Meant to be Kept by Amelia Foster

The story of how one man tries to rectify a mistake to keep the most important woman in his life: his wife.

What’s it About? 

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One night. One too many drinks. One mistake. That’s all it took to derail my marriage. Now, all I can do is beg for a second chance. To try and redeem myself in a bid not to lose the love of my life. I’m determined to use every second, every moment I have to show my wife how much she means to me—to rebuild the trust I shattered. But the harder I try, the more I start to realize our marriage had fallen into a routine of complacency and misplaced priorities long before my indiscretion. Isabelle is a strong, passionate, beautiful woman—a wife who has sacrificed so much for me. I just hope it’s not too late for us, and that I’ll be able to convince her that our love is meant to be kept.

First Impressions

I’m not going to sugar coat this one folks, this romance blew me away in the best way possible. It’s a beautiful, smart read which is focused around the concept of fighting for love. One of the main ways this book stopped me in my tracks was that it tackled all of the preconceived notions I thought I’d have, and twisted them on their head. Prime example: our male lead, Tanner. Based on the synopsis and the first few pages, I was determined that I was not going to like this guy. We discover in the opening scene that during a guy’s weekend away with his brother, he gets borderline black-out drunk and starts making out with a woman who isn’t his wife. Gee, alcohol and cheating? What an absolute gem. I thought the author would have a hell of time trying to convince me that this guy was worth giving a second chance to. Lo and behold, simply by the end of the first chapter I found myself rooting for Tanner to succeed in winning back the trust of his wife, Isabelle. That’s no easy feat ladies and gents, and yet it was done so effortlessly that it draws in your attention where you can’t turn away until we get to “The End”.

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Totally Upfront

While we don’t necessarily get the very best first impression of Tanner, it barely takes any time at all before we sympathize with the man, and hope against hope that Isabelle will be able to forgive him for a seemingly unforgivable transgression. There are a few key features that the author weaves in to get us to love Tanner. First and foremost, we must look at the transgression itself. Yes, in a drunken stupor he kissed another woman. Downright stupid. And yet, our opening scene presents us with a broken man who is fully aware of the error of his ways, and is filled with nothing but regret. At no point do we see him try to hide this from his wife, or lessen the gravity of his mistake. Instead we see him come home right away to admit to her what he did, and he vows that he’ll do whatever he can to make it up to her. He even sets a deadline, begging that she find the strength within her to forgive him, allow him to prove how much he still wants her and only her by their next anniversary which is just 43 days away.

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The second clever move on the part of the author was the use of flashbacks throughout the entirety of the novel. On the one hand these flashbacks help demonstrate that Tanner has always been a romantic, and that Isabelle was always meant to be his one and only. Even though this first chapter starts off with a rather negative portrayal of Tanner getting up close and personal with another woman, by the end we feel like we’ve seen who the true Tanner is through a flashback, and it’s far from a womanizing cheater. He has a soft and romantic side which has revolved around Isabelle since the first moment the two met. I for one was shocked that within this first chapter alone I could so quickly go from an initial determination of wanting to hate this guy, to recognizing by the end of it that he simply made a stupid mistake that he is fully willing to atone for.

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Forgiveness

When Isabelle first hears the confession of how Tanner kissed someone else, she is understandably distraught. Even though we’re rooting for Tanner to succeed in all of his various romantic attempts to win back his wife, we can also sympathize with the difficulty she faces in letting him back into her life. At times you almost want to scream at her, “He obviously didn’t mean to do it! He clearly loves you! Just forgive him already!”. But, let’s be honest, that would simply be too easy, not to mention rather unrealistic.

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Something that the author captures so brilliantly when it comes to Isabelle contemplating her relationship with Tanner is that it was never a question of love. Isabelle will always love him. He’s been her best friend and partner for 12 years, not to mention the father of her children. It’s not possible for her to fall out of love with him that quickly. No, instead we see that it’s actually a question of trust. If she agrees to let him back into her life, she’ll obviously still love him, but will she ever be able to trust him as fully as she did before that disastrous weekend? If she can’t, then is it really worth bringing him back into her life at all?

