Awakening by Kelley Heckart

Sexy actor with a Scottish lilt? Check. Secluded cabin? Check. Snowstorm? Yasssss!

What’s it About?

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Sometimes, the end is really the beginning. After destroying her successful music career, the close friendship with her bandmates, and her marriage, author Kaitlyn Storm, aka Kate Wolf, former bassist for the all-female rock band Hecate’s Fury, is given a second chance. She receives an offer to turn her book series into three movies, but her troubled rock-star past continues to haunt her. She never expected to find love or a way back. When she is trapped in a haunted cabin during a snowstorm with Kane Devlin, the hot Scottish movie star playing her hero, their rising passion for one another ignites. What they awakened will change their lives, but before she can move on, Kate must let go of the guilt and shame keeping her from claiming her shared destiny. For she may not know it yet, but she and her bandmates are chosen.

First Impressions

Kate is desperate to get her life back on track following the epic decline of her music career, and her failed relationship with her husband. She finally has that chance when her romance book series becomes a huge success, and she’s headed to a secluded cabin to begin working on the script with a team of writers, not to mention the sexy lead actor, Kane Devlin. Kate and Kane are the first to arrive at the cabin, and it’s not long before an intense blizzard traps the two of them before anyone else can arrive. I don’t know about you, but being trapped in a snowy cabin with a Scottish actor in front of a roaring fire with a cup of hot cocoa in hand sounds like a panty-melting party! Too bad they have a couple of party crashers in the form of two lovesick ghosts. One thing’s for sure though, Kane and Kate won’t let some spooky apparitions get in the way of their sexy time.

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Setting the Mood

Kate and Kane are determined to help these ghosts resolve their unfinished business as quickly as possible, especially considering one of them in particular isn’t the nicest dead soul you’ve ever met. Rooms shake, furniture spins about, there are unexpected bursts of light, and one apparition goes so far as to possess Kane’s body. Kate is particularly determined to hunker down and do some research to discover the identities and untimely ends of these two ghosts. A task made exceedingly difficult considering the power outage caused by the snowstorm, resulting in a lack of internet and the default necessity of using old town newsletters as primary sources.

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In spite of all this paranormal activity, Kane and Kate aren’t too distracted from exploring each other’s bodies as much as possible. Not gonna lie, it seems like they could have put their sexual attraction on hold for just a few days until they could escape from this haunted dwelling. They definitely have an intense connection drawing them together, but spooky ghosts kind of scream “mood killer” in my humble opinion. We’re not exactly dealing with warm and cuddly Patrick Swayze in Ghost here! While our apparitions don’t necessarily seem to want to cause our couple deathly harm…you never know when they might be sneakily observing some of Kate and Kane’s more amorous activities.

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From Paranormal Activity to the Trials of Fame

Surprisingly, even though they lack an internet connection to speed along their research, it doesn’t take too long before Kate and Kane have uncovered the past history of our two ghosts. They even succeed in helping the one ghost find peace, and are well on their way to resolving the issues of the other ghost before the snowstorm eventually breaks, and the rest of the writing team arrives. Unfortunately, this is when things kind of fall flat for our plot in my opinion. After all, our paranormal issues are practically resolved at a third of a way through the book. What could possibly be left? As it turns out, some pretty typical Romancelandia relationship issues. Kane and Kate proceed to experience trust issues galore, from false rumors in the tabloids, to Kane’s jealousy over Kate continuing to work with her ex-husband.

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While they struggle to navigate the impact of Kane’s fame on their relationship, we almost struggle to remember that there’s still one final unresolved paranormal element for our second ghost simmering in the background. In a way, it felt like we had two different books which had been smashed together into one, and I’m not sure the various stories always meshed well into one cohesive plot. On the one hand we have a contemporary romance detailing the complications of dating someone famous. The other is a suspenseful paranormal tale of ghosts trying to move on in the afterlife. Perhaps there would have been a more balanced progression of events if the story had been told in reverse. We could have started out with Kane and Kate meeting, and after beginning a romance they experience issues of trust related to his fame and her past. They then go to a secluded cabin to be with each other in solitude, but shockingly encounter a couple of ghosts, and through their journey to help these ghosts move on they discover Kate’s supernatural abilities.

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Shadow-Walkers

It’s not until the very end of the novel that we discover Kate and her former bandmates have supernatural abilities. She’s a shadow-walker, or someone who “can move safely between the realm of the living and that of the supernatural or shadow world”. By this point in the story, all of the major plot points involving Kate and Kane’s relationship, as well as our ghosts, have been resolved. This additional detail of Kate being a shadow-walker, and her bandmates also having special abilities, seemed like an afterthought that was just thrown on at the end of the story. I really wish it had received some more explanation and attention to highlight what this means for Kate, as well as Kane.

