The Promise by R.L. Mathewson

This has always been one of my go-to contemporary romance series when I’m looking for a good laugh, lovable characters, and a steamy read that’s guaranteed to knock your socks off. 

What’s it About? 

How far would you go to keep a promise?

Reed Bradford never should have made that promise.

He’d barely survived the first time around, but now she was back, his best friend’s little sister, his one-time neighbor, and the woman that he never should have promised to protect. He never should have done a lot of things, like cross that line, but once he did…

There was no turning back.

Joey Lawson always had a plan, but unfortunately, mostly for her, sometimes those plans backfired. On her. This time would be no different. After the unfortunate incident that she felt was better not to think about, she found herself doing the one thing that she’d never survive.

Falling in love with a Bradford.

First Impressions

It’s been a number of years since I’ve engaged with this series, and I was absolutely thrilled to dive right back in again. This read pulls you in from page one with a cast of characters you can’t help but love. After all, who doesn’t adore a romance featuring neighbors who can’t stand each other in the beginning, but slowly start to fall in love the more time they spend together? I made my way through most of this read with a smirky grin on my face due to the hijinks of our main couple, not to mention the accident prone tendencies of our brilliant leading lady. Reed and Joey have known each other since childhood, when Reed constantly found himself having to get Joey out of the multiple predicaments she found herself in, including running from angry mobs of fellow high school classmates who couldn’t stand the twelve-year-old girl genius sharing their classroom. Joey couldn’t leave town fast enough after high school, but when she’s forced to take a sabbatical from her university teaching job due to her continued ability to rub people the wrong way, she finds herself back in her childhood home with her overbearing protector living next door. 

Although this is a Neighbor From Hell book, it doesn’t take long at all for Reed and Joey to transition from neighbors to roommates, as her childhood home proves to be unlivable due to years of abandonment. Reed can’t believe the tormentor of his youth has come back in full swing, and though he might grumble at her reappearance in his life he knows he can’t turn his back on her. Years before he made a promise to Joey’s grandmother that he would always watch over her vivacious granddaughter. Joey’s goal is to focus on fixing her grandparent’s house back up during her year off work, but when Reed insists she live with him to keep a roof over her head, the two spend a few weeks as insufferable housemates before finally giving into the sexual chemistry that’s been building between them. The fact they had to share a bed those first few weeks certainly helped advance things between them. While their sex scenes were positively delicious, their interactions outside of the bedroom (and broom closets and truck beds and office desks) presented the humor that I’ve always loved about this series. Joey is definitely book smart, but she oftentimes finds herself in awkward situations due to her inability to “read the room”, and Reed’s simultaneous frustration yet infatuation with this tornado of mayhem is what made it difficult to put the book down at the end of the night, and kept me coming back for more the next day. 

An Issue Here, There, and Possibly Everywhere

Overall I enjoyed and appreciated the place this novel fell within the series, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t without some flaws. The first half of this book was a pure delight, but after the halfway point certain elements in the romantic story line between Reed and Joey started to become repetitive, and things felt rushed and even unfinished towards the end. It became increasingly difficult at times to follow along with the dialogue as our lead couple would constantly interrupt each other as though to jokingly imply, “hey don’t go there”, but I had trouble determining where “there” even was, so some conversations were left feeling nonsensically unfinished. There were also several anecdotes which were introduced well and good in the beginning, but then we were never privy to the finer details or their conclusion, which left us wanting more. Even the concept of Joey renovating her grandparent’s house was abandoned almost immediately.

The other primary example of this was a reference to some kind of major embarrassing frat house snafu that Joey filmed of Reed in college, and then put on YouTube for all to see. It was identified many times as the thing that Reed had trouble forgetting and forgiving when it came to Joey coming back into his life, and yet shockingly we never actually find out what exactly happened! It’s just mentioned in hushed tones and pushed aside as though we’ll eventually see some big reveal or confrontation between the two later on, but it was dropped entirely from the story. This was also true for other seemingly crucial backstory elements, including a tragic accident that claimed the life of Joey’s mother, as well as the fact Joey has apparently suffered from debilitating panic attacks ever since. These events seemed to have an essential impact on the woman Joey is today, and it’s not that we just received a surface level glimpse of what these factors were, but rather it felt like we only got bits here and there with major pieces missing from the telling entirely. 

Finally, we were introduced fairly early on to two students in Reed’s school who I fell in love with almost immediately, Jen and Shawn. Jen is a definite troublemaker who looks forward to the idea of suspension, scoffs at the concept of detention, and has no problem wreaking havoc and pulling pranks on authority figures. Shawn is an autistic young boy who keeps to himself, but latches onto Joey when she comes to substitute teach at their school. I was so excited to see how these characters would be further incorporated into Reed and Joey’s story, but again while we see a strong start to their introduction, both of their stories flatline at the halfway point where there’s ultimately no development in their stories. This was especially true for Jen, as I was hoping that after Joey started substitute teaching at the school these two eccentric ladies would be able to connect over the fact nobody else seems to understand them. Maybe Joey could have succeeded in getting Jen to open up in a way Reed couldn’t in the past, and serve as an inspiration for this teenager to set goals for herself. Instead it would appear that Jen remains just as troublesome and lacking drive as she was when we first met her. It was also slightly troubling to see how closely Jen and Joey’s personalities, mannerisms and even troublemaking ways mirrored each other. I couldn’t help but have a feeling of ickiness as Reed became increasingly infatuated with Joey considering he has a teenage student who is essentially a carbon copy of the woman he’s falling in love with. 

Series: Neighbor from Hell, book 10. Even though this installment was not without it’s flaws, I still enjoyed the ride overall, and will continue on with this series. 

