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.

Her Valentine Surprise by Ayla Asher

If you’re looking for the perfect Valentine’s Day read, then look no further! This darling novella has all the feels, squeees and awwwws you could ever ask for.

What’s it About? 

Sam has a secret he holds close to his heart…

Joy Paulson is fine being single. In fact, it saves her from the maddening dating rituals in Manhattan. If she ever settles down, it will be with someone she truly loves and trusts. That’s why she turns down her super-hot boss when he asks her out, leading to disaster when he retaliates, forcing her termination.

Sam Davidson has pined for Joy since the first time he saw her sweet smile and stunning eyes. But there’s a secret that the shy IT developer holds deep inside: Sam is still a virgin. At twenty-nine, he never intended it to happen, but accepts that he could never please Joy in all the ways she deserves.

Sam can offer her a job, though, and proceeds to help Joy rebuild her life after the unfair firing. As their work relationship grows, Joy is taken with Sam’s kindness, gorgeous crystal-hazel eyes and generous smile. And his hands…oh, his firm, broad hands…Joy can’t figure out why Sam resists the desire that sparks so vividly between them, but Valentine’s Day is coming and she’s determined to seduce him and make them both burn. Even if it means discovering all his secrets…

First Impressions

Even thought the first novella in this series features a woman falling in love with her sexy neighbor, I would say this second novella presents us with the perfect epitome of the “guy next door”. Sam is the guy we can all see ourselves falling for. He’s sweet, humble, he’d move the Earth if it would make our female lead smile, and in every sense of the word is just a good guy! The most fascinating aspect of this read is that Sam is hiding a secret from Joy that fills him to bursting with embarrassment: he’s a virgin. There are seemingly countless romances out there which feature a virginal lead falling in love, but 9 times out of 10 that lead is our heroine rather than the hero. I’m enthralled any time an author chooses to explore a male virgin lead because it’s so unbelievably rare, yet a very important topic to discuss. This novella presents us with an intriguingly honest discourse between Joy and Sam about how his virginity isn’t something to be ashamed of, and Joy doesn’t view him as “less than” when compared to her former lovers. She’s honored that Sam has chosen her as the special person he wants to share this with, and sees the next stage of their relationship as a journey they can traverse together.

From Co-Workers to Lovers

Compared to the previous novella, we do have to wait a bit longer to get around to the steamy fun times, which makes sense when you consider Sam’s virginity and the fact that he and Joy have just started a business relationship with each other. Neither wants to risk the positive working relationship they’ve developed, but eventually they realize that not taking things to the next level is proving to be more of a distraction. Once the slow burn combusts into a steamy night of passion you can’t help but admire Joy’s emphasis on communication in the bedroom. They are both so open about what works and what doesn’t that it feels like we are witnessing the start of what a healthy relationship is supposed to look like. This was also a feature of the first novella that I really appreciated. Everyone is able to vocalize what can help them find release during sex, and they have these conversations naturally without any sense of awkwardness or shame. It’s actually quite beautiful!

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

Series: Manhattan Holiday Loves, book 2. Do yourself a favor and just get the whole series.

Final Impressions: Overall I’d say this was a slightly more predictable read than the first novella in that it was easy to see where some of the minor dramatic plot points were going. That being said, it was still a delightfully fun and sexy read that left me with a huge sappy grin on my face. What more could you want in a Valentine’s Day romance?!

Smut Level: This novella may have been a slow build-up before Sam and Joy gave into their desire, but once they do Sam is definitely a fast learner in the erotic arts. As for Joy, she’s more than happy to serve as his instructor and help his long-held sensual dreams of Joy finally become a reality.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. 136 Pages. 

His Holiday Pact by Ayla Asher

His Holiday Pact by Ayla Asher

“Because, sometimes, you just need a sweet, sultry fake relationship holiday romance…”

What’s it About? 

Who knew a fake holiday relationship could be so fun?

Kayla Summers has had enough of her mother’s insistence that she find a man and get married.  At thirty-three, she’s a successful attorney and has a fantastic life. Knowing her mother will grill her constantly over the upcoming holidays about her single existence, she dreads the visits home.

Carter Manheim is a self-proclaimed bachelor, dead set on seducing every beautiful woman in Manhattan. And why not? His parents’ disastrous marriage and divorce proved that lifelong commitments just aren’t viable. As his mother’s health worsens, his only wish is to give her one last happy holiday, even if it entails bringing home a girlfriend.

