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. 

Untouched Heroes Vol 1: A Men’s Health Charity Anthology

What’s better than an anthology featuring romantic tales of virginal male heroes finding their happily ever after? How about the fact that all proceeds go to Movember! Help join the cause of raising awareness about men’s health issues such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and men’s suicide.

What’s it About?

Sweet and sexy, funny and fierce, Untouched Heroes brings together eighteen new and established voices in two books. One heck of a Manthology. Turning the Virgin Trope on its head, these sassy, steamy novellas include tales of pure, divine rods and men going to great lengths just to lose that V Card. Get ready to giggle, gasp, and cry as you carouse this one-of-a-kind collection. Best of all, it’s for a great cause – All proceeds from these anthologies will go to Movember, raising awareness about men’s health issues such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and men’s suicide.

Immortal Beginnings by Rebecca Hefner: Can a Deamon who has never felt a lover’s touch win the affection of a beautiful but wary Vampyre widow?

Authors included in Volume 1 are: Daphne Elliot; Klaudia Miel; Rebecca Hefner; Kate Seger; Linda Marie Pankow; Thomas Van Boening; Michaela Cole; Trissy Lee; Christopher Stanfield

Authors included in Volume 2 are: Mary Morano; Natalie Parker & Lizzie Stanley; Paula Dombrowiak; CJ Ferrell; JLynn Autumn; Brandi Lane; Linda Marie Pankow; Shauna Jared; Reese Jett

First Impressions

When I found out one of my absolute favorite authors had written a secret novella for the Etherya’s Earth series that was going to be featured in an anthology which would benefit Movember I simply had three words to say: sign…me…up! That, and a lot of incessant squealing and hand flapping in excitement. Even though I only had enough time to read Ms. Rebecca Hefner’s work before the release date, I wanted to be sure and get a review up in time so that as many of my readers as possible could take advantage of this opportunity to support such an amazing cause. 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 him 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? That giving her heart to this man doesn’t mean she’s replacing the memory of her husband, but rather 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 read*

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. $3.99 Kindle Price. Tarina Anthologies. 668 Pages.

The Cursed King by Abigail Owen

The battle of the dragon clans has been building to this final moment. When the smoke and ashes clear, we can’t help but wonder who will emerge victorious to rule over them all. Let the battle commence!

What’s it About?

He will burn. She will rise.

Airk Azdajah, the rightful King of the White Clan, spent half a millennium being tortured by the false High King Pytheios. The only reason he’s alive is a curse— the man to kill Airk will be consumed in his own fire. Which is why Pytheios kept Airk alive, barely, unable to shift in his prison cage, driving the creature half of him into madness. Airk escaped, but he’ll never be truly free. What good is a king who can never let his feral dragon loose, never fly, and never lead his people? He’s better off dead.

Angelika Amon is the last unmated phoenix. The problem? She has no powers. Zip. Zilch. Angelika hates being dormant, especially now that her three sisters are blissfully mated to powerful dragon shifter kings and are very much part of the fight to take down the rotting king Pytheios, their parents’ killer. What good is a useless runt of a phoenix in a battle to save the dragon kingdom?

Desperate to find some way to help, she offers herself to Airk as a mate — just for political leverage. But a dormant phoenix is no damn use to him just like a dragon who can’t shift is no use to her. Until Pytheios sets his sights on Angelika for himself…

First Impressions

I think a very real part of me is still in disbelief that this incredible series is finally over. We have been enveloped in this story of dragon shifters, phoenixes, kings vs. king and good against evil for not only four books in this Inferno Rising series, but also an additional five primary works in the companion Fire’s Edge series. It’s definitely possible I’ll be going through an intense period of withdrawal over the next few months. However, I’m also thrilled that we could close out this series with two leading characters who once again manage to capture our hearts in the midst of perhaps more crushing adversity than any other dragon or phoenix has experienced so far in either series. Honestly, I didn’t even know that was still possible at this point! Every novel has presented us with two destined mates who somehow face debilitating challenges head-on, all in the hopes of saving their clans from the centuries of manipulative rule at the hands of a mad-king drunk from power. We’ve always seen two strong lead characters who are stronger together as a pair than apart, and while that is also true in many ways of Angelika and Airk, this is really the first time that we’ve examined a couple who are seen by both themselves and others as a liability.