Final Impressions: This book had a very strong and entertaining start, though things tapered off towards the end. I almost think the author was possibly trying too hard to keep things light and funny, that it resulted in some of the more serious elements which were introduced in the beginning to be pushed aside or abandoned completely by the end. Once Reed and Joey start exploring a sexual relationship together their interactions both within and outside of the bedroom start to become rather repetitive. Speaking of repetition, be prepared for Reed to constantly refer to Joey and his annoying brother, Matt, as the little brat/bastard to a point where it gets slightly annoying. I’m definitely starting to nitpick here, as overall this was still a fun read, but there were definitely certain elements which could have been tweaked to make this a truly stellar read. 

Smut Level: Early on in their roommate relationship Joey and Reed find themselves sleeping in the same bed, and let’s just say Joey has a tendency to flip and flop about where she would end up snuggling up and wrapped around Reed like a barnacle. I also lost track of the number of times Joey ended up in a position straddling Reed’s lap. Yes please!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Add audible narration to purchase for $1.99. Rerum Carta Industries, Inc. 278 Pages. 

My Christmas Fiancé by Serenity Woods

A fake engagement proves the perfect means to not only get two overbearing exes of their backs, but also allows Meg and Stratton to finally acknowledge what’s been in front of them all along. Each other!

What’s it About? 

If you write an email to a friend about a fantasy involving your gorgeous boss, don’t send it to All Staff…

Meg
It’s not easy to reinvent yourself, but my thirteen-year-old son and I are ready for a new start. Old Maggie was a magnet for disaster, but New Meg is going to be elegant, sophisticated… and blonde. I’ve landed a dream job at the other end of New Zealand as PA to three rich directors who spoil me rotten, I’ve found a beautiful new apartment, and I feel reborn. Then I write an email to a friend describing in vivid detail what I want to do to the sexiest of the directors—involving melted chocolate and/or whipped cream—and mistakenly send it to All Staff. It turns out that New Meg is pretty much just Old Maggie with different packaging. Some things never change.

Stratton
I’ve wanted Meg since she first walked into my office with her soft lips and sexy curves, but she wears another man’s ring, so I’ve steered well clear… until now. My mind’s been occupied anyway since I broke up with my ex, Natalie. She’s desperate to have me back and won’t take no for an answer—so I’ve come up with a brilliant plan, to hire a fake fiancée for Christmas to prove to her that we’re done. After sending her hot-as-hell email, Meg confesses the truth about her past, and it gives me an idea. She can pretend to be my fiancée, and I can protect her from the guy she’s running from. Sounds like the perfect plan, right? Her teenage son’s no problem because we get on great. Sharing her room? That’s more of a challenge, but I’ve always had excellent self-control. Yeah, I know. I keep forgetting about the melted chocolate. What an idiot.

First Impressions

A debonair billionaire game developer who doesn’t want children. A single mom with a teenage son. These two might not initially appear to be the likeliest of bedfellows, but literally from opening bell we are rooting for Stratton and Meg to find happiness together as they exchange witty retorts and beguiling smirks that leave our toes curling in delight. Sure, there’s the added complication of the fact Meg is Stratton’s employee, and he’s under the impression she’s happily married, but…we all know it’s just a matter of time before the electricity buzzing between them becomes too much to keep hidden. While it did take longer than I thought it would for all of the chess pieces to fall into place for this game of romance to get well underway, the author does a brilliant job of laying the foundation for us to believe our main characters aren’t just in this for the sex. 

An Office Romance with a Twist

Meg and Stratton are undeniably attracted to each other, with both having a feverish desire to make use of Stratton’s desk for something other than typing out business memos. However, there’s also mutual admiration and respect at play. Stratton isn’t just all good looks and money. He’s devoted to both his sister and best friend, and he got to where he is today because of his intelligence and tech savviness. As for Meg, she’s the epitome of poise, as well as a pillar of strength for her young son, yet Stratton comes to learn there is a sexually curious and adventurous side to his seemingly delicate PA. One of the things that drew me to this novel in the first place was the synopsis description of Meg’s disastrous mistake of sending an All Staff email outlining her darkest desires when it came to what she’d like to do to her boss. 

I waited in suspense and anticipation for what the fallout might entail, and wondered how soon that chocolate sauce and whipped cream fantasy would come into the mix of things. Surprisingly, even though this email is the impetus for Stratton’s realization that Meg actually isn’t married as she had previously let on, and that she harbors an intense attraction to him, this rather embarrassing email gaffe almost immediately disappears from the story line entirely. It’s referenced a few times here and there as something that made them openly acknowledge their desire for each other, but there wasn’t as much of an awkward aftermath as I was expecting. In fact, we sadly never even see this culinarily influenced daydream play out. Instead of focusing on this comedic mistake, the novel chooses instead to focus significantly more attention to a more serious and even troubling story line involving the exes of both Meg and Stratton. 

A Mutually Beneficial Fake Engagement

I’ll admit that a good ole fake engagement plot point is one of my favorite romance novel tropes. Delightful hijinks typically ensue, whether it be to claim an inheritance, get nosy parents to stop their meddling, or even to make an ex jealous. In this instance though the need for a fake engagement, while initially humorous in its presentation, ultimately becomes necessary for more dire circumstances. Both Meg and Stratton are trying to convince their exes that it’s over once and for all. Stratton is the one to initially cook up the fake fiancée idea as a way to get his ex, Natalie, off his back. It’s only after Meg’s All Staff email fiasco that she admits to Stratton that she actually isn’t married, and after fleeing her abusive ex with son in tow he has now found them again. Upon hearing her story, and intervening in a suspenseful confrontation between Meg and her ex at their place of work, Stratton believes his fake engagement idea could also prove beneficial in convincing Meg’s ex that she’s off limits. 

