The Best Friend’s Guide to Taking Risks by Kadie Scott & Nicole Flockton

This is a must read for anyone who enjoys an all consuming friend-to-lovers romance. It will leave you smiling, giggling, and blushing from the chemistry between these two entertaining and lovable characters.

What’s it About? 

Everyone knows that the biggest risk you can take with your best friend is to cross a certain line.

When it comes to relationships, Hunter Lancing is not a risk taker. Between his parents’ terrible divorce and his own bad decisions, he’s been burned. Computers make more sense to him. Everything has a rule. Everything is defined. Like his computers, his best friend is defined, constant, and comes with rules he won’t break.

Part-time children’s party princess Natalie Morgan dances to the beat of a drum no one else can hear. The only person who truly gets her and is never scared off by her sometimes zany ideas is Hunter. But she has a big problem. Natalie keeps having all these…feelings…for her bestie.

But on a weekend getaway, a game of risky dares and one-upmanship that was supposed to just be for laughs may just end up with both of them crossing the friend zone line.

First Impressions

Natalie and Hunter have always been close friends, nothing more, but after a few interesting turn of events they can’t help but start to see each other in a different light. From Natalie running to her bestie for comfort following a tough day at work, to the possibility of Hunter leaving town…and maybe an unexpected glimpse or two of what’s lying in wait underneath their clothes, all of these moments combine to push their friendship into another category entirely. So much more than a simple friends-to-lovers romance, The Best Friend’s Guide to Taking Risks also presents us with a delightful case of opposites attract. The fact Natalie and Hunter’s personalities are so different from each other helps explain why it took so long for these two characters with such an obvious connection to take things to the next stage in their relationship.

Hunter is a rule follower, constantly looking to his computers and code for the answer. A straight-laced nerd, if you will. Natalie couldn’t be more distinct. She’s the fun-loving, energetic, children’s party princess. In spite of their differences, these two have no trouble turning to one another when it matters most. She helps him remember to play and let his hair down every once in a while. To look behind the code on the computer screen in front of him. Hunter might think Natalie does things that are off-the-wall, but he never judges her for it, or demand she tone things down. When others judge and look down upon her quirky ways, he manages to pull her back up again. He lets Natalie be…Natalie. And she loves him for it, just as much as he loves her for this whimsicality. They compliment each other even though they seem mismatched on the surface, and it’s during a short trip to Austin, Texas, as Hunter contemplates a possible future move there, that his relationship with Natalie is finally knocked into fifth gear.

The Perfect Blend of Comedy and Warmth

The true accomplishment of this book came from the idyllic blend of silliness with grounded emotional moments. There were some exceptional examples of our characters responding to perceived crises or dramatic moments in relatable, “believable” ways. When Natalie discovers that her best friend (who she is just now starting to feel the stirrings of something more for) mentions how he might be moving several states away, her response isn’t to throw a temper tantrum, declare that the move could break their connection, or highlight all the reasons why he should stay. Instead, she travels with him to show her support, and demonstrate how she only has his best interests at heart. She brings along her sparkling personality in an attempt to highlight all the great things Austin could potentially offer, even though the idea of him moving away is a difficult reality for her to face. If it’s ultimately what he wants, she’ll stand by his side as he makes the decision. Mixed in with her words of encouragement was an over-the-top card game which forced both Natalie and Hunter to engage in a slew of hilarious, and oftentimes embarrassing “risks”. The continuation of these playful hijinks throughout their time together in Austin, as well as upon their return to Sacramento, was undoubtedly a highlight of the novel. We can’t help but blush in embarrassment right alongside Hunter, yet also admire Natalie’s ability to role with the punches throughout the game. 

Another critical development in Hunter and Natalie’s relationship, beyond them finally taking things to the next level in Austin, was in the aftermath of their passionate night together. I loved how we saw both of them internally struggle over how this might forever alter their friendship, but they ultimately verbalized how much they meant to the other, and admitted that they want to see where this thing might lead. When various relationships from Hunter’s past, including that of his ex-wife and his divorced parents, threaten to intrude upon his newfound physical connection with Natalie, we once again see him question how this might affect his future with his best friend. In some moments, he can clearly distinguish how his past is different from his present with Natalie, and convince himself to push forward in their relationship. In others, the uncertainties and fears overwhelm his ability to act with his heart rather than with his head. Throughout it all, Natalie never fails in her ability to notice when he’s struggling, offer her support or comfort, and in many cases is successful in talking through every new concern that might face them together as a couple. In the end there is only one pressing matter from his past which threatens to tear them apart. However, similar to the beginning when we saw how the prospect of being without Hunter impacted Natalie’s perspective, Hunter too must see a glimpse of how things would be forever altered if she wasn’t present in his life anymore. Is he willing to take that risk?

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

Series: Stand-alone (for the moment?). I need this to be a series featuring Natalie’s sisters. Please and thank you.

Final Impressions: On the whole this is a light-hearted and hilarious read that shows how two friends can unexpectedly start to view their relationship in a different light. In spite of all the silly moments, from embarrassing risk cards to a knight-in-shining-armor costume, this read did successfully manage to weave in some beautiful emotional displays of love, fear and friendship. I also appreciated how the authors threw several of my pre-conceived romance novel expectations out the window, such as avoiding misunderstandings or arguments over minor issues, while still throwing in some beloved tried and true tropes along the way. If you’re headed to the beach, you won’t want to leave this one behind!

Smut Level: This is the perfect example of a sweet read with a LOT of heat.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. 272 Pages. 

Screwdrivered by Alice Clayton

When Viv inherits a house on the other side of the country, she contemplates a romance with either a hunky cowboy or a smoldering librarian. Who knew tweed jackets and elbow patches could be so sexy?

