Oceans Away by Skye McNeil

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

What’s it About? 

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

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

First Impressions

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

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Resentment

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

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

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Iowa vs. the World

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

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

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Jealousy Rears It’s Ugly Head

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

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

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

Series: The Atlas Series, book 2.

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

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

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

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On the Market by Audrey Wick

She’s a vegetarian. He owns a barbecue joint dedicated to all things meat. They say opposites attract! Let’s put that saying to the test.

What’s it About? 

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Valerie Perry has just inherited her grandmother’s home in Last Stand, Texas, a far cry in the country from her city life as an organic grocery buyer in San Antonio. Her methodical daily routine suits her just fine, so she aims to freshen up the property, sell it, and take her funds back to the city. She’s only got two weeks during her vacation to make this happen. Now is the time to cash in and get out.

The oldest Hutchinson son, who people around town know as “Hutch,” is a third generation local who is poised to take over the family business with his brother, Cole. The barbeque brothers have very different ideas about the future of their restaurant, “The Hut.” Just when he thought his biggest headache was his job, Hutch meets Valerie and both their worlds are upended. He’s drawn to this fish out of water, but Valerie’s time in Last Stand has an expiration date.

Their sweet and saucy styles don’t mix, but can they both find the recipe to a happy future?

First Impressions

This is a sweet romance that will put a smile on your face, and is the perfect beach read. The progression of Valerie and Hutch’s relationship seemed so cute and natural that it almost felt like we were witnessing the romance of two friends rather than two fictional characters. At first they engage in some light verbal sparring after Hutch fells a tree into Valerie’s yard. It’s definitely some good-natured sparring, and never crosses the line into rude or demeaning. Valerie’s “…ability to dish right back what Hutch was serving was a trait he probably wasn’t used to in women”, and this unique feature of her personality draws him in and won’t let go.

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As Hutch attempts to fix her yard after the damage he caused, Valerie sees a sweet side to this barbecue boy, and it doesn’t take long before they both can’t stop thinking about each other. They slowly get to know each other, and open up about personal details of their lives. We never see anything over-the-top sexual, and there are no instances of being pushed up against a wall in a fiery moment of passion. Instead we see delicate kisses in the warm Texas countryside with fireflies flitting about. Soft touches and intimate caresses. We’ve really been provided with a window into the developing relationship between this couple.

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Brotherly Love

The relationship we see between these barbecue brothers was just as interesting as the relationship forming between Valerie and Hutch. They may be brothers, but they’re at odds over the future course of their family’s restaurant. One is steeped in tradition, the other is dedicated to changing with the times. Both have the best interests of their family’s legacy at heart, and yet it causes a rift to form between them in regards to which avenue they should pursue. The combative nature of these two brothers was quite entertaining, and perhaps a bit more focus on them having open and honest conversations about their wishes for the restaurant would have been a delightful addition. We see them have heated arguments, which perhaps highlights the true nature of their relationship rather than one of sweet brotherly affection. Towards the end of the novel they do find a kind of compromise, but just one more scene of them conversing one-on-one in a non-argumentative manner would have been great.

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What is a Home?

One feature that this novel focuses on at length is the question of what is a home. For Valerie, home is merely a place. It’s wherever you hang your hat for any period of time, and while she’s putting the finishing touches on her grandmother’s house she sees herself as biding her time before she can return back “home” to San Antonio. For Hutch, home is much more significant than the four walls that might surround you. It’s about the community that surrounds you. It’s about the people as much as it is about the place, and this small town of Last Stand is and always will be his home. When he discovers how vastly different Valerie’s concept of home is to his own, he questions if their differences might be more serious than simply the hurdle of physical distance which separates Last Stand from San Antonio. Perhaps their values in life pose more of an issue. However, as Valerie starts to transform her grandmother’s home into one of her own, and this small community also starts to envelop her as one of their own, perhaps her values might be changing to a point where she could envision a future in this small Hill Country town.

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

Series: The Texas BBQ Brothers, book 1. I can’t wait to see what’s in store next for Hutch’s brother, Cole!

Final Impressions: This is a quick read that’s ideal for the beach. It never gets too steamy, but instead there’s a sweet side to the natural romance developing between Valerie and Hutch. The community of Last Stand is an integral part of this relationship, and the additional aspect of Hutch and his brother fighting over the future of their family’s business was just as intriguing. Overall it’s a cute read that will leave you hungry for barbecue and sweet tea!

Smut Level: No sex, but we get some pleasant kisses between our vegetarian and our carnivore.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Tule Publishing. 180 Pages.