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

Series: Shadow-walkers, book 1. Consider me intrigued to give the next few books a try.

Final Impressions: This paranormal romance certainly started off with a spooky bang! The time when Kane and Kate were trapped in the snowy cabin with two ghostly apparitions was undoubtedly the highlight of the book. It’s not like they could just escape out into the snow storm to get away. Unfortunately, our lead couple is almost too adept in their role as ghost busters, and the most suspenseful and intriguing aspect of the story is over fairly quickly. The rest of the novel deals with Kane and Kate navigating the pitfalls of his fame with her previous decline as a female rock star, and we only get the briefest mentions here and there of their experiences in the cabin. Overall we needed fuller integration of the different plot lines, specifically the paranormal aspects and the hurdles of establishing their relationship due to their jobs and past loves.

Smut Level: A couple of ghosts don’t stand in the way of these two getting all sudsy in a bath tub. Kane is also happy to take some of the movie-set costumes back to his hotel room for some role-play and cheesy dialogue with Kate.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 220 Pages.

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Out Too Far by Andrea K. Stein & Sawyer Stone

An exciting and humorous conclusion to the Love Overboard series!

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Rania Elsaeid is the brilliant engineer aboard the 115-foot yacht, the Bonnie Blue. She’s also a deadly, well-trained security guard. She keeps her cool when everything around her heats up. Morris “Moj” Johnston, internationally famous music producer, is on a much-needed vacation cruise through the islands of the Indian Ocean. He’s not looking for love but trying to heal a broken heart. When Moj meets Rania, everything changes. Suddenly, they find themselves on the run from pirates, lost on a deserted island, and dangerously close to going…OUT TOO FAR!

First Impressions

It’s always sad to see the end of a series, but this final installment in the Love Overboard trilogy manages to keep you giggling as Rania and Moj navigate their love in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Both characters are dealing with the stresses of life. She’s lying low, trying to keep off the radar so her crazy ex doesn’t find her. As for Moj, he’s keeping busy as a famous music producer, trying to keep his mind off the recent and untimely death of his wife. Neither is looking for love, but once their eyes lock during a crowded music festival, there’s no going back. The connection between them is immediate. While they’re initially hesitant to explore anything physical between them seeing as she’s working on the yacht he’s chartered, it’s not long before fate pushes them to take things to the next level.

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Funnily enough, the moment when they decide to finally give into the desire which has enveloped them since they first met is not the moment I would have guessed would be the most opportune for sexy fun times. Moj and Rania find themselves stranded on a seemingly deserted island with kidnappers, albeit hilariously incompetent ones, hot on their tail. This is the moment where I’d be freaking out, convinced that starvation and dehydration would soon portend the end of it all. However, Moj and Rania take an entirely different approach, seeing this deserted island as an opportunity to finally get some privacy from all of Moj’s fame. Sure, they need to explore the island for water, food, discover whether or not it actually is deserted, but they first choose to look at the silver lining of the situation. Beautiful beach, just survived an adrenaline inducing escape from kidnappers…seems like the perfect time to get naked, no? Priorities people!

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“There is maybe one chance in hell we’re going to survive this ordeal. I say we make the most of the time we have left…”

The Need to Stand Aside

Something I really loved about this read, and the series as a whole for that matter, was that we were presented with a strong female lead character. Oftentimes throughout the books we find it is the ladies who are stepping up to protect the gents, or help them out of a sticky situation. This holds true in the character of Rania, a strong woman who can take care of herself, and has been trained by the very best to do so. Moj on the other hand, is a man who was determined to take care of his first wife who died from cancer. Caring wholeheartedly for others is part of his very nature, and the concept of stepping aside to let Rania take care of herself is one he’s struggling with. Where his first wife needed him, Rania doesn’t really need him at all. Even though their time together has been brief, it’s not long before Moj can’t imagine what life would be like to have Rania pulled away from him so suddenly.

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By the end of the novel, Moj finally accepts that when it comes to attempted kidnappers and matters of international espionage, his interference would probably cause more harm than good. He succeeds in stepping aside to allow Rania to shine in all her bad-assery. The final scene is quite funny even though it’s the climax of everything coming together, and it’s described in such perfect detail I could practically see it playing out in my head like a movie. Moj still worries for Rania’s safety, that’s something that will never go away completely, but he can learn to let her take care of herself when necessary. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t need him at all. She needs his presence in her life, she needs his love and support, but she doesn’t need him to treat her as a damsel in distress. If anything, Moj is the one who needs her protection and strength in certain moments. There are many times where they learn to place their full trust in the other person in order to make it out of a sticky situation, and acknowledge that there are some things they can’t do all by themselves. Sometimes they need a shoulder to lean on.

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

Series: Love Overboard, book 3. It’s always fun to see the earlier characters from the series come back in the end, although it was kind of disappointing that the couple from book 2 never made a surprise guest appearance.

