Resolutions Embraced by Ayla Asher

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

What’s it About?

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

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

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

The Past Repeats Itself

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

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

The Thrill of the Race

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

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

Find Someone Who Makes You Laugh

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

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

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

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

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

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

Desires Uncovered by Ayla Asher

Just when I thought this series couldn’t get any better, the author presents us with a fake engagement story-line. Consider me all aboard on this train to Romancelandia!

What’s it About?

It was supposed to be a casual affair…

Dr. Teresa Roe moved from the bustling city to small-town Pennsylvania, hoping the slower pace would help her focus on finding a partner and building a family. Unfortunately, life had other plans, and Teresa finds herself single in her mid-forties, unable to have the children she craves. Determined to focus on the positives, she builds her thriving therapy practice and joins a hook-up app looking for a fun, no-strings-attached affair.

Mark Lancaster has no time to date or cultivate a relationship, so meeting women on hook-up apps is perfect for his busy schedule. When he meets Teresa, he can’t believe his fortune at finding someone so smart, sexy, and funny. In fact, his casual affair with her quickly becomes the highlight of his hectic life.

When Mark decides to run for County District Attorney, his opponent quickly reveals their relationship, spinning their affair as nefarious and creating a scandal that almost derails the campaign. Thankfully, Teresa agrees to enter into a fake engagement, saving him from ruin. But the road to victory isn’t easy, and as they grow closer, the relationship they both swear is casual begins to grow into something real…

Can two fiercely independent souls find true love amidst scandal?

First Impressions

This series is an absolute treat! We’re now three books in, and aside from a picturesque setting and lovable characters, the other thing I love most is the fact that no two couples or tales of romance are completely alike. I’ll be the first to admit my memory is total crap, and yet I’ve had no trouble remembering the details of our previous couples when they make a reappearance in this book, as each novel has a distinct personality which clearly sets it apart from the others. This installment is particularly delicious as we meet an older couple of main characters who tried to keep things as casual and sexual as possible in the midst of their busy lives. Neither has the time for anything serious, and their precise routine of twice-a-week hotel sex meet-ups works for them in every way.

Upon starting this book I didn’t really read the synopsis beforehand, as I like to be as surprised as possible when it comes to the plot, so you can imagine my utter confusion when these two characters (with obvious chemistry) decided to break things off within the first few chapters, as Mark was going to announce his candidacy for County District Attorney. The bewitching Teresa was someone he knew he wouldn’t have time for anymore, even if he felt a pull to spend as much time with her as possible. I thought to myself…where the heck is this thing going?! Lo and behold, when the details of their hook-ups surface in the news due to some digging by his political opponent, there is only one solution to save Mark’s reputation in the eyes of his constituents. That’s when I fully realized where this story was going and I shouted aloud, “Fake engagement, yasssssss!!!” Totally here for it.

Bad-Ass Boss Bitch

Mark and Teresa are another phenomenal couple to add to this series, but Teresa might take the lead as my favorite female character so far. This woman is pragmatic, strong, totally bad-ass, and honestly the kind of woman I want to be when I grow up. After the initial shock of being labeled as a something of a whore in the press, and considering the potential ramifications on her therapy practice, she allows herself a brief amount of time to mourn and lament before picking herself up by her stilettoes and trudging on. I was so worried that the presence of the press and potential invasion of her privacy and routine would cause a rift between her and the delectable chemistry between her and Mark, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. This woman wasn’t afraid to stand up, speak out, and put on a show when it mattered most. Such a queen of the highest order!

A Touch of Drama

There were a few dramatic components to the plot which lent a distinct flavor to this particular read in the series. Firstly, Teresa is older than your average romance novel heroine, and the fact she can’t have children comes front and center as a major story-line beside the budding romance with Mark. We get a poignant intro before the novel begins that this won’t be one of those reads where a woman thinks she can’t have a baby, but then we get a happily ever after ending with a miracle pregnancy. Nope, this isn’t one of those novels. Pregnancy is a closed door to Teresa, and I for one really appreciated this focus on a woman entering her late 40s who can still take life and love into her own hands, and in a way that sometimes traverses an unconventional route.

Another major component of this story is Mark’s campaign, and how a case involving his sister opens the possibility of defeat. The truly standout feature of this read is that it is really the first book in the series where we are introduced to a villain. We’ve seen a few douche-rockets here and there, but Mark’s political opponent presents us with a whole other level of selfish bum-hole. I remember at one point thinking his combativeness maybe should have been toned down a bit. Surly this transparent level of evil was a tad too cartoonish in its representation? But then it just took a few moments of scrolling through some political tweets on Twitter for me to realize, “oh yeah…this totally tracks.” Hell, if anything he was tame by comparison!

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

Series: Ardor Creek, book 3. Since book one I have been eager to get to the story of the next novel, but we were introduced to a new potential future couple for book 5 that has my anticipation level skyrocketing!

Final Impressions: Another great addition to the series. There’s always a perfect mixture of romance, lust, fun and drama in each book, and yet each story and character manages to remain unique from all the others. Honestly, the only hang-up I had with this read was the name of our male lead, but that’s just because I work with a Mark who’s kind of a pain in the bum. Being reminded of his face every time I came across the name was slightly disconcerting, but considering that was really my only complaint…I guess I really can’t complain!

Smut Level: These two might have busy schedules, but believe me…they find time for the good stuff. There is a rather epic scene which takes place in the bathroom that will leave you especially weak in the knees.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. 227 Pages.

