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.