Highland Games by Evie Alexander

This romantic comedy not only had me considering giving up city living to move to a remote Scottish cabin with no electricity or running water, but to also get a pet rat. So yeah…pretty phenomenal when you consider potential impact on my future sanity.

What’s it About? 

Zoe’s always played it safe, just as her parents wanted. But when her great-uncle dies and leaves her a ramshackle cabin in the Scottish Highlands, she decides it’s time to change her life. Upping sticks seems like a good idea in her cosy flat in London, but the reality is very different. There’s no electricity or running water, the roof leaks and there’s no front door. If that wasn’t bad enough, she’s moved up in the depths of winter and her scorching hot neighbour wants her out. Rory’s got a fifty thousand tonne problem. If he can’t make Kinloch castle profitable, he’s out of a job. He needs a clear head, but there’s someone living in the cabin he saw as his own and she’s turned his world upside down. Rory needs Zoe out of Scotland, and out of his life. The trouble is, she has no intention of leaving. Let the games begin…

First Impressions

This fantastically sweet read has a little bit of everything for everyone. Are you looking for a hilarious tale of enemies-to-lovers with laugh-out-loud moments from start to finish? Pick up this book! How about two stubborn characters often confined to working in a tiny cabin together where their sexual tension can simmer to an epic boiling point? This one’s got it! A sinfully sexy Scot who not only dons a kilt, but wields a sword, growling at the top of a castle? Okay sure, but hands off because he’s mine. We even have an adorably cute Dumbo rat that will immediately have you Googling what the heck a Dumbo rat looks like, subsequently followed by a search to see if there are any pet stores nearby that carry some. Sure, that might not have been an element I thought I needed with my romance read of the week, but it shockingly turned out to be one of my favorite features of the entire read.

Not Quite What You Expect

This brings me to the other distinguishing aspect of this novel which thoroughly delighted me: it wasn’t afraid to turn expectations and common romance tropes on their head to keep you both surprised at the turn of events, but also continually entertained. For example, we’ve all come across romance novels before where a pet plays an important role towards our characters, but the standard default options are typically dog (which this book also has), or cat. I can honestly say this is the first one to have presented a Dumbo rat as a fluffy companion and sounding board for the musings of our female lead. Then we have to look at the romantic comedy lean of the book itself. You can’t help but smile and chuckle to yourself at the witty banter and silly antics which our characters engage in with each other. They’re both convinced the other couldn’t possibly be interested in exploring something further considering the rocky start to their relationship. Therefore, we get a fabulously slow build of attraction and desire.

When we finally reach the moment where they can’t hold back anymore I wondered for a moment if we’d just get a few chaste kisses followed by a fade-to-black moment considering the light-hearted and comedic air of the novel so far. Nope! We get full on steam with plenty of licking, biting and essentially climbing of each other that they could set a four-poster bed aflame from the heat. And it’s not just that we’re rewarded with one scene of sexy fun times. We have enough to keep us over-heated throughout an entire Scottish winter. I was also pleasantly surprised that we see some rather emotional and heavy discussions around memories of family, loved ones lost, and even Rory’s struggle in securing love and care from his mother. These moments where our characters could lay their hearts bare, and open themselves up to emotional vulnerability was something I wasn’t expecting after such a fun-filled start, but it was the perfect balance for the read as a whole.

Overreaction

Rory and Zoe both have fiery personalities which not only put an initial strain on their interactions with each other, but this stubbornness also manifests itself in some of their responses to each other as the novel progresses. For Rory, he typically responds in one of two ways when his frustrations with Zoe reach a tipping point. He will either 1) retreat, or 2) resort to childish teenage pranks. These pranks definitely kick off the hilarity at the start of the novel. While Rory hopes his actions will result in Zoe fleeing back to the city in a huff, he doesn’t anticipate that she can sometimes rise to the challenge, and surprise him with her ability to face hardship head-on. As for Zoe, her frustrations are often manifested in the heat of the moment, with very little thought to the possible repercussions of her actions. In a way, we can’t be too surprised by her impulsive nature.

After all, it’s what got her to live in a cabin in dire need of renovations on the cusp of a harsh Scottish winter with few plans as to how she’ll manage all of the fixes on her limited budget. However, you also can’t help but wonder if she takes things too far sometimes, such as when she discovers a massive secret Rory kept from her, so she chooses to respond by ramming his parked van repeatedly with her truck. Ok…a small part of me was cheering her on, but another real part of me wanted to chastise her overreaction. Seeing as this scene took place towards the end of the novel, which had slowly transitioned away from the outright comedic moments to more serious conversations, it seems a heartfelt confrontation outlining her disappointment with Rory’s secrecy could have had a larger impact than taking out her frustrations on his vehicle. Her impulsive tendency to overreact and over-act became rather trying towards the end.

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

Series: The Kinloch Series, book 1. Definitely intrigued to continue on with this series, though I’ll also admit the synopsis of book 2 has me questioning if things might be a bit over-the-top plot-wise. Oh well, you can’t judge a book by its cover or synopsis!

Final Impressions: On the whole, this is a delightfully hilarious read with plenty of heart and sexy fun times to fill you with all the warm and fuzzies. I probably could have finished it in one sitting if my bedtime and shocking addiction to Masterchef Australia didn’t constantly get in the way. The characters really steal the show here, from our stubborn lead characters, to Zoe’s supportive childhood friends, a fluffy Dumbo rat you can’t help but love, and a villainous mother you love to hate.

Smut Level: Why would Rory want pudding for dessert when he can just have Zoe splayed out on the kitchen table?

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Emlin Press. 370 Pages. 

Baby, It’s Cold Outside by Kait Nolan

It’s not often that I find myself jealous of a fictional character who drives her car off the road in the midst of a snow storm. However, when said accident literally delivers her into the comforting arms of a sexy rescuer who brings her back to his cabin to warm up? Color me green with envy.

What’s it About?

A grumpy lumberjack
Former Army Ranger Harrison Wilkes isn’t actually a lumberjack, but he’s doing his best impression while hiding out in the mountains of East Tennessee. He needs to rest, recharge, and stay the hell away from people, while he wrestles with ghosts from his past and figures out his future. Neither includes a snowbound rescue of his favorite author.