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An Imperfect Marriage

In addition to utilizing flashbacks to show us the sweet side of Tanner’s character, these flashbacks also serve a few other key purposes. First, they demonstrate that for the past three years or so Tanner and Isabelle’s marriage hasn’t been as idyllic as we the audience, or even Tanner himself, thought it to be. We see through so many flashbacks how Isabelle was always the light of Tanner’s life, and he was devoted and committed to her in every way possible. We just assumed that this kiss with the other woman was the first and only indicator of how Tanner failed in an aspect of his marriage.

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However, as the anniversary deadline approaches, and Tanner tries to think up various romantic dates to go on with Isabelle, he simultaneously realizes how his focus on work these last few years has created a certain distance between him and his family. The little things he used to do with them, such as movie nights, weekend breakfasts, etc. had fallen by the wayside. He was still a loving father and husband throughout that time, and his affection for Isabelle never wavered, but he can’t help but acknowledge that he wasn’t putting as much of an effort into his family as he did in the beginning. It’s a realization that I think would speak true to many couples out there. Just because you’ve finally found your one true love doesn’t mean you can stop demonstrating how much you love them.

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Where Past Meets Present

Another important purpose of the continual use of flashbacks was that it brought Tanner and Isabelle’s entire relationship full circle. By this point you might be getting tired of my repeated mention of these flashback scenes, but I think I can say with 100% confidence that never before have I seen a more brilliant and polished inclusion of flashbacks to tell a story in my life. And I’ve read a crap ton of books. Each and every chapter within the book is divided into two parts: past and present. The present always details the various ways that Tanner is attempting to win back the trust of his wife, and we then see how those attempts correspond to a certain moment from their past through the flashback scene.

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At the start of the novel, the present scene involves Tanner admitting to Isabelle how he kissed another woman, while the scene in the past shows the initial moment when Tanner and Isabelle first met in college. Throughout the rest of the book the flashback moments move in a linear progression throughout Tanner and Isabelle’s relationship from their first meeting to their first date, kiss, sexual encounter, meeting with the parents, living together, marriage, kids, etc. By the last chapter we see in the present that we’re at the final deadline of Tanner and Isabelle’s anniversary, the moment when Isabelle must decide if she’s ready and willing to accept Tanner back into her life. And as for our flashback scene? By the end the flashbacks have taken us right up to the very moment when Tanner went away with his brother for the guy’s weekend where the initial transgression first occurred at the beginning of the book. I mean…WOW! The beauty of how everything came together full circle so seamlessly from start to finish cannot be overstated.

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*An advanced reader copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: I want this to be a series soooooo bad. I would 100% read a sequel involving one of Tanner’s brothers.

Final Impressions: Simply put, this is a beautiful book. It’s not every day you come across a second chance romance that involves a husband and wife, but it’s definitely one worth reading. It highlights the power of family, and the importance of still putting forth an effort in your relationship, even after you’ve said “I do”. You can’t get lazy in regards to demonstrating affection to your partner. I’m sure my love for the use of flashbacks throughout this novel is clearly evident at this point, so I won’t go into even more detail about it! Again though…they’re pretty amazing!

Smut Level: Nothing dirty, but we do get a few scenes, both past and present, which demonstrate the physical connection these two have always shared.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Limitless Publishing, LLC. 228 Pages.

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Beck by Harper Sloan

For any of you with a positive childhood association with pop rocks, let’s just say this novel takes a rather R-rated spin on the beloved candy.

What’s it About?

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Dee
I’ve always been good at wearing masks. Not letting anyone see the real me. I’m content being the happy-go-lucky best friend. The strong willed boss. The independent woman who doesn’t need a man. But the truth is I’m just as broken as the rest of you. I’m terrified that all it will take is one person to make all my carefully constructed walls crumble into fine dust. So I guard my heart with everything I have. Determined to never let anyone get close enough to hurt me again. All is perfect until HE walks into my life. No… he doesn’t just walk. He struts his good-looking, sex-oozing self right into my space and demands that I see HIM. Making me want what I know I can’t have. So I did the only thing I know how to do. I run. But he just won’t let me go.