What’s it About?

Readers back for a third round of the bestselling Cocktail series will enjoy a madcap romantic comedy about bodice ripping and chest heaving, fiery passion and love everlasting. Plus a dash of paperwork filing and horseshi—wait, what?

By day, Viv Franklin designs software programs. By night, Vivian’s a secret romance-novel junkie who longs for a knight in shining armor, or a cowboy on a wild stallion, or a strapping firefighter to sweep her off her feet. And she gets to wear the bodice—don’t forget the bodice. When a phone call brings news that she’s inherited a beautiful old home in Mendocino, California from a long-forgotten aunt, she moves her entire life across the country to embark on what she sees as a great, romance-novel-worthy adventure. But romance novels always have a twist, don’t they? There’s a cowboy, one that ignites her loins. Because Cowboy Hank is totally loin-ignition worthy. But there’s also a librarian, Clark Barrow. And he calls her Vivian. Can tweed jackets and elbow patches compete with chaps and spurs? You bet your sweet cow pie.

In Screwdrivered, Alice Clayton pits Superman against Clark in a hilarious and hot battle that delights a swooning Viv/Vivian. Also within this book, an answer to the question of the ages: Why ride a cowboy when you can ride a librarian?

First Impressions

While nothing has quite lived up to the near spectacular perfection that was the first book in this Cocktail series, Wallbanger, we still get a fun and entertaining addition in this third read. Viv is a spunky, vivacious heroine who definitely lives life according to the beat of her own drum. She’s romance novel obsessed, which means she automatically rises up a few notches in my perception. She’s a dreamer, often visualizing romance novel scenarios playing out in her daydreams, so when she receives a late night call in the middle of the night informing her that she’s inherited a cliff-side fixer-upper home along the coast of California, Vivian believes she might just be in the midst of her very own romance novel. As soon as Viv arrives out west to gaze upon the stunning home which is now hers, not to mention catches a glimpse of the surly cowboy who cares for the animals on the property, Vivian is convinced that she just needs to peel away the layers to connect with this hunk of burning love so they can delight in their own HEA. After all, that’s what all her previous romance novel reading would have her believe to be true. 

But if Romancelandia has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t force a romance where it does not exist. What happens when the seemingly gruff but beautiful cowboy is in fact…just a good looking cowboy with no emotional depth to him whatsoever? Well, fear not lovely heroine! All Vivian needs is to turn around and notice that the handsome librarian/head of the historical society who’s been giving her such a tough time about all of her proposed renovations to the historically registered property might be the knight in shining armor she’s been waiting for all along. Sure, she may have pictured herself with a muscular and complicated rogue, but the bespectacled, elbow-patch tweed jacket wearing librarian has everything she truly needs when it comes to love. Clark is caring, open, and all that arguing they’ve been doing has been the perfect build of foreplay to something more. Honestly, you’d think a veteran romance novel reader like Viv would have recognized this earlier on! Just goes to show that when you try too hard in looking for romance, you can oftentimes miss the real thing when it unexpectedly crosses your path. 

Slow Burn

There was so much to Vivian’s character that was easy to love. Although she’s fallen into the family expectations of computer programming, she’s always felt an artistic calling deep within her. When the opportunity arises to grab life by the horns, she really doesn’t hesitate to leave her old life behind and jump at the chance to set out for a life she’s been craving for years. Moving clear across the country does indeed seem like a romantic scheme, but even in the face of complications and obstacles Vivian refuses to give up. You have to admire her determination in many things, even though her intense focus on trying to get Hank the hunky cowboy to notice her was something we all probably wish she had given up on sooner. Sometimes there are no layers beneath a man, just a hunky beefcake with nothing else going on beyond a good face and a sexy six-pack abs body. Clark on the other hand might not seem like her type right away, but it’s very clear early on that Vivian recognizes some kind of pull to this sexy librarian. 

There’s daytime Clark, who is a pretty straight-laced rule follower, but then she starts to get to know nighttime Clark through some unexpected late night phone calls, and this is when Vivian notices his playful side. Not to mention the fact his voice drops about two octaves when his tone becomes especially suggestive. It would have made for a more enjoyable read if she had switched gears to focus her attention on Clark at an earlier point in the read, especially considering he still would have fit the vision she had in her mind of her world becoming a romance novel come to life. Instead, the author really drew out the development of their relationship, especially considering that 1) Clark and Vivian don’t even really interact directly with each other until a third of the way into the book and 2) their first kiss takes place in same scene as their first romp against a balustrade, with a declaration of love sprinkled on top at the 93% mark. That’s a long time to wait, and certainly takes “slow burn” to a whole new level. While the final result was certainly worth waiting for, it also left the conclusion of the novel feeling rather rushed as we go from questioning whether or not these two unlikely characters will ever get together, to seeing them rip each other’s clothes off all in the last few pages of the book. 

Try to Keep Up

Another feature of this novel which I started out loving, but after some time became rather irritated by was Vivian’s lengthy inner musings and romance novel snippet daydreams. At first I felt a connection to this character whose mind seemed to work at 100 mph, and would flip between various topics at random. I couldn’t help but think, “wow, this author has captured my mind on the page”. Buuuut then I remembered that my mind is a weird place, and I oftentimes have to apologize to my friends who wonder what the heck I’m talking about by saying, “oh yeah sorry, I forget sometimes that other people can’t see where my train of thought is choo choo-ing along to”. Seeing this play out over 256 pages of romance novel made it an almost exhausting read at times, and difficult to follow along to conversations. There were also multiple times throughout the read where Vivian would fantasize herself as the heroine of a romance novel scene, whether it be with a pirate, a cowboy, or some other rugged hero, before coming back to reality. While certainly entertaining at times, I would have preferred some of those scenes to be replaced with more interactions between her and Clark in the real world. As it stands, I felt like Vivian and Clark spent more of the novel apart than together, and their connection was so adorable I simply wanted more, more, MORE!

