Here and Then After by D.M. Porters

Beth has been given a second chance at life, and in the process she also has a chance at love. It might be the truest love she’s ever experienced. In this lifetime…or her last one.

What’s it About?

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Retired tax accountant, Elizabeth Edwards is devastated when she discovers her husband of 41 years, has been unfaithful most of their married life. What’s worse, she discovers this after he passes away when deep, punishing secrets are revealed. She is left to struggle with the deception and the fact that her life has been a lie. Broken, tortured and alone, Beth decides to leave her life behind and start over with what little time she had left.

With a keen eye for antiques and her love of history, Beth embarks on a journey to England that will change everything for her, even time. She visits the countryside to explore its grand manors and estates. Then, the directions to a ‘hidden gem’ are disclosed to her, and she is inexplicably drawn to this estate – Taylor Manor.

Faced with her own sudden death, Beth is given a second chance to live. This time, however, it is in the body of a beautiful young woman living her own hell 200 years in the past. In a twist of fate, the haven she is sent to is Taylor Manor, where she is to work as a maid. There she meets the brooding Lord Samuel Taylor, who has lived through his own pain and suffering. Can Beth start over and learn to live in this new and dangerous world while resisting her growing attraction to handsome Lord Taylor? Can he allow himself to love while battling his own demons? Love truly has no boundaries, not even time.

First Impressions

This novel presents us with a very unique and interesting twist to your typical time travel romance. Rather than simply traveling through time (seriously, who hasn’t in this day and age?), Beth has actually died in the year 2017 from a heart attack. As she’s traveling towards the white light of the beyond, she encounters a young woman named Sarah who is also moving along that same light. Beth then proceeds to inhabit Sarah’s body back in the early 1800’s. This added an interesting dimension to the whole time travel theme in that Beth doesn’t just have to adapt to living in a new time period, but she also deals with a flood of memories from this young woman’s sad and short-lived life. I can’t say I’ve ever come across a time travel romance such as this, and I must say I loved this twist. Instead of constantly wondering whether or not Beth will be able to return to her own time, because let’s face it that ship has sailed, we get an alternate drama of her having to cope with the events and tragedies that Sarah tried to escape from through suicide. We quickly learn that this woman was abused and raped at the hands of her drunken father, and while Beth is able to hide out in the countryside estate, Taylor Manor, we all know it’s just a matter of time before this abusive father comes to find her.

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A New Life

Beth doesn’t lament too long on the fact that she’s leaving her old life behind for good. After all, she was in her 60’s at the time of her death, and suffering from obvious heart problems. She now gets to inhabit the body of a beautiful 20-year-old, and the aches and pains of old age are no more. Beyond that though, she had also just learned that her recently deceased husband of 41 years was quite the philanderer, and even had a daughter she never knew existed. After learning of this betrayal, Beth decided to finally set out and live life for herself by exploring the beautiful country estates of England. She visits a rather hidden estate known as Taylor Manor, and feels an immediate connection to the house before keeling over dead from a heart attack. Imagine her surprise when she wakes up in the 1800’s, and learns that to escape the clutches of Sarah’s lunatic father she will be hidden away as a housemaid in none other than Taylor Manor.

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Now, most people who find themselves in this type of situation would probably be freaking the eff out. However, you have to admire Beth’s tenacity and ability to look at this entire situation as a second chance at life. Sure, Sarah’s life was fraught with issues, but Beth still chooses to make the most of every day. The fact that she gets to spend her time in a beautiful manor house surrounded by glorious antiques is simply an added bonus! And sure, the devilishly handsome master of the house with whom she has an undeniable sexual chemistry isn’t half-bad either. However, I do feel that there was one missed opportunity here for some added fun. In her former life, Beth was a wealthy older woman who had worked a desk job as a successful accountant. Now she is suddenly a housemaid in the 1800’s doing dishes, cleaning, etc? I just wish we could have been privy to a few more scenes which focused on the difficulty of adjusting to this new life. I get that by waking up 40 years younger she probably has a bit more pep in her step, but it seems like she would have had a few issues here and there with having to put some elbow grease into her daily work.

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Life in the Manor

Of all the manors in England to end up in after traveling through time, Beth definitely lucked out being placed in Taylor Manor. The various characters of the house are such a delight, and you can’t help but fall in love with them. From the motherly love of the head-housekeeper, to the joyous affability of the cook, and especially the rambunctious innocence of the young stable boy. As soon as Beth steps foot into this house you can’t wait to get to know them all, and just like Beth you too will be swept up into the warmth of this friendly bunch of people. And then of course we get to the master of the house, Samuel. He’s a bit of a surly fellow. Kind of closed-off and grumbly, although he has a definite soft spot for his employees.

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We learn that his parents died in a tragic carriage accident when he was just a boy. The fact he witnessed the entire ordeal adds to the overall tragedy of the event, and obviously contributed to his seemingly outward lack of empathy as an adult. But at the first sight of Beth he is obviously smitten, and also surprisingly intrigued by her adept knowledge of math and balancing his ledgers. Beth is also surprised to feel such desire for a man again. I will admit at times I was prone to a slight giggle-fest when they eventually acted upon their desires for each other. What can I say? I couldn’t help but remind myself that in essence we have a woman in her 60’s getting down and dirty with a handsome English Lord in his 20’s. Sure, her body might be young, but this woman has lived, and she brings all of her experience to the table. Let’s just say she has a few tricks up her sleeve to bring this man to his knees. Well…she gets down on hers anyway!

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The Big Reveal

Alright, so the time has come which we know is inevitable in any time travel romance. The moment when our lead character admits to her love interest the fact that she isn’t from this time. Samuel has suspected pretty much from day one that Beth was hiding something about herself, but he never dreamed in a million years what she would come to admit. Now, typically when this reveal happens, a very common response is for the opposite party to think our time traveler is crazy. I definitely get it. But here was the one aspect of this novel that I wasn’t toooooo fond of. Normally when the person thinks the time traveler is crazy, they immediately start to treat them like delicate glass, and vow to get them the help they so desperately need. Well…we don’t get that here.