The relationship between Meg and Stratton might have a light and flirtatious air to it at times, but I was surprised by the rather serious tone we see throughout this entire novel as it related to their stalkerish exes. We might be rooting for these two as their relationship evolves from employer/employee to friends, confidants to lovers, but always lurking in the background there’s this underlying sense of apprehension as we question if this engagement ruse could possibly spur their unhinged exes to take things to a threatening level. Thankfully, things never go so far as to be treacherous for our main characters, but it did make it hard to relax at times and fully lose ourselves in our young lovebirds. It’s possible that was the author’s intent all along, as it was a rather successful explanation for why Stratton and Meg would have had to go so far as to initiate a fake engagement to finally cut the cord with their exes. We can all admit that a simple sit-down conversation wouldn’t have sufficed in either Meg or Stratton’s situation. However, I guess it was just a bit heavy for what I thought would be a light-hearted Christmas romance 🙂  

Series: Love Comes Later, book 1. I might continue on with this series. If this first book is anything to gauge by, we’ll be privy to comedy, heat, yet also depth of characters as they overcome intense personal situations.

Final Impressions: I absolutely adored Meg and Stratton, from their playful yet admirable personalities, to the fact Meg finally found someone with whom she was comfortable discussing and exploring her sensual fantasies. More importantly however, you get the sense these two really understood the other person from an emotional perspective. The integration of Meg’s son into the story, as well as into Stratton’s life, was done to perfection. That being said, this novel did deal with some heavier subjects that I wasn’t prepared for upon reading the synopsis, from abusive and stalkerish exes, to intense discussions of Stratton’s hesitancy to have children of his own. All in all these topics were definitely covered with care and credibility, it’s just something I didn’t expect! I will say I think more attention was placed on dealing with Stratton’s ex, which left the final confrontation with Meg’s ex feeling imbalanced and almost unfinished. Overall though, an entertaining, engaging and sexy read!

Smut Level: This read is steamier than New Zealand at Christmas time!! Which…is actually in summer, so you know…it’s hot!!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. 256 Pages. 

Rubble by Skye McNeil

Sexy fun times with an alpha male biker on top of a bakery display? This might be a new fantasy I didn’t realize I needed! 

What’s it About? 

She’s sworn off relationships. He has no desire to fall at all. They can only fight their attraction for so long.

Jupiter Quinn is on the run from an abusive relationship. Finding shelter in Macha MC, her goal is to keep her head down until the divorce is finalized. What Jupiter doesn’t expect is to fall for the club’s toughest man who also happens to be a former MMA fighter.

Rubble Hardy is Macha’s sergeant at arms and enforcer for the club. He doesn’t date. Never has and never will. Women are trouble and he’s not about to let down his guard. But when Jupiter Quinn walks through the club doors, his heart shifts, and the powerful desire to protect her only outweighs his feelings.

When Jupiter’s past collides with her newfound future, she’s forced to either flee or face the danger.

Can Rubble keep her safe, or will they tap out?

First Impressions

I hadn’t read the first two novels in this series before taking a peek at this third book, so I wasn’t quite sure what cast of characters or motley motorcycle crew we might be dealing with here. However, it quickly became apparent that this is the kind of MC you love to love. They might appear tough and rough on the outside, but it doesn’t take long for their moral principles to shine through. From a deeply admirable respect for their women, to a sincere devotion to community service and protection, it’s no surprise that when Jupiter finds herself on the run from her psychotically controlling ex she feels nothing but comfort and safety within the walls of this Colorado club.

I did reach a point fairly early on with this read where past events and characters were referenced from the first two books in the series, so I decided to read over the synopses of those novels to get a quick overview of what drama befell the club before this third installment. This is a tactic I highly recommend if you find yourself in a similar position, as it really helped close a few gaps so I could confidently proceed with the rest of the story. Every once in a while we see a reference to a previous betrayal by one of the club’s brothers, and while I did feel slightly out of the loop with that particular story line, overall it wasn’t difficult to piece together the overall picture, and I was left with Jupiter and Rubble’s tale of romance, suspense, super sensual sexy fun times, and even some baking thrown in as well! Talk about a tried and true recipe to win me over!

Homemade peppermint mocha cookies and cheesecake cookie bites!

When the Past Catches Up with You

Pretty much from the moment Jupiter walks into the compound of the Macha motorcycle club, there is a mutual fascination and infatuation between her and the MC Sergeant at Arms, Rubble. He might be hesitant to allow another woman with a troubled history to once again infiltrate their walls, especially considering all the hassle (not to mention bullets) the ladies from the first two books brought into their close knit community. However, one look at Jupiter’s soft and bashful demeanor, and his alpha male need to protect comes surging to the forefront. When he learns the details of the abuse she suffered at the hands of her ex, who is encroaching closer upon her exact location every day, Rubble can’t help but see red at the prospect of anyone harming this woman who has come to mean so much to him in such a short amount of time.

I absolutely love me an alpha male protector, but also appreciated that this read simultaneously focuses on the growth of Jupiter as she finds the strength and courage within herself to finally stand up and face her past head on. It’s not entirely a tale of damsel in distress, though at one point it was kind of headed that way with Rubble assembling his Macha brothers as knights in shining armor to ride in and save the day by confronting Jupiter’s ex on their own. In the end though we see that it was because of her evolving relationship with Rubble that Jupiter was able to finally find something she wanted to fight for. His strength became her strength, and she ultimately decided that her love for Rubble and this newfound family was something she wasn’t afraid to stand up for.

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

Series: Macha MC, book 3. If this book is anything to go by I’d say this is a passion-filled and suspenseful series that is worth giving a try! If you don’t start from the beginning, just be sure to read the synopses of any previous books so you’re all caught up before cracking this one open.

Final Impressions: This was an entertaining romance with a good blend of different themes. We have a woman on the run, a tough motorcycle club that is guided by their fealty to the community and respect for their women. The build of drama with Jupiter’s approaching ex was a slow burn that lent itself well to the progression of the plot, even if the sexual chemistry between Jupiter and Rubble was more of a blasting inferno than a slow burn. Throw in some baked goods, a dramatic shootout and a toothachingly sweet ending and you’ve got yourself a keeper. There’s nothing better than when bad-ass bikers have a soft side amidst their uber protective ways.

