Review: Well Played by Jen DeLuca

Goodreads

Release date: September 22, 2020

Publisher: Berkley

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Blurb:

Stacey is jolted when her friends Simon and Emily get engaged. She knew she was putting her life on hold when she stayed in Willow Creek to care for her sick mother, but it’s been years now, and even though Stacey loves spending her summers pouring drinks and flirting with patrons at the local Renaissance Faire, she wants more out of life. Stacey vows to have her life figured out by the time her friends get hitched at Faire next summer. Maybe she’ll even find The One.

When Stacey imagined “The One,” it never occurred to her that her summertime Faire fling, Dex MacLean, might fit the bill. While Dex is easy on the eyes onstage with his band The Dueling Kilts, Stacey has never felt an emotional connection with him. So when she receives a tender email from the typically monosyllabic hunk, she’s not sure what to make of it.

Faire returns to Willow Creek, and Stacey comes face-to-face with the man with whom she’s exchanged hundreds of online messages over the past nine months. To Stacey’s shock, it isn’t Dex—she’s been falling in love with a man she barely knows.

Review:

Last year the first book in this series, Well Met was one of my favorite reads of the year, so to say that I was anxious to get my hands on this book is a huge understatement. I had very high hopes for this one and maybe that’s why I’m sitting here disappointed, but this one wasn’t nearly as good as the first and I’m super bummed about it.

I want to be clear that this wasn’t bad by any means, it just wasn’t as magical and charming as the first book and I can’t help but compare the two. The author is a great writer and I loved being back at the Faire with the characters from the first book but it was missing that something special from the first book for me. I think a big part of my problem was that I feel like the blurb and cover are a spoiler. It seems like the author wanted this air of mystery about who Stacey was chatting with online but the cover/blurb makes it painfully obvious so I spent the first half of the book already knowing what would happen which made me annoyed and impatient to get it over with. The romance was cute, the plot was fine but I just wanted so much more after loving WM so very much. I’ll be reading the next book in the series in the hopes that it’ll be more like book one, but if you’re like me and have been waiting for this one maybe just lower your expectations a bit and maybe you’ll like it more than I did?

Overall rating: 3/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Tools of Engagement by Tessa Bailey

Goodreads

Release date: September 22, 2020

Publisher: Avon

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Blurb:

Hair, makeup, clothing, decor… everything in Bethany Castle’s world is organized, planned, and styled to perfection. Which is why the homes she designs for her family’s real estate business are the most coveted in town. The only thing not perfect? Her track record with men. She’s on a dating hiatus and after helping her friends achieve theirdreams, Bethany finally has time to focus on her own: flip a house, from framework to furnishings, all by herself. Except her older brother runs the company and refuses to take her seriously.

When a television producer gets wind of the Castle sibling rivalry, they’re invited on Flip Off, a competition to see who can do the best renovation. Bethany wants bragging rights, but she needs a crew and the only member of her brother’s construction team willing to jump ship is Wes Daniels, the new guy in town. His Texas drawl and handsome face got under Bethany’s skin on day one, but the last thing she needs is some cocky young cowboy in her way.

As the race to renovate heats up, Wes and Bethany are forced into close quarters, trading barbs and biting banter as they remodel the ugliest house on the block. It’s a labor of love, hate, and everything in between, and soon sparks are flying. But Bethany’s perfectly structured life is one kiss away from going up in smoke and she knows falling for a guy like Wes would be a flippingdisaster.

Review:

This is the third and final book in the Hot and Hammered series, and now that I’ve read the entire trilogy I can definitely recommend them as a whole. The second book is my fave followed by this one and then the first. Just wanted to tell you guys that because before I start a series that’s already out I like to know if the whole thing is worth it!

This one follows Bethany and Wes as she begins to flip houses on her own without the help of her family company. You have a hot cowboy, a reality TV show and a single dad trope. For me, some of my favorite things/tropes so I was alllllll in. Bethany and Wes have great chemistry and an enemies to lovers thing going on with fun banter and sharp wit. This one is steamy but it takes awhile to heat up, wait was worth it for me though! Definitely recommend reading this series in order as the characters all overlap from book to book and I think you’ll get more out of it that way.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Return to Virgin River by Robyn Carr

Goodreads

Release date: October 13, 2020

Publisher: MIRA

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Blurb:

Kaylee Sloan’s home in Southern California is full of wonderful memories of the woman who raised her. But the memories are prolonging her grief over her mother’s recent death. A successful author, Kaylee hoped she could pour herself into her work. Instead she has terrible writer’s block and a looming deadline.

