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.

Brooklynaire by Sarina Bowen

Who knew palindromes could be such a sexy turn-on?

What’s it About? 

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You’d think a billion dollars, a professional hockey team and a six-bedroom mansion on the Promenade would satisfy a guy. You’d be wrong. For seven years Rebecca has brightened my office with her wit and her smile. She manages both my hockey team and my sanity. I don’t know when I started waking in the night, craving her. All I know is that one whiff of her perfume ruins my concentration. And her laugh makes me hard.

When Rebecca gets hurt, I step in to help. It’s what friends do. But what friends don’t do is rip off each others’ clothes for a single, wild night together. Now she’s avoiding me. She says we’re too different, and it can never happen again. So why can’t we keep our hands off each other?

First Impressions

I must say I was pleasantly surprised with how much I loved this book! I went in with low-to-no expectations, yet practically every time I listened to a little snippet of it before work I’d find myself with a smile almost permanently plastered on my face. It’s simply the epitome of the perfect beach read. Fun, romantic, silly, light-hearted, and you can really just relax and enjoy it as the sun shines and the waves crash along the sandy beach. Nate and Rebecca have been co-workers for years, but more importantly they’ve developed a beloved friendship on top of their professional relationship. It’s only when Rebecca sustains an injury which literally throws her off-balance that we see she and Nate develop a level of closeness they’ve never experienced before.

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What’s Standing in the Way? 

It’s only when Rebecca gets a concussion following a little slip on the ice that Nate starts to realize how much his beautiful employee means to him. We don’t just have a friends-to-lovers romance going on, but also the complexities of an office romance mixed in there as well. I was quite surprised, and happily so, that Nate’s immense wealth (simply the fact that he had money) was never really a point of contention between them. Sure, sometimes he used his money in a way to support Rebecca without consulting her ahead of time, and the ensuing arguments caused some pointed grumbling. However, we see other factors were significantly more influential in causing Nate and Rebecca to hesitate in pursuing the romantic relationship they both desired.

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First, there’s the fact that they’re also in an employer/employee dynamic. While they’ve had a friendly relationship throughout the years, they’ve always maintained a level of professionalism in the work place, and it’s a line they’re not quite willing to risk crossing. A second hurdle that Rebecca personally had to jump over was her own sense of intellectual inferiority when compared to Nate. He didn’t just happen upon his wealth, but rather he earned it by putting his smarts to good use in the tech industry. His level of genius intimidates her, and often makes her feel as though he deserves better. It’s only through a multitude of flashbacks depicting the progression of their relationship, and through their current interactions of Nate caring for Rebecca that we see how comfortable and at ease these two can be with each other. In a way, this proves to be more important than the sexual chemistry they both share.

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Series: Brooklyn, book 1. I’m gonna continue on with this series.

Final Impressions: This is such a fun read, and the perfect book to bring along on your next beach vacation. Personally, I would recommend listening to this one as an audio book, primarily for the AI character, Bingsley, who proves to be a source of comedic relief with his uptight British accent in the midst of this modern New York City burrough. Nate and Rebecca are two delightful characters who you can’t help but love, and their connection feels so real it’ll put a smile on your face.

Smut Level: These two get surprisingly creative with a rubber pool float.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Rennie Road Books. 298 Pages.

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Walk Through Fire by Kristen Ashley

Can you think of any better start to the day than a bad-boy biker romance audio book that’s 17 hours and 45 minutes long? Because I sure can’t.

What’s it About? 

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Millie Cross knows what it’s like to burn for someone. She was young and wild and he was fierce and even wilder-a Chaos biker who made her heart pound. They fell in love at first sight and life was good, until she learned she couldn’t be the woman he needed and made it so he had no choice but to walk away. Twenty years later, Millie’s chance run-in with her old flame sparks a desire she just can’t ignore. And this time, she won’t let him ride off . . .

Bad boy Logan “High” Judd has seen his share of troubles with the law. Yet it was a beautiful woman who broke him. After ending a loveless marriage, High is shocked when his true love walks back into his life. Millie is still gorgeous, but she’s just a ghost of her former self. High’s intrigued at the change, but her betrayal cut him deep-and he doesn’t want to get burned again. As High sinks into meting out vengeance for Millie’s betrayal, he’ll break all over again when he realizes just how Millie walked through fire for her man . . .

