The Duke Heist by Erica Ridley

Chloe has become an expert at blending into the background. When the one man she’s always had her eye on finally sees her, she starts to wonder what a lifetime in his embrace could be like.

What’s it About?

Chloe Wynchester is completely forgettable — a curse that gives her the ability to blend into any crowd. When the only father she’s ever known makes a dying wish for his adopted family of orphans to recover a missing painting, she’s the first one her siblings turn to for stealing it back. No one expects that in doing so, she’ll also abduct a handsome duke.

Lawrence Gosling, the Duke of Faircliffe, is tortured by his father’s mistakes. To repair his estate’s ruined reputation, he must wed a highborn heiress. Yet when he finds himself in a carriage being driven hell-for-leather down the cobblestone streets of London by a beautiful woman who refuses to heed his commands, he fears his heart is hers. But how can he sacrifice his family’s legacy to follow true love?

First Impressions

This is definitely one of those novels where it feels as though we’ve been dropped into the fun mid-story. There are a slew of characters who are difficult to distinguish from one another, each one with an exuberantly over-the-top personality. It seems like we’ve already missed the introduction to who they all are, as well as their dynamic with not only the Duke of Faircliffe, but also the rest of society at large. It was tricky to determine at the outset if Chloe and her rag-tag group of misfit orphan siblings were dedicated to helping those less fortunate in British society, or if they were just extremely talented con-men. While it’s kind of a blend of the two at times, rest assured that it’s more the former than the latter. I was so thrown by the missing backstory that I even double-checked a time or two to see if this was in fact the first book in the Wild Wynchesters series, or perhaps if this was a spin-off series of another which may have provided that missing introduction I was hoping for.

It wasn’t until I finished the whole novel that I discovered there’s actually a novella called The Governess Gambit which takes place before this first full-length book of the series. In simply reading the synopsis of that prequel it seems like it probably contained all of the important foundational details that this book needed. And I must say, it was a pretty frustrating discovery! Either there needed to be a full summary and re-introduction of the key players first thing in this book, or that novella should have been more clearly labeled as book one. While I think it would have helped matters significantly had I read that book first, I don’t believe it would have changed the fact that this read presents us with a rather slow-moving start. Even the primary feature of the synopsis which piqued my interest in the first place, the fact Chloe kind of unknowingly kidnaps a Duke, plays out fairly quickly and isn’t really the basis of the plot in any way. It’s not until roughly the half-way point where things really start to come together as Chloe and Lawrence become more fully entrenched in each other’s lives.

The Orphan and the Duke

Chloe and Lawrence may have spent more of this novel apart than together, thinking and pining after each other rather than engaging directly, and yet their impact on each other’s lives cannot be ignored. Their growing connection and attraction forces them to look inward, and contemplate how they’ve both arrived at this point in their lives. For Chloe, we hear about her background growing up on the streets of London, abandoned by her family before being adopted by a lonely Baron who wanted to provide a better life for orphans who society had turned away from. In order to survive on the streets, Chloe had to blend into the shadows to survive. As a pickpocket, and even after her adoption, she continued to live life without drawing unnecessary attention to herself. By spending more time with Lawrence, she has to emerge more into society so that she can further infiltrate his world. This slowly evolving visibility makes her realize that deep down she’s always craved the possibility of being seen and fully embraced by her peers.

Lawrence’s revelations are also connected to his past and complicated relationship with family, in particular his troublesome father. For years Lawrence has tried to remedy the reputation of his family name following the countless debts his father plunged them into. Only by marrying a wealthy woman can Lawrence guarantee that all his debts will be paid off, and his future children might look upon him proudly rather than with shame. However, the misfit Chloe starts to make him question if he can give up all of that security to have her permanently ensconced in his life, especially when he considers how the rest of society refuses to accept her and her untraditional siblings. We ultimately see a vital struggle of pride versus money and love, and we can’t help but wonder which one will win out in the end.

Series: The Wild Wynchesters, book 1 (technically, but not really). I’m not 100% sure I’ll continue with this series, although I will admit the premise of the next book is intriguing seeing as it focuses on a f/f relationship in history.

Final Impressions: It took a bit too long for the story to really get going for my liking. When it finally did I appreciated the inward reflections that Chloe and Lawrence both spent on their own lives, though having more opportunities for them to connect naturally in society rather than constantly via hijinks and deceptions would have benefitted the overall development of their relationship. The ending of this book is stronger than the start as we see the Wynchester clan learn to accept another into their fold who they once considered an enemy, and it will certainly leave a smile on your face.