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The second I see her, I know she will be mine. I see past the gorgeous smiles and heart-stopping laughter. I see HER. She doesn’t want me to know her secrets or the past that haunts her, but I make it my mission to find out. To make her mine. She can run all she wants, but it will never be far enough to stop me from coming after her. She’s it for me and she knows it. She’s just too scared to admit it.

First Impressions

It’s important to note right off the bat that if you haven’t read the first two books in this series, then you should set this book down right now and walk away slowly. This book is categorized as a “inter-connected standalone”, which I guess makes sense since we deal with a new couple in every book, but there are some pretty crucial back stories and dramatic events that unfolded in books one and two which have an immediate impact on our couple for this third book. If you were to skip out on these first two books I have a feeling you’d find yourself pretty lost when it comes to this one. That being said…I have read books one and two and even I found myself a bit confused and lost at times.

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Back to the Beginning

When this novel starts off we actually do a mini travel through time back to when Dee and Beck first met in the first novel in this series, Axel. After a few scenes involving their first foray into a physical relationship, we then jump ahead to “present day” which finds us picking up where book 2 left off. Here’s my problem with this approach. The jump back to their first meeting was pretty unnecessary. We’ve seen this all play out before, but now we just see it from Dee and Beck’s point of view, and honestly I feel like it didn’t add a whole lot of insight into their relationship. But here’s the real problem. A LOT of stuff happened between their first meeting and the present day situation that actually was important, and it was basically glossed over. Was it cute to read about how they both desired each other upon first meeting? Yeah, sure. But did it actually say anything that would help me better understand the dynamic of their relationship today. No, not really.

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Something which would have been much more enlightening and crucial to get insight on was how Beck helped Dee cope with PTSD after seeing her best friend get shot, how she spiraled into a deep depression, how he had to pull her back from the brink of committing suicide, how he helped her find a professional to speak to about all that she’s suffered through in life. Instead, we just get a brief mention that these events took place throughout the past two years. This is why I couldn’t help but feel lost at times throughout the book. Why didn’t we focus more on those important moments in their relationship? Did I miss something here? I feel like those moments would be so telling as to why Beck consistently stays by Dee’s side even though she closes herself off from the prospect of engaging in a long-term relationship with him. It would show why he keeps coming back to her, and indeed why she keeps coming back to him for help. I couldn’t help but feel let down that we didn’t see more focus on those first instances where things started to spiral out of control for her. Instead we see what comes after, where she’ll have some setbacks here and there, but not so much the impetus for how it all began.

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Those You Least Suspect

Something that I think this novel did extremely well was to focus on the impact that depression can have on relationships and friendships with others. Beck is really the only person who knows the depth to Dee’s struggle with depression. He’s apparently been there for every low moment. Even though Dee eventually pushes him away due to her general distrust of men because of her ass-hat father’s behavior, the two always manage to find each other again for a very complicated on-again off-again relationship. This is something their respective friend-groups simply don’t understand, and even mock at times. Their constant back and forth seems somewhat childish and too “high-school” drama for them. But here’s the thing. None of them know the truth about Dee’s depression. She wears a mask of happiness and enacts a bubbly persona to keep them off her scent.

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It’s such a sad glimpse at how far someone will go to keep all of their depression inside and hidden away from those closest to them. Eventually though, both Dee and Beck come to admit the truth behind Dee’s depression these last few years to their immediate friends. Beck gets especially snippy at one of Dee’s best friends, and the focus of book 2 in the series, Cage. He definitely loses his cool by insisting that if Cage were a true friend, and not so swept up with focusing on his own life, he would have been able to see the reality of what was lying underneath Dee’s mask. It’s an interesting conversation for sure about finding a balance between love and friendship. Was Cage so focused on his own love life that he missed the signs of his best friend falling so deep into despair that she felt the need to end her life? Is it fair to ask Cage to put aside the dramas and issues of his own life to focus on Dee, especially seeing as she is so adept at putting this mask into place? These are questions that really don’t have answers, but the debate which is waged in this novel opens up both sides of the argument in a very intriguing way.

