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.

The Closer You Get by Rose Grey

Jessica and Ronan were once close friends, but they haven’t seen each other in years. Will they possibly find their happily ever after when so many obstacles still stand in their way?

What’s it About? 

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Two responsible people. Two impossible dreams. What could possibly go wrong?

Jessica Piers learned all about responsibility the day she became a single mom. Responsibility means working all hours to pay for ever longer jeans, tons of peanut butter and band camp tuition. At least she doesn’t have to worry about running into Ronan Durrell. He’s never coming back to the island. Which is good, because she’ll never forgive him for leaving when she needed him the most.

When Ronan is fired from a prestigious Boston architectural firm, all he feels is relief. Well, that and guilt. So he heads home to the island to figure out what’s next. One thing’s for sure. It can’t involve Jessica. Because dreams are fine for boys, but a man does the responsible thing. Even if it means walking away from the only woman he ever wanted.

First Impressions

This is the final book in the Durrell Brothers Trilogy, and I must say it’s bittersweet to see this series come to an end. It’s been fun to see each brother find their own unique happily ever after, not too mention the adorable pooches featured on every cover. In this third novel we’re presented with Jessica and Ronan; two people who were once close friends, but haven’t seen each other in years. At the start of the book we’re presented with a very brief mention of their former relationship, and as the story progresses we get more bits and pieces of how their friendship fell apart all those years ago. On the one hand, I feel like I never fully understood or got enough information on their teenage connection. It was kind of difficult to dissect their former dynamic, who they were back then and specifically how Jessica felt about Ronan.

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It’s clear he was in love with this popular diva, and that things sort of fell apart when she became pregnant with another guy’s baby. However, I still don’t really know how she viewed Ronan all those years ago. If he was merely a close friend, if she secretly yearned for something more, or if it’s only now after years apart that she recognizes how close their connection truly was. On the other hand though, I also kind of appreciated the fact that we didn’t get a perfectly succinct overview of their past. It lent a sense of realness to the story, as though we were truly running into these two former friends after years of no communication. They know all the intimate details of their past, and it could have been a bit unrealistic for them to reiterate everything that played out when they were young. In a way it was both a blessing and a curse to the overall foundation of the story.

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A Small Coastal Town

Another constant throughout this series, aside from some adorable canines and having a Durrell brother as the male lead, was the fact that our setting remains the same in this small island town outside of Boston. The unique blend of island inhabitants always lends both a sense of community and conflict to our tale. We’re usually presented with some down-to-Earth, lovable locals that you want to see more of whenever possible. Then you have the upper crust, elite, snobbily wealthy townsfolk who are constantly full of themselves by thinking they’re above everyone else. More often than not, it’s this latter group of locals who present our main characters with numerous issues, and this proves once again to be the case with this final read. Ultimately it’s inspiring to see our humble leads stand up against these stone pillars of affluence, but it’s certainly a long and bumpy road to success. It’s hard to believe that such distinct groups could emerge from this same small island without constantly slapping each other!

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Reversal of Fortune

The most fascinating aspect of this read was seeing how Ronan and Jessica’s views of themselves and of each other have changed so dramatically as their personal situations evolved over time. When they were younger, Jessica was one of the social butterflies of the school. Immensely wealthy, and consumed with status. Ronan came to this island to live with his grandparents after a family tragedy which has always been talked about in hushed tones. He was an outcast in many ways, and yet these two managed to find a friendship with each other in spite of their differences. After having a baby when she was just a teenager, and subsequently being disowned by her family, Jessica has now been thrust into a different social status than what she was used to. Upon re-connecting with Ronan she sees herself as a single mother with only a high school degree, whereas he is a well-educated city guy who she views as too good for her. Jessica now feels inferior to Ronan, whereas in their teenage days it was Ronan who felt sub-par. The question now is will they find a way to meet in the middle, and put their personal feelings of inferiority behind them to finally find happiness with each other?

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

Series: Durrell Brothers Trilogy, book 3.