Smut Level: It takes a while to get there, just like with the rest of the plot, but once we do things certainly don’t disappoint! We see plenty of steamy detail to make up for the wait.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. Forever Publishing. 353 Pages.

Highland Games by Evie Alexander

This romantic comedy not only had me considering giving up city living to move to a remote Scottish cabin with no electricity or running water, but to also get a pet rat. So yeah…pretty phenomenal when you consider potential impact on my future sanity.

What’s it About? 

Zoe’s always played it safe, just as her parents wanted. But when her great-uncle dies and leaves her a ramshackle cabin in the Scottish Highlands, she decides it’s time to change her life. Upping sticks seems like a good idea in her cosy flat in London, but the reality is very different. There’s no electricity or running water, the roof leaks and there’s no front door. If that wasn’t bad enough, she’s moved up in the depths of winter and her scorching hot neighbour wants her out. Rory’s got a fifty thousand tonne problem. If he can’t make Kinloch castle profitable, he’s out of a job. He needs a clear head, but there’s someone living in the cabin he saw as his own and she’s turned his world upside down. Rory needs Zoe out of Scotland, and out of his life. The trouble is, she has no intention of leaving. Let the games begin…

First Impressions

This fantastically sweet read has a little bit of everything for everyone. Are you looking for a hilarious tale of enemies-to-lovers with laugh-out-loud moments from start to finish? Pick up this book! How about two stubborn characters often confined to working in a tiny cabin together where their sexual tension can simmer to an epic boiling point? This one’s got it! A sinfully sexy Scot who not only dons a kilt, but wields a sword, growling at the top of a castle? Okay sure, but hands off because he’s mine. We even have an adorably cute Dumbo rat that will immediately have you Googling what the heck a Dumbo rat looks like, subsequently followed by a search to see if there are any pet stores nearby that carry some. Sure, that might not have been an element I thought I needed with my romance read of the week, but it shockingly turned out to be one of my favorite features of the entire read.

Not Quite What You Expect

This brings me to the other distinguishing aspect of this novel which thoroughly delighted me: it wasn’t afraid to turn expectations and common romance tropes on their head to keep you both surprised at the turn of events, but also continually entertained. For example, we’ve all come across romance novels before where a pet plays an important role towards our characters, but the standard default options are typically dog (which this book also has), or cat. I can honestly say this is the first one to have presented a Dumbo rat as a fluffy companion and sounding board for the musings of our female lead. Then we have to look at the romantic comedy lean of the book itself. You can’t help but smile and chuckle to yourself at the witty banter and silly antics which our characters engage in with each other. They’re both convinced the other couldn’t possibly be interested in exploring something further considering the rocky start to their relationship. Therefore, we get a fabulously slow build of attraction and desire.

When we finally reach the moment where they can’t hold back anymore I wondered for a moment if we’d just get a few chaste kisses followed by a fade-to-black moment considering the light-hearted and comedic air of the novel so far. Nope! We get full on steam with plenty of licking, biting and essentially climbing of each other that they could set a four-poster bed aflame from the heat. And it’s not just that we’re rewarded with one scene of sexy fun times. We have enough to keep us over-heated throughout an entire Scottish winter. I was also pleasantly surprised that we see some rather emotional and heavy discussions around memories of family, loved ones lost, and even Rory’s struggle in securing love and care from his mother. These moments where our characters could lay their hearts bare, and open themselves up to emotional vulnerability was something I wasn’t expecting after such a fun-filled start, but it was the perfect balance for the read as a whole.

Overreaction

Rory and Zoe both have fiery personalities which not only put an initial strain on their interactions with each other, but this stubbornness also manifests itself in some of their responses to each other as the novel progresses. For Rory, he typically responds in one of two ways when his frustrations with Zoe reach a tipping point. He will either 1) retreat, or 2) resort to childish teenage pranks. These pranks definitely kick off the hilarity at the start of the novel. While Rory hopes his actions will result in Zoe fleeing back to the city in a huff, he doesn’t anticipate that she can sometimes rise to the challenge, and surprise him with her ability to face hardship head-on. As for Zoe, her frustrations are often manifested in the heat of the moment, with very little thought to the possible repercussions of her actions. In a way, we can’t be too surprised by her impulsive nature.

