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.

Nothing but Trouble by Amy Andrews

CC has never let her employer’s quarterback fame influence her view of him. But put that man on a farm, throw a cowboy hat on him, and all bets are off!

What’s it About? 

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For five years, Cecilia Morgan’s entire existence has revolved around playing personal assistant to self-centered former NFL quarterback Wade Carter. But just when she finally gives her notice, his father’s health fails, and Wade whisks her back to his hometown. CC will stay for his dad—for now—even if that means ignoring how sexy her boss is starting to look in his Wranglers.

To say CC’s notice is a bombshell is an insult to bombs. Wade can’t imagine his life without his “left tackle.” She’s the only person who can tell him “no” and strangely, it’s his favorite quality. He’ll do anything to keep her from leaving, even if it means playing dirty and dragging her back to Credence, Colorado, with him.

But now they’re living under the same roof, getting involved in small-town politics, and bickering like an old married couple. Suddenly, five years of fighting is starting to feel a whole lot like foreplay. What’s a quarterback to do when he realizes he might be falling for his “left tackle”? Throw a Hail Mary she’ll never see coming, of course.

First Impressions

CC has been working as personal assistant to former NFL quarterback, Wade, for almost six years, and we’re meant to believe she’s at her wits end in his employ. She’s seemingly just biding her time to finish out her contract before she can yell out “I quit!”, pack up her things, and move to California. That’s the plan. But her plan is thrown off kilter when Wade drags her to his small hometown community of Credence, Colorado to help out on his family farm following his father’s stay in hospital. This is when CC starts to view him in a new light, and finds herself having a few too many erotic dreams of her employer, which she begrudgingly labels as “farmer porn”. Overall a fantastic premise, but there were a few missteps in execution.

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The Un-bossy Farm Boy

CC makes it sound as though working for Wade the last five and a half years has been an absolute nightmare. However, we never really see him act the tyrant he’s supposedly meant to be. Sure, there are some unique quirks to working for this famous retired quarterback, like ensuring he’s constantly well-stocked in Nerds candies, and interceding phone calls from the women he dumps. This is all in addition to her regular PA responsibilities, so it’s not all ridiculous requests. There aren’t really enough moments of him being this supposedly uber-annoying employer for us to truly commiserate with her frustration and desperation to get out of his life forever. This then sort of transitions into the second aspect of the book that I found confusing, which was that after so many years under his employ, CC is suddenly starting to fantasize about being…under Wade in an entirely different sense.

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The reasoning for this is explained away as suddenly seeing him in a different, homey environment. Again, I think if we’d seen a few more glimpses of him being a hard-ass boss in the beginning, and then witnessing a total transformation to him having a softer side after going back home, then the evolution of her feelings for him would have made more sense. Instead we almost see the opposite happen, where Wade becomes more of a complainer after returning home as his mother and the town council strategize ways to entice single women to move to their small dying town. I was left wondering why, after over five years of an apparently unbearable working relationship, CC abruptly started to view Wade in such a different light. I think we can more fully understand Wade’s change of demeanor, as he’s suddenly presented with the prospect of a life without her. But can the change for CC really just be attributed to an erotic dream featuring Wade as the male lead?

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An Absentee Relationship

Aside from the confusion surrounding the transformation of their relationship from employer/employee to something more, I was extremely surprised to see how much of the book CC and Wade actually spent apart from each other. In a way, I appreciated that CC was constantly reminding us they’d worked together for almost six years. Otherwise I would have questioned how well they actually knew each other considering how little time they spend in each other’s company. The bulk of the book involves them contemplating their evolving emotions, and when they do eventually come together in the physical sense I must say I wasn’t thrilled with how it unfolded.

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I was hoping for some kind of passionate confession about their feelings, or maybe Wade would finally admit that he needs CC for more than his Nerds fix. Instead we see that following the untimely death of CC’s estranged father she ingests about half a bottle of tequila, and spends most of the night vomiting as Wade comforts her. They pass out in each other’s arms, and upon waking the next morning things get kind of steamy. After five years I think I was hoping for a more climactic scene full of emotion, rather than one steeped in alcohol.