Smut Level: Hot daaaaang. There’s enough explosive chemistry between these two to melt the iciest of snow-capped mountains. It might be the middle of winter, but you’ll need some ice water to cool yourself off with this read!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Hot Tree Publishing. 257 Pages. 

Futures Entwined by Ayla Asher

This might be the final book in the Ardor Creek series, but I have a feeling this won’t be the last time I visit this town and its special characters. This is the kind of series you’ll want to reread again and again.

What’s it About? 

Does a former mean girl deserve a happy ever after?

Heather Combs grew up in Ardor Creek, stuck in a home with zero love or emotional support. In response, she lashed out, becoming a popular but cold ice-queen. Hoping to escape her unstable home, she married her high school boyfriend, only to realize she’d entered into another emotionally unfulfilling relationship. Convinced she didn’t possess the capacity to love, she divorced her ex and left Ardor Creek.

Years later, Jeremy Kramer, a successful author and single dad to twin girls, moves to Ardor Creek and instantly falls for the small-town charm. His busy life leaves little room for love, even if newly-returned former bad girl Heather Combs continually catches his eye.

When Heather and Jeremy become neighbors, they quickly realize their chemistry is off the charts. But he’s a dad who prefers serious relationships and she detests feelings. After all, love has never been her forte, but in the hidden corners of her soul, she can’t deny her yearning for her handsome neighbor and his sweet, precocious girls…

First Impressions

When I found out this was going to be the last book in the Ardor Creek series, I told myself I was going to take my time with it. It’s been such an amazing journey that the last thing I wanted was for this final installment to end too fast. However, I was quickly reminded by the end of the first chapter that what I’ve loved about this series so much from day one is that the author is an expert at pulling you into her world of characters, and the last thing you want to do is put down any of her reads once you’ve picked them up. Ardor Creek has become one of my favorite literary places to visit, so I ultimately had to admit that I’d rather indulge in several hours of reading at once rather than prolonging the inevitable. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised then that I finished this sixth book in just three sittings! Seeing as I would usually tear through the first few books in one or two sittings, I suppose I did “take my time” with this one. As with every other read in the series so far, the primary reason it’s so easy to fall in love with these books is because we are presented with characters with whom we can’t help but fall in love. Their personalities make them relatable to us in a way where we keep coming back for more, and there was no exception this time around for our two lead characters. 

Jeremy is a single dad that I would kill to live next-door to. He adores his twin girls, is a best-selling writer, and he’ll do anything to take care of those he loves. As for Heather, I personally felt her personality mirrored my own in a lot of ways, which of course meant she’s been one of my favorite leading ladies of the entire series! However, I could also see how, just like with the residents of Ardor Creek, Heather might not be for everyone upon first meeting. She’s not afraid to say what she thinks, but also has the tendency to waffle between brutal honesty and multiple layers of sarcasm. Since we can’t necessarily hear her intended tone while reading, it’s important to remember that you often have to view her comments through a particular comedic lens. For example, there are a few times when she’d call Jeremy’s kids “heathens”, or remind him that boarding school is always an option, and I’d tense for a moment thinking that Jeremy might angrily blow up in response to her joking banter. That being said, I think what made Jeremy and Heather the perfect pair was that he could always master differentiating between her honesty and sarcasm, and this brashness is actually what endears her to him most. She’s unlike anyone he’s ever met before, and she too is enamored by his ability to see through her cheekiness and find the heartfelt woman she is on the inside. They might seem like polar opposites at first, but this is also what makes them the perfect fit for each other!

That’s Why They Call it Falling in Love

Jeremy and Heather can both recognize the sexual attraction they feel towards each other almost immediately, yet both are hesitant to give into that desire at the start. Neither is hesitant though to vocalize what they’re looking for in a relationship. For Heather, she’s not looking for anything serious. She’s hoping a good ole role in the hay with her sexy neighbor will meet the craving she feels towards him, and then they can both be on their merry way. As a recently divorced woman who is childless by choice, the last thing she’s looking for is a serious relationship headed towards marriage with a single dad with two daughters. As for Jeremy, while he can admit some sexy fun times with Heather would probably rock his world, he’s not just in this for a physical itch to be scratched. He recognizes something true and beautiful when it comes to this spitfire living next door, and he hopes she’ll take a chance on dating him before bringing any physical component into their relationship. And of course, this also means spending time with his daughters along the way. 

There were several components of this burgeoning relationship between Jeremy and Heather which positively tickled me pink. First, they are both open and honest with each other about what they do and don’t want in a relationship. Sure, what they initially think they want appears to be at odds with each other, but as they spend more time giving into the pull that’s bringing them together, their interests slowly start to coalesce as well. Secondly, this romance is the perfect example of what it means to fall in love. Neither is actively looking for love at this point in their lives. They’re both just living each day as it comes, but then when the right someone comes along they both start to fall into each other. Jeremy is quicker to admit to himself that something serious is on the table, but for the most part he does an amazing job of allowing Heather to explore and discover her feelings for him in her own time. There is only one instance towards the end of the book where Jeremy tries to rush her into taking the next step with him and his girls, and it definitely backfires on him. Eventually they come to be on the same page with what they want the future to look like, but the novel highlights how important it is for Heather to come to that realization on her own and in her own time. Love couldn’t be forced between them, but instead it was found. 

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

Series: Ardor Creek, book 6. A big part of me is so so so sad that this series has concluded, but at the same time I’m excited to see what other worlds this author might create for us going forward. Not to mention, we’re told there’s a chance that down the road we might have the opportunity to revisit Ardor Creek to focus on the children of the couples from these first six novels. 

