Home in Your Arms by Charlotte O’Shay

Car trouble in the middle of a rainstorm. Finding shelter in an abandoned garage. A crackling fireplace and only one bed?! Oh yeah, this is definitely my kind of read.

What’s it About? 

After her sweetheart Joe dies in a road accident, twenty-four hours after he returns from Army service, grieving Karla Payne slams the door on love. Five years later, Karla’s tavern business is booming, and she owns her home, but she knows forever love has no part in her future. Headed to interview for his first civilian job, retired career Army 1st Sgt. Zane Blackthorne can’t resist visiting his late buddy’s beloved Vermont hometown. He also can’t resist looking up Joe’s sweetheart, Karla, who is an alluring mix of brains, beauty, and bravery. Loyalty to his brother-in-arms demands Zane fight his attraction to Karla. Besides, even if Karla wants him, she’ll never love him. Can Zane say goodbye to the woman he has no right to call his own? Even if his only true home is in her arms?

First Impressions

Throughout this novel we see a proverbial third wheel which is a constant underlying presence in Karla and Zane’s relationship: Joe. He was the love of Karla’s life, and possibly Zane’s only true friend in the army. Joe tragically died five years ago, not in war, but rather from a hit-and-run accident that took place merely one day after his return from battle. During his time in the army, Joe always regaled Zane with stories of his quirky home-town and his girl. When Zane finds himself passing through this picturesque locale after leaving the army he can’t help but stop to see it for himself, as well as share with Karla how much his friendship with Joe meant to him. This shared connection with Joe and the retelling of his stories were the impetus which brought these two people together, and they soon discover how much they enjoy simply spending time with each other. However, while Joe’s existence and death brought them together, it also unexpectedly keeps them apart.

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As Karla and Zane progress in their relationship by taking things to the next step physically, eventually they have an argument about how to define their relationship. The fight itself did seem somewhat contrived, with Zane seemingly going into the conversation expecting an argument, and peppering Karla with question after question in an accusatory way about how she doesn’t want to put a label on them as a couple. This was definitely true as Karla wanted to stay together with Zane, but was uncomfortable defining them as boyfriend and girlfriend, or perhaps even being on the pathway to something more serious.

After this fight which puts their entire connection in jeopardy, Karla soon realizes that her desire to keep things undefined in her relationship with Zane stemmed from her not wanting to feel disloyal to Joe’s memory. After all, he was her first and only everything, and when he died Karla felt she didn’t deserve to find someone else to replace him. She never could have imagined someone like Zane to come waltzing into her life, and she certainly never expected their connection after just a few weeks could rival that which she experienced for years with Joe. Zane tries his hardest to convince her that it’s not about replacing or forgetting, but rather about opening herself up to the prospect of experiencing even more love in her life.

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

Series: Deerbourne Inn. Just like the previous book in this series, Home in Your Arms was a quick read that I finished in just 3 days. Honestly, it would have been 2 days if I had just insisted on not bingeing another episode of Breaking Bad. I wish we could have seen a few more of the colorful characters of this small town we’ve come to know and love, but I’m really looking forward to continuing with this series!

Final Impressions: This is an enjoyable read with an important message about moving on after tragedy, and how to re-open your heart to love again. I appreciated that these two didn’t immediately fall into bed or lust with each other, especially seeing as how important Joe was to both of them. A quick wam-bam-thank-you-ma’am would have felt like a slap in the face to his memory. Instead we see how Karla and Zane are able to acknowledge at the start how much they enjoy the other’s company, and eventually their relationship naturally develops into something more. Not too fast, not too slow, just right!

Smut Level: Shockingly, there was no hanky panky during the rainstorm fireplace scene mentioned at the start of the review. However, we do get an up-against-the-wall kitchen scene later on which was just as delicious.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 114 Pages. 

Forever in a Moment by Charlotte O’Shay

A snowy holiday romance just in time for spring! It has so many feels that you’ll find yourself wishing for snow.

What’s it About? 