When Kayla’s sexy neighbor proposes they take each other home for the holidays as fake partners, she’s floored. However, getting her mother off her back is her number one priority and she agrees to the arrangement. Now, if she can only keep her heart from becoming emotionally entangled with the player of the century, she’ll be just fine…

First Impressions

A fake relationship between neighbors with some Pretty Woman black books and the perfect shade of red lipstick? I think the only thing missing from this holiday romance was a twig of mistletoe! Although, we do get some eggnog now that I think about it. This fantabulous novella presents us with a female lead who just might be my literary twin. A curvy lass with a penchant for pizza, a small but tight-knit group of gal pals, and she enjoys a good ole Black Velvet at the end of a long day. Sure, she might have a slight obsession for the Knicks that I can’t quite relate to, but I’m willing to overlook that little detail.

As if that wasn’t enough perfection for one read, the first introduction we get to our male lead, Carter, is absolutely drool-worthy. “Gray sweatpants sat low on his hips, the V of his abdomen jutting down below the waistband, leading to a sizeable package.” Gulp! Oh, and did I mention that in between acting jobs he lends his deep and sexy voice to audiobook narration? If that’s not enough to make you fall in love with these two characters, their progression from mere neighborly acquaintances to friends and confidants before eventually becoming lovers will make you adore them all the more.

Adults Being Adults

One of the aspects of this read that I appreciated the most was that these adults managed to act like…well…adults! This was especially true in regards to their sexual relationship. Sure, Carter might enjoy bringing some dirty talk into their escapades, and Kayla brings her vibrator into the mix, but you can tell that there is an underlying respect for each other right at the surface. Considering Carter’s slew of one-night stands and short-term flings before Kayla, his care for her needs in the bedroom was definitely an unexpected surprise. For example, during one of their first sensual interactions, they’re caught up in some steamy passion, but Carter still takes a moment to ask if Kayla can find her release from penetration alone, or if she’ll need additional stimulation to help things along. He easily could have just been absorbed in reaching his own pleasure, but he wanted to ensure her needs were met before taking care of himself. In another scene Carter is eager to get Kayla’s red lips around…a certain part of him. His initial instinct is to grab her hair and pump away, but he talks her through how to take him, and asks her if she’d prefer that he move away from her at the end. Again, it was these small details that did a lot to demonstrate Carter wasn’t selfish in the bedroom.

The Past Threatens the Present

Carter experienced a troubled past relationship with his father who abandoned him, his mother and brother years ago. Due to this complicated history Carter is open with Kayla about the fact that he isn’t looking for anything serious. With the awful example his father set for him, he simply can’t see himself as a husband and father in the future. However, as things progress between Carter and Kayla, sex before bed soon evolves into just wanting to hold each other as they fall asleep. Kayla realizes she’s starting to feel something deep for this man, yet she also acknowledges these intense emotions were never part of their initial fake relationship agreement in the first place. They were just supposed to make it through the holidays, and settle the inquisitive minds of their intrusive family members.

When Carter admits things are no longer fake between them Kayla doesn’t immediately demand he confess his love for her, or even ask him to consider marriage and kids at some point in their future together. She admits that marriage isn’t for everyone and doesn’t necessarily work out in every case. Kayla also isn’t 100% certain about having kids either. What she does want from him is simply some kind of commitment that their relationship is going somewhere. Now, I do agree that Carter had a lot to consider with this seemingly simply request considering his mother had only mere weeks to live, and this was never something he saw for himself. His hesitancies to commit were pretty understandable in that regard. That being said, you can also see things from Kayla’s point of view in that she wasn’t asking him for an awful lot either. The joys and trials of falling in love!

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

Series: Manhattan Holiday Loves, book 1. This entire series has officially been added to my immediate TBR list.

Final Impressions: Get yourself this novella! It’s funny, cute, super sexy, and provides an enlightening review of how a relationship can evolve. It felt like we were witnessing a real connection! I would have loved a few more scenes involving Carter’s mother, but I also realize that would have probably resulted in full-blown, heaving, ugly crying.

Smut Level: Daaaaaaaang!! This read should come with a warning label: may cause reader and Kindle to spontaneously combust.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. 141 Pages. 

Scandalous in a Kilt by Anna Durand

Scandalous in a Kilt by Anna Durand

A sexy Scotsman who looks drool-worthy in a kilt and can toss a caber using his bulging man muscles? Umm, yeah, where does the line start for that tall drink of perfection?!

What’s it About?

A free-spirited American. An uptight hot Scot. When passion ignites, no rules can survive the heat.

An office drudge by day, a free spirit by night… For Emery Granger, getting laid off from her job as a computer programmer liberated her from imprisonment in an office cubicle. The problem? She has no career and almost no money. Desperate to forget her quandary for one weekend, she takes off on a spontaneous trip to New Orleans — where the unconventional American collides with a sizzling-hot Scot.

Uptight lawyer by day, steamy seducer by night… After surviving three disastrous failed marriages, Rory MacTaggart has no desire to get entangled in another relationship. But with his two brothers now living in wedded bliss, he’s enduring the well-meaning pestering of his entire family. Rory’s solution? Get himself a trophy wife.