Meant to be Different by Amelia Foster

Another home run! Amelia Foster once again succeeds in hitting it out of the park in her sequel of the “Meant to Be” series, Meant to be Different. 

What’s it About?

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Young Wyatt Carlisle fell in love with the rodeo and it became his dream career. It was also the decision that would one day cost him his high school sweetheart. But when thirty rolls around he decides to give his battered body a break, he retires with two goals in mind: open a training facility in his hometown and win back his Gigi.

Teenage Georgia Marsh is not only faced with watching her mother fade from terminal cancer, but also a relocation to North Carolina. It’s only made worse when the one person not scared by her goth girl persona is a rhinestone cowboy with more swagger than brain cells. In a turn of events she never thought possible, Wyatt becomes her first love and a rock through the heartbreak of losing her mother. Only to shatter her months later when he chooses his career and disappears from her world.

After a twelve year separation, Wyatt saunters back into Georgia’s life. Forced to work together on a project for her boss, and one of Wyatt’s sponsors, their sexual chemistry quickly ignites, but Georgia is determined not to fall for Wyatt’s charm a second time around. Especially when she suspects that watching the cowboy ride off into the sunset for a second time might be more than she can handle.

First Impressions

What can I say about this series other than that you should read it? Amelia Foster is a master storyteller who allows us a glimpse into teen love, second chances, and even emotional heartbreak. This sequel in the “Meant to Be” series holds up just as strongly to the premier novel, which is really saying something considering that was also a beautiful roller-coaster of a read that gave me all the feels. Something I’ve appreciated with this series so far is that while we see a continuation of certain themes, such as the brilliant use of flashbacks and alternating points of view between the lead characters, each novel really is distinct.

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It never felt as though this second book was merely a repeat of the one which came before it. Wyatt and Gigi’s story is unique to them in a way that sets them apart from the couple of the first novel, even though that one featured Wyatt’s older brother. It feels as though we are once again witnessing a true romance play out between two very real people that we’ve come to know intimately through the author’s words. Wyatt and Gigi demonstrate that their teenage love which ended 12 years ago may not be entirely over, but simply paused. This rhinestone cowboy may have just found a second chance at love with his dark angel.

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A Journey to the Past

While the consistent use of flashbacks might not have been as mind-blowingly spectacular as their use in book one, they still served a very important and alluring purpose of highlighting the foundation of Wyatt and Gigi’s relationship all those years ago. They seemed like polar opposites when they first met in high school. She was the new goth girl in town, and he was the popular wannabe rodeo stud that all the girls drooled over. Somehow this rhinestone cowboy is able to draw this dark angel out of her shell, and they find love together. But this story is more than just a simple teenage romance. We discover that Gigi’s surly attitude at moving to this small North Carolina town is born of the fact that her mother is in the last stages of cancer, and it’s just a matter of time before she’s gone from this world.

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Heavy stuff, I know. The beauty though of her relationship with Wyatt is that he manages to pull her out of the constant limbo she’s experiencing at home, bouncing constantly between life and the imminent arrival of her mother’s death, to find an escape where she can simply be herself. To find a few days a week where she doesn’t have to be constantly worrying about her mother’s illness, or how her dad is struggling with losing the love of his life. What started as a simple dalliance to take her mind off the harsh realities of life soon turns into an example of true love. Wyatt stands by Gigi in everything, and she too supports him through some of his own life’s struggles. They might experience a few bumps in the road, just like with any new relationship, but they soon discover the key to their love is always being open with each other when life tries to get in the way. Wyatt especially acknowledges that the depth of their love isn’t like every other typical teenage romance. It’s real. They’ll make it through anything life throws at them, and they’ll be together past their teenage years, because their love is meant to be different. Or is it?

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The Hope for Second Chances

We know pretty much from the opening page, actually from the synopsis itself, that Wyatt left Gigi behind all those years ago to pursue his dreams of becoming a rodeo star bull rider. It seems that in spite of all their vows that their love was “meant to be different”, it seems to have succumbed to defeat just like any other teenage romance. Throughout the novel we see a constant switch back and forth of Wyatt trying to win Gigi back in the present, while simultaneously seeing how their love played out in the past. As we see how deep of a connection these two had when they were young, we see that their teenage romance in fact wasn’t merely just a passing fancy. They meant everything to each other. So where did it all go wrong, and more importantly, will Wyatt be able to convince Gigi that he’s worth a second chance? When they first met he had to fight for her to see how good they could be together, and all these years later he’s going through that same fight of trying to win her trust.