First Impressions

Almost 18 hours of audio book. That’s over 600 pages in equivalent page length. Did this book need to be that long? No. Did it feel long? Pretty much. The first part of our story involves a constant switching back and forth between Logan and Millie’s idyllic past featuring the start of their relationship, juxtaposed against their tension-filled present which takes place 23 years after Millie walked out on Logan with no warning or explanation. It’s kind of strange to think they’ve lived in the same town all that time without bumping into each other, but then one random stop at a Chipotle’s can change everything. Throughout this entire first half of the book we’re constantly questioning how/why Millie could have abandoned Logan, but then we eventually discover how her leaving was a demonstration of her “walking through fire” for him. She brought pain to herself and him, but she thought it was all so that Logan could live a better life without her.

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When we do eventually discover why she felt the need to throw their relationship by the wayside, I must admit it was a pretty disappointing reveal. She caused so much turmoil for something that could have been less painful if she’d merely opened up to Logan, and admitted the hard time she was going through. Instead, she chose to turn her back on him, and leave him wondering for over two decades what went wrong. Something I did appreciate though was Logan’s reaction to finally discovering her reasoning. Understandably, he’s pissed. Like, super pissed. He even goes to her sister, who knew all along why Millie felt the need to run away, and he gives her a good talking to saying that if she’d merely confided in him he could have resolved things fairly quickly. And yet, he also admits to both himself and her sister that if the roles had been reversed he probably would have made the same decision Millie did. It was such a mature acknowledgment for him to say that while he doesn’t blame Millie for her decision, it doesn’t mean he has to be happy about it.

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The Missing Element

After Logan learns why Millie left him all those years ago, we see how the second half of the book deals with him determined to win her back, and get back to a life of somewhat normalcy. This is something that I feel Kristen Ashley does very well, which is to paint us a picture of the regular, everyday lives of seemingly bad-ass bikers. For example, we see them bicker over what to cook for dinner, and what shows to watch on television. I’m sorry Logan, but I’d have to agree with Millie that Downton Abbey is always the correct choice. Then we see some more of the complexities involved with Logan and Millie coming back together, including learning how they’ve both changed in the years since their separation, and slowly introducing Millie to Logan’s two daughters. This biker might have a tough exterior, but we’re also witness to moments of affection between him, Millie, and his daughters that help ground him.

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As you can see, a lot is going on with this read. Flashbacks to Logan and Millie’s initial love story, scenes in the present reflecting their animosity, a final admission to the root cause of Millie’s abandonment, learning to love again, introductions of Logan’s daughters and ex-wife. And yet, on top of all this there was one thing missing. Those of you who are familiar with my reviews of this series will probably know what I’m going to say. There’s barely any suspense! Once again, we hear mention throughout the entire book of a rival gang to the Chaos motorcycle club, and a villainous leader who seems intent on bringing down our favorite MC. However, we’re always deprived of any kind of momentous confrontation between the two groups, which makes the entire book feel relatively lacking in action. At this point, I can’t help but wonder why there’s even a bother with putting in these brief snippets of suspense in each book when they continually go nowhere? It’s like the whole series is building up to one final battle, but we’re not getting enough incorporation of this side plot for us to be fully invested in its resolution.

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Series: Chaos, book 4. Of all the books in the Chaos series so far, I’d have to say this one was probably my favorite.

Final Impressions: Even though I didn’t agree with Millie’s abandonment of Logan with no explanation, they are both rather enjoyable characters, and you become invested in seeing them find their way back to each other. She also had two adorable-sounding kittens that were my favorite aspect of the book. That being said, it could have been half the length, and this side plot with the rival motorcycle gang that always goes nowhere brought things down for me. Not to mention, you could have played a drinking game with the number of times there was a reference to Millie having to “walk through fire”, or having “walked through fire, or was currently “walking through fire” in regards to Logan. There’d probably be a good chance of alcohol poisoning though. Consider yourself warned.

Smut Level: Take my advice and don’t read this baby in the bathtub like I did. You’ll spontaneously combust from the excessive heat.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. Forever Publishing. 602 Pages.

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Another Yesterday by Angela Christina Archer

Be sure to have a box of tissues at the ready when you pick up this romance. It left me a blubbering mess of emotion by the end!

What’s it About? 

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Two lives. Two stories. One fateful afternoon family secrets are uncovered from the hidden depths of the past.

Maggie ~ 1966: “I never thought my life would fall apart in the way that it did. Nineteen, alone, and with a baby on my hip, I fled from all I knew–the city I lived in, my friends, my parents, and him. It was the only thing I could do. And that’s when I found Shadow Brook, a tiny town in Maine with a beautiful inn, and a place where I could forget about my past, locking the memories away along with the secrets that could shatter my daughters’ world. Secrets, I left in the attic where they belong, hidden far away from her.”

