Review: Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough

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Release date: September 4, 2018

Publisher: William Morrow

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Blurb:

Lisa lives for her daughter Ava, her job, and her best friend Marilyn, but when a handsome client shows an interest in her, Lisa starts daydreaming about sharing her life with him too. Maybe she’s ready now. Maybe she can trust again. Maybe it’s time to let her terrifying secret past go. Then her daughter rescues a boy from drowning and their pictures are all over the news for everyone to see. Lisa’s world explodes, and she finds everything she has built threatened. Not knowing whom she can trust, it’s up to her to face her past to save what she holds dear.

Review:

Sarah Pinborough has to be one of the most clever writers I’ve come across in recent years, she has a unique style of writing that works perfectly for me and I’m never quite sure exactly what to expect when I start one of her books. I was a huge fan of Behind Her Eyes, WTF ending and all so I was prepared to be surprised again and while I definitely was with this one, it had a different appeal that I appreciated greatly. I always like when an author switches things up slightly with each new book and doesn’t rely on a tried and true but formulaic gimmick and that’s exactly what happens here!

This is told from various viewpoints; Lisa, her daughter Ava and Lisa’s best friend Marilyn. All three women have secrets and half the fun of this story was trying to figure out exactly what each persons secret was. I admit, I was feeling pretty confident about where things were going but I was wrong. Yes, a few minor details were exactly as I expected but there were still some major shocks along the way.

I loved the pacing of this, it moved along swiftly and was divided into three parts which big revelations at the end of each one that just kept urging me to continue reading. Overall a fast and engaging read that gripped me and satisfied in the end.

(I do want to warn that this does contain some disturbing content that was a little shocking to me. There is nothing in the blurb that alludes to it but wanted to give a heads up that parts are hard to read. If you want more info just let me know, I don’t want to say more here)

Cross Her Heart in three words: Fluid, Devious and Disturbing.

Overall rating: 4/5

August Wrap Up

Another month in the books (haha pun totally intended) and I’m super pleased with my reading month. I’ve slowed down a bit with my reading, I’m no longer really posting on the weekends for the most part and this has helped me have more balance in my personal life tremendously. I may not be reading quite as many books as I have in the past (I’m at 20 instead of 30 this month) but I am taking more time to leisurely read instead of always feeling like I’m reading to a deadline. I did read a couple of additional titles this month but pub day is super far off so I’m trying to wait on sharing my thoughts until a little later. Overall I really enjoyed almost all of the books I did read in August and am super excited about my September TBR as well!

How was your month? Any must reads?

You Were Made For This: I was really confused by my feelings on this one.

An Anonymous Girl: Obsessive, Cunning and Riveting.

Good Luck With That: Vulnerable, Emotional and Relevant.

Leave No Trace: Atmospheric, Intense and Multifaceted.

Rush: Charming, Topical and Fun.

Big Woods: Quick, Engrossing and Deft

The Bucket List: Provocative, Empowering and Honest.

Not Her Daughter: Evocative, New and Gripping.

The Cast: Meaningful, Honest and Tender.

Do No Harm: Unsettling, Obsessive and Compulsive.

Before Her Eyes: Gripping, Dark and Intense.

Hey Ladies!: Silly, Outlandish and Wild.

The Waiting Room: Sharp, Twisty and Complex.

Sweet Little Lies: Assured, Cunning and Authentic.

Winter in Paradise: Escapist, Picturesque and Lush.

The Proposal: Cute, Sweet and Charming.

Trust Me: Original, Tricky and Complex.

Truth and Lies: Gripping, Relentless and Clever.

The Not So Perfect Plan to Save Friendship House: Warm, Sweet and Fun.

Lies: Gripping, Propulsive and Tense.

Review: Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: September 4, 2018

Publisher: Gallery

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Blurb:

Hazel Camille Bradford knows she’s a lot to take—and frankly, most men aren’t up to the challenge. If her army of pets and thrill for the absurd don’t send them running, her lack of filter means she’ll say exactly the wrong thing in a delicate moment. Their loss. She’s a good soul in search of honest fun.