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Instead, after Beth admits she’s lived a life in the future, Samuel not only declares she must be mad, but practically insists that she get the hell outta his house as soon as possible. Dude, I understand it’s a tough thing to understand, but don’t throw the poor woman out on the street! Let’s assume for a moment that he does actually believe she is legitimately insane. Beth has already admitted to him that she (or at least the woman she’s occupying) tried to commit suicide after being abused and raped at the hands of her father. Why wouldn’t Samuel just think she’s going through some kind of post-traumatic meltdown, and somehow tried to create an alternate life as a way to cope with this trauma? While he quickly comes to regret his decision to kick her out of his house, and immediately runs after her to bring her back, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed at his initial reaction to her admission. I expected more from you Samuel!

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

Series: Taylor series, book 1. I have definitely fallen in love with this family, and this manor. Can’t wait to see what comes next in book 2!

Should you read it? I will say it does take some time for our story to build up to Beth’s eventual death and travel through time. Quite a bit of time is spent on Beth interacting with her husband’s illegitimate daughter that I’m not 100% convinced was entirely necessary. Unless of course that story line comes back into play in a future novel? Who knows! That being said, once Beth makes the jump through time I was hooked. You have the drama and intrigue of her adjusting to life in the 1800s, falling in love with Samuel, and eventually dealing with the suspense of the abusive father. I figured we’d end with a happily ever after, but what I wasn’t expecting was to see how everything connects back to the future. The novel definitely comes full circle in a delightfully clever way, and I for one am excited to see what other inventive twists and turns we might encounter in a second book.

Smut Level: For a historical romance this book will definitely have you blushing. Sure, we get the typical mentions of trembling and bursting forth into ecstasy, but there are also a few more details in there to please our modern sensibilities.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 237 Pages.

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The Milanese Stars by Pamela Q. Fernandes

It would appear that Vita and her co-conspirators may have just gotten away with the jewel heist of the century. But when a sexy investigator comes to town, Vita realizes she might not escape from Milan so easily with the jewels intact…or her heart for that matter.

What’s it About?

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The heist of the decade and yet, no one would have guessed… it was her. The Milanese stars are missing from the famous Buccatino boutique. When American insurance investigator, Samuel Keane is called in to liaise with the polizia, he finds the whole heist odd. Not only are the Milanese stars, a set of five pink diamonds, not listed in the inventory of stolen items, worse, none of the surrounding owners or passersby witnessed a thing.

Samuel is anxious to solve the case and partners with local café owner, Vita, who has a very good vantage point to watch Buccatino. Vita herself has quite the interest in Samuel. He’s a decent man, not to mention delicious, and he’s smart. But the last thing she wants is to be caught. After all, Vita has planned the heist for years. Five to be exact. The only thing she didn’t plan is falling in love with the young American.

As Samuel digs further into the history of the stars, he discovers Vita’s friends and her physically challenged sister are all connected to them. He learns of Vita’s past and the loneliness she’s resigned herself to in an effort to protect herself from loss. Samuel also learns Don Giovanni, proprietor of Buccatino, is no ordinary man. He’s a local Mafioso and will stop at nothing till he gets the stars. The more Samuel investigates, the more dangers he and Vita face. Can he solve the case and what will happen with Vita? What will he do when we learns the heist of the decade isn’t about stealing pink diamonds… it’s about settling the score.

First Impressions

Vita can’t deny the desire simmering between her and Samuel. There’s just one problem. He’s only in town for a short time to investigate a jewel heist worth millions. And Vita just happens to be the thief responsible. Okay…so that might be more than just one problem now that I think about it. One of the best parts of this novel is Vita’s inner turmoil of whether or not to pursue anything with Samuel. Why would she possibly risk inviting a wolf in sheep’s clothing into her life and home? He is investigating the heist after all, and she’s directly responsible for it. But considering the heat passing between them, to push him off would be even more suspicious than inviting him in. She doesn’t want to draw unnecessary attention to herself, and ironically enough the best way to do that is to go on a few dates with the man. At the same time she’s helping to coordinate the sale of the stolen jewels and plotting her own escape from the city. Who would have thought she’d have time to fall in love with all that drama going on?

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The Heist

So, first things first. Honestly I feel the synopsis gives away a bit too much of the plot. I think I almost would have preferred if we didn’t know going in that Vita was involved in the heist. It could have been such an interesting twist to uncover maybe a few chapters in. After all, Vita has such a sweet and inviting personality, I don’t think I would have suspected her right away. Samuel obviously doesn’t! In my opinion, it was a missed opportunity to have some fun with the audience, and keep us all on our toes!

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As for the heist itself, I must say it was a good one. I don’t want to give away all the details, although again the synopsis does hint at some things. Even though we know immediately that Vita was responsible for the heist, you do sort of question throughout the novel the backstory involved to carrying out such a crime. You also can’t help but wonder if Vita and her co-conspirators will get away with it all. About halfway through the book you can start piecing all of the links and ties together, but it isn’t until the very end that we get one final explanation of the why, how, who, and what now? When all of these pieces ultimately come together you can’t help but smirk and think, “Well I’ll be damned!”.

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Sisterly Love

While everything does eventually come together full circle in the end, I do feel that we missed out along the way with some key details which really could have made this story a home-run. Firstly, Vita’s relationship with her sister, Tecla. This is one aspect of the novel that I just wish would have had more focus. Their dynamic is a major influencing factor to so many of Vita’s decisions, but I wanted more development regarding Tecla’s side of the story.

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Throughout the book we understand Vita’s driving force behind this heist was directly linked with wanting to take care of her sister, and yet at times you can sense some bitterness emanating from Tecla regarding how Vita treats her. Is it because Tecla doesn’t want to feel like a cripple who must be fawned over? Is it because she wants Vita to not miss out on all that life has to offer? Honestly, I’m not really sure, and I wish we could have had a few more scenes which just centered on sister and sister.