Final Impressions: This was a sexy, funny read, and a great conclusion to the series. Some scenes were a bit over the top, and other areas could have been explained more fully, such as Rania’s past with her ex. However, it’s still a fun and silly read that’ll have you giggling along. Aside from the delight of having a strong female lead character, my other favorite part would have to be our would-be kidnappers. At the start you worry about how they might cause trouble for Moj and Rania, but as the story progresses you see they are hilariously inept at being criminals, and I was shocked to find myself liking them more and more with each new scene.

Smut Level: The first time Moj and Rania do the deed it’s on the beach of a deserted island they’ve been stranded on. I can’t imagine how much sand must have gotten into some extremely uncomfortable places.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Muirgen Publishing, LLC. 211 Pages.

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Love From Amanda to Zoey by Ian Mark

An emotionally heavy read which examines life, loss, love, and how interconnected those topics can truly be.

What’s it About?

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Everything comes easy for Zach Johnston. Only 24 years old, he’s got it all– the girl, the high paying tech job, and the rent-controlled apartment in the Village. But when his best friend overdoses and his girlfriend leaves him, his inability to connect with other people overwhelms him.

Desperate to hide his pain from Amanda, the ex who met “11 out of 13 criteria” on his friend’s most important checklist, Zach plasters on a smile as he rejoins his single friends chasing girls at seedy bars and grungy apartments, hoping the emptiness inside him will disappear if he pretends it doesn’t exist. As he descends into a haze of weed, booze, and hallucinogens, Zach recognizes his remaining friendships for what they are— partnerships of convenience, forged long ago simply on the shared desire to get high and get laid, continuing to this day because the effort required to replace them is too great. He also turns his judgmental lens inwards and begins to understand the consequences of his one night stands and shameless flirting, and the perils of assuming everyone he meets is dumber than he is.

At the peak of this crisis of confidence, Zach meets Zoey Mclemore, the beautiful, intelligent woman he has always told himself he could love and marry. Eating caramels sober with her is better than being drunk or high with anyone else. But when Zoey finds Zach drunk and alone with Amanda, he knows he must show Zoey he is ready to be an adult, or face never watching Spongebob with her again.

First Impressions

Zach is at a dark point in his life. After proposing to his girlfriend, Amanda, he’s surprised to find that her rejection of his offer has now resulted in the end of the longest romantic relationship he’s ever been in. He’s now trying everything he can to “come out on top” in their breakup, and demonstrate that he’s not heartbroken over her refusal. He’ll be just fine without her in his life. At least, this is Zach’s initial explanation to himself of why he’s losing himself every night in women, booze, and drugs. We soon come to find that his pain runs much deeper than a surface-level breakup with a long-time girlfriend. As it turns out, Zach is not just losing himself in these activities, but rather numbing himself. His downward spiral into drugs and alcohol is a desperate attempt to forget the tragic death of his best friend, and the confusion and turmoil which has plagued him ever since. His recent breakup with Amanda was just the icing on the cake of his pain.

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The Anti-Hero

Zach isn’t always the most likable of characters. We see that he’s prone to say and do some rather stupid things, and he’s certainly not without his flaws. However, this is also what makes him a realistic character. He’s stumbling through life, just like we all are. Throughout the novel we constantly question whether or not he’ll ever have an epiphany where he’ll wake up to see what truly matters in life. It’s a slow realization which comes as he spends more time with Zoey, a woman his mother was determined to set him up with. Eventually Zach discovers that he’s at risk of losing Zoey completely if he doesn’t clean up his act. I appreciated that he didn’t immediately push aside all the drugs and alcohol after his first meeting with her, or even after the first time they said they loved each other. That would have been too easy, and if Zach’s story teaches us anything it’s that life isn’t easy.

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It’s full of ups and downs, twists and turns, but ultimately it is possible to find someone who can help to lessen the pain. Zoey proves to be that salvation for Zach. It was interesting to see the progression of their relationship, from the first date where he was so nervous at the prospect of making a bad first impression, to an eventual fight that risks signalling the end of their love altogether. Zach reflects how his fear of losing Zoey is so much more terrifying than the fear he had over looking like a fool on that first date. Back then she was simply someone he might like to spend time with, but she eventually comes to represent the person he wants to spend the rest of his life with. She is his future. The question is, will he be able to show Zoey that she means more to him than all the drugs and alcohol that he’s filled his life with up until this point?