Josh Im has known Hazel since college, where her zany playfulness proved completely incompatible with his mellow restraint. From the first night they met—when she gracelessly threw up on his shoes—to when she sent him an unintelligible email while in a post-surgical haze, Josh has always thought of Hazel more as a spectacle than a peer. But now, ten years later, after a cheating girlfriend has turned his life upside down, going out with Hazel is a breath of fresh air.

Not that Josh and Hazel date. At least, not each other. Because setting each other up on progressively terrible double blind dates means there’s nothing between them…right?

Review:

I found a new favorite author to stalk! Ok two, because Christina Lauren is actually a writing duo, and I’m so serious when I say I’m obsessed with this book. I’m ordering their backlist and devouring them first chance I have. If someone doesn’t make this into a rom com movie it’s a big mistake. HUGE. Because this was one of the most witty, cute, charming and hilarious books I’ve read in ages.

This is told from both Josh and Hazel’s point of view and while Josh is my new book boyfriend (you guys I usually don’t even do the whole book BF thing, I broke my own rule for him, swoon worthy fictional man) I’m totally in love with Hazel as well. She is a quirky, big hearted and incredibly endearing woman and he is basically her polar opposite. The best part of their pairing was that Josh just gets Hazel, he doesn’t get embarrassed when she’s the only one dancing like a maniac at a concert, in fact he embraces her exactly as she is and I just seriously can’t get enough of that attitude. This world needs more of that type of acceptance and total lack of judgement.

The friends to lovers trope is one of my favorites, I love the mounting tension and heightened chemistry that is evident between two people claiming to be just friends when clearly they are so much more than friends. Christina Lauren blends the perfect combination of sweet, sexy and funny and I loved watching Josh and Hazel fall in love. And that final chapter? Don’t know if I’ve ever read anything more perfect in my life, turned me into a total mush ball. Must read for romance fans!!

Josh and Hazel in three words: Spicy, Adorable and Endearing.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Lies by T. M. Logan

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Release date: September 11, 2018

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Blurb:

What if you have the perfect life, the perfect wife and the perfect child—then, in one shattering moment, you discover nothing is as it seems? Now you are in the sights of a ruthless killer determined to destroy everything you treasure.

It’s the evening drive home from work on a route Joe Lynch has taken a hundred times with his young son. But today, Joe sees his wife meet another man—an encounter that will rip two families apart. Raising the question: Can we ever really trust those closest to us?

Joe will do whatever it takes to protect his family, but as the deception unravels, so does his life. A life played out without any rules. And a cunning opponent who’s always one step ahead.

Review:

Lies is one of those psychological thrillers that you can binge in one sitting, it’s fast paced and fun and one of those reads that flies by and before you know it you’re finished. In a market that’s over saturated with domestic thrillers Lies manages to stand out from the crowd and Logan brings his own unique twist to the genre.

One of the things I liked the most about this one was that Joe was the kind of character that you can root for. So many times psychological thrillers have highly unlikable characters and while that’s fun, it was a nice change of pace to enjoy a protagonist and not want to smack them upside the head! I also enjoyed Joe’s relationship with his adorable son, Will it felt authentic and sweet and was so nice to see in a thriller.

So of course this was twisty, it’s a thriller after all but I really was surprised by the main twist in the end and that’s always appreciated especially as I’m a pretty good armchair detective. Social media also played a huge role in the plot and that made it feel so fresh and relevant, probably yet another reason that this was a standout for me. If you like PT you’ll enjoy this one, it’s basically everything I look for in one with its own unique spin.

Lies in three words: Gripping, Propulsive and Tense.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The No So Perfect Plan to Save Friendship House by Lilly Bartlett @MicheleGormanUK

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Release date: August 31, 2018

Publisher: Notting Hill

Genre: Chick Lit

Blurb:

Meet Phoebe, who’s 28, and Laney, Dot and Maggie, who are 68, 78, and none of your business. Together they’ll prove that age doesn’t matter when it comes to friendship, belonging and an unquenchable zest for life.