After all, it’s what got her to live in a cabin in dire need of renovations on the cusp of a harsh Scottish winter with few plans as to how she’ll manage all of the fixes on her limited budget. However, you also can’t help but wonder if she takes things too far sometimes, such as when she discovers a massive secret Rory kept from her, so she chooses to respond by ramming his parked van repeatedly with her truck. Ok…a small part of me was cheering her on, but another real part of me wanted to chastise her overreaction. Seeing as this scene took place towards the end of the novel, which had slowly transitioned away from the outright comedic moments to more serious conversations, it seems a heartfelt confrontation outlining her disappointment with Rory’s secrecy could have had a larger impact than taking out her frustrations on his vehicle. Her impulsive tendency to overreact and over-act became rather trying towards the end.

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

Series: The Kinloch Series, book 1. Definitely intrigued to continue on with this series, though I’ll also admit the synopsis of book 2 has me questioning if things might be a bit over-the-top plot-wise. Oh well, you can’t judge a book by its cover or synopsis!

Final Impressions: On the whole, this is a delightfully hilarious read with plenty of heart and sexy fun times to fill you with all the warm and fuzzies. I probably could have finished it in one sitting if my bedtime and shocking addiction to Masterchef Australia didn’t constantly get in the way. The characters really steal the show here, from our stubborn lead characters, to Zoe’s supportive childhood friends, a fluffy Dumbo rat you can’t help but love, and a villainous mother you love to hate.

Smut Level: Why would Rory want pudding for dessert when he can just have Zoe splayed out on the kitchen table?

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Emlin Press. 370 Pages. 

Baby, It’s Cold Outside by Kait Nolan

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

What’s it About?

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

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

Working Together

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Only One by Charlotte O’Shay

When Esme literally stumbles back into Shane’s life after years apart, he realizes two things: he can protect her from the danger that is after her, and he finally has the chance to admit how important she’s always been to him.

What’s it About?

Esme:
We grew up in side-by-side New York City tenements. Shane was my first friend, my first crush, and when he enlisted, my unforgettable heartbreak. When fate brings us back together after ten years, I’m in a world of danger. But I’m not a kid anymore and I know what I want. Shane and I have a second chance at forever and there’s no way I’ll lose him again.

Shane:
Brilliant, beautiful, bound for success, Esme was the girl next door and a temptation I had to resist. I was too old for her, but I couldn’t forget her. When we meet again after ten long years, she’s caught in the crosshairs of a deadly drug kingpin. But I wear a badge now. Nothing will stop me from protecting the woman who claimed me—heart and soul—so long ago. I’ll keep Esme safe or die trying.

Time’s running out for Esme to pay her father’s debt to the cartel.

First Impressions

Our novel beings with us being dropped smack dab in the middle of the drama, as Esme runs through the city streets to escape the clutches of an evil drug lord to whom her father has promised her in order to pay off his crippling debts. While she was initially open to the idea of marrying a stranger to help her family, it only took a moment of being in this man’s presence to realize he had no intention of marrying her, and he merely viewed her as a possession he could acquire and play with whenever he felt like it. It’s as she’s running through the dark city streets, feet and knees cracked and bleeding from her ordeal, that she re-encounters the one man she never expected to see again in her life, and the one man who has always represented safety. Shane and Esme were close childhood friends who always desired more, but when tragedy struck both of their respective families, they completely lost touch until this moment of reconnection. Shane is now a law enforcement officer, and when he hears of Esme’s predicament he vows to protect the one woman who got away. As they lay low in his apartment, all of the distance which the last few years of separation have created melts away, and both are aware this unfortunate incident has led them to find each other again.

Tons to Unravel

First things first with this read: love the premise. However, there was a loooot of back story for us to catch up on, and I feel we received an information overload that was a bit scattered in it’s delivery. To open on Esme running through the streets and having to pause to learn about not only who she’s running from, but then pause longer to get the history of her mother’s illness which drove her father to seek funds from a drug kingpin, and then transition to her running into Shane, and then having to learn their whole backstory…it just felt like I was being pulled into too many directions right from the get-go. With this book currently at a mere 111 pages, I almost think it could have benefitted from an additional 50-100 pages to clearly lay out the characters and their connection to each other.

I certainly appreciated diving right into the drama, but I wonder if a better flow would have been gained for example if we had opened on Esme getting ready for her meeting with the stranger her father has promised her to, and then she could slowly start to realize something is wrong with the situation before ultimately dashing off into the night. It would have allowed for a slow, delectable build of tension at the beginning, which would have mirrored itself beautifully with the formidable dramatic sequence we are presented with at the conclusion of the story.