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A Second Death

At the start of the novel we see how Zach’s life was consumed with grief and guilt over the passing of his best friend, and as Zoey becomes a more permanent presence in his life we see an almost conflicting process of healing. Zach is slowly moving on from the debilitating grief that has plagued him since the death of Brian, and he’s surprised to notice that some days can eventually pass without him thinking at all about his best friend. His ability to cope is undoubtedly a healthy step in the healing process, yet it also fills him with sadness at the realization that he’s starting to think less of his friend. He’s even struggling to picture Brian’s smiling face clearly in his mind’s eye. Zach has vowed to never forget his friend, to never stop saying his name, as he feels to forget him would almost be like putting Brian through a second death. The death of his memory. It’s a rather poignant look at loss and the various stages of grief.

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

Series: Stand-alone

Final Impressions: This book certainly left me teary-eyed a time or two when Zach’s grief over the death of his best friend became all consuming. A good portion of the story focuses on Zach lamenting over Brian’s death, getting lost in drugs and alcohol to numb his pain, as well as pursuing various women to get over his break-up with Amanda. While it’s a gripping progression of events, we also could have spent more time witnessing Zach and Zoey together as a couple. He can sense his feelings for Zoey are different than all those who came before, and they seem to have a similar sense of humor and ability to just be with each other, even in silence. But most of the time we merely see Zach reminiscing on their time together rather than us seeing scenes of them together and connecting emotionally. It could have provided a nice additional layer of depth to the story.

Smut Level: Zach and Zoey definitely connect physically, and can go all night long. Nothing to overly graphic or detailed though.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Omnific Publishing. 188 Pages.

On the Market by Audrey Wick

She’s a vegetarian. He owns a barbecue joint dedicated to all things meat. They say opposites attract! Let’s put that saying to the test.

What’s it About? 

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Valerie Perry has just inherited her grandmother’s home in Last Stand, Texas, a far cry in the country from her city life as an organic grocery buyer in San Antonio. Her methodical daily routine suits her just fine, so she aims to freshen up the property, sell it, and take her funds back to the city. She’s only got two weeks during her vacation to make this happen. Now is the time to cash in and get out.

The oldest Hutchinson son, who people around town know as “Hutch,” is a third generation local who is poised to take over the family business with his brother, Cole. The barbeque brothers have very different ideas about the future of their restaurant, “The Hut.” Just when he thought his biggest headache was his job, Hutch meets Valerie and both their worlds are upended. He’s drawn to this fish out of water, but Valerie’s time in Last Stand has an expiration date.

Their sweet and saucy styles don’t mix, but can they both find the recipe to a happy future?

First Impressions

This is a sweet romance that will put a smile on your face, and is the perfect beach read. The progression of Valerie and Hutch’s relationship seemed so cute and natural that it almost felt like we were witnessing the romance of two friends rather than two fictional characters. At first they engage in some light verbal sparring after Hutch fells a tree into Valerie’s yard. It’s definitely some good-natured sparring, and never crosses the line into rude or demeaning. Valerie’s “…ability to dish right back what Hutch was serving was a trait he probably wasn’t used to in women”, and this unique feature of her personality draws him in and won’t let go.

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As Hutch attempts to fix her yard after the damage he caused, Valerie sees a sweet side to this barbecue boy, and it doesn’t take long before they both can’t stop thinking about each other. They slowly get to know each other, and open up about personal details of their lives. We never see anything over-the-top sexual, and there are no instances of being pushed up against a wall in a fiery moment of passion. Instead we see delicate kisses in the warm Texas countryside with fireflies flitting about. Soft touches and intimate caresses. We’ve really been provided with a window into the developing relationship between this couple.

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Brotherly Love

The relationship we see between these barbecue brothers was just as interesting as the relationship forming between Valerie and Hutch. They may be brothers, but they’re at odds over the future course of their family’s restaurant. One is steeped in tradition, the other is dedicated to changing with the times. Both have the best interests of their family’s legacy at heart, and yet it causes a rift to form between them in regards to which avenue they should pursue. The combative nature of these two brothers was quite entertaining, and perhaps a bit more focus on them having open and honest conversations about their wishes for the restaurant would have been a delightful addition. We see them have heated arguments, which perhaps highlights the true nature of their relationship rather than one of sweet brotherly affection. Towards the end of the novel they do find a kind of compromise, but just one more scene of them conversing one-on-one in a non-argumentative manner would have been great.

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What is a Home?

One feature that this novel focuses on at length is the question of what is a home. For Valerie, home is merely a place. It’s wherever you hang your hat for any period of time, and while she’s putting the finishing touches on her grandmother’s house she sees herself as biding her time before she can return back “home” to San Antonio. For Hutch, home is much more significant than the four walls that might surround you. It’s about the community that surrounds you. It’s about the people as much as it is about the place, and this small town of Last Stand is and always will be his home. When he discovers how vastly different Valerie’s concept of home is to his own, he questions if their differences might be more serious than simply the hurdle of physical distance which separates Last Stand from San Antonio. Perhaps their values in life pose more of an issue. However, as Valerie starts to transform her grandmother’s home into one of her own, and this small community also starts to envelop her as one of their own, perhaps her values might be changing to a point where she could envision a future in this small Hill Country town.