Determined to escape distractions and avoid the holiday season, Kaylee borrows a cabin in Virgin River. She knows the isolation will help her writing, and as she drives north through the mountains and the majestic redwoods, she immediately feels inspired. Until she arrives at a building that has just gone up in flames. Devastated, she heads to Jack’s Bar to plan her next steps. The local watering hole is the heart of the town, and once she crosses the threshold, she’s surprised to be embraced by people who are more than willing to help a friend—or a stranger—in need.

Kaylee’s world is expanding in ways she never dreamed possible. And when she rescues a kitten followed by a dog with a litter of puppies, she finds her heart opening up to the animals who need her. And then there’s the dog trainer who knows exactly how to help her. As the holidays approach, Kaylee’s dread turns to wonder. Because there’s no better place to spend Christmas than Virgin River. 

Review:

Over the last few years I’ve become a huge fan of RC and have read many of her standalone novels and one of her series (Sullivan’s Crossing) but I had never read the Virgin River series, despite hearing so many wonderful things about it. Late last year I finally decided to dive in both because of the release of the Netflix series and to the challenge I co hosted with Sarah at ReallyIntoThis #fallintomybacklist I adored the first book so much that I’ve spent this year reading the entire series so you can imagine my absolute delight when it was announced that Return to Virgin River was releasing this year! All of that to say, this is now one of my all time favorite series and if you’re a longtime fan you will be very pleased with the latest.

First things first, and one of my biggest burning questions before I started this one was would we be checking in with Jack and Mel? Paige and Preacher? Jilly and Colin? Paul and Vanessa? I’m so happy to say yes, you definitely get some scenes with the old gang, I didn’t totally keep track but I really believe that you at least get a brief mention of most of the characters from previous books. And while that was fantastic, so we’re the two new characters this time around. I immediately clicked with both Kaylee and Landry and could totally see them fitting together perfectly almost immediately. True to the authors style they both have obstacles to overcome before they can truly be together, but they were both so relatable and authentic and their issues were handle with RCs trademark humor and grace. It felt so good to be back in VR, I really can’t say enough wonderful things about this book, this series, hell this author! She’s really one of the best and if you’re a fan of contemporary romance she’s a must!

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Friendship List by Susan Mallery

Goodreads

Release date: August 4, 2020

Publisher: HQN

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Blurb:

[ ] Dance till dawn 

[ ] Go skydiving

[ ] Wear a bikini in public

[ ] Start living

Two best friends jump-start their lives in a summer that will change them forever… 

Single mom Ellen Fox couldn’t be more content—until she overhears her son saying he can’t go to his dream college because she needs him too much. If she wants him to live his best life, she has to convince him she’s living hers.

So Unity Leandre, her best friend since forever, creates a list of challenges to push Ellen out of her comfort zone. Unity will complete the list, too, but not because she needs to change. What’s wrong with a thirtysomething widow still sleeping in her late husband’s childhood bed?

The Friendship List begins as a way to make others believe they’re just fine. But somewhere between “wear three-inch heels” and “have sex with a gorgeous guy,” Ellen and Unity discover that life is meant to be lived with joy and abandon, in a story filled with humor, heartache and regrettable tattoos. 

Review:

Susan Mallery has an uncanny knack for writing about female relationships that I’ve never quite found in another author. I’ve read several of her books that focus on sister/sibling relationships and she always nails the dynamics at play between family members. This time around she explores the relationship between two longtime best friends, Ellen and Unity, who are as close as sisters anyway and once again she created wonderful characters that felt so damn real.

Ellen and Unity have both gotten a little too comfortable in their lives lately so they decide to make a list of things to do that will push them outside of their comfort zones. At first, they both start the list not actually for themselves, but Ellen so her teenaged son will realize she’ll be ok when he goes to college and Unity so Ellen isn’t doing it alone and both have no real intention of getting anything meaningful out of the list. But as they spend the summer trying new things (skydiving, tattoos, etc) they both actually start to not only have fun, they learn a few things about each other and themselves. So, an adorable premise with a little something for everyone. Besides the BFF relationship there is some romance with some heat 🔥, plenty of humor and some emotional depth and growth as well. Definitely recommended by me as a super fun summer read.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: When I Was You by Amber Garza

Goodreads

Release date: August 25, 2020

Publisher: MIRA

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

You meets Fatal Attraction in this up-all-night psychological thriller about a lonely empty-nester’s growing obsession with a young mother who shares her name.

