Finder Keeper of My Heart by Vina Arno

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

What’s it About?

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

First Impressions

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

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

The Other Woman

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

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

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

Series: Stand-alone.

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

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

Secret Baby, Second Chance by Jane Godman

Note to self: if at any point it feels like I’m the lead in a romance novel, don’t choose that as a time to go rock climbing. It just has bad idea written all over it.

What’s it About?

She’s alive! Vincente Delaney has finally found his girlfriend, Beth Wade, who disappeared a year and a half ago, alive. But he’s shocked to discover someone with her: their child, a little girl he never knew about! Once upon a time, lone wolf Vincente never expected forever with Beth, but now he must put everything on the line to protect her and their family.

Beth was forced to leave Vincente to protect everything she held dear. But now the threat to her loved ones’ lives has reared its ugly head again. As danger approaches, she and Vincente must delve into her past to cast out the darkness jeopardizing their future.

First Impressions

Vincente hasn’t seen Beth in almost two years. Their relationship had always been filled with heated passion back then, and could best be described as an on-again/off-again tumultuous roller coaster ride. Nothing quite like loud arguments interspersed with sexy make-up sessions against a wall. When she left town two years ago, Vincente initially wrote it off as her having another heated reaction to their relationship. However, when a serial killer made his way through their small town whose victims closely resembled Beth, Vincente started to fear the worst for his long-lost beloved. It’s only after the killer was stopped at the end of the last book that Beth’s hidden location has now been discovered. Vincente is not only pleasantly surprised to discover Beth is still alive, but overwhelmingly shocked to realize she has a baby daughter in tow. The timing of everything means she left town all those months back pregnant with his child. Yeah, get yourselves ready for another one of those heated arguments!!

The Suspense of Confrontation

Hands-down, the best part of this novel was when Vincente discovered Beth’s secret location, and the confrontation which ensued over the fact that she hid the identity of their daughter from him for all this time. This is when we see the most heated and intense moments between them, where you can’t tell if Vincente will yell in frustration, storm out in anger, or shove Beth up against a wall to demonstrate that his feelings for her never went away. Or heck, maybe a nice dose of all three scenarios is in order. This is also when we find out that these characters are don’t with serial killers, as Beth admits the reason she left all those months ago was because she and the members of her rock climbing group are being threatened and picked off one by one by an unknown enemy. When the killer also uncovers Beth’s secret location, Vincente has no choice but to bring her and their child back home with him to protect them.

From Lonely Bachelor to Playful Father

Once Beth and Vincente go back to their hometown, this is when things almost progress too smoothly as far as their relationship is concerned. Vincente, who has always been the consummate bachelor, quickly transitions into the ideal dad, and he and Beth fall back into their passionate ways in no time. As members of Beth’s former rock climbing group continue to be killed, and our two leads even have a confrontation or two with the villain, we constantly wonder who the killer is and why they’re so intent on this vendetta of revenge. There’s a few curveballs and false clues thrown into the mix to keep you guessing from start to finish. I will say the ultimate reveal of the killer and their motivations, as well as the fact another member of the climbing team was suspicious of this killer for quite some time was slightly disappointing. It seemed as though the identity of the killer could have been discovered and revealed years beforehand, and without the need for additional deaths. Still, it was an intriguing and entertaining ride, with a few suspenseful scenes at the top of steep cliffs to keep you on the edge of your seat!

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

Series: Sons of Stillwater, book 3. I didn’t read books 1 or 2 in this series, but could still follow along fairly easily with the events of this book. Sure, it may have been more enjoyable to reconnect with former characters from the previous two novels, but it was still fun to meet these characters for the first time.

Final Impressions: This was a suspenseful and passionate read. Overall I think the first half was more engaging than the latter half, but it’s still entertaining on the whole. I would have liked to see more of the hot and cold dynamic between Beth and Vincente sustained into the second half, but could also understand the need to push this aside to focus attention on the murder at hand.

Smut Level: Passion and sexual chemistry was always something that Beth and Vincente had in spades. Two years apart has changed a lot of things, but certainly not that important detail!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Harlequin Romantic Suspense. 288 Pages.