Series: Cocktail, book 3. I’m not sure if any read will be quite as good as the first, but this is still a fun series I want to continue on with. 

Final Impressions: Consider yourself warned this read will inspire wanderlust as you crave the purchase of a rundown house on a cliff beside the ocean somewhere. I definitely appreciated the fact we were presented with a tenacious female lead who happened to be obsessed with romance novels. The constant bickering between Viv and Clark was the most delicious kind of foreplay, but I was ultimately left craving more scenes involving the two of them together. I know there’s also been some debate in Romancelandia recently about the frustration of not seeing a sex scene until the 60% mark, and while I certainly don’t feel there are any hard rules to when or how much sex must be presented, I do feel with this particular read that having our lead characters go from angry with each other to a bump and grind to a HEA epilogue one scene immediately after the other left the end of the book feeling needlessly rushed. Overall though, this is still a fun contemporary romance to bring along on your next adventure to the beach!

Smut Level: Although we only get one scene, it’s quite a doozy! Their passionate evening starts in front of the fireplace, transitions out to the rain, then back inside up against the wall and the aforementioned balustrade. As if that wasn’t delicious enough, our sexy librarian just so happens to be a dirty talking wordsmith. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $8.99 Kindle Price. Gallery Books. 257 Pages. 

BFF’ed by Kate Aster

Two BFFs start to wonder if it’s time to explore the desire simmering between them. This is one friends-to-lovers romance you won’t want to put down!

What’s it About? 

Mason Adler: Hot. Cocky. Sugar-coated Bad Boy.

The type of man who knocks the big “O” clear to the front of the alphabet every time.

Wrap up that eight-pack with Navy khakis and top it off with a shiny SEAL Trident, the kind that makes the girls swoon.

That’s Mason. My best friend.

For me, he’s off limits. Now that I’ve finished college, I need to focus on my writing career. And without his help, I don’t stand a chance.

But I need something from him. Something only he can give me.

So I’ll pull the blinds. I’ll toss my inhibitions. I’ll call it “research.” And I won’t let my heart get involved, especially with him leaving at the end of the week. Leaving me … even though my very soul is still in his grasp.

First Impressions

I went into this book with zero expectations, and came out of it with a silly grin on my face and simply smothered in all the warm and fuzzies you could possibly ask for. This might be a short read you can probably finish in one sitting, but it’s chock full of emotional depth, comedy, and plenty of sexy fun times to keep you satisfied. Mason and Freya have been best friends for over two years, ever since she sought out the help from this real-life Navy SEAL to give her military romance novel a bit more realism. While the two could immediately acknowledge an instant attraction to the other, they’ve never taken their relationship further than friendship, with a bit of reading advice and home cooking thrown into the mix as well.

Even if they wanted to take things further, they could never quite get the timing right. When one would break up with their current fling the other was just getting involved with someone else. It’s not until the week that Mason plans to move four hours away to his new SEAL headquarters that they’re both free of other attachments, and the encroaching distance makes them both realize how much they’ve come to rely on each other for companionship in the last two years. The thought of having so much space between them is seemingly more than either of them can bear. But it’s not just the fast approaching moving date, nor their newly single status which finally pushes these two into each other’s arms. Oh no. It’s something inexplicably more delicious. 

A Bit of Help to “See” the Scene

Freya has been working on her premiere military romance novel during all the time they’ve known each other, and Mason often gives her feedback on new drafts she submits to potential agents wanting her to switch up her manuscript with a SEAL shifter, a billionaire SEAL, a cowboy, and the most recent request of a SEAL with a few BDSM proclivities. Her frustrations and difficulties with agents will most likely ring true for many other authors out there, and you’ll find Freya a relatable heroine that you root for immediately. Mason may have been her sounding board and second set of eyes for all things military details and SEAL realism in her book (qualifying grounds for knighthood if you ask me), but this is the first time he’s provided feedback on what her characters get up to in the bedroom. And it’s during one of his reviews that he insists the scene which Freya has written of her heroine and hero going from missionary position to doggie style in one swinging move simply isn’t physically possible. 

Freya insists he help her act out the scene (clothes on of course), but it doesn’t take long during their, what turns out to be lengthy, acrobatic maneuvering that the physical connection they assumed existed between them all this time comes barreling to the forefront as something they can no longer ignore. When Freya asks Mason to help her act out being tied up to her headboard to see what people could possibly find so exhilarating about bondage, things finally reach a boiling point between them. These scenes were both hilarious, yet smoldering in their intensity, and I for one loved this unique way of bringing two friends together into a physical relationship. Something I wasn’t necessarily expecting from this short read was the emotional connection we as readers will feel for our two lead characters as they struggle with the debate of whether or not to take things to the next step in light of Mason’s impending move in two day’s time, the harsh realities of a long distance relationship, and if giving into their physical desires will negatively impact the friendship they’ve built over the last two years. 

Twenty Thousand Sunsets

As with any great romance, we as readers are convinced of not only the sexual chemistry between Mason and Freya, but their emotional connection as well. The fact the author managed to solidify this connection in under 200 pages should be applauded. I’ll admit there were a few moments that tugged at the heartstrings, and had the tears starting to well up a bit. As the novel progresses we begin to see that many of the interactions that Freya has had with Mason throughout the years have been the inspiration for the characters within her book, oftentimes causing her to reach for her phone to take notes on the perfect coupling of lines which would come to her whilst in his presence. The two days they spend wrapped in each other’s arms really cause the words to start flowing, and we see that Mason was not only the inspiration for one of her main characters, but has also become her creative inspiration. He’s the man who makes her want to write, to make her stick to the story she really wants to tell, and ultimately the man she wants to watch twenty thousand sunsets with. Mason and Freya succeed in achieving a happily ever after that we’re convinced is going to last through any hardship, any distance, and any mission he might be called away upon, for their love is steeped in friendship. 

