Finder Keeper of My Heart by Vina Arno

Emma is convinced a message in a bottle holds the key to her future happiness. When she meets handsome Avery bathing nude under a waterfall in Hawaii she believes he’s the one she’s been waiting for all these years. Oh honey let’s be honest, his rock-hard abs and bare tushy helped with that decision too!

What’s it About?

Emma Munroe, a Juilliard senior, snags a plum role on Broadway a few weeks before her twenty-first birthday. She travels to Hawaii with her best friends to celebrate. When she gets lost in a jungle during an impromptu hike, she happens upon a waterfall—and a naked hunk bathing underneath it. When she finds out his name is Avery Bell, she’s dumbstruck. She believes she’s meant to love someone named Avery. It all goes back to a message in a bottle she found when she was nine, a letter written by a soldier called Avery to his sweetheart named Emma. He’d written it in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack during World War II. Since then, Emma has been searching (and saving her virginity) for her own Avery. But Avery Bell is as mysterious as he is irresistible. Emma learns about his family secrets and bitterness. In the course of this vacation, an accident and a tragic death will shake both of them to the core. Her singular faith in him—her unwavering belief in love and destiny—proves to be his saving grace.

First Impressions

Emma is a carefree, spunky actress with a whimsical tendency to create word mashups to find the perfect way to describe any situation. Avery is a tech nerd who prefers the quiet solitude of nature to the company of others. These two couldn’t be more mismatched, but when their paths cross in the middle of the Hawaiian rainforest, they’re inexplicably drawn to each other. They challenge each other to look at the world around them in new ways, and open their eyes to the possibility of something different in life. As if that wasn’t enough of a reason for Emma to start falling for Avery, his very name has her convinced they’re meant to be.

Years before, Emma discovered a washed-up message in a bottle from WWII where a man named Avery professed his undying love for a woman named Emma. Since that day, Emma has always believed the love of her life would be named Avery. Seems like a somewhat silly reason to love someone, and in a way I think it resulted in Emma overlooking a rather important red-flag detail when it came to Avery. Namely, that he already has a girlfriend waiting for him back in civilization.

The Other Woman

Upon first meeting, Avery is initially annoyed with this carefree spirit who has interrupted his solitude in the jungle. It doesn’t take long though for her inquisitive nature to win him over, and it’s not until a passionate make out scene that he reveals he already has a girlfriend. Now, they’re on a bit of a break at the moment, but they haven’t officially broken up yet either. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the classic Ross and Rachel Friends debate of whether or not Avery’s kisses with Emma could be construed as cheating considering that he and his girlfriend were “ON A BREAK!!”

I think that what most rubbed me the wrong way about this couple was that even after Avery admits he is already involved with another woman, this fact doesn’t really deter Emma. She continues to flirt and tease Avery, initiate kisses with him and shockingly almost seems upset when Avery refuses to sleep with her. As for Avery, he tries his best to say no, but can’t deny his time with Emma is making him re-think continuing his relationship with his girlfriend. What kind of bothered me though is that when his girlfriend comes to town for an unexpected visit and he admits that he and Emma have kissed several times, he gets agitated when his girlfriend greets Emma with coldness and an underlying sense of hostility. I mean…did he really expect these ladies to become best buddies and go shopping together or something? Of course they’d be wary spending any time together, and having to pretend to be cordial.

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

Series: Stand-alone.

Final Impressions: This is a romance where seemingly polar opposites are able to learn from and challenge each other. Avery teaches Emma how to appreciate the slowness and beauty of nature, somewhat taming this whirlwind of energy. Emma is able to get Avery to live in the moment, and be more carefree and indulgent in life. While I didn’t agree with some of the choices they made in their relationship, or Avery’s interactions with his girlfriend, the situation wasn’t really presented as though we are supposed to agree with every decision they make. Instead, we see that they’re humans who err and learn from their mistakes.

Smut Level: These two spend most of the book pining after each other, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their hot and heavy moments. Especially when it comes to stumbling upon the other bathing naked out in the open.

Try as I Smite by Abigail Owen

Try as I Smite by Abigail Owen

We have all the mages, angels, demons, windigos and Charles Dickens Christmas Carol references you could ever possibly want for some holiday spirit. Now, whether that holiday is Halloween or Christmas is anyone’s guess!

What’s it About? 

Alasdair Blakesley is the head of the Covens Syndicate. He shouldn’t need to look beyond the witches and warlocks he governs, or his own abilities, to solve any problem. But a demon infestation means he can’t trust anyone who may be possessed. The last person he wants to ask for help is also the only person who can fix this, so he sucks up his pride and storms into her office.

And she turns him down cold.

As the owner of Brimstone Inc., Delilah’s passion is helping others with their supernatural problems. But Alasdair is the last man Delilah wants to tangle with. The infuriating man sees too much and demands even more. And did she mention the way he sets her body on fire? Not that it matters—demons are the only things with which she cannot interfere. Too bad a higher power steps in and sends them both on a crash course of each others’ pasts, presents, and futures. How is a Christmas Carol nightmare supposed to solve his demon problem without breaking the rules she’s bound by?

First Impressions

As far as I’m concerned, Alasdair and Delilah are the king and queen of penetrating stares, smirking grins, and the ubiquitous eyebrow lift. From the first moment we witness these two in a room together, or office to be precise, we can’t wait for the eventual moment when they’ll rip each other’s clothes off to devour one another. Now granted, Alasdair is currently encountering a bit of a demon problem in which his fellow mages are being possessed by their enemies in a hellish attempt at demonic world domination, but…ya know…his sexual chemistry with Delilah is still forefront in our minds. Priorities!