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The Don

Another important feature of the novel that was somewhat glossed over was the character of the Don. He’s the proprietor of the boutique from which the jewels were stolen, and a well-known mafioso. Understandably so, he’s a presence which sort of lurks in the shadows; a villain not to be trifled with or confronted. And yet, I guess I was surprised to find that Vita and her co-thieves don’t seem as wary of him as they probably should? While they all plan to leave town shortly after selling off the jewels, they don’t seem to discuss much of a plan regarding ensuring that this criminal Don never finds them again.

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Let’s face it, the fact that they all plan to leave town at basically the same time guarantees he’ll know they’re responsible, but they never really discuss going into hiding, changing their names, appearance, etc. Heck, even Vita’s plan is to flee to the town of Fusine. Sure, it’s gorgeous, not to mention a 5 hour drive from Milan, but it’s still in Italy for crying out loud! There may not be any direct evidence linking Vita to the heist, but the Don also seems like the type of guy who doesn’t bother with silly things like the law, or proof. He seems like the type of guy who would put a bullet in you if he suspected you of making him look the fool, and then ask questions later.

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

Series: Stand-alone

Should you read it? The base of the story is all here, and it’s one with great bones. That being said, I think it also could have used with a bit more description, and some embellishment here and there to give us a fully robust story. It’s a quick read, but almost too quick if you know what I mean. The details of the heist were awesome, and it’s great when you have a book that can have you rooting for a bunch of jewel thieves to succeed. The relationships of the story also could have been expanded upon more, including the sisterly dynamic between Vita and Tecla, as well as the romance between Samuel and Vita. I will say though, be prepared to want to book a flight to Italy pretty much as soon as you finish this one!

Smut Level: No hanky panky here. But at least we are warned straight off from the get-go that we won’t have any sex scenes. Honestly, I prefer that situation to being relentlessly teased throughout the whole thing wondering if we’ll have more. We do get some passionate kissing scenes, but nothing to make you blush too hard.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $6.99 Kindle Price. TouchPoint Press. 152 Pages.

The Beast of Aubyn Hall by Alex L. Michaels

A slightly quirky and accident prone bookworm? Check. A sexy as hell and overly confident alpha male? Check! You can definitely understand why this book would be part of the Bookworms & Alphas series!

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The man they call the beast, sworn off love, meets the bookish beauty who thinks that love exists only in books. When Bronte Beltran finds out that her next assignment is cataloging the famous Aubyn Hall library, she’s ecstatic. But when she finds out they call the owner the Beast of Aubyn Hall, not so much. A week in a dusty library should be right up her alley. But a wrong word at the wrong time and she might just find out what exactly is beastly about the Beast of Aubyn Hall.

First Impressions

Holy crap this book is the epitome of sexual tension build-up. Practically from the moment that Bronte crosses the threshold into Aubyn Hall, and hears the dark and foreboding voice of Caine, aka our Beast, you can practically feel the air get thick with desire. That being said, prepare yourself to be teased, as we don’t get a full and final…climax to this desire until the very final moments of the book. You’ll want to scream out loud, “Just ravish each other already!”

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In a way, it sort of follows the same story arch of the first novel, where we were also presented with some delayed gratification. Whereas book one presents us with a plethora of being pushed up against a wall and being whipped around for an intense close-up discussion, in this novel we get the added glory of Caine continually coming up behind Bronte in the heat of an argument. Sexy whispers in her ear, not to mention that a particularly part of his anatomy is usually…digging into her bum. I will say, although we are being teased right along with the characters, this makes for a very quick read because you just keep reading on and on so you can get to the moment when they consummate this thing.

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Sexy as Hell, buuuuuuut…

This book is sexy as all get out, but at the same time I also found the dynamic between Caine and Bronte to be somewhat worrisome. It’s clear that Caine is set and determined to have Bronte in his bed, and while she is obviously affected by his sexy whispers and passionate stares, she expends quite a bit of effort to convince both herself and him that she’s not receptive to his sexual ministrations. He’s also quick to boss her around, and while sometimes it relates to the fact that she’s working for him, in his home, cataloging his library, it also crosses the line of professionalism. Below is one quote which I found to be particularly concerning:

In fact, I don’t think he ever approached me in a kind or respectful manner. He just kept sneaking around me, provoking me, making me feel uncomfortable and sometimes he plainly insulted me. He also made me feel foolish, confused, insecure and sometimes plain afraid. But he also excited me enormously, that much I was able to admit to myself.

I mean, goodness gracious if it weren’t for that last sentence I’d be screaming at the woman to get the hell outta that house! At the same time though, whether she’s sexually excited by this man or not, I feel like the fact he sometimes made her feel “plain afraid”, can’t really be a good thing??? The last thing we want is to have an alpha male who borders the line into jackass. Although, I guess we were warned right in the title that we’re dealing with a beast here 🙂

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However, based on how the novel progresses it becomes clear that Bronte is definitely attracted to this man, and she just doesn’t want to admit it to herself, so it results in Bronte continually running away from her feelings for this man. One of my favorite quotes from the book is said by another woman who has her sights set on Caine, and during one confrontation with Bronte she declares, “and you want him to get you whether you’re willing to admit this to yourself or not”. Such an intelligent statement that can carry over into so many romance novels. I guess I just wish there weren’t those moments thrown in where Bronte admits she doesn’t feel respected by Caine. It kind of throws a damper on the sexual fire that is spreading throughout the rest of the book.

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A Library in Disarray

Bronte and her team have been brought to Aubyn Hall in order to get Caine’s library in order for eventual public view. Maybe I’m just too much of a book nerd, but I sort of wish more time had been spent talking about the details involved with this work. I mean, what exactly goes into cataloging a library? Apparently a lot of heavy lifting, but what else? Alphabetizing? Writing down all the titles? Making sure there’s a designated romance section? This sort of ties in as well to my wish that Bronte and Caine had connected a bit more over their shared love of books. They both admit to the fact that they’re book lovers, but maybe having just one or two additional moments where they connect over books in the library might have transformed their relationship beyond just the obvious sexual connection.

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A Beast with a Set Mind

Apparently Caine has a motto in life when it comes to Bronte, and that would be “I have set my mind on you.” This is his answer for everything when it comes to why he is constantly pursuing Bronte, and why he refuses to give up on her. No matter how many times she says no. Bronte is totally stumped when it comes to Caine’s pursuit, since she can’t understand why someone as gorgeous and rich as him would pursue a bookworm such as her.