A one-night stand leads to a marriage of convenience, and a culture clash when Emery must adjust to a new life in Scotland and her new husband’s need for rules. When Rory’s ordered life explodes, the reluctant husband may just have met his match in the passionate, adventurous wife he swears he will never love.

First Impressions

Yasssssssss!!!!!!! Finallyyyyyyyyy. It only took two previous novels featuring hot Scots from this family finding their lady loves before we finally get around to what I’ve been waiting for since book one. After all this time we finally see our love interests travel to Scotland! This third book has definitely been my favorite of the series, and while the change of scenery wasn’t the sole reason for this fascination of mine, it certainly helped! Rory’s introduction of his homeland and its traditions was something that helped him and Emery grow closer together as a couple. It brought them together in a way that helped provide a window into who Rory truly is beneath his serious, businessman exterior. He’s always been closed off in revealing too much about himself to Emery, but when they find themselves in his home environment, he can’t help but open up a bit more.

From One Night to One Year

Upon first meeting, neither Rory nor Emery has the idea of a happily ever after at the forefront of their minds. Initially they’re both looking for a distraction to lose themselves in the arms of a stranger. After one explosive night of seduction, Rory realizes this carefree spirit might be the answer he’s looking for to convince his family to stop pestering him to find a wife. As for Emery, she was recently fired and is trying to figure out what new direction to take her life in. When a sexy Scot offers her one year of marriage, plus a hefty sum for this charade, how can she say no? Let the road lead her wherever it might…straight into the arms of her future happiness.

And this plays into what makes Emery and Rory such a delightfully engaging couple. At the end of the day, they are both selfless people who care deeply for others. Emery especially is so carefree, is so upfront with Rory about her life, and she won’t let him intimidate her into backing down when she tries to get him to open up to get away from his obsessive work life to just play with her. When we consider the crazy pandemic world we find ourselves in, I think we adults can take a page from Emery’s book to just let loose every once in a while, and find time to spin in a circle with our arms stretched wide. While she helps Rory relax and even make a fool of himself at times, he in turn shows her his country and teaches her about its history and culture. There’s nothing better than a couple willing to teach and learn from each other simply because they want to share a bit of themselves with the other person.

Series: Hot Scots, book 3. Hands down this was my favorite book of the series so far!

Final Impressions: While there were moments which tested Rory and Emery’s relationship, there was nothing overly dramatic or outlandish to threaten pushing them off the tracks entirely. Emery was a delightfully open spirit I’d love to try and emulate. Then you have Rory who seems like a rule following hard-ass, but Emery slowly succeeds in uncovering the sad details of his previous failed marriages and slowly breaks down the walls he’s tried to build around his heart. Gotta love ’em!

Smut Level: On the surface, Rory might appear to be a by-the-book rule follower who can’t fathom the idea of day-time sex or sharing a bath with Emery, but don’t let that fool you. Once Emery gets him to loosen up, Rory proves he’s all manly Scot beneath that well-tailored suit. Seriously, where does the line start to get me a man like this?!?

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

Snowball’s Christmas by Kristen McKanagh

Snowball’s Christmas by Kristen McKanagh

A delightful Christmas romance to get you in the holiday spirit! Believe me when I say, this year especially, it’s not too early to pick up this read.

What’s it About? 

Snowball—an aptly named bundle of feline fluff—is thankful to be spending her first Christmas in the comfort of Weber Haus, the Victorian B&B run by Miss Tilly. Emily Diemer, who cooks for the guests, dotes on Snowball, but she’s not thrilled about another new arrival at the B&B: Miss Tilly’s nephew, Lukas. Which is odd, because Snowball’s animal instincts tell her that Lukas and Emily should definitely be friends. Everything Emily needs is in this quaint community—including, she hopes, the chance to open her own bakery one day.

She doesn’t think much of Lukas for leaving his aging aunt to struggle while he jets around the world taking photographs. But now that he’s here, helping to spruce up the property and getting mixed up in Snowball’s antics, she begins to soften a little. Until she learns what he has planned . . . Lukas is going to sell Weber Haus so that Miss Tilly can retire. But Snowball is certain that this B&B, and these people, are supposed to be her forever home. Somehow she has to get these stubborn humans to see things through the wisdom of a cat’s eye and a kitten’s loyal, loving heart . . .

First Impressions

In this enchanting Christmas romance we see a small snippet of each chapter told from the point of view of an adorable kitten. I mean, just look at the fluffy wuffy cuteness that is the cover art, and tell me you’re not intrigued! As if that wasn’t enough, we have a snowy landscape at a picturesque Inn, two people who fall in love, and German Christmas traditions and food on top of everything. When I told my friends these fabulous details they all said the same thing: “This book was made for you”. While reading this book, believe me when I say it will leave you with a smile on your face pretty much from start to finish, and for a few days afterwards. You’ll probably chuckle aloud a time or two, and your toes will curl with glee. If it doesn’t? Well you just might be the Grinch of the holiday season.