Dangerous Currents by Kathryn Knight

Imagine traveling halfway across the world to escape the stresses of a former life. You’re experiencing some intense jetlag, so you decide to go for a calming walk with your dog along the beach, only to quickly discover the body of a dead woman along the way. Not exactly my idea of a relaxing beach getaway!

What’s it About?

When a costly mistake ends Malorie Montgomery’s career, she returns to Cape Cod in search of a fresh start. But her plans for a new—and quiet—life are quickly derailed when she makes a grisly discovery in the woods, and her screams bring the one person from her past she’d hoped to avoid. Dean Slater, the ex-boyfriend who broke her heart in high school, now lives in the beachfront community that was supposed to be her haven…and he’s just as hot as he was six years ago.

With his rough background, Dean always knew he wasn’t good enough for the kind, intelligent beauty who claimed his heart, but somehow he’d believed their love was strong enough to survive anything—until the tragic night she turned her back on him when he needed her trust the most. Despite their painful history, Dean can’t resist the instinct to protect her, especially when it becomes apparent there’s a killer in their town.

Their former chemistry soon reignites, but Malorie has long accepted that her dark family secret has destined her to a life alone. And when she uncovers evidence that makes her the killer’s target, a deadly confrontation threatens to destroy any possibility of a second chance.

First Impressions

This novel presents us with a second chance romance opportunity between two people from opposite sides of the track, Malorie and Dean. They fell in love senior year of high school, but their relationship deteriorated on prom night due to unfortunate misunderstandings on both their parts. Malorie was promptly whisked away to another continent for school, and it’s only now, five years later, that she returns to Cape Cod and crosses paths once again with her former flame. As if reuniting with the love of your life after so many years apart wasn’t awkward enough, Malorie and Dean’s reunion takes place after she stumbles across a dead body, and Dean came running to investigate her screams. As the murder investigation proceeds, there is some initial angst and animosity between them, but it doesn’t take long before Malorie and Dean find themselves falling back in love with each other.

From Second Chances to Murder, and Everything in Between

There were a lot of different story-lines happening in this book, each one just as gripping and entertaining as the next. There’s the slow reveal of what Malorie and Dean got wrong all those years ago, each of them starting out on a new business opportunity, opening themselves up again to the possibility of love, Malorie admitting for the first time some of the frightening battles her family has experienced with mental illness, and on top of it all the discovery at the start of the book of a murdered rape victim. Again, there’s a lot happening here!

While I did find each component thoroughly entertaining, there may have been a bit too much happening all at once. If I had to choose one story-line which probably could have been left out, or maybe incorporated more fully into the story, I’d probably have to go with the murder plot. It was definitely an exciting start to the book, and provided us with an unbelievably dramatic ending, but there was a good portion of the novel where it felt like this plot point was pushed to the side to focus instead on Malorie and Dean’s reconnection. That’s not to say it wasn’t a well constructed piece of drama! There were so many curveballs thrown in to make you suspect multiple characters of being responsible for the string of murders plaguing this small New England town. Overall though, I found myself forgetting several times throughout the read that these murders had taken place.

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

Series: Stand-alone. Considering how much was going on with this read, I almost wonder if it would have presented well as a duet series!

Final Impressions: This was an intense read that will have you wondering from start to finish who dunnit, though it was somewhat busy with all of the different stories going on. The author did employ a great use of flashbacks to reveal what happened all those years ago between Malorie and Dean, as well as the complicated relationship between Malorie and her mother. We could seamlessly flow from present, to the past and back again in a way that felt natural, as though the characters were thinking back on everything all at that very moment. In my opinion the most unexpectedly moving story was Malorie revealing the complications of her mother’s paranoid schizophrenia, and how this struggle has impacted Malorie’s outlook on the choices she can make in her own life. It was a very emotionally revealing conversation between her and Dean that I wasn’t expecting!

Smut Level: They may have been separated for the last 5 years, but their love never went anywhere. Needless to say, they have a lot of lost time to make up for! We get to see some make out scenes up against a door, in the rain, and sex scenes filled with all the passionate intensity and urgency you could hope for.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Wicked Whale Publishing. 282 Pages.

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.

Not Worthy

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. 

Snowball’s Christmas by Kristen McKanagh

Snowball’s Christmas by Kristen McKanagh

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

What’s it About? 