Final Impressions: Another delightfully fantastic read. I appreciated the fact that we were presented with a female lead who is childless by choice, and how it’s portrayed as a completely normal thing rather than something to be scoffed at or psychoanalyzed. Jeremy can also appreciate her choice, as he too isn’t looking to have any more children beyond the two he already has. Something I would have appreciated to see a bit more of with this read was a focus on the development of Heather’s relationship with Jeremy’s daughters. We’re provided with a handful of adorable scenes of them together, as well as one climactic moment that surly solidified their connection. By the end of the read you don’t doubt that Heather has come to love these precocious twins. However, to go from never wanting children to accepting these two girls into her life was a big shift, and perhaps one more emotional heart-to-heart conversation between these ladies would have been the cherry on top!

Smut Level: The fact our leading man is a best selling author means we have a wordsmith on our hands. This single dad might seem easy going and kind of nerdy on the outside, but we have a dirty talker at work here ladies and gentlemen!!!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. 260 Pages. 

Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron

Consider yourself warned that you shouldn’t try to read this book on an empty stomach. The countless descriptions of fresh bread, as well as Indian and Tanzanian delights will leave you salivating. 

What’s it About? 

When it comes to bread, Reena Manji knows exactly what she’s doing. She treats her sourdough starters like (somewhat unruly) children. But when it comes to Reena’s actual family—and their constant meddling in her life—well, that recipe always ends in disaster.

Now Reena’s parents have found her yet another potential Good Muslim Husband. This one has the body of Captain America, a delicious British accent, and lives right across the hall. He’s the perfect, mouthwatering temptation . . . and completely ruined by the unwelcome side dish of parental interference.

Reena refuses to marry anyone who works for her father. She won’t be attracted to Nadim’s sweet charm or gorgeous lopsided smile. That is, until the baking opportunity of a lifetime presents itself: a couples’ cooking competition with the prize of her dreams. Reena will do anything to win—even asking Nadim to pretend they’re engaged. But when it comes to love, baking your bread doesn’t always mean you get to eat it too.

First Impressions

As soon as my best friend failed with her covid sourdough starter bread-baking attempt, I knew it was time to give this audiobook a listen. This romantic comedy has an unbelievably strong start filled to bursting with flirtatious banter, sexy accents, a curry dish or two, not to mention a fake engagement. I’ll freely admit that I’m a huge fan of a fake fiancé story line, and upon discovering that the premise for entering into this phony relationship was due to a love of baking I was fully on board. That being said, I’m usually not a huge fan of romances revolving around reality TV, but seeing as this reality show centered on cooking rather than a bachelor-type dating show, I was willing to give it a try. Surprisingly, I quickly found myself wishing that the TV show filming could have been featured a bit more prominently than it was! Most of Reena and Nadim’s cooking show antics were filmed at home by friends rather than on a studio set, throwing a twist into the typical reality show trope we may have come to expect in Romancelandia. 

Even though I found myself wanting more focus on the cooking competition aspect of the plot line, one must admit that the nature of these two being able to film privately away from the prying eyes of a studio audience or full camera crew granted them the freedom to be more natural and at-ease with each other. The seamless chemistry and friendship that Reena and Nadim were able to develop was as delectable as any egg curry or bhajia recipe you might come across. It was such an entertaining transformation seeing Reena initially wanting to keep her distance from Nadim seeing as he was someone her parents wanted to set her up with, to slowly discovering that she was always either having a blast cooking or chatting with him, or constantly thinking about the next time they might be able to spend time together. What started out as a neighborly friendship and fake engagement begins to evolve into something that isn’t so fake anymore, and the fact their connection so strongly revolved around food meant I was hooked! Any time we got to spend with Reena and Nadim in their cooking bubble was an absolute blast, but unfortunately the external forces of family drama and misunderstandings threatened to tear them apart in a way that was somewhat frustrating to behold.  

The Joys of Social Media

Family plays a crucial role in Reena and Nadim’s relationship, even if they try to keep their private life separate from the prying eyes of their intrusive relatives. At the start of the novel, the silly antics and kooky personalities of Reena’s many family members were a bit of a hoot, as she tries to balance her frustrations over their meddling with a strong sense of family duty which permeates their conversations. The fact that Reena might ultimately have to admit the benefit that their interference brought into her life through Nadim is a struggle she tries to avoid at every turn. This causes Reena to try and keep her relationship with Nadim a secret for as long as possible, as she not only doesn’t want to admit they were right, but she knows with absolute certainty that as soon as the truth comes to light her family will try to insert themselves into their lives even more than they already do. After some time, their constant insistence on honesty within the family, even though each and every one of them is trying to keep something secret from the others, became exhausting. The most frustrating aspect of the read though was the inevitable twist that almost tore Reena and Nadim apart. 

In the midst of Reena’s growing infatuation with her neighbor, we find that she is almost desperately searching for any minor slight which could bring an end to their relationship. It all starts with her discovery of a photo of Nadim on a fancy yacht with friends. She latches onto his chic hairstyle, clothing, and rather over-the-top surroundings as a way to convince herself that he is somehow obsessed with status, wealth and outward appearance, even though there hasn’t been any indication during all of their time together that this was in any way true. The heaviest nail in the coffin though is when Reena tries to piece different social media posts together by people she’s never met before as proof that Nadim has been secretly engaged to another woman throughout their entire relationship, even going so far as to declare that a post by the patriarch of a family rival is “the truth” without ever bothering to confront or ask Nadim directly about what she was seeing. Let me put it this way, when you try to rely on Facebook and Instagram posts to reveal the true nature of the man you’re falling in love with…it’s probably not the best idea. All in all, this was the one major fault in the entire read, as there were a slew of other avenues which could have been utilized to put a wedge between Nadim and Reena. The path chosen seemed an unnecessarily immature choice for our characters. 