A runaway writer Ivy Blake is on a deadline. Her hero is MIA, and she’s desperate to find some peace, quiet, and inspiration to get her book—and her life—back on track. She doesn’t plan on driving off a mountain. Or the mysterious stranger who shows up to save her.

Who’s rescuing who?
When Winter Stormageddon traps them together, Ivy finds the inspiration she didn’t know she needed in her real-life hero. As more than the fireplace heats up his one-man cabin, they both find far more than they bargained for. This intuitive author just might have the answers Harrison’s looking for, but will their newfound connection survive past the storm?

First Impressions

The first three-quarters or so of this book was everything I wanted it to be and more. Experiencing a severe case of writer’s block, Ivy sets off to spend two weeks at a remote mountain inn and spa where she can get away from the distractions of life to focus on nothing but the fast approaching deadline of her next book. As if her situation wasn’t already dire enough, the last thing she has time for is to get lost during a snow storm that is increasingly hazardous with each windy bend in the road. When she drives through a guard rail with her car suspended between a tree and a craggy dip into darkness, she realizes her situation just went from bad to abysmal. That being said, she must have done something good at some point in her life to not only be rescued by an extremely capable former soldier, but a breathtakingly sexy one to boot.

Throughout this whole rescue scene, former soldier Harrison quickly realizes through the witty banter with this strange woman that she is no damsel in distress, and she probably could have succeeded in eventually getting herself out of this predicament if he hadn’t come along. When they arrive at Harrison’s cabin things really start to heat up as they have to work together to warm Ivy back up after so long in the cold. I mean, is there anything better than a warm fire, removing some wet clothing and clutching your muscled rescuer close underneath the same blanket? Why yes, yes there is and it’s called “ONLY ONE BED”!! Yasssss please!! The fact Ivy is an author who can call attention to this being a standard romance novel trope can only bring a smile to your face. As you can imagine, it doesn’t take long before some innocent clutching and rubbing up against each other for warmth quickly turns into something more salacious.

Working Together

After a meet-cute and first night together to make your toes curl, the best scenes of the book take place over the next few immediate days as Ivy relays her reasons for being out on the road to break through her writer’s block. This is when Harrison reveals that he too is a writer, and they proceed to bounce ideas off of each other, exchanging ideas in a way that inspires the words to finally start flowing freely from Ivy. And this is a hallmark of their entire dynamic from here on out in the story that is purely delicious: neither is entirely reliant on the other to get out of any scrape or problem, but rather they work best as a unit. There were so many features of this dynamic that were utterly fantabulous.

First and foremost, it’s not that Ivy just stumbles across a sexy man, and his mere physique is what inspires her to take her story in a certain direction. Not at all! The fact Harrison is also a writer and even a fan of her writing means that he has an almost insider’s perspective into her characters, as well as a knowledge of her work’s story arch that proves beneficial to discussing possible avenues the plot can travel. In addition, it’s not that Harrison just tells her how to write herself out of her predicament. He didn’t simply have all the answers that Ivy couldn’t manage to see right in front of her. It was only by brainstorming and exchanging ideas together that she started to see where the story could go. It was a beautiful creative partnership that lent itself well to justifying how they were able to fall so hard and fast for each other.

867-530…Wait, What’s Your Number Again?

Alas, there has to be a hiccup for our characters, and in my mind this was the one area where the story faltered. It certainly makes sense that there had to be something which broke into this bubble they’ve created for themselves of lengthy writing sessions interspersed with sexy fun time rewards. However, I personally was not a fan of the method selected, which was essentially a case of massive miscommunication and misunderstanding all caused by what? Never having exchanged phone numbers. Just like our novel started off by bringing our characters together due to an intense storm, we see that a perfect storm of mishaps including no sharing of digits, no notes left on a bed-side table, no forwarding address left at the inn, and a rush to conclusions threaten to tear our lovebirds apart. What can I say, the fact an almost perfect and fairy-tale two weeks together could almost be completely ruined from a case of “I didn’t get your number” in this day and age was just a little silly to me. I almost wish the story had taken place in the eighties or early nineties when cell phones and social media didn’t completely dominate our everyday lives, when it could have been a more believable stumbling block.

Series: Rescue My Heart, book 1. I might continue with this series.

Final Impressions: The way these characters ultimately ended up in the same cabin together was an entertaining build-up, and while the sexy fun time scenes were fantastic, the moments that Ivy and Harrison could act as contemporaries, sharing ideas over their craft was truly special. Although I wasn’t fully behind the climactic turn that tears our characters apart, I did appreciate the way the author is able to bring them back together for a happily ever after grand gesture of romance.

Smut Level: This novel will definitely have you craving a romantic mountain escape with that special someone in your life so you can light a fire together. Whether it’s in the fireplace or in the bedroom is totally up to you.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. FREE as of the writing of this review. Take the Leap Publishing. 195 Pages.

The Twelve Days of Snowball by Kristen McKanagh

A romantic Christmas inn, two stubborn yet misunderstood enemies, one precocious yet fluffily adorable kitten, and a partridge in a pear treeee!!

What’s it About?

Snowball takes her job as the “official kitty” at the Victorian B&B Inn, Weber Haus, very seriously. Greeting guests and keeping tabs on them is a full-time feline job, after all. However, being nice to Daniel Aarons is not on her to-do list. The handsome construction manager almost messed up her forever family, and she isn’t about to forgive him anytime soon . . .
 
But then someone new arrives at Weber Haus. Her name is Sophie Heidt—and she’s the B&B’s new manager. When Snowball goes missing on Sophie’s first day, Daniel, in charge of the new hotel wing, comes to her rescue by getting the cat to do what she does best: attack him.
 
It doesn’t take long for Snowball’s animal instincts to reveal that Daniel and Sophie are meant to be together. Unfortunately, Daniel keeps making a mess of things. It’s going to take some special insight and holiday cheer to bring them together. But if anyone can do it, Snowball can—even if she has to tolerate turtle doves, French hens, calling birds, and other fur-raising human traditions . . .