A Demonic Christmas for the Ages

When Alasdair comes to Delilah for help with ridding his people of demons, she surprisingly refuses to assist him herself. This shocks Alasdair considering she’s known throughout the supernatural world for helping those in need. While he is rightly pissed off at her initial refusal, and assumes it stems from her personal dislike of dealing with him, we can tell there’s a secret reasoning behind Delilah’s rebuff. She doesn’t leave him out in the wintry cold completely though, and instead sends him to another woman for help…her mother. Rather than solve his problem for him, Delilah’s mother proceeds to send both Alasdair and Delilah through a Dickens-like Christmas Carol journey, observing scenes from their past, present, and future.

These scenes are supposedly the key to Alasdair’s solution, but as he spends more time trapped with Delilah through all of these emotional moments in time, he can’t help but feel increasingly linked with her as each vision passes. They become connected in a way that is special and all-consuming, and even though he needs to get back to his people, Alasdair also doesn’t want this time with Delilah to end. A gripping need starts to envelop them, and before long they’re more entranced with each other than the scenes playing out before them. Hands down my favorite point in the entire book was when they’ve been transported to a new scene, and Alasdair essentially declares he doesn’t care what lesson this particular glimpse is supposed to teach him, and instead he proceeds to ravish and taste Delilah all over while pushing her up against a wall. Makes things a bit more interesting than your typical Christmas Carol rendition, doesn’t it?

Being Consumed with Possession

My regular readers will have undoubtedly seen me utter the phrase many times throughout the years that considering how many books I read it really does take a lot for a story to surprise me. I can usually guess at some point where the plot is going to lead. However, I must say this battle against possessive demons truly had me on the edge of my seat in anticipation from start to finish. I never really knew where the story wanted to take me, and there were a few twists and turns along the way that I didn’t see coming. Something I did appreciate throughout the read was the emphasis on Alasdair and Delilah discovering that they were always stronger together than they could ever be apart from each other. It wasn’t about him rescuing her as a damsel in distress, or her opening his eyes to a woman’s worth, but rather that their connection as a unit was everything worth fighting for.

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

Series: Brimstone INC, book 4. This is a great series full of fantastical characters. You don’t necessarily need to read all the books which came before, but you might as well!

Final Impressions: This is a quick and engaging read that you won’t want to put down! In a way it sort of reminded me of a Nightmare Before Christmas in that it’s really a fun batch of entertainment for either Halloween or Christmas. You no longer need to choose one over the other! This read allows you to have your cake and eat it too. Or lick the frosting off of Alasdair if at all possible.

Smut Level: Alasdair is so taken with Delilah he can’t help but take her up against a wall during one of their Christmas Carol-esque visions. If that’s not passion I don’t know what is!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Entangled: Amara. 123 Pages

A Timeline Restored by Rebecca Hefner

A Timeline Restored by Rebecca Hefner

Alas, the series had to come to an end at some point. We all hold our breath in collective anticipation, wondering if this group of friends will finally succeed in breaking the time loop cycle they’re stuck in to save the world.

What’s it About? 

The thrilling conclusion to the trilogy…Eli Hernandez spent decades cultivating an image of fear and domination as the nefarious leader of the New Establishment. Yet, deep inside, he still clutches onto the barest hope that his irredeemable soul has vestiges of virtue. Alora Castillo lost everything one fateful day long ago as Eli looked on, unable to stop the carnage. Resolved to detest him, she must forge ahead when they are thrust together as unlikely allies. As the ragtag team of time travelers strives to reconnect with their leader, dark forces hide behind the scenes, manipulating fate as the cycle carries on. Determined to succeed and prevent the past, the team battles the evil regime, unwilling to accept failure. But accepting the yearnings of the heart requires forgiveness—a concept Alora dismissed long ago, no matter how fervently she secretly longs for Eli’s embrace. Will the team save the world and prevent President Randolph from detonating the apocalypse? Read the electrifying finale now!

First Impressions

Each and every couple in this series was just as delightful and entertaining as the last, and these two just might be my favorite of the group. There was so much angst, passion and heated history between them that you couldn’t help but root for them to acknowledge how much love and adoration was lying just beneath the surface. In any given scene you couldn’t really tell if they would fight, scream, shove the other up against the wall to tear their clothes off, or a combination of all of the above. There’s a complicated past which exists between Eli and Alora which was constantly pulling them together, yet pushing them apart at the same time.

An Unforgivable Past

The history of Eli and Alora is fraught with tension, pain and distrust. Years ago, Eli’s father killed Alora’s entire family, and while he couldn’t find a way to save them all, Eli was able to convince his father to spare Alora’s life. Throughout the years they’ve been enemies, constantly fighting against each other. However, only recently have they discovered they’re actually allies, as Eli has secretly been finding ways to support their rebel cause and mission to bring down the New Establishment which is set on world domination. When Alora is captured by these enemy forces, Eli once again has to use his cunning to think of a way to rescue her. What better solution than to suggest a marriage of convenience? Loooove it!

While Eli is constantly demonstrating his will to protect Alora, there is still an underlying distrust she feels towards this man. After all, she’ll constantly associate him with that terrible day when her family was gunned down in front of her. They always say “actions speak louder than words”, and Eli’s actions certainly express an unbreakable devotion to Alora, but she still finds it difficult to accept his help towards her and her friends. When he eventually declares his love for Alora she sees it as the ultimate challenge to forgive and forget a past which has influenced her entire trajectory in life. It’s easy for us to berate Alora’s decision to constantly push Eli away, especially when we consider how many times he’s risked his own life to protect her. I lost count of the moments when I wanted to exclaim, “oh just forgive him already!” However, it’s also crucial for us to remember that tragic moment from their shared past which makes us understand why it is so difficult for her to pull Eli into her arms.