A Personal Connection

This was exactly the kind of romance book I didn’t know I needed right now. Initially I thought it was way too early in the season for a snowy Christmas read, but it was simply the perfect amount of light-hearted fun and romance necessary to escape all the stresses of the world. And my goodness there’s seemingly too many stresses to count! I also felt a personal connection to this read, not just because I can’t say no to a book featuring a fluffball of fur as one of the characters. As someone who lost her own Oma earlier this year, it was special for me to read about the connection between the character of Emily and her own Oma who recently passed. To witness another woman who had such a loving relationship with her Oma, and one who also had a culinary influence on her life dang near brought tears to my eyes!

My sister and I basically grew up in my Oma’s kitchen. She taught me how to make spaetzle, kartoffelsalat und blaukraut.

A Pinch of Love, a Scoop of Fun

This novel presents us with the perfect recipe of a romance: the book has soul, and these characters have heart. Even during moments which cause friction, we can see that the decisions of Emily and Lukas come from a good place. For example, the synopsis introduces us to the fact that Lukas wants to sell his aunt’s Inn, and while I went into this read expecting to see him as a somewhat selfish character, I was surprised to find that his goal of selling the Inn was bred solely from the desire to ensure his aunt was being taken care of. Emily was also intent on hating Lukas for a good portion of the read, as she couldn’t help but see him as a neglectful nephew to the woman she’s come to love as family. Her oftentimes childish fixation to dislike Lukas became a bit easier to understand when we see it was due to her love of Aunt Tilly.

Even Snowball the kitten had the best of intentions during her moments of craziness! Sure, she could be such a little troublemaker at times, but she just wanted these silly humans to fall in love and kiss already! For those of you who aren’t cat people (firstly, how dare you?), don’t let that deter you from this read! Snowball was unbelievably adorable in all her fluffy cuteness, and at times even took on the characteristics of a dog. She would fetch things (even if not asked for), she was snuggly and affectionate, and could even follow direction…kind of.

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

Series: Stand-Alone.

Final Impressions: This is a must-read for the holiday season! For those of you who might not be in the mood for a Christmas read at this point of the year, at least be sure to add this to your holiday “to be read” pile. I didn’t want to put it down, whether I was in the bath, it was before bed, or I needed to hop on a zoom call for work!

Smut Level: This is a sweet read without any hanky panky.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $9.99 Kindle Price. Kensington Publishing. 240 Pages

Hot as Puck by Lili Valente

What could be better than a sexy, funny, caring hockey player with six-pack abs? How about one who also likes to crochet?

What’s it About? 

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The NHL’s biggest bad boy is about to fall for the virgin next door…

I am the world’s biggest dating failure. We’re talking my last date went home with our waitress kind of failure. But I have an ace in the back pocket of my mom jeans–my sexy-as-sin best friend, NHL superstar forward, Justin Cruise. Justin owes me favors dating back to seventh grade, long before he became a hotshot with a world famous…stick. So in return for my undying platonic loyalty, all I want is an easy-peasy crash course on how to be a sex goddess. How hard can it be?

***

I have never been so hard in my life. The things I want to do to my sweet, kindergarten-teaching, mitten-crocheting best friend Libby Collins are ten different kinds of wrong. Maybe twenty. But I’m a firm believer in teaching by example, and by the end of our first lesson, we’ve graduated to a hands on approach to her education: my hands all over her, her hands all over me, and her hot mouth melting beneath mine as I prove to her there isn’t a damned thing wrong with the way she kisses. Give me a month, and I’ll transform Libby from wall flower to wall banger, and ensure she’s confident enough to seduce any guy she wants. Problem is… the only guy I want her seducing is me.

First Impressions

Alright ladies and gentlemen, I think we can all agree that the cover pic of this read deserves honorable mention. Not to mention the play on words we have happening with the title Hot as Puck, as well as the name of the entire series Bad Motherpuckers. Cue delighted golf clap. Now, plot-wise we’re essentially dealing with a friends-to-lovers romance, which is one of my favorite themes of all times. With any novel dealing with friends who choose to elevate their relationship into something more sexual, we always question what will be the turning point in their dynamic? When will one or both of them start to look at the other as something more than a friend? When it comes to this read, almost immediately after breaking up with his girlfriend, Justin notices Libby walk into the room wearing a tight black tank top. And his pants get just a smidge tighter. Sooooo, I guess you can say wardrobe choice was the deciding factor here!