First Impressions

They say not to judge a book by its cover, but all it takes is one glimpse into those adorably solemn blue eyes surrounded by fluffy white fur, and I’m officially a goner. To be quite frank, if you can manage to read this book from start to finish without cracking one smile, you might just be a legitimate Grinch. This sweet, cute read will definitely put you in the holiday mood, and is the perfect read when you need a quick break from family mayhem throughout the season. There are remnants from the first book which are a delight to see again, including a portion of each chapter told from the point of view of the official troublemaking matchmaker of Weber Haus, Snowball the kitten. We get just a taste of her POV so that it remains fun and silly without venturing into eye-roll territory. Honestly, it was kind of my favorite part of each chapter when we got to see things through the eyes of such an innocent little heathen.

The other calling card of this series includes a picturesque wintery inn that we can clearly envisage in our mind’s eye, filled to bursting with the most lovable characters that are sweeter than a cup of hot chocolate. While the characters from book one remain absent for the vast majority of this read, and it was certainly easy to miss them, this absence does allow for our new primary characters of Sophie and Daniel to be featured front and center in their own right. Albeit with a familiar fluffy face to pop in every now and again to wreak havoc, yet also help these two strong personalities put their differences aside to find love during the holidays.

Former Enemies

Sophie and Daniel start things off by butting heads and essentially hating each other. Daniel is the head of a construction crew working on-site to add a new wing to this lovely small town inn, whose delays in finishing threaten to derail the bookings that Sophie is trying so hard to secure. As for Sophie, she’s our strong-willed manager who likes to keep to a schedule, and her constant questioning of Daniel’s timeline is enough to drive him mad. So we have two stubborn personalities who seemingly can’t stand to be around each other, and insist on doing everything themselves with no help from anyone. When the inn’s owners are called away to deal with a family emergency, basically leaving Sophie and Daniel to handle everything on their own, it creates the perfect environment where they can’t help but be thrown together at every turn.

I’ve got just one word for when you’re dealing with two people who can’t stand each other being forced to interact in fairly close quarters: excellent! This is the perfect example of enemies-to-lovers when it comes to Sophie and Daniel, yet we also see instances of enemies-to-friends when it comes to some of the other characters involved. Witnessing all of these distinct personalities open up and start to understand each other was pure holiday magic. From Snowball the kitten finally warming up to Daniel following her obvious disdain for him due to the events in book one, to a curmudgeonly old loner guest of the inn who opens up to share a few words of wisdom with Daniel when Sophie’s past comes back to threaten their relationship. There’s enough holiday cheer to make even the smallest of Grinch hearts grow ten sizes in delight!

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

Series: Snowball, book 2. I sincerely hope this series continues, and if it does I have a feeling we may have been introduced to a potential main leading man of a future book. If I’m right, I am so there!

Final Impressions: There’s not much else to say about this light-hearted read other than it’s as sweet as a sugar plum, doesn’t have too much drama, it’s quick and will leave a smile on your face! I actually found myself more intrigued by the fun and silly moments than the few dramatic ones. Upon first starting this book I didn’t even fully register the title of The Twelve Days of Snowball, but when we start to see all of the elements from The Twelve Days of Christmas song start to make an appearance as Sophie and Daniel’s relationship evolves, I was positively tickled pink! It was such a festive feature of the read, as you were constantly wondering how five gold rings or a plethora of milking maids would show up. This is definitely a fun read for when you’re looking to relax and be entertained throughout the holiday season.

Smut Level: A few kisses here and there, but nothing more than that. I’ll admit to being slightly disappointed we didn’t see Snowball scheme her way into forcing Sophie and Daniel underneath any mistletoe.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $9.99 Kindle Price. Kensington Books. 194 Pages.

My Only One by Charlotte O’Shay

When Esme literally stumbles back into Shane’s life after years apart, he realizes two things: he can protect her from the danger that is after her, and he finally has the chance to admit how important she’s always been to him.

What’s it About?

Esme:
We grew up in side-by-side New York City tenements. Shane was my first friend, my first crush, and when he enlisted, my unforgettable heartbreak. When fate brings us back together after ten years, I’m in a world of danger. But I’m not a kid anymore and I know what I want. Shane and I have a second chance at forever and there’s no way I’ll lose him again.

Shane:
Brilliant, beautiful, bound for success, Esme was the girl next door and a temptation I had to resist. I was too old for her, but I couldn’t forget her. When we meet again after ten long years, she’s caught in the crosshairs of a deadly drug kingpin. But I wear a badge now. Nothing will stop me from protecting the woman who claimed me—heart and soul—so long ago. I’ll keep Esme safe or die trying.

Time’s running out for Esme to pay her father’s debt to the cartel.

First Impressions

Our novel beings with us being dropped smack dab in the middle of the drama, as Esme runs through the city streets to escape the clutches of an evil drug lord to whom her father has promised her in order to pay off his crippling debts. While she was initially open to the idea of marrying a stranger to help her family, it only took a moment of being in this man’s presence to realize he had no intention of marrying her, and he merely viewed her as a possession he could acquire and play with whenever he felt like it. It’s as she’s running through the dark city streets, feet and knees cracked and bleeding from her ordeal, that she re-encounters the one man she never expected to see again in her life, and the one man who has always represented safety. Shane and Esme were close childhood friends who always desired more, but when tragedy struck both of their respective families, they completely lost touch until this moment of reconnection. Shane is now a law enforcement officer, and when he hears of Esme’s predicament he vows to protect the one woman who got away. As they lay low in his apartment, all of the distance which the last few years of separation have created melts away, and both are aware this unfortunate incident has led them to find each other again.

Tons to Unravel

First things first with this read: love the premise. However, there was a loooot of back story for us to catch up on, and I feel we received an information overload that was a bit scattered in it’s delivery. To open on Esme running through the streets and having to pause to learn about not only who she’s running from, but then pause longer to get the history of her mother’s illness which drove her father to seek funds from a drug kingpin, and then transition to her running into Shane, and then having to learn their whole backstory…it just felt like I was being pulled into too many directions right from the get-go. With this book currently at a mere 111 pages, I almost think it could have benefitted from an additional 50-100 pages to clearly lay out the characters and their connection to each other.

I certainly appreciated diving right into the drama, but I wonder if a better flow would have been gained for example if we had opened on Esme getting ready for her meeting with the stranger her father has promised her to, and then she could slowly start to realize something is wrong with the situation before ultimately dashing off into the night. It would have allowed for a slow, delectable build of tension at the beginning, which would have mirrored itself beautifully with the formidable dramatic sequence we are presented with at the conclusion of the story.

