Immortal Beginnings by Rebecca Hefner

What’s better than a paranormal romance featuring a virginal male hero who finds his happily ever after with the love of his immortal life? 

What’s it About?

Can a Deamon who has never felt a lover’s touch win the affection of a beautiful but wary Vampyre widow?

Strong and stoic Dragos yearns to build an honest life after the War of the Species ends. Due to his servitude to the Dark Lord Crimeous, he never had the opportunity to experience love or true emotion.

Vampyre widow Raina promised she’d never love another. Yet, she’s taken with her handsome, enigmatic new neighbor and his kindness to her two sons.

When Raina realizes Dragos has never had a lover, she gives in to their mutual passion, never realizing she might also lose her heart to the man who somehow invaded every crevice of her soul…

First Impressions

When I found out one of my absolute favorite authors had written a novella for the Etherya’s Earth series I simply had three words to say: sign…me…up! That, and a lot of incessant squealing and hand flapping in excitement. For those of you who are also a fan of the Etherya’s Earth paranormal series, you won’t want to miss this beautiful short story, Immortal Beginnings. While it doesn’t feature any of the primary characters from the series we’ve come to know and love, you’ll quickly become enamored with the romance between deamon Dragos and vampyre Raina. You’ll have no problem finishing this novella in one sitting, and yet there is so much story to unpack between these two characters. Fangs down, of all the short stories featured in the Etherya’ Earth series so far, this was undoubtedly my favorite. I can only hope we’ll get a glimpse of this couple again in a future full-length novel.

Letting Go of the Past

Yes, this novella does feature a virginal male hero which I was fully on board for, but beyond this amazing trope of a more experienced female lead guiding her man in the ways of pleasure, we were also presented with two complex characters who are trying to find their way in a new world unlike anything they’ve known before. Etherya’s Earth has been plagued by war for centuries, but its inhabitants are finally living in a time of peace, when vampyres, deamons and slayers can coexist rather than fight against each other. This is the setting upon which our novella opens, as deamon Dragos is trying to live a “normal” life away from the world of deamon caves and constant fighting which he’s only known up until this point. As for Raina, she is now a single mother trying to adapt to life following the death of her “bonded” in the final battle against the evil deamon Crimeous. These two unlikely neighbors are able to push aside their troubled pasts to find happiness and pleasure with each other in the present, and the promising hope of something even more permanent going forward.

Upon first reading this novella, I was so worried we’d ultimately discover that Dragos was responsible for killing Raina’s husband in battle, but thankfully we focus instead on what it means for these two to explore a relationship together at this particular point in their lives. For Dragos, he has only known the horrors of war. At one point in the story, Raina offers to bring him salve for a burn on his arm, and he reveals that it is the first time he’s been voluntarily touched by another in all of his centuries on this Earth. The glimpses of vulnerability we witness for this weathered soldier are almost enough to bring a tear to your eye, as you realize that beneath the tough exterior lies a man who simply craves the soft touch of another. He has craved Raina since she first moved in next door, and when she finally offers herself to him, he can’t help but fall hard and fast for this loving woman and caring mother.

For Raina, she initially worries that Dragos will feel more for her than she could ever reciprocate, especially considering she’s the one to touch and physically please him for the first time ever. Even though a letter from her belated husband clearly states he hopes she can move on to find happiness with another during her immortal life, she can’t help but keep a part of herself back from Dragos in a foolhardy attempt to prevent herself from falling for this deamon. Dragos is willing to accept any part of her she’s willing to give, but can Raina acknowledge that there’s room in her heart for both Dragos and her former bonded? Giving her heart to this man doesn’t mean she’s replacing the memory of her husband. She’s allowing herself the opportunity to move on and make new memories that can co-exist with, rather than take over, those of the man she loved before. Again, there’s definitely a lot of emotional baggage to unpack in such a short novella!

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

Series: Etherya’s Earth, book 4.5. I’m pretty sure I’ve said it before, but I’ll repeat it here for posterity: I will read anything and everything this author ever releases.

Final Impressions: Loved it, adored it, consider myself officially smitten. It’s not simply the tale of a male losing his v-card, but also an observation of how two people can put aside their traumatic pasts, and convince themselves they are worthy of love. How it’s possible to open up one’s heart again after having found and lost true love before. We not only fall in love with Dragos and Raina, but also Raina’s two adorable sons, Galen and Ekon. There is so much to love about this novella, and I’m excited to see what else this anthology has in store!

Smut Level: The first time this series presented us with a deamon falling for a vampyre we were privy to the most alpha of males who was well-versed in the ways of pleasure. This time around, Dragos might not have the experience, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a quick study in the ways of pleasure, or dirty talk for that matter. As a former soldier, he is more than capable of following all the sultry orders that Raina has to give in the bedroom.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Reading Goddess Press, LLC. 154 Pages.

Lost on the Atlantic by Angela Christina Archer

Declan and Siobhan knew that their journey on the Titanic would change their lives forever. They never could have expected that by boarding the Ship of Dreams they were taking a step onto what would soon become their Ship of Nightmares. 

What’s it About? 

The gossip had spread across Ireland. People talked of her speed, size, and how even God couldn’t sink her.

Titanic—the ship that could forever change their lives.