Illusions Unveiled by Ayla Asher

Our journey through the small town of Ardor Creek continues as we explore how one man will do whatever it takes to prove to the one woman who got away that he’s worth taking a chance on. All I gotta say is if she won’t take him, I certainly will.

What’s it About?

Sometimes you squander all your second chances…

At the tender age of seven, Peter Stratford fell in love with the only woman who would ever claim his heart. But Carrie represented Ardor Creek, the town Peter detested. Determined to make something of himself in New York City, he leaves her behind, breaking both their hearts.

Carrie Longwood accepted that Peter would never love her enough to stay. Embracing her inner strength, she married another and had her precious boys before her messy divorce. Alone in Ardor Creek, she builds her life around her small family unit.

When Peter returns to Ardor Creek, battered and broken from addiction, he begins to heal, knowing Carrie will never forgive him. But Carrie kept her own secrets and, whether they’re ready or not, all of their illusions will be unveiled…

First Impressions

We were initially introduced to Carrie and Peter in the first Ardor Creek novel, and even though they were secondary characters at the time, it was clearly evident that they had a chemistry and history that was worth exploring in more detail. This second addition to the series give us the chance to look back on how Carrie and Peter’s picture-perfect high school romance devolved following his move to the big city and subsequent fall into drug and alcohol addiction. Carrie gave him a few chances to win her heart throughout the years, and while the chemistry was always there, they could never get the timing right. It’s now years after Peter’s recovery and Carrie’s divorce from a grade-A bumhole. As their close friendship has stayed true and strong after so many hurdles, it finally seems like they both might be at the right time and place in their lives to make another go at it. They’ll just have to make it through a health scare involving one of Carrie’s boys, as well as her many insecurities before that long-held dream might become a reality. For those of you who like second-chance romances, this is more like a third or fourth chance romance that will steal your heart!

Secrets Unveiled

It’s been a long and arduous journey for both Carrie and Peter to finally get to the healthy place they’re both at when the novel opens. Peter has confronted the many demons of his past, and has successfully entered recovery after years of addiction. Now he’s finally ready to confront his future, and for Peter that means settling down in Ardor Creek for good with the love of his life by his side. He’ll just have to learn about a critical secret that Carrie has been keeping from him for years…and maybe donate a major bodily organ before she’s willing to explore taking things to the next level with Peter once again. Carrie’s hesitancies to let Peter fully into her and her boys’ lives was a major theme of this book. I’ll admit, at first I just wanted to yell, “Oh just get over it already! This hunk of burnin’ love is obviously a keeper, and is fully committed to you and your kids! Let him in!” However, there were several key moments where I think Carrie’s concerns were communicated to us in a logical way that didn’t just make it seem like the plot was stalling for time.

Roadblocks to Happiness

Firstly, it’s one thing to be fun “Uncle Peter” for a few hours throughout the week by playing video games or soccer with her sons, and sitting down for dinner as a group when it’s convenient. Taking things to the next level would invite the not-so-glamorous side of parenting 24/7, from driving the kids to piano lessons and soccer games, helping with homework, being woken up in the middle of the night from unexpected nightmares, etc. It’s not something he can just turn away from when he’s too tired after a long day of work, and Carrie needs to make sure Peter understands what it means to transition from the fun family friend to a trustworthy father figure. Then there is Peter’s past to contend with.

Thankfully, I was pleased to see that Carrie never really saw Peter’s addictive tendencies as a reason to keep him at a distance from her or her boys. If anything, this seemed like more of a hang-up for Peter than it ever was for Carrie, and she always admired him for his strength to get clean. Her main reservation was always a fear that Peter would tire of the small-town life that Ardor Creek and her small family would ever be able to offer him. How long before he’d be called back to the bright lights and excitement of the city? After all, it called him away from her several times in their past, why would it be any different this time around? Well, Peter is determined to show her that Carrie and her two boys are all he’s ever wanted, and they represent his future happiness in every way.

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

Series: Ardor Creek, book 2. Every book in this series has ended with an epilogue of our characters heading to the wedding of the town’s notorious bachelor mayor. I can’t wait to finally get to that story, but it looks like we have one more romance to explore before we finally get invited to the blessed event.

Final Impressions: I am definitely in love with this series, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store next for the residents of this small town. This sequel felt a tad more serious at times when compared to book one, but it was still a great addition to the series which incorporated a great blend of romance, drama, a smidge of comedy, and sexy fun times. Peter was such a commendable character in my mind to have overcome such debilitating addiction, and retain enough patience to never give up on a future with the love of his life. The final scene of the book provides us with a picture-perfect moment that left a tear in my eye, and you’ll just have to read it yourself to see why!

Smut Level: These two may have entered their forties, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still up for all manner of sexy fun times. Carrie and Peter can get downright raunchy when the kids go to sleep, and even kick things up a notch with a sexy nurse’s outfit.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. 196 Pages.

Hearts Reclaimed by Ayla Asher

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

What’s it About?

Two weary souls find each other against all odds…

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

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

In the Face of Tragedy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her Patriotic Prince by Ayla Asher

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

What’s it About? 

It was only supposed to be one night…

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

From Steam to Intimacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her Valentine Surprise by Ayla Asher

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

What’s it About? 

Sam has a secret he holds close to his heart…

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

From Co-Workers to Lovers

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

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

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

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

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

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

His Holiday Pact by Ayla Asher

His Holiday Pact by Ayla Asher

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

What’s it About? 

Who knew a fake holiday relationship could be so fun?

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

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

Adults Being Adults

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

The Past Threatens the Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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