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Series: Credence, Colorado; book 1. While I wasn’t thrilled with this first book, I was definitely a fan of the town of Credence, as well as some of the supporting characters. I actually had more of an emotional connection to the love story which involved Wade’s brother rather than the one involving Wade. Maybe I’ll see what book 2 has in store.

Final Impressions: I think we needed more of a glimpse into CC and Wade’s working relationship before the move to Credence. It was kind of difficult to fully stand behind the transition of their feelings when we didn’t get the entire picture of their interactions beforehand. It seemed as though the basis was going to be that CC finally saw Wade in a different environment which made her start to see him in a different way, but this wasn’t fully executed. The big issue here was that the characters spent so much of their time in Credence apart from each other, that it was difficult to understand how they could begin to develop a more romantic relationship.

Smut Level: Only two scenes of an erotic nature, and nothing too descriptive to make you blush.

Get it on AmazonClick Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Dreamscape Media, Entangled: Amara. 362 Pages.

Sacrificed to the Dragon by Jessie Donovan

By the end of this novel you can’t help but wonder who loves Melanie more: the man or the dragon?

What’s it About? 

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In exchange for a vial of dragon’s blood to save her brother’s life, Melanie Hall offers herself up as a sacrifice to one of the British dragon-shifter clans. Being a sacrifice means signing a contract to live with the dragon-shifters for six months to try to conceive a child. Her assigned dragonman, however, is anything but easy. He’s tall, broody, and alpha to the core. There’s only one problem—he hates humans.

Due to human dragon hunters killing his mother, Tristan MacLeod despises humans. Unfortunately, his clan is in desperate need of offspring to repopulate their numbers and it’s his turn to service a human female. Despite his plans to have sex with her and walk away, his inner dragon has other ideas. The curvy human female tempts his inner beast like no other.

First Impressions

When I first started listening to this audio book, I remember thinking that the description of this agreement to live with a dragon-shifter clan as a “sacrifice” seemed a bit over the top. After all, that term is usually associated with death, and this contract essentially seems to revolve around sex. A vial of life-saving dragon’s blood in exchange for Melanie spending six months with a dragon in an attempt to procreate. However, it’s not long before we discover that most women who enter into this kind of exchange aren’t strong enough to survive the complexities of giving birth to a dragon. More often than not, it results in the woman dying. Lo and behold the sacrificial moniker seems a bit more appropriate!

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The premise of this novel seemingly had everything you would want in a fantastical romance that would result in an exciting and phenomenal read. Human and dragon thrown together. A binding agreement to have a child in exchange for the blood needed to save her brother’s life. Moving to a remote dragon community which is un-trusting of outsiders. Dragon hunters for crying out loud!! Let’s get this party started!!! Unfortunately, after this premise is outlined to us and we’re introduced to all the key players, the story never really gets elevated to it’s full potential.

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It’s Almost Too Easy

Melanie gets pregnant almost immediately, meaning the question of whether or not she’ll be able to fulfill her side of the bargain evaporates instantly. The next feature which we would undoubtedly start to wonder about would be the threat to Melanie’s life in childbirth. However, this never really seems to be an issue at the forefront of our character’s minds, or at least we’re never presented with a building amount of tension as her pregnancy progresses where it appears to be a primary concern. Instead the sole focus is on the interactions between Melanie, Tristan, and his dragon, as well as Melanie figuring out how to integrate into this new community she’s found herself in.

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The animosity between Melanie and the dragon villagers was another feature that I thought could build up some interesting tension, but yet again this is an aspect which never resulted in any kind of direct confrontation. The angst and contention of the novel is focused instead between Melanie and Tristan, but possibly more so between Tristan and his dragon. Upon first meeting, Tristan’s dragon immediately recognizes Melanie as his mate, and the urge to claim her as their own kicks in right away. However, we see that Tristan is constantly fighting against his dragon’s connection to Melanie, and it seems as though his dragon has a strong emotional connection to her than he does throughout the entirety of the book. They obviously have a sexual connection, but if we didn’t see such desperation on the side of his dragon to be near Melanie, I seriously question if Tristan was really all that interested in her.

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Series: Stonefire Dragons, book 1. While this first book wasn’t my favorite, I was intrigued by some of the secondary characters. I could see myself exploring book 2 at some point in the future.