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

Series: The Texas BBQ Brothers, book 1. I can’t wait to see what’s in store next for Hutch’s brother, Cole!

Final Impressions: This is a quick read that’s ideal for the beach. It never gets too steamy, but instead there’s a sweet side to the natural romance developing between Valerie and Hutch. The community of Last Stand is an integral part of this relationship, and the additional aspect of Hutch and his brother fighting over the future of their family’s business was just as intriguing. Overall it’s a cute read that will leave you hungry for barbecue and sweet tea!

Smut Level: No sex, but we get some pleasant kisses between our vegetarian and our carnivore.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Tule Publishing. 180 Pages.

Bed of Roses by Nora Roberts

Emma is a picky dater who seeks the “spark”. When one of her closest friends breaks her spark-o-meter with their first kiss, she knows he’s someone to hold onto.

What’s it About? 

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Wedding florist Emma Grant gets to play with flowers every day and work with her three best friends in the process. She couldn’t ask for a better job. And her love life seems to be thriving. Though men swarm around her, she still hasn’t found Mr. Right. And the last place she’s looking is right under her nose.

But that’s just where Jack Cooke is. He’s so close to the women of Vows that he’s practically family. Now though, the architect has begun to admit to himself that his feelings for Emma have developed into much more than friendship. And when Emma returns his passion—kiss for blistering kiss, they must trust in their history—and in their hearts…

First Impressions

Whenever we have a romance featuring friends who become something more intimate, the most enchanting feature is uncovering that one moment where things change. Perhaps one finally sees an alluring physical quality they hadn’t noticed before; maybe it’s a moment of comfort following a difficult situation, or hell, maybe it’s just copious amounts of alcohol and a good rain storm. Unfortunately we don’t really see any of that here. Emma and Jack have been mutually attracted to each other for some time now, though neither has voiced their inner desires aloud due to the close nature of their immediate friend group. I was wondering what key moment would have sparked these two into action after so many years of silent yearning.

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However, we really don’t get a sudden light-bulb moment of attraction. There’s no surprising burst of passion that draws them both up in the moment where they can’t keep their hands off each other. Instead we see them slowly start to flirt more than they had before, with no one clear reason coming to the forefront to explain why now was suddenly different than before. They have logical discussions about what it would mean to start dating…and then they do. Don’t get me wrong, there are some steamy moments built in there, but it wasn’t quite the startling unexpected switch from friends to lovers I was expecting. We never really get an answer to the question of, “why now”?

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There’s Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

While Jack and Emma’s years of friendship allow them to settle quite naturally into a physical relationship, they both have some crippling fears which prevent them from opening up whole-heartedly. Jack has never been one for serious relationships, so his fear of commitment has quietly seeped into his interactions with Emma. He definitely cares for her (that is never part of the issue), but rather his inner struggle of where he sees this relationship leading to in the future. As for our heroine, she’s afraid to admit how much she truly loves Jack in case he should see it as a reason to put their developing relationship on hold. Beyond this though there’s also the insinuation that Emma fears that which doesn’t live up to her ideal. She works in a high-demand industry which requires perfection. It seems when her personal life has an aspect that isn’t perfect, she cuts it out of her life. If a kiss or a date didn’t score high on her “spark-o-meter” she knew it was a done deal, and she’d do whatever she could to set the guy up with another woman.

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We also see this play out in her relationship with Jack towards the end of the book. When he doesn’t welcome her presence into his home after a long and trying day, it sparks an argument that finally reveals how much she loves him, yet also doesn’t feel welcome in his home. It doesn’t just stop at an argument, but rather escalates to the point where she breaks off their relationship, demanding that he not speak to or seek her out to resolve things. He wasn’t meeting her expectations of feeling fully incorporated into his life, so rather than discuss how they might move to remedy that situation, she takes the fast approach to just ending things completely. While her frustrations were warranted, it seemed like a rather rash decision to try and remove him from her life. The question then becomes if Jack will be able to move past his fear of commitment to acknowledge what she truly means to him, and find the strength to win her back.

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Series: Bride Quartet, book 2. This sequel has started laying the groundwork for our final 2 romances. While one seems like it will be somewhat of a repeat of this story line where longtime friends become something more, I can’t wait to see what fun might ensue when meticulous planner Parker falls for a local mechanic.

Final Impressions: Overall I’d say I liked this second novel much more than the first one. It still focused on the wedding planning details a bit too much for my taste, but was a significant reduction compared to book one. This is probably a good series for soon-to-be brides to read in order to see how much care and attention goes into the behind-the-scenes support of a wedding. Not to mention things to keep in mind to avoid being labeled MB (monster bride), or heaven forbid upgraded to MBB status (monster bitch bride). Ultimately the bond of friendship between the four ladies of this wedding planning business is really coming to the forefront as the most endearing and entertaining characteristic of the series.