Final Impressions: The main sticking point I had with this read was that I wanted Jessica and Ronan to fight for each other! All those years ago when Ronan walked out of Jessica’s life she was left feeling broken. Now he’s back, and he clearly desires her. Stand up and fight to keep him in your life! And the same goes for Ronan. Jessica was the woman of his dreams, and he always felt like he wasn’t good enough to be with her. The one time he voiced his feelings for her she turned him down. Now that the years have passed their situations are completely different. They have an undeniable chemistry which the both of them openly acknowledge, and yet Ronan still assumes that Jessica would never consider bringing him into her life. His heart was broken before, so he chooses to stay quiet about his feelings this time around. I just think I would have preferred to see him fight for her by presenting all the reasons he’s truly worthy of her love. It was like both of them just assumed for a large portion of the book that the other wouldn’t be interested in a serious relationship. Let this be a lesson folks: never assume!

Smut Level: No raunchy scenes in this read! At one point Jessica does feel self-conscious about wearing non-sexy underwear in front of Ronan, to which he responds with the line, “Champagne tastes good in any glass.” Smooth sir…very smooth.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Simply Romance Press. 351 Pages.

Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts

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

What’s it About? 

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

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

First Impressions

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

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

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

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A Hectic Compromise

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

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

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The Past Can Hurt

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ghost Moon by Kathryn Knight

Inheriting an old, rundown house from a distant family member would be stressful enough. This house comes with the added bonus of a creepy, crying ghost.

What’s it About? 

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When Lark Cavanaugh’s life in New York City falls apart, she’s left reeling from a staggering betrayal. She escapes to Cape Cod, where a distant relative has left her an old house with a tragic past. Rumors of a haunting presence plague the abandoned home, but Lark doesn’t believe in ghosts…until she has no choice.

After completing his military duty, veterinarian Jesse Holt returns to his small hometown to take over his father’s practice. He soon finds himself drawn to the alluring redhead now living next door, but she has made her intentions clear—she’s moving back to the city as soon as possible. When frightening events threaten her safety, though, he can’t deny his protective instincts.

Unable to fight their feelings, they give in to desire…but another battle looms. Lark’s arrival has awakened a decades-old mystery, and the truth of what happened at Holloway House will only be revealed when it claims yet another life.

First Impressions

Lark is a bit down on her luck when she moves to a small New England town after leaving her cheating fiance, and inheriting an old house from a distant family member. Her luck seemingly plummets even more when she discovers her new home is being haunted by a despondent ghost, and her cat goes into a state of shock from these spooky new surroundings. However, there’s a bright light in the form of her neighbor, a sexy veterinarian who is inclined to help Lark get to the bottom of this haunting…and maybe spend some time together in the bedroom. I must say the characters in this novel were the standout feature from start to finish. Jesse, our veterinary hero, is an absolute dreamboat.

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I appreciated the fact that he never thought Lark’s descriptions of her ghostly encounters were the result of her being crazy, or out of touch with reality. He believed her from day one. As for our female lead, you have to admire her tenacity when facing this ghost. As mysterious happenings start to occur with more frequency, you almost want Lark to get angry and scream out, “Just tell me what you want already!” Or maybe that’s just what I would be tempted to do in a similar situation. Enough with the creepy crying and shoving picture frames off of walls, simply tell me what you need to move on. Instead, we see a beautiful reflection of sympathy emerge from Lark as she contemplates how this ghost could very well be a family member, and she feels obligated to help. The ability to tap into those feelings of compassion, even when fearing what this ghost might be capable of, truly spoke to the strength of her character.

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A Haunting and a Romance

While Lark and Jesse try to get to the bottom of who this ghost is, and why he/she has unfinished business, we see a relationship start to develop between them. Lark is hesitant to place too much blind faith in Jesse following a recently horrendous breakup with her fiance, but this mysterious haunting constantly brings these two together. I was definitely a fan of the mystery surrounding this haunting, as well as witnessing the development of Jesse and Lark’s romance, but I do think the intermingling of the two story lines was slightly off balance. Personally, I would have liked to see a bit more interaction between Lark and her ghostly companion interspersed throughout the book. While I certainly appreciated the fact that Lark never broke down or cowered in the presence of this apparition, I would have loved to see a scene where Lark and the ghost actually exchanged a few words in conversation. Instead the ghost always dissipates when Lark tries to initiate a discussion.