Like a Movie

The absolute standout feature of this read was the final sequence as Esme is convinced to wear a wire in an eventual sting operation with our evil drug lord. The author does a phenomenal job of teasing out the drama, and slowly building up our anxiety level as we see a seemingly well-laid plan gradually deteriorate before our very eyes. The fact Shane can only listen in from the background and frantically try to catch up with and rescue the love of his life from the clutches of a mad man amped up the feeling of you about to fall off the edge of your seat. Another feature of this climactic scene that I absolutely adored was how it was practically Scorsese-esque in how it played out in one long, drawn-out sequence with almost no moment for a break to catch our breath. The near perfection of this dramatic build is another reason I wish we could have seen something similar in parallel at the front-end of our read, as it would have created such a marvelous balance to the read as a whole.

*A copy of this read was provided for an honest reivew*

Series: Fortunato Family, book 1. Shane comes from a large family who we have the good fortune to meet at one point in the story, and I’m certainly intrigued to see how the stories of his siblings will play out in future novels.

Final Impressions: Overall this was an exciting read, primarily due to the thrilling concluding scene. The opening felt a bit scattered which left me feeling like I had to re-read certain sections to clearly understand how all of the pieces and characters of the story fit together. Something else I would have appreciated was some more explanation as to how Esme and Shane so completely lost touch with each other considering how closely integrated she was into his family’s life. While they were both clearly going through their own struggles in life, they also seemed to be deeply invested in each other, so falling out of touch so abruptly was rather confusing. I was given an ARC of this read, so there were a few typos in the copy I received.

Smut Level: Esme may have been a virgin at the start of the novel when she and Shane reconnected, but that doesn’t mean she’s shy about sex. She knows what she wants (him), and she goes for it!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Evelyn P. McCabe Publisher. 111 Pages.

Resolutions Embraced by Ayla Asher

When our male lead is introduced as having Stephen Amell good looks, and a personality that’s a cross between Dolly Parton and Tom Hanks…I just knew we were in for something special here!

What’s it About?

She came back to win…and to rewrite a narrative created so long ago…

Chad Hanson has one true love: being mayor of Ardor Creek. With his charming personality, kind nature, and adoration of the small town, it’s as if he was born for the role. Although he dates constantly and loves playing the field, he’s never come close to falling for someone the way he loves his job.

Abby Miller left Ardor Creek after high school, determined to become something other than a pariah.  Chad Hanson had accidentally bequeathed her the name “Flabby Abby,” which destroyed any chance of making friends or having a normal high school existence.

Two decades later, Abby returns, fierce and confident after her tenure as a senior advisor for a prominent Washington D.C. senator.  Armed with her skills and experience, she begins an invigorating campaign to become the first female mayor of Ardor Creek…and to exact a smidge of payback against Chad.

Chad is blown away by his opponent. Drawn to her, he slowly realizes she might actually win…not only the election, but Abby Miller might be the first woman to capture his heart.

First Impressions

Throughout this series I have come to discover that my level of excitement to start every book increases with each new addition! However, while I adore the journey of romance we traverse with all our couples, I also find myself getting increasingly sad as the last page of each book grows ever closer. I fall in love with every couple we meet to the point that I don’t want to see their story end, even if I know another fabulous addition to the Ardor Creek series isn’t far behind. This sentiment also holds true for book four, as we finally get to see the tale of romance play out for our beloved Ardor Creek mayor which has been hinted at in each preceding novel. It is an enemies-to-friends-to-lovers romance that will leave you smiling and giggling, even when our couple is preparing for sexy fun times. Nothing better than some witty banter to get ya in the mood!

The Past Repeats Itself

Chad and Abby’s story actually began quite a long time ago in high school when both were running for student body president. Chad has always been presented as one of the most lovable characters in all of Ardor Creek, and we see that this was true even back when he was a teenager. And yet, when Chad realizes Abby has a legitimate chance of dethroning him in his reign as student president, he panics at the thought of losing a position he’s loved for the last few years. What follows ultimately turns out to be the biggest regret of his life when he incurs a hurtful nickname for Abby which results in her being a social outcast for the rest of their high school careers.

All of these years later, Chad is preparing to run for a third term as mayor in this small and sleepy town in Pennsylvania. It’s a job that means the world to him, and one that gives his life meaning. He’s convinced he’ll run unopposed, just like the last time he ran, but that expectation crumbles with the return of one very headstrong woman on a mission. Abby is not only determined to bring change to Ardor Creek by being elected as the first female mayor, but also to seek a bit of revenge against the man who ruined her life all those years ago. Let the games begin!

The Thrill of the Race

This novel definitely presents us with an interesting premise, as we are essentially rooting for both of our main characters to win, even if we know that’s not technically possible. Then there’s the issue of their complicated history which brings such a compelling dynamic to both the campaign and the evolution of their relationship. For our fun-loving mayor Chad, while initially surprised at suddenly having some unexpected competition, he’s actually looking forward to the challenge of a race he’s convinced he’ll win.

Not only that, but he’s also eager to have the opportunity to finally apologize and make it up to Abby for the wrong he caused in high school. For Abby, she’s constantly questioning his motives, wondering if his apparent regret is genuine, or if he’s trying to throw off her campaign. Or maybe he’s just that desperate to be loved by everyone? It seems that both characters come to the realization at roughly the same time that their past had a larger impact on their present than what was initially thought, but also that it’s time to put the past behind them and finally move on. Once they achieve that, then they can finally move on to the good stuff!

Find Someone Who Makes You Laugh

Of all the couples we’ve seen so far, Chad by far is my favorite male lead. He has an endearing silliness about him that pulls you in from the get-go, and while you want to slap him upside the head for the lasting hurt he caused Abby, you also realize his regret and desire to make amends is one-hundred percent authentic. As soon as he and Abby can put that history aside and start to work towards a common goal together, this is when the fun of the read truly begins. They are probably the most playful of any couple so far, and their personalities are alike in a way where they complement each other exceedingly well as a couple. Even during sex they had the ability to joke and play with each other that you’ll find yourself simultaneously giggling and blushing from their banter. At times you almost forget they were once enemies, as have quickly become so in-sync with each other that it seems like they have been and will be best friends forever.