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Series: Corps Security, book 3. I feel like I keep saying this when it comes to this series, but while this book definitely wasn’t my favorite, I’m really looking forward to what comes next.

Should You Read It? Overall, not my favorite book. The first half or so is kind of slow, repetitive, and didn’t hold my interest as much as I would have liked. BUT! And this is a big freakin’ but. The second-half of this book is phenomenal. The suspense and action really kick in, and there is a shockingly emotional twist which takes place towards the end that left me in tears. I don’t want to spoil it, but let’s just say it results in these tough-as-nails military men breaking down to the point where they don’t try to hide their own tears from flowing. It also sets everything in place for the next novel that I am really looking forward to reading.

Smut Level: Whenever these two have sex, I’d say 9 times out of 10 they end up on the floor. It doesn’t matter where they start their exploits: the bed, the kitchen counter, the kitchen table, eventually they’ll roll their way in a screaming and panting mess to the floor. They usually manage to break a few things in the process too!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 238 Pages.

Waiting for You by Rose Grey

Upon first glance of this book I had one thought, and one thought only: there better be a few scenes featuring this adorable dog on the cover, or else I’m gonna be peeved! Happy to say my wish came true, pretty much from the opening scene.

What’s it About?

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When Aidy Jones, hotel manager, sees Max Durrell in the lobby, she decides to join a dating service. Aidy knows what she needs and Max isn’t it. Her ideal man is attractive enough to have children with but not attractive enough to fall in love with. Ideally, he’ll also have some roofing skills.

Max Durell has returned to Demerest Cove to accomplish a lifelong dream. The Grand isn’t on the market yet, but convincing the eccentric owners to sell should be a piece of cake. His brothers will take care of the transaction. Max’s job is to flirt with Aidy Jones, the owners’ daughter, so she doesn’t interfere.

Flirting is easy. It’s friendship that’s the problem. Max can’t help enjoying Aidy and while he’ll never fall in love again (Been there. Bought the tux. Bride never showed up.) he is falling in like with her. Deeply in like. But any day now, The Grand will be his. And once Aidy learns Max is the one tearing her beloved hotel away from her, she’ll never want to set eyes on him again.

First Impressions

As far as meet-cutes go, this novel presents us with a good one. After all, it’s not every day you start a romance novel where the female lead literally falls into the arms of our dashing hunk by sliding down a hotel staircase banister holding a box of mice whilst being chased by a precocious young hotel guest behind her and avoiding an eager bloodhound running towards her. Phew, that was definitely a mouthful. Admit it though, pretty adorable. Although this novel does present us with a rather light-hearted and funny start, it does manage to expertly address the inner turmoil that both of our lead characters are suffering with.

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Aidy took on the role of manager eight years ago to help her parents with their failing hotel. The business is draining money, as well as Aidy’s patience, energy, time, and love life. She’s doing all she can to keep the hotel afloat, while at the same time shoving down all of her feelings deep within her. Her frustrations, anger, sadness. And then Max comes along. He becomes someone to confide in, a shoulder to cry on, and someone who seems willing to help and comfort her. However, Aidy has gotten so use to pushing her feelings aside to focus solely on the hotel, that she might just end up pushing her feelings for Max aside too. It seems like it’s just a matter of time before she breaks under the pressure. The question is, will Max be there to catch her?

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As for Max, he hasn’t been completely honest with Aidy about his presence at the Grand hotel. He’s there to keep an eye on things as his brothers go ahead with purchasing the hotel from Aidy’s parents. At first he basically lives life by the mantra that it’s not personal, it’s business. But as he spends more time with this selfless woman who will do anything to keep her home from falling apart, we see how Max is devastatingly conflicted when it comes to Aidy. He wants her to succeed, but at the same time his family’s purchase of the hotel will repair the reputation for him and his brothers in this seaside resort town. For his family to win, in a way it means Aidy must lose. The fact that Max is starting to fall in love with this headstrong woman makes his presence at the Grand all the more troublesome. Honestly I think this tumultuous aspect of the story with Aidy and Max both conflicted about their path in life and feelings for each other was probably the most intriguing and well developed feature of the entire novel.