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

Series: Prevent the Past, book 3. Something I loved about this entire series was that in addition to being presented with an engaging couple, we’re always exposed to a strong and admirable female lead. This final book in the series was no exception to that delightful feature!

Final Impressions: Eli and Alora were certainly a captivating couple of characters, but just as entertaining was the family we’ve followed throughout this entire series. They’re not necessarily a family bound by blood, though some are unknowingly connected in that way. Rather, they’re a family of their own choosing. They’ve fallen in step with each other, and are honored to fight and die by each other. It was such a beautiful and honest form of familial devotion. We are constantly kept guessing as to how this team will succeed in saving the world, and if it’s even possible to break out of the time cycle loop in which they constantly fail in their ultimate goal. It’s a fun guessing game right up to the very end. The final aspect of this novel which I enjoyed was the fact that while Eli was the first to say he loved Alora, and constantly tried to fight for her affection, in the end we see that she must now fight for him. The fate of their relationship didn’t just lie in one or the other, but instead they each had to step up to the plate.

Smut Level: Eli and Alora have a chemistry which is off-the-charts explosive.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Reading Goddess Press, LLC. 218 Pages. 

Snowball’s Christmas by Kristen McKanagh

Snowball’s Christmas by Kristen McKanagh

A delightful Christmas romance to get you in the holiday spirit! Believe me when I say, this year especially, it’s not too early to pick up this read.

What’s it About? 

Snowball—an aptly named bundle of feline fluff—is thankful to be spending her first Christmas in the comfort of Weber Haus, the Victorian B&B run by Miss Tilly. Emily Diemer, who cooks for the guests, dotes on Snowball, but she’s not thrilled about another new arrival at the B&B: Miss Tilly’s nephew, Lukas. Which is odd, because Snowball’s animal instincts tell her that Lukas and Emily should definitely be friends. Everything Emily needs is in this quaint community—including, she hopes, the chance to open her own bakery one day.

She doesn’t think much of Lukas for leaving his aging aunt to struggle while he jets around the world taking photographs. But now that he’s here, helping to spruce up the property and getting mixed up in Snowball’s antics, she begins to soften a little. Until she learns what he has planned . . . Lukas is going to sell Weber Haus so that Miss Tilly can retire. But Snowball is certain that this B&B, and these people, are supposed to be her forever home. Somehow she has to get these stubborn humans to see things through the wisdom of a cat’s eye and a kitten’s loyal, loving heart . . .

First Impressions

In this enchanting Christmas romance we see a small snippet of each chapter told from the point of view of an adorable kitten. I mean, just look at the fluffy wuffy cuteness that is the cover art, and tell me you’re not intrigued! As if that wasn’t enough, we have a snowy landscape at a picturesque Inn, two people who fall in love, and German Christmas traditions and food on top of everything. When I told my friends these fabulous details they all said the same thing: “This book was made for you”. While reading this book, believe me when I say it will leave you with a smile on your face pretty much from start to finish, and for a few days afterwards. You’ll probably chuckle aloud a time or two, and your toes will curl with glee. If it doesn’t? Well you just might be the Grinch of the holiday season.

A Personal Connection

This was exactly the kind of romance book I didn’t know I needed right now. Initially I thought it was way too early in the season for a snowy Christmas read, but it was simply the perfect amount of light-hearted fun and romance necessary to escape all the stresses of the world. And my goodness there’s seemingly too many stresses to count! I also felt a personal connection to this read, not just because I can’t say no to a book featuring a fluffball of fur as one of the characters. As someone who lost her own Oma earlier this year, it was special for me to read about the connection between the character of Emily and her own Oma who recently passed. To witness another woman who had such a loving relationship with her Oma, and one who also had a culinary influence on her life dang near brought tears to my eyes!

My sister and I basically grew up in my Oma’s kitchen. She taught me how to make spaetzle, kartoffelsalat und blaukraut.

A Pinch of Love, a Scoop of Fun

This novel presents us with the perfect recipe of a romance: the book has soul, and these characters have heart. Even during moments which cause friction, we can see that the decisions of Emily and Lukas come from a good place. For example, the synopsis introduces us to the fact that Lukas wants to sell his aunt’s Inn, and while I went into this read expecting to see him as a somewhat selfish character, I was surprised to find that his goal of selling the Inn was bred solely from the desire to ensure his aunt was being taken care of. Emily was also intent on hating Lukas for a good portion of the read, as she couldn’t help but see him as a neglectful nephew to the woman she’s come to love as family. Her oftentimes childish fixation to dislike Lukas became a bit easier to understand when we see it was due to her love of Aunt Tilly.

Even Snowball the kitten had the best of intentions during her moments of craziness! Sure, she could be such a little troublemaker at times, but she just wanted these silly humans to fall in love and kiss already! For those of you who aren’t cat people (firstly, how dare you?), don’t let that deter you from this read! Snowball was unbelievably adorable in all her fluffy cuteness, and at times even took on the characteristics of a dog. She would fetch things (even if not asked for), she was snuggly and affectionate, and could even follow direction…kind of.

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

Series: Stand-Alone.

Final Impressions: This is a must-read for the holiday season! For those of you who might not be in the mood for a Christmas read at this point of the year, at least be sure to add this to your holiday “to be read” pile. I didn’t want to put it down, whether I was in the bath, it was before bed, or I needed to hop on a zoom call for work!