Laugh-out-loud uplifting chick lit about the ties of community, the strength of love and how nobody is truly ordinary.

When Framlingham’s famously all-female senior living home goes co-ed, a war between the sexes is declared.

Stuck in the middle, chef Phoebe Stockton is desperate to help her friends plot to keep the community that means so much to them. It’s become her life raft, too. She finds comfort in her beloved career that might finally make her parents proud. But Phoebe’s darling Nick is lining up on the other side of the battle, and their relationship is suffering collateral damage.

The stakes couldn’t be higher. If the home’s owner can’t improve business by moving the men in, he’ll have to close down Friendship House.

The women aren’t about to let that happen.

Review:

Ahh chick lit is my first true love and it’s so nice to go back and read it from time to time! Bartlett is quickly becoming one of my go to authors to turn to when I need an uplifting read full of positivity and hope and her latest provided me with just what I was looking for. If you want a book that will make you forget about all the terrible things going on in the world for a few hours and leave you with a smile on your face then look no further, Bartlett has you covered.

I loved the premise of this, a chef working in a senior living home, because I just knew it would be full of fun and memorable characters and I was so right. Phoebe was exactly the kind of character I love in CL, she’s a normal woman living an ordinary life but she’s someone I would want to be friends with and she has a wonderful personality. The residents of the senior home were an eclectic bunch and they both made me laugh and made me say aww so many times.

This was just an adorable read with a ton of heart, it was a delightful way to spend an afternoon and I was sad to see it end, though it did end on a high note. Recommended to curl up with when you’re having a bad day and want to change that, super light and breezy!

The Not So Perfect Plan to Save Friendship House in three words: Warm, Sweet and Fun.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the author for my review copy.

Review: Truth and Lies by Caroline Mitchell @Caroline_writes

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Release date: August 30, 2018

Publisher: Thomas and Mercer

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Meet Amy Winter: Detective Inspector, daughter of a serial killer.

DI Amy Winter is hoping to follow in the footsteps of her highly respected police officer father. But when a letter arrives from the prison cell of Lillian Grimes, one half of a notorious husband-and-wife serial-killer team, it contains a revelation that will tear her life apart.

Responsible for a string of heinous killings decades ago, Lillian is pure evil. A psychopathic murderer. And Amy’s biological mother. Now, she is ready to reveal the location of three of her victims—but only if Amy plays along with her twisted game.

While her fellow detectives frantically search for a young girl taken from her mother’s doorstep, Amy must confront her own dark past. Haunted by blurred memories of a sister who sacrificed herself to save her, Amy faces a race against time to uncover the missing bodies.

But what if, from behind bars, Grimes has been pulling the strings even tighter than Amy thought? And can she overcome her demons to prevent another murder?

Review:

Whenever I’m in the mood for a smart, super fast paced thriller that is guaranteed to shock me I grab a Caroline Mitchell book. While I love her psychological thrillers I really am obsessed with her series and while I was sad when her trilogy ended late last year, I was thrilled to find out Truth and Lies is the first book in a brand new series, and let me tell you, it’s one hell of an introduction!

The premise of this is fascinating, you have Amy (great name 😜) who is a dedicated police officer who finds out her biological parents are notorious serial killers. She knew she was adopted, but she repressed all her memories of her life with her evil parents and when her mother comes back into her life she begins to slowly remember some harrowing events from her childhood. The past chapters were my favorite aspect, there were only a handful but to see what Amy had endured as a young girl was simultaneously heartbreaking and interesting. It was so crazy to think the daughter of two heinous killers was such an admirable officer of the law with strong values and morals, brings up the whole nature versus nurture conundrum which is always something to think about.

As always this was a fastidiously plotted police procedural that kept me guessing all the way until the end. I always say Mitchell’s books are fast reads and that’s because once you’re hooked you’re not eager to put it down until you find out the truth. I absolutely loved the final chapter, it sent chills down my spine and set the stage for the next book so perfectly.

