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.

Nothing but Trouble by Amy Andrews

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

What’s it About? 

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

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The Un-bossy Farm Boy

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

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

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An Absentee Relationship

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Man of Character by Margaret Locke

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

What’s it About? 

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

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

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

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The Family Manuscript

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

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

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

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Series: Magic of Love, book 1.

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

Smut Level: A fairly clean read.

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

In Other Words by Pamela Q. Fernandes

This novel presents us with the best concept ever in Romancelandia: flirtationship. “When two people flirt non-stop and know nothing will ever come of it.”

What’s it About? 

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Trish Holt is a pianist, living in picturesque Boothbay Harbor, Maine. She is stunned and blindsided by the most bitter kind of betrayal: her boyfriend of three years has left her. His new lover is her manager. Her bitterness is compounded by the fact that Trish has made bad choices when it comes to past relationships. Much of it stemming from her own issues as an adopted child from Korea. She holds herself partly responsible for the breakdown in their relationship as she tries to fit into the stereotype of the ‘All American’ girlfriend.When she moves out to a new home, she encounters Michael Quentin. Not only is he her neighbor but also a local chef on the island, who romances her and helps her get over the betrayal. As Michael and Trish fall in love, their childhood issues resurface.

Can Trish stop herself from loving Michael whose own family’s dark past is holding him back?

Can she ignore his love for tradition and roots?

First Impressions

From a distance, Michael and Trish couldn’t appear to be more different. He’s a relentless playboy chef who can never commit to a serious relationship. She’s a pianist who desperately clings to her boyfriends in fear of being abandoned. And yet, as we continue to peel away the layers of these two characters we discover that they actually have more in common than how it might appear on the surface. Their respective familial relationships have severely impacted their adult relationships with others, and we question if Trish and Michael will ever be able to overcome their past pains in order to find a loving future with each other.

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Finding Similarities in the Differences

Trish was adopted as a child, and when her adoptive parents have another child of their own they fawn over him in a way that leaves her feeling both unloved and unwelcome. She grew up feeling as though she never truly belonged to this family unit. In her later relationships with men, we find her previously troubled family interactions make her desperate to latch onto the man in her life for fear that he’ll eventually push her away. This creates a vicious circle in that these men become so exhausted at her clingy nature that they still want to push her away. When the inevitable eventually happens, Trish tries to find an escape in music. By losing herself in the keys of her piano, she is able to create something beautiful that she has complete control over.

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For Michael, his love life has also been severely impacted by his relationship with his parents, but it presents itself in a very different way when compared to Trish. Michael’s parents met a tragic fate when he was younger. His father killed himself, and his mother soon followed after drowning herself in alcohol. Rather than latching onto people like Trish does, Michael has the tendency to push them away. In his mind, everyone will leave him sooner or later, so he’d rather be the one doing the leaving so it’s on his own terms. When he once again finds himself alone in the world, Michael also looks for an escape that he can throw himself into completely. For Trish it was through music. For Michael it’s through creating food in his kitchen.

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A Psychological Review

When Michael and Trish eventually cross paths, you’d think it would be like water mixing with oil, and in some ways it definitely was. These two entered into a rather exhausting tug-of-war in that they were constantly pushing each other away in spite of the draw steadily pulling them together. When all was said and done I think I enjoyed the psychological aspect of their relationship more than the romance itself. There were several moments where I couldn’t help but question if Michael and Trish were actually right for each other, and some of their actions/decisions towards each other and their families were difficult to understand. For example, Trish was willing to attend the wedding of her cheating ex-boyfriend, but not her brother’s. When she and Michael eventually did start a sexual relationship she was willing to continue sleeping with him even though she wanted more than a casual fling, but realized he didn’t want the same. However, she figured the more sex they had, the higher chance that it might result in her getting pregnant with a baby she could have all her own. Mkay then…maybe not the best decision ever.

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As we’ve seen, the relationship between Trish and her parents had a heavy influence on her latter relationships in life. Towards the end of the book we see how discussions with her mother and father directly correlate to her outlook regarding her relationship with Michael. Apparently when her mother and father first got together decades ago, her mother was getting over losing the ultimate love of her life. When Trish shares the details of her fling with Michael, her father cautions her to end it as soon as possible. He declares that when Trish does eventually settle down with a partner in the future, this man will be heartbroken to realize he’s always played second fiddle to her constant yearning for a man she could never have. However, when Trish discusses Michael with her mother, she gets the complete opposite advice. Her mother tells her to grasp those perfect moments with Michael as long as she can, no matter how brief they might be, as they’ll be beautiful memories to sustain her later on in life. Again, some of the psychological components of this read were rather interesting to consider.

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

Series: Boothbay Harbor, book 1. I definitely found Michael’s siblings to be an intriguing bunch of people!

Final Impressions: While there were definitely some interesting observations regarding love and life with this read, I can’t say I fully fell in love with Michael and Trish as a couple. They almost spend too much of the book pushing each other away, that I wasn’t 100% convinced at their eventual coming together. I also wish we could have seen them lean on each other more to remedy some of the tensions surrounding their familial relationships.

Smut Level: It might take a while for these two to get there, but they certainly go at it with full force when the time comes.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services, LLC. 357 Pages.

Enshrine by Chelle Bliss

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

What’s it About? 