Series: Brothers in Arms, book 1. I am 10,000% going to continue on with this series. You’re telling me that Mason has BROTHERS?! Heck yeah, sign me up! 

Final Impressions: Don’t forget to bring this book on your next beach vacation, cabin getaway, or heck even if you’re looking for something to read on a Sunday morning. It will make you laugh, possibly cry, and definitely blush as the slow build between friends eventually boils over into a cacophony of passion. In a way it does seem surprising that it took so long for these two to take their relationship to the next level, especially considering we find out that Mason was flirtatious as hell upon first meeting. However, in the end it’s the thrill of the ride as they make their way from best friends forever, to lovers and lifelong partners that makes this read a keeper.  

Smut Level: What starts as a hilarious demonstration of the complexities of Freya’s written sex scene quickly escalates into something sinfully more intriguing. These two could never regret taking their friendship to the next level, after all, who could regret sex that good?  

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. FREE Kindle Edition! 198 Pages.

The Promise by R.L. Mathewson

This has always been one of my go-to contemporary romance series when I’m looking for a good laugh, lovable characters, and a steamy read that’s guaranteed to knock your socks off. 

What’s it About? 

How far would you go to keep a promise?

Reed Bradford never should have made that promise.

He’d barely survived the first time around, but now she was back, his best friend’s little sister, his one-time neighbor, and the woman that he never should have promised to protect. He never should have done a lot of things, like cross that line, but once he did…

There was no turning back.

Joey Lawson always had a plan, but unfortunately, mostly for her, sometimes those plans backfired. On her. This time would be no different. After the unfortunate incident that she felt was better not to think about, she found herself doing the one thing that she’d never survive.

Falling in love with a Bradford.

First Impressions

It’s been a number of years since I’ve engaged with this series, and I was absolutely thrilled to dive right back in again. This read pulls you in from page one with a cast of characters you can’t help but love. After all, who doesn’t adore a romance featuring neighbors who can’t stand each other in the beginning, but slowly start to fall in love the more time they spend together? I made my way through most of this read with a smirky grin on my face due to the hijinks of our main couple, not to mention the accident prone tendencies of our brilliant leading lady. Reed and Joey have known each other since childhood, when Reed constantly found himself having to get Joey out of the multiple predicaments she found herself in, including running from angry mobs of fellow high school classmates who couldn’t stand the twelve-year-old girl genius sharing their classroom. Joey couldn’t leave town fast enough after high school, but when she’s forced to take a sabbatical from her university teaching job due to her continued ability to rub people the wrong way, she finds herself back in her childhood home with her overbearing protector living next door. 

Although this is a Neighbor From Hell book, it doesn’t take long at all for Reed and Joey to transition from neighbors to roommates, as her childhood home proves to be unlivable due to years of abandonment. Reed can’t believe the tormentor of his youth has come back in full swing, and though he might grumble at her reappearance in his life he knows he can’t turn his back on her. Years before he made a promise to Joey’s grandmother that he would always watch over her vivacious granddaughter. Joey’s goal is to focus on fixing her grandparent’s house back up during her year off work, but when Reed insists she live with him to keep a roof over her head, the two spend a few weeks as insufferable housemates before finally giving into the sexual chemistry that’s been building between them. The fact they had to share a bed those first few weeks certainly helped advance things between them. While their sex scenes were positively delicious, their interactions outside of the bedroom (and broom closets and truck beds and office desks) presented the humor that I’ve always loved about this series. Joey is definitely book smart, but she oftentimes finds herself in awkward situations due to her inability to “read the room”, and Reed’s simultaneous frustration yet infatuation with this tornado of mayhem is what made it difficult to put the book down at the end of the night, and kept me coming back for more the next day. 

An Issue Here, There, and Possibly Everywhere

Overall I enjoyed and appreciated the place this novel fell within the series, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t without some flaws. The first half of this book was a pure delight, but after the halfway point certain elements in the romantic story line between Reed and Joey started to become repetitive, and things felt rushed and even unfinished towards the end. It became increasingly difficult at times to follow along with the dialogue as our lead couple would constantly interrupt each other as though to jokingly imply, “hey don’t go there”, but I had trouble determining where “there” even was, so some conversations were left feeling nonsensically unfinished. There were also several anecdotes which were introduced well and good in the beginning, but then we were never privy to the finer details or their conclusion, which left us wanting more. Even the concept of Joey renovating her grandparent’s house was abandoned almost immediately.

The other primary example of this was a reference to some kind of major embarrassing frat house snafu that Joey filmed of Reed in college, and then put on YouTube for all to see. It was identified many times as the thing that Reed had trouble forgetting and forgiving when it came to Joey coming back into his life, and yet shockingly we never actually find out what exactly happened! It’s just mentioned in hushed tones and pushed aside as though we’ll eventually see some big reveal or confrontation between the two later on, but it was dropped entirely from the story. This was also true for other seemingly crucial backstory elements, including a tragic accident that claimed the life of Joey’s mother, as well as the fact Joey has apparently suffered from debilitating panic attacks ever since. These events seemed to have an essential impact on the woman Joey is today, and it’s not that we just received a surface level glimpse of what these factors were, but rather it felt like we only got bits here and there with major pieces missing from the telling entirely. 