Like a Movie

The absolute standout feature of this read was the final sequence as Esme is convinced to wear a wire in an eventual sting operation with our evil drug lord. The author does a phenomenal job of teasing out the drama, and slowly building up our anxiety level as we see a seemingly well-laid plan gradually deteriorate before our very eyes. The fact Shane can only listen in from the background and frantically try to catch up with and rescue the love of his life from the clutches of a mad man amped up the feeling of you about to fall off the edge of your seat. Another feature of this climactic scene that I absolutely adored was how it was practically Scorsese-esque in how it played out in one long, drawn-out sequence with almost no moment for a break to catch our breath. The near perfection of this dramatic build is another reason I wish we could have seen something similar in parallel at the front-end of our read, as it would have created such a marvelous balance to the read as a whole.

*A copy of this read was provided for an honest reivew*

Series: Fortunato Family, book 1. Shane comes from a large family who we have the good fortune to meet at one point in the story, and I’m certainly intrigued to see how the stories of his siblings will play out in future novels.

Final Impressions: Overall this was an exciting read, primarily due to the thrilling concluding scene. The opening felt a bit scattered which left me feeling like I had to re-read certain sections to clearly understand how all of the pieces and characters of the story fit together. Something else I would have appreciated was some more explanation as to how Esme and Shane so completely lost touch with each other considering how closely integrated she was into his family’s life. While they were both clearly going through their own struggles in life, they also seemed to be deeply invested in each other, so falling out of touch so abruptly was rather confusing. I was given an ARC of this read, so there were a few typos in the copy I received.

Smut Level: Esme may have been a virgin at the start of the novel when she and Shane reconnected, but that doesn’t mean she’s shy about sex. She knows what she wants (him), and she goes for it!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Evelyn P. McCabe Publisher. 111 Pages.

Resolutions Embraced by Ayla Asher

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

What’s it About?

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

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

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

The Past Repeats Itself

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

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

The Thrill of the Race

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

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

Find Someone Who Makes You Laugh

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

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

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

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

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

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

Truly Inn Love by Amelia Foster

She’s been given a second chance at love with the man she left behind all those years ago. Will these two be able to overcome the mistakes of the past to find a future of happiness together?

What’s it About?

Life choices separated them, but fate proves they are truly in love.

Inheriting the Willow Falls Inn from their aunt and uncle was a gift the Alden sisters couldn’t pass up. With each sibling facing upheaval in their personal and professional lives, eldest sister Gavynn sees returning to the place they called home as the fresh start they all need. But the century old Victorian picks their return to show its age with broken pipes and a mess that makes Gavynn question her choices. But the real chaos comes in the form of the handyman dispatched to rescue them.

Cade Donaldson was finding a new kind of normal after his father’s heart attack. The family construction business flourished under Cade’s management while the older Donaldson recuperated and his routine gave him much needed predictability and comfort. That is until the girl who left Cade without so much as a goodbye came crashing back into his life without warning.

The adolescent bond they formed lingers under the surface, but ghosts they each battle threaten the new future hanging just within reach.

First Impressions

This is a delightfully sweet, light-hearted second chance romance that you’ll want to be sure and bring along on your next beach vacation. Gavynn and Cade were high school sweet hearts with a connection that went right to the heart, but that all ended when Gavynn left for college, breaking up with Cade in a hand-written letter that was bare as to the reasons why. When Gavynn and her sisters move back to Willow Falls to fix up and reopen an inn left to them by their late aunt and uncle, it’s not long before their paths cross with contractor Cade. The love of her life. And my goodness does it sound like this man grew up good. Some chin scruff and a tool belt on top of a killer smile, with a distinct tendency to waggle his eyebrows when he’s feeling cheeky. Seriously, gotta consider the whole moving to a small town to open a business in need of repairs…thing.

Realistic Characters

Something I really appreciated about this read is how mature our two main characters could be when it came to approaching the subject of their past. Let’s face it, Gavynn’s actions were pretty unforgivable, and it could have been so easy for Cade to give her the cold shoulder for however long he wanted to over her past mistake. And yet, aside from some initial awkwardness at their unexpected reconnection over a burst water pipe, for the most part these two realize pretty quickly that the feelings they had for each other never fully went away. More importantly, these feelings are still strong enough to be worth exploring after all this time apart. Cade also allows Gavynn to explain her reasons for leaving on her own terms, when she is good and ready to do so. He never demanded an explanation, and I was pleasantly surprised that the author presented us with a reason that was quite easy for us to understand and sympathize with.