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A stormy encounter… Samantha DeMartino’s Christmas wedding is two weeks away when her fiancé calls the whole thing off. Word on the street: his cold feet are being heated by an old flame. With her well-ordered world in complete disarray, Sam’s friends convince her to go on her honeymoon—alone. A week at a charming Vermont inn away from the city and her demanding corporate career could be just what she needs to figure out her next steps.

Between his twenty-four seven work schedule on his family’s dairy farm and teaching tourists to ski, Jed Armstrong’s too busy to think about how lonely he is…until Sam sings her way into his life during a Christmas blizzard. Now he has to figure out a way to convince her to stay. Can a vivacious city girl find forever with a reclusive farmer? Will her secret keep her from trying?

First Impressions

Taking a break from the pressures of the city, and whisking yourself away to a snow-covered inn located on the edge of a small and picturesque Vermont town. Man oh man, this sounds like a dream vacation, doesn’t it? There’s just one little problem. This was actually supposed to be Samantha’s honeymoon. Her fiancé, make that ex-fiancé, broke up with her just a few weeks before their wedding because he fell in love with somebody else. Then on the drive up to this snowy retreat Samantha’s car runs out of gas. In the middle of a snow storm. Which she has to trudge her way through in the dark in order to find said snow-covered inn. Mkaaayyy, so make that a butt-load of problems rather than one little problem. I guess this doesn’t sound like the dream vacation after all! However, to be rescued in the midst of said trudge through a snow storm by a sexy, dashing, muscular local dairy farmer/ski instructor? Well…Samantha might just have a bit of Christmas luck following her after all!

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Short Mourning Period

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking. This woman was just jilted by a fiancé she had every intention of marrying up until just a matter of days ago, how can she already be falling in love with someone new? Talk about a short mourning period for an engagement that lasted for several years. You also can’t help but wonder if this connection with Jed is the real deal, or if she’s simply on the rebound following a painful break up. The beauty of this time away from the hustle and bustle of her regular routine is that it allows Sam to look back on her previous relationship with her ex, Ben, and realize that her seemingly perfect life wasn’t as perfect as she had initially led herself to believe.

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In the peace and quiet of this small town Sam comes to the startling conclusion that back in New York she was stuck in a rut in almost every aspect of her life. She’s always had a strong relationship with her parents, but realizes that she came to work in their law firm immediately after graduating from law school because it was the easy and expected route for her to take. This path of least resistance was also true when it came to her relationship with Ben. Their romance made sense. He was handsome, hard working, and in a similar line of work as her mother. Why wouldn’t they end up together? When she looks back on this though she realizes that what they had wasn’t necessarily love. They fell into a relationship of convenience.

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At one point during Sam’s reflection of the weeks leading up to her wedding and honeymoon, she wearily admits that she didn’t even look upon it with excitement, but rather it “…was more like a finish line I was determined to cross. More like an obligation.” Prior to this moment, Sam never really had the opportunity to question if this life path she was following was one she actually wanted, because on the surface it seemed like something she should want. Only when Ben left her did she finally have a chance to look back at the decisions and dissatisfactions of her life and realize that she’s never really decided anything for herself. She just sort of fell into what made sense. Now she can figure out what she really wants out of life. Previously she’d always seen her future in New York, working with her parents. But now? Maybe now she has the chance to do something different with her career. Maybe now she has the chance to uproot herself to a little snowy Vermont town. With a new man on top of it.

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The Timetable of Love

Samantha’s engagement may have just ended in a somewhat embarrassing fashion, and she may have just met the handsome town local in the midst of a terrible snow storm, but she can’t deny that the mere presence of this man fills her with butterflies. She quickly comes to the realization that what she feels for Jed isn’t simply physical attraction, and that if she had come to this serene inn with her fiancé as originally planned she still would have realized that her connection with Jed was significantly stronger than what she ever felt for Ben. As the two spend more time together on the slopes and on his family’s dairy farm the simmering sexual tension between them continues to grow.