Smut Level: This is a sweet read without any hanky panky.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $9.99 Kindle Price. Kensington Publishing. 240 Pages

A Destiny Reborn by Rebecca Hefner

A Destiny Reborn by Rebecca Hefner

This series follows a team of time travelers who travel to 2035 to prevent a nuclear apocalypse. Considering how this year is going…maybe they should have set 2020 as their destination!

What’s it About? 

Thrust into a world they barely comprehend, two time travelers are forced to survive with only each other as allies.Claire Finch, the kind, bubbly scientist, has sacrificed her hidden dreams for the cause: to prevent the apocalypse and save the world.Cyrus Montgomery, a tough, stoic soldier weary from the battle scars of war and barren dystopia.Together, they traverse the unfamiliar circumstances, both fighting and denying their mutual attraction.But destiny can be manipulated by unseen forces, and as they navigate the uncharted timeline, they discover a united strength they never possessed apart…and learn that true love ultimately prevails if the warnings of the past are heeded with caution and diligence.

First Impressions

The first novel in this series focused on a team of scientists and other heroes who were determined to finish building a time travel device, and go back to 2035 to prevent the moment in history when everything went wrong. At the end of that first novel we saw some team members successfully travel back in time, but ultimately discover they were stuck in an endless loop of traveling back only to continuously fail in their pursuit, so that everything could start back up again from the beginning. This second novel opens with two members of the team who overshot the 2035 destination, and instead find themselves in 2002 separated from the rest of their team.

I’ll admit, I was a bit wary to discover this installment finds our lead characters separated from the rest of the team, as the family dynamic between all of the characters was one of the standout features of the first novel. Would Claire and Cyrus be able to provide enough of that chemistry to replace the connection we saw from the group? While I did miss some of that friendship we glimpsed throughout the team, believe me when I say that Claire and Cyrus have enough playful banter between them to keep you entertained, not to mention their solitude pushes the plot forward in other meaningful ways.

A Shining Light

My initial apprehension over the missing crew members quickly turned to pleasant surprise at the discovery that their absence would allow Claire to come into the spotlight and shine all her own. It seems as though even Claire was surprised to find that she’s a bad-ass in her own right. While she definitely appreciates having Cyrus there with her in this strange time to help guard over her, Claire never fully falls back on him to protect or rescue her from trouble. Living in this other timeline away from the group makes her realize an inner strength she never knew she had. She also has the chance to reflect on what she really wants out of life.

Even though they were shocked to find themselves essentially stuck in a time so distant and different than their own, Claire now acknowledges that she wants to stay in this timeline. She and Cyrus can help research and set the groundwork needed to help their team in the future, but there will no longer be this sole driving motivation of needing to save the world resting on their shoulders. They finally have the chance to live a life of their own choosing, not to mention be surrounded by enough bountiful food to have french toast for breakfast, lunch, or dinner whenever they feel like it.

Standing Right in Front of Her

Rather than being solely focused on time travel and saving the world, living in this other timeline also allows Claire to admit what she wants in life more than anything else. Cyrus. She’s loved him for years, and has always sensed an underlying attraction from him as well. Only when they now have the opportunity to spend time alone with each other does Claire discover just how much Cyrus has been pushing his feelings for her to the side. He continuously tries to push her away, declaring that she deserves someone better who is also closer to her in age.

Claire doesn’t know when or why Cyrus convinced himself that he wasn’t good enough for her, or that she wasn’t strong enough to go after what she wants. And she wants him. A life together with him. Claire refuses to let Cyrus push her aside, and it was unbelievably refreshing to see this woman find the strength within herself to no longer be relegated to a corner. She’s not afraid to fight for him, or show him all the reasons they belong together.

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

Series: Prevent the Past, book 2. I can’t wait to see where this series goes, especially in regards to whether or not our team can break the loop they’re all stuck in to succeed in saving the world.

Final Impressions: This second novel definitely starts and ends with a bang, but throughout much of the book we see Cyrus and Claire play more of an observatory role in relation to the dramatic events leading to the apocalypse. I’ve always considered romance novels as an escape from the harsh realities of the world, and while the connection between our two lead characters provided that pivotal escape at times, this series also demonstrates how far political aspirations and beliefs can plunge the world into absolute chaos. All things considered, it was a tad depressing at times to witness the realism lying within this futuristic plot. Nevertheless, you’ll fall in love with Cyrus and Claire, and hope that somehow this team will succeed in finding a way to prevent the past.

Smut Level: Cyrus’s broken ankle might have him limping around town on crutches, but it certainly doesn’t slow him down in the bedroom! We see a few dominant tendencies emerge from Cyrus, but nothing that goes too over the top. Their chemistry is simply delicious.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Reading Goddess Press, LLC. 176 Pages

I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself. Here’s one more parting image of the wonderfully gorgeous Idris Elba for your viewing pleasure. The smile, the sprinkling of salt and pepper through the beard, sighhhhhh!!!

Djimon Hounsou was also considered for a considerably long time.

If You Dare by Barbara Meyers

A leopard can’t change his spots. A tiger can’t change his stripes. Can Doug Winston change to prove himself a good father, a loving partner, and an overall decent human being?

What’s it About?

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Can he go from arrogant ass to Father of the Year? Doug Winston looks into his newborn daughter’s eyes and vows to become the kind of man and father worthy of her. But he first must navigate the mess he’s made of his life. Doug’s wife has left him. His baby mama dies and to avenge her death her sister, Josie, wants to prove him unfit and attain custody. The teenage son he raised despises him, the father he worships disowns him, and a child Doug never knew he’d fathered arrives on his doorstep.