The Bliss and Blunders of Family

Family plays a critical role in the progression of events for our characters in this read. After all, it was dedication to and a love of family which brought Gavynn and her sisters back to their aunt and uncle’s inn, as well as the reason they were willing to pour their life savings into such a risky venture. However, family is also what prompted Gavynn to call things off with Cade when she headed off to school years before. She saw the downfall of her own family at the hands of her irresponsible and selfish parents. They married and had children far before they were ready, and were so enamored with each other that they had no qualms about leaving their three daughters behind with relatives so they could go gallivanting off on their own adventures. Gavynn was abandoned, yet also taken in by family, and she feared that she and Cade were at risk of falling into the same trap as her parents. Only by leaving Cade behind could she live and experience life on her own, and at the end of the day she found her way back to him when the time was right.

An intense fear of losing family is also what causes Cade to almost screw things up once again for this young couple. After his father’s heart attack one year ago during which Cade had to perform life-saving CPR on his dad, Cade subsequently moved in with his parents to always be close by should his father take a turn for the worst. The fear of involving himself so closely with Gavynn that he might be absent when his parents need him most has him act rashly towards his relationship with her, merely out of love for his family. Family was an important theme to be sure, as well as fighting hard to correct mistakes which were made with the best of intentions.

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

Series: Inn Love, book 1. I was looking forward to reading this book. I am absolutely giddy with delight at the prospect of reading book two. The fact I don’t have it at the ready on my Kindle is pure torture.

Final Impressions: This is a cute read with very little conflict, as we instead focus on Cade and Gavynn learning how to love each other again. It was refreshing to see them act as mature adults who have the same hopes, fears and propensity to flub up sometimes, just like the rest of us! They were relatable, personable characters, and even though we didn’t have a ton of drama we did still cover some very poignant discussions on the importance and tribulations of family. Cade and Gavynn were an entertaining couple, but the dynamic between the Alden sisters simply stole the show. I can’t wait for them to get books of their own!

Smut Level: Cade might live with his parents, and Gavynn with her sisters, but that doesn’t mean these two can’t find some time alone to rock each other’s worlds.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Sweet Heat Books. 166 Pages.

The Way the Story Goes by Samantha Chase

This sweet read essentially presents us with mini versions of some of my favorite romance novel tropes. From enemies (though brief) to lovers, and neighbors (though temporary) falling in love, all surrounded by a beautifully picturesque beach setting. What’s not to love?

What’s it About?

Thriller writer Mia Kingsley has been hit with a serious case of writer’s block and she needs a little peace and quiet. A beach front property in Magnolia Sound seemed like the perfect escape and just the change of scenery she needs to get the words flowing again. That is, until her noisy neighbor starts running power tools and blasting music at all hours of the day and night. Before long, the next victim in her story starts to bear an uncanny resemblance to the contractor next door.

Austin Coleman never wanted to come back to Magnolia Sound. But sometimes, life takes an unexpected turn and the only way to get back on your feet is to go home. His plan is to avoid all things connected to his past, and renovating a beach house in the off-season is just the way to do that—there’ll be no neighbors and no distractions. Or so he thought until he almost maims his sexy neighbor with a flying sink. Despite his best efforts, trouble follows everywhere he goes.

At first she wanted to kill him. Now she wants to kiss him. Sometimes you have to wait and see where the story goes.

First Impressions

This novel has an adorable meet-cute, and poses the question of what we would do when presented with a noisy neighbor who does construction, blasts loud music and sings horribly off-key all the live long day. Some of us might knock on the door to politely ask if they would mind keeping things down. Others might call the cops out of sheer frustration. Certain people, such as myself, would probably just sit and stew in silence while secretly hoping the universe finds a way to punish them. Mia Kingsley chooses to take the authorly approach by writing this inconsiderate noise-maker into her next novel so she can kill him off in her fictional story rather than in real life. Simply perfect.

If Looks Could Kill…or Resolve Everything

Once Mia sets sights on Austin for the first time however, and he gracefully cleans and wraps an injury on her foot, the rest (as they say) is history. The romance which developed between these two was so adorable. They both acknowledge that whatever is formulating between them is temporary considering they both have professional lives far away from this sleepy seaside town where they’ve met. However, while there is an obvious physical connection that they immediately choose to explore, their interactions aren’t solely reserved to the bedroom. They go on dates, he teaches her how to ride a bike, she allows him to introduce her to his mother’s book club, etc. All of this time they spend outside of the bedroom, having conversations and really getting to know each other, makes it more believable that when faced with the possibility of going home they both question if this newfound romance is worth making drastic changes in their life for.