They are determined to join in the fight against King Pytheios, but before they can do that they must first prove their worth to those who constantly try to push them to observe from the sidelines. Angelika might be a phoenix like her powerful sisters, but unlike them any power she may have been willed by her dying mother lies dormant within her. Instead, her primary strength involves convincing other dragons to join in their fight against evil. Airk on the other hand has almost too much power within him. After centuries of imprisonment by King Pytheios, and his dragon trapped within his mind with no ability to fly free, this beast has become a feral creature within him rather than a seamless part of him. To release his dragon now would run the risk of never being able to rein him back in again. Something Airk fears even more though than his dragon overtaking his very existence is the possibility of his creature harming Angelika in the process through her determination to have them mated. He can try to fight their connection as much as he wants, but if this series has taught us anything, it’s that two destined mates with this amount of scorching natural chemistry will never be able to stay apart for long.

The Culmination of Kings and Queens

Even though I didn’t want to see this series come to an end, I must say it was one of the more perfect examples of how to bring a long-running series to a close. We saw all of the key players from the previous novels, the companion series, and even a surprise appearance from those in another series by this author that I didn’t even realize was going to play a role in the events of this final book! The beauty of how all of our characters came together in this ultimate battle wasn’t just that we see how willing they were to support each other, or that we were granted one final opportunity to be in their presence before having to say goodbye. Instead, it highlights that no one character, or even one couple from this series, would have been able to face King Pytheios alone. It literally takes every single one of them joining together as an ultimate source of power to even stand a chance in the face of such evil.

Another feature of this series which is highlighted particularly well in this last book is the political struggle for power over the dragon clans. Up until this point, we’ve always known that King Pytheios is the premier representation of evil, unwilling to give up his reign. We are also privy to the extremes he’s gone to up to now in order to not only assume power, but to keep it. He betrayed his rulers, his people, and even his family to stay on the throne. And while part of this can be explained away as someone consumed with power, this final book reveals how much he believed his actions were in fact for the betterment of dragons everywhere. In a way, he too thought he was on the side of right, battling against those who were trying to take their society backwards to the way things used to be living under the rule of phoenixes rather than dragons. It finally provides a window into why King Pytheios fought with such ferocity. It wasn’t simply that he didn’t want to give up power, it’s that he also believed in what he was fighting for, however misguided and based in misconceptions he may have been in the end.

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

Series: Inferno Rising, book 4. I may have secretly wished this series could last forever, but I’m also happy with how everything finally came together for a satisfying conclusion. If anything, it makes me even more excited to see what Abigail Owen will have in store for us next!

Final Impressions: There are two critical details to keep in mind before starting this read, which can also apply to any final book in your favorite series. 1) Treasure each and every turn of the page that you get to spend with these characters for the last time. I can only keep my fingers crossed that maybe one day in the future we’ll see a light-hearted follow up novella which details what our characters are up to following the concluding events in this book. 2) Seeing as this is the final novel, all bets are off. You never know which characters might survive or ultimately fall to the forces of evil. It adds a thrilling level of suspense as you constantly wonder how or if our heroes will succeed. While the progression of some events were a bit tricky to follow along with logistically, overall this was a breathtaking and electrifying climax to the series.

Smut Level: Airk may be a virgin seeing as he’s spent centuries trapped alone in an isolated mountain prison, but that doesn’t mean he’s uneducated in the ways of pleasure. When a secret friend brings him a copy of the Kama Sutra, his years of study benefits Angelika in every way possible.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Entangled: Amara. 419 Pages.

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.