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

Series: Ardor Creek, book 4. Even though I didn’t want this story to end, I also can’t wait to see what comes next!

Final Impressions: In looking back at all of the fun I’ve had with this series so far, this may have been the book that made me smile the most. The mayoral race between Abby and Chad starts things off with a bit of fun competition, and once their relationship officially starts they both kind of let their true silly personalities fly free. I loved how relatable this couple felt, from their nightly routing of brushing their teeth before bed and sexy times, and sometimes even feeling so bloated and exhausted from an oversized burrito that sex simply isn’t gonna happen. The author always shows us the real and even unglamorous side to a relationship that it helps establish the foundation of their characters as people we might really know. They become our friends, and we feel part of the group. Abby’s drive and ambition made her a character we couldn’t help but admire, and Chad’s propensity to sometimes drop the playful persona to show us a glimpse of how vulnerable he can be underneath makes us fall in love with him even more. Who knew that was even possible?!

Smut Level: Three words: edible…strawberry…lube.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. 218 Pages.

Truly Inn Love by Amelia Foster

She’s been given a second chance at love with the man she left behind all those years ago. Will these two be able to overcome the mistakes of the past to find a future of happiness together?

What’s it About?

Life choices separated them, but fate proves they are truly in love.

Inheriting the Willow Falls Inn from their aunt and uncle was a gift the Alden sisters couldn’t pass up. With each sibling facing upheaval in their personal and professional lives, eldest sister Gavynn sees returning to the place they called home as the fresh start they all need. But the century old Victorian picks their return to show its age with broken pipes and a mess that makes Gavynn question her choices. But the real chaos comes in the form of the handyman dispatched to rescue them.

Cade Donaldson was finding a new kind of normal after his father’s heart attack. The family construction business flourished under Cade’s management while the older Donaldson recuperated and his routine gave him much needed predictability and comfort. That is until the girl who left Cade without so much as a goodbye came crashing back into his life without warning.

The adolescent bond they formed lingers under the surface, but ghosts they each battle threaten the new future hanging just within reach.

First Impressions

This is a delightfully sweet, light-hearted second chance romance that you’ll want to be sure and bring along on your next beach vacation. Gavynn and Cade were high school sweet hearts with a connection that went right to the heart, but that all ended when Gavynn left for college, breaking up with Cade in a hand-written letter that was bare as to the reasons why. When Gavynn and her sisters move back to Willow Falls to fix up and reopen an inn left to them by their late aunt and uncle, it’s not long before their paths cross with contractor Cade. The love of her life. And my goodness does it sound like this man grew up good. Some chin scruff and a tool belt on top of a killer smile, with a distinct tendency to waggle his eyebrows when he’s feeling cheeky. Seriously, gotta consider the whole moving to a small town to open a business in need of repairs…thing.

Realistic Characters

Something I really appreciated about this read is how mature our two main characters could be when it came to approaching the subject of their past. Let’s face it, Gavynn’s actions were pretty unforgivable, and it could have been so easy for Cade to give her the cold shoulder for however long he wanted to over her past mistake. And yet, aside from some initial awkwardness at their unexpected reconnection over a burst water pipe, for the most part these two realize pretty quickly that the feelings they had for each other never fully went away. More importantly, these feelings are still strong enough to be worth exploring after all this time apart. Cade also allows Gavynn to explain her reasons for leaving on her own terms, when she is good and ready to do so. He never demanded an explanation, and I was pleasantly surprised that the author presented us with a reason that was quite easy for us to understand and sympathize with.

The Bliss and Blunders of Family

Family plays a critical role in the progression of events for our characters in this read. After all, it was dedication to and a love of family which brought Gavynn and her sisters back to their aunt and uncle’s inn, as well as the reason they were willing to pour their life savings into such a risky venture. However, family is also what prompted Gavynn to call things off with Cade when she headed off to school years before. She saw the downfall of her own family at the hands of her irresponsible and selfish parents. They married and had children far before they were ready, and were so enamored with each other that they had no qualms about leaving their three daughters behind with relatives so they could go gallivanting off on their own adventures. Gavynn was abandoned, yet also taken in by family, and she feared that she and Cade were at risk of falling into the same trap as her parents. Only by leaving Cade behind could she live and experience life on her own, and at the end of the day she found her way back to him when the time was right.

An intense fear of losing family is also what causes Cade to almost screw things up once again for this young couple. After his father’s heart attack one year ago during which Cade had to perform life-saving CPR on his dad, Cade subsequently moved in with his parents to always be close by should his father take a turn for the worst. The fear of involving himself so closely with Gavynn that he might be absent when his parents need him most has him act rashly towards his relationship with her, merely out of love for his family. Family was an important theme to be sure, as well as fighting hard to correct mistakes which were made with the best of intentions.

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

Series: Inn Love, book 1. I was looking forward to reading this book. I am absolutely giddy with delight at the prospect of reading book two. The fact I don’t have it at the ready on my Kindle is pure torture.

Final Impressions: This is a cute read with very little conflict, as we instead focus on Cade and Gavynn learning how to love each other again. It was refreshing to see them act as mature adults who have the same hopes, fears and propensity to flub up sometimes, just like the rest of us! They were relatable, personable characters, and even though we didn’t have a ton of drama we did still cover some very poignant discussions on the importance and tribulations of family. Cade and Gavynn were an entertaining couple, but the dynamic between the Alden sisters simply stole the show. I can’t wait for them to get books of their own!

Smut Level: Cade might live with his parents, and Gavynn with her sisters, but that doesn’t mean these two can’t find some time alone to rock each other’s worlds.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Sweet Heat Books. 166 Pages.

Desires Uncovered by Ayla Asher

Just when I thought this series couldn’t get any better, the author presents us with a fake engagement story-line. Consider me all aboard on this train to Romancelandia!

What’s it About?

It was supposed to be a casual affair…

Dr. Teresa Roe moved from the bustling city to small-town Pennsylvania, hoping the slower pace would help her focus on finding a partner and building a family. Unfortunately, life had other plans, and Teresa finds herself single in her mid-forties, unable to have the children she craves. Determined to focus on the positives, she builds her thriving therapy practice and joins a hook-up app looking for a fun, no-strings-attached affair.