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This brings us to the inevitable confrontation and blow-up between Caine and Bronte. Just when they are starting to make some progress and headway to starting a relationship, it is revealed that Caine asked for Bronte specifically when it came to the work on his library. Apparently he had seen her once before, and this provoked his mind to be set on her. Honestly, I had a bit of trouble understanding why this was seen as such an offense to Bronte. She is immediately pissed, and explains that it was a way of Caine using his money to try and exert his control into her life.

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Which, ok, I can see is kind of weird. He could have just been a normal person, walked into the library where she was working and ask her out for a cup of coffee. But then we wouldn’t have a book, would we? 🙂 I guess her reaction seemed just a bit over-the-top considering this ploy to get her in his house was essentially his version of a pick-up line. My favorite comment on this entire situation comes from Bronte’s friend who states, “…boo hoo. So what? Maybe it wasn’t the smoothest type of seduction, but it wasn’t the worst either.” Amen sister!

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

Series: Bookworms & Alphas, book 2. You really don’t need to read the first book in this series to follow the plot of this one. The female lead from book 1 does get a mention towards the end of the novel, but there’s no plot carry over, so you should be all set! I’d love to see future books in this series focus on some of the supplemental characters from this book, as they are an absolute hoot!

Should you read it? This is sort of a different take on your classic Beauty and the Beast tale, in that our beast is actually gorgeous. He’s more beastly in manner, not to mention a beast in the bedroom. When it comes to building sexual tension this book has perfected it to a damn near science, but I wish we would have seen a bit more connection between the characters over their love of books. It’s sort of the only time we see a soothing to his beastly manner, and I just wanted more of it. I also wasn’t a huge fan of their dispute over why Bronte was brought to Aubyn Hall to begin with. While it provided conflict to the plot, I couldn’t really understand why she was soooo offended at the thought of being brought there because he’d seen her before.

Smut Level: Caine just loves to make a happy hour of Bronte, in that he has the tendency to pour his alcoholic beverages over her before lapping it up. While we have to wait quite a long time before they officially have sex, we get a delightful amount of dirty talk and teasing before then.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 153 Pages.

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Love Comes in the Mourning by Erin Bevan

A big city girl in a small Georgia town. When house renovations are involved, you just know fun mayhem is bound to happen.

What’s it About?

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Recently divorced and down on her luck, Lesley DeLoach is determined to make a new life for herself. When she inherits her great aunt’s estate, Rosalyn Manor, her future seems to be heading in the right direction—until she sees the home’s crumbling skeleton.

Widower John Hambrice is barely keeping his construction company afloat and his children fed, so when he’s offered a job restoring the Rosalyn Manor he can’t turn it down. But the big city client with the high falutin lifestyle reminds him too much of the last time he was burned by big money.

As the summer temperatures rise, so does their attraction. He learns there’s more to the city girl than he expected, while she learns the country boy’s gruff exterior hides a heart of gold. But each has lost so much in love already…is the chance of another broken heart worth the risk?

First Impressions

My goodness ladies and gents if I have one piece of advice for you, it’s be sure to have the tissues ready before you attempt this one. Little did I know that by reading the short prologue I’d be going on an emotional roller coaster that would basically have me ugly crying by the time I got to the first chapter. This is what I get for thinking I can just nonchalantly start a new novel 15 minutes before bedtime. We open on a hospital room where John is saying his final goodbyes to his wife as she dies from cancer.

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My God, the waterworks are coming again just thinking about this scene! Definitely a sad start, but believe me when I say this book actually has some funny shenanigans thrown in as well! Those begin a year later when Lesley moves to town following her divorce, and starts renovations on the old mansion she inherited from her Aunt Myrtle. And just who do you think is selected as the contractor for this huge project? Why John of course! It’s a tale of second chances at love and starting over, even if you didn’t think you’re ready for it.

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Moving On

Lesley has moved to Georgia in an attempt to start her life over for herself. To live independently for the first time in her life following the separation from her cheating ass-hat of an ex-husband. People think she’s crazy for putting so much time and money into the decrepit old house her Aunt Myrtle left her, but she sees this potential to run her own B&B as a way to take back control in her life. She seemingly doesn’t have time for love, but upon her first consultation meeting with John it’s undeniable that something is pulling them together. Should she take a chance on this man so soon after the end of her marriage?

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As for John, he too is contemplating this immediate attraction he has towards Lesley. Not only is the woman a complete and total klutz, but John has already found and lost the love of his life to a terrible sickness. He also has his two children to think about. Getting involved with a big city girl who might give up on these crazy renovations before the week is out isn’t something he can take a chance on. Or is it? The more time these two spend together fixing up her aunt’s house, the more difficulty John has at staying away. But is he betraying the memory of his wife by essentially moving on with someone else? To quote his own inner turmoil, “…thinking about Sandra and Lesley in the same thought just seemed wrong. Completely wrong. Like he disrespected both women without even trying”. This poor man! Can I have the chance to give him a hug please?

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The Renovations From Hell

Although this novel has a decidedly sad prologue, I was surprised at the abundant amount of humor we get injected into the story line as well. Lesley is far from a HGTV star, and seemingly trips over everything. That being said, this woman has dedication, and she’s no quitter. John quickly recognizes the fight in her, and he becomes determined as well to help her through this renovation.

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A large portion of the novel is spent focusing on John and Lesley within the confines of the house, working and sweating away on getting the house in tip-top shape. However, every once in a while we also get to see the various personalities of the locals, and they added just as much hilarity to the story as the bickering between John and Lesley. Heck, they even hold town hall meetings à la Gilmore Girls. What’s not to love here? And although the novel starts off with Lesley as an outsider to this small little corner of the world, with time we see how they start to adopt her as one of their own. It’s pretty touching to see this whole town rally together to support someone they once saw as an outsider.