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

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

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

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A Monumental Impact

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

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

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Series: Stand-alone

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

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

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

Meant to be More by Amelia Foster

From a marriage of necessity to friends-to-lovers, this book checks so many boxes when it comes to my favorite romance novel tropes.

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My best friend has spent the past several years traveling the world with Doctors Without Borders. It’s been her life’s dream and something I’ve always admired about her. But somehow, after twenty years of friendship, our last goodbye brought about the realization of a truth I hadn’t yet recognized. I don’t just respect Jillian, I am in love with her, and it’s time she knows.

But upon her return home, she manages to lay her own shocking news on me before I can even form the words to tell her how I feel. It seems she needs access to the fortune her grandfather left her in his will. But there’s one problem.

The caveat being an antiquated, but ironclad stipulation that she can’t receive the funds unless she gets married and stays that way for eighteen months. Naturally, I’m the only person she can trust with such a delicate arrangement. And I’m also hopelessly in love with her, so I’ll greedily take the chance to fake-marry my best friend. This way, I can prove to her that we are meant to be more than just friends.

First Impressions

Nope, nada, no way!! I refuse to accept the fact that this is the final book in the Meant to Be series. I’m going to choose to live in total denial, and dream that a long-lost brother nobody ever knew existed in this family will come forward to become the focus of a future novel. This is one of those series that you can’t help but fall in love with. I didn’t want it to end, just like I didn’t want this particular book in the series to end either. I found myself caught in a vicious cycle where every time I picked it up it was so hard to put down, yet at the same time I wanted to take my time to savor it for as long as possible.

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We are once again presented with the most delightfully lovable characters, and a male lead I want to steal for myself. A common feature throughout every book is the use of flashbacks to tell the story of our characters, and reveal the deep emotional connection they’ve forged over time. The author once again does a fantastic job of balancing our time in both the past and the present, and everything comes together to reveal a beautiful tale of friendship and love in a way that still manages to be unique from every book that came before.

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Friends For Life to Man and Wife

This fourth and final book tells the story of Jillian and Dean who have been close friends since they were just kids. Normally the flashbacks in these novels are used to reveal the meet cute of our two characters, as well as ultimately build up to a moment when their relationship falters to near collapse. The story here plays out a bit differently in that while we do see how these two kids formed an unlikely friendship, the flashbacks reveal how both Jillian and Dean have felt something deeper than mere friendship for quite some time, yet they’re constantly pushing those feelings aside so as not to risk their special connection. They’ve stayed close throughout the years, and in our present day scenes Dean finally feels like he’s ready to admit how much he loves his best friend. After a return from her most recent stint abroad with Doctors Without Borders though, Jillian throws Dean for a loop by proposing marriage.

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It turns out her father has gambled away a large portion of their family fortune, and in order to access an inheritance from her grandfather Jillian must get married. It might not be the way Dean pictured tying the knot with the love of his life, but he’s decided to take full advantage of this opportunity to show Jillian how perfect married life with him can truly be. These two may have been the most adorable couple of the whole series, simply because their connection as friends was naturally sweet, yet also teasing in the most fabulous way. I was a bit surprised that when they ultimately decided to enter into a physical relationship as “friends with benefits” in their marriage that there wasn’t a single moment of awkwardness between them. They weren’t afraid to tear each other’s clothes off, and I think the reason for it speaks to their mutually secret desire to take things further between them for a long time. The question remains though if either of them will be willing to admit how much they truly love each other, and that their newest desire in life is to make this marriage last beyond the designated timeline needed for Jillian to claim her inheritance.

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Two Families

The Carlisle brothers have been the focus of this series since book one. We’ve come to know each and every one of them, and discovered that every son is as delectable and good-hearted as the one who came before. Their family is loving, supportive, and couldn’t be more different than Jillian’s own upbringing. Although both families are wealthy, Dean’s family is seen as “new money”, and therefore unworthy of the respect of Jillian’s mother and father. She grew up amidst the unloving disregard of her selfish parents. One day when she was little, Jillian happened upon one of her neighbors, the youngest son of the Carlisle clan, and from that day on she was enveloped in their warmth. It was because of this other family that she knew what it meant to be loved, and realized that she wanted to do something with her life that meant more than money.

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If I had to identify one area of the story that left me feeling somewhat wanting it would be in regards to Jillian’s relationship with her mother. There has been a long-standing tension and lack of emotion between them for as long as Jillian can remember, and she’s essentially devoted her entire life to ensuring she was nothing like her stoically cold and distant mother. And yet, in the end we see that this tension is resolved fairly quickly following an argumentative outburst from Jillian in one scene, and a secret conversation involving Dean and her father in another scene. Now, all of our questions are answered as it relates to why Jillian’s mother was so cold throughout her childhood, but I would have appreciated one more emotional moment where they could talk out some of their previous issues just as mother and daughter.

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

Series: Meant to Be, book 4. Of the entire series, this one probably had the least amount of tension between our characters, which I found to be unbelievably refreshing. There were moments in this series where I would anxiously hold my breath wondering how our lovebirds could ever find their way out of a difficult situation and back into each other’s arms. Throughout this read though, I was always confident that Jillian and Dean were constantly headed towards a happily ever after.

Final Impressions: Get the series, read the series, love the series!

Smut Level: I appreciated that Jillian and Dean didn’t immediately fall into bed with each other. We have to wait through a good half of the book before these two friends decide to take things to the next level, but rest assured that once they do it’ll be everything you were waiting for!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Limitless Publishing, LLC. 216 Pages.