As Doug embarks on his quest to live authentically, to make amends where he can and build relationships with his children and with Josie, he discovers that the father for whom he was never good enough is part of a vast criminal network.
Just as Doug and Josie cross the line from hate to love, and Doug has cobbled together the family he always wanted, can he bring the man he once idolized to justice in order to protect them all?

First Impressions

I’m not gonna lie, I was quite skeptical to dive into this read. After all, Doug Winston was essentially the villain of the first book in this series. So far he’s shown himself to be nothing more than a cheating husband, a lousy father, and a ruthless politician. Now we’re supposed to give him a chance as our male lead? I went in wondering if I could ever be convinced at his ability to change, but the author of this series completely blew me away in coming to appreciate and love Doug as our main character. The novel opens with him at the absolute lowest possible breaking point in his life. Doug’s actions in book one have left him completely alone, save for a baby daughter who has been unexpectedly dropped into his arms. His initial cockiness has melted away, leaving him emotionally shattered to a point where he literally has no other choice but to change. Doug’s ultimate transformation was both believable and heartfelt in its telling.

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Third Chances

At the end of the first book in the series we saw how Doug blew his second chance with the love of his life. He’s determined to make things work between them, but ultimately he’s left without the option of a third chance at love after she unexpectedly dies following the birth of their daughter. Doug is left feeling completely gutted and alone at her death, but sees his daughter, Trinity, as his last chance to put his life in order. It doesn’t take long though before the cousin of his deceased lifetime love comes tearing her way into town, determined to get custody of his daughter.

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Josie knows all about the history between Doug and his cousin. How he broke her heart repeatedly over the years, and she’s convinced he’ll be as awful a father as he was a companion to her cousin. However, their mutual love for Trinity brings them together, and Doug surprises Josie just as much as he surprised us with his ability to change, and their tense relationship soon demonstrates the thin line between hate and love. While I found the development of their relationship to be fantastically gripping, I also found myself even more enthralled by Doug’s personal growth as a person and a father. His efforts to finally make amends for all of his previous mistakes, admitting his errors and vowing to do better as a father was the most compelling part of the tale for me. The developing romance between him and Josie was great, but ultimately eclipsed by the love he felt for his children.

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

Series: Red Bud, Iowa; book 2. I never thought it possible considering who our male lead was for this second book, but hands down this read pulled me in even more than book 1.

Final Impressions: While Doug was our main character, I really enjoyed seeing different chapters of the book being told from the points of view of our various other characters, including Josie, Doug’s son Miles, and his long-lost daughter Liv. There’s also some drama and suspense mixed in with his father that was surprisingly intriguing. The evolution of Josie and Doug’s relationship from hatred to trust and companionship was thoroughly entertaining, but ultimately there probably could have been a tad more focus on how it finally evolved into one of love. Overall though, an emotionally gripping read.

Smut Level: As a massage therapist, Josie knows all of the pressure points and pleasure points needed for an entertaining evening.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Sandalstring Productions. 241 Pages.

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Dangerous in a Kilt by Anna Durand

“Be my American fling.” Give me a man in a kilt, and a line like that? I certainly wouldn’t need any more convincing!

What’s it About? 

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Four weeks. No strings. One hot mess.

Good-girl Erica Teague is out on bail, charged with a crime her ex-lover committed. A lifetime of sticking to the rules has left her broke, burned, and facing a trial and certain conviction, thanks to the evidence planted by her trust-funder ex. Desperate to experience one wild night of sizzling sex before her freedom is torn away from her, Erica heads to a notorious night club in search of a one-night stand — where a case of mistaken identity lands her in the arms of a hot Scot with a secret past.

The passion igniting between them is explosive, but Lachlan MacTaggart wants nothing to do with relationships or commitment. When he offers Erica one month of sex and companionship with no strings, she can’t resist succumbing to her electric lust for the Scotsman. Soon, though, Erica’s ex begins harassing her and Lachlan’s haunted past catches up with him. When their hot fling gets personal, the last thing either of them wanted may become the one thing that frees their imprisoned hearts.

First Impressions

This is one of those books that actively likes to keep you in the dark regarding the most important aspects of our characters lives. Plot-wise it’s definitely an attempt to build suspense, but in this case it also lends itself to the nature of Erica and Lachlan’s newfound relationship. They’re both at a bit of a crossroads in life, and the last thing they need is more drama. When they realize they can’t avoid their chemistry any longer, they decide a casual fling lacking any kind of real emotion is just what they need as a distraction. Erica doesn’t share any details with him about how she’s recently been framed by her ex-boyfriend for embezzlement, and might soon be seeing the inside of a jail cell. As for Lachlan, the details of his breakup with his ex-wife are kept from us as well as from Erica. No matter how hard these two try to keep things drama free and casual, they can’t help themselves from falling deeply for each other. Call it fate, destiny, or a fantastically sexy Scotsman in a kilt, you simply can’t turn your back on true love when it’s staring you in the face.

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A Non-Moving Plot

The characters in this book definitely shone through as a bright light, especially seeing as there wasn’t a whole lot of momentum in regards to the plot. Erica and Lachlan expend so much effort to avoid sharing any personal details about their lives that they essentially have no option but to resort to sex. In addition to this physical connection though, it was nice to see how they were still able to build a foundation to their relationship beyond the bedroom. It was an easy-going, cutesy link that was simply fun to watch. However, their insistence on keeping things light, and pushing aside the complicated aspects of their lives, meant that there wasn’t much to push the plot forward.