Series: Stand-alone

Final Impressions: This read presents us with a fantastic beginning and progression of Reena and Nadim’s relationship before an unfortunate blip towards the end puts a damper on the plot as a whole, before ultimately pulling everything back together for a smile-inducing conclusion. In addition, it’s possible this book tried to be too many things at once by introducing an overwhelming plethora of romance novel tropes, including neighbors, a fake engagement, reality TV, a secret relationship and finally a big misunderstanding that could tear our lovebirds apart. Most of these themes were enjoyable in their own right (aside from the one), but having so many present in one read, not to mention the revelation of Reena’s struggles with mental health, as well as her somewhat contemptuous relationship with her parents and one sister in particular, was a tad too much to squeeze into one read. I probably would have preferred more focus and attention on Reena’s lack of self-confidence and battle with anxiety as the primary hindrance to her happiness with Nadim rather than a social media post. I realize the one was influencing the other, but the discussion of mental health really didn’t seem to receive the amount of attention it truly deserved. Overall though this was a fun read that had me giggling throughout, and seriously craving some delicious curry dishes every time I picked it up!

Smut Level: For a romantic comedy I definitely wasn’t expecting our male lead to have a foot fetish! While we never encounter any scenes with too much explicit detail, there are definitely some passionate moments thrown in to keep you coming back for more.  

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $9.99 Kindle Price. Forever Publishing. 369 Pages. 

Madly Inn Love by Amelia Foster

Some couples like to refer to each other by cute names such as “sweetie” or “honey”. The terms of endearment chosen by the leads of this book include the Greek goddess of the Underworld and “slimy weasel”. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is. 

What’s it About?

Blake Alden’s sister made the proposition to return to Willow Falls at the perfect time, when Blake needed a fresh start. But the path to a new beginning was littered with bumps, the biggest being the County Program Manager who repeatedly stalled granting the business license they needed to reopen. After the third letter requesting yet more information, Blake makes a trip to the courthouse, ready to fight the man bent on driving her insane.

Keeping his name free of any black marks or scandals is at the top of Mason Richmond’s to-do list. Right below climbing the small political ladder he’d envisioned for himself. Even if that means being stricter with his best friend’s girlfriend and her family to avoid any hint of favoritism. However his overzealous caution results in a fiery goddess showing up in his office and turning his carefully ordered world into chaos.

Blake sees Mason’s fledgling campaign for Maine state representative as an ideal chance to not only show him why the inn would benefit his public persona, but also give herself a much needed shot of excitement she missed since being back in the small, sleepy town.

First Impressions

Madly Inn Love is one of those rare and special books where the sequel may have surpassed the fun of the first novel in the series. Where Truly Inn Love set the stage and the scene of this world we’d been given a glimpse into, this second novel lets us dive deep to truly get to know and fall in love with the characters and this small town they call home. The author was getting her feet wet building the foundation in book one, but it felt as though from page one of this sequel she was fully prepared to take us along on this journey of ambition and love between Blake and Mason, and I for one was completely on board to go along for the journey! Twists, turns, bumps and all. We were first introduced to our love birds in the first novel as secondary supporting characters to the main couple, but even then I think we could see their personalities shining through, desperate to take center stage.

While I definitely enjoyed the couple from book one, it felt more like we were observers to their story, watching the events pass along all the while knowing their happily ever after was just around the corner. When it came to Black and Mason though, we quickly become fully invested in their story to the point where it feels as though they are friends we know beyond the page. They may have started off, not quite enemies per se, but definitely rivals who were wary of each other. As they spend more time together throughout the length of Mason’s campaign, we see how their volleys of witty banter, and even flirtatious insults, slowly start to break down the walls they’ve built up to protect themselves from anyone who might try to get too close. As these walls fall down piece by piece, the fun and vulnerable sides to their personalities start to shine through, and they slowly start to recognize a kindred spirit in the other.

 Bitter Pasts and Family Chaos

Blake and Mason start things off on a rather rough foot when our story opens, as Mason is causing continuous delays in issuing a business license to Blake and her sisters for the most seemingly innocuous of technicalities. After storming into his office ready for a fight, she leaves with not only the license they need to reopen their late aunt and uncle’s inn, but an offer to be his campaign manager during his run for state representative. Mason certainly wasn’t expecting this woman to waltz into his office one day, but her determination and ambition for success endeared her to him. Both of these headstrong characters were stuck in a rut in their lives, going along day by day through the motions. However, the more time they spend together the more they awaken in each other the drive for something more. The fact they eventually develop a romantic and physical relationship honestly seemed like the most natural evolution of their connection from foes to quasi colleagues, friends to lovers. Even though they might try to keep things light and casual at the start, the discovery and confrontation of their past familial pains result in their connection growing deeper each and every day. 

In book one we discovered the sad past involving Blake’s parents, who were more invested in living their own lives than taking care of or showing any affection towards their three daughters. One day they were dropped off to live with their aunt and uncle, and when their parents died in a tragic accident, Blake and her older sister came together to care for their youngest sibling. The lack of parental love followed by death took a toll on the Alden sisters, with Blake especially feeling the need to close off her emotions to reflect an aura of strength and dependability that her sisters so desperately needed at the time. Now that they are all grown, Blake is almost trying to find her place and purpose in life seeing as its become increasingly clear that her sisters can take care of themselves. When she discovers that Mason was also “raised” by an unloving mother who only found disappointment with every choice he made in life, she finds yet another thing to admire about this man. He refuses to crumble to the pressures of his powerful mother, and also wants to make a political name for himself without relying on the influence of his family name. His true family stems from the friends who have chosen to be part of his life rather than the family he was simply born into. The difficult pasts these two characters had to overcome made them the strong people they are today, willing to stand up and fight when faced with any kind of adversity. It’s yet another reason these two couldn’t help but fall in love. 

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

Series: Inn Love, book 2. When I saw who the lead characters of this novel were, I couldn’t wait to get started. Knowing that book 3 will focus on the youngest Alden sister, I’m practically giddy with anticipation. 