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Lesson One: Find Your Pleasure

While the impetus for Justin seeing Libby in a new light was inspired by her clothing, for Libby she turns to Justin for some instruction. She has a huge crush on somebody she works with, and she wants her long-time friend to teach her a thing or two on how to please a man. Yet another theme that’s usually one of my favorites in Romancelandia. With this situation however it wasn’t quite the sexucation I was expecting. I assumed it would be more about the logistics and techniques of how she might be able to give her crush the ultimate pleasure by using Justin as her instructor in all things sex.

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However, once Justin and Libby start spending some couch/bed time together, it turns out the giving and receiving of pleasure comes pretty naturally for both of them. Libby didn’t really need an education in the mechanics of sex after all, but rather in how to build up her own self confidence. This is what Justin is able to teach her. That she is a beautiful, desirable woman that any man would be lucky to have. A past break-up is what made Libby question her sensuality, but it doesn’t take long following a roll in the sheets with Justin for her confidence to start shining through.

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Series: Bad Motherpuckers, book 1. Again, gotta love the series title here, and I can see myself continuing with it.

Final Impressions: This is a cute read that definitely brought a stupid grin to my face many times when I listened to it as an audiobook. I’d say that Libby and Justin develop more of a friends with benefits situation than the sexucation I was really hoping for, but it’s still fun to see their relationship evolve. While both are initially surprised to find how much pleasure they can bring each other, eventually they realize it’s the most natural thing in the world.

Smut Level: Justin and and Libby bond over something more than just sex, and that would be their love of crochet. But who says you can’t bring the two delights together? Hence Justin’s wearing of a cock puppet…which is basically an adult sock puppet…on a certain part of his anatomy…

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Self Taught Ninja Publishing. 330 Pages.

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Meant to be More by Amelia Foster

From a marriage of necessity to friends-to-lovers, this book checks so many boxes when it comes to my favorite romance novel tropes.

What’s it About? cover

My best friend has spent the past several years traveling the world with Doctors Without Borders. It’s been her life’s dream and something I’ve always admired about her. But somehow, after twenty years of friendship, our last goodbye brought about the realization of a truth I hadn’t yet recognized. I don’t just respect Jillian, I am in love with her, and it’s time she knows.

But upon her return home, she manages to lay her own shocking news on me before I can even form the words to tell her how I feel. It seems she needs access to the fortune her grandfather left her in his will. But there’s one problem.

The caveat being an antiquated, but ironclad stipulation that she can’t receive the funds unless she gets married and stays that way for eighteen months. Naturally, I’m the only person she can trust with such a delicate arrangement. And I’m also hopelessly in love with her, so I’ll greedily take the chance to fake-marry my best friend. This way, I can prove to her that we are meant to be more than just friends.

First Impressions

Nope, nada, no way!! I refuse to accept the fact that this is the final book in the Meant to Be series. I’m going to choose to live in total denial, and dream that a long-lost brother nobody ever knew existed in this family will come forward to become the focus of a future novel. This is one of those series that you can’t help but fall in love with. I didn’t want it to end, just like I didn’t want this particular book in the series to end either. I found myself caught in a vicious cycle where every time I picked it up it was so hard to put down, yet at the same time I wanted to take my time to savor it for as long as possible.

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We are once again presented with the most delightfully lovable characters, and a male lead I want to steal for myself. A common feature throughout every book is the use of flashbacks to tell the story of our characters, and reveal the deep emotional connection they’ve forged over time. The author once again does a fantastic job of balancing our time in both the past and the present, and everything comes together to reveal a beautiful tale of friendship and love in a way that still manages to be unique from every book that came before.

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Friends For Life to Man and Wife

This fourth and final book tells the story of Jillian and Dean who have been close friends since they were just kids. Normally the flashbacks in these novels are used to reveal the meet cute of our two characters, as well as ultimately build up to a moment when their relationship falters to near collapse. The story here plays out a bit differently in that while we do see how these two kids formed an unlikely friendship, the flashbacks reveal how both Jillian and Dean have felt something deeper than mere friendship for quite some time, yet they’re constantly pushing those feelings aside so as not to risk their special connection. They’ve stayed close throughout the years, and in our present day scenes Dean finally feels like he’s ready to admit how much he loves his best friend. After a return from her most recent stint abroad with Doctors Without Borders though, Jillian throws Dean for a loop by proposing marriage.

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It turns out her father has gambled away a large portion of their family fortune, and in order to access an inheritance from her grandfather Jillian must get married. It might not be the way Dean pictured tying the knot with the love of his life, but he’s decided to take full advantage of this opportunity to show Jillian how perfect married life with him can truly be. These two may have been the most adorable couple of the whole series, simply because their connection as friends was naturally sweet, yet also teasing in the most fabulous way. I was a bit surprised that when they ultimately decided to enter into a physical relationship as “friends with benefits” in their marriage that there wasn’t a single moment of awkwardness between them. They weren’t afraid to tear each other’s clothes off, and I think the reason for it speaks to their mutually secret desire to take things further between them for a long time. The question remains though if either of them will be willing to admit how much they truly love each other, and that their newest desire in life is to make this marriage last beyond the designated timeline needed for Jillian to claim her inheritance.