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Something that really did surprise me as we saw the love between Wyatt and Gigi play out in both the past and the present, was that we never witnessed that one key moment where Wyatt decided to leave. We hear his explanation to Gigi when they reconnect, but we never actually get a flashback scene where we see him drive off into the sunset. I was kind of confused at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the purpose of these flashbacks was not to build up to the point where he left. Instead, it was to show the development of their love up until that point. To demonstrate how Wyatt was there for Gigi through every hardship, including standing as a pillar when her mother eventually died. He also succeeded in showing her that life was still worth living amidst such pain. His decision to leave was not out of selfishness. As we uncover his reasoning behind the decision we realize it may have been the most selfless decision of his life. What mattered most was not that we saw how or when he left, but rather that he came back. The author manages to convince us through these flashbacks that Wyatt is in fact worthy of a second chance in the present, and we can only hold our breath in anticipation that Gigi remembers why their love is worth fighting for.

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

Series: Meant to Be, book 2. I love, love, love this series, and you can bet your Stetson I’ll be continuing on to see what might be in store for the other Carlisle brothers going forward.

Final Impressions: I pretty much finished this book in two sittings. It made me laugh, sigh, and definitely brought tears to my eyes a time or two. It’s an emotional read for sure, and seeing Gigi and Wyatt’s love play out as teenagers was particularly heartbreaking because you knew going into it that eventually it would end. But then to see them pick things up again in the present, you’re hopeful that all these years later they’ll manage to find the happiness which escaped them back then. As their story played out, I was drawn so much into their world that it started to feel like I was reading about two people I actually knew. When it was over I even wanted to pick up my phone to call Gigi and dish about how Wyatt is such a dreamboat. A girl can dream!

Smut Level: When it comes to the bedroom, Gigi demands one simple thing of her cowboy lover. Clothes off…cowboy hat on. 😉

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Limitless Publishing, LLC. 227 Pages.

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Bed of Roses by Nora Roberts

Emma is a picky dater who seeks the “spark”. When one of her closest friends breaks her spark-o-meter with their first kiss, she knows he’s someone to hold onto.

What’s it About? 

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Wedding florist Emma Grant gets to play with flowers every day and work with her three best friends in the process. She couldn’t ask for a better job. And her love life seems to be thriving. Though men swarm around her, she still hasn’t found Mr. Right. And the last place she’s looking is right under her nose.

But that’s just where Jack Cooke is. He’s so close to the women of Vows that he’s practically family. Now though, the architect has begun to admit to himself that his feelings for Emma have developed into much more than friendship. And when Emma returns his passion—kiss for blistering kiss, they must trust in their history—and in their hearts…

First Impressions

Whenever we have a romance featuring friends who become something more intimate, the most enchanting feature is uncovering that one moment where things change. Perhaps one finally sees an alluring physical quality they hadn’t noticed before; maybe it’s a moment of comfort following a difficult situation, or hell, maybe it’s just copious amounts of alcohol and a good rain storm. Unfortunately we don’t really see any of that here. Emma and Jack have been mutually attracted to each other for some time now, though neither has voiced their inner desires aloud due to the close nature of their immediate friend group. I was wondering what key moment would have sparked these two into action after so many years of silent yearning.

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However, we really don’t get a sudden light-bulb moment of attraction. There’s no surprising burst of passion that draws them both up in the moment where they can’t keep their hands off each other. Instead we see them slowly start to flirt more than they had before, with no one clear reason coming to the forefront to explain why now was suddenly different than before. They have logical discussions about what it would mean to start dating…and then they do. Don’t get me wrong, there are some steamy moments built in there, but it wasn’t quite the startling unexpected switch from friends to lovers I was expecting. We never really get an answer to the question of, “why now”?

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There’s Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

While Jack and Emma’s years of friendship allow them to settle quite naturally into a physical relationship, they both have some crippling fears which prevent them from opening up whole-heartedly. Jack has never been one for serious relationships, so his fear of commitment has quietly seeped into his interactions with Emma. He definitely cares for her (that is never part of the issue), but rather his inner struggle of where he sees this relationship leading to in the future. As for our heroine, she’s afraid to admit how much she truly loves Jack in case he should see it as a reason to put their developing relationship on hold. Beyond this though there’s also the insinuation that Emma fears that which doesn’t live up to her ideal. She works in a high-demand industry which requires perfection. It seems when her personal life has an aspect that isn’t perfect, she cuts it out of her life. If a kiss or a date didn’t score high on her “spark-o-meter” she knew it was a done deal, and she’d do whatever she could to set the guy up with another woman.