Smut Level: We get some passionate moments mixed in that will make you clap your hands in delight, but nothing over the top erotic that will make you fan yourself off from the heat.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. Berkley Publishing. 370 Pages

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When I Fall by J. Daniels

Reed has a very firm “no kissing” rule when it comes to the women he “dates”. Actually, make that “has one-night stands with”.

What’s it About?

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For the past nine years, I’ve kept my heart as far away from my d*ck as possible. Those two can’t be anywhere near each other. They don’t play nice, and one of them undoubtedly winds up getting hurt. Not my d*ck. My d*ck is good.

The women I take home know exactly what they’re getting from me—a good time. Nothing more. At least, that’s what’s supposed to happen. The sweet brunette from Kentucky I set my sights on tonight shouldn’t have been any different. I had her right where I wanted her. Where I needed her. But when my past comes walking into McGill’s pub, the woman in my arms decides to take things to a whole new level, putting me into a situation I never saw coming.

My heart is about to get f**ked. My d*ck can sit this one out.

First Impressions 

Of all the novels in this series so far, this one might just be my favorite, and for one very important reason. I liked the characters! After finishing the second book in this series I almost didn’t continue on with it, but I decided to give it one last try. I’m definitely glad I did! Reed and Beth have a chemistry which is undeniably palpable. At first glance in a local pub, Reed has his usual sights set on Beth, thinking that she’ll be his quick and easy source of entertainment for the evening. After all, she’s reading romance smut on her Kindle in a bar. Surely she’s up for a good time? However, it’s not long into his flirtations that a painful memory from his past comes waltzing through the door, and bragging about her upcoming engagement party no less. He’s like a deer caught in headlights when confronted with his ex, and Beth can sense that this flirtatious playboy is hurting. So, she does the only thing she can think of. She grabs his face and kisses him. So much for Reed’s no kissing rule!

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The Playboy and his Fake Girlfriend

Reed is a quintessential playboy, so what is it about this young woman that sets her apart from all the others who have come before? And believe me, there was a hefty plethora which came before. Well, there are a few things which set this lady apart from all of Reed’s former bedfellows. Firstly, she initiated their first kiss, even if it was all pretend as she simultaneously concocted a ruse of her and Reed dating in order to help him confront his cheating former ex. Beth and Reed were strangers, and yet even upon first meeting she was essentially trying to protect him. Her selflessness, not to mention their steamy kiss, practically knocked him on his ass.

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Then there’s the whole matter of the ruse itself. When Beth pretends to be Reed’s girlfriend, and also offers to keep up the charade by accompanying him to his ex’s engagement party, their first key moments together are essentially shrouded in pretend. Reed’s goal is no longer to immediately get Beth into bed, but rather to survive this awkward confrontation with his ex. In order to distract him from the unusual circumstances of their pretend relationship, Beth opens up about herself, and in turn gets Reed to open up about himself as well. It’s the first time in years that he’s simply been able to be himself with another woman, and develop a connection that is beyond sex. Reed and Beth both become smitten with each other throughout the course of the evening, and it’s during this engagement party that they decide to stop pretending.

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Everything in Moderation

While Beth does her best to take Reed’s mind off the awkwardness of the evening, he chooses to find additional solace in alcohol. It doesn’t stop him though from ultimately opening up to Beth, and admitting that he wants to take her home. What follows is a passionate night of multiple orgasms…that we don’t actually get to read about firsthand. You see, there’s one little problem with this entire situation. Come morning, Reed doesn’t remember any of the details of their sexual escapades.

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Imagine for a moment being new to town, offering to be a fake girlfriend for a complete stranger, spending an amazing night together getting up to all kinds of dirty deeds, and then when you wake up hoping to have a continuation of said dirty deeds you realize that your fake boyfriend for the night doesn’t remember any of the sex from the previous evening. Needless to say, Beth bolts out of there in sheer embarrassment. You gotta hand it to Reed though, the man must be one high-functioning black-out drunk. As the days pass, and his calls to Beth go unanswered, he starts to remember snippets of their night together, and hot damn! They made use of every surface of his house, not to mention got creative in the kitchen with various condiment options. Let this be a lesson to you ladies and gents, alcohol in moderation. You don’t want to forget these steamy details!

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Off-Balance

The first half of this novel was an absolute hoot. The entire set-up of their fake relationship which quickly developed into something more was extremely entertaining. You also can’t help but feel slightly bad for Reed in his hungover state. It’s not like he tried to kick Beth out of his bed in the morning or anything. He actually tried his damnedest to convince her to stay and talk things out. He may not have remembered their sexual exploits from the previous night, but he remembered how he felt about her. That he knew she was special, and that he enjoyed the moments they could simply laugh together.

