False Start (2021)

by Casey Hagen
ASIN/ISBN: B087PVMZQ5
Publication: February 16, 2021
Series: Beautifully Brutal #1

(Review at the End)

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DESCRIPTION

I’m used to being an outsider, full of self-doubt, pain, and a longing to belong.
Until I found this family, my own band of derby sisters
But when the most notorious coach in roller derby sets his sights on me, my life is thrust into chaos.
He’s a perceptive, cocky hard-ass, who’s made me his enemy, and his student.
Despite being my adversary, he’s the only man I can trust when faced with insurmountable odds, even if I hate every second he tries to bend me to his will.
Our proximity brings with it a forbidden attraction.
One that can destroy everything my team has built.
One that threatens to break me down, piece by piece
I won’t let Cain Bishop break me…at least not on the track.
But maybe…I’ll let him break my bed.

One night home and I’m obsessed with the track.
Maybe not the track itself, but her. The most compelling player I’ve ever seen.
The way she maneuvers through the pack, I can’t take my eyes off her.
She’s a fighter, battling head to head for everything she believes in.
When the odds turn against her, I’m the key to her salvation.
Getting too close could cost me everything.
But there’s no chance in hell I’ll stay away.
Not even when redemption is on the line.
Maisy Flynn is mine, even if neither one of us wants it.
Only…keeping her might mean she loses everything she holds dear.
After all I’ve done, the Devil himself would sooner see me burning on my knees at his feet than let me keep my prize.


False Start is the first book in the Beautifully Brutal series with the next books in the series coming out through 2021. The next in the series is Hip Whip, coming out in March!


EXCERPT

I slammed down a stack of cash, snatched my jacket, and stomped out of Banked Track, leaving Mayhem on her hands and knees on the bar. 

I figured I had about ten seconds tops before she scrambled off and chased me down. 

Ten seconds to get to the parking lot, get in my truck, and get the fuck out of here.

And never come to town again. 

My breath billowed before me, illuminated by the dull glow of streetlamps in the inky darkness of the frigid night. I pounded down the sidewalk, the image of her voracious eyes combing over Patti’s pictures playing through my head. 

My amusement at her climbing clean up on the counter swept away by an avalanche of bitterness for what they asked of me even without saying the words.

The bitterness of what I couldn’t give them.

But damn, I wanted to. 

Too much.

I’d stay at the farm. I’d pay whoever I had to pay for grocery delivery. We’d survive, we could just call it quality time…so much quality, Lilith would be ready to murder me, but then my nephew would be born, Jordan would get home, and I’d be on my way out of town.

“Hey!”

Six damn seconds.

I kept my pace as I whipped around, only to find her chasing me down in that sweater. 

That. Fucking. Sweater.

My pulse pounded in my ears. My nostrils flared with the ragged breath I sucked into my lungs.

It didn’t even cover her shoulders and the temperature had mercilessly dropped into the low twenties the minute the sun disappeared over the horizon. By now, we’d plummeted to the teens.

I jabbed a finger in the direction of the bar. “Get your ass inside.”

She skidded to a stop, propped her hands on her hips, and arched an eyebrow. I knew that look. Every man on the planet knew that look and all the variations whether it be aimed with stunning precision at them from a girlfriend, a sister, a mother, or a grandmother. “Excuse me?”

“You don’t have a jacket,” I said, marching back to her, my hands curled into fists because fuck if I didn’t want to haul her ass off somewhere warm and private. 

Only I couldn’t trust myself alone with her. Warm and private meant giving in and tearing off every last shred of clothing so I could fuck her until neither of us could stand. 

Glowering down at her, I put every bit of anger and frustration into the force of my words, not caring if they hurt her, because they were the only way to save us from absolute disaster. “Get. Your. Ass. Inside.”

Better to hurt her now before the stakes got higher. 

Before feelings got involved.

Look at me pretending like they hadn’t already. 

We’d been nothing but feelings since our eyes met during her bout. We’d been adding good old-fashioned dry logs to that flame ever since, building the kind of heat that didn’t flash and die, but simmered, building a base of coals so damn hot it reached into the shadowed recesses of our lives.

“Not until you agree to help us.” Her chin wobbled as she shivered before me. She clamped down her teeth, but the telltale tremble of her teeth trying to chatter in the blistering cold was there.

“Goddammit.” I yanked my jacket off, wrapped it around her, and held it together so she couldn’t shrug it off. “I’ll walk you home. Which way?” 

She tried to yank away from me. “I don’t need you to walk me home; I need you to train us on your track.”

I curled my fists tighter into the soft leather, shaking her with every bit of resentment coursing through me, making her rock on her heels before holding her steady. “No.”

“Why not?”