Finally, we were introduced fairly early on to two students in Reed’s school who I fell in love with almost immediately, Jen and Shawn. Jen is a definite troublemaker who looks forward to the idea of suspension, scoffs at the concept of detention, and has no problem wreaking havoc and pulling pranks on authority figures. Shawn is an autistic young boy who keeps to himself, but latches onto Joey when she comes to substitute teach at their school. I was so excited to see how these characters would be further incorporated into Reed and Joey’s story, but again while we see a strong start to their introduction, both of their stories flatline at the halfway point where there’s ultimately no development in their stories. This was especially true for Jen, as I was hoping that after Joey started substitute teaching at the school these two eccentric ladies would be able to connect over the fact nobody else seems to understand them. Maybe Joey could have succeeded in getting Jen to open up in a way Reed couldn’t in the past, and serve as an inspiration for this teenager to set goals for herself. Instead it would appear that Jen remains just as troublesome and lacking drive as she was when we first met her. It was also slightly troubling to see how closely Jen and Joey’s personalities, mannerisms and even troublemaking ways mirrored each other. I couldn’t help but have a feeling of ickiness as Reed became increasingly infatuated with Joey considering he has a teenage student who is essentially a carbon copy of the woman he’s falling in love with. 

Series: Neighbor from Hell, book 10. Even though this installment was not without it’s flaws, I still enjoyed the ride overall, and will continue on with this series. 

Final Impressions: This book had a very strong and entertaining start, though things tapered off towards the end. I almost think the author was possibly trying too hard to keep things light and funny, that it resulted in some of the more serious elements which were introduced in the beginning to be pushed aside or abandoned completely by the end. Once Reed and Joey start exploring a sexual relationship together their interactions both within and outside of the bedroom start to become rather repetitive. Speaking of repetition, be prepared for Reed to constantly refer to Joey and his annoying brother, Matt, as the little brat/bastard to a point where it gets slightly annoying. I’m definitely starting to nitpick here, as overall this was still a fun read, but there were definitely certain elements which could have been tweaked to make this a truly stellar read. 

Smut Level: Early on in their roommate relationship Joey and Reed find themselves sleeping in the same bed, and let’s just say Joey has a tendency to flip and flop about where she would end up snuggling up and wrapped around Reed like a barnacle. I also lost track of the number of times Joey ended up in a position straddling Reed’s lap. Yes please!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Add audible narration to purchase for $1.99. Rerum Carta Industries, Inc. 278 Pages. 

The Viscount’s Christmas Temptation by Erica Ridley

Well that went quickly! Here I thought this would be a nice historical read to last me through the holiday season, and it surprisingly just lasted me through my morning coffee. If you’re looking for a quick, fun read during the holidays to kill time as your turkey bastes, if you need a few minutes away from family, or are looking for a break from wrapping presents, this one might do the trick.

What’s it About?

Certain individuals might consider Lady Amelia Pembroke a managing sort of female, but truly, most people would be lost without her help. Why, the latest on-dit is that rakish Viscount Sheffield is canceling the fête of the year because he hasn’t time for silly soirees. He doesn’t need time—he needs her! When a flash of lightning destroys the venue for his family’s annual Christmas ball, Lord Benedict Sheffield intends to enjoy a relaxing holiday for once. But after twelve days of beguiling Lady Amelia’s guerrilla tactics, he’s up to his cravat with tinsel . . . and tumbling head over heels in love.

First Impressions

Throughout the first chapter I honestly wasn’t too sure if I was going to be a fan of our female protagonist, Lady Amelia. She’s responsible for managing her brother’s household and is almost annoyingly efficient at it, foreseeing and anticipating a solution for every possible hiccup that could possibly arise. It would appear as though nothing can ruffle the feathers of this stoically put together lady! When Amelia realizes her single status might be preventing her beloved brother from seeking out a wife of his own, she takes it upon herself to finally find herself a respectable husband before she turns 30, the day after Christmas. Which is only a mere fortnight away! Attending an annual Christmas ball with the highest echelons of society seems like the perfect venue to pick a suitor, but when Amelia discovers an unfortunate stroke of lightning has ruined the traditional choice of venue for the ball she decides to step in with her practical planning and management skills to ensure the party proceeds as planned. And cue the fortuitous meet cute with the devilishly handsome Viscount Sheffield.

The meeting of these two characters is when I became more endeared to our leading lady, and when the fun truly begins! The viscount is a studious man who devotes himself to work from 8am to 8pm, and frivolous fun from 8pm to 8am. He’s immediately taken with the spitfire who bursts into his life, determined to set his annual Christmas ball to right. While he’s been attracted to countless actresses and courtesans throughout the years, he’s never been intrigued by such a bold and outspoken woman before, and it doesn’t take long before she inserts herself into his every waking thought. Viscount Sheffield becomes determined to show Lady Amelia how to have fun in life, and let her hair down so to speak, a truly impractical concept from her viewpoint. She in turn tries to get him to break his insistence on dividing his life into these twelve hour blocks with no possibility of mixing things up every once in a while. Their focused determination to impact each other’s idea of normal makes them the perfect match!

A Tease of Something More

As previously mentioned, I had no idea going into this read that it was going to be so brief in terms of word count. The short length felt like a tease or preview of what this book could have been. I almost wish there was an option to purchase a more full-length version of their romantic tale, as it would have been fun to dive deeper into what we only scratched the surface of viewing. Seeing as their entire romance evolves in the twelve days leading up to Christmas, an entire chapter devoted to each day would have been an intriguing way to organize a longer book.