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Throughout the novel we’re constantly wondering how it was that this ghost met their untimely end, and ultimately we see everything play out in a climactic vision towards the very end of the book. This was definitely a suspenseful final scene, but it would have been neat to see Lark personally uncover more of the details surrounding this mystery as the story progressed. Instead we see her rely more on the town gossip which Jesse reports back to her, rather than doing any of the investigating herself. For example, Jesse’s mother proves to be a useful resource in providing some of the history behind the house and the previous owners, and yet we never see a scene involving Lark speaking to his mother directly. All of these conversations happen “off-screen”, and we see Jesse come back to Lark with a brief summary. Ultimately I was fully enthralled with the final reveal of who this ghost was, but I wanted more snippets of this story to emerge throughout the book rather than saving everything for one final reveal at the end.

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

Series: Stand-alone

Final Impressions: I’m not always a huge fan of ghost stories, but Kathryn Knight’s are proving to be some of my favorites. The characters constantly draw you in, and you can’t help but wonder how everything will come together. While I really loved Jesse and Lark’s connection, it did seem at times that our ghost story was kind of pushed aside to focus more on their romance. It left the novel feeling slightly unbalanced, especially when we see all of our questions answered in one final vision at the very end of the book. However, it was still an exciting read that had an interesting mix of romance, suspense, adorable animals, a passionate moment in the rain, and a ghost with a tale to tell.

Smut Level: Jesse is a dream! A love machine who can bring a bit of steam 🙂

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Wicked Whale Publishing. 213 Pages.

The Impassioned Choice by Rebecca Hefner

A sexy geek with six-pack abs, an incredible intellect, and a Ryan Reynolds sense of humor. Ummm…can I have him?

What’s it About?

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A new villain emerges, threatening the peace the immortals crave…

Heden, the youngest Vampyre royal, has always strived to live up to his sovereign duty. As the most gifted programmer in the immortal world, he applies his skills to protect the kingdom and the family he adores. But his siblings have all settled down with families of their own, and Heden often feels like a perpetual third wheel.

Wracked with guilt after her grandfather’s violent death, Sofia Morelli made a sinister pact with an unknown ally. Utilizing her tech ingenuity to plan the ultimate attack against the immortal royals, she begins to realize they might not be the nefarious enemies she believed them to be.

As Heden discovers the new adversaries and learns someone on the Secret Society shares his hacking prowess, he realizes the human, Sofia, might actually hold the key to defeating them. Determined to turn the feisty woman to his side, he employs his jovial nature and seduction skills to win her over. But when their tentative connection turns into something more, Heden understands a coding war isn’t the only thing he could lose to the spunky human. For, he might just lose his heart to someone who can never share his immortal future…

First Impressions

Just when I thought Ms. Hefner couldn’t possibly present us with another couple as entertaining and lovable as those which have come before, she goes ahead and blows me away with these two delightful characters. Throughout the series Heden has always proven to be a funny side-character, but one who has always been secondary to the leads from the first four novels. As for Sofia, we were only just introduced to her in the epilogue of the fourth book as an enemy and threat to our immortal royals. When these two hacker’s paths cross in this fifth installment, let’s just say they have quite a lot of ground to cover going from foes to friends to fated lovers.

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So what was it about these two that captivated me so much? First and foremost, their relationship wasn’t based solely on sexual chemistry. After all, our novel opens with Sofia determined to seek revenge against his family for a past tragedy. They have quite a lot to overcome before sex can even be discussed as a possibility. We see how Sofia has the ability to change and put the past behind her, while also retaining her headstrong and fiery personality that you can’t help but admire.