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

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

First Impressions

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

A Personal Connection

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

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

A Pinch of Love, a Scoop of Fun

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

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

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

Series: Stand-Alone.

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

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

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

Wicked in a Kilt by Anna Durand

She has three rules in life: no sex, no love, no marriage. He intends to seduce her to break all three.

What’s it About? 

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Calli Douglas has avoided romance for five years, bound by a promise she never should’ve made to a man she doesn’t love. Now, he refuses to let her go. When she leaves her backwoods hideaway to attend her cousin’s wedding, Calli has no intention of meeting a man. But fate has other plans–in the form of one scorching-hot Scotsman.

Aidan “Don Juan” MacTaggart is the living embodiment of carnal pleasure and seductive prowess, but he longs for love and commitment. The moment he sets eyes on Calli, the stunning American captivates him. Though she’s sworn off sex and romance, unraveling the mystery of why tantalizes Aidan almost as much as her sensual curves.

As their passion for each other inspires them to explore their steamiest desires, a deeper bond takes root. But when secrets from both their pasts threaten their happiness, they must confront their fears or lose everything.

First Impressions

The meet-cute of our main characters was by far the best feature of this read. After all, there’s nothing quite like a case of mistaken identity where our male lead is thought to be the tardy stripper for a bachelorette party. Aidan might run away at the prospect of removing his clothes in front of a room full of ladies he doesn’t know, but he’s not afraid to run into the arms of Calli after this brief misunderstanding. Following this rather abrupt first meeting, Aidan is surreptitiously invited by the bride-to-be to attend the wedding, and he and Calli share a romantic dance or two. This is when things moved a bit too quickly for me. Calli goes back to Michigan after the wedding, and when Aidan calls her up from Chicago he offers to drive the 3-4 hours up to meet her so they can…hang out? Maybe this is why I’m still single. Calli saw it as a sweet gesture, I saw it as slightly creepy. Upon his arrival at her humble abode we see him try to woo her into taking a chance on him by throwing all of her steadfast rules out the window.

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It Runs in the Family

Playing a board game together. Sharing his favorite brand of whiskey with her. Making their first time special by lighting a bunch of candles. Sounds like some sweet and romantic ways to connect, don’t they? Of course they do! These are all the things which worked for Aidan’s brother, Lachlan, who was the male lead of book one as he successfully wooed Erica into being his wife. Aidan tries his darnedest to replicate as many of his brother’s romantic gestures with Calli in the hopes that it will tear down her walls, and she’ll open up to the idea of falling in love with him.

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That in and of itself was kind of…off-putting…considering he’s known this woman for all of about 2 days before he determines she’s destined to be the American wife he’s been searching for. The fact that he constantly references Lachlan and Erica’s relationship throughout their time together, and reveals that he’s employing some of the same tactics used by his brother makes it even more surprising to me that Calli didn’t throw this sexy-as-sin Scot out on his firm behind. He asks her to give him four weeks to try out a relationship, as that’s how long it took for Lachlan and Erica to fall in love. Even with this four week timeline he proposes to her after just one week, acknowledging that he doesn’t love her yet. Coming on a bit strong, buddy!!

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The Cat’s Outta the Bag

Similar to book one, this novel presents us with our two leads keeping secrets from each other which eventually come to light towards the end of the book. Calli’s secret is that she married a man right out of college so he could get a green card, and over six years later he refuses to give her a divorce as he’s always been in love with her. I must say, this side story was resolved so quickly and easily after it was revealed to Aidan that it felt like a wasted opportunity for more exciting drama. Aidan stays pretty much out of the ordeal entirely, which on the one hand was refreshing, as it allowed Calli to handle matters on her own. But on the other hand it never really felt fully incorporated into the story, so it was more like a side annoyance that never rose to the level of being truly important.

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As for Aidan’s back-story, and the climactic reasoning that threatens to end his relationship with Calli, all revolves around an ex girlfriend. This ex has been calling him a lot lately, demanding money as compensation for an accident that was in no way, shape, or form Aidan’s fault. When his ex reveals she’s pregnant, claiming the child is Aidan’s, he’s willing to give up his newfound love for Calli to marry his ex…an idea which is quickly abandoned before it even has a chance to fully take shape. However, that one moment of doubt causes Calli to start questioning the rapidity of their entire relationship, which Aidan subsequently judges her for. As a reminder…these people have only known each other for a span of two weeks. It was never clear to me why things had to be all or nothing for their relationship. Why does Aidan have to propose after one week even though he knows he doesn’t love her yet? Why are the only two solutions either getting married and moving to Scotland, or breaking up? Whatever happened to dating?