It also would have been fun to see Viscount Sheffield throwing Lady Amelia a bit more off balance from her perfectly planned ideas, but it’s only hinted at briefly though a sweeping kiss under some holly and whisking her away to a masquerade for some unexpected dancing before another lip-lock. Just one more instance of him successfully surprising her would have been a treat, but for the most part she manages to have the upper hand of staying calm, cool and collected through most of their interactions. It ultimately felt like she had more of an impact on uprooting his way of life than he did for her in return. A few more appearances of traditional Christmas elements beyond just a sprinkling of holly balls throughout a ballroom also would have been a joyful delight. The fact we don’t even see a small gift exchange between our main characters, or the decorating of a Christmas tree seems almost blasphemous for a holiday romance!

Series: Dukes of War, book 1.

Final Impressions: This was certainly a fun, cute, quick read, but I think I would have loved it even more as a full-fledged novel. It seems like a good introduction to the writing style of the author, as well as a jump start to the series, which I wouldn’t be opposed to exploring further!

Smut Level: We do get a delightfully passionate kiss below some mistletoe! No tumbles between the sheets for this holiday read.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.75 Paperback Price. Intrepid Reads. 146 Pages.

Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron

Consider yourself warned that you shouldn’t try to read this book on an empty stomach. The countless descriptions of fresh bread, as well as Indian and Tanzanian delights will leave you salivating. 

What’s it About? 

When it comes to bread, Reena Manji knows exactly what she’s doing. She treats her sourdough starters like (somewhat unruly) children. But when it comes to Reena’s actual family—and their constant meddling in her life—well, that recipe always ends in disaster.

Now Reena’s parents have found her yet another potential Good Muslim Husband. This one has the body of Captain America, a delicious British accent, and lives right across the hall. He’s the perfect, mouthwatering temptation . . . and completely ruined by the unwelcome side dish of parental interference.

Reena refuses to marry anyone who works for her father. She won’t be attracted to Nadim’s sweet charm or gorgeous lopsided smile. That is, until the baking opportunity of a lifetime presents itself: a couples’ cooking competition with the prize of her dreams. Reena will do anything to win—even asking Nadim to pretend they’re engaged. But when it comes to love, baking your bread doesn’t always mean you get to eat it too.

First Impressions

As soon as my best friend failed with her covid sourdough starter bread-baking attempt, I knew it was time to give this audiobook a listen. This romantic comedy has an unbelievably strong start filled to bursting with flirtatious banter, sexy accents, a curry dish or two, not to mention a fake engagement. I’ll freely admit that I’m a huge fan of a fake fiancé story line, and upon discovering that the premise for entering into this phony relationship was due to a love of baking I was fully on board. That being said, I’m usually not a huge fan of romances revolving around reality TV, but seeing as this reality show centered on cooking rather than a bachelor-type dating show, I was willing to give it a try. Surprisingly, I quickly found myself wishing that the TV show filming could have been featured a bit more prominently than it was! Most of Reena and Nadim’s cooking show antics were filmed at home by friends rather than on a studio set, throwing a twist into the typical reality show trope we may have come to expect in Romancelandia. 

Even though I found myself wanting more focus on the cooking competition aspect of the plot line, one must admit that the nature of these two being able to film privately away from the prying eyes of a studio audience or full camera crew granted them the freedom to be more natural and at-ease with each other. The seamless chemistry and friendship that Reena and Nadim were able to develop was as delectable as any egg curry or bhajia recipe you might come across. It was such an entertaining transformation seeing Reena initially wanting to keep her distance from Nadim seeing as he was someone her parents wanted to set her up with, to slowly discovering that she was always either having a blast cooking or chatting with him, or constantly thinking about the next time they might be able to spend time together. What started out as a neighborly friendship and fake engagement begins to evolve into something that isn’t so fake anymore, and the fact their connection so strongly revolved around food meant I was hooked! Any time we got to spend with Reena and Nadim in their cooking bubble was an absolute blast, but unfortunately the external forces of family drama and misunderstandings threatened to tear them apart in a way that was somewhat frustrating to behold.  

The Joys of Social Media

Family plays a crucial role in Reena and Nadim’s relationship, even if they try to keep their private life separate from the prying eyes of their intrusive relatives. At the start of the novel, the silly antics and kooky personalities of Reena’s many family members were a bit of a hoot, as she tries to balance her frustrations over their meddling with a strong sense of family duty which permeates their conversations. The fact that Reena might ultimately have to admit the benefit that their interference brought into her life through Nadim is a struggle she tries to avoid at every turn. This causes Reena to try and keep her relationship with Nadim a secret for as long as possible, as she not only doesn’t want to admit they were right, but she knows with absolute certainty that as soon as the truth comes to light her family will try to insert themselves into their lives even more than they already do. After some time, their constant insistence on honesty within the family, even though each and every one of them is trying to keep something secret from the others, became exhausting. The most frustrating aspect of the read though was the inevitable twist that almost tore Reena and Nadim apart. 

In the midst of Reena’s growing infatuation with her neighbor, we find that she is almost desperately searching for any minor slight which could bring an end to their relationship. It all starts with her discovery of a photo of Nadim on a fancy yacht with friends. She latches onto his chic hairstyle, clothing, and rather over-the-top surroundings as a way to convince herself that he is somehow obsessed with status, wealth and outward appearance, even though there hasn’t been any indication during all of their time together that this was in any way true. The heaviest nail in the coffin though is when Reena tries to piece different social media posts together by people she’s never met before as proof that Nadim has been secretly engaged to another woman throughout their entire relationship, even going so far as to declare that a post by the patriarch of a family rival is “the truth” without ever bothering to confront or ask Nadim directly about what she was seeing. Let me put it this way, when you try to rely on Facebook and Instagram posts to reveal the true nature of the man you’re falling in love with…it’s probably not the best idea. All in all, this was the one major fault in the entire read, as there were a slew of other avenues which could have been utilized to put a wedge between Nadim and Reena. The path chosen seemed an unnecessarily immature choice for our characters. 