Mark Lancaster has no time to date or cultivate a relationship, so meeting women on hook-up apps is perfect for his busy schedule. When he meets Teresa, he can’t believe his fortune at finding someone so smart, sexy, and funny. In fact, his casual affair with her quickly becomes the highlight of his hectic life.

When Mark decides to run for County District Attorney, his opponent quickly reveals their relationship, spinning their affair as nefarious and creating a scandal that almost derails the campaign. Thankfully, Teresa agrees to enter into a fake engagement, saving him from ruin. But the road to victory isn’t easy, and as they grow closer, the relationship they both swear is casual begins to grow into something real…

Can two fiercely independent souls find true love amidst scandal?

First Impressions

This series is an absolute treat! We’re now three books in, and aside from a picturesque setting and lovable characters, the other thing I love most is the fact that no two couples or tales of romance are completely alike. I’ll be the first to admit my memory is total crap, and yet I’ve had no trouble remembering the details of our previous couples when they make a reappearance in this book, as each novel has a distinct personality which clearly sets it apart from the others. This installment is particularly delicious as we meet an older couple of main characters who tried to keep things as casual and sexual as possible in the midst of their busy lives. Neither has the time for anything serious, and their precise routine of twice-a-week hotel sex meet-ups works for them in every way.

Upon starting this book I didn’t really read the synopsis beforehand, as I like to be as surprised as possible when it comes to the plot, so you can imagine my utter confusion when these two characters (with obvious chemistry) decided to break things off within the first few chapters, as Mark was going to announce his candidacy for County District Attorney. The bewitching Teresa was someone he knew he wouldn’t have time for anymore, even if he felt a pull to spend as much time with her as possible. I thought to myself…where the heck is this thing going?! Lo and behold, when the details of their hook-ups surface in the news due to some digging by his political opponent, there is only one solution to save Mark’s reputation in the eyes of his constituents. That’s when I fully realized where this story was going and I shouted aloud, “Fake engagement, yasssssss!!!” Totally here for it.

Bad-Ass Boss Bitch

Mark and Teresa are another phenomenal couple to add to this series, but Teresa might take the lead as my favorite female character so far. This woman is pragmatic, strong, totally bad-ass, and honestly the kind of woman I want to be when I grow up. After the initial shock of being labeled as a something of a whore in the press, and considering the potential ramifications on her therapy practice, she allows herself a brief amount of time to mourn and lament before picking herself up by her stilettoes and trudging on. I was so worried that the presence of the press and potential invasion of her privacy and routine would cause a rift between her and the delectable chemistry between her and Mark, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. This woman wasn’t afraid to stand up, speak out, and put on a show when it mattered most. Such a queen of the highest order!

A Touch of Drama

There were a few dramatic components to the plot which lent a distinct flavor to this particular read in the series. Firstly, Teresa is older than your average romance novel heroine, and the fact she can’t have children comes front and center as a major story-line beside the budding romance with Mark. We get a poignant intro before the novel begins that this won’t be one of those reads where a woman thinks she can’t have a baby, but then we get a happily ever after ending with a miracle pregnancy. Nope, this isn’t one of those novels. Pregnancy is a closed door to Teresa, and I for one really appreciated this focus on a woman entering her late 40s who can still take life and love into her own hands, and in a way that sometimes traverses an unconventional route.

Another major component of this story is Mark’s campaign, and how a case involving his sister opens the possibility of defeat. The truly standout feature of this read is that it is really the first book in the series where we are introduced to a villain. We’ve seen a few douche-rockets here and there, but Mark’s political opponent presents us with a whole other level of selfish bum-hole. I remember at one point thinking his combativeness maybe should have been toned down a bit. Surly this transparent level of evil was a tad too cartoonish in its representation? But then it just took a few moments of scrolling through some political tweets on Twitter for me to realize, “oh yeah…this totally tracks.” Hell, if anything he was tame by comparison!

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

Series: Ardor Creek, book 3. Since book one I have been eager to get to the story of the next novel, but we were introduced to a new potential future couple for book 5 that has my anticipation level skyrocketing!

Final Impressions: Another great addition to the series. There’s always a perfect mixture of romance, lust, fun and drama in each book, and yet each story and character manages to remain unique from all the others. Honestly, the only hang-up I had with this read was the name of our male lead, but that’s just because I work with a Mark who’s kind of a pain in the bum. Being reminded of his face every time I came across the name was slightly disconcerting, but considering that was really my only complaint…I guess I really can’t complain!

Smut Level: These two might have busy schedules, but believe me…they find time for the good stuff. There is a rather epic scene which takes place in the bathroom that will leave you especially weak in the knees.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. 227 Pages.

The Way the Story Goes by Samantha Chase

This sweet read essentially presents us with mini versions of some of my favorite romance novel tropes. From enemies (though brief) to lovers, and neighbors (though temporary) falling in love, all surrounded by a beautifully picturesque beach setting. What’s not to love?

What’s it About?

Thriller writer Mia Kingsley has been hit with a serious case of writer’s block and she needs a little peace and quiet. A beach front property in Magnolia Sound seemed like the perfect escape and just the change of scenery she needs to get the words flowing again. That is, until her noisy neighbor starts running power tools and blasting music at all hours of the day and night. Before long, the next victim in her story starts to bear an uncanny resemblance to the contractor next door.

Austin Coleman never wanted to come back to Magnolia Sound. But sometimes, life takes an unexpected turn and the only way to get back on your feet is to go home. His plan is to avoid all things connected to his past, and renovating a beach house in the off-season is just the way to do that—there’ll be no neighbors and no distractions. Or so he thought until he almost maims his sexy neighbor with a flying sink. Despite his best efforts, trouble follows everywhere he goes.

At first she wanted to kill him. Now she wants to kiss him. Sometimes you have to wait and see where the story goes.

First Impressions

This novel has an adorable meet-cute, and poses the question of what we would do when presented with a noisy neighbor who does construction, blasts loud music and sings horribly off-key all the live long day. Some of us might knock on the door to politely ask if they would mind keeping things down. Others might call the cops out of sheer frustration. Certain people, such as myself, would probably just sit and stew in silence while secretly hoping the universe finds a way to punish them. Mia Kingsley chooses to take the authorly approach by writing this inconsiderate noise-maker into her next novel so she can kill him off in her fictional story rather than in real life. Simply perfect.

