Tuesday, December 25, 2018

A Charm Like You by Sharla Lovelace

Title: A Charm Like You
Author: Sharla Lovelace
My Rating: B+

Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Series: Charmed in Texas #5
Main Characters: Gabi and Thatcher
Release Date: December 2018
Publisher: Lyrical Shine
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Even in a quirky small town like Charmed, Texas, there’s always room for love to take you by surprise . . . 
 
Gabi Graham might have hit the proverbial rock in rock-bottom. Hitting the single scene after ten years is hard enough. Finding out that her cheating ex-husband and his new barely-legal fiancĂ©e are expecting—that’s enough to drive Gabi over the edge and into a neighboring town’s divorce support group. It’s not really her thing to listen to anonymous strangers bash their exes, but at least there are cookies. And a sexy fellow newcomer who ignites her long-dormant libido. Spending a few lustful, post-meeting moments in Hot Guy’s truck can’t hurt. Unless, of course, Hot Guy turns out to be Thatcher Roman—her best friend’s brother and Gabi’s silent business partner.
 

Thatcher had no idea that the wildflower farm owner he’s been doing business with over email is the nameless woman who’s barreled into his life and his fantasies. He and Gabi have a new venture to run, a sister and best friend in the middle, and enough sparks between them to light up the entire town of Charmed. Given her past, it’s no wonder smart, gorgeous Gabi has trust issues. But maybe what they’ve found is more than just coincidence and chemistry. It might even be the beginning of one sweet, amazing second chance . . .
My Review:
Aww, this has been a great series and I really enjoyed this final installment to the series and how it ended for everyone. So sweet...and yes, a little bittersweet, too. I've loved the presence of Mr. Bailey throughout the series and his presence in this book was AWESOME!

So, this book. All of Sharla Lovelace's stories are told from the heroine's point of view. As a result, this really feels like it is Gabi's story. Gabi's the one with the big character arc and Gabi's the one who really has to work through this relationship mentally. Gabi is six months out from her divorce from her husband of ten years. He cheated on her, so she has some issues trusting herself because she never even guessed they were having issues. Her attitude now is that guys are good for sex, but no more than that.

Enter Thatcher, who Gabi doesn't know as Thatcher. He's the Hot Guy that she met at her divorce support group in the town 30 minutes from Charmed. While she's in a partnership with Thatcher, she's never actually met the enigmatic brother of her best friend. So, she has no idea that this incredibly sexy guy who she has crazy insane chemistry with is the very last person she should be messing around with. (You see where this is going, right?)

Gabi has so many hangups, she can sometimes be a hard character to embrace. But there were several moments when this book brought me to tears. Overall, it was a good read. The entire series has been great. I definitely recommend it and ANY of Sharla Lovelace's books. She's an amazing writer.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest and voluntary review.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Ryan

Title: Dirty Little Secret
Author: Jennifer Ryan
My Rating: A

Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Series: Wild Rose Ranch #1
Main Characters: Noah and Roxy
Release Date: December 2018
Publisher: Avon
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Meet the women from Wild Rose Ranch—and the men who want them—in New York Times Bestselling Author Jennifer Ryan’s breathtaking series of romance and scandal . . .

Noah Cordero is a modern-day cowboy who loves three things: ranching, his younger sister, and his step-father. John Cordero groomed Noah to take over the Montana spread where he learned to ride and work the land. But when John unexpectedly dies, he leaves half the ranch to a woman Noah doesn’t even know.

Roxy shares Noah’s last name, but not his blood. Estranged from her father, haunted by regrets, and eager to escape her notorious mother’s past, she is forced to fulfill her father’s last wishes. Inheriting means sharing a home with infuriating, challenging, and oh-so-tempting Noah. But John didn’t just make her owner of his ranch and guardian to her sister, his hidden sideline is her worst nightmare—she’s the new owner of the notorious Nevada brothel called Wild Rose Ranch where she grew up.

As their strictly business relationship starts to turn to true love, Roxy begins to wonder, what will happen when Noah discovers her dirty little secret?

My Review:
This book was wonderful. Despite the somewhat cheesy/80's style cover and the fact that the story line entails a "brothel", this book is so much more than it looks/sounds. Really, it was a great contemporary book with incredible deep characters and complex story lines. In fact, I am so excited for more to come in this series. But first, let me tell you why you need to read this first book.

Roxy's mom has been a prostitute her entire life. Left to survive on the streets at the age of 16, Candy did what she could and honestly at this point in her life, truly enjoys her career life. That is not Roxy. Roxy hates what the brothel she grew up in represents. Although she lives in Nevada where prostitution is legal, she still hates being connected to the Wild Rose Ranch. Everyone always assumes she's a hooker. That couldn't be further from the truth. 