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As mentioned before, Erica has been framed for embezzlement by a former boyfriend, and this plot-line serves to be the main aspect of suspense for the entire read. The ex who framed her keeps snooping around, and we as the audience just know he’s up to no good. It’s obvious he’s not completely finished in his attempt to set her up, and Erica and Lachlan catch him several times trying to force his way into her home. Shockingly though, he always manages to take his way out of them calling the cops. The entire book is one long build-up to the moment where we know Erica will finally have to admit the truth to her Scottish fling. After so much anticipation I was rather disappointed at how quickly and anti-climactically everything comes together at the end. We don’t even get a fun-filled courtroom drama scene where justice can reign supreme. Instead there’s a couple of sentences describing the outcome of this embezzlement scheme, and it’s done. When all was said and done I was left wanting more!

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Series: Hot Scots, book 1. I’m definitely intrigued enough to continue on with this series.

Final Impressions: Overall this was a fun, cutesy read, but I think there could have been a better balance between Erica and Lachlan’s care-free relationship and the drama going on in Erica’s life. I did fall in like with both characters, especially Lachlan, and fully intend on continuing on with this series to see more from his relatives who like to don kilts of their own.

Smut Level: We always wonder what the man has on under his kilt. This romance let’s you find out first-hand 🙂

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Jacobsville Books. 224 Pages.

In Other Words by Pamela Q. Fernandes

This novel presents us with the best concept ever in Romancelandia: flirtationship. “When two people flirt non-stop and know nothing will ever come of it.”

What’s it About? 

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Trish Holt is a pianist, living in picturesque Boothbay Harbor, Maine. She is stunned and blindsided by the most bitter kind of betrayal: her boyfriend of three years has left her. His new lover is her manager. Her bitterness is compounded by the fact that Trish has made bad choices when it comes to past relationships. Much of it stemming from her own issues as an adopted child from Korea. She holds herself partly responsible for the breakdown in their relationship as she tries to fit into the stereotype of the ‘All American’ girlfriend.When she moves out to a new home, she encounters Michael Quentin. Not only is he her neighbor but also a local chef on the island, who romances her and helps her get over the betrayal. As Michael and Trish fall in love, their childhood issues resurface.

Can Trish stop herself from loving Michael whose own family’s dark past is holding him back?

Can she ignore his love for tradition and roots?

First Impressions

From a distance, Michael and Trish couldn’t appear to be more different. He’s a relentless playboy chef who can never commit to a serious relationship. She’s a pianist who desperately clings to her boyfriends in fear of being abandoned. And yet, as we continue to peel away the layers of these two characters we discover that they actually have more in common than how it might appear on the surface. Their respective familial relationships have severely impacted their adult relationships with others, and we question if Trish and Michael will ever be able to overcome their past pains in order to find a loving future with each other.

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Finding Similarities in the Differences

Trish was adopted as a child, and when her adoptive parents have another child of their own they fawn over him in a way that leaves her feeling both unloved and unwelcome. She grew up feeling as though she never truly belonged to this family unit. In her later relationships with men, we find her previously troubled family interactions make her desperate to latch onto the man in her life for fear that he’ll eventually push her away. This creates a vicious circle in that these men become so exhausted at her clingy nature that they still want to push her away. When the inevitable eventually happens, Trish tries to find an escape in music. By losing herself in the keys of her piano, she is able to create something beautiful that she has complete control over.

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For Michael, his love life has also been severely impacted by his relationship with his parents, but it presents itself in a very different way when compared to Trish. Michael’s parents met a tragic fate when he was younger. His father killed himself, and his mother soon followed after drowning herself in alcohol. Rather than latching onto people like Trish does, Michael has the tendency to push them away. In his mind, everyone will leave him sooner or later, so he’d rather be the one doing the leaving so it’s on his own terms. When he once again finds himself alone in the world, Michael also looks for an escape that he can throw himself into completely. For Trish it was through music. For Michael it’s through creating food in his kitchen.

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A Psychological Review

When Michael and Trish eventually cross paths, you’d think it would be like water mixing with oil, and in some ways it definitely was. These two entered into a rather exhausting tug-of-war in that they were constantly pushing each other away in spite of the draw steadily pulling them together. When all was said and done I think I enjoyed the psychological aspect of their relationship more than the romance itself. There were several moments where I couldn’t help but question if Michael and Trish were actually right for each other, and some of their actions/decisions towards each other and their families were difficult to understand. For example, Trish was willing to attend the wedding of her cheating ex-boyfriend, but not her brother’s. When she and Michael eventually did start a sexual relationship she was willing to continue sleeping with him even though she wanted more than a casual fling, but realized he didn’t want the same. However, she figured the more sex they had, the higher chance that it might result in her getting pregnant with a baby she could have all her own. Mkay then…maybe not the best decision ever.

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As we’ve seen, the relationship between Trish and her parents had a heavy influence on her latter relationships in life. Towards the end of the book we see how discussions with her mother and father directly correlate to her outlook regarding her relationship with Michael. Apparently when her mother and father first got together decades ago, her mother was getting over losing the ultimate love of her life. When Trish shares the details of her fling with Michael, her father cautions her to end it as soon as possible. He declares that when Trish does eventually settle down with a partner in the future, this man will be heartbroken to realize he’s always played second fiddle to her constant yearning for a man she could never have. However, when Trish discusses Michael with her mother, she gets the complete opposite advice. Her mother tells her to grasp those perfect moments with Michael as long as she can, no matter how brief they might be, as they’ll be beautiful memories to sustain her later on in life. Again, some of the psychological components of this read were rather interesting to consider.