With Ireland on the brink of war, passengers Siobhan and her husband Declan board the luxury steamer headed to America. While her husband dreams of a better life in a new country, she dreams of a life on stage, singing for audiences young and old. Having read the stories from her husband during the three years he helped build the ship, Siobhan is excited to see all the lavishness carved into every inch from the bow to the stern. Unfortunately, their third-class tickets hinder their ability to explore the deepest secrets of the first-class areas.

Determined to experience all the ship has to offer, they steal clothes from the cargo hold and pose as members of the elite, vowing to talk to no one. Their devious plan goes awry, however, as they soon find themselves not only invited to dinners and parties, but they are making friends with the rich and famous interested in helping Siobhan’s dream come true. Can they run the con long enough to make it to New York? Or will their lies catch up with them? And will it matter when the ship is headed toward a fate no one thought possible?

Quick Review

Angela Christina Archer has once again transported us to another time and place, this time from a small rural village in Ireland, to the wooden decks of the illustrious Titanic, and ultimately to the bright lights of New York City. While it’s hard to read this book without immediately comparing it to the 1997 film, or the true events of history itself, I would say that something Ms. Archer has done exceedingly well is provide us with a glimpse beyond the first class cabins and passengers the film and history books often prefer to focus on, and instead lets us walk the hallways of third class. That’s not to say we aren’t also introduced to a few familiar faces from history, including the stalwart and lovable Molly Brown, to the loving Astors, the top-hat wearing Mr. Guggenheim, and even the white-bearded Captain Smith. Beyond these known names though, we get to know the passengers and stories for those who were relegated to remain in the bowels of the ship.

For our lead characters, and so many others who shared the lower decks with them, the Titanic was not merely a pleasure cruise transporting them from one place to another. She was their salvation from poverty and war, bringing them to a land of promise. We see the years of toil and struggle that went into being able to afford just one ticket, rather than simply winning it with a lucky hand of cards during a poker game a la Leonardo DiCaprio. We also witness the immense heartbreak that went into leaving one’s country and family behind. For so many, they knew that they would most likely never be able to afford a return ticket home for a nice “visit”. The process of taking those steps onto the infamous ship was, in essence, a death of their former life which had to be mourned before they could fully celebrate the new adventure upon which they were embarking. To see that so many inevitably left one death behind just to move closer to another more permanent death is a whole other kind of heartbreak unleashed upon us. This book is certainly an emotional journey from start to finish, but for fans of Titanic history I would say it’s worth picking up. 

Series: The Wildflower Women Collection, book 4. I can’t recommend this series enough. Each book is a stand-alone, set in four very distinct periods of history. They are all connected in a way by the presence of a strong female-lead, trying to find a place in the world with the love of her life supporting her through all the obstacles they might face together as a couple. While it’s not necessary to read this series in order, I would say just keep in mind that the third and fourth novels are probably the most emotionally taxing of the bunch. You might want to build up to those!

Final Impressions: My biggest piece of advice when embarking upon this read is to plan it out when you can finish it all in one sitting. We all know the inevitable tragic fate that will befall this ship. However, we’re constantly held in a heightened level of suspense wondering what will happen to not only our beloved lead characters of Siobhan and Declan, but also the family and friends traveling along with them, as well as each and every character they happen to meet along the way. The iceberg is a constant shadow we know is lurking just beyond the horizon, and I have a feeling that if you put it down at any point you might find it hard to pick back up for fear of discovering which characters will survive or perish. In that sense, it’s actually a fairly quick read as I found myself picking up the pace with every page our married couple spends upon this ill-fated ship, desperate to find out if they’ll realize their American dream. I also spent about the last half of the book in tears, so again, aim for one sitting! My only complaint with this book came in the very very end, which felt too rushed. We almost have the opportunity to learn how some specific characters met their fate, but instead we just get a quick listed mention of who lived or died, even though we’re presented with a survivor who could have provided more of a first-hand account of what happened. Other than this rushed ending, it’s an interesting historical read of love and ambition.  

Smut Level: We might see reference to an automobile kept in the cargo hold of the Titanic, but don’t expect any post-coital sweaty hand-print moments in this read. A few kisses here and there, with everything else a fade-to-black. This tale rightfully focuses more attention on the emotional connection between Siobhan and Declan, especially as the sad fate of the Titanic crumbles around them. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Long Valley Press. 264 Pages. 

Dominik by Sawyer Bennett

They both assumed that one night together would be enough. But you know what they say happens when you assume! 

What’s it About? 

I built myself up from nothing. A product of the foster care system, I learned early on how to fight hard to get what I want. Whether it was starting my first company in college, earning my first billion, or buying my first professional sports team, I know how to get what I want, when I want it. Until now.

Willow Monahan is fierce, independent, and hot as hell. She also takes great pleasure in shutting down my advances. The younger sister of one of my star players, Willow intrigues me to my very core. And while she may have willingly given me her body, she is hesitant to offer up more. Now I’m on a mission to find out why.

I’ve decided to approach my desire for Willow like I’ve approached much of my life; with persistence, determination, and a whole lot of that Dominik Carlson alpha charm. Buying a hockey expansion team, building the Arizona Vengeance from the ground up, and bringing home a championship may prove to be an easier feat than winning Willow’s heart. But I’ve never been a quitter. Willow Monahan… I’m coming for you.