Final Impressions: Simply put, I wanted more from this one. The foundation for a spectacular novel was definitely there, but it wasn’t as action-packed and suspenseful as I would have liked. The most disappointing feature of the book for me was the fact that we never see any direct conflict with the dragon hunters. The only action sequence which does take place with them happens “off camera”, and we only see the aftermath rather than the action described in real time. I will say the inner musings and arguments that Tristan has with his horny dragon were quite humorous, and combining this erotic desperation with the voice of our narrator (who sounded like a stuffy British librarian) lent an unintentional comedic tone to certain aspects of the story. Overall I think too much time was spent on Tristan trying to fight his connection to Melanie, and I was never fully convinced of his commitment her.

Smut Level: Upon first mating, Tristan’s dragon is determined to impregnate Melanie as quickly as possible. Let’s just say they don’t leave the bedroom until it’s mission accomplished.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Mythical Lake Press, LLC. 258 Pages.

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Hot as Puck by Lili Valente

What could be better than a sexy, funny, caring hockey player with six-pack abs? How about one who also likes to crochet?

What’s it About? 

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The NHL’s biggest bad boy is about to fall for the virgin next door…

I am the world’s biggest dating failure. We’re talking my last date went home with our waitress kind of failure. But I have an ace in the back pocket of my mom jeans–my sexy-as-sin best friend, NHL superstar forward, Justin Cruise. Justin owes me favors dating back to seventh grade, long before he became a hotshot with a world famous…stick. So in return for my undying platonic loyalty, all I want is an easy-peasy crash course on how to be a sex goddess. How hard can it be?

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I have never been so hard in my life. The things I want to do to my sweet, kindergarten-teaching, mitten-crocheting best friend Libby Collins are ten different kinds of wrong. Maybe twenty. But I’m a firm believer in teaching by example, and by the end of our first lesson, we’ve graduated to a hands on approach to her education: my hands all over her, her hands all over me, and her hot mouth melting beneath mine as I prove to her there isn’t a damned thing wrong with the way she kisses. Give me a month, and I’ll transform Libby from wall flower to wall banger, and ensure she’s confident enough to seduce any guy she wants. Problem is… the only guy I want her seducing is me.

First Impressions

Alright ladies and gentlemen, I think we can all agree that the cover pic of this read deserves honorable mention. Not to mention the play on words we have happening with the title Hot as Puck, as well as the name of the entire series Bad Motherpuckers. Cue delighted golf clap. Now, plot-wise we’re essentially dealing with a friends-to-lovers romance, which is one of my favorite themes of all times. With any novel dealing with friends who choose to elevate their relationship into something more sexual, we always question what will be the turning point in their dynamic? When will one or both of them start to look at the other as something more than a friend? When it comes to this read, almost immediately after breaking up with his girlfriend, Justin notices Libby walk into the room wearing a tight black tank top. And his pants get just a smidge tighter. Sooooo, I guess you can say wardrobe choice was the deciding factor here!

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Lesson One: Find Your Pleasure

While the impetus for Justin seeing Libby in a new light was inspired by her clothing, for Libby she turns to Justin for some instruction. She has a huge crush on somebody she works with, and she wants her long-time friend to teach her a thing or two on how to please a man. Yet another theme that’s usually one of my favorites in Romancelandia. With this situation however it wasn’t quite the sexucation I was expecting. I assumed it would be more about the logistics and techniques of how she might be able to give her crush the ultimate pleasure by using Justin as her instructor in all things sex.

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However, once Justin and Libby start spending some couch/bed time together, it turns out the giving and receiving of pleasure comes pretty naturally for both of them. Libby didn’t really need an education in the mechanics of sex after all, but rather in how to build up her own self confidence. This is what Justin is able to teach her. That she is a beautiful, desirable woman that any man would be lucky to have. A past break-up is what made Libby question her sensuality, but it doesn’t take long following a roll in the sheets with Justin for her confidence to start shining through.

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Series: Bad Motherpuckers, book 1. Again, gotta love the series title here, and I can see myself continuing with it.

Final Impressions: This is a cute read that definitely brought a stupid grin to my face many times when I listened to it as an audiobook. I’d say that Libby and Justin develop more of a friends with benefits situation than the sexucation I was really hoping for, but it’s still fun to see their relationship evolve. While both are initially surprised to find how much pleasure they can bring each other, eventually they realize it’s the most natural thing in the world.