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However, the logical part of her brain continually questions if it’s worth pursuing this immediate attraction she feels for him. Aren’t things moving too fast? She just met this man after all, and she was engaged to another man just a few weeks ago. But then another character asks her a very important question, “Is there a timetable for falling in love?” Sure, things are moving quickly between Sam and Jed, and she’s heading back to New York in simply a matter of days, but why should she delay the possibility of joy? Sam remains wary about the possibility of opening herself up to heartbreak once again. A one-night stand with Jed would certainly satisfy both of their desires, but also has the potential to open a Pandora’s box of emotional hurt when she must inevitably return to the city. The prospect of letting Jed into her life so quickly and so fully terrifies Sam to her core, but he just might be worth taking a chance on.

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

Series: Deerbourne Inn, book 1. You bet your snow-covered booty I’ll be continuing on with this series. I’m keeping my fingers crossed we’ll see some tales of romance for a few of the local townsfolk we saw in this first book. From the former girlfriend of Jed’s deceased brother, to the sassy front-desk clerk at the Inn, I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Final Impressions: Lemme tell you something, all month I have been begging for the cold wind of winter to leave us behind for the warm weather, budding flowers, and chirping birds of spring. Reading this short romance in the span of two days had me reminiscing about snow and a cup of hot cocoa. If that’s not the sign of a good romance, then I don’t know what is! This is a feel-good romance in every way imaginable. Beyond that it’s a story of figuring out what’s important in life, and realizing that sometimes taking a chance in life will be worth all the happiness it inevitably brings.

Smut Level: Nothing too detailed or over-the-top erotic. We do get a few delightful pickup truck make-out scenes with foggy windows and straddling the driver moments that were definitely my favorite.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 114 Pages.

A Model Engagement by Charlotte O’Shay

Alright, after reading this book I have one very important question that must be answered immediately. Is Maryland actually considered to be part of the South?? Our female lead apparently has a southern accent that comes out when she lets her guard down, and she hails from Maryland. The reason I need this question answered is because as someone who lives in Washington, DC, right on the border with Maryland, I need to know if I should start implementing more “y’alls” into my daily vocabulary.

What’s It About? 

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Lacey Reed jumps at the chance for independence with a career in the big city. But her naivety and ambition blind her to the lure of a blackmailer. With her savings gone, she has nowhere to turn when she literally runs into financier Connor Devlin. Though dazzled by Lacey, Connor sees the desperation she tries to hide. His gut tells him to help, and he hires her as his fake fiancée. Now Lacey has a job, and Connor has put a bandage on a family crisis. When the blackmailer ups the ante, Lacey resolves to face him down—no matter what the consequences. Does that mean Lacey will lose the only man who’s ever seen who she truly is?

First Impressions

A passionate romance at a beach house in Montauk? Count me in! This is the second novel in the City of Dreams series, and something I really do appreciate about these tales of fake fiancées is how the author presents us with characters who truly seem to have no other option. I think it’s safe to assume that not many of us could imagine a scenario in which we would enter into a fake engagement with someone who is a near stranger. Surely there must be some other way to get over whatever hurdle is presented, right? However, I was surprised to find that in both of these novels the female leads clearly had no other choice, and in order to look out for themselves and those that they love they have to do something kind of crazy. Heck, I even found myself wanting to yell at them, “What is there to think over? The solution is right in front of you, just take it already!” Who knew I’d be so supportive of fake engagements?!

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A One Day Fiancée 

In this novel, Lacey agrees to become Connor’s fake fiancée in order to help him care for his mother who would otherwise refuse the help of someone hired to be there. She’s willing to enter into such an absurd arrangement because she’s desperate to pay off a blackmailer who has a video tape of her in a rather compromising situation. As I mentioned earlier, I definitely understand how Lacey’s desperation to prevent this tape from ever being released could push her into accepting this completely unorthodox position. Connor on the other hand?