First Impressions

The romance between Arizona Vengeance billionaire team owner, Dominik Carlson, and the sister of one of his star players, Willow Monahan, has been hinted at several times over the last few books. It’s a passion that has teased and intrigued, as we’re presented with a game of cat and mouse that’s been turned on its head. While we all expect this billionaire alpha to be in hot pursuit of the female lead, it’s unexpectedly titillating to see her try and push him away at every turn to his initial advances. Eventually we see her admit that there’s definitely something simmering between them which can no longer be ignored, but rather than give into any kind of emotional connection she might be feeling towards Dominik, she insists that they only treat themselves to exploring the physical. It might not be what Dominik had in mind, but his libido certainly can’t give up on such a tempting offer. These two are hot and heavy from moment one, and while most of their scenes in the bedroom will leave you fanning yourself, others will make you realize they’re avoiding difficult conversations (and even arguments) with each other by falling into bed. Or on the couch. It’s also the critical scenes which take place outside of the bedroom (with clothes on) that might leave you slightly frustrated. 

The Present and Missing Flaws

Dominik and Willow are unlike any characters which have been presented in the series so far, and their tale of romance is also unique to them in a variety of ways, mainly in that most everything we see is flawed in some form. They both react to various scenarios in ways that will make you want to slap them upside the head a time or two. For example, all the times that Willow continuously ignored Dominik’s attempts to initiate a date beyond the bedroom. Come on girl, give him a chance already! Then there’s the time when Dominik’s alpha-ness extends beyond the bedroom as he insists Willow stop putting herself in dangerous situations to pursue her journalism career. Umm, no no no, not cool dude. Or how about when Dominik chooses to end their relationship completely because Willow turned down his marriage proposal in the heat of the moment following a big win by his hockey team? Even though she begged him to be understanding in her need for just a bit more time to put words to these unbelievable feelings she’s never felt for anyone else? Nope, he throws a mini temper tantrum, puts his house up for sale and refuses to respond to her calls and texts, perhaps as a direct payback to how she treated him at the start of the novel. We haven’t really seen such childish reactions from any other couple in the series, so it kind of threw me for a loop to suddenly be presented with a male lead I wouldn’t characterize as my “ideal book boyfriend”. 

The fact that Willow is so determined to keep her relationship with Dominik reserved to sex rather than forming any kind of emotional attachment means that the bulk of the interactions we’re presented with are physical in nature. I certainly love a good sex scene, and this installment is filled to bursting with some delectable ones, but when you look back on the series as a whole so far you can’t help but feel that something crucial was missing in the progression of Dominik and Willow’s story. They needed to open up to each other more about how past hurt and tragedy influenced who they are today. After all, Dominik lost his parents at a young age, and grew up in foster care. It’s no surprise therefore that he’d seek control in every aspect of his life, or that the bulk of his relationships up to this point have involved him being the one to leave first so as not be left behind once again. As for Willow, she was betrayed years ago by the man she thought was the love of her life, so we can understand her need to construct barriers in the hopes that no man will ever weasel his way back in to break her heart. We as the audience are privy to these difficult pasts through exposition, but it’s never fully discussed by our couple together in an emotional moment of vulnerability. These moments are hallmarks of the previous novels, and the absence of them in this sixth book was felt hard.  

Series: Arizona Vengeance, book 6. I don’t really know what to expect from the next lead of this series, as it’s a player of the Arizona Vengeance we haven’t seen much so far in the series. I’ll still jump in with both feet! 

Final Impressions: Our lead characters are far from perfect, and while they grow in some areas throughout the read, we still see imperfections and room for improvement in others. Was this…frustrating? Sure! Is it probably more realistic than most of the other relationships we’ve been presented with so far in the series? Absolutely. That being said, most of us dive deep in these romances to lose ourselves in another world, and this book kind of reminds you in a not so fun way that not everyone is perfect and some imperfections are left without resolution. Not everything is tied up in a big red bow by the end of this read, including how Willow’s career will fit into their relationship going forward, or if they’ll continue to throw hissy fits whenever the going gets tough. We do get a somewhat far-fetched climatic scene towards the end that is supposed to convince us they both realize the most important thing in the world is their love for each other, and that they can overcome any other obstacle as long as they are together. Let’s just say unfortunately I’m not 100% convinced. 

Smut Level: Oh boy. As with most other features of this novel, the sultry scenes are also not necessarily without fault. Granted, most had me needing to douse myself with a glass of very cold water. Others might leave you feeling a tad uncomfortable, like when Dominik shoves his tie in Willow’s mouth to essentially shut her up before they once again go at it like bunnies. Definitely an “eek” kind of moment. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $6.99 Kindle Price. Big Dog Books, LLC. 322 Pages. 

Until Harmony by Aurora Rose Reynolds

This series is all about that BOOM, and this installment just goes to show that if you try to push the BOOM aside, it will come back full force for the ultimate impact. 

What’s it About? 

Harmony Mayson isn’t the kind of girl to take unnecessary risk, but after meeting Harlen MacCabe, she starts to wonder if maybe she should be. The more time she spends with the wild and free biker, the more she starts to crave the freedom he gives her…. And even more, she starts to crave him. 

Harlen lives his life on his own terms. After losing both his parents at an early age to a robbery gone bad, he knows how precious life is, and he’s determined to get as much out of it as he can. When he runs into the beautiful Harmony and finds out she’s moving to town, he knows it’s time to take his shot. 