Truth and Lies in three words: Gripping, Relentless and Clever.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the author for my review copy.

Excerpt: When the Lights Go Out by Mary Kubica @MaryKubica

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Release date: September 4, 2018

Publisher: Park Row

Genre:

Blurb:

A woman is forced to question her own identity in this riveting and emotionally charged thriller by the blockbuster bestselling author of The Good Girl, Mary Kubica

Jessie Sloane is on the path to rebuilding her life after years of caring for her ailing mother. She rents a new apartment and applies for college. But when the college informs her that her social security number has raised a red flag, Jessie discovers a shocking detail that causes her to doubt everything she’s ever known.

Finding herself suddenly at the center of a bizarre mystery, Jessie tumbles down a rabbit hole, which is only exacerbated by grief and a relentless lack of sleep. As days pass and the insomnia worsens, it plays with Jessie’s mind. Her judgment is blurred, her thoughts are hampered by fatigue. Jessie begins to see things until she can no longer tell the difference between what’s real and what she’s only imagined.

Meanwhile, twenty years earlier and two hundred and fifty miles away, another woman’s split-second decision may hold the key to Jessie’s secret past. Has Jessie’s whole life been a lie or have her delusions gotten the best of her?

I have a special treat for you guys today, I have an excerpt from Mary Kubica’s upcoming book! If you would like to follow along with the tour and read the excerpts in order, check out TLC Book Tours for the full schedule.

Excerpt:

July 1, 1996

Egg Harbor

The boxes are plentiful.  There is no end to the number of cardboard boxes the movers carry through the front door, delivering them to their marked rooms: living room, bedroom, master bath, stomping across our home in dusty work boots.  Sixteen hundred square feet of space needing to be filled as Aaron and I divvied up our gender-appropriate tasks, he directing the movers with couches and beds while I unpacked and washed the dishes by hand and placed them in the cabinets.  I watched the many laps they took, each man’s head beginning to glimmer with sweat.  Aaron’s too, though he hardly carried a thing, and yet the authority in his voice, the obvious clout as grown men trailed him through our home, heeding his every word, was enough to catch my eye.  I watched him round the home time and again, wondering how I was so lucky to have him all to my own.

It wasn’t like me to be lucky in love.  Not until I met Aaron.  The men who came before him were deadbeats and drifters, bottom-feeders.  But not Aaron.  We dated for a year before he proposed.  Tomorrow we celebrate two years.  Soon there will be kids, a whole gaggle of little ones spinning circles at our feet.  As soon as we’re settled, Aaron always said, and now, as my eyes assess the new home, the sprawling landscape, the sixteen hundred square feet of space, three bedrooms – two vacant and left to fill – I realize the time has come and like clockwork, something inside me starts to tick.

When the movers’ backs were turned, Aaron kissed me in the kitchen, pinning me against the cabinets, hands gripping my hips.  It was unasked-for and yet very much wanted as he kissed with his eyes closed, whispering that all of our dreams were finally coming true.  Aaron isn’t one to be sentimental or romantic, and yet it was true: the cottage, his job, leaving the city.  We’d both wanted to get away from Green Bay since the day we were married, his hometown and my hometown, so that two sets of parents showed up at our door on any given day, unsolicited, waging a secret battle as to which in-law could occupy the most of our time.  We hadn’t gone far, sixty-seven miles to be precise, but enough that visits would be preempted with a simple phone call.

Tonight we made love on the living room floor to the glow of candlelight.  The electricity had yet to be turned on and so, other than the dance of candlelight on the white washed walls, the house was dark.

Aaron was the first to suggest it, discontinuing my birth control pill, as if he knew what I was thinking, as if he could read my mind.  It was as we laid together on the wide wooden floorboards staring out the open windows at the stars, Aaron’s prowling hand moving across my thigh, contemplating a second go.  That’s when he said it.  I told him yes! that I am ready for a family.  That we are ready.  Aaron is twenty-nine.  I am twenty-eight.  His paycheck isn’t extravagant, and yet it’s enough.  We aren’t spendthrifts; we’ve been saving for years.