The Good, the Bad, and the Family

The concept of family plays a critical role in the lives of our characters, both positive and negative. Not only the family they were born into, but the friends they’ve chosen in life who have essentially become family throughout the years. For Austin, family has always been a bit of a sore spot. His mother’s family was viewed as “from the other side of the tracks”, marrying up into his father’s wealthy family. And yet, it was his father who abandoned him, his mother and his brothers when he was just a boy. While he’s always loved his immediate family, the actions of his father had a direct impact on him misbehaving as a youngster, with the entire town and his more uppity family members looking down on him. However, it’s his cousins who have now drawn him back into their world, making him realize he truly belongs even if he still questions whether or not he does.

As for Mia’s family, she was shown love and support all throughout her childhood. It’s really only as she spends more time with Austin and his family that she realizes how much her parents are like Austin’s more judgmental and wealthy relatives. She has the stark realization that her mother and father would look down on Austin just as his rich relatives have, and she wants to spare him the humiliation of ever having to be at the receiving end of their vitriol. However, the fact she isn’t willing to introduce him to her family when he brought her into his leaves Austin feeling like Mia is ashamed to bring him fully into her world. Only when these two listen to the words of wisdom from their best friends and cousins do they realize they’re still worth taking a chance on.

Series: Magnolia Sound, book 7. This is the first book I’ve read in this series, and I’m now tempted to go back and start from the beginning! I could still follow along with the story even though I came to the party rather late, but I can tell we’ve been introduced to a lot of previous characters who were the featured couples of earlier books.

Final Impression: This is a sweet beach read, and I really enjoyed seeing Mia and Austin’s romance develop following such an adorable meet-cute. I also appreciated how open they were about each other’s pasts, though the hiccup with Mia’s parents and Austin’s reaction to not being introduced to them was a bit frustrating. Everything ultimately comes together for a sweet ending that will have you going “awwwww”.

Smut Level: These two have turned foreplay into an art form, especially making use of the elevator in Mia’s beach rental. However, these scenes always ended in a fade-to-black conclusion.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Chasing Romance Inc. 270 Pages.

The Traitor by Abigail Owen

This is the story we’ve all been waiting for! We finally get to explore Rune Abaddon up close and personal, and lemme tell ya, you won’t be disappointed!

What’s it About?

Decades ago, rogue dragon shifter Rune Abaddon took a stand against the decaying, corrupt systems governing their people. He now uses his bad-ass reputation to protect the innocent as it all comes crashing down. But he’s pushed the limits one too many times. His hideout is destroyed, his few allies are scattered and hiding, and the Alliance has placed a dead-or-alive bounty on his head, making him the most wanted dragon in the western hemisphere.

And then the most enticing woman he’s ever met barges into his mountain, demanding an audience.

Hadyn Reece’s future was ripped away long ago. The man fated to be her mate was murdered alongside her parents before Hadyn was old enough to be turned, leaving her to be raised and trained by her dead mate’s parents in the dragon shifter world. Now, the Alliance has come for the only family she has left. It’s a good thing she was raised by dragons, because the only one who can help her save them is a traitor she’d be smart to fear.

Especially when his dragon decides she’s theirs.

First Impressions

I’m in no way exaggerating when I say I have been waiting for Rune’s story with bated breath ever since we were first introduced to his character in book one of this dragon series. After five books in this Fire’s Edge series, and three books in the equally stellar Inferno Rising companion series, the wait is finally over. I’ll never forget seeing when Rune was officially announced on my Twitter feed as the protagonist of this sixth book, and literally squealing in delight upon the reveal, followed closely by a little shimmy dance of delight. This rogue dragon has lingered in the backdrop throughout most of the series, but has slowly been emerging from the background as a key player in this war of dragons. He was initially presented to us as a traitor to his fellow Huracan team of dragon enforcers, an enemy of the high king, stealing female dragon mates from their potential partners. However, as the series progressed it was revealed that this supposed traitor wasn’t stealing mates, he was saving them.

Saving them from certain death at the hands of greedy rulers who cared more about taking mates for themselves rather than finding their true mates. I mean, can you think of a more delicious hero than a rough and gruff dragon with a hidden soft spot, willing to risk having himself labeled as a traitor in order to do what is right? Pardon me whilst I swoon! If I had one mild critique of this part of the story, it’s that I wish we had dug just a bit deeper to hear more from Rune directly what that moment was like years before when he realized that in order to save these helpless women he would need to take measures that would result in his dragon brothers looking upon him with disdain rather than trust. We do get a few moments where Hadyn acknowledges she can’t imagine how devastating that must have been for Rune, or we get a brief glimpse of sadness from this strong man, but it still felt like we only scratched the surface of where we could have gone.