Roxy has worked hard to make her way in this world. She has a career and has managed to make sure her mother stays safe along with becoming one of the best barrel racers and horse trainers in the country. Roxy was always the caretaker in the relationship with her mother. She also has her own handmade family in the form of her sisters...three other girls who also grew up at the Ranch via their mothers. (Note...I'm pretty sure the rest of the series will be those sisters stories). 

Roxy always knew who her father was...one of her mother's johns. She was also very aware of the fact that he didn't claim her as his own because he was ashamed of her, even though he was always somewhat present in her life. As a result, she's also aware of her family...her faux siblings/John's kids, even though they aren't related by blood. But they have no idea about her. Until their father dies. 

His will changes all their lives. 

I loved Roxy. There's no denying that she's had a cruel, unfair life. It was hard to read the passages about how her life was growing up and still is and the hurt she experienced because her father chose not to ever claim her. Rejection at its worst, although she always understood why...it didn't change the emotional pain from it. But this is one amazingly strong heroine. Dang. Roxy was fire on the page. I loved watching her stand up for Annabelle. I loved watching her interact with Annabelle. Roxy is well aware that life doesn't always work out the way it should and she's amazingly honest with Annabelle about that. 

In fact, her honesty and straight-forwardness throughout most of the story was just incredible. In those same circumstances, I would have been running very far away, but she doesn't let anyone cow her and I loved that. 

In fact, I loved pretty much everything about this book (except maybe the cover). It was an amazing read and I can't wait for book #2 in this series.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest and voluntary review.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Merrily Ever After by Jenny Holiday

Title: Merrily Ever After
Author: Jenny Holiday
My Rating: A+

Genre: Holiday Novella
Series: Bridesmaids Behaving Badly #2.5
Main Characters: Elise and Jay
Release Date: December 2018
Publisher: Forever
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Elise Maxwell is loving her first Christmas with her husband, Jay Smith. So far, newlywed life has been filled with laughter and lots of steamy marital "bliss." But when Elise discovers she's accidentally, against-all-odds pregnant, happily-ever-after screeches to a halt. Although she sees it as a Christmas miracle, Elise knows her new husband might not agree...

Jay never wanted to be a father. In fact, he's avoided it his entire life, worried he'd repeat the patterns of his own messed-up childhood. He's madly in love with Elise and, until now, he thought they were on the same page about not having children. But her surprise pregnancy changes everything. Elise is suddenly committed to parenthood, and Jay knows he can't lose her. Facing his deepest fears will be difficult, but with a little holiday magic, Jay might be able to prove to Elise that - as a family - they're destined to live merrily ever after.

The Bridesmaids Behaving Badly series:
One and Only
It Takes Two
Merrily Ever After: a novella
Three Little Words
My Review:
Wow...now that is how you write an amazingly emotional novella. I think I liked this little novella even more than I've liked the books in this series (and I've loved them). 

And you know what? It's hard to say much more than that, simply because this is a novella. Read the story description...it's extremely well done and know that you are walking into an emotional little novella. I loved it. 

And note: the addition of the legos...and the symbolism there...MELTED HEART. So, so good. I loved this novella and can definitely recommend it. And I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that even if you haven't read the books, this novella is strong enough on it's own to work as a stand-alone (although the couple in it do have a main book in the series, too).

Simply put...read it. It's GREAT!

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest and voluntary review.

My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren

Title: My Favorite Half-Night Stand
Author: Christina Lauren
My Rating: A+

Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Series
Main Characters: Millie and Reid
Release Date: December 2018
Publisher: Gallery
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
By the New York Times bestselling author who “hilariously depicts modern dating” (Us Weekly), My Favorite Half-Night Stand is a laugh-out-loud romp through online dating and its many, many fails.

Millie Morris has always been one of the guys. A UC Santa Barbara professor, she’s a female-serial-killer expert who’s quick with a deflection joke and terrible at getting personal. And she, just like her four best guy friends and fellow professors, is perma-single.

So when a routine university function turns into a black tie gala, Mille and her circle make a pact that they’ll join an online dating service to find plus-ones for the event. There’s only one hitch: after making the pact, Millie and one of the guys, Reid Campbell, secretly spend the sexiest half-night of their lives together, but mutually decide the friendship would be better off strictly platonic.

But online dating isn’t for the faint of heart. While the guys are inundated with quality matches and potential dates, Millie’s first profile attempt garners nothing but dick pics and creepers. Enter “Catherine”—Millie’s fictional profile persona, in whose make-believe shoes she can be more vulnerable than she’s ever been in person. Soon “Catherine” and Reid strike up a digital pen-pal-ship...but Millie can’t resist temptation in real life, either. Soon, Millie will have to face her worst fear—intimacy—or risk losing her best friend, forever.