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What follows are some humorous scenes where Reed tries to win her back, but everything takes a more serious turn with the introduction of some drama surrounding the couple from the first novel in this series. It’s in this moment that both Reed and Beth realize how important they are to each other, and Beth decides to stop running. They decide to make a go of an official relationship, and Reed is especially determined to make up for all the lost bedroom time. This results in the second-half of the novel being pretty sex-heavy, to the point where you almost forget how they came together in the first place. Either the events from the first half needed to be spread out more evenly over the course of the novel, or maybe we could have trimmed a sex scene or two from the second half. I know, trimming sexing scenes seems so unlike me, right?!

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Series: Alabama Summer, book 3. My favorite book of the series so far. Still not without its faults, but we seem to be moving in an upward trajectory. I can’t wait to see what comes next!

Final Impressions: I definitely enjoyed this one. Beth especially was a unique and intriguing character considering her background of familial loss, homelessness, and even emotional abuse at the hands of another man. As for Reed, it was refreshing to see this playboy learn to find happiness with another woman outside of the bedroom. He even admits that it’s the moments in between their time in the sheets that become his favorite where they can simply have fun laughing together. We do see some additional drama come into play towards the end involving Beth’s dad (which in my opinion was slightly unnecessary), as well as the return of a jerk from Beth’s past, which also wasn’t my favorite as it demonstrated Beth’s vulnerability and lack of confidence in her relationship with Reed. Overall though, the story manages to come full circle, and Reed is able to demonstrate his full devotion to this woman.

Smut Level: Yowza! When you read about using honey in a sexual scenario…well that just seems like a sticky mess with very little appeal.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. JD Publishing, LLC. 372 Pages.

McSexy by Sianah Nalika DeShield

Jollof rice and fried chicken. Banku and tilapia. This novel has me craving Ghanaian culinary specialties like nobody’s business!

What’s it About? 

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Name: Michael Abeiku Frimpong Aka Mike Frimpong
Age: 27
Nationality: Ghanaian
Net worth: $250 million United States Dollars.
About him: Yale University Graduate, MBA. Masters of Business Administration BBA. Bachelors of Business Administration. Millionaire at age twenty-one, CEO of Frimpong Insurance Corp. Voted number one most eligible bachelor by the women of Ghana for five consecutive years. Grand Master of the female orgasm, and serial playboy until his manhood was questioned, leaving him no choice but to accept the wager of getting a woman pregnant or pay $200,000 USD. Well, it’s on!

Name: Lilian Akosua Annah Aka Lily Annah
Age: 24
Nationality: Ghanaian
Net worth: The last time she checked, there were 300 Ghana cedis, the equivalent of $60.00 USD in her account.
About her: Shy, nerdy, insecure, and likes to think she is an average woman since she seems invisible to men and the last time she had a boyfriend was three years ago, but is she really that average? University of Cape Coast Ph.D. Candidate, Educational Psychology, Masters of Philosophy, Educational Psychology, M.Phil. University of Ghana, Legon, Bachelor of Arts, English BA, author of Affong’s Wishes, the newest children’s book set for the next academic year curriculum for the students in Ghana, beautiful dark skin, perfect hips, tiny waist, a good pair of perky tits, eyes that are absolutely beautiful, adorable, and innocent, they could make you do anything she wants, a voice that is so hypnotic it would make you go wild and submit to her, and a brain that is so sharp that it makes Mike Frimpong’s four-point zero grade point average at Yale seem less achievable.

One visit to her book launch leaves the playboy’s heart pumping and manhood twitching, not just from thinking of claiming her, but also making her the perfect woman to carry his child. Oops… she’s off limits and could cost him everything.

Is the playboy bold enough to chase her, risking everything he’s worked for in the process, or is he willing to let the one woman who stops his heartbeat for the first time walk out of his life?

First Impressions

What is our first impression of Mike Frimpong? He’s a successful and wealthy businessman who has fought his way out of abject poverty to reach the top. He’s worked hard throughout the years, focusing on his education, and is now in a position where he can give back to his community. He’s also a womanizer. More troubling though is that he has some questionable reactions when his masculinity is questioned. Our story opens with Mike’s masculine pride at stake as a rumor spreads of his supposed impotency. He’s never had a serious, long-term relationship before in his life, so there must be some kind of issue going on down there. A close friend of his provides him with a possible solution, saying that if Mike were to have a baby, people would finally take him more seriously. This friend even goads Mike into making a bet on the matter. A bet which Mike agrees to.