The Rules are Changing

The thing I love most about this series is that it still has the ability to surprise, shock and awe. Each book does have the tendency to follow a standard trajectory of a surly dragon who meets a woman that kicks off his protective alpha tendencies, followed by some sexy fun times, and concluding with an epic battle between our protagonists and enemy dragon forces. However, there are always a multitude of twists and turns mixed in which manage to throw everything you thought you knew about this amazing world completely out the window. This tracks with the progression of the series as a whole, as our characters are starting to realize that the rules of their species and existence are in a state of change.

What once had clearly designated lines of black and white have now blurred into varying shades of gray that will keep you on the edge of your seat wondering what unexpected development might occur next. This series also has the uncanny ability to tug at the heartstrings, and while most of the books have brought tears to my eyes at some point in the plot, this particular read had the distinction of making me reach for the tissues twice! What can I say? The emotional connection that this author manages to create between our featured couples always latches on hard to your heart, and when something tries to tear them apart we can’t help but feel that heartache ourselves. It is far and above more impactful than the delectable physical connection we also see established between our leads.

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

Series: Fire’s Edge, book 6. Gimme more…gimme everything.

Final Impressions: I wanted it, it was given, it met and even exceeded my expectations. Rune and Hadyn are definitely a standout couple of the series, as both weren’t afraid to lay all their cards out on the table in front of the other. Whether it was admitting how frustrated the other person made them, how much they craved each other, or ultimately how completely devoted they were to each other. Hadyn especially was one of my favorite heroines of the series so far, as she never cowered in the intimidating presence of her surly dragon shifter, and wasn’t afraid to push him to help her when it mattered most. Putting the romantic part of the storyline to the side, the climactic battle scene at the end was so fast-paced and action-packed that I had to force myself to stop trying to skim ahead to the bottom of the page to see what would happen. Always a good sign of a great suspenseful moment in my opinion!

Smut Level: There is a scene on a boat…quickly followed by a scene in the back of a demon’s taxi cab that will leave you looking for a spray bottle of water to cool yourself off.

Get it on Amazon: Click here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Entangled: Amara.

Mister McHottie by Pippa Grant

This is the epitome of an enemies-to-lovers romance, with an abundance of hate screwing thrown into the mix. Toss in a propensity for our lead characters to prank each other every chance they get, and what’s not to like?

What’s it About?

The best enemies make the best lovers….

There are three things I hate: 

Bratwurst in any form, my neighbors boinking like farm animals at 3 AM, and Chase Jett.

Mostly I hate Chase Jett. It’s been 10 years since he took my virginity – I’d make a bratwurst joke, but the unfortunate truth is that it would have to be a brat-best joke, and yes, it kills me to admit that – and now he’s not only a billionaire, he’s also my new boss.

Turns out our hate is mutual. And this kind of hate is horrifically twisted, filthy, and banging hot. I just might have to hate him forever.

First Impressions

Pretty much from page one you can tell this is going to be a fun, silly ride filled with down-to-Earth and sarcastic lead characters. Various chapters are told from alternating points of view between our somewhat hyper female lead and our smirkingly delicious male lead. The narration of the novel definitely plays out in a way that makes us feel part of the inner circle of friends for our characters. At times with Ambrosia’s chapters especially, we almost see her stream of consciousness as she gets especially frustrated when confronted with the tormentor of her childhood, Chase. They haven’t seen each other in years, having pulled endless pranks throughout their younger years which eventually culminated in an explosive argument (and sex) in the back of a bratwurst wagon. Upon reconnecting years later when billionaire Chase buys out the company Ambrosia works for, it takes mere seconds for all of their old frustrations and prankful ways to immediately resurface. And with all that supposed hatred comes another kind of frustration…sexual frustration.

A Sultry Romantic Comedy

As the first few chapters of this novel played out, I merely expected this to be a light-hearted, fun-filled romantic comedy with plenty of pranks and sarcastic comments hurled back and forth between Chase and Ambrosia. And while that was certainly true, the element I wasn’t expecting was the explosive heat and dirty-talk-filled sex scenes which permeate this entire read. Even though I can’t say the transition from spewing insults to sticking their tongues down each other’s throats was a seamless one, it was certainly an enjoyable one. I remember listening to this audiobook as I cleaned my dishes, and when Chase and Ambrosia were arguing in an elevator together I though, “oh, this should be fun,” and the next thing I know Chase has her bent over with her clothes ripped off, and he’s slapping her bum. That was definitely an unexpected escalation for their first sexual foray in adulthood. As the book progresses we see these two characters constantly trying to either avoid or one-up each other before their frustration ultimately builds into them tearing their clothes off, and continuing to exchange insults as a humorous form of foreplay.