Perfect for fans of Roxanne and She’s the Man, Christina Lauren’s latest romantic comedy is full of mistaken identities, hijinks, and a classic love story with a modern twist. Funny and fresh, you’ll want to swipe right on My Favorite Half-Night Stand.
 

My Review:
I really and truly loved this book. I've been a fan of most of Christina Lauren's releases, but something about this book just hit perfection for me. I honestly think it's because this group of five friends (four guys and Millie) is simply perfection. As I read, I kept laughing out loud and explaining to hubby about what was happening in the book...simply because I was enjoying the story so much, I wanted to share it with someone. 

This story is about a group of five friends who just all happen to be university professors together...and they are awesome. It's four guys and Millie, the ex-girlfriend of one of the guys who used to also hang out with these guys. But when she and the guy broke up, she managed to be the one who kept his friends. She's kind of epic that way. 

But out of all the guys in this little group, Millie has always been closest with Reid...and one drunken night, she gets even closer. But they aren't romantically involved. They're just best friends who just happened to have incredible sex. Millie blows it off. If there's anything that Millie is good at, it's being able to not take things too seriously. Millie doesn't get into deep emotions with anything...she's certainly not going to start with Reid. (And there's some great back-story for her to explain exactly why she's this way.)

In the meantime, the whole group of friends has signed up on a dating app together which results in many, many of the laugh out loud moments in the book. Seriously, the text exchanges alone in this book make it read-worthy. I loved it so, so much. But there's emotion below the surface of all that humor, too and that's what makes this book phenomenal. 

I loved the book. I loved the set-up. I loved the group dynamic. And the characters were some of the best-written ones I've ever read. 

I highly, highly, highly recommend this book!

I received a copy of this book in return for an honest and voluntary review, and then I bought a print copy so I could have it in my re-read library.

The Last True Cowboy by Laura Drake

Title: The Last True Cowboy
Author: Laura Drake
My Rating: B+

Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Series: Chestnut Creek #1
Main Characters: Carly and Austin
Release Date: December 2018
Publisher: Forever
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: mild

Story Overview:
This cowboy's got one last chance to prove himself.

Carly Beauchamp has loved cowboy Austin Davis since first grade. Ask anyone in their dusty, backwater New Mexico town of Unforgiven, and they'll say "Carly and Austin" the way some say "big trucks and country boys." But after years of waiting for a wedding ring, Carly's done with being a rodeo widow . . .

Austin never meant to put his career on the circuit before Carly. She's always been his future, his one and only. But now that she's moved on, he's beginning to see where he went wrong, and he'll do anything to win her back. The only thing is, Carly's suddenly acting differently, and she's definitely hiding a secret-one that will test the depth of their love and open up a whole new world of possibilities.
My Review:
I started this book and was only supposed to read for an hour or so. Well, about four hours later, the book was done and I was desperately behind on what I needed to get done for the day. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday...hehe.

So, yeah, I found this book extremely engaging...but it's not your typical romance story. Carly and Austin have been together literally their entire lives. In their small New Mexico town, their lives are completely entwined. The town sees them almost as a single entity. That's really tough for Carly, who's tired of being a rodeo widow...without the wedding ring. Austin has been putting off their wedding for "one more year" for almost a decade because he doesn't want to give up the rodeo circuit. Carly has put her life on hold for long enough, so she breaks up with Austin...something no one can truly believe including Austin.

I liked the source of the conflict. My heart hurt for Carly and the inability of the town and Austin to take her seriously. I'm not quite sure I believe the resolution though...I'm not really positive that anything truly changed long-term, but part of that may be because I'm not really sure the reader got to know Austin enough. He had small scenes throughout the book in his point of view, but they took up a much smaller percentage than Carly's. But I did believe that the emotions between the two were real and hopefully, that love is enough for them.

This book was much more a journey of Carly growing up and maturing than a romance. This is about her claiming her life as her own and figuring out who she is as a person...and that is most definitely not a smooth road to discovery.

I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series, featuring Fish and Nevada. I only hope the title on that book is a little more appropriate for the story (this one is NOT...)

I received a complimentary copy of this book at an event from the publisher with no obligation to write a review. I wrote this review voluntarily.

The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson

Title: The Accidental Beauty Queen
Author: Teri Wilson
My Rating: B+

Genre: Women's Fiction 
Series
Main Characters: Charlotte and Gray
Release Date: December 2018
Publisher: Gallery Books
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: mild

Story Overview:
In this charming romantic comedy perfect for fans of Meg Cabot and Sophie Kinsella, critically acclaimed author Teri Wilson shows us that sometimes being pushed out of your comfort zone leads you to the ultimate prize. 