It all begins on an ordinary fall morning, when Kelly Medina gets a call from her son’s pediatrician to confirm her upcoming “well-baby” appointment. It’s a cruel mistake; her son left for college a year ago, and Kelly has never felt so alone. The receptionist quickly apologizes: there’s another mother in town named Kelly Medina, and she must have gotten their numbers switched.

But Kelly can’t stop thinking about the woman who shares her name. Lives in her same town. Has a son she can still hold, and her whole life ahead of her. She can’t help looking for her: at the grocery store, at the gym, on social media. When Kelly just happens to bump into the single mother outside that pediatrician’s office, it’s simple curiosity getting the better of her.

Their unlikely friendship brings Kelly a renewed sense of purpose, taking care of this young woman and her adorable baby boy. But that friendship quickly turns to obsession, and when one Kelly disappears, well, the other one may know why. 

Review:

The blurb calls this one You meets Fatal Attraction and that is such a great comparison for this one you guys! It has the creepy, stalker vibes of You with a twist and was a perfect popcorn thriller as my friend Abby at Crimebythebook called it. Think pure entertainment with some over the top scenarios and dark enough to satisfy most thriller fans.

While I wouldn’t necessarily call this one twisty, it did have some surprises as well as some parts that were predictable for me. BUT the predictability didn’t take away from my enjoyment at all because the shocks were pretty good on their own. Obsession plays a big role here and half of the fun was following along with Kelly as her obsession caused her life to unravel in front of the readers eyes. It’s definitely an escapist, binge worthy read and definitely perfect to pick up over a weekend and just lose yourself in. Have fun reading about characters that are way crazier than the problems in your own life, that’s exactly what I did 🤦🏻‍♀️🤣

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Best of Friends by Lucinda Berry

Goodreads

Release date: August 18, 2020

Publisher: Thomas and Mercer

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Best friends Lindsey, Kendra, and Dani endure every parent’s nightmare when a tragic accident befalls their teenage boys, leaving one dead, another in a coma, and a third too traumatized to speak.

Reeling from the worst night of their lives, the three mothers plunge into a desperate investigation of the bizarre incident. How could something so horrible happen in their wealthy Southern California suburb?

They soon discover that the accident was just the beginning, and troubling discoveries lead to chilling questions: Do they really know their children? Do they even know each other? As more secrets surface, a fog of doubt and suspicion threatens to poison their families, their friendships, and the whole community.

With the illusion of happiness and safety long gone, these women must now confront the hazards of heartbreak, the consequences of jealousy, and the dangers of living double lives.

Review:

If you’re looking for your next binge worthy thriller look no further because good lord you guys was this one good! It’s highly emotional, dark and disturbing and also incredibly sad and there are several instances where it was even a little hard for me to read, but damn was it great.

You hear from all three women who are best friends and have sons that are also best friends and I’ll admit, at the beginning I had a hard time settling in and keeping everyone straight. They seemed so similar on a surface level that they seemed interchangeable but that feeling soon left as I read more and learned more about the women as individuals. This was a complicated story of grief, loss and so much more but I don’t want to ruin it for anyone by saying any more. I read it fast because it’s one of those books that just grips you tightly and as awful as some of the situations were, I just couldn’t stop reading it. I’m such a fan of this author and think this may be her best book yet, definitely give it a try when you’re in the mood for an addictive read.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren

Goodreads

Release date: October 6, 2020

Publisher: Gallery

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Blurb:

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but not for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, hates her going-nowhere job, and has just made a romantic error of epic proportions.

But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the snowy Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born, along with two other beloved families. Mentally melting down as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple plea to the universe: Please. Show me what will make me happy.

The next thing she knows, tires screech and metal collides, everything goes black. But when Mae gasps awake…she’s on an airplane bound for Utah, where she begins the same holiday all over again. With one hilarious disaster after another sending her back to the plane, Mae must figure out how to break free of the strange time loop—and finally get her true love under the mistletoe.

Jam-packed with yuletide cheer, an unforgettable cast of characters, and Christina Lauren’s trademark “downright hilarious” (Helen Hoang, author of The Bride Test) hijinks, this swoon-worthy romantic read will make you believe in the power of wishes and the magic of the holidays. 

Review:
I started my holiday reading early this year because when I get a new CL book I don’t to start it. If you can’t fathom reading a Christmas book until December just don’t forget to add this to your TBR because it was the cutest, coziest holiday romance I’ve read since, well last December hahaha!
The Groundhog Day premise has been done before but there was still something magical in this one. Maybe it was just CL’s trademark charm and humor or maybe it was the idyllic holiday setting, but whatever it was this one worked out well for me. Maelyn was a lovable character and Andrew was sweet and charming as well, I also loved her uncle Benny too. There was a strong sense of family and the added magic made an already adorable story that much cuter. It’s on the sweeter side of steamy, I don’t actually think there was any open door romance, I think of there was it was minimal but if you’re looking for a heartfelt romance that will make you feel warm and cozy this is it!
Overall rating: 4/5
Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Cover Reveal: Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan

I’m so excited to be helping to reveal the cover for Patti Callahan’s new book coming out March 9, 2021! First, let me tell you some more about the book.