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We also see this play out in her relationship with Jack towards the end of the book. When he doesn’t welcome her presence into his home after a long and trying day, it sparks an argument that finally reveals how much she loves him, yet also doesn’t feel welcome in his home. It doesn’t just stop at an argument, but rather escalates to the point where she breaks off their relationship, demanding that he not speak to or seek her out to resolve things. He wasn’t meeting her expectations of feeling fully incorporated into his life, so rather than discuss how they might move to remedy that situation, she takes the fast approach to just ending things completely. While her frustrations were warranted, it seemed like a rather rash decision to try and remove him from her life. The question then becomes if Jack will be able to move past his fear of commitment to acknowledge what she truly means to him, and find the strength to win her back.

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Series: Bride Quartet, book 2. This sequel has started laying the groundwork for our final 2 romances. While one seems like it will be somewhat of a repeat of this story line where longtime friends become something more, I can’t wait to see what fun might ensue when meticulous planner Parker falls for a local mechanic.

Final Impressions: Overall I’d say I liked this second novel much more than the first one. It still focused on the wedding planning details a bit too much for my taste, but was a significant reduction compared to book one. This is probably a good series for soon-to-be brides to read in order to see how much care and attention goes into the behind-the-scenes support of a wedding. Not to mention things to keep in mind to avoid being labeled MB (monster bride), or heaven forbid upgraded to MBB status (monster bitch bride). Ultimately the bond of friendship between the four ladies of this wedding planning business is really coming to the forefront as the most endearing and entertaining characteristic of the series.

Smut Level: We get some passionate moments mixed in that will make you clap your hands in delight, but nothing over the top erotic that will make you fan yourself off from the heat.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. Berkley Publishing. 370 Pages

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When I Fall by J. Daniels

Reed has a very firm “no kissing” rule when it comes to the women he “dates”. Actually, make that “has one-night stands with”.

What’s it About?

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For the past nine years, I’ve kept my heart as far away from my d*ck as possible. Those two can’t be anywhere near each other. They don’t play nice, and one of them undoubtedly winds up getting hurt. Not my d*ck. My d*ck is good.

The women I take home know exactly what they’re getting from me—a good time. Nothing more. At least, that’s what’s supposed to happen. The sweet brunette from Kentucky I set my sights on tonight shouldn’t have been any different. I had her right where I wanted her. Where I needed her. But when my past comes walking into McGill’s pub, the woman in my arms decides to take things to a whole new level, putting me into a situation I never saw coming.

My heart is about to get f**ked. My d*ck can sit this one out.

First Impressions 

Of all the novels in this series so far, this one might just be my favorite, and for one very important reason. I liked the characters! After finishing the second book in this series I almost didn’t continue on with it, but I decided to give it one last try. I’m definitely glad I did! Reed and Beth have a chemistry which is undeniably palpable. At first glance in a local pub, Reed has his usual sights set on Beth, thinking that she’ll be his quick and easy source of entertainment for the evening. After all, she’s reading romance smut on her Kindle in a bar. Surely she’s up for a good time? However, it’s not long into his flirtations that a painful memory from his past comes waltzing through the door, and bragging about her upcoming engagement party no less. He’s like a deer caught in headlights when confronted with his ex, and Beth can sense that this flirtatious playboy is hurting. So, she does the only thing she can think of. She grabs his face and kisses him. So much for Reed’s no kissing rule!

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The Playboy and his Fake Girlfriend

Reed is a quintessential playboy, so what is it about this young woman that sets her apart from all the others who have come before? And believe me, there was a hefty plethora which came before. Well, there are a few things which set this lady apart from all of Reed’s former bedfellows. Firstly, she initiated their first kiss, even if it was all pretend as she simultaneously concocted a ruse of her and Reed dating in order to help him confront his cheating former ex. Beth and Reed were strangers, and yet even upon first meeting she was essentially trying to protect him. Her selflessness, not to mention their steamy kiss, practically knocked him on his ass.

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Then there’s the whole matter of the ruse itself. When Beth pretends to be Reed’s girlfriend, and also offers to keep up the charade by accompanying him to his ex’s engagement party, their first key moments together are essentially shrouded in pretend. Reed’s goal is no longer to immediately get Beth into bed, but rather to survive this awkward confrontation with his ex. In order to distract him from the unusual circumstances of their pretend relationship, Beth opens up about herself, and in turn gets Reed to open up about himself as well. It’s the first time in years that he’s simply been able to be himself with another woman, and develop a connection that is beyond sex. Reed and Beth both become smitten with each other throughout the course of the evening, and it’s during this engagement party that they decide to stop pretending.