Series: Girl Band, book 1. I think I’ll continue with this series. It’s full of crazy antics and even crazier characters you can’t help but love.

Final Impressions: If you’re looking for a fun read that will leave you giggling, yet also sweating from the steam burning between these two, then this might be a read you’ll want to try. The sarcastic dialogue of Ambrosia reminded me of my own personality at times, though it was also a challenge to follow her fast-paced stream of disconnected thoughts, even if it lent an air of fun casualness to the read. Overall it was a cute, silly, passionate read with a few flaws littered throughout, but it came together in the end for an awwwww-filled conclusion.

Smut Level: Elevator sexy fun tiiiiiimes!! The tone of this book might read light-hearted comedy, but my goodness do the sex scenes escalate into something fully charged with heat and eroticism.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Bang Laugh Love LLC. 184 Pages.

Sinful Surrender by Erika Wilde

You can’t help but say “sign me up” when a billionaire beast wants to tie you up to his bed with the sole intent of doing things to your body that apparently Batman wouldn’t even do to Catwoman.

What’s it About?

A debt repaid . . . in the form of her surrender. Rich and powerful, Maddux Wilder has built his empire with one thought in mind . . . exacting revenge against the man who killed his parents. But he never planned for his enemy’s daughter, Arabella Cole, to offer herself in exchange for her father’s debt. Innocent and captivating, Maddux can’t resist her allure, or the lust she stirs within him.

When Arabella sacrifices her life to save her father’s, she does so with the intention of hating the man who now owns her. But beneath Maddux’s gruff, boorish exterior she discovers a compelling man. One who makes her burn with need and awakens deep, forbidden desires she can’t deny. Soon she’s surrendering more than just her body to Maddux.

What starts as an act of vengeance becomes something far more consuming. Can this beauty tame the beast, or will revenge cost them both everything that matters most?

First Impressions

Overall I’d have to say this is a delightful beach read. It has a good amount of heat, a bit of drama involving the mafia to hold your interest, and references to one of the best fairy-tales of all time: Beauty and the Beast. I appreciated that while this modern adaptation had a bookish beauty falling for a tough and grumbly beast, it wasn’t simply a scene-by-scene retelling of the story we all know and love. There was enough personality to distinguish this from the standard story-line. For example, while Arabella stands in to pay off her father’s debt to this beast, it’s because he has a criminal history of which she is totally unaware. Her father is certainly a far cry from the bumbling and lovable father figure we may have been expecting. Although some details are unique to this version, two things clearly remained the same: we have a surly male lead who manages to ooze sex appeal in spite of his beastly demeanor, and we have a feisty female lead who is far from a wallflower when it comes to interacting with this alpha billionaire.

She Knows What She Wants

Arabella’s admirable independence was clearly evident when she chose to stand up for her father, but it was even more visible in her sexual relationship with Maddux. At first, it almost seemed like Arabella would be a timid and delicate princess when it came to her sexual appetites. When we first met her she seemed like a bit of a loner living under the oppressive thumb of her overbearing father and his villainous sidekick, Gavin. Even though we see she’s initially quiet upon first meeting, it doesn’t take long before her voice is heard in every sense.

This is true not only in her declaration that she’ll do anything Maddux asks of her while living under his roof to pay off her father’s debt to him, but also when she makes it clear how much she wants Maddux to introduce her to all manner of erotic sexcapades. I was worried at first if this read would present us with a situation where Arabella was beholden and trapped to obey any sexual whim that entered Maddux’s head. Instead, what we see is Arabella is the one demanding that Maddux not treat her like a fragile ornament that might break at the slightest touch. She might be a virgin, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have some downright sultry desires that she’ll beg Maddux to help her fulfill. It definitely makes you wonder who is wearing the pants, or more willing to rip them off, in this relationship.

Series: The Sinful Series, book 1. I’ll be continuing with this series, as we see a hint of a Cinderella story involving Maddux’s brother.

Final Impressions: Again, this is a fun beach read to explore this summer. I probably would have appreciated a bit more exploration of the dynamic between Arabella and her father, but it also wasn’t 100% necessary to the plot. The interactions of Maddux with his siblings and their seeking of vengeance for the death of their parents more than fulfilled the required familial dynamic for the plot to move forward.

Smut Level: It takes some time before we get to the ultimate climax, but we get plenty of teasing dirty talk before then to keep us satisfied.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. 286 Pages.