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An Unexpected Romance

They tried to fight it as much as possible, but we all knew that eventually John and Lesley would end up in bed together. And it’s so delightful when they do. However, something I wasn’t expecting is that this novel also presents us with a little historical romance as well. Soon after arriving in the house, Lesley locates some journal entries from when her Aunt Myrtle was a teenager which recount a passionate romance she had with a poor artist who was traveling through town. I must say the author did an amazing job at weaving together these two romances; one contemporary and one historical. We see that there are corresponding themes between the romances, such as learning to take a risk in life, as well as opening up and taking a chance on a stranger.

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Unfortunately, things are a bit more depressing when it comes to the aunt’s story, mainly because we know from the get-go that she won’t get her happily ever after, no matter how much we cross our fingers in the hopes that she will. When the story opens we are told that Aunt Myrtle lived her life as a recluse, never marrying or having any children. In addition, as Lesley researches more about this artist Myrtle fell in love with, she mentions early on that he only became famous after his untimely death. Sooooo…we all know this won’t end well! That being said, having these brief journal entries interspersed throughout the novel still created a sense of anticipation in that you wondered how it would all come together, even though in a way we knew how it was going to end.

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The Warm and…Depressies?

Although I really really enjoyed this unique inclusion of a historical romantic story line, I must say I wasn’t thrilled with the timing of how it all ended. Essentially, the novel ends with a happily ever after between John and Lesley, and then in the epilogue we read one last sad journal entry which ultimately closes the book on our historical romance. It’s quite a jarring juxtaposition to see that while John and Lesley took a chance on finding new love after their first loves ended, Aunt Myrtle took no such chance. She chose to live out the rest of her life with just the memory of this one great love.

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I almost wish these journal entries had provided us with the conclusion to aunt Myrtle’s story at maybe the halfway or 3/4 point in the novel. Instead, our book closes on both an incredible high and rather depressing low. Get the tissues out again folks! I found myself thinking about this ending a few days after finishing the book, as you’re sort of caught in an emotional limbo. You want to celebrate the fact that John and Lesley found happiness with each other, but at the same time you’re stuck thinking about poor Aunt Myrtle and her artist. Instead of ending the book with the warm and fuzzies, it sort of felt like the warm and…depressies.

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

Series: A beautiful stand-alone.

Should you read it? This book will have you experiencing almost every range of the emotional spectrum. From a devastatingly sad start, to a quirky and funny middle, and a romantic finish at the end. While slightly predictable, there’s moments of suspense and the exploration of faith. It’s a great read if you’re debating between a contemporary or historical romance, as you sort of get both mixed in together! My one piece of advice would be to start this book when you have enough time to get a few chapters into it so that you can get beyond the initial sadness of the death of John’s wife. It’s an emotionally heartbreaking start, but you’ll soon find yourself smiling at the sexy flirtations between John and Lesley. Trust me!

Smut Level: When a hurricane is blowing into town you just know what that means. Sex in the rain!!! Or at least, sex starting in the rain before stumbling indoors. And we get some delightful moments of being pushed up against a wall of course. Classic!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 300 Pages.

The Search by Nora Roberts

This is a tale of intrigue, murder, and a copy cat killer on the loose. And yet, I must say I found one of the most disturbing scenes in this novel to revolve around a soft drink. At one point a friend of our main character goes over to her house and is offered a cold beverage, at which point the friend requests a Coca-Cola. Our female lead responds that she just has Pepsi. Diet Pepsi. And the friend…proceeds…to drink it. Now, whether you prefer Coke or Pepsi I think we can all view this scene as an affront to human nature! You can’t just flip flop between the two!! Let alone accept diet when you wanted regular (for the record Coca-Cola is the best).

What’s it About?

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To most people, Fiona Bristow seems to have an idyllic life—a quaint house on an island off Seattle’s coast, a thriving dog-training school and a challenging volunteer job performing Canine Search and Rescue. Not to mention her three intensely loyal Labs. But Fiona got to this point by surviving a nightmare. Several years ago, Fiona was the only survivor of the Red Scarf Killer, who shot and killed Fiona’s cop fiancé and his K-9 partner.

On Orcas Island, Fiona has found the peace and solitude necessary to rebuild her life. But all that changes on the day Simon Doyle barrels up her drive, desperate for her help. He’s an intensely private wood artist and the reluctant owner of an out-of-control puppy named Jaws. As Fiona embarks on training Jaws, and Simon begins to appreciate both dog and trainer, the past tears back into Fiona’s life. A copycat killer has emerged out of the shadows, a man whose bloodlust has been channeled by a master with one motive: to reclaim the woman who slipped out of his hands.

First Impression

This novel presents us with a rather odd blend of romantic comedy and murder mystery. On the one hand, we have Fiona, our strong-willed dog trainer who happens to find love with a new client who is having trouble with a rambunctious puppy. On the flip side, a killer has his sights set on Fiona, as she escaped from the clutches of this copycat’s mentor years before. I’m not gonna lie, it was kind of disorienting to be laughing at the crazy antics of our untrained puppy while also remaining fearful of the evil we know is lurking in the background. Personally I felt the novel focused a bit too much on the light-hearted romance aspect. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a cute romantic comedy, and it was refreshing at times to be presented with another funny furry shenanigan after a rather brutal murder scene. However, it was also jarring to have so many cute scenes, and then suddenly switch gears to a short chapter involving our demented killer. In my opinion, the novel would have benefited from a more evened balance of romance vs. suspense.

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Give it To Me Straight

Now, I know what you all are wondering. Sure, we have a killer out there terrorizing young college females out for solitary runs through the woods. But…do any of the dogs die? Don’t lie, that’s exactly what you were wondering! Well, to all those pet lovers out there, let me take this moment to give you a brief spoiler alert so you know whether or not to give this novel a chance. When it comes to the question of whether or not any beloved canines lose their lives, the answer is…sort of. Ok, yes, a dog dies. BUT! We only hear a quick retelling of a story where a dog dies by getting shot. It’s not a dog that we develop any emotional connection to. That being said, if you’re anything like my mom, I’m sure some of you will see this as a reason to avoid this book entirely. However, trust me when I say you can get past it! The dogs in this story are adorable, strong and heroic. You might even pick up on a few training techniques, so it just might be worth the read!