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Everything in Moderation

While Beth does her best to take Reed’s mind off the awkwardness of the evening, he chooses to find additional solace in alcohol. It doesn’t stop him though from ultimately opening up to Beth, and admitting that he wants to take her home. What follows is a passionate night of multiple orgasms…that we don’t actually get to read about firsthand. You see, there’s one little problem with this entire situation. Come morning, Reed doesn’t remember any of the details of their sexual escapades.

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Imagine for a moment being new to town, offering to be a fake girlfriend for a complete stranger, spending an amazing night together getting up to all kinds of dirty deeds, and then when you wake up hoping to have a continuation of said dirty deeds you realize that your fake boyfriend for the night doesn’t remember any of the sex from the previous evening. Needless to say, Beth bolts out of there in sheer embarrassment. You gotta hand it to Reed though, the man must be one high-functioning black-out drunk. As the days pass, and his calls to Beth go unanswered, he starts to remember snippets of their night together, and hot damn! They made use of every surface of his house, not to mention got creative in the kitchen with various condiment options. Let this be a lesson to you ladies and gents, alcohol in moderation. You don’t want to forget these steamy details!

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Off-Balance

The first half of this novel was an absolute hoot. The entire set-up of their fake relationship which quickly developed into something more was extremely entertaining. You also can’t help but feel slightly bad for Reed in his hungover state. It’s not like he tried to kick Beth out of his bed in the morning or anything. He actually tried his damnedest to convince her to stay and talk things out. He may not have remembered their sexual exploits from the previous night, but he remembered how he felt about her. That he knew she was special, and that he enjoyed the moments they could simply laugh together.

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What follows are some humorous scenes where Reed tries to win her back, but everything takes a more serious turn with the introduction of some drama surrounding the couple from the first novel in this series. It’s in this moment that both Reed and Beth realize how important they are to each other, and Beth decides to stop running. They decide to make a go of an official relationship, and Reed is especially determined to make up for all the lost bedroom time. This results in the second-half of the novel being pretty sex-heavy, to the point where you almost forget how they came together in the first place. Either the events from the first half needed to be spread out more evenly over the course of the novel, or maybe we could have trimmed a sex scene or two from the second half. I know, trimming sexing scenes seems so unlike me, right?!

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Series: Alabama Summer, book 3. My favorite book of the series so far. Still not without its faults, but we seem to be moving in an upward trajectory. I can’t wait to see what comes next!

Final Impressions: I definitely enjoyed this one. Beth especially was a unique and intriguing character considering her background of familial loss, homelessness, and even emotional abuse at the hands of another man. As for Reed, it was refreshing to see this playboy learn to find happiness with another woman outside of the bedroom. He even admits that it’s the moments in between their time in the sheets that become his favorite where they can simply have fun laughing together. We do see some additional drama come into play towards the end involving Beth’s dad (which in my opinion was slightly unnecessary), as well as the return of a jerk from Beth’s past, which also wasn’t my favorite as it demonstrated Beth’s vulnerability and lack of confidence in her relationship with Reed. Overall though, the story manages to come full circle, and Reed is able to demonstrate his full devotion to this woman.

Smut Level: Yowza! When you read about using honey in a sexual scenario…well that just seems like a sticky mess with very little appeal.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. JD Publishing, LLC. 372 Pages.

McSexy by Sianah Nalika DeShield

Jollof rice and fried chicken. Banku and tilapia. This novel has me craving Ghanaian culinary specialties like nobody’s business!

What’s it About? 

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Name: Michael Abeiku Frimpong Aka Mike Frimpong
Age: 27
Nationality: Ghanaian
Net worth: $250 million United States Dollars.
About him: Yale University Graduate, MBA. Masters of Business Administration BBA. Bachelors of Business Administration. Millionaire at age twenty-one, CEO of Frimpong Insurance Corp. Voted number one most eligible bachelor by the women of Ghana for five consecutive years. Grand Master of the female orgasm, and serial playboy until his manhood was questioned, leaving him no choice but to accept the wager of getting a woman pregnant or pay $200,000 USD. Well, it’s on!