She thinks he only wants to be friends, but she couldn’t be more wrong. What Harmony and Harlen don’t know is that their time might be cut short. Revenge is in the air, and someone won’t stop until a debt is settled.

First Impressions

For avid readers of the entire Until series, if you’ve made it this far to the sixth book of Until Her/Until Him, believe me when I say you’re going to love it just as much as all the others which have come before. And if you haven’t read any of these books before…then what the heck is wrong with you?! Get on it already. This book presents us with everything we know and love about the series: a sexy and growl-y alpha male, a strong and tenacious female, lovable side characters (both new and beloved old friends), and of course, the BOOM that brings our two love birds together. What I loved so much about this installment was that Harmony and Harlen sort of try to suppress the immediate connection which has brought them together in the first place. 

Our novel opens with a chance meeting in a hospital parking lot after Harmony secures a job as a nurse there, and while Harlen would like nothing more than to throw her on the back of his bike to go celebrate, they both recognize the hesitation that Harmony feels about throwing all caution to the wind. After all, she’s no risk taker, so the idea of giving into her feelings for this seemingly bad-boy biker causes her to pause, an action that Harlen can see clear as day. While she declines his invitation for a joy ride, no matter how much she might want to say yes, this isn’t the end for our main characters. Harlen respects the boundaries of this initial rejection, but he refuses to let this be the end of their story. Throughout the next few chapters we see Harlen slowly try to reignite a connection with Harmony, but he’s almost too slow for his own good as it results in Harmony thinking he just wants to be friends. The more time they spend together as “buddies”, the more our risk-averse heroine contemplates the ultimate risk of laying all of her feelings out on the table. And once she does? Well, there’s no going back after that BOOM. 

The Happily Ever After

I was personally delighted by the subsequent romance which played out between our two lead characters, especially when we consider that Harmony was sort of the one to initiate it by finally acting on her desires for Harlen with a passionate kiss. Sure, she immediately tries to avoid him afterwards from embarrassment at the thought that maybe he didn’t want to be anything more than friends, but he’s more than willing to come after her to prove otherwise. I guess in a way it was a mutual overtaking of desire. The rest of their story is relatively drama free and even-paced as they easily fall into a relationship with each other. Harmony is willing to stand up to her overprotective father, Nico, to convince him that Harlen is the man of her dreams, just as Harlen won’t back down to convince Nico he’ll do anything to protect his beloved daughter. Harlen does indeed epitomize the characteristics of an alpha male, but I also appreciated that Harmony wasn’t afraid to poke the bear every once in a while. 

He demands a kiss before she leaves for work, or else he’ll have fun punishing her later? Well, she cheekily saunters out the door sans kiss to see just what he has in mind, and my goodness does she enjoy her “punishment”. Nothing like being held up against the wall for some sexy fun times, and yet in their post-passion haze we see Harlen put down his alpha wall to openly acknowledge how he does need that kiss from her every morning to make it through his day until he can see her again. And that’s one of the aspects I love about this series. Our alpha males clearly have a sensitive side to them, and we never doubt that the love they feel for their ladies goes deeper than merely a sexual component. There’s heart beneath it all. 

Series: Until Her/Until Him, book 6. It was so much fun diving back into this world. We get a brief introduction towards the end of this read of who the main characters will be for book 7, and I am more than ready to get started!

Final Impressions: This is the perfect kind of beach read. Funny, sexy, heartfelt, with just a smidge of drama to keep things interesting. The primary focus of the read truly is on the evolving relationship between Harlen and Harmony from their BOOM to friends to lovers, but delicately interwoven throughout the novel is an underlying sense of conflict involving a handsy doctor at Harmony’s work. The author does a fantastic job of simultaneously keeping this drama primarily reserved for the background, yet also slowly elevating it throughout the progression of the novel before it ultimately breaks through for a final, suspenseful climax. Be sure to add this one to your TBR pile. 

Smut Level: Harmony might express a bit of timidity when Harlen first expresses an interest in her, but once they finally end up in each other’s arms all sense of hesitancy is thrown right out of the bedroom. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. 239 Pages.

Hit by the Cupid Stick by Abigail Owen

“A siren who lures men to their deaths and a cupid who helps humans fall in love.” I can’t think of a more perfect match for this sexy Valentine’s Day paranormal romance. 

What’s it About? 

All’s fair in love and…whatever this is. This Valentine’s Day, when a cupid accidentally shoots himself with his own arrow, he falls for a siren whose only job is to lure men to their deaths.

Charismatic and irresistibly fun, Chance Eroson is a cupid who gets a kick from pairing odd couples and being right about them. Used to getting his way, the only person who shuts him down is the siren who has ruined more than one of his pairings before they started. But his bigger problem is he wants her. He’s always wanted her.

Elodie Sirenian uses her power for good, only hunting evil men. But after so long, and so many horrible people, her cynicism has settled deep inside. She can turn on the charm when she doesn’t mean it, and they fall for it. Every single one. Every single time.

Except Chance. He’s the only person—man or god—who has ever challenged her.

But a cupid’s magic is temporary. There’s no way a true love match is possible. Not this time.