Smut Level: Justin and and Libby bond over something more than just sex, and that would be their love of crochet. But who says you can’t bring the two delights together? Hence Justin’s wearing of a cock puppet…which is basically an adult sock puppet…on a certain part of his anatomy…

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Self Taught Ninja Publishing. 330 Pages.

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A Man of Character by Margaret Locke

“What would you do if you discovered the men you were dating were fictional characters you’d created long ago?”

What’s it About? 

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Thirty-five-year-old Catherine Schreiber has shelved love for good. Keeping her ailing bookstore afloat takes all her time, and she’s perfectly fine with that. So when several men ask her out in short order, she’s not sure what to do … especially since something about them seems eerily familiar.

A startling revelation — that these men are fictional characters she’d created and forgotten years ago — forces Cat to reevaluate her world and the people in it. Because these characters are alive. Here. Now. And most definitely in the flesh.

Her best friend, Eliza, a romance novel junkie craving her own Happily Ever After, is thrilled by the possibilities. The power to create Mr. Perfect — who could pass that up? But can a relationship be real if it’s fiction? Caught between fantasy and reality, Cat must decide which — or whom — she wants more.

Blending humor with unusual twists, including a magical manuscript, a computer scientist in shining armor, and even a Regency ball, A Man of Character is a whimsical-yet-thought-provoking romantic comedy that tells a story not only of love, but also of the lengths we’ll go for friendship, self-discovery, and second chances.

First Impressions

Looking back on this novel I have to say that the premise was probably the strongest part. We’re presented with Cat, a seemingly lifelong bachelorette who is down on her luck in love and in life. But then something fantastical happens. Not only do a slew of different men start asking her out, but she comes to realize that these men are actually characters she created in stories when she was younger. Cat soon discovers that an old manuscript passed down through her family explains the power that the women in this family wield when it comes to putting pen to paper. In the midst of this literary conundrum she also meets a man with whom she has the strongest connection, but she can’t help but wonder if he’s real, or simply a character of her own creation which she can’t remember.

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It certainly sounded like such a fun read at the outset! Unfortunately I felt like the story never went to the next level it needed to in order to reach its full potential. Similar to the narrator’s delivery of the audiobook which I listened to for this read, the progression of the story also came across as a bit flat. More life needed to be injected into it! I almost wish it had been elevated one additional level of silliness so we could lose ourselves in the fantasy of the situation. Or…we could have done a complete turnabout and gone full on horror scenario, but overall I think I would have preferred a more comedic lift to the plot and narration.

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The Family Manuscript

As discussed earlier, an old manuscript which Cat’s father left her before he died contains the answers as to why these fictional characters have just recently come to life. This manuscript presented us with both a heartbreaking, yet frustrating influence to the plot. Let’s start with the heartbreaking side of things. At the start of the novel, we see Cat’s father wrapping up this manuscript to give to his beloved daughter on her birthday. It’s an item his own mother had given to him with clear instructions on when he needed to give it to Cat, and also the history contained within this manuscript which grants the female family members with an unbelievable power. Sure, it’s a power he himself doesn’t believe, but what’s the harm in sharing this silly story with Cat?

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Sadly, we then see him pass away from a heart attack before he ever gets a chance to give it to Cat, or explain the implications of its history. The untimely death of her father has an enormous impact on Cat, and we especially see this come to the forefront when she interacts with these fictional love interests. In a way, she has so much power literally at the end of her pen. She can create the ideal man. What woman wouldn’t want that? Well, for Cat she realizes there are things far more important than creating a man on paper for herself. She’d much rather have her dad back, spend time with her family and friends, and find someone who chooses to love her of their own free will rather than being written to love her. It was really a powerful exploration of what truly matters in life.

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This is all well and good but there was another aspect of this manuscript which frustrated me to no end. Basically, Cat barely spends any time with it! This is seemingly the key which contains the answers to all her questions. It was only after this thing came into her life that madness ensued. If it were me, I’d read that thing from cover to cover, and probably more than once just to ensure I had all the information I needed. As for Cat, she doesn’t really seem that concerned with it. She only bothers to read the intro, the final conclusion, and get the whole thing photo-copied because of it’s age. But then she just pushes it aside without another attempt to discover what secrets or explanations might be lying within.