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Now, if Mike were just setting out to try and get his foot into the corporate world, I might have had more sympathy for him agreeing to this bet of getting a woman pregnant. But at the end of the day…it was all about him. Others were questioning his manhood, and therefore he had to dispel the rumors in any way he could. It was ultimately a selfish decision that he entered into speedily without much thought as to the fact that his actions would make him responsible for another human being. We’ve all read romance novels with a marriage bet or contract of some kind involving two consenting adults who eventually fall in love. No big surprise or issue there. But to have the result of a bet be a child? Simply because the main character worried others saw him as less of a man? Eek, definitely not painting him in the best light for our first impression!

Surrogacy Takes Hold

To briefly summarize the progression of events, Mike meets Lily at a book signing, they both hit it off, and they decide to go on a few dates. However, Lily also happens to be strapped for cash to save her family home, so in order to get a lot of money (and fast), she answers a newspaper ad calling for a surrogate. Little does she know that she’s actually answering Mike’s ad, and little does Mike know that Lily is the one he’s selected to be his surrogate seeing as she used a fake name when applying. One little doctor’s visit later and Lily is pregnant with Mike’s baby…only she doesn’t know it’s his. And technically she’s still dating Mike, even though she’s pregnant with what she assumes is another man’s baby. The plot thickens!

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Both Lily and Mike respectively question the timeline of their burgeoning relationship once Lily’s pregnancy becomes a reality, which lends an interesting psychological perspective to their dilemma. For Lily, it’s a signal of the end of whatever it is that’s starting between them. After all, it’s not long before she’ll start showing, and there’s no way Mike would be interested in dating a woman who is carrying another man’s baby for money. Right? As for Mike, now is the time he wants to dig his heels in with Lily, and get to know her even more. He sees her in his life long term, which means she’ll inevitably need to be comfortable raising the baby another woman carried for him. Little do they know how linked they’ve truly become in this surrogacy. Which was an aspect that seemed slightly…questionable.

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Mike is a business man. He may have entered into this baby bet quickly, but I can’t believe he wouldn’t have done his due diligence when it came to the woman who would carry his child. The fact a thorough background check wouldn’t have been involved to ensure this woman was who she said she was, and not using a fake name, seemed relatively unbelievable. Sure, it does allow for a build-up of suspense, as you wonder how long it will be before they undoubtedly discover the other’s role/identity in this surrogacy endeavor. That being said, it seems to go against Mike’s very nature which made him such a success in the first place.

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The Question of Longevity

The ultimate question with any romance is whether or not the relationship will last. Mike insists that Lily means everything to him, but simultaneously admits that “Just the thought of commitment makes me nauseated.” Lily doesn’t doubt that Mike loves her, and that he would make a wonderful husband. Yet, she constantly wonders if he’ll cheat on her, and worries that he’ll eventually hurt her by going back to his womanizing ways. In addition, the entire existence of their baby springs forth a whole other slew of worries in her mind. Is he only in love with her because she’s pregnant? Will he one day grow to hate her decision to be a surrogate because she was once willing to give her baby over to the arms of a stranger? If she doesn’t marry Mike is she strong enough to be a single mother? Is she only looking to marry Mike now because of the fact she’s afraid of being a single mother?

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I want to believe that by the end of the novel they’ve worked through all of these inner doubts to get to a point where they are confident in their decision to spend the rest of their lives together. However, I can’t say I’m entirely convinced. At one point another character warns Mike that he and Lily are simply “playing house”, and in a way I agree. When the reality of commitment and parenthood comes knocking on their door we question if they’ll be able to maintain their relationship. There were scenes where our characters faced some difficult tests to their relationship, and they’re both willing to stand up to fight for their love. However, we see other moments which highlight that sometimes when the going gets tough, our characters are wont to flee. At one point in particular we see Mike become so distraught at overhearing Lily’s doubts regarding their relationship that he runs into the arms of another woman. This continual flux of fleeing from, yet also fighting for their relationship leaves you in a kind of limbo over the fate of their relationship.

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

Series: Stand-Alone

Final Impressions: The length could have been slightly shorter, with more attention focused on resolving their individual insecurities about the relationship, as well as them coming together over the fact they’re about to be parents. By the end it sort of seems like they’re both determined to give their relationship a go, but the fact they’re bringing a whole other life into the world was somewhat glossed over. There is some drama introduced towards the end, including the fact that their surrogacy arrangement becomes public knowledge throughout the community. It’s sort of brushed aside to the point where you wonder if it will ever be resolved, and it isn’t until the final moments of the book that this story point comes back into play. This resulted in the ending feeling a bit rushed, but we do get some fabulous moments of Lily finally standing up for her man. Definitely some well constructed verbal sparring matches that will make you want to applaud Lily for her candor. In spite of these moments though, I still can’t say I was entirely convinced by the end that Mike and Lily were poised for a long-term successful relationship.

Smut Level: Mike is a former womanizer, which means he brings plenty of experience to the table. Surprisingly though, Lily isn’t afraid to lead the show a time or two.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services, LLC. 405 Pages