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Series: Hot Scots, book 2. Overall I enjoyed the romance in book 1 better, but I’m still intrigued to see what’s in store for our next MacTaggart brother.

Final Impressions: The progression of this novel was extremely similar to that of the plot from the first book, albeit it never quite reached the same level of excitement. I simply wasn’t as connected to Aidan and Calli as I was to Lachlan and Emily. Even when we compare the side stories of Emily being framed for a crime she didn’t commit, and Calli fearing the discovery of her sham marriage, Emily’s tale of misery was far more interesting. Something else which distracted from the romance between Calli and Aidan was the fact that we are introduced to their respective siblings later on in the novel who proceed to have a love affair of their own, and I must say I almost wanted to see more from that couple! I did enjoy the meet-cute, and some of the teasing seduction initiated by Aidan, but overall their relationship felt off and extremely rushed.

Smut Level: There’s nothing quite like finding a secluded spot after a soothing summer’s drive to appreciate the scenery…and maybe have sex against the car door.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Jacobsville Books. 228 Pages.

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Driven by Fire by Eden Rayna

Who knew the sleeper cab of a semi-truck could be such a delectably sexy place an afternoon delight?!

What’s it About? 

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When Piper walks in on her boyfriend with another woman, she ends up alone, walking the highway leading into Fort McKay in Northern Alberta. Piper realizes how much she’s sacrificed for this relationship—her friends, her lifestyle, and most importantly, her career as a chef—and she determines to leave this small town behind and reclaim her independence. But when a semi-truck pulls up behind her and lurches to a stop, she fears her night is about to get worse.

Desperate for some respite from his gossip-worthy life, tech millionaire Brandon takes up long-haul trucking after a messy divorce. While driving into Fort McKay, he sees a woman walking on the side of the highway. Trying to be a gentleman, he pulls over and tries to offer her a ride. She refuses—yet the look in her eyes makes him feel protective of her at first sight.

When Piper and Brandon have a chance encounter the next day, the chemistry between them is undeniable. Neither is looking for love, but they end up spending a hot afternoon together. Brandon’s awaiting business in Edmonton and Piper’s newly-single mindset allow both to say goodbye quickly and get on with their lives. But wildfires raging in the area force Brandon to stay in Fort McKay, leading to a smouldering week with Piper. Despite Piper’s reluctance to depend on another man and Brandon’s determination not to fall in love, they both start to realize how incredible they are together. Piper opens up in ways she never knew possible, and Brandon remembers how it feels to love someone.

As the wildfires rage closer, evacuation orders pressure the lovers to decide on their future. Piper’s friend Danielle knows these two are falling in love and implores Piper to take a leap in this passionate relationship. But Piper has to make her own decision: Will she keep her promise to reclaim her independence, or will she follow Brandon back to his life in Edmonton?

First Impressions

I’m not gonna lie, the opening scene of this sexy romance reads like the start of a horror film. We have a young, beautiful woman walking alone by the side of the road on a dark and smoky night, as a semi-truck slowly follows behind before offering her a ride. If I were in Piper’s shoes I’d probably collapse in a mess of tears. Highlighting a sense of realism to the story, she does remain extremely wary of this driver, denying his offer of a ride to proceed on her path into town. Had she willingly jumped into his cab willy-nilly it probably would have been difficult to continue reading! However, this opening scene perfectly captures the personalities of our characters. Piper is a strong-willed woman with spunk who can take care of herself. As for Brandon, our truck driver, he’s actually a caring, compassionate man who puts his whole heart into those he loves. The question is whether or not Piper is prepared to receive the full force of his affections…not to mention his sexual stamina.

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Can You Make One Week Last Forever?  