Final Impressions: One of my very mild, minimal critiques of book one was that it didn’t really have all that much conflict or drama at the end of the day. That theme continues in this second book, where we’re sort of constantly waiting for the second shoe to drop, but it never does. Surprisingly though, I couldn’t have been more thrilled that this was the way the story played out! I fell in love with these characters so deeply, that if anything had threatened the possibility of their happily ever after I think I may have thrown my Kindle at the wall. The fact that Blake and Mason could always remain fairly level-headed when confronted with a challenge in life was admirable, especially when you recognize the strength they drew upon from each other to stand up tall rather than crumble under pressure. This delightful romance had me smiling, giggling, and cheering for our couple literally from page one until the final word of the novel. I was almost upset to see this story end, but I can’t wait to see where book three will take us!

Smut Level: Blake and Mason were positively delicious. They try as long as possible to tamper down the chemistry simmering between them seeing as they develop a kind of professional relationship when Blake becomes his campaign manager. Let’s just say though that their attempts are futile, and it doesn’t take long before they’re getting all hot, sweaty and bothered. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Sweet Heat Books. 205 Pages. 

Unforeseen Love by Taylor Dawson

If there is just one thing I can be grateful to this book for, it’s making me realize how happy I am to no longer be in high school, and during a time when social media reigns supreme. Although, the flip-side of this is it also made me realize how old I am to be totally flummoxed by the things kids do nowadays. Why, back in my day…!

What’s it About?

Love. Trust. Loyalty. Unforeseen Love is intriguingly dramatic with a shocking twist…

Ever since freshman year at Ocean Shores High, Alex Lovell has been tormented by rich heiress Cynthia Higgs -the most popular girl in school, along with her clique of friends who are known by everyone as “the In Group.” Powerless and miserable, Alex has always envied Cynthia’s popularity and hopelessly crushed on her handsome quarterback boyfriend, Rick McCullin. Now come senior year, Alex finally gets what she wants in the most unexpected way and her perspective drastically changes. Ultimately this influences her to go on an adventure of love that not only changes her life forever, but also puts her in an unthinkable situation of grave danger.

Will Alex be able to handle her new life? And even more, will she manage to keep both herself and her love alive?

First Impressions

The primary pitfall of this book is that it tried too hard to be too many things. From a cautionary high-school tale detailing the torments of bullying, to a passionate romance with a celebrity, finally culminating in a mini-horror story of revenge, it felt as though three very distinct novels were shoved together into one. Sure, the characters were primarily the same from start to finish, and a few details of the initial high-school storyline came back to make a reappearance in our “trapped-in-a-house-with-no-escape” tale at the end, but everything was left feeling far too disjointed rather than a cohesive read. Considering this was a fairly lengthy read at over 400 pages, I almost think the progression of events could have benefitted from being cut down the middle into two books. High school bullying focus for book one, moving on with unexpected celebrity encounter for book two. And I guess, throw in the psychotic revenge story wherever it fits best? Or…honestly maybe just toss it aside entirely. As it stands, there’s too much going on in one read, especially when we realize that all of the events are supposed to have taken place over the span of just under a year.

Reality Presented in Unrealistic Ways

There are some books you read that are so engaging you can’t put them down. Others you find yourself needing to take a break from time to time, putting the book down so you can catch your breath. Whether it be from an overly intense read, or one so steamy that it’s literally too hot to handle. Unfortunately, I regularly found myself having to take a break from this book for another reason: frustration. Many of the scenarios, dialogue, and even the actions of our female lead simply extended too far beyond the realm of believability. This was definitely disappointing seeing as the book really is trying to highlight some crucial issues for discussion, including bullying and escaping toxic relationships. However, the execution of how these important topics were presented is where the let-down came in.

The unbelievable nature of the read starts off pretty immediately, shortly after we discover that Alex is being harshly bullied by a clique of popular high school kids, in particular by the leader of the crew, Cynthia. This torment and torture has been going on for years, yet upon receiving a pool party invite to Cynthia’s house, Alex is willing to show up even while acknowledging that some kind of vicious prank must be behind the invite. When she pulls up to Cynthia’s street to find a bunch of her classmates entering the mansion dressed in their best formal-wear, Alex admits to herself that she’s been duped. Rather than drive home for a quiet night with her true friends, she proceeds to go into the house in her casual pool party attire amidst the rich teens in their flashy tuxes and fancy dresses. She subsequently goes along every step of the way as Cynthia and her minions slowly carry out their excruciatingly obvious plan of humiliating Alex by giving her a hideous makeover, and convincing her put on an ugly dress for an impromptu fashion show for their classmates. It’s possible this slow build was utilized in an attempt to build the suspense of the prank, but instead it kept building the level of frustration as we wonder why Alex would have ever exited her car in the first place, or why our villains never attempted even a little bit to camouflage their dubious intent.

We’re never really provided with a realistic justification or explanation for why she went along with their ministrations, or why they were so intent on making her life miserable, and this is just the teeniest of examples of the countless ways our characters will engage in inexplicable behavior that will only leave you scratching your head in confusion. As the novel progresses we see Alex constantly ignore blatant red flags for avoiding troublesome situations, and also declare her love for men she’s only known for a hot second. In addition, each and every authority figure will push aside concerning issues involving teenagers in a way that makes no sense, wealthy characters will only refer to their large houses as “mansions”, and women are only referred to as “chicks”. The fact we aren’t really presented with any likable characters in the midst of so many outlandish scenarios meant I constantly found myself needing to take a break from this read, and sadly it became increasingly difficult to want to pick it back up again.

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

Series: Stand-alone? This book ends so abruptly, practically mid-scene, that you can’t really tell if there is supposed to be a sequel, or if it was an attempt at an intense ending.