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Red Scarf Killer 2

While our killer was in no means a fun character to be around, I felt that we didn’t get enough of a focus on him to truly understand his drive behind these killings. When it comes to the original killer, we are presented with a clear motive which revolves around a troubled childhood and a neglectful mother. For our copycat though, we are briefly introduced to a familial undercurrent, but the desire for fame and celebrity status apparently overrides all else. However, considering he hadn’t committed any crimes before coming into contact with this original killer, it seemed like we missed the driving force, the impetus if you will, behind why he felt the need to suddenly carry out such violent and devious crimes. Unless the true reason really was to make a name for himself. In which case…well that’s just freakin’ depressing.

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The Final Confrontation

In the midst of all our puppy training and developing romance, we know that the whole book is gearing up to a final confrontation between Fiona and the copycat killer who has slowly been making his way closer and closer to her island sanctuary. Our killer starts out his murderous spree in the exact image of his mentor, but as things progress he diverges more and more from the original killer’s teachings, and his killings become increasingly violent. Consider yourself warned that some scenes are pretty disturbingly graphic, dealing with the killer’s dark desires surrounding pain, torture, and even rape. When we finally get to the ultimate confrontation between Fiona and our copycat killer, I must say it wasn’t as climactic of a final face-off as I was expecting.

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Kind of a let down considering we spent the last 400 pages or so waiting around for it to come about. I will say though, in the end it was probably more realistic that Fiona wouldn’t be caught alone and unawares to be kidnapped by a psychotic killer for a second time in her life. Pretty much from page 1 we see how Fiona is the ultimate bad ass, trained in self-defense, and is constantly surrounded by her three loving canines who would do anything to protect her. Throughout the novel I became increasingly worried that we would ultimately be confronted with a scenario where Fiona would suddenly be found separated from her dogs, friends and new lover to be left as a sitting duck for our Red Scarf Killer. While that doesn’t happen, and our female lead does retain her bad ass status when eventually confronted with the killer, it made for a less exciting finish than I was expecting after so much build-up. In the end, the confrontation ends pretty quickly, and without much mystery or surprise.

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Series: Stand-alone.

Should you read it? Oddly enough, we probably could have removed the killer element completely from this story, and still have been left with a perfectly well-rounded romantic comedy. It was kind of bizarre to have this darker murderous element built in at such seemingly random times. In the end I’d have to say the biggest setback to this being a well-balanced suspenseful romance was the length of the novel. If it had been about 100 pages shorter, and with a handful less dog training scenes, it would have been damn-near perfect. The lead characters, both human and canine, have extremely strong and loving personalities. At times our male lead is a bit too fearful of admitting his feelings of love and commitment to Fiona, but in the end they have a special bond that even a killer can’t break.

Smut Level: You’d think it’d be tough for these two to find a moment alone, considering all the dogs constantly surrounding them. But…well that’s the benefit of a shower, now isn’t it?

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $7.99 Kindle Price. $5.88 Hardcover Price. Berkley Publishing. 497 Pages.

Rock Addiction by Nalini Singh

From New Zealand to Los Angeles, sometimes you have to take a chance and go the distance for true love. Even when it involves a world famous rock star.

What’s it About?

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A bad boy wrapped in a sexy, muscled, grown-up package might be worth a little risk… Molly Webster has always followed the rules. After an ugly scandal tore apart her childhood and made her the focus of the media’s harsh spotlight, she vowed to live an ordinary life. No fame. No impropriety. No pain. Then she meets Zachary Fox, a tattooed bad boy rocker with a voice like whiskey and sin, and a touch that could become an addiction.

A one-night stand with the hottest rock star on the planet, that’s all it was meant to be… Fox promises scorching heat and dangerous pleasure, coaxing Molly to extend their one-night stand into a one-month fling. After that, he’ll be gone forever, his life never again intersecting with her own. Sex and sin and sensual indulgence, all with an expiration date. No ties, no regrets. Too late, Molly realizes it isn’t only her body that’s become addicted to Fox, but her heart…

First Impressions

The meet cute is everything in a romance novel. When Molly first sets her eyes on Fox, in person, for the first time she is immediately smitten. She’s aware of his rock-star status, and is undeniably drawn to his sex appeal and dark persona. As someone who’s always played by the rules, Molly admits to herself that she could see herself taking a chance with this one. Even if it’s just for one night. Fox on the other hand? He’s been eyeing her from across the room all night long. He knows that Molly isn’t just someone he wants to take to bed, but rather is someone he wants to have a future with. She’s different than other women, and he’s dead set on convincing her that he’s different than other men. That they have a connection which is worth more than one night.

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Now, why was it that Fox’s commitment beam was focused so specifically on Molly? Honestly, I have…no…idea. And it bugs me! Throughout the whole novel I kept waiting around for some sort of explanation, or window into what Fox was feeling that night. How, considering his life in the limelight, he knew that this woman was so different than any other woman who had come before. Sure, we could say that it’s because she just wanted one night with him when other women had always demanded more. We could perhaps theorize that it’s because Molly’s sister is his PR rep, and maybe she had shared with him the details of how amazing and special her sister was. But we never hear that from Fox directly, and it’s kind of killing me to wonder how he knew before even speaking to her that she was worth pursuing so vehemently. Perhaps we’re dealing with a rock star with a bad case of love at first sight.

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From Part 1 to 2

While I didn’t really understand the logistics of their initial meet-cute, I must say the progression of their relationship was addicting to behold. A note to all the romance authors out there, this book is the perfect example of how to divide a novel into multiple parts. Part 1 of the book is set entirely in New Zealand, and is mainly focused on laying the foundation of Molly and Fox’s relationship. They’re getting to know each other, both physically and emotionally, and Fox is trying his damnedest to convince Molly to take a chance on him. She’s hesitant to enter into a long-term romantic relationship with him because she knows that if the paparazzi catch wind of their affair, then the sordid details of her family’s past will come to light. She’ll have to relive it all. But with Fox by her side, she realizes it just might be worth the risk. Cue Part 2.