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

Series: Boothbay Harbor, book 1. I definitely found Michael’s siblings to be an intriguing bunch of people!

Final Impressions: While there were definitely some interesting observations regarding love and life with this read, I can’t say I fully fell in love with Michael and Trish as a couple. They almost spend too much of the book pushing each other away, that I wasn’t 100% convinced at their eventual coming together. I also wish we could have seen them lean on each other more to remedy some of the tensions surrounding their familial relationships.

Smut Level: It might take a while for these two to get there, but they certainly go at it with full force when the time comes.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services, LLC. 357 Pages.

Another Yesterday by Angela Christina Archer

Be sure to have a box of tissues at the ready when you pick up this romance. It left me a blubbering mess of emotion by the end!

What’s it About? 

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Two lives. Two stories. One fateful afternoon family secrets are uncovered from the hidden depths of the past.

Maggie ~ 1966: “I never thought my life would fall apart in the way that it did. Nineteen, alone, and with a baby on my hip, I fled from all I knew–the city I lived in, my friends, my parents, and him. It was the only thing I could do. And that’s when I found Shadow Brook, a tiny town in Maine with a beautiful inn, and a place where I could forget about my past, locking the memories away along with the secrets that could shatter my daughters’ world. Secrets, I left in the attic where they belong, hidden far away from her.”

Rachel ~ 1996: “I never wanted my mother’s life or her run down inn in nowhere Maine. I wanted my life in New York. The one with my handsome husband, fantastic career, and the bustle of city life. Isn’t that when life likes to throw you to the wolves? After finding my husband in bed with another woman and my mother passed away, I found myself not only the new owner of the inn, but also back in Shadow Brook, and face to face with old my high-school boyfriend, Luke. At least I can distract myself with the renovations, and I can finally clear out all of my mother’s things. Including an old box of journals and letters found in the corner of the attic.”

Each story in the Seashells and Second Chances Collection is about a strong woman overcoming hardships and finding her own second chance. Each story is a standalone novel and can be read and enjoyed separately from the others. If you love sweet and sensual contemporary romance with a dash of humor, you will love the stories in the Seashells and Second Chances Collection. Unlock this story and the others today.

First Impressions

The format of how this story was laid out is truly commendable, and ultimately contributed to our emotional connection with each and every character presented in the novel. Throughout the book, we alternate between the stories of a mother and her daughter taking place in two different time periods. Part of the book is set in the late 1960s with Maggie, a young widow who moves to a small New England town with her baby daughter, Rachel. She’s trying to start life over following the untimely death of her husband, and is also avoiding going back home to her overbearing conservative parents. Maggie finds herself in this small town where she starts working at an Inn, and begins falling for one of the locals. If I didn’t know any better I’d think we’d stumbled into the early years of a Gilmore Girls episode!

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After focusing on Maggie for a few chapters we then alternate to her daughter Rachel’s story which takes place in the mid 1990s. I really appreciated that we would see several chapters in a row focusing on each woman rather than having each and every chapter alternate back and forth. I think the latter situation would have given me whiplash! Instead, we’re allowed to lose ourselves for a few chapters within their tales of woe and love, becoming more invested in their character. I remember in the beginning feeling a bit more connected to Maggie’s story, as we see her learn to trust and love again following the tragedy of her first husband’s death. It seemed more engaging than Rachel’s travails of getting a divorce and moving back home following the death of her mother. However, by the end of the book this sentiment was completely flipped on its head, where I didn’t want to leave Rachel’s journey of self-discovery and unveiling of family secrets for another flash-back to the past. Each story sucks you in fully at some point, and there’s an overarching theme that is shared between them.

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Seize the Day

Within the opening monologue of the book, we’re presented with an extremely poignant and philosophical outlook on life which really resonated with me. This is also a theme which we see carried out through both Maggie and Rachel’s stories. They go through struggle and strife to realize the truth of the sentiment, but in the end it helps them lead fuller lives. Essentially, when everything is going well in life, we look forward to what tomorrow might bring with an extra bounce in our step.

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When something goes wrong though, this is when we long for the yesterdays that now seem so idyllic. In a way, it reminds me of a quote from The Office finale, “I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you actually left them.” As the novel progresses, we see this idea of never getting “another yesterday” as a reason to take advantage of every day while you can. You’ll only regret the things you don’t do, or don’t say in the moment, and you don’t want to risk the possibility of never being able to experience those moments at all. And this brings us to the other standout feature of this book.

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Can I Get Some Tissues Over Here?!?!

Lemme tell ya, this book left me as a blubbering mess of tears by the last page. The entire impetus for Rachel returning home following her divorce is revealed in the synopsis, her mother Maggie dies. However, this isn’t the only sad point of the book! Rachel slowly discovers the truth surrounding her mother’s sad past which was kept a secret for so many years, and she’s also presented with additional obstacles which threaten to crush her spirit (they certainly crushed mine!). It’s really at the halfway point of the novel where we can start to see the pathway being laid out for how the rest of the story will progress, and you just know it’s going to be an emotional doozy! We get a slow build to all the different pieces of the puzzle coming together, and once it does? My God I spent the last quarter of this book balling my eyes out. We’re talking full on gasps and sniffles here. For me, it all tied back to the format of the story, which has allowed us to connect with every single character, both past and present. We mourn and celebrate with them. We lament their lost yesterdays, yet also look forward to their happy tomorrows. Aaaaand I need another tissue please!