Final impressions: Overall this book just wasn’t my cup of tea, even though there was definite potential for an engaging read highlighting the issues that teenagers encounter nowadays. Unfortunately there were too many story-lines going on, many of which didn’t seem to have any clear resolution. Our characters also found themselves in endless confrontations and scrapes that could have been avoided, or were too unbelievable in their execution that you can’t help but leave feeling frustrated. There were parts of the celebrity romance tale I did enjoy, but it almost felt out of place being book-ended by two other exaggerated plot points.

Smut Level: For a high-school tale there are certainly some steamy and even X-rated adult scenes involved, including a sex tape.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. 415 Pages.

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. 

Baby, It’s Cold Outside by Kait Nolan

It’s not often that I find myself jealous of a fictional character who drives her car off the road in the midst of a snow storm. However, when said accident literally delivers her into the comforting arms of a sexy rescuer who brings her back to his cabin to warm up? Color me green with envy.

What’s it About?

A grumpy lumberjack
Former Army Ranger Harrison Wilkes isn’t actually a lumberjack, but he’s doing his best impression while hiding out in the mountains of East Tennessee. He needs to rest, recharge, and stay the hell away from people, while he wrestles with ghosts from his past and figures out his future. Neither includes a snowbound rescue of his favorite author.

A runaway writer Ivy Blake is on a deadline. Her hero is MIA, and she’s desperate to find some peace, quiet, and inspiration to get her book—and her life—back on track. She doesn’t plan on driving off a mountain. Or the mysterious stranger who shows up to save her.

Who’s rescuing who?
When Winter Stormageddon traps them together, Ivy finds the inspiration she didn’t know she needed in her real-life hero. As more than the fireplace heats up his one-man cabin, they both find far more than they bargained for. This intuitive author just might have the answers Harrison’s looking for, but will their newfound connection survive past the storm?

First Impressions

The first three-quarters or so of this book was everything I wanted it to be and more. Experiencing a severe case of writer’s block, Ivy sets off to spend two weeks at a remote mountain inn and spa where she can get away from the distractions of life to focus on nothing but the fast approaching deadline of her next book. As if her situation wasn’t already dire enough, the last thing she has time for is to get lost during a snow storm that is increasingly hazardous with each windy bend in the road. When she drives through a guard rail with her car suspended between a tree and a craggy dip into darkness, she realizes her situation just went from bad to abysmal. That being said, she must have done something good at some point in her life to not only be rescued by an extremely capable former soldier, but a breathtakingly sexy one to boot.

Throughout this whole rescue scene, former soldier Harrison quickly realizes through the witty banter with this strange woman that she is no damsel in distress, and she probably could have succeeded in eventually getting herself out of this predicament if he hadn’t come along. When they arrive at Harrison’s cabin things really start to heat up as they have to work together to warm Ivy back up after so long in the cold. I mean, is there anything better than a warm fire, removing some wet clothing and clutching your muscled rescuer close underneath the same blanket? Why yes, yes there is and it’s called “ONLY ONE BED”!! Yasssss please!! The fact Ivy is an author who can call attention to this being a standard romance novel trope can only bring a smile to your face. As you can imagine, it doesn’t take long before some innocent clutching and rubbing up against each other for warmth quickly turns into something more salacious.

Working Together

After a meet-cute and first night together to make your toes curl, the best scenes of the book take place over the next few immediate days as Ivy relays her reasons for being out on the road to break through her writer’s block. This is when Harrison reveals that he too is a writer, and they proceed to bounce ideas off of each other, exchanging ideas in a way that inspires the words to finally start flowing freely from Ivy. And this is a hallmark of their entire dynamic from here on out in the story that is purely delicious: neither is entirely reliant on the other to get out of any scrape or problem, but rather they work best as a unit. There were so many features of this dynamic that were utterly fantabulous.

First and foremost, it’s not that Ivy just stumbles across a sexy man, and his mere physique is what inspires her to take her story in a certain direction. Not at all! The fact Harrison is also a writer and even a fan of her writing means that he has an almost insider’s perspective into her characters, as well as a knowledge of her work’s story arch that proves beneficial to discussing possible avenues the plot can travel. In addition, it’s not that Harrison just tells her how to write herself out of her predicament. He didn’t simply have all the answers that Ivy couldn’t manage to see right in front of her. It was only by brainstorming and exchanging ideas together that she started to see where the story could go. It was a beautiful creative partnership that lent itself well to justifying how they were able to fall so hard and fast for each other.

867-530…Wait, What’s Your Number Again?

Alas, there has to be a hiccup for our characters, and in my mind this was the one area where the story faltered. It certainly makes sense that there had to be something which broke into this bubble they’ve created for themselves of lengthy writing sessions interspersed with sexy fun time rewards. However, I personally was not a fan of the method selected, which was essentially a case of massive miscommunication and misunderstanding all caused by what? Never having exchanged phone numbers. Just like our novel started off by bringing our characters together due to an intense storm, we see that a perfect storm of mishaps including no sharing of digits, no notes left on a bed-side table, no forwarding address left at the inn, and a rush to conclusions threaten to tear our lovebirds apart. What can I say, the fact an almost perfect and fairy-tale two weeks together could almost be completely ruined from a case of “I didn’t get your number” in this day and age was just a little silly to me. I almost wish the story had taken place in the eighties or early nineties when cell phones and social media didn’t completely dominate our everyday lives, when it could have been a more believable stumbling block.

Series: Rescue My Heart, book 1. I might continue with this series.

Final Impressions: The way these characters ultimately ended up in the same cabin together was an entertaining build-up, and while the sexy fun time scenes were fantastic, the moments that Ivy and Harrison could act as contemporaries, sharing ideas over their craft was truly special. Although I wasn’t fully behind the climactic turn that tears our characters apart, I did appreciate the way the author is able to bring them back together for a happily ever after grand gesture of romance.

Smut Level: This novel will definitely have you craving a romantic mountain escape with that special someone in your life so you can light a fire together. Whether it’s in the fireplace or in the bedroom is totally up to you.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. FREE as of the writing of this review. Take the Leap Publishing. 195 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.