First Impressions

This is one paranormal novella you’ll want to be sure and add to your Valentine’s Day TBR list. You know when you have those cravings for a romance where the lead characters just go for it? No dilly dallying, let’s get to the good stuff ASAP? Well then this read will scratch your itch. We are not only presented with two delightfully entertaining main characters full of moxie and teasing, but there’s a bit of suspense enveloped throughout the story as their feelings for each other quickly transition from instantaneous lust to trust to love. Chance plays our debonair cupid whose six-pack abs will put the standard cartoonish Valentine cherub image to shame. He and gorgeous siren Elodie have always exchanged a witty rapport throughout the years, though the call of her siren monster to hunt a few of Chance’s targets has sometimes caused them to quarrel on top of their banter. 

All of that changes one night when Chance takes aim with his bow, only to have a misfire when his arrow goes through both he and Elodie, resulting in an immediate, all-consuming need to finally give into their desire for each other. On the one hand they could stay apart in an attempt to ignore their burning passion, or they could dive in head first. It’s no big mystery as to which option these two fall for. On his couch…against the living room window…in his bed…the shower…I think the kitchen may have been involved at one point, etc. etc. But what happens when the power of his arrow ultimately fades? Will Elodie and Chance want to explore a lifetime together, or will they revert back to their solitary ways before the arrow brought all of their secret wants to the forefront? Well, this is a proper romance after all, I’m sure you can guess which way the story goes!

Oh gods and goddesses!

Fans of Greek mythology will definitely have a blast with this read. The fact that Chance’s last name is Eroson, and he’s a cupid…the connection there just filled me with absolute delight! Towards the end of this short read there is sort of a quick mention of multiple mythological characters and stories that I could see being slightly overwhelming for those who aren’t as familiar with those particular tales. Overall though, the way these myths and creatures are interwoven into Chance and Elodie’s story was the perfect mixture of action and romance. While our lovebirds spend the first part of the story steeped in their sensual bubble of sexual delights, we’re also aware that in the not too distant background there exists the plot point of a vengeful minotaur seeking Elodie’s downfall due to her killing of his brother. We do get a few minor confrontations between these characters before one exciting, action-packed final battle scene. 
Another element which went hand-in-hand with this tale of revenge that ultimately provided a well-rounded story arch for our characters was Elodie’s fear at revealing her true siren monster to Chance.

She’s been abandoned by former lovers in the past who couldn’t handle the transformation of this beautiful vixen into a frightening siren who must feed off the aura of her enemies to survive. If the power of cupid’s arrow should wear off, and Chance catches a glimpse of her true monster, will he also be tempted to run? And then there’s Chance’s true nature, which he is quite upfront with Elodie about even though it stands in contradiction to what many would consider the conventions of “masculinity”. He is a cupid after all, doing his best to bring couples together to find love, and his Netflix is jam packed full of romance movies that he consistently fast forwards to get to the good parts, aka all the smooching. He just might be my ideal man! The true test of their love isn’t how well they connect in the bedroom (or taxi cab, or secluded cabin, or shower again, etc. etc.), but rather how they will react to these mythological influences on their personalities: her siren propensity for violence and death, and his cupid devotion to love and a happily ever after. 

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

Series: Brimstone, Inc. book 5. It’s not 100% necessary you read the previous books before you get to this one, but just note that there are a few characters who reappear here from previous installments. 

Final Impressions: Loved it! If it weren’t for my bedtime I wouldn’t have had any problem knocking this baby out in one sitting. There was no messing around before our characters got to the sexy fun times, yet it wasn’t just about the physical component from start to finish either. We have a tale of revenge that will keep you on the edge of your seat, as well as the emotional conundrum of showing one’s true self to the one they’re falling for. It’s something that most of us can probably relate to, even though we’re not mythological sirens or cupids!

Smut Level: Phewwwwww!! There’s a lot of heat packed into these pages. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and it might be below freezing temperatures outside, but even I was tempted to crack open a window to cool down a bit. A cupid full of charm and an enchanting siren just might be the best mythological combination possible!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. 114 Pages. 

Screwdrivered by Alice Clayton

When Viv inherits a house on the other side of the country, she contemplates a romance with either a hunky cowboy or a smoldering librarian. Who knew tweed jackets and elbow patches could be so sexy?

What’s it About?

Readers back for a third round of the bestselling Cocktail series will enjoy a madcap romantic comedy about bodice ripping and chest heaving, fiery passion and love everlasting. Plus a dash of paperwork filing and horseshi—wait, what?

By day, Viv Franklin designs software programs. By night, Vivian’s a secret romance-novel junkie who longs for a knight in shining armor, or a cowboy on a wild stallion, or a strapping firefighter to sweep her off her feet. And she gets to wear the bodice—don’t forget the bodice. When a phone call brings news that she’s inherited a beautiful old home in Mendocino, California from a long-forgotten aunt, she moves her entire life across the country to embark on what she sees as a great, romance-novel-worthy adventure. But romance novels always have a twist, don’t they? There’s a cowboy, one that ignites her loins. Because Cowboy Hank is totally loin-ignition worthy. But there’s also a librarian, Clark Barrow. And he calls her Vivian. Can tweed jackets and elbow patches compete with chaps and spurs? You bet your sweet cow pie.

In Screwdrivered, Alice Clayton pits Superman against Clark in a hilarious and hot battle that delights a swooning Viv/Vivian. Also within this book, an answer to the question of the ages: Why ride a cowboy when you can ride a librarian?