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Two Families

The Carlisle brothers have been the focus of this series since book one. We’ve come to know each and every one of them, and discovered that every son is as delectable and good-hearted as the one who came before. Their family is loving, supportive, and couldn’t be more different than Jillian’s own upbringing. Although both families are wealthy, Dean’s family is seen as “new money”, and therefore unworthy of the respect of Jillian’s mother and father. She grew up amidst the unloving disregard of her selfish parents. One day when she was little, Jillian happened upon one of her neighbors, the youngest son of the Carlisle clan, and from that day on she was enveloped in their warmth. It was because of this other family that she knew what it meant to be loved, and realized that she wanted to do something with her life that meant more than money.

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If I had to identify one area of the story that left me feeling somewhat wanting it would be in regards to Jillian’s relationship with her mother. There has been a long-standing tension and lack of emotion between them for as long as Jillian can remember, and she’s essentially devoted her entire life to ensuring she was nothing like her stoically cold and distant mother. And yet, in the end we see that this tension is resolved fairly quickly following an argumentative outburst from Jillian in one scene, and a secret conversation involving Dean and her father in another scene. Now, all of our questions are answered as it relates to why Jillian’s mother was so cold throughout her childhood, but I would have appreciated one more emotional moment where they could talk out some of their previous issues just as mother and daughter.

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

Series: Meant to Be, book 4. Of the entire series, this one probably had the least amount of tension between our characters, which I found to be unbelievably refreshing. There were moments in this series where I would anxiously hold my breath wondering how our lovebirds could ever find their way out of a difficult situation and back into each other’s arms. Throughout this read though, I was always confident that Jillian and Dean were constantly headed towards a happily ever after.

Final Impressions: Get the series, read the series, love the series!

Smut Level: I appreciated that Jillian and Dean didn’t immediately fall into bed with each other. We have to wait through a good half of the book before these two friends decide to take things to the next level, but rest assured that once they do it’ll be everything you were waiting for!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Limitless Publishing, LLC. 216 Pages.

Brooklynaire by Sarina Bowen

Who knew palindromes could be such a sexy turn-on?

What’s it About? 

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You’d think a billion dollars, a professional hockey team and a six-bedroom mansion on the Promenade would satisfy a guy. You’d be wrong. For seven years Rebecca has brightened my office with her wit and her smile. She manages both my hockey team and my sanity. I don’t know when I started waking in the night, craving her. All I know is that one whiff of her perfume ruins my concentration. And her laugh makes me hard.

When Rebecca gets hurt, I step in to help. It’s what friends do. But what friends don’t do is rip off each others’ clothes for a single, wild night together. Now she’s avoiding me. She says we’re too different, and it can never happen again. So why can’t we keep our hands off each other?

First Impressions

I must say I was pleasantly surprised with how much I loved this book! I went in with low-to-no expectations, yet practically every time I listened to a little snippet of it before work I’d find myself with a smile almost permanently plastered on my face. It’s simply the epitome of the perfect beach read. Fun, romantic, silly, light-hearted, and you can really just relax and enjoy it as the sun shines and the waves crash along the sandy beach. Nate and Rebecca have been co-workers for years, but more importantly they’ve developed a beloved friendship on top of their professional relationship. It’s only when Rebecca sustains an injury which literally throws her off-balance that we see she and Nate develop a level of closeness they’ve never experienced before.

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What’s Standing in the Way? 

It’s only when Rebecca gets a concussion following a little slip on the ice that Nate starts to realize how much his beautiful employee means to him. We don’t just have a friends-to-lovers romance going on, but also the complexities of an office romance mixed in there as well. I was quite surprised, and happily so, that Nate’s immense wealth (simply the fact that he had money) was never really a point of contention between them. Sure, sometimes he used his money in a way to support Rebecca without consulting her ahead of time, and the ensuing arguments caused some pointed grumbling. However, we see other factors were significantly more influential in causing Nate and Rebecca to hesitate in pursuing the romantic relationship they both desired.

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First, there’s the fact that they’re also in an employer/employee dynamic. While they’ve had a friendly relationship throughout the years, they’ve always maintained a level of professionalism in the work place, and it’s a line they’re not quite willing to risk crossing. A second hurdle that Rebecca personally had to jump over was her own sense of intellectual inferiority when compared to Nate. He didn’t just happen upon his wealth, but rather he earned it by putting his smarts to good use in the tech industry. His level of genius intimidates her, and often makes her feel as though he deserves better. It’s only through a multitude of flashbacks depicting the progression of their relationship, and through their current interactions of Nate caring for Rebecca that we see how comfortable and at ease these two can be with each other. In a way, this proves to be more important than the sexual chemistry they both share.