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As for Heden? Lordy lord this hunk of burning love might be my favorite male lead in this series to date. He not only chooses to see the good in Sofia when the rest of his family only sees an enemy, but he can fully acknowledge that she is a more talented hacker than he is. They have a delightfully cute bickering and teasing relationship when it comes to all things tech. Interestingly though, Heden doesn’t feel threatened or emasculated by her talent, or the fact she’s better than him at something he’s always excelled at. Quite the opposite. It proves to be a massive turn on. Every line of code she writes, every time she suggests a solution that’s more effective than one of his own, Heden finds himself falling for her even more. You can’t help but love their geeky connection.

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Cue the Waterworks

This is the sixth book I’ve had the pleasure of reading from Ms. Hefner, the fifth in this particular series. However, this is the first book of hers that made me cry. Now don’t get me wrong, some previous reads have certainly made my eyes glisten, but this is definitely the first one where tears were fully flowing, and I was practically left gasping for breath. One might even go so far as to call it ugly crying. What was it about this story and these characters that got to me you might ask? Simple. Their connection and their struggle felt completely real to the point where you’re heartbroken at the thought of it crumbling. It’s quite common in Romancelandia for two lovers to pull away from each other when the going gets tough. More often than not, I want to pull my hair out and scream at them for being so stupid that they can’t find/compromise/discuss an easy solution to their problem. Heden and Sofia also eventually find themselves at such a crossroads, but in this case you can’t help but sympathize and lament with their reasons for contemplating whether or not their relationship can proceed.

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He’s an immortal vampyre. She’s a mortal human. She wants to have children which he can never give her. Even if they chose adoption or insemination, Heden would ultimately have to suffer through watching his greatest loves age away and die. Neither Heden nor Sofia wants to cause the other needless pain, or hold onto a fool’s dream for too long. They both realize they’ll have to say goodbye sooner rather than later, and sacrifice this connection which neither expected to be so all-consuming at the outset. There is one scene in particular where they’re preparing for their eventual goodbye, but also trying to push away the sadness by discussing the dream of what their future together could have been. What their children’s names could be. Living in a fantasy even if it only lasts for a moment. Seriously you guys, even now I’m getting teary-eyed!!

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I think my heart especially broke for Heden, as we’ve constantly seen him try to find laughter and a bright side to everything in life, but it proves impossible this time. A lifelong bachelor who finally opened his heart to love, only to have it broken from a future that could never be. Or could it?

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

Series: Etherya’s Earth, book 5. I love this series so much, and I’m in it for the long haul!

Final Impressions: I must commend Ms. Hefner for still managing to surprise and entertain me 5 books into a series. The drama continues to evolve, the characters always delight, and it’s an emotional journey you never want to end. If I had to nitpick to find a complaint with this read it would be that it was tricky at times to keep all the members of the villainous secret society straight, including their respective motives. The previous four books presented us with one main dastardly villain, and it was always pretty easy to see what he was up to. After his downfall at the end of the last book we’re now presented with a whole new slew of evil-doers, with each one having a unique/difficult-to-remember name. Now, I firmly believe this society of villains led by one particularly nefarious character is well-placed to wreak some immense havoc, but with this first somewhat sporadic introduction to them it was kind of tricky to keep track of ’em all. Overall though, and engaging and emotional read!!

Smut Level: Sofia is hesitant to enter into any kind of sexual relationship with Heden considering that the moments of pleasure within her former relationships have always felt relatively forced and lackluster. Well…Heden isn’t afraid to throw that concern of hers on the floor with the rest of her clothes.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Reading Goddess Press, LLC. 291 Pages

Savor the Moment by Nora Roberts

Laurel is the designated baker of Vows. The descriptions of her sugary, calorie exploding creations practically had me salivating.

What’s it About?

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Wedding baker Laurel McBane is surrounded by romance working at Vows wedding planning company with her best friends Parker, Emma, and Mac. But she’s too low-key to appreciate all the luxuries that their clients seem to long for. What she does appreciate is a strong, intelligent man, a man just like Parker’s older brother Delaney, on whom she’s had a mega-crush since childhood.