Blurb:

It was called “The Titanic of the South.” The luxury steamship sank in 1838 with Savannah’s elite on board; through time, their fates were forgotten–until the wreck was found, and now their story is finally being told in this breathtaking novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis.

When Savannah history professor Everly Winthrop is asked to guest-curate a new museum collection focusing on artifacts recovered from the steamship Pulaski, she’s shocked. The ship sank after a boiler explosion in 1838, and the wreckage was just discovered, 180 years later. Everly can’t resist the opportunity to try to solve some of the mysteries and myths surrounding the devastating night of its sinking.

Everly’s research leads her to the astounding history of a family of eleven who boarded the Pulaski together, and the extraordinary stories of two women from this family: a known survivor, Augusta Longstreet, and her niece, Lilly Forsyth, who was never found, along with her child. These aristocratic women were part of Savannah’s society, but when the ship exploded, each was faced with difficult and heartbreaking decisions. This is a moving and powerful exploration of what women will do to endure in the face of tragedy, the role fate plays, and the myriad ways we survive the surviving.

Doesn’t that sound great?! You can preorder it here Finally, here’s the gorgeous cover!

Review: Kiss My Cupcake by Helena Hunting

Goodreads

Release date: August 11, 2020

Publisher: Forever

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Blurb:

Blaire Calloway has planned every Instagram-worthy moment of her cupcake and cocktails shop launch down to the tiniest detail. What she didn’t plan on? Ronan Knight and his old-school sports bar next door opening on the very same day. He may be super swoony, but Blaire hasn’t spent years obsessing over buttercream and bourbon to have him ruin her chance at success.

From axe throwing (his place) to frosting contests (hers), Blaire and Ronan are constantly trying to one-up each other in a battle to win new customers. But with every clash, there’s also an undeniable chemistry. When an even bigger threat to their business comes to town, they’re forced to call a temporary time-out on their own war and work together. And the more time Blaire spends getting to know the real Ronan, the more she wonders if it’s possible to have her cupcake and eat it too. 

Review:

Oh my lord was this one CUTE y’all! If you like baking, enemies to lovers and a slow burn romance this one is a must. It made me feel all the warm and fuzzies and was such a perfect escape for me.

Blaire was downright adorable and quirky to boot, and Ronan was basically her polar opposite. From the moment they meet their banter was hilarious and HH is the queen of creating amazing chemistry between her characters so this one had some heat to it. It does take awhile for their to be any sexy scenes, there’s a lot of buildup before they hookup, but I think the wait was definitely worth it. This was heartfelt and sweet, tons of endearing characters and the most charming and adorable love story I’ve read about in awhile. I adored this sweet couple and was definitely bummed when I finished. Highly recommended by me for romance fans!

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard

Goodreads

Release date: August 4, 2020

Publisher: Blackstone

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

At the age of twelve, Eve Black was the only member of her family to survive an encounter with serial attacker the Nothing Man. Now an adult, she is obsessed with identifying the man who destroyed her life.

Supermarket security guard Jim Doyle has just started reading The Nothing Man–the true-crime memoir Eve has written about her efforts to track down her family’s killer. As he turns each page, his rage grows. Because Jim’s not just interested in reading about the Nothing Man. He is the Nothing Man.

Jim soon beings to realize how dangerously close Eve is getting to the truth. He knows she won’t give up until she finds him. He has no choice but to stop her first …

Review:

After a string of mediocre “thrillers” I had high hopes for this one and it did not disappoint. I’ve had a long fascination with serial killers so the description immediately pulled me in and I also was intrigued by the survivor angle as well. And then the fact that you already know who the killer is made for a tense game of cat and mouse, so basically what I’m saying is I was SOLD!

I’m a big fan of a book within a book, especially if it’s done well and fortunately for me this one was done incredibly well. Jim is reading Eve’s book about his own killings and it unfolded in such a wickedly delicious way, it felt like you were reading a true crime book and a thriller which was pretty damn cool. I don’t wanna discuss the plot anymore but this is a good one y’all, if you like a true page turner that’s clever and fresh don’t miss this!

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.