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About halfway through the book we get a “Part 2” heading, and we immediately switch gears to Fox’s home turf in Los Angeles. The focus changes to living life in the fast lane, and wondering if their relationship is strong enough to face the pressures of reality and celebrity. And I must say, it’s unbelievable how important that little “Part 2” heading was. If it hadn’t been indicated, I think the book would have felt ridiculously disconnected, almost as though we were dealing with two books smashed together into one. But just by having that little heading, I was able to mentally prepare myself for the story to veer off into another direction. This is when Molly and Fox’s relationship is truly put to the test.

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Testing the Waters

There are bound to be disagreements and arguments in every relationship, especially when a couple moves in together. Considering this particular couple is moving in together after only knowing each other for a month, he’s a famous rock star, and she left behind all she knew in New Zealand to be with him? Yeah, you can prepare yourself for a spat or two. Now, I must say at times I found their dynamics during these arguments to be somewhat problematic. It seemed like Molly was always the one apologizing to Fox for whatever disagreement they seemed to be having. For example, at one point after the move to Los Angeles they get into a fight because she decides to buy groceries for them,  considering he’s always the one to purchase things.

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Fox kind of goes off the rails and says she needs to get used to the fact that he’ll want to spoil her a bit and pay for things. Mkay, I must say this kind of upset me. This woman just quit her job, said goodbye to all of her friends, packed up, and moved all the way to the other side of the world to be with him. She’s getting situated into a new life where she’s trying to feel needed, helpful, useful, and instead she feels guilty for always accepting his money. Let her pay for the damn groceries! If this is a way that she feels she can contribute to the relationship while she’s trying to get her life in order as he creates music all day, why use it as a source for an argument? Just have kitchen sex or something and get over it. It’s just one example, but there were a few times in the novel where it seemed like Fox would kind of snip at Molly for trying to acclimate to his world.

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The Truth Comes Out

Throughout the entire novel we are waiting for two major reveals. The first is the truth surrounding Molly’s family, specifically her father. The details are hinted at here and there, but we really have to wait a while before Molly has an honest and open discussion with Fox about the particulars. And I must say it is an utterly heartbreaking reveal. It finally makes sense why Molly was so hesitant to enter into a relationship with Fox. She didn’t want the paparazzi to start digging into her past, and drudge up all the horrific memories she’s tried to put behind her for so long. However, this sad past also highlights the beauty of her present relationship with Fox. She’s finally living her life for herself, taking chances and making decisions based on what she thinks will bring her true happiness. And for her that means Fox. He helps her learn how to live in the moment, and understand that a future with him can bring even more joy and love. Quite touching!

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The other big moment that we’re waiting around for is the discovery of Molly and Fox’s relationship by the paparazzi. And of course something else which goes hand-in-hand with that: the insinuation by the paparazzi of infidelity. There was no way it could be avoided, but there’s the constant wonder of when and how it will happen. And when it finally does I must say I was pleasantly surprised with the aftermath. At first Molly is devastated, and her flight response kicks in. But then lo and behold she does something that most romance novel leading ladies in a similar situation always seem incapable of. She takes a moment to breathe, calm down, and think things through logically. Molly reminds herself of not only how much she loves Fox, but all the different ways he’s convinced her of how dedicated he is to her. She then proceeds to talk to him about her fears and doubts, and together they are able to find their way through the mishaps and misunderstandings. Who knew they could be such cool-headed adults!! Did it make for a somewhat uneventful read when dramatic reveals were handled in such a mindful way? Sure, in a way, but it was also unbelievably refreshing to not once again see a female lead who could be so easily dismayed and swindled by gossip rags.

Series: Rock Kiss, book 1. I’m excited to see the romance stories of our other bad boy members of the band who played such crucial supplemental roles in this first story. Each musician appears to have a distinct personality, and I’m looking forward to getting to know them more.

Should you read it? Definitely an interesting story arch as we see our couple build their relationship from the coast of New Zealand to the fast pace of LA. They have their ups and downs along the way, with both of their pasts coming back to test them. However, they also find strength in each other, which helps them through the inevitable challenges of fame and romance. I do wish we learned a bit more of the impetus for Fox’s initial link to Molly, and why he was so willing to fight for her considering the start of their relationship was primarily based around sex. They eventually develop a heartwarming emotional connection that has you crossing your fingers in the hope that they’ll succeed through all the paparazzi mayhem. Personally I really enjoyed their ability to not give into the artificial drama which was being created around them, but instead they could focus on the importance of their own relationship and that with their closest friends and band mates.

Smut Level: This romance definitely has an interesting balance of scenes which are kind of glossed over, and then others which are provided in explicit detail. You never quite know what you’re gonna get!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. TKA Distribution. 406 Pages.

White Roses in Winter by Barbara Meyers

Will one night of romance on the beach turn into a lifetime of happiness?

What’s it About?

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The princess. The pauper. And a shotgun…The only thing Jason is focused on is getting through his last year of college. But the instant attraction between him and Kerrie leads to one unforgettable night together. When Kerrie’s wealthy, overly-protective father learns she is pregnant, he arranges a temporary marriage to teach her a lesson about choices and consequences. Jason reluctantly agrees to keep his participation in the plan a secret, because it’s the only way he can safeguard his future and his family. Kerrie is blinded by her romantic fantasy and doesn’t suspect she’s been set up. Meanwhile, Jason guards his heart and vows that when Kerrie leaves with their baby, he won’t beg her to stay. Just when it seems a future together is possible, lies, betrayal and deceit threaten to separate Kerrie and Jason forever. Faced with losing each other and their baby, will their fragile bond be strong enough?

First Impressions

Based on the synopsis, I was surprised to see how this novel actually started. I figured we’d witness the initial attraction between Jason and Kerrie which ultimately lead to her ending up pregnant before the two get married. Imagine my surprise when instead we open on a pill-popping woman named Tiffany who watches on in pure disdain as Jason and Kerrie wander back to her birthday house party after a tumble on a sandy beach. She wants Jason for herself, and although Kerrie is her “friend”, she is filled with an overwhelming amount of hatred towards her for stealing her crush out from under her. Switch to the next scene, and Tiffany is pushed to the background to instead focus on Kerrie discovering her pregnancy, and the progression of her marriage to Jason.