After they both find their way into town, Piper and Brandon’s paths continue to cross, and they can’t help but exchange smoldering glances of lust which quickly turn to physical expressions of their desire. In the beginning, both are under the impression this will be a one-night stand to blow off some steam as a forest fire slowly encroaches upon this small mountain town. It doesn’t take long before they realize that something more meaningful is simmering between them. Brandon is more willing to admit to himself that they’re starting to develop a relationship which he wants to continue beyond his short stay in her town. He’s been single for so long following a nasty break-up with his ex, so he understands that the emotions stirring for Piper are uniquely special.

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Piper is definitely more timid in acknowledging that she wants more time with Brandon. Her feelings for him have evolved so quickly, and the last time she followed her impulsive nature for another man she wound up in a tiny oil town for 5 years, abandoning all her career ambitions along the way. While she would love to see where things with Brandon might lead, she also doesn’t want to make the same mistake in running away with him. She only just broke up with her boyfriend one week ago, a relationship which lasted for years and was all wrong for her in so many ways. The night of the break up was also the same night when she took that lonely walk along the side of the road that Brandon happened upon. Piper might try her darnedest to convince both herself and Brandon that they should keep their fling short and sweet, but he certainly delights in trying to persuade her that he knows how to treat her right.

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A Billionaire Trucker

The one feature of this read which I found a bit hard to swallow was the fact that Brandon was simply moonlighting as a trucker. He’s actually a wealthy tech billionaire, but following the publicly disastrous break-up with his ex he chose to get away from the stresses of his world by hitting the road. It provided him with a sense of anonymity and peace that he’d been craving for some time. I definitely understand plot-wise why Brandon has this secret other life. It lends a sense of suspense to his growing relationship with Piper, as she wonders how long they’ll have together until he finally has to leave town. We as the audience constantly question what Piper’s reaction will be when Brandon admits the truth about his wealth. Therefore, while I can’t say it was necessarily a realistic feature for this tech billionaire to turn to trucking, it did create some interesting twists and turns to the story. I almost wish though that he had simply been on a cross-country road trip of some kind, as it still would have allowed Piper and Brandon to cross paths while he hid his true identity.

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There’s certainly no hiding the sexual chemistry of Piper and Brandon’s relationship, as these two have trouble keeping their hands off of each other. A constant shadow over their shoulder though is the fire bearing down on their community. Brandon has plans to evacuate on a private plane, and he has every intention of bringing Piper with him. It was easy to assume that the discovery of Brandon’s wealth would strike a crushing blow to their relationship as a reflection of his inability to be completely honest with her. However, I was pleasantly surprised at the emotional maturity we see towards the end of the novel as everything comes to light. While Piper was noticeably upset about Brandon’s secrecy, she can acknowledge that money isn’t a deciding factor in their connection. Instead the bigger wedge which comes between them is the fact that when the fire finally reaches them she doesn’t want to feel forced into choosing Brandon simply because they have to evacuate at the same time. True, their connection is stronger than anything she’s ever felt before, but things have still evolved so quickly in the span of just one week. Piper refuses to let a fire, or a billionaire with access to a private jet, sway her into making another impulsive decision in life that she doesn’t feel fully ready for.

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

Series: Driven by Fire, book 1. I’d love to see what comes next.

Final Impressions: Their meet-cute may have bordered the line of horror film vs. rescuing a damsel in distress, but these two soon develop a red-hot chemistry that is off-the-charts. Things do drag a little bit in the middle as their sexual escapades continue in a variety of unique positions, and they both have internal musings about how long this fling will last. You’ll fall in love with these characters along their journey, and sympathize with the difficult decisions they must make as the dangers of mother nature threaten to tear them apart. Piper realizes that she’s at risk of making another impulsive choice to follow a man she barely knows, and would rather choose him on her own terms, at her own time. Granted, we ultimately see Brandon come running after her in the end rather than the other way around, which was a tad disappointing. However, it was still a sexy and intriguing read!

Smut Level: From somewhat sleazy motel rooms, to kitchen counters and the cab of his semi-truck, these two can’t keep their hands, lips or tongues off of each other.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. FriesenPress. 341 Pages.

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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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My Life in Shambles by Karina Halle

A fake New Year’s Eve engagement that turns into the love of a lifetime.

First Impressions

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They say bad things happen in threes. After my boyfriend broke off our engagement, I lost my apartment, and was laid off from my job, I can definitely attest to that.