Name: Lilian Akosua Annah Aka Lily Annah
Age: 24
Nationality: Ghanaian
Net worth: The last time she checked, there were 300 Ghana cedis, the equivalent of $60.00 USD in her account.
About her: Shy, nerdy, insecure, and likes to think she is an average woman since she seems invisible to men and the last time she had a boyfriend was three years ago, but is she really that average? University of Cape Coast Ph.D. Candidate, Educational Psychology, Masters of Philosophy, Educational Psychology, M.Phil. University of Ghana, Legon, Bachelor of Arts, English BA, author of Affong’s Wishes, the newest children’s book set for the next academic year curriculum for the students in Ghana, beautiful dark skin, perfect hips, tiny waist, a good pair of perky tits, eyes that are absolutely beautiful, adorable, and innocent, they could make you do anything she wants, a voice that is so hypnotic it would make you go wild and submit to her, and a brain that is so sharp that it makes Mike Frimpong’s four-point zero grade point average at Yale seem less achievable.

One visit to her book launch leaves the playboy’s heart pumping and manhood twitching, not just from thinking of claiming her, but also making her the perfect woman to carry his child. Oops… she’s off limits and could cost him everything.

Is the playboy bold enough to chase her, risking everything he’s worked for in the process, or is he willing to let the one woman who stops his heartbeat for the first time walk out of his life?

First Impressions

What is our first impression of Mike Frimpong? He’s a successful and wealthy businessman who has fought his way out of abject poverty to reach the top. He’s worked hard throughout the years, focusing on his education, and is now in a position where he can give back to his community. He’s also a womanizer. More troubling though is that he has some questionable reactions when his masculinity is questioned. Our story opens with Mike’s masculine pride at stake as a rumor spreads of his supposed impotency. He’s never had a serious, long-term relationship before in his life, so there must be some kind of issue going on down there. A close friend of his provides him with a possible solution, saying that if Mike were to have a baby, people would finally take him more seriously. This friend even goads Mike into making a bet on the matter. A bet which Mike agrees to.

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Now, if Mike were just setting out to try and get his foot into the corporate world, I might have had more sympathy for him agreeing to this bet of getting a woman pregnant. But at the end of the day…it was all about him. Others were questioning his manhood, and therefore he had to dispel the rumors in any way he could. It was ultimately a selfish decision that he entered into speedily without much thought as to the fact that his actions would make him responsible for another human being. We’ve all read romance novels with a marriage bet or contract of some kind involving two consenting adults who eventually fall in love. No big surprise or issue there. But to have the result of a bet be a child? Simply because the main character worried others saw him as less of a man? Eek, definitely not painting him in the best light for our first impression!

Surrogacy Takes Hold

To briefly summarize the progression of events, Mike meets Lily at a book signing, they both hit it off, and they decide to go on a few dates. However, Lily also happens to be strapped for cash to save her family home, so in order to get a lot of money (and fast), she answers a newspaper ad calling for a surrogate. Little does she know that she’s actually answering Mike’s ad, and little does Mike know that Lily is the one he’s selected to be his surrogate seeing as she used a fake name when applying. One little doctor’s visit later and Lily is pregnant with Mike’s baby…only she doesn’t know it’s his. And technically she’s still dating Mike, even though she’s pregnant with what she assumes is another man’s baby. The plot thickens!

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Both Lily and Mike respectively question the timeline of their burgeoning relationship once Lily’s pregnancy becomes a reality, which lends an interesting psychological perspective to their dilemma. For Lily, it’s a signal of the end of whatever it is that’s starting between them. After all, it’s not long before she’ll start showing, and there’s no way Mike would be interested in dating a woman who is carrying another man’s baby for money. Right? As for Mike, now is the time he wants to dig his heels in with Lily, and get to know her even more. He sees her in his life long term, which means she’ll inevitably need to be comfortable raising the baby another woman carried for him. Little do they know how linked they’ve truly become in this surrogacy. Which was an aspect that seemed slightly…questionable.

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Mike is a business man. He may have entered into this baby bet quickly, but I can’t believe he wouldn’t have done his due diligence when it came to the woman who would carry his child. The fact a thorough background check wouldn’t have been involved to ensure this woman was who she said she was, and not using a fake name, seemed relatively unbelievable. Sure, it does allow for a build-up of suspense, as you wonder how long it will be before they undoubtedly discover the other’s role/identity in this surrogacy endeavor. That being said, it seems to go against Mike’s very nature which made him such a success in the first place.

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The Question of Longevity

The ultimate question with any romance is whether or not the relationship will last. Mike insists that Lily means everything to him, but simultaneously admits that “Just the thought of commitment makes me nauseated.” Lily doesn’t doubt that Mike loves her, and that he would make a wonderful husband. Yet, she constantly wonders if he’ll cheat on her, and worries that he’ll eventually hurt her by going back to his womanizing ways. In addition, the entire existence of their baby springs forth a whole other slew of worries in her mind. Is he only in love with her because she’s pregnant? Will he one day grow to hate her decision to be a surrogate because she was once willing to give her baby over to the arms of a stranger? If she doesn’t marry Mike is she strong enough to be a single mother? Is she only looking to marry Mike now because of the fact she’s afraid of being a single mother?