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Series: Brooklyn, book 1. I’m gonna continue on with this series.

Final Impressions: This is such a fun read, and the perfect book to bring along on your next beach vacation. Personally, I would recommend listening to this one as an audio book, primarily for the AI character, Bingsley, who proves to be a source of comedic relief with his uptight British accent in the midst of this modern New York City burrough. Nate and Rebecca are two delightful characters who you can’t help but love, and their connection feels so real it’ll put a smile on your face.

Smut Level: These two get surprisingly creative with a rubber pool float.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Rennie Road Books. 298 Pages.

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Sweet Victory by Gina L. Maxwell

A dash of MMA mixed with a pinch of a fake marriage is the perfect recipe for the sweetest of romances.

What’s it About? 

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Sophie Caldwell might not like asking for help, but help is what she needs if she’s going to save her family business from her uncle. Her grandma left one rule for Sophie if she wants to gain sole ownership before she’s thirty–get married. Yeah, fat chance of that happening since she hasn’t had a boyfriend in years, and now she can’t get her uncle off her ass.

British-born MMA fighter Xander James has never lost a fight, and he’s not about to start now. He’s on the brink of a comeback that could make him a UFC champion, but his landlord wants to take away his last chance by shutting down his gym. Hell, no. Fortunately, his landlord’s niece has a problem of her own. Time for a proposal she can’t refuse.

First Impressions

Of all the novels in the Fighting for Love series, this fourth installment has definitely been my favorite. It’s not just because I have an affinity for accents, and our male lead happens to have a delightful British lilt. It’s also not because our female lead owns a bakery, and I have a penchant for baking pies and cakes of my own. Although…those things certainly didn’t hurt! No, the reason this book was a cut above the rest was because Xander and Sophie had a natural and easygoing chemistry that felt completely legitimate and all-consuming.

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In order to save her bakery and his gym, the two enter into a fake marriage which must last for at least six months so that her dubious uncle doesn’t lay claim to the city block where their properties are located. What starts off as a temporary marriage of convenience quickly turns into one full of emotion. The fact Xander and Sophie also happen to have off-the-charts sexual attraction certainly helped. While it’s never clearly explained why they didn’t pursue a relationship prior to the need for a temporary marriage considering their longtime flirtatious friendship, you can’t help but be captivated by their intimate connection. We root for their marriage to last beyond the six-month timeline, even though we know there’s someone who will do anything to tear them apart.

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The Family Connection

Sophie’s uncle is our villain who is trying his damnedest to prove that Xander and Sophie’s relationship is a sham. He has his sights set on selling this city block to a developer for a rather large sum of money, but Xander and Sophie are the only holdouts unwilling to play ball. For Xander, the current location of his gym is a matter of convenience, and with him training for an important upcoming MMA fight, the last thing he has time for is to go searching for a new property. As for Sophie, she took over her bakery from her grandmother, and giving it up is something she could never imagine, as it would be like losing a piece of her family. While Xander and Sophie’s relationship smoothly progresses, we know it’s just a matter of time before her uncle weasels his way into the situation to spoil things.

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Sophie’s grandmother and uncle prove to be very important supporting characters to her relationship with Xander. The scenes involving her grandmother were particularly poignant and deeply moving. It’s in these moments that we see a soft and caring side to Xander’s tough fighter’s exterior, and it clearly demonstrates to Sophie that he’s a genuinely good guy worth loving. As for her uncle, it was rather predictable how his meddling would present a hurdle for Sophie and Xander to jump over, but there was another aspect to his presence that I wish could have been tweaked. Essentially, the only primary interactions we see involving Sophie’s uncle involve him dealing with Xander. I think it really could have added an additional layer of struggle if we’d seen at least one more scene where Sophie had confronted her uncle directly. Perhaps a heart-to-heart where he admits his motivations for wanting to sell his mother’s bakery, and Sophie simultaneously acknowledging why it’s so hard for her to let it go. They are family after all, and it was somewhat disappointing for all of his interactions to be limited to dealing with Xander rather than Sophie.

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Series: Fighting For Love, book 4. My favorite book of the series!

Final Impressions: This was such a fun read. Xander and Sophie’s connection felt so real, not only in terms of their affection, but also their sexual chemistry and ability to bicker and tease like an actual couple. Sure, the ending was fairly cheesy and predictable, but the journey to get there was delightful. I loved every scene where we saw Xander and Sophie interacting with her grandmother, as it lent an emotional depth to the story that I wasn’t expecting. I think I would have preferred a bit more confrontation between Sophie and her uncle, although it was great to see Xander stand up for her in the face of this intimidating family member.

Smut Level: When you have a bakery owner as one of your main characters, you just know frosting is gonna come into play with sexy fun times.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Entangled: Brazen. 260 Pages.

Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts

Parker is a straight-laced woman who demands order in every aspect of her life. But when sexy bad-boy Malcolm comes along offering her a ride on his motorcycle, she can’t possibly say no.

What’s it About? 

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As the public face of Vows wedding planning company, Parker Brown has an uncanny knack for fulfilling every bride’s vision. She just can’t see where her own life is headed. Mechanic Malcom Kavanaugh loves figuring out how things work, and Parker Brown—with her endless legs—is no exception. But as a good friend of Parker’s brother, he knows that moving from minor flirtation to major hook-up is a serious step.

No man has rattled Parker in a long time, but the motorcycle-riding, raven-haired Mal seems to have a knack for it. His passionate kisses always catch her off guard, much like her growing feelings for him. Parker’s business risks have always paid off, but now she’ll have to take the chance of a lifetime with her heart…

First Impressions

Parker is a planner in every sense of the word. Not only does she handle the fundamental management of her wedding business, Vows, with her group of besties, she’s also meticulously organized when it comes to her personal life. She may not have time for romance, but when it does happen she has the basic idea of what the love of her life will look like, act like, and how he’ll eventually propose. Let’s just say that when sexy grease monkey Malcolm comes along, he completely throws her perfectly planned schedule off its tracks.

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“What’s happening with Malcolm is completely off script”

We’re meant to believe that these two are polar opposites who can’t help but be physically attracted to each other. However, once we dive deeper beyond the surface level details of their occupations, not to mention the fact they grew up on different sides of the track, we find that they actually have more in common than we or they were led to believe. First off, they’re both business people. They weren’t afraid to grow something from the ground up into the successes they both have today, and that prowess is an aphrodisiac unlike any other. Second, and most importantly, they’d do anything for family. Whether it’s his mother, or her best friends who have essentially become sisters, these two are caring and affectionate behind the tough facades they like to wear for the outside world. When they both catch glimpses of this in each other, they can’t help but fall deeper in love.

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A Hectic Compromise

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the key to any relationship’s success in Romancelandia is compromise. Malcolm and Parker both excel, yet also flounder when it comes to this concept. On the one hand, these two lovebirds are excessively busy business people, which means that they oftentimes have to balance their time together when the harsh realities of running a business come knocking. Parker especially is wont to answer her constantly ringing phone to placate and soothe a nervous bride-to-be. I think one of the reasons Parker knew Malcolm was different than all the other men who came before was that he never chastised her for being busy, and even encouraged her to answer her phone during a date.

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This is something that obviously wouldn’t work for everyone, but for these two it made sense. Malcolm knew she’d constantly be worrying about who was on the other line if she didn’t pick up, and he could also appreciate that her business was her baby. Vows was part of the package when it came to dating Parker, and he was more than willing to compromise a few minutes on their date if it meant it would set her mind at ease for the rest of the evening…and into the next morning if you catch my meaning.

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The Past Can Hurt

One area where I feel these two struggled to compromise was in communicating openly about their respective pasts. Malcolm has obviously suffered on multiple accounts throughout his past, including the loss of his father, abuse at the hands of an uncle, and a car accident which left him scarred beyond just the physical sense. All of these experiences have influenced the man he is today, and he’s hesitant to open up about the details of his past. When the going gets tough, he prefers to push it aside rather than talk out with Parker what’s bothering him. After a while, Parker becomes fed up with the fact he won’t be more open with her, and it results in an argument that threatens to break their relationship.

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Now…I get why she was frustrated. She could always tell when something was impacting Malcolm, and while she knew some of the basic details of the difficulties he’d previously experienced, he never confided in how he felt about those things. However, we don’t exactly see her throwing all of her emotional cards on the table to discuss how she felt in the aftermath of her own parent’s deaths years before. I feel like if she had shared a little bit about her own past tragedies in those moments when she wanted to learn more about him, perhaps Malcolm would have been more willing to bare his soul. As it stands she would just yell and storm out in anger. Not very productive.

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Series: Bride Quartet, book 4. The sun has finally set on this romance quartet.

Final Impressions: Overall this was a fun, cute series with a group of gals and guys you’d love to hang out with and drink some wine. The author does a good job of inviting us into their world, and making it feel as though we’re witnessing the love stories of our actual friends. The series as a whole is kind of lacking in drama, with just a few minor arguments sprinkled throughout. At times I’ll admit things did kind of straddle the line into boring when too many wedding planning details were being discussed, or our couples contemplated whether or not to admit how much they cared for each other. Books two and four were probably my favorite, but as a whole it was a nice, cohesive series.

Smut Level: Of all the books in this quartet, this last one is probably the steamiest of them all. Malcolm might not be what Parker was expecting, but she’s more than willing to go for a tumble between the sheets with him. Or even in a supply closet!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $7.99 Kindle Price. Berkley Publishing. 369 Pages.