First Impressions

While nothing has quite lived up to the near spectacular perfection that was the first book in this Cocktail series, Wallbanger, we still get a fun and entertaining addition in this third read. Viv is a spunky, vivacious heroine who definitely lives life according to the beat of her own drum. She’s romance novel obsessed, which means she automatically rises up a few notches in my perception. She’s a dreamer, often visualizing romance novel scenarios playing out in her daydreams, so when she receives a late night call in the middle of the night informing her that she’s inherited a cliff-side fixer-upper home along the coast of California, Vivian believes she might just be in the midst of her very own romance novel. As soon as Viv arrives out west to gaze upon the stunning home which is now hers, not to mention catches a glimpse of the surly cowboy who cares for the animals on the property, Vivian is convinced that she just needs to peel away the layers to connect with this hunk of burning love so they can delight in their own HEA. After all, that’s what all her previous romance novel reading would have her believe to be true. 

But if Romancelandia has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t force a romance where it does not exist. What happens when the seemingly gruff but beautiful cowboy is in fact…just a good looking cowboy with no emotional depth to him whatsoever? Well, fear not lovely heroine! All Vivian needs is to turn around and notice that the handsome librarian/head of the historical society who’s been giving her such a tough time about all of her proposed renovations to the historically registered property might be the knight in shining armor she’s been waiting for all along. Sure, she may have pictured herself with a muscular and complicated rogue, but the bespectacled, elbow-patch tweed jacket wearing librarian has everything she truly needs when it comes to love. Clark is caring, open, and all that arguing they’ve been doing has been the perfect build of foreplay to something more. Honestly, you’d think a veteran romance novel reader like Viv would have recognized this earlier on! Just goes to show that when you try too hard in looking for romance, you can oftentimes miss the real thing when it unexpectedly crosses your path. 

Slow Burn

There was so much to Vivian’s character that was easy to love. Although she’s fallen into the family expectations of computer programming, she’s always felt an artistic calling deep within her. When the opportunity arises to grab life by the horns, she really doesn’t hesitate to leave her old life behind and jump at the chance to set out for a life she’s been craving for years. Moving clear across the country does indeed seem like a romantic scheme, but even in the face of complications and obstacles Vivian refuses to give up. You have to admire her determination in many things, even though her intense focus on trying to get Hank the hunky cowboy to notice her was something we all probably wish she had given up on sooner. Sometimes there are no layers beneath a man, just a hunky beefcake with nothing else going on beyond a good face and a sexy six-pack abs body. Clark on the other hand might not seem like her type right away, but it’s very clear early on that Vivian recognizes some kind of pull to this sexy librarian. 

There’s daytime Clark, who is a pretty straight-laced rule follower, but then she starts to get to know nighttime Clark through some unexpected late night phone calls, and this is when Vivian notices his playful side. Not to mention the fact his voice drops about two octaves when his tone becomes especially suggestive. It would have made for a more enjoyable read if she had switched gears to focus her attention on Clark at an earlier point in the read, especially considering he still would have fit the vision she had in her mind of her world becoming a romance novel come to life. Instead, the author really drew out the development of their relationship, especially considering that 1) Clark and Vivian don’t even really interact directly with each other until a third of the way into the book and 2) their first kiss takes place in same scene as their first romp against a balustrade, with a declaration of love sprinkled on top at the 93% mark. That’s a long time to wait, and certainly takes “slow burn” to a whole new level. While the final result was certainly worth waiting for, it also left the conclusion of the novel feeling rather rushed as we go from questioning whether or not these two unlikely characters will ever get together, to seeing them rip each other’s clothes off all in the last few pages of the book. 

Try to Keep Up

Another feature of this novel which I started out loving, but after some time became rather irritated by was Vivian’s lengthy inner musings and romance novel snippet daydreams. At first I felt a connection to this character whose mind seemed to work at 100 mph, and would flip between various topics at random. I couldn’t help but think, “wow, this author has captured my mind on the page”. Buuuut then I remembered that my mind is a weird place, and I oftentimes have to apologize to my friends who wonder what the heck I’m talking about by saying, “oh yeah sorry, I forget sometimes that other people can’t see where my train of thought is choo choo-ing along to”. Seeing this play out over 256 pages of romance novel made it an almost exhausting read at times, and difficult to follow along to conversations. There were also multiple times throughout the read where Vivian would fantasize herself as the heroine of a romance novel scene, whether it be with a pirate, a cowboy, or some other rugged hero, before coming back to reality. While certainly entertaining at times, I would have preferred some of those scenes to be replaced with more interactions between her and Clark in the real world. As it stands, I felt like Vivian and Clark spent more of the novel apart than together, and their connection was so adorable I simply wanted more, more, MORE!

Series: Cocktail, book 3. I’m not sure if any read will be quite as good as the first, but this is still a fun series I want to continue on with. 

Final Impressions: Consider yourself warned this read will inspire wanderlust as you crave the purchase of a rundown house on a cliff beside the ocean somewhere. I definitely appreciated the fact we were presented with a tenacious female lead who happened to be obsessed with romance novels. The constant bickering between Viv and Clark was the most delicious kind of foreplay, but I was ultimately left craving more scenes involving the two of them together. I know there’s also been some debate in Romancelandia recently about the frustration of not seeing a sex scene until the 60% mark, and while I certainly don’t feel there are any hard rules to when or how much sex must be presented, I do feel with this particular read that having our lead characters go from angry with each other to a bump and grind to a HEA epilogue one scene immediately after the other left the end of the book feeling needlessly rushed. Overall though, this is still a fun contemporary romance to bring along on your next adventure to the beach!