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Series: Magic of Love, book 1.

Final Impressions: Overall, the premise was far superior to the execution of the story. I wanted more from it, whether that be comedy or suspense, I honestly could have gone in either direction. Instead the story just kind of stays flat at the same level throughout the entire read, and I never felt like I connected strongly with the main character’s personality. It was also kind of surprising, considering we’re dealing with a romance novel here, how often the characters of the book berated romance novels. Her friends and family laugh at Cat for ever having written love stories, and the concept of her amorous writings seems almost more unbelievable than the prospect of her characters coming to life.

Smut Level: A fairly clean read.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Locked on Love Publishing. 336 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.

Enshrine by Chelle Bliss

As far as the premise for a romance novel goes, this one definitely presents us with a rather unexpected theme.

What’s it About? 

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Everyone knew Bruno.
Devilishly handsome.
Ruthless criminal.
Cut-throat businessman.

When a phone call changed my life, I refused to let anyone in. Helpless, my best friends went to the only man in town she knew would help…Bruno, the notorious mobster who’s feared by everyone, including me.

And he had no problem breaking down my door.
Scooping me into his strong, capable arms.
Whispering soothing words in my ear.
Chasing away the fear threatened to swallow me.

But then he did the one thing I never expected him to do…he stayed.

Can the man who’s only spoken about in whispers become my greatest savior and my deepest love?

First Impressions

Based on the rather brief synopsis we’re presented with for this romance, I gotta say this was not what I thought the book would be about. We’re provided with an intentionally vague mention of the female lead receiving an unexpected, yet crushing phone call. We then find out she has to rely on a dangerous man to help her; a man who obviously isn’t good for her. What can I say, based on the set up here I thought maybe we’d be dealing with Bruno having to save Callie from some kind of perilous situation. Perhaps an abusive ex-lover? Some kind of unfortunate run in with the law? Loan sharks coming to collect on a debt? Yeah nooooo. I never would have guessed this novel would revolve around Callie finding out she has cancer, and Bruno needing to save her by helping her realize that life is still worth fighting for. I realize some of you might see this as a spoiler alert, but personally I feel like it’s a necessity for people to know as this can really hit close to home for many folks out there.

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A Monumental Impact

I listened to this novel as an audiobook, which I always tend to reserve for listening as I get ready in the morning before work, or when I do some sewing on the weekends. Considering the heavy subject matter we’re dealing with here I must say those were some pretty depressing starts to the day, and rather somber sewing sessions. The impact of cancer upon Callie’s life was monumental and life-changing in so many ways. Firstly, she gets a crash course on finally realizing what’s truly important in life. Prior to that tragic phone call, she loved her shoes, designer clothes, picture-perfect hair, etc. Those are the things which brought happiness to Callie’s somewhat lonely life. After that phone call? It really makes her observe the world around her to acknowledge what actually matters, and what might be missing in her life.

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Cancer is also what finally brings Bruno into her life. Callie has noticed and salivated over him from afar for quite some time. However, she never acted upon her desire for him. He was known throughout the neighborhood as the dangerous man with a mysterious job, and she didn’t want to get mixed up in that. After her diagnosis she acknowledges that while he might be dangerous, she has something far more dangerous living within her. So why not indulge in the man who has always intrigued her, and cross something off her bucket list? Another unique impact of her cancer is that upon hearing the news, she has essentially killed herself off within her own mind. She has no hope for the future, and sees the diagnosis as a death sentence. Bruno is the one who helps her learn to fight, and get angry at cancer rather than see it as an inevitably tragic fate which has befallen her.

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Series: Stand-alone

Final Impressions: If you’re looking for a fun and light-hearted beach read…this might not be the best thing to pick up. There are certainly some very inspiring themes regarding fighting for life and love, but at the same time it’s definitely an emotionally loaded read. There were some other aspects of the novel that I wasn’t a huge fan of, such as the mystery surrounding Bruno’s job which turns out to be rather predictable, as well as the fact they spent a drunken night together which Callie has absolutely zero memory of. That being said, overall you’re really rooting for these two to succeed, and for Callie to win in her battle against cancer.

Smut Level: The cover alone should have you fanning yourself from the steam.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Bliss Ink Publishing. 354 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.