And even though I knew it wasn’t possible yet, the pill in my system nipped any possibility of pregnancy in the bud, I still imagined a creature no bigger than a speck starting to take form as Aaron again let himself inside me.

July 9, 1996

Egg Harbor

Our days begin with coffee on the dock, bare feet dangling over the edge, downward toward the bay.  The water is cold, and our feet don’t reach anyway.  But as promised, there are sailboats.  Aaron and I spend hours watching them pass by, as well as sandpipers and other shorebirds that come to call, their long legs wading through the shallow water for a meal.  We stare at the birds and the sailboats, watching the sun rise higher into the sky, warming our skin, burning off the early morning fog.  Heaven on earth, Aaron says.

As we sit on the dock, Aaron tells me about his nights at the chophouse that steals him from me for ten hours at a time.  About the heat of the kitchen, and the persistent noise.  The rumble of voices calling out orders in sync.  The sputter of boneless ribeye on the grill, the dicing and hashing of vegetables.

His voice is placid.  He doesn’t complain because Aaron, ever easy-going Aaron, isn’t one to complain.  Rather he tells me about it, describing it for me so that I can see in my mind’s eye what he’s doing when he’s away from me for half the day.  He wears a white chef jacket and black chef pants and a cap, something along the lines of a beanie that is also white.  Aaron’s been assigned role of saucier or sauce chef, one that’s new to him, but no doubt comes with ease.  Because this is the way it is with Aaron.  No matter what he tries his hand at, things always come with ease.

About the Author:

Mary Kubica is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of THE GOOD GIRL and PRETTY BABY.  She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in History and American Literature. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two children and enjoys photography, gardening and caring for the animals at a local shelter.

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Connect with Mary

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Review: Trust Me by Hank Phillipi Ryan

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Release date: August 28, 2018

Publisher: Forge

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

An accused killer insists she’s innocent of a heinous murder.

A grieving journalist surfaces from the wreckage of her shattered life.

Their unlikely alliance leads to a dangerous cat and mouse game that will leave you breathless.

Who can you trust when you can’t trust yourself?

Trust Me is the chilling standalone novel of psychological suspense and manipulation that award-winning author and renowned investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan was born to write.

Review:

Well, my mind was officially blown as soon as I finished this one, you guys know that I read a ton of thrillers and love the feeling of not knowing exactly where a story is headed, but Trust Me takes things to a new level. I changed my mind at least a hundred times about what direction this would take, so many times that I started to confuse myself! There was so much going on here it made my head spin at times and it definitely kept me on the edge of my seat.

The blurb here is short and sweet and absolutely perfect so I’m not even going to say a whole lot here because going in blind really upped my enjoyment and I want the same awesome experience for you as well. Mercer is a journalist trying to recover from a terrible tragedy and her first foray back into work is to write a true crime book covering the trial of Ashlyn who is accused of murdering her toddler. Horrific stuff and Casey Anthony immediately springs to mind, and Ryan doesn’t shy away from the comparisons, she actually references her several times in the book which I thought was a cool move, she definitely wasn’t trying to rip anyone off. Mercer is convinced that Ashlyn is guilty, but did she really kill her little girl? In a weird twist of fate Mercer and Ashlyn wind up playing a dangerous game of cat and mouse and that’s where I stop talking about the plot.

I found this to be highly unique and loved the book within a book structure, that always intrigues me and was very well done here. Ryan has a sharp writing style and this was meticulously plotted, remember how I said my head was spinning? That was so true, she left me reeling in the end and so surprised by what ended up happening.