Smut Level: Although we only get one scene, it’s quite a doozy! Their passionate evening starts in front of the fireplace, transitions out to the rain, then back inside up against the wall and the aforementioned balustrade. As if that wasn’t delicious enough, our sexy librarian just so happens to be a dirty talking wordsmith. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $8.99 Kindle Price. Gallery Books. 257 Pages. 

BFF’ed by Kate Aster

Two BFFs start to wonder if it’s time to explore the desire simmering between them. This is one friends-to-lovers romance you won’t want to put down!

What’s it About? 

Mason Adler: Hot. Cocky. Sugar-coated Bad Boy.

The type of man who knocks the big “O” clear to the front of the alphabet every time.

Wrap up that eight-pack with Navy khakis and top it off with a shiny SEAL Trident, the kind that makes the girls swoon.

That’s Mason. My best friend.

For me, he’s off limits. Now that I’ve finished college, I need to focus on my writing career. And without his help, I don’t stand a chance.

But I need something from him. Something only he can give me.

So I’ll pull the blinds. I’ll toss my inhibitions. I’ll call it “research.” And I won’t let my heart get involved, especially with him leaving at the end of the week. Leaving me … even though my very soul is still in his grasp.

First Impressions

I went into this book with zero expectations, and came out of it with a silly grin on my face and simply smothered in all the warm and fuzzies you could possibly ask for. This might be a short read you can probably finish in one sitting, but it’s chock full of emotional depth, comedy, and plenty of sexy fun times to keep you satisfied. Mason and Freya have been best friends for over two years, ever since she sought out the help from this real-life Navy SEAL to give her military romance novel a bit more realism. While the two could immediately acknowledge an instant attraction to the other, they’ve never taken their relationship further than friendship, with a bit of reading advice and home cooking thrown into the mix as well.

Even if they wanted to take things further, they could never quite get the timing right. When one would break up with their current fling the other was just getting involved with someone else. It’s not until the week that Mason plans to move four hours away to his new SEAL headquarters that they’re both free of other attachments, and the encroaching distance makes them both realize how much they’ve come to rely on each other for companionship in the last two years. The thought of having so much space between them is seemingly more than either of them can bear. But it’s not just the fast approaching moving date, nor their newly single status which finally pushes these two into each other’s arms. Oh no. It’s something inexplicably more delicious. 

A Bit of Help to “See” the Scene

Freya has been working on her premiere military romance novel during all the time they’ve known each other, and Mason often gives her feedback on new drafts she submits to potential agents wanting her to switch up her manuscript with a SEAL shifter, a billionaire SEAL, a cowboy, and the most recent request of a SEAL with a few BDSM proclivities. Her frustrations and difficulties with agents will most likely ring true for many other authors out there, and you’ll find Freya a relatable heroine that you root for immediately. Mason may have been her sounding board and second set of eyes for all things military details and SEAL realism in her book (qualifying grounds for knighthood if you ask me), but this is the first time he’s provided feedback on what her characters get up to in the bedroom. And it’s during one of his reviews that he insists the scene which Freya has written of her heroine and hero going from missionary position to doggie style in one swinging move simply isn’t physically possible. 

Freya insists he help her act out the scene (clothes on of course), but it doesn’t take long during their, what turns out to be lengthy, acrobatic maneuvering that the physical connection they assumed existed between them all this time comes barreling to the forefront as something they can no longer ignore. When Freya asks Mason to help her act out being tied up to her headboard to see what people could possibly find so exhilarating about bondage, things finally reach a boiling point between them. These scenes were both hilarious, yet smoldering in their intensity, and I for one loved this unique way of bringing two friends together into a physical relationship. Something I wasn’t necessarily expecting from this short read was the emotional connection we as readers will feel for our two lead characters as they struggle with the debate of whether or not to take things to the next step in light of Mason’s impending move in two day’s time, the harsh realities of a long distance relationship, and if giving into their physical desires will negatively impact the friendship they’ve built over the last two years. 

Twenty Thousand Sunsets

As with any great romance, we as readers are convinced of not only the sexual chemistry between Mason and Freya, but their emotional connection as well. The fact the author managed to solidify this connection in under 200 pages should be applauded. I’ll admit there were a few moments that tugged at the heartstrings, and had the tears starting to well up a bit. As the novel progresses we begin to see that many of the interactions that Freya has had with Mason throughout the years have been the inspiration for the characters within her book, oftentimes causing her to reach for her phone to take notes on the perfect coupling of lines which would come to her whilst in his presence. The two days they spend wrapped in each other’s arms really cause the words to start flowing, and we see that Mason was not only the inspiration for one of her main characters, but has also become her creative inspiration. He’s the man who makes her want to write, to make her stick to the story she really wants to tell, and ultimately the man she wants to watch twenty thousand sunsets with. Mason and Freya succeed in achieving a happily ever after that we’re convinced is going to last through any hardship, any distance, and any mission he might be called away upon, for their love is steeped in friendship. 

Series: Brothers in Arms, book 1. I am 10,000% going to continue on with this series. You’re telling me that Mason has BROTHERS?! Heck yeah, sign me up! 