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Connor has known Lacey for basically just one day. In that short amount of time he can clearly identify she’s desperate for money. But to have him trust her enough to take care of his ailing mother, and also suggest they pretend to be engaged? After just one day? I guess I found it easier to believe her motivations rather than his. I did like that later on Connor admits his suggestion that they enter into this ruse so quickly was one of the dumbest ideas he’d ever had, but in that moment where he first tells Lacey she’ll be his fake fiancée I couldn’t help but think, “Woah, that was fast”.

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Past Deeds Impact the Present

Shockingly, I found myself more enthralled with the story of Lacey’s blackmail rather than her romance with Connor. Don’t get me wrong, I still loved ALL the sexual tension going on with her and the hunky gentleman, but it seemed that Lacey’s growth as a character was more linked to this other story going on with her ass of a blackmailer. To summarize, Lacey used to be a model, and when she started coordinating on a new ad campaign with a man who was highly regarded in the industry, he drugged her and filmed the two of them in some non-consensual sexual scenarios. This man then proceeds to blackmail her, demanding payment which reduces all of her life savings to nothing.

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The absolute best part of this book was seeing Lacey transform herself from a victim into a survivor. She was able to stand up for herself on her own two feet, and face the piece of shit who abused and blackmailed her. Lacey had the courage to say, “no more”. What was even better was that she came to this decision completely on her own. Nobody had to convince her of it, or push her into it. I think her budding relationship with Connor did act as a sort of catalyst, showing her how good her life could be if she just gets rid of the dead weight dragging her down. To see a woman who was at the end of her rope decide to rely on herself to escape the torment of her past was truly admirable.

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Mamma Devlin and Communication

There were two aspects of this novel that I felt could have been more fully accentuated. The first was the character of Connor’s mother. In a way, she is one of the primary factors that brings our main characters together. She is slowly going blind, and Connor wants to find someone who can help her through her day-to-day activities. Enter Lacey and the start of their fake engagement. While it is clear that she and Lacey get along, I simply wanted more scenes of the two of them spending time together. Towards the end of the novel we do get a glimpse of how sassy Connor’s mother can be, and if we had seen more of that side of her throughout the novel it might have added an extra layer of depth to Lacey’s interactions with Connor’s family. I think what I enjoyed so much about the first novel was the incorporation of our female lead’s younger brother into the dynamics between her and our male lead to truly cement their relationship. Connor’s mother could have acted as a similarly crucial supplemental character in this second novel, yet in the end it seemed like we never really got to know her.

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The second aspect revolves around the communication between Lacey and Connor. Throughout the book, we are privy to a lot of inner monologues of these two characters which reveal so much about their personalities. With Lacey, we learn all about how she branched out from her small home town in Maryland, and became a model in the big city as a way to rebel against her parents. We also see how she’s going through so much mental anguish over the issue of being blackmailed. With Connor, we uncover how the discovery of his father’s secret gambling life after his death influenced Connor’s relationship with his family. He had to become the protector and the provider. I just wish that Lacey and Connor had shared more of this with each other, rather than having it seemingly reserved for us to know as the audience. So many of these stories are glimpses into the thought processes of our characters. By having more heart-to-heart conversations throughout the novel rather than saving it all for the end could have acted as a real emotional bonding experience for our main couple, and strengthened their link beyond a basic physical connection.

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

Series: City of Dreams, book 2. I have a hunch over who the male lead of book 3 will be, and if I’m right then I just can’t wait!!!

Should you read it? Overall, I think I preferred book 1, mainly due to the more cohesive link between our main couple and supplemental characters. The story arch involving Lacey’s blackmailer was heartbreaking, yet also captivating. I wish there had been more of a resolution to how Lacey’s family responded to the blackmail. Not gonna lie, I kind of want to give her mom a good talking-to. Or maybe a slap. The ending of this novel was so freakin’ adorable though! After how quick their relationship started I really appreciated the patience Connor employed to go at Lacey’s own pace, so that she didn’t feel pressured into doing anything she wasn’t comfortable with.

Smut Level: These two have some intense make-out scenes that will have you fanning yourself! The one in the barn?! Phew!! My oh me oh my!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 210 Pages.

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