Trust Me in three words: Original, Tricky and Complex.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

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Release date: October 30, 2018

Publisher: Berkley

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Blurb:

When freelance writer Nikole Paterson goes to a Dodgers game with her actor boyfriend, his man bun, and his bros, the last thing she expects is a scoreboard proposal. Saying no isn’t the hard part–they’ve only been dating for five months, and he can’t even spell her name correctly. The hard part is having to face a stadium full of disappointed fans…

At the game with his sister, Carlos Ibarra comes to Nik’s rescue and rushes her away from a camera crew. He’s even there for her when the video goes viral and Nik’s social media blows up–in a bad way. Nik knows that in the wilds of LA, a handsome doctor like Carlos can’t be looking for anything serious, so she embarks on an epic rebound with him, filled with food, fun, and fantastic sex. But when their glorified hookups start breaking the rules, one of them has to be smart enough to put on the brakes…

Review:

This was such an adorable read, I really liked the idea of a woman who isn’t desperately waiting for her boyfriend to propose and Nik most definitely was not prepared to have to turn down her boyfriends proposal in front of the whole world. I can’t think of anything more awkward and embarrassing but it set the stage for a super entertaining and charming read that I breezed through.

One of the strongest aspects to this was how incredibly diverse it was which is always so nice to see! It’s set in L. A. which is such a culturally diverse city so it makes so much sense to have such great representation, gotta give the author some props for that. The characters were all fun, relatable types from Nik and Carlos to her friends Dana and Courtney and his family, I really enjoyed all of them.

This was a super sweet romance with a hint of the spicy stuff, nothing super graphic or over the top. It reminded me of sitting down with a bowl of popcorn and watching one of my favorite rom coms, it had that same charm and appeal and was just an all around good time.

The Proposal in three words: Cute, Sweet and Charming.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: October 9, 2018

Publisher: Little Brown

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

Spend the coldest days of winter on a Caribbean beach with New York Times Bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand.

Join New York Times Bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand on the stunning beaches of St. John for the beginning of her thrilling new winter series-The Paradise. Welcome to Paradise, the first book in the Paradise series, has everything that readers have come to know and love about an Elin Hilderbrand novel, plus a healthy dose of intrigue. Irene Steele’s idyllic life-house, husband, family-is shattered when she is woken up by a late-night phone call. Her beloved husband has been found dead, but before Irene can process this tragic news, she must confront the perplexing details of her husband’s death. He was found on St. John island, a tropical paradise far removed from their suburban life. Leaving the cold winter behind, Irene flies down to the beautiful Caribbean beaches of St. John only to make another shocking discovery: her husband had a secret second family. As Irene investigates the mysterious circumstances of her husband’s death, she is plunged into a web of intrigue and deceit belied by the pristine white sand beaches of St. John’s. This exciting first book in the Paradise series will transport readers to a new beach locale-another world that Elin knows as well as her beloved Nantucket-and have them longing for winter

Review:

If you’re anything like me and were super sad when Hilderbrand’s last series came to an end then I’m sure you’re going to fall in love with this new series as well. Per usual the characters are immediately relatable and feel like fast friends and the setting is idyllic. It’s a departure for the author, it’s not set in Nantucket but in St. John and I’m currently trying to figure out how to talk my husband into taking me there for our tenth wedding anniversary!

Irene’s husband dies in a tragic accident and if that isn’t devastating enough the discovery of his secret double life is revealed. You hear from Irene and her two sons Baker and Cash and you also hear from St. John’s locals, Huck and Ayers. (Quick side note, don’t these characters have the most interesting names?! They’re not pointless either, they all have a story and meaning) One of the many things that intrigued me about this was that it focuses on a group of people who’s lives were heavily impacted by one man but since he dies at the start of the book you never actually get to hear from him. You definitely get a strong sense of who Russ is through the other characters narrative, but he’s this silent, looming presence who intersected lives that otherwise would’ve never crossed paths.

I was a little hesitant about reading a Hilderbrand book not set in Nantucket but I worried needlessly because the authors ability to bring a setting to life is unmatched. I have this perfect picture in my mind of how the islands look, feel, sound and smell and that’s why I need to experience it for myself! Throw in a mysterious angle and amazing characterization and you have such a fun read, I’m already dying for the second book in the series and I don’t even know if it’s done being written yet! 😂

Winter in Paradise in the words: Escapist, Picturesque and Lush.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.