conclusion of a series!

What’s it About? 

It was only supposed to be one night…

Laura Cunningham is gorgeous, witty and tough as nails…and still single in her late thirties. After dating every man in Manhattan, she’s resigned herself to the fact that true love just might not exist for her. Certainly a bummer for the woman who observed her two best friends fall in love with sexy, strong men who are their soulmates. Adam Gardner is a soldier who’s been committed to the cause his entire life. Nearing forty, he realizes that once his next mission is complete, he wants to settle down and build a home and family.

Laura and Adam meet on a romantic summer evening, knowing their time is limited due to Adam’s impending deployment. Taken by their instant chemistry, they commit to spending one passionate and intimate night together.

Years later, Adam returns to find Laura with a daughter who shares his sky-blue eyes. Determined to be a father to the little girl, and still enamored by the woman he could never forget, he strives to discern the best path forward. Laura is shocked by the appearance of the man who stole her heart so many years ago…and who still possesses it. Can the star-crossed lovers build a life together or will their secrets and fears keep them from achieving happiness?

First Impressions

Alright, confession time. I’ve never been a huge fan of secret baby romances. I always find myself getting upset with the female lead for keeping such a massive, literally life-changing secret from either her one-night stand, or maybe an ex with whom she’s had a falling out. Needless to say I was a little hesitant to pick up this third and final read in the Manhattan Holiday Loves series. While I did think that Laura could have done more to locate some contact info for Adam to send him word about the fact that their one night together resulted in a baby, I have to give it to the author for putting up as many legitimate road blocks to make that as difficult an act as possible. From a phone number washed away by a coffee spill, to friends getting in a life-threatening car accident the morning after, to Adam having to report the next morning for a multi-year international secret ops mission where he wouldn’t have been able to go home or contact Laura on the reg even if he wanted to. So…yeah! A bit more challenging than your standard “she just didn’t want to tell him” secret baby romance.

From Steam to Intimacy

The other truly stand-out feature of this novella, other than the fact it got me to sympathize with a secret baby romance scenario, was the structure of it all. The novella opens with Laura and Adam meeting on a balcony under the starry night sky after having attended neighboring wedding receptions. They both decide rather quickly to fall into bed together. What I assumed would either be a quick sex scene, or perhaps a fade-to-black cut to the morning after, was anything but. Sure, they fall into each other’s arms pretty speedily upon arriving at the hotel room, but we surprisingly see their one night together play out over several chapters. This small detail was ultimately unbelievably critical in establishing a sense of intimacy between these characters, where we legitimately believe they would pine after each other for the next several years throughout Adam’s deployment.

Normally with one-night romances like this I always question “yeah but how could they fall in love so quickly”, or “how much could they really learn about the other person in such a short period of time?” With this novella, that was never once called into question because we essentially see every critical conversation and loving gesture play out during those first chapters. Upon reconnecting after years apart, Laura and Adam discover the chemistry and desire is still clearly evident between them. However, they choose to push this desire aside for a while so Adam can focus on getting to know his daughter, and Laura can focus on sharing her daughter with someone else for the first time ever. Once that’s resolved they do fall back into bed, or rather over the arm of the sofa, together again. This structure of having the moments of physical intimacy forming the book-ends to Laura and Adam forming a family unit together was just brilliant.

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

Series: Manhattan Holiday Loves, book 3. We may have seen the tales of romance play out for each member of this friend family, but I’m secretly hoping we’ll see some additional installments to cover all the other holidays in a calendar year. I mean, maybe they can all have some long-lost relatives show up that they never knew existed. Totally plausible, right?

Final Impressions: Each novella in this series is a pure delight. This final installment might jump into the steamy bedroom quicker than the previous two, but then we are thrown for a loop with a few dry spell chapters inserted in the middle. Towards the end we do get a bit of over-the-top drama concerning Laura’s prissy mother and a misunderstanding around some paperwork, but all in all it was important to show how miscommunication can lead to the most intense of arguments, but only by coming back together with an open mind can they potentially overcome anything together as a couple. This whole series presents us with some crucial takeaways for having a successful relationship, and this third novella is no different.

Smut Level: Hot daaaaaang! Adam is the dirtiest talking of the bunch, and presents us with a sex position I can’t say I’ve ever seen in all my years of romance reading. Hats, gloves, shirts, pants and all possible clothing off to you my friend!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. 125 Pages. Get the whole series.