Series: Stand-alone

Final Impressions: This read presents us with a fantastic beginning and progression of Reena and Nadim’s relationship before an unfortunate blip towards the end puts a damper on the plot as a whole, before ultimately pulling everything back together for a smile-inducing conclusion. In addition, it’s possible this book tried to be too many things at once by introducing an overwhelming plethora of romance novel tropes, including neighbors, a fake engagement, reality TV, a secret relationship and finally a big misunderstanding that could tear our lovebirds apart. Most of these themes were enjoyable in their own right (aside from the one), but having so many present in one read, not to mention the revelation of Reena’s struggles with mental health, as well as her somewhat contemptuous relationship with her parents and one sister in particular, was a tad too much to squeeze into one read. I probably would have preferred more focus and attention on Reena’s lack of self-confidence and battle with anxiety as the primary hindrance to her happiness with Nadim rather than a social media post. I realize the one was influencing the other, but the discussion of mental health really didn’t seem to receive the amount of attention it truly deserved. Overall though this was a fun read that had me giggling throughout, and seriously craving some delicious curry dishes every time I picked it up!

Smut Level: For a romantic comedy I definitely wasn’t expecting our male lead to have a foot fetish! While we never encounter any scenes with too much explicit detail, there are definitely some passionate moments thrown in to keep you coming back for more.  

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $9.99 Kindle Price. Forever Publishing. 369 Pages. 

Madly Inn Love by Amelia Foster

Some couples like to refer to each other by cute names such as “sweetie” or “honey”. The terms of endearment chosen by the leads of this book include the Greek goddess of the Underworld and “slimy weasel”. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is. 

What’s it About?

Blake Alden’s sister made the proposition to return to Willow Falls at the perfect time, when Blake needed a fresh start. But the path to a new beginning was littered with bumps, the biggest being the County Program Manager who repeatedly stalled granting the business license they needed to reopen. After the third letter requesting yet more information, Blake makes a trip to the courthouse, ready to fight the man bent on driving her insane.

Keeping his name free of any black marks or scandals is at the top of Mason Richmond’s to-do list. Right below climbing the small political ladder he’d envisioned for himself. Even if that means being stricter with his best friend’s girlfriend and her family to avoid any hint of favoritism. However his overzealous caution results in a fiery goddess showing up in his office and turning his carefully ordered world into chaos.

Blake sees Mason’s fledgling campaign for Maine state representative as an ideal chance to not only show him why the inn would benefit his public persona, but also give herself a much needed shot of excitement she missed since being back in the small, sleepy town.

First Impressions

Madly Inn Love is one of those rare and special books where the sequel may have surpassed the fun of the first novel in the series. Where Truly Inn Love set the stage and the scene of this world we’d been given a glimpse into, this second novel lets us dive deep to truly get to know and fall in love with the characters and this small town they call home. The author was getting her feet wet building the foundation in book one, but it felt as though from page one of this sequel she was fully prepared to take us along on this journey of ambition and love between Blake and Mason, and I for one was completely on board to go along for the journey! Twists, turns, bumps and all. We were first introduced to our love birds in the first novel as secondary supporting characters to the main couple, but even then I think we could see their personalities shining through, desperate to take center stage.

While I definitely enjoyed the couple from book one, it felt more like we were observers to their story, watching the events pass along all the while knowing their happily ever after was just around the corner. When it came to Black and Mason though, we quickly become fully invested in their story to the point where it feels as though they are friends we know beyond the page. They may have started off, not quite enemies per se, but definitely rivals who were wary of each other. As they spend more time together throughout the length of Mason’s campaign, we see how their volleys of witty banter, and even flirtatious insults, slowly start to break down the walls they’ve built up to protect themselves from anyone who might try to get too close. As these walls fall down piece by piece, the fun and vulnerable sides to their personalities start to shine through, and they slowly start to recognize a kindred spirit in the other.

 Bitter Pasts and Family Chaos

Blake and Mason start things off on a rather rough foot when our story opens, as Mason is causing continuous delays in issuing a business license to Blake and her sisters for the most seemingly innocuous of technicalities. After storming into his office ready for a fight, she leaves with not only the license they need to reopen their late aunt and uncle’s inn, but an offer to be his campaign manager during his run for state representative. Mason certainly wasn’t expecting this woman to waltz into his office one day, but her determination and ambition for success endeared her to him. Both of these headstrong characters were stuck in a rut in their lives, going along day by day through the motions. However, the more time they spend together the more they awaken in each other the drive for something more. The fact they eventually develop a romantic and physical relationship honestly seemed like the most natural evolution of their connection from foes to quasi colleagues, friends to lovers. Even though they might try to keep things light and casual at the start, the discovery and confrontation of their past familial pains result in their connection growing deeper each and every day. 

In book one we discovered the sad past involving Blake’s parents, who were more invested in living their own lives than taking care of or showing any affection towards their three daughters. One day they were dropped off to live with their aunt and uncle, and when their parents died in a tragic accident, Blake and her older sister came together to care for their youngest sibling. The lack of parental love followed by death took a toll on the Alden sisters, with Blake especially feeling the need to close off her emotions to reflect an aura of strength and dependability that her sisters so desperately needed at the time. Now that they are all grown, Blake is almost trying to find her place and purpose in life seeing as its become increasingly clear that her sisters can take care of themselves. When she discovers that Mason was also “raised” by an unloving mother who only found disappointment with every choice he made in life, she finds yet another thing to admire about this man. He refuses to crumble to the pressures of his powerful mother, and also wants to make a political name for himself without relying on the influence of his family name. His true family stems from the friends who have chosen to be part of his life rather than the family he was simply born into. The difficult pasts these two characters had to overcome made them the strong people they are today, willing to stand up and fight when faced with any kind of adversity. It’s yet another reason these two couldn’t help but fall in love. 