If Looks Could Kill…or Resolve Everything

Once Mia sets sights on Austin for the first time however, and he gracefully cleans and wraps an injury on her foot, the rest (as they say) is history. The romance which developed between these two was so adorable. They both acknowledge that whatever is formulating between them is temporary considering they both have professional lives far away from this sleepy seaside town where they’ve met. However, while there is an obvious physical connection that they immediately choose to explore, their interactions aren’t solely reserved to the bedroom. They go on dates, he teaches her how to ride a bike, she allows him to introduce her to his mother’s book club, etc. All of this time they spend outside of the bedroom, having conversations and really getting to know each other, makes it more believable that when faced with the possibility of going home they both question if this newfound romance is worth making drastic changes in their life for.

The Good, the Bad, and the Family

The concept of family plays a critical role in the lives of our characters, both positive and negative. Not only the family they were born into, but the friends they’ve chosen in life who have essentially become family throughout the years. For Austin, family has always been a bit of a sore spot. His mother’s family was viewed as “from the other side of the tracks”, marrying up into his father’s wealthy family. And yet, it was his father who abandoned him, his mother and his brothers when he was just a boy. While he’s always loved his immediate family, the actions of his father had a direct impact on him misbehaving as a youngster, with the entire town and his more uppity family members looking down on him. However, it’s his cousins who have now drawn him back into their world, making him realize he truly belongs even if he still questions whether or not he does.

As for Mia’s family, she was shown love and support all throughout her childhood. It’s really only as she spends more time with Austin and his family that she realizes how much her parents are like Austin’s more judgmental and wealthy relatives. She has the stark realization that her mother and father would look down on Austin just as his rich relatives have, and she wants to spare him the humiliation of ever having to be at the receiving end of their vitriol. However, the fact she isn’t willing to introduce him to her family when he brought her into his leaves Austin feeling like Mia is ashamed to bring him fully into her world. Only when these two listen to the words of wisdom from their best friends and cousins do they realize they’re still worth taking a chance on.

Series: Magnolia Sound, book 7. This is the first book I’ve read in this series, and I’m now tempted to go back and start from the beginning! I could still follow along with the story even though I came to the party rather late, but I can tell we’ve been introduced to a lot of previous characters who were the featured couples of earlier books.

Final Impression: This is a sweet beach read, and I really enjoyed seeing Mia and Austin’s romance develop following such an adorable meet-cute. I also appreciated how open they were about each other’s pasts, though the hiccup with Mia’s parents and Austin’s reaction to not being introduced to them was a bit frustrating. Everything ultimately comes together for a sweet ending that will have you going “awwwww”.

Smut Level: These two have turned foreplay into an art form, especially making use of the elevator in Mia’s beach rental. However, these scenes always ended in a fade-to-black conclusion.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Chasing Romance Inc. 270 Pages.

Gray’s Promise by Anni Fife

Zoey and Gray have tried to put their tragic past behind them, but they both realize that their only hope for moving on is to confront their past together.

What’s it About?

Zoey Morgan seems to have it all as a successful surgeon in Boston. However, perfection lies only on the surface. Plagued by nightmares and amnesia from a tragedy that ripped her family from her fourteen years ago, she finds the courage to reach out to the only man who can make her feel safe. She’s buried the memory of their love, but her heart—and her body—responds to the ex-marine in ways that are all too familiar.

Grayson “Gray” Walker’s heart shattered when Zoey chose another man over him. Since then, he’s built an impenetrable wall around his emotions. But from the moment she implodes back into his life, her vulnerability breaches his defenses. His skills as an elite member of the King Security team cannot shield him from the devastation of learning he might have left Zoey high and dry when she needed him most. Now, Gray must navigate the tripwire of helping her heal while protecting himself from being hurt again. As the embers of their potent love reignite, an old threat awakens, leading to greater danger than ever before.

First Impressions

I made the somewhat regrettable decision to start this book about 30 minutes before my designated bedtime, and I really need to get in the habit of avoiding this tactic unless I know with absolute certainty that I have a light-hearted comedy at hand. While I knew this was going to be more of a suspenseful read, I wasn’t prepared for our book to open on a hospital scene in the aftermath of Gray discovering the love of his life has been raped, her family brutally murdered, and if that wasn’t cruel enough, she’s wearing an engagement ring given to her by his brother. If that’s not a gut-wrenching way to start a book right before you go to sleep, then I don’t know what is!

Moving on From Tragedy

I must say, I did find it a little hard to believe that Gray would have left Zoey behind after facing such an epic tragedy, especially seeing as her mind wouldn’t allow her to remember the details of that tragic evening when everything changed. Even if she was suddenly and unexpectedly engaged to his brother, their love was so strong simply a day before that to pick up and leave seemed rather odd. However, if anything it demonstrated that in the immediate aftermath of inexplicable horror, sometimes we’re not always thinking clearly. After a few years, Gray does make the attempt on repeated occasions to try and connect with Zoey once again, but her inability to confront what really happened that night to her and her family means that she ultimately pushes him away until he refuses to try anymore.

It was fascinating to see that both of these characters mistakenly assumed that by turning their back on the past would they then be able to move forward into the future. However, one day Zoey comes to the realization that only by forcing herself to try and remember who attacked her family would she be able to bring justice to their memory, and truly be able to move on. She just needs the presence of one man by her side to do this, the one man who always made her feel safe, the one man who seemingly no longer wants anything to do with her. The wounds she encountered that night weren’t just physical, but rather they also had a deep-rooted mental impact. After so many years removed from their family homes, it’s only by looking back at everything with a fresh perspective that Zoey and Gray are able to realize that what they were both led to believe about that night only raises more questions than answers.

A Somewhat Expected Conclusion

For about the first two chapters of this book I had one primary suspect in my mind as the perpetrator of the heinous crimes committed against Zoey and her family. After some slight tweaking, I had a new theory that I held throughout the remainder of the book, and lo and behold it ended up being right. While it provided for some interesting dynamics between various characters, I also couldn’t help but feel that it was almost a bit too obvious of a realization. It might make sense that some characters were too close to the action for them to be able to acknowledge the truth, but surely it would have been obvious to the local police or other investigators throughout the years? Although the “who dunnit” aspect of the mystery was fairly obvious, it didn’t lessen the intensity level as we see Zoey and Gray slowly start to put together the pieces of the puzzle. This ultimately led to an exciting climactic conclusion that brings everything back full circle to the tragic scene upon which our novel opened.