Rachel ~ 1996: “I never wanted my mother’s life or her run down inn in nowhere Maine. I wanted my life in New York. The one with my handsome husband, fantastic career, and the bustle of city life. Isn’t that when life likes to throw you to the wolves? After finding my husband in bed with another woman and my mother passed away, I found myself not only the new owner of the inn, but also back in Shadow Brook, and face to face with old my high-school boyfriend, Luke. At least I can distract myself with the renovations, and I can finally clear out all of my mother’s things. Including an old box of journals and letters found in the corner of the attic.”

Each story in the Seashells and Second Chances Collection is about a strong woman overcoming hardships and finding her own second chance. Each story is a standalone novel and can be read and enjoyed separately from the others. If you love sweet and sensual contemporary romance with a dash of humor, you will love the stories in the Seashells and Second Chances Collection. Unlock this story and the others today.

First Impressions

The format of how this story was laid out is truly commendable, and ultimately contributed to our emotional connection with each and every character presented in the novel. Throughout the book, we alternate between the stories of a mother and her daughter taking place in two different time periods. Part of the book is set in the late 1960s with Maggie, a young widow who moves to a small New England town with her baby daughter, Rachel. She’s trying to start life over following the untimely death of her husband, and is also avoiding going back home to her overbearing conservative parents. Maggie finds herself in this small town where she starts working at an Inn, and begins falling for one of the locals. If I didn’t know any better I’d think we’d stumbled into the early years of a Gilmore Girls episode!

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After focusing on Maggie for a few chapters we then alternate to her daughter Rachel’s story which takes place in the mid 1990s. I really appreciated that we would see several chapters in a row focusing on each woman rather than having each and every chapter alternate back and forth. I think the latter situation would have given me whiplash! Instead, we’re allowed to lose ourselves for a few chapters within their tales of woe and love, becoming more invested in their character. I remember in the beginning feeling a bit more connected to Maggie’s story, as we see her learn to trust and love again following the tragedy of her first husband’s death. It seemed more engaging than Rachel’s travails of getting a divorce and moving back home following the death of her mother. However, by the end of the book this sentiment was completely flipped on its head, where I didn’t want to leave Rachel’s journey of self-discovery and unveiling of family secrets for another flash-back to the past. Each story sucks you in fully at some point, and there’s an overarching theme that is shared between them.

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Seize the Day

Within the opening monologue of the book, we’re presented with an extremely poignant and philosophical outlook on life which really resonated with me. This is also a theme which we see carried out through both Maggie and Rachel’s stories. They go through struggle and strife to realize the truth of the sentiment, but in the end it helps them lead fuller lives. Essentially, when everything is going well in life, we look forward to what tomorrow might bring with an extra bounce in our step.

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When something goes wrong though, this is when we long for the yesterdays that now seem so idyllic. In a way, it reminds me of a quote from The Office finale, “I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you actually left them.” As the novel progresses, we see this idea of never getting “another yesterday” as a reason to take advantage of every day while you can. You’ll only regret the things you don’t do, or don’t say in the moment, and you don’t want to risk the possibility of never being able to experience those moments at all. And this brings us to the other standout feature of this book.

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Can I Get Some Tissues Over Here?!?!

Lemme tell ya, this book left me as a blubbering mess of tears by the last page. The entire impetus for Rachel returning home following her divorce is revealed in the synopsis, her mother Maggie dies. However, this isn’t the only sad point of the book! Rachel slowly discovers the truth surrounding her mother’s sad past which was kept a secret for so many years, and she’s also presented with additional obstacles which threaten to crush her spirit (they certainly crushed mine!). It’s really at the halfway point of the novel where we can start to see the pathway being laid out for how the rest of the story will progress, and you just know it’s going to be an emotional doozy! We get a slow build to all the different pieces of the puzzle coming together, and once it does? My God I spent the last quarter of this book balling my eyes out. We’re talking full on gasps and sniffles here. For me, it all tied back to the format of the story, which has allowed us to connect with every single character, both past and present. We mourn and celebrate with them. We lament their lost yesterdays, yet also look forward to their happy tomorrows. Aaaaand I need another tissue please!

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

Series: Seashells and Second Chances Collection, book 2. While I haven’t read the first book in this series, I have read several other works by this author, and they’re all fantastic. If you’re looking for a read featuring a strong-willed, admirable female lead, be sure to pick up a book by Angela Christina Archer.

Final Impressions: My goodness this was an emotional read. It’s not just a romance, but also reflects the importance of family, friendship, and shares a message of making the most of every day while you still can. The start of the novel begins somewhat slowly as we’re introduced to characters living in two different time periods, but it all comes together into one cohesive story that will make you keep turning every page for more. We see a daughter learning the truth about her mother, learning to live without grudges, and learning from her mother’s past to make the most of her own future.