Charlotte Gorman loves her job as an elementary school librarian, and is content to experience life through the pages of her books. Which couldn’t be more opposite from her identical twin sister. Ginny, an Instagram-famous beauty pageant contestant, has been chasing a crown since she was old enough to enunciate the words world peace, and she’s not giving up until she gets the title of Miss American Treasure. And Ginny’s refusing to do it alone this time.

She drags Charlotte to the pageant as a good luck charm, but the winning plan quickly goes awry when Ginny has a terrible, face-altering allergic reaction the night before the pageant, and Charlotte suddenly finds herself in a switcheroo the twins haven’t successfully pulled off in decades.

Woefully unprepared for the glittery world of hair extensions, false eyelashes, and push-up bras, Charlotte is mortified at every unstable step in her sky-high stilettos. But as she discovers there’s more to her fellow contestants than just wanting a sparkly crown, Charlotte realizes she has a whole new motivation for winning.
 


My Review:
When I first started writing this review, I had this book classified as contemporary romance, but decided that was wrong because this book isn't about the romantic story (although there is one in the book). This book is about the evolution of Charlotte.

Charlotte is a twin...an identical twin. And although the two are obviously interchangeable as far as how they look (since we know that Charlotte steps into the beauty pageant for her sister), she's always seen her sister as the pretty one. Ginny has done beauty pageants her entire life and has spent a lifetime making herself look a certain way. Charlotte has not. Charlotte is an elementary school librarian. Her life is books, not pampering her skin. But because of that and a horrible fiance (who she dumped) her self-esteem is not where it should be. 

Put the easy way. Ginny is the pretty one. Charlotte is the smart one. She lives her life that way until she has to step into Ginny's shoes and sees what it's like to be the pretty one. Suddenly, her world view is changing and that's definitely changing her internal identity, too.

I liked this book. It was fun and easy to read. At times, it was emotional just because Charlotte is facing some hard truths about herself and her relationship with her twin sister. It definitely had a Miss Congeniality vibe to it and that wasn't a bad thing. It was like the movie, but with a bit deeper emotional depth to it.

The entire book takes place over several days of the pageant competition, so the romance is quick...but I also liked that aspect of the story. I liked the little interactions between Charlotte and Gray.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest and voluntary review.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Rough Trade by Sidney Bell

Title: Rough Trade
Author: Sidney Bell
My Rating: A

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m)
Series: Woodbury Boys #3
Main Characters: Ghost and Duncan
Release Date: December 2018
Publisher: Carina
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: spicy


Story Overview:
Quick-witted hustler Ghost is no stranger to living dangerously; survival has always been the name of the game.

He’s just always gone it alone.

Now he’s got the wrong people breathing down his neck, and the only way out demands placing his trust in the unlikeliest of heroes: Duncan Rook, a gruff cop whose ethics are as solid as his body.

Cozying up to a criminal is hardly what Duncan’s reputation on the force needs—especially when that criminal is temptation personified. Ghost is Duncan’s polar opposite, and the last person he expected to fall for.

So then why does every imaginable scenario for taking down their common enemy end with Ghost in his arms?

My Review:
This series has been so good, but I'll admit, I had no idea how Sidney Bell would handle Ghost because he's always been such a messed up character. 

Well, the good news is that she handled his story brilliantly. She didn't fix him, but instead made all of that trauma and mental scar tissue a large part of his character arc...because have no doubt...Ghost is a mess. He's only 20 years old, but has years of sexual abuse and neglect in his past. He uses sex as a weapon and really seems to be on the precipice of not coming back. His fugue states during and after sex are frightening. But the one person who seems to get all this is Duncan.

Duncan Rook is a cop. He's introduced to Ghost under very extreme circumstances and steps right up although Ghost doesn't make it easy. But Duncan has close to a decade working as a police officer. He's not a stranger to mentally traumatized people. He gets that Ghost needs very careful handling. In other words, Duncan is perfect for Ghost. 

This is not a fall in love and every thing is smooth sailing afterwards type of story, but I liked that about it. As much of a mess as Ghost is, it felt more honest to have the difficulties that these two had. I like that the author gave them the time to emotionally develop and evolve. 

There's also a bit of suspense/danger to this book (as has been the case for all the books in the series), but it's not enough that I consider the books to be romantic suspense. They are just action packed...and these two seriously go through the wringer in this book. 

But I loved it. I loved getting to see Ghost get to a better place. I loved the little things that they connected over...like the movies and how much the TV placement meant between the two of them. This is NOT a relationship built on sex. I liked that with Ghost's background that Sidney Bell respected that and didn't go there for the two of them. They have sexy moments, but those are more careful than sexy. For these two, the relationship is about the connection between them and it's beautiful, even when it's hard.

I liked it...and definitely recommend the entire series. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest and voluntary review.