But some infatuations last longer than others, and Laurel is convinced that the Ivy League lawyer is still out of her reach. Plus, Del is too protective of Laurel to ever cross the line with her-or so she thinks. When Laurel’s quicksilver moods get the better of her-leading to an angry, hot, all-together mind-blowing kiss with Del—she’ll have to quiet the doubts in her mind to turn a moment of passion into forever…

First Impressions

I thoroughly enjoyed the second novel in the Bride Quartet series, but I’ll admit I did have my reservations before starting this third book. While it does feature the baker of the group (and I myself love to indulge in creating desserts), the synopsis of our two lovebirds seemed too reminiscent of the romance from the second book. As it turns out, my concerns were fairly warranted. We once again see two long-time friends decide to make a go of a physical relationship after years of friendship. They worry over how taking their relationship to the next level might be received by the rest of their friends, but after a smooth acceptance from the rest of the quartet the plot proceeds with relatively minimal drama. Overall there wasn’t a whole lot which set this third book apart from the preceding novel, which made Del and Laurel’s romance pretty superfluous when all was said and done. Sure, it was sweet, but there wasn’t enough to truly distinguish it from the couple in book two.

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Raspberry and Clotted Cream Cake- made by yours truly 🙂

Sexual Moratorium 

Something else which was similar to the second novel in this series was the fact that there wasn’t really much drama between our lead couple. While they initially question whether or not to explore their more intimate feelings for each other, once they decide to go down that road it’s pretty smooth sailing from start to finish. At the beginning, Del and Laurel attempted to place a sexual moratorium on their relationship, where technically they can date but sex is a no-go area between them. This way they can focus on developing an emotional connection which is deeper than friendship, but also ensures they won’t be spending all their time together in bed. It was definitely a fun premise, but unfortunately it didn’t quite produce the level of angst you’d hope for to raise the sexual tension between our characters to a delightful level. It also doesn’t take long before they throw the moratorium out the window and jump into bed.

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Double Chocolate Chip Fudge Cake- also made by yours truly 😉

More Money, More Problems

One area which does bring an added sense of drama to the plot was an issue over money. Del has always been the protector and pseudo big-brother of all the ladies of the bride quartet. He wants to take care of them, and therefore sees no issue in offering to pay for one of Laurel’s cakes, or for offering to reimburse her for groceries. However, Laurel takes issue with it. She sees these acts not only as a flaunt of his wealth, but also as an act of charity. Laurel believes Del assumes she can’t take care of herself, so he throws money at her whenever possible.

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Strawberry and Truffle Chocolate Celebration Cake- you get the idea

As with most issues in this series so far, we see how her insecurities over their relationship hearken back to her own personal issues with family. The strained relationship she witnessed between her parents makes it hard for Laurel to fully trust Del. The constant gossiping of their small, wealthy community also doesn’t help matters when she hears they all think she’s only with Del because of his money. It causes Laurel to question why Del might be with her. Does he actually love her, or is he simply with her as a matter of convenience to have an able and willing sexual partner in his bed? While it was an interesting point of discussion, it didn’t really come fully into play until the very end of the novel, and it’s all resolved so quickly that you never feel as though it was a major issue which posed a real threat to our couple.

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Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies- I made ’em all!

Series: Bride Quartet, book 3. Throughout this novel we see scenes designed to heighten the sexual tension for the characters who will serve as the leading couple for our fourth and final book.

Final Impressions: I must say I was kind of confused why the author would choose to have two novels back-to-back which featured couples who were initially friends, and then chose to engage in a sexual relationship. Don’t get me wrong, this is a romance novel theme I’ve always delighted in, but there weren’t enough factors to truly differentiate the plots and characters of the two novels. This resulted in it seeming as though we just saw the same story on repeat.

Smut Level: Sexual moratorium my ass! Del and Laurel have an easygoing rapport which holds true both within and without of the bedroom. I will say I was rather disappointed that we never got a sex scene involving someone being slathered in whipped cream…or even buttercream. Laurel is the baker after all!!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $7.99 Kindle Price. Berkley Publishing. 353 Pages.

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