Smut Level: Nothing too detailed or steamy. There’s a few make-out sessions, but nothing over the top.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. Long Valley Press, LLC. 417 Pages.

Sweet Victory by Gina L. Maxwell

A dash of MMA mixed with a pinch of a fake marriage is the perfect recipe for the sweetest of romances.

What’s it About? 

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Sophie Caldwell might not like asking for help, but help is what she needs if she’s going to save her family business from her uncle. Her grandma left one rule for Sophie if she wants to gain sole ownership before she’s thirty–get married. Yeah, fat chance of that happening since she hasn’t had a boyfriend in years, and now she can’t get her uncle off her ass.

British-born MMA fighter Xander James has never lost a fight, and he’s not about to start now. He’s on the brink of a comeback that could make him a UFC champion, but his landlord wants to take away his last chance by shutting down his gym. Hell, no. Fortunately, his landlord’s niece has a problem of her own. Time for a proposal she can’t refuse.

First Impressions

Of all the novels in the Fighting for Love series, this fourth installment has definitely been my favorite. It’s not just because I have an affinity for accents, and our male lead happens to have a delightful British lilt. It’s also not because our female lead owns a bakery, and I have a penchant for baking pies and cakes of my own. Although…those things certainly didn’t hurt! No, the reason this book was a cut above the rest was because Xander and Sophie had a natural and easygoing chemistry that felt completely legitimate and all-consuming.

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In order to save her bakery and his gym, the two enter into a fake marriage which must last for at least six months so that her dubious uncle doesn’t lay claim to the city block where their properties are located. What starts off as a temporary marriage of convenience quickly turns into one full of emotion. The fact Xander and Sophie also happen to have off-the-charts sexual attraction certainly helped. While it’s never clearly explained why they didn’t pursue a relationship prior to the need for a temporary marriage considering their longtime flirtatious friendship, you can’t help but be captivated by their intimate connection. We root for their marriage to last beyond the six-month timeline, even though we know there’s someone who will do anything to tear them apart.

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The Family Connection

Sophie’s uncle is our villain who is trying his damnedest to prove that Xander and Sophie’s relationship is a sham. He has his sights set on selling this city block to a developer for a rather large sum of money, but Xander and Sophie are the only holdouts unwilling to play ball. For Xander, the current location of his gym is a matter of convenience, and with him training for an important upcoming MMA fight, the last thing he has time for is to go searching for a new property. As for Sophie, she took over her bakery from her grandmother, and giving it up is something she could never imagine, as it would be like losing a piece of her family. While Xander and Sophie’s relationship smoothly progresses, we know it’s just a matter of time before her uncle weasels his way into the situation to spoil things.

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Sophie’s grandmother and uncle prove to be very important supporting characters to her relationship with Xander. The scenes involving her grandmother were particularly poignant and deeply moving. It’s in these moments that we see a soft and caring side to Xander’s tough fighter’s exterior, and it clearly demonstrates to Sophie that he’s a genuinely good guy worth loving. As for her uncle, it was rather predictable how his meddling would present a hurdle for Sophie and Xander to jump over, but there was another aspect to his presence that I wish could have been tweaked. Essentially, the only primary interactions we see involving Sophie’s uncle involve him dealing with Xander. I think it really could have added an additional layer of struggle if we’d seen at least one more scene where Sophie had confronted her uncle directly. Perhaps a heart-to-heart where he admits his motivations for wanting to sell his mother’s bakery, and Sophie simultaneously acknowledging why it’s so hard for her to let it go. They are family after all, and it was somewhat disappointing for all of his interactions to be limited to dealing with Xander rather than Sophie.

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Series: Fighting For Love, book 4. My favorite book of the series!

Final Impressions: This was such a fun read. Xander and Sophie’s connection felt so real, not only in terms of their affection, but also their sexual chemistry and ability to bicker and tease like an actual couple. Sure, the ending was fairly cheesy and predictable, but the journey to get there was delightful. I loved every scene where we saw Xander and Sophie interacting with her grandmother, as it lent an emotional depth to the story that I wasn’t expecting. I think I would have preferred a bit more confrontation between Sophie and her uncle, although it was great to see Xander stand up for her in the face of this intimidating family member.

Smut Level: When you have a bakery owner as one of your main characters, you just know frosting is gonna come into play with sexy fun times.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Entangled: Brazen. 260 Pages.

The Closer You Get by Rose Grey

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

What’s it About? 

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

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

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A Small Coastal Town

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

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Reversal of Fortune

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

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

Series: Durrell Brothers Trilogy, book 3.

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

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

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

Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts

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

What’s it About? 

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

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

First Impressions

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

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

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

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A Hectic Compromise

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

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

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The Past Can Hurt

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

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

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

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

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

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