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I want to believe that by the end of the novel they’ve worked through all of these inner doubts to get to a point where they are confident in their decision to spend the rest of their lives together. However, I can’t say I’m entirely convinced. At one point another character warns Mike that he and Lily are simply “playing house”, and in a way I agree. When the reality of commitment and parenthood comes knocking on their door we question if they’ll be able to maintain their relationship. There were scenes where our characters faced some difficult tests to their relationship, and they’re both willing to stand up to fight for their love. However, we see other moments which highlight that sometimes when the going gets tough, our characters are wont to flee. At one point in particular we see Mike become so distraught at overhearing Lily’s doubts regarding their relationship that he runs into the arms of another woman. This continual flux of fleeing from, yet also fighting for their relationship leaves you in a kind of limbo over the fate of their relationship.

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

Series: Stand-Alone

Final Impressions: The length could have been slightly shorter, with more attention focused on resolving their individual insecurities about the relationship, as well as them coming together over the fact they’re about to be parents. By the end it sort of seems like they’re both determined to give their relationship a go, but the fact they’re bringing a whole other life into the world was somewhat glossed over. There is some drama introduced towards the end, including the fact that their surrogacy arrangement becomes public knowledge throughout the community. It’s sort of brushed aside to the point where you wonder if it will ever be resolved, and it isn’t until the final moments of the book that this story point comes back into play. This resulted in the ending feeling a bit rushed, but we do get some fabulous moments of Lily finally standing up for her man. Definitely some well constructed verbal sparring matches that will make you want to applaud Lily for her candor. In spite of these moments though, I still can’t say I was entirely convinced by the end that Mike and Lily were poised for a long-term successful relationship.

Smut Level: Mike is a former womanizer, which means he brings plenty of experience to the table. Surprisingly though, Lily isn’t afraid to lead the show a time or two.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services, LLC. 405 Pages

Through the Eyes of a Captive by Angela Christina Archer

From the wide open plains of the wagon train, to the secluded village of the Lakota tribe. See how one captive manages to find freedom in the arms of a warrior.

What’s it About? 

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“It is observed that in any great endeavor, it is not enough for a person to depend solely on himself.” ~ Lakota Proverb

They called it a terrible glory and the last great battle for the American West. While the battle of the Little Bighorn was the last stand by Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer against the Lakota tribes, to Lily Sinclair it was the last stand between her old life and her new beginning.

After her in-laws squander away the family fortune, Lily and her husband, Alfred, head out west to the mountains of Montana, the only land available to poor people and far away from the debts haunting them. When a band of Cherokee warriors attacks their wagon train along the way, they kill her husband and take her captive, selling her to a Lakota tribe for the price of several horses.

Widowed Lakota warrior Tahatan has vowed never to take another bride after his wife’s death. However, he soon finds himself forced in a marriage with the outspoken, yellow-haired Yankee who challenges every thought in his head. While his attraction for her grows, so do the tormenting demons of his past.

With Custer’s sights set on the hidden gold in the depths of the Black Hills, the Colonel begins his warpath on the tribe villages. Can Lily overcome the demons of her past and defend Tahatan and his people? Or will she betray them all for the actions against her dead husband, killing someone she never believed she would in the process?

First Impressions

Make no mistake, this is an emotionally heavy read. Our novel opens with Lily traveling west with her somewhat surly husband; the open plains seemingly leading to endless possibilities. It doesn’t take long though before this outlook of hope and possibility drastically changes course to one of violence as a band of Indians attacks this train of innocent travelers. We as the reader knew the attack was coming. It’s outlined right there in the synopsis. What I wasn’t expecting was the ruthlessness of the attack. The author certainly doesn’t shirk away from some gruesome details.

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We start off with the violent death of Lily’s husband, who was unexpectedly shot mid-conversation with a slew of arrows, before being stabbed repeatedly and even scalped. As Lily is captured, we see the brutal ends of her fellow travelers. Men, women, and even children whose throats were slit, or innocent bodies were penetrated by arrows. My initial question as a reader was whether or not the vicious details of such an attack were necessary. Then I realized that while the specifics were undoubtedly painful to read, you must also commend the author for not shying away from the stark authenticity of these kinds of attacks. When these two opposing worlds clashed together, violence like this was a reality. It was a harsh reality, but it was reality nonetheless. Why try to sugarcoat it?