Sweet Victory by Gina L. Maxwell

A dash of MMA mixed with a pinch of a fake marriage is the perfect recipe for the sweetest of romances.

What’s it About? 

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Sophie Caldwell might not like asking for help, but help is what she needs if she’s going to save her family business from her uncle. Her grandma left one rule for Sophie if she wants to gain sole ownership before she’s thirty–get married. Yeah, fat chance of that happening since she hasn’t had a boyfriend in years, and now she can’t get her uncle off her ass.

British-born MMA fighter Xander James has never lost a fight, and he’s not about to start now. He’s on the brink of a comeback that could make him a UFC champion, but his landlord wants to take away his last chance by shutting down his gym. Hell, no. Fortunately, his landlord’s niece has a problem of her own. Time for a proposal she can’t refuse.

First Impressions

Of all the novels in the Fighting for Love series, this fourth installment has definitely been my favorite. It’s not just because I have an affinity for accents, and our male lead happens to have a delightful British lilt. It’s also not because our female lead owns a bakery, and I have a penchant for baking pies and cakes of my own. Although…those things certainly didn’t hurt! No, the reason this book was a cut above the rest was because Xander and Sophie had a natural and easygoing chemistry that felt completely legitimate and all-consuming.

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In order to save her bakery and his gym, the two enter into a fake marriage which must last for at least six months so that her dubious uncle doesn’t lay claim to the city block where their properties are located. What starts off as a temporary marriage of convenience quickly turns into one full of emotion. The fact Xander and Sophie also happen to have off-the-charts sexual attraction certainly helped. While it’s never clearly explained why they didn’t pursue a relationship prior to the need for a temporary marriage considering their longtime flirtatious friendship, you can’t help but be captivated by their intimate connection. We root for their marriage to last beyond the six-month timeline, even though we know there’s someone who will do anything to tear them apart.

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The Family Connection

Sophie’s uncle is our villain who is trying his damnedest to prove that Xander and Sophie’s relationship is a sham. He has his sights set on selling this city block to a developer for a rather large sum of money, but Xander and Sophie are the only holdouts unwilling to play ball. For Xander, the current location of his gym is a matter of convenience, and with him training for an important upcoming MMA fight, the last thing he has time for is to go searching for a new property. As for Sophie, she took over her bakery from her grandmother, and giving it up is something she could never imagine, as it would be like losing a piece of her family. While Xander and Sophie’s relationship smoothly progresses, we know it’s just a matter of time before her uncle weasels his way into the situation to spoil things.

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Sophie’s grandmother and uncle prove to be very important supporting characters to her relationship with Xander. The scenes involving her grandmother were particularly poignant and deeply moving. It’s in these moments that we see a soft and caring side to Xander’s tough fighter’s exterior, and it clearly demonstrates to Sophie that he’s a genuinely good guy worth loving. As for her uncle, it was rather predictable how his meddling would present a hurdle for Sophie and Xander to jump over, but there was another aspect to his presence that I wish could have been tweaked. Essentially, the only primary interactions we see involving Sophie’s uncle involve him dealing with Xander. I think it really could have added an additional layer of struggle if we’d seen at least one more scene where Sophie had confronted her uncle directly. Perhaps a heart-to-heart where he admits his motivations for wanting to sell his mother’s bakery, and Sophie simultaneously acknowledging why it’s so hard for her to let it go. They are family after all, and it was somewhat disappointing for all of his interactions to be limited to dealing with Xander rather than Sophie.

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Series: Fighting For Love, book 4. My favorite book of the series!

Final Impressions: This was such a fun read. Xander and Sophie’s connection felt so real, not only in terms of their affection, but also their sexual chemistry and ability to bicker and tease like an actual couple. Sure, the ending was fairly cheesy and predictable, but the journey to get there was delightful. I loved every scene where we saw Xander and Sophie interacting with her grandmother, as it lent an emotional depth to the story that I wasn’t expecting. I think I would have preferred a bit more confrontation between Sophie and her uncle, although it was great to see Xander stand up for her in the face of this intimidating family member.

Smut Level: When you have a bakery owner as one of your main characters, you just know frosting is gonna come into play with sexy fun times.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Entangled: Brazen. 260 Pages.