Final Impressions: Don’t forget to bring this book on your next beach vacation, cabin getaway, or heck even if you’re looking for something to read on a Sunday morning. It will make you laugh, possibly cry, and definitely blush as the slow build between friends eventually boils over into a cacophony of passion. In a way it does seem surprising that it took so long for these two to take their relationship to the next level, especially considering we find out that Mason was flirtatious as hell upon first meeting. However, in the end it’s the thrill of the ride as they make their way from best friends forever, to lovers and lifelong partners that makes this read a keeper.  

Smut Level: What starts as a hilarious demonstration of the complexities of Freya’s written sex scene quickly escalates into something sinfully more intriguing. These two could never regret taking their friendship to the next level, after all, who could regret sex that good?  

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. FREE Kindle Edition! 198 Pages.

My Christmas Fiancé by Serenity Woods

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

What’s it About? 

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

An Office Romance with a Twist

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

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

A Mutually Beneficial Fake Engagement

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Viscount’s Christmas Temptation by Erica Ridley

Well that went quickly! Here I thought this would be a nice historical read to last me through the holiday season, and it surprisingly just lasted me through my morning coffee. If you’re looking for a quick, fun read during the holidays to kill time as your turkey bastes, if you need a few minutes away from family, or are looking for a break from wrapping presents, this one might do the trick.

What’s it About?

Certain individuals might consider Lady Amelia Pembroke a managing sort of female, but truly, most people would be lost without her help. Why, the latest on-dit is that rakish Viscount Sheffield is canceling the fête of the year because he hasn’t time for silly soirees. He doesn’t need time—he needs her! When a flash of lightning destroys the venue for his family’s annual Christmas ball, Lord Benedict Sheffield intends to enjoy a relaxing holiday for once. But after twelve days of beguiling Lady Amelia’s guerrilla tactics, he’s up to his cravat with tinsel . . . and tumbling head over heels in love.

First Impressions

Throughout the first chapter I honestly wasn’t too sure if I was going to be a fan of our female protagonist, Lady Amelia. She’s responsible for managing her brother’s household and is almost annoyingly efficient at it, foreseeing and anticipating a solution for every possible hiccup that could possibly arise. It would appear as though nothing can ruffle the feathers of this stoically put together lady! When Amelia realizes her single status might be preventing her beloved brother from seeking out a wife of his own, she takes it upon herself to finally find herself a respectable husband before she turns 30, the day after Christmas. Which is only a mere fortnight away! Attending an annual Christmas ball with the highest echelons of society seems like the perfect venue to pick a suitor, but when Amelia discovers an unfortunate stroke of lightning has ruined the traditional choice of venue for the ball she decides to step in with her practical planning and management skills to ensure the party proceeds as planned. And cue the fortuitous meet cute with the devilishly handsome Viscount Sheffield.

The meeting of these two characters is when I became more endeared to our leading lady, and when the fun truly begins! The viscount is a studious man who devotes himself to work from 8am to 8pm, and frivolous fun from 8pm to 8am. He’s immediately taken with the spitfire who bursts into his life, determined to set his annual Christmas ball to right. While he’s been attracted to countless actresses and courtesans throughout the years, he’s never been intrigued by such a bold and outspoken woman before, and it doesn’t take long before she inserts herself into his every waking thought. Viscount Sheffield becomes determined to show Lady Amelia how to have fun in life, and let her hair down so to speak, a truly impractical concept from her viewpoint. She in turn tries to get him to break his insistence on dividing his life into these twelve hour blocks with no possibility of mixing things up every once in a while. Their focused determination to impact each other’s idea of normal makes them the perfect match!

A Tease of Something More

As previously mentioned, I had no idea going into this read that it was going to be so brief in terms of word count. The short length felt like a tease or preview of what this book could have been. I almost wish there was an option to purchase a more full-length version of their romantic tale, as it would have been fun to dive deeper into what we only scratched the surface of viewing. Seeing as their entire romance evolves in the twelve days leading up to Christmas, an entire chapter devoted to each day would have been an intriguing way to organize a longer book.

It also would have been fun to see Viscount Sheffield throwing Lady Amelia a bit more off balance from her perfectly planned ideas, but it’s only hinted at briefly though a sweeping kiss under some holly and whisking her away to a masquerade for some unexpected dancing before another lip-lock. Just one more instance of him successfully surprising her would have been a treat, but for the most part she manages to have the upper hand of staying calm, cool and collected through most of their interactions. It ultimately felt like she had more of an impact on uprooting his way of life than he did for her in return. A few more appearances of traditional Christmas elements beyond just a sprinkling of holly balls throughout a ballroom also would have been a joyful delight. The fact we don’t even see a small gift exchange between our main characters, or the decorating of a Christmas tree seems almost blasphemous for a holiday romance!

Series: Dukes of War, book 1.

Final Impressions: This was certainly a fun, cute, quick read, but I think I would have loved it even more as a full-fledged novel. It seems like a good introduction to the writing style of the author, as well as a jump start to the series, which I wouldn’t be opposed to exploring further!

Smut Level: We do get a delightfully passionate kiss below some mistletoe! No tumbles between the sheets for this holiday read.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.75 Paperback Price. Intrepid Reads. 146 Pages.

Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron

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

What’s it About? 

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

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

The Joys of Social Media

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

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

Series: Stand-alone

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

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

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