They also say life is what happens when you say yes to new adventures. So when my two sisters invited me to ring in the new year in Ireland, I decided to throw all caution to the wind and go for it. I was going to let “saying yes” be my new resolution. Little did I know I’d spend New Year’s Eve having a hot and dirty one-night stand with Padraig McCarthy, one hell of a sexy Irishman. I also didn’t know that the brooding and intense sex god was one of Ireland’s top rugby players.

A rugby player with a proposition for me: Come with him to his tiny hometown of Shambles and pretend to be his fiancé for a few days, just so that his ailing father can have some peace of mind. It sounded simple enough. It was anything but. Not when a town gets up in your business, not when the media hunts you down, not when your past comes back in the picture, not when there are real hearts and feelings at stake. Not when there are secrets that could break you. They say life is what happens when you say yes to new adventures. This is my life in Shambles.

WARNING: this book will pull at your heartstrings. It is recommended to have a box of tissues ready, and maybe some wine. But don’t worry, you’re in good hands. Also contains sex and foul language, sensitive readers be advised.

First Impressions

Let me take a moment to say the warning at the end of this synopsis is entirely warranted! Having a box of tissues handy is more than necessary, and a glass/bottle/cauldron of wine will be more than welcome. I was pleasantly surprised at the emotional depth which this book had to offer. From the description of this read I initially assumed it would be like any other light-hearted fake engagement story. Instead we are presented with a tale of true love, but also see how this bright spot can be interspersed with moments of sadness, anguish, and heartache at discovering how a life one has always planned for can be thrown to the wayside in the most unexpected of ways. It demonstrates the importance of taking chances, living life to the fullest, and opening your heart to someone new.

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The Journey to Shambles

Based on the title of this read it was pretty easy to assume that after our lead characters met we’d quickly be transported to the town of Shambles, where their fake engagement ruse could be featured front and center. However, I couldn’t be more thrilled to discover that Valerie and Padraig managed to develop a true connection in the short amount of time they spent together on New Year’s Eve. We clearly see throughout this first night how they are able to build an emotional foundation to their relationship and really get to know each other before they find themselves in bed, and the prospect of a fake engagement is eventually proposed. If we had gone immediately from a sultry glance at a bar to a tumble between the sheets, the fake engagement trope would have seemed irresponsibly forced. Instead we can wholeheartedly believe the progression of their relationship, and understand why Valerie even considered such an outlandish scheme.

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Upon first meeting, Valerie and Padraig were both looking to escape the realities of their lives which seemed to be falling down around them. For Valerie, a short engagement with her former fiance unexpectedly ended, quickly followed by the loss of her job. For Padraig, he’s suffered a career-ending injury as a rugby player, and is also dealing with the fact that his father’s illness has progressed to a tragic level. At first, they both present a distraction to each other, a means to forget the problems they’d rather avoid. However, it doesn’t take long before they realize that they can lean on each other, and lose themselves in each other when they have no one else to turn to. What started out as a fake engagement turns into something more meaningful when Valerie admits she’s willing to stand by Padraig’s side as things continue to worsen during their time Shambles. It would have been so easy for her to turn away, and fly back across the ocean to live her life, but she realizes that love is worth sticking around for.

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Series: Stand-alone, though I would absolutely adore a sequel to this story, even if it’s just a short novella!

Final Impressions: Prepare yourself for an emotional read, but it’s one worth reading. It demonstrates a selfless act of love, and a tale of lust which quickly evolves into friendship and ultimately adoration. There were a few details towards the end which I wish had been tweaked a bit, from Valerie leaving Padraig behind after he tells her to go back home, and ultimately the fact that he was the one to come after her. Valerie stood by Padraig’s side for so much of the novel, so if she had fought just a bit harder to remain by him at the moment when it mattered most this would have been a darn near perfect read. As it stands though, still a unique and insightful romance that deserves your full attention!

Smut Level: For two people who developed a deep emotional connection after such a short amount of time together I guess it shouldn’t come as any surprise that they’d also have an intense sexual connection. From dirty talk to a bit of spanking, this heartfelt read still has plenty of steam!

Get in Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Metal Blonde Books. 350 Books

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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.