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

Series: Inn Love, book 2. When I saw who the lead characters of this novel were, I couldn’t wait to get started. Knowing that book 3 will focus on the youngest Alden sister, I’m practically giddy with anticipation. 

Final Impressions: One of my very mild, minimal critiques of book one was that it didn’t really have all that much conflict or drama at the end of the day. That theme continues in this second book, where we’re sort of constantly waiting for the second shoe to drop, but it never does. Surprisingly though, I couldn’t have been more thrilled that this was the way the story played out! I fell in love with these characters so deeply, that if anything had threatened the possibility of their happily ever after I think I may have thrown my Kindle at the wall. The fact that Blake and Mason could always remain fairly level-headed when confronted with a challenge in life was admirable, especially when you recognize the strength they drew upon from each other to stand up tall rather than crumble under pressure. This delightful romance had me smiling, giggling, and cheering for our couple literally from page one until the final word of the novel. I was almost upset to see this story end, but I can’t wait to see where book three will take us!

Smut Level: Blake and Mason were positively delicious. They try as long as possible to tamper down the chemistry simmering between them seeing as they develop a kind of professional relationship when Blake becomes his campaign manager. Let’s just say though that their attempts are futile, and it doesn’t take long before they’re getting all hot, sweaty and bothered. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Sweet Heat Books. 205 Pages. 

Resolutions Embraced by Ayla Asher

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

What’s it About?

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

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

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

The Past Repeats Itself

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

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

The Thrill of the Race

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

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

Find Someone Who Makes You Laugh

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Way the Story Goes by Samantha Chase

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

What’s it About?

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

If Looks Could Kill…or Resolve Everything

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

The Good, the Bad, and the Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sexy Filthy Boss by Piper Rayne

This sweet and steamy romance is the perfect example of why office romances are the best of bad ideas.

What’s it About?

He’s the sexy alpha male in the corner office who goes through assistants faster than free donuts in the breakroom.

I’m the assistant who was chosen to cover for his last fire.

The owner of the company is clear–hook the biggest client in our firm’s history and there’s a partnership for him and a promotion for me. Stipulation–we do it together.

It doesn’t take a tarot card-reading psychic to figure out where our story is headed… late nights, trips out of town, and more than a few awkward moments filled with sexual tension.

No worries though. I pride myself on my willpower. I can totally ignore his sexy grin, his rock-hard body and his dreamy brown eyes. I will not become the woman other women hate.

But it turns out that Enzo Mancini has a lot of layers and if I don’t stop peeling, I’m going to lose everything, including my dignity.

First Impressions

I will admit, based on the title of this read I think I went into it expecting something filthier than what we ended up getting! 🙂 While Enzo was definitely all kinds of sexy, and he certainly enjoyed his dirty talks and sexting, I’m not sure he ever exhibited any behavior deserving of the moniker “filthy”. For something like that I think we would have needed to see some office desk, elevator or stairwell sexcapades. Instead, we get some delicious slow-build of heat and flirtations which ultimately boil over into an explosive work trip with just one hotel room, followed by a plethora of heated scenes where Enzo and Annie finally give into the desires they’ve been pushing aside after the last few weeks of working together in such close proximity. These two may have taken some time to admit their willingness to give a go at a relationship, but it was fairly clear early on that Enzo wasn’t the difficult hard-ass he had been portraying himself to be. He actually has a soft spot for his family, a dedication to his work, and a growing need for Annie that extends beyond the bedroom. Things couldn’t always be smooth sailing though, and eventually we see how office romances aren’t just sexy affairs with no consequences.

Office Romance and Culture

This book does a fantastic job of not only showing us the potential pitfalls in exploring an office dalliance with a co-worker, or more accurately in this instance, a supervisor and subordinate. It also provided an unexpectedly profound window into office culture, and how even some good people with the best of intentions can sometimes be blind to the inequities around them. First things first, I appreciated that this read provided a glimpse at the realistic highs and lows of an office romance. Working together in such close quarters brought about a sense of closeness and chemistry that neither Enzo nor Annie could ignore forever. However, thankfully they reserved their physical relationship to moments outside of the office itself. Sure, there were a few times when Enzo tried to tempt Annie into a quickie with the office blinds closed, but it never resulted in anything, and surprisingly his suggestions came across as rather cringeworthy in their professional surroundings.

These two characters felt like real people rather than fictional strangers, so even though I would normally applaud some office desk sex in a romance like this, I almost appreciated it more that the author refrained from taking things that far. Although this novel was fairly light-hearted with some pretty comedic scenes between our lovebirds, as well as his family members, we also get a rather serious look at the outdated and sexist opinions which can still exist amongst the leadership of a workplace. Even though Enzo never really participated in it directly, we do see the impact of the fact he never noticed the realities of the situation around him until Annie opened his eyes to it.

Series: White Collar Brothers, book 1. I’ll continue with this series. Enzo’s family members were hilarious, and I’d love to spend more time with them.

Final Impressions: I enjoyed this read! Sexy, dirty-talking boss may have been a more apt title, though I understand it’s not quite as catchy. I loved Annie’s ability to put her ideas forward, and to have her voice heard when it mattered most. A strong heroine for sure! As for Enzo, he remains rather cocky throughout most of the book, but we get a fabulous grand gesture at the end that is hard not to swoon over.

Smut Level: This read gives us the perfect combo of a slow burn in the first half, followed by some steamy sexiness in the second half. Let’s just say Enzo and Annie manage to work through all their condoms the first night they spend together in the hotel.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. 328 Pages.