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Delightful Shenanigans or Added Weight?

So, long story short, the Grand hotel is an utter disaster. It’s basically falling down around itself. The roof is leaking, the rooms are dated, the plumbing is shit (pun absolutely intended), the garden is overgrown, the elevators keep breaking, and mice have started popping up throughout the old structure. It seems as though each new issue, the nose twitch of every mouse, is supposed to add a sense of humor to the story. Almost as though, here we go again! What other shenanigans will Aidy encounter today on the job. However, while there was a mild comedic aspect to it in the beginning, I couldn’t help but feel more and more depressed for Aidy as the story progressed.

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Aidy is doing everything she can, pouring her heart and soul into this place, and sadly we see that no matter what she does it simply isn’t enough. With every toilet she manages to unclog, another temperamental guest will come with a complaint about something else. This woman is carrying around so much weight on her shoulders, and as more and more weight keeps being added through every additional setback I just wanted to shout out, “Oh please give her a break already!” Aidy is basically in a sinking ship in the middle of a hurricane, with nothing but a shot glass to try and bail out the water. However, on top of all these hotel breakdowns, there are two much more significant weights which are dragging Aidy down.

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Sky Lark and Lemon Karma

Yes, you read that right. Sky Lark and Lemon Karma. Aka, Aidy’s mom and dad. These two are a rather bizarre lot. They’ve adopted some pretty out there names for themselves, and have shed the societal labels of mother and father. In my opinion, the two were never worthy of the titles in the first place. My goodness are they terrible people. The author does a fantastic job of really making us hate them. They have never once paid their daughter for her work at the Grand, and yet speak to her as though they are doing her the favor rather than the other way around. They consistently undermine Aidy’s attempts to try and improve the hotel, and don’t even bother to tell her that they’ve entered into negotiations to sell the property. I’ve got two middle fingers pointed right at these two sad excuses for parents.

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Aidy definitely has her hands full when it comes to dealing with Sky Lark and Lemon Karma, but while growing up in the Grand hotel there were others that she came to rely on as surrogate parents. The staff. This is her true family. They have stuck by her through thick and thin, and remain loyal to her above her so-called parents. That being said, I really wanted to see more of a focus on her relationships with these staff members, specifically the doorman (owner of the beloved pooch on the cover), the head chef, and the head receptionist. Aidy states how these three characters mean the world to her, but it seems as though we really only get a surface look at these connections. I really wish we could have witnessed more moments where these three take on the maternal and paternal roles they are credited with. Sure, we see how each one basically warns Max to never even think about hurting Aidy, but I think there was more emotion which could have been brought to the table here.

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

Series: Durrell Brothers Trilogy, book 1. Oh I am definitely all in when it comes to the next two books in this trilogy. We get a few glimpses here and there of Max’s supportive, yet headstrong brothers, and I can’t wait to see what the author has in store for these two!

Should you read it? It’s gonna sound weird, but I almost wish this book had been billed more as a drama. The high points of the story always revolved around Aidy and Max debating over whether or not to take their flirtations further considering all of the personal drama they’re trying to hide from the world, and each other. Therefore, when we get these few glimpses of a disastrous online date for Aidy, or an annoyingly out-of-tune chorus group staying at the hotel, these moments of comedy almost seemed at odds with the emotional journey that Aidy and Max were traveling along. I almost wish the online dating aspect of the story had been replaced with more scenes of Aidy connecting with her familial staff. That being said, you definitely feel for the characters in this book. Whether it’s rooting for Aidy to succeed, for Max to open up, or for her parents to get a good slap in the face…you’ll have some pretty intense feelings one way or another!

Smut Level: Plenty of passionate kissing, but the sex scene itself isn’t discussed in detail. We go from a make-out panting session to the afternoon after.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Simply Romance Press. 296 Pages.