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From Captive to Wife

When Lily is bound and captured, she immediately goes into survival mode. Escape doesn’t cross her mind, as she knows it would be futile. She has no choice but to follow her captors. At this point Lily’s entire life has been thrown into disarray. She just witnessed the slaughter of her husband and the wagon train. She’s been taken captive, traded to another tribe, and forced to marry their strongest warrior, Tahatan. Now, if it were me? I’d be curled up in a ball, shaking back and forth, and wracked by uncontrollable sobbing. For Lily, she learns how to adapt to an entirely new way of life, in a new environment, surrounded by people speaking a language she doesn’t understand. She comes to appreciate the beauty and calm of nature more than she ever felt for the bustling city streets she once knew. Her new husband speaks English, and while he initially admits he never had any intention of marrying again after the death of his first wife, the two eventually come to an understanding of friendship. Which soon blossoms into something more.

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“But that’s all I’ve known here–force. Forced to watch Alfred die. Forced to the ground. Forced to have my wrists tied….Then forced into a marriage. What else would I know?”

You might be asking yourself how it’s possible Lily could come to love another man so soon after the tragic death of her husband. The truth is that by marrying Tahatan she now has the opportunity to reflect on her previous marriage to Alfred. As they traveled the wagon train we saw glimpses that not all was well in their marriage. Lily now starts to question if she every truly loved him, or if it was simply the institution of marriage that she was attracted to. Time passes in this Lakota village she’s come to inhabit with her new husband, and she slowly starts to see the harsh mask of this warrior fade away into one of a gentle and caring person. He teaches her the ways and traditions of his people. They learn to trust each other. To confide in each other. And eventually how to love each other. However, as Lily learns to appreciate this new way of life, and this newfound love with her husband, dangerous forces start to encroach upon her newfound serenity. 

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“I missed having a man around me. I missed having conversations. I missed the assurance someone loved and cared for me, and would do so for as long as he lived. I missed the protection of a warm pair of arms…I missed the comfort of a life shared. I missed marriage.”

Tradition vs. Greed

Enter Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and his band of soldiers. When the story opened we witnessed a gruesome attack of Cherokee against a wagon train. Now we see the reverse, as government soldiers heedlessly cut down innocent Lakota tribes-people in their villages. Once again, we see the violent slaughter of men, women and children come full circle, and it begs to question what either side is fighting for where death seems to be the only answer. For the Cherokee, the Lakota, and the other tribes, they are defending their homes, their traditions, and their very way of life from the slew of people invading their lands. For Custer and his men? It’s greed. Gold. The loss of innocent lives on either side is unforgivable, but to see the lengths that some men will go to simply for material wealth…it’s a tragedy that brings tears to my eyes even now. To read this fictional romance is one thing, but then to acknowledge that this story is steeped in the harsh truths of history makes these senseless deaths even more poignant.

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For the first times in their lives, both Lily and Tahatan feel whole. Their love is pure, deep, and all-consuming. This becomes particularly evident when the possibility of Tahatan becoming swept up in the ensuing war between tribes and soldiers grows nearer. While Lily feels whole for the first time in her life, she also feels fear unlike anything she’s felt before over the thought of losing someone close to her. When she and Alfred were traveling along the wagon train she knew the dangers and risks of attacks were lurking, but it never crossed her mind what it would be like to lose Alfred; to have to live a life without him. Now that she’s finally confronted with the possibility of losing Tahatan, she is filled with a crippling fear which makes her question if she’d be able to survive if he were to die.

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“And then someone captured me, like a wild animal now in irons. Only, what I didn’t know was that those shackles would lead me to more freedom than I’d ever known or believed I would feel. The freedom of you.”

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

Series: The Wildflower Women Collection, book 3. Each novel in this series guarantees a strong female lead, and superb writing which will transport you through time into the story.

Final Impressions: This is a heavy, and honestly kind of a depressing read, but it’s an important one. It certainly made me want to immediately research the Lakota, as well as the fates of the various tribes following Custer’s last stand. There was one feature towards the end which blended history with fiction a bit too dramatically for my tastes. We’re also presented with a somewhat open-ended ending that will leave you wanting more. Something I especially appreciated though with this read was the constant juxtaposition between an old way of life versus the new. Just as Lily’s previously urban way of life with her first husband disappeared when she was taken captive, so too is the Lakota’s former way of life disappearing as their lands are increasingly threatened by soldiers. The question becomes, will they too be able to adapt as she did, or will they go down fighting to preserve their traditions?

Smut Level: Definitely some passionate moments between Lily and Tahatan, but nothing overly detailed.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Long Valley Press. 280 Pages.