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

Series: A King Security Novel, book 2. I really do love the members of this security team.

Final Impressions: It was interesting to see Zoey and Gray learn how to trust each other again before they could take the next step of confronting their past together. Nevertheless, because the mystery had a somewhat obvious conclusion, it almost made the journey to get there feel a bit tediously drawn out. The many years of distance from the events of that evening helped create this delicious tension between Gray and Zoey that they were forced to address, but I almost wonder if it would have made more sense if the novel had taken place just a few months, or at most a few years afterwards. As it stood, it was kind of hard to believe the perpetrator could have gotten away with it for as long as they did, especially considering the only thing attributing to their freedom this whole time was the fact Zoey’s mind wouldn’t let her remember the events of that night.

Smut Level: Hot daaaaaamn! Even though Zoey and Gray don’t have intercourse until almost the very last scene of the novel, that doesn’t mean they don’t explore all manner of delicious dirty deeds before then. And these scenes are not only detailed, but lengthy, so you have plenty of time to enjoy them in their entirey.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 408 Pages.

Illusions Unveiled by Ayla Asher

Our journey through the small town of Ardor Creek continues as we explore how one man will do whatever it takes to prove to the one woman who got away that he’s worth taking a chance on. All I gotta say is if she won’t take him, I certainly will.

What’s it About?

Sometimes you squander all your second chances…

At the tender age of seven, Peter Stratford fell in love with the only woman who would ever claim his heart. But Carrie represented Ardor Creek, the town Peter detested. Determined to make something of himself in New York City, he leaves her behind, breaking both their hearts.

Carrie Longwood accepted that Peter would never love her enough to stay. Embracing her inner strength, she married another and had her precious boys before her messy divorce. Alone in Ardor Creek, she builds her life around her small family unit.

When Peter returns to Ardor Creek, battered and broken from addiction, he begins to heal, knowing Carrie will never forgive him. But Carrie kept her own secrets and, whether they’re ready or not, all of their illusions will be unveiled…

First Impressions

We were initially introduced to Carrie and Peter in the first Ardor Creek novel, and even though they were secondary characters at the time, it was clearly evident that they had a chemistry and history that was worth exploring in more detail. This second addition to the series give us the chance to look back on how Carrie and Peter’s picture-perfect high school romance devolved following his move to the big city and subsequent fall into drug and alcohol addiction. Carrie gave him a few chances to win her heart throughout the years, and while the chemistry was always there, they could never get the timing right. It’s now years after Peter’s recovery and Carrie’s divorce from a grade-A bumhole. As their close friendship has stayed true and strong after so many hurdles, it finally seems like they both might be at the right time and place in their lives to make another go at it. They’ll just have to make it through a health scare involving one of Carrie’s boys, as well as her many insecurities before that long-held dream might become a reality. For those of you who like second-chance romances, this is more like a third or fourth chance romance that will steal your heart!

Secrets Unveiled

It’s been a long and arduous journey for both Carrie and Peter to finally get to the healthy place they’re both at when the novel opens. Peter has confronted the many demons of his past, and has successfully entered recovery after years of addiction. Now he’s finally ready to confront his future, and for Peter that means settling down in Ardor Creek for good with the love of his life by his side. He’ll just have to learn about a critical secret that Carrie has been keeping from him for years…and maybe donate a major bodily organ before she’s willing to explore taking things to the next level with Peter once again. Carrie’s hesitancies to let Peter fully into her and her boys’ lives was a major theme of this book. I’ll admit, at first I just wanted to yell, “Oh just get over it already! This hunk of burnin’ love is obviously a keeper, and is fully committed to you and your kids! Let him in!” However, there were several key moments where I think Carrie’s concerns were communicated to us in a logical way that didn’t just make it seem like the plot was stalling for time.

Roadblocks to Happiness

Firstly, it’s one thing to be fun “Uncle Peter” for a few hours throughout the week by playing video games or soccer with her sons, and sitting down for dinner as a group when it’s convenient. Taking things to the next level would invite the not-so-glamorous side of parenting 24/7, from driving the kids to piano lessons and soccer games, helping with homework, being woken up in the middle of the night from unexpected nightmares, etc. It’s not something he can just turn away from when he’s too tired after a long day of work, and Carrie needs to make sure Peter understands what it means to transition from the fun family friend to a trustworthy father figure. Then there is Peter’s past to contend with.

Thankfully, I was pleased to see that Carrie never really saw Peter’s addictive tendencies as a reason to keep him at a distance from her or her boys. If anything, this seemed like more of a hang-up for Peter than it ever was for Carrie, and she always admired him for his strength to get clean. Her main reservation was always a fear that Peter would tire of the small-town life that Ardor Creek and her small family would ever be able to offer him. How long before he’d be called back to the bright lights and excitement of the city? After all, it called him away from her several times in their past, why would it be any different this time around? Well, Peter is determined to show her that Carrie and her two boys are all he’s ever wanted, and they represent his future happiness in every way.

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

Series: Ardor Creek, book 2. Every book in this series has ended with an epilogue of our characters heading to the wedding of the town’s notorious bachelor mayor. I can’t wait to finally get to that story, but it looks like we have one more romance to explore before we finally get invited to the blessed event.

Final Impressions: I am definitely in love with this series, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store next for the residents of this small town. This sequel felt a tad more serious at times when compared to book one, but it was still a great addition to the series which incorporated a great blend of romance, drama, a smidge of comedy, and sexy fun times. Peter was such a commendable character in my mind to have overcome such debilitating addiction, and retain enough patience to never give up on a future with the love of his life. The final scene of the book provides us with a picture-perfect moment that left a tear in my eye, and you’ll just have to read it yourself to see why!

Smut Level: These two may have entered their forties, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still up for all manner of sexy fun times. Carrie and Peter can get downright raunchy when the kids go to sleep, and even kick things up a notch with a sexy nurse’s outfit.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. 196 Pages.