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

Series: Seashells and Second Chances Collection, book 2. While I haven’t read the first book in this series, I have read several other works by this author, and they’re all fantastic. If you’re looking for a read featuring a strong-willed, admirable female lead, be sure to pick up a book by Angela Christina Archer.

Final Impressions: My goodness this was an emotional read. It’s not just a romance, but also reflects the importance of family, friendship, and shares a message of making the most of every day while you still can. The start of the novel begins somewhat slowly as we’re introduced to characters living in two different time periods, but it all comes together into one cohesive story that will make you keep turning every page for more. We see a daughter learning the truth about her mother, learning to live without grudges, and learning from her mother’s past to make the most of her own future.

Smut Level: Nothing too detailed or steamy. There’s a few make-out sessions, but nothing over the top.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. Long Valley Press, LLC. 417 Pages.

Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts

Parker is a straight-laced woman who demands order in every aspect of her life. But when sexy bad-boy Malcolm comes along offering her a ride on his motorcycle, she can’t possibly say no.

What’s it About? 

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As the public face of Vows wedding planning company, Parker Brown has an uncanny knack for fulfilling every bride’s vision. She just can’t see where her own life is headed. Mechanic Malcom Kavanaugh loves figuring out how things work, and Parker Brown—with her endless legs—is no exception. But as a good friend of Parker’s brother, he knows that moving from minor flirtation to major hook-up is a serious step.

No man has rattled Parker in a long time, but the motorcycle-riding, raven-haired Mal seems to have a knack for it. His passionate kisses always catch her off guard, much like her growing feelings for him. Parker’s business risks have always paid off, but now she’ll have to take the chance of a lifetime with her heart…

First Impressions

Parker is a planner in every sense of the word. Not only does she handle the fundamental management of her wedding business, Vows, with her group of besties, she’s also meticulously organized when it comes to her personal life. She may not have time for romance, but when it does happen she has the basic idea of what the love of her life will look like, act like, and how he’ll eventually propose. Let’s just say that when sexy grease monkey Malcolm comes along, he completely throws her perfectly planned schedule off its tracks.

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“What’s happening with Malcolm is completely off script”

We’re meant to believe that these two are polar opposites who can’t help but be physically attracted to each other. However, once we dive deeper beyond the surface level details of their occupations, not to mention the fact they grew up on different sides of the track, we find that they actually have more in common than we or they were led to believe. First off, they’re both business people. They weren’t afraid to grow something from the ground up into the successes they both have today, and that prowess is an aphrodisiac unlike any other. Second, and most importantly, they’d do anything for family. Whether it’s his mother, or her best friends who have essentially become sisters, these two are caring and affectionate behind the tough facades they like to wear for the outside world. When they both catch glimpses of this in each other, they can’t help but fall deeper in love.

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A Hectic Compromise

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the key to any relationship’s success in Romancelandia is compromise. Malcolm and Parker both excel, yet also flounder when it comes to this concept. On the one hand, these two lovebirds are excessively busy business people, which means that they oftentimes have to balance their time together when the harsh realities of running a business come knocking. Parker especially is wont to answer her constantly ringing phone to placate and soothe a nervous bride-to-be. I think one of the reasons Parker knew Malcolm was different than all the other men who came before was that he never chastised her for being busy, and even encouraged her to answer her phone during a date.

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This is something that obviously wouldn’t work for everyone, but for these two it made sense. Malcolm knew she’d constantly be worrying about who was on the other line if she didn’t pick up, and he could also appreciate that her business was her baby. Vows was part of the package when it came to dating Parker, and he was more than willing to compromise a few minutes on their date if it meant it would set her mind at ease for the rest of the evening…and into the next morning if you catch my meaning.

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The Past Can Hurt

One area where I feel these two struggled to compromise was in communicating openly about their respective pasts. Malcolm has obviously suffered on multiple accounts throughout his past, including the loss of his father, abuse at the hands of an uncle, and a car accident which left him scarred beyond just the physical sense. All of these experiences have influenced the man he is today, and he’s hesitant to open up about the details of his past. When the going gets tough, he prefers to push it aside rather than talk out with Parker what’s bothering him. After a while, Parker becomes fed up with the fact he won’t be more open with her, and it results in an argument that threatens to break their relationship.

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Now…I get why she was frustrated. She could always tell when something was impacting Malcolm, and while she knew some of the basic details of the difficulties he’d previously experienced, he never confided in how he felt about those things. However, we don’t exactly see her throwing all of her emotional cards on the table to discuss how she felt in the aftermath of her own parent’s deaths years before. I feel like if she had shared a little bit about her own past tragedies in those moments when she wanted to learn more about him, perhaps Malcolm would have been more willing to bare his soul. As it stands she would just yell and storm out in anger. Not very productive.

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Series: Bride Quartet, book 4. The sun has finally set on this romance quartet.

Final Impressions: Overall this was a fun, cute series with a group of gals and guys you’d love to hang out with and drink some wine. The author does a good job of inviting us into their world, and making it feel as though we’re witnessing the love stories of our actual friends. The series as a whole is kind of lacking in drama, with just a few minor arguments sprinkled throughout. At times I’ll admit things did kind of straddle the line into boring when too many wedding planning details were being discussed, or our couples contemplated whether or not to admit how much they cared for each other. Books two and four were probably my favorite, but as a whole it was a nice, cohesive series.

Smut Level: Of all the books in this quartet, this last one is probably the steamiest of them all. Malcolm might not be what Parker was expecting, but she’s more than willing to go for a tumble between the sheets with him. Or even in a supply closet!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $7.99 Kindle Price. Berkley Publishing. 369 Pages.