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A unique start to be sure considering our meet-cute is introduced through the eyes of a troubled and hate-filled character. Although I must admit this was an interesting way to start off our romantic tale, I couldn’t help but feel that I missed some of the initial connection between Kerrie and Jason seeing as we never really witnessed it directly. The evening’s activities do sort of come together piecemeal throughout the rest of the novel, as we see things from both Kerrie and Jason’s point of view. However, considering this is the very first crucial introduction to their relationship, and we see it through Tiffany’s jealousy and contempt, it seems we lost some of the magic which could have helped explain why these two characters felt a connection in the first place. I guess in my humble opinion the moment didn’t receive the proper attention that it deserved considering it’s the foundation and impetus for their entire future together.

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An Unnecessary Marriage?

I found myself asking a lot of questions throughout Jason and Kerrie’s relationship, and ultimately I’m not sure they were all answered. Or at least, they left me a bit confused. The first I sort of brushed upon in my intro, which was why exactly these two came together in the first place. Neither are “beach sex” kind of people, so they must have seen something in the other which pushed them to throw their inhibitions to the wind, but again this moment never really had the focus and attention I think it deserved. Especially considering what comes next. Their marriage.

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Honestly, I’m still sort of scratching my head over this one. I understand why Kerrie wanted to keep the baby, but I don’t really understand why she felt the need to marry Jason. Couldn’t they try dating for a while? Was a ceremony really necessary? It is sort of implied the marriage was a result of family pressure, specifically from Kerrie’s father, but when he goes to speak with Jason about the prospect of marrying his daughter he openly admits he doesn’t want them to marry. After they do marry her father tries to show Kerrie how unfit Jason is as a husband, and takes some rather drastic steps in an attempt to keep them apart. The whole situation just seemed to constantly contradict itself.

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As for Jason, he acknowledges to himself that he wants to be a part of his child’s life, whether his marriage to Kerrie succeeds or fails. Yet when Kerrie first moves in after their wedding Jason actively ignores her, and tries to limit their interaction whenever possible. I just had trouble understanding the dynamic in the beginning. Wouldn’t he want to be somewhat agreeable if he plans to stay in his child’s life forever, and this is his child’s mother? That being said, I’m happy to say that eventually their tale of romance all comes together for a fantastic conclusion. You really come to root for these two to succeed as a couple, and when they finally learn how to talk to each other and open up about their feelings? Well you just wanna cheer for their success. We see how they find strength when they’re together as a unit. As a family. And nothing could possibly keep them apart.

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The Disapproving Parents

That being said, Kerrie’s mother and father certainly go to some extreme lengths to try and keep these two apart. On the one hand, I found it really difficult to understand how her parents could be so cruel in their attempt to keep Jason away from Kerrie. She’s pregnant for crying out loud, you really wanna risk upsetting her because you don’t approve of the lad? When they do manage to separate the two of them at one point in the story it’s clear how distraught Kerrie is at the separation, and yet they continue to keep her locked away from him like a defenseless animal in a cage. I feel like my parents would be too fearful of my wrath to ever pull this kind of stunt if I were to catch on to their antics.

870307_029Although I had such trouble picturing this scenario with any sense of reality to it, I must say on the other hand I could totally understand it, 100%! It really wasn’t until the very end though that it all came together for me. Throughout the whole thing I kept thinking, what kind of dick parents are these?! To keep their daughter miserable. To be so unnecessarily over-protective. But then, when father and daughter finally have their heart-to-heart conversation at the end? Man, it got to me! As a daddy’s girl, and as the baby of my own family, it finally made sense. To see the lengths two parents would go to in the hopes of protecting their baby from harm. For them to eventually go through the sad realization that she’s not a baby anymore. They have to let her go and live her life. I must say, it was a frustrating road to travel, but in the end it had the most touching and heartfelt of conclusions.

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The Intermittent Villain

Every once in a while throughout this tale of pregnancy, family drama and romance we would see an unexpected reappearance of Tiffany. Don’t tell me you forgot about her already! Our troubled “friend” of Kerrie’s who first witnessed the connection of our lovebirds, and was filled with overwhelming hatred for Kerrie at the sight of it. With every reappearance of Tiffany throughout the book we see that her feelings of ill-will and increased pill-popping is building up to something momentous. While our tale does start and end with Tiffany, thereby coming completely full-circle, I couldn’t help but feel that her villainous story-line was slightly out of place, or maybe unnecessary.

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Kerrie and Jason are dealing with enough drama for crying out loud. They’re trying to figure out how to live with each other, not to mention they have a baby on the way, and her disapproving parental units are acting up. This element of a covetous ex-friend took things slightly over the top for me. Her character definitely brought some high-level suspense to the story, but I think the story also would have felt more realistic without this component to it. Especially considering it was really hard to comprehend why Kerrie and Tiffany would have been friends for so long. Let’s just say her bouts of crazy go back quite a long time!

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

Series: Stand-alone romance

Should you read it? It did take a while for Kerrie and Jason to form an emotional bond.  The scenes of them getting to know each other and playing house after their wedding drag on for a bit of an awkward pace. I also wish Kerrie’s pregnancy had been featured more prominently. While it was what brought them together at the start, the details of her being pregnant were pushed to the side that I sort of forgot she was even pregnant at times! If only they could have gone to some doctor’s appointments together, experienced some emotion at seeing that first sonogram photo, go through strange cravings, changing dress sizes, or morning sickness! While we don’t really see any of this, it’s definitely worth sticking around for the end, as this is when the magic of their relationship and Kerrie’s interactions with her parents come to the forefront.

Smut Level: Nothing too overly graphic. There is one kind of awkward scene as they get intimate while Kerrie’s breastfeeding. I feel like having a baby staring at you with big bright eyes while your lover kisses down your throat would sort of kill the mood. But hey, whatever does it for ya!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Barbara Meyers LLC. 375 Pages.