“You damn well know why not.” I growled. There’s no way she didn’t know. 

And the fact that she did made it damn near impossible to look her in the eye at times.

“You didn’t do it,” she said quietly. “What they say about you. You didn’t do it.”

The calm confidence of her words only fueled a dormant rage, now burgeoning inside me again since waking up the minute I rolled into Galloway Bay. I wouldn’t stand here while she looked at me with softness, caring, the hushed tone of her voice reverent, like I was some kind of hero. 

Not when all I had was a legacy of mistakes that brought others pain.

I tugged her against me. “You don’t know a damn thing about what I did or didn’t do,” I said, seething with the fine edge of anguish cutting through me. “What I’ve cost the people I love.”

My gaze dropped to her full pink lips and I closed my eyes. Her mouth wasn’t mine to taste, should never be mine to taste, and if I took, it would only prove what a selfish bastard I really was. “You’d do good to trust your instincts about me, Mayhem.”

She turned her face up to mine. Unflinching, she stared me straight in the eye without so much as a blink. Full of stubbornness and ready for confrontation, she took me head-on. “The funny thing is, I do,” she said with quiet finality. 

Her eyes dropped to my mouth and I fought the urge to waver. I hung my head and turned away from her, away from temptation.

How many more times would I scour my soul and find scraps of shredded honor before I ran out completely?

“You didn’t do it. I don’t know why you don’t shout it from the damn rooftops. I don’t know why you didn’t defend yourself, maybe it’s time to—”

I pierced her with a scowl. “Leave it alone,” I bit out the words in harsh warning. Fury pounded in time with the ripple of my beating heart.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

USA Today Bestselling author Casey Hagen pens her snarky, passionate stories from the salty air of Kennebunk, Maine. She’s a born and raised Vermont native, a New England girl to the core, with Ben & Jerry’s in her heart and real Vermont maple syrup pumping through her veins.

She’s the proud mother of three girls and a first-time grandma with an insatiable addiction to Fall Out Boy and the new Taylor Swift album, Folklore, because…AMAZEBALLS, and a new, rather concerning obsession with tattoos and piercings. Can you say “cool grandma?”

The inked and pierced grandma spends her time tucked away in her office, coated in cat hair, alternating between tearing her hair out trying to find the perfect words and being one step ahead of her three scheming fur babies she is positive are plotting her demise with every swirl around her ankles at the top of her office stairs.

She loves writing stories about real people, with complicated histories, relatable everyday problems, and giving them the hard-won happily-ever-afters they deserve.

And she thanks every last one of you who picks up one of her stories.

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REVIEW

**I was provided a copy of the book by Give Me Books as part of the promotional campaign. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

This would be a Hallmark movie if Hallmark movies were about a roller derby team with a fiery-tempered tattooed protagonist trying to save a community program while having sexy times with her hot coach. And the hot, sweltering kisses they share…whew! I can’t forget those either. Maisy is the tough but well-loved (at least by those who know her) protagonist who has finally found her family in her roller derby team after losing her mother as a teen. Cain returns to Galloway Bay to help his sister with her pregnancy but isn’t prepared to stay any longer than necessary in the town that shunned him. They quickly inspire lust in each other, and their love of roller derby brings them together.

In the first half of the novel, I was trying to connect to a sport I was unfamiliar with along with Maisy and Cain. I couldn’t connect with their potential relationship very well because the lust was immediate and I was afraid it would head into insta-love territory without establishing anything beyond physical attraction. Their attraction is acknowledged as lust, which I was grateful for, and then I came around to their chemistry when they finally started working on the same roller derby team–simply just making googly eyes at each other wasn’t enough for me to establish much. I don’t know very much about roller derby but by the second half of the book, I was invested enough in Maisy and Cain to do a little bit of research. I watched a few videos to visualize and understand the sport better and it helped me connect better with the story and with them.

I enjoyed reading a sports novel that wasn’t about hockey or football and focused on a women’s team. The camaraderie between the women was something I liked reading and helped to establish why Maisy saw them as her family. I enjoyed Hagen’s writing a lot. I read 100 pages and felt like it was less than half. Her writing is descriptive and evokes images and so many emotions. One of my favorite lines toward the beginning of the book is when Cain explains how Maisy getting to close to him would be problematic, leading to opening up a part of himself that he kept hidden because “it rivaled the force of any turbulent storm-ravaged sea crashing relentlessly against a rocky coast. Cracking open that well of pain, anger, and resentment would flood everything and everyone in its path.” Even if I wasn’t yet sold on Maisy and Cain’s attraction to each other, I was hooked because of Hagen’s writing style. I liked the book and recommend it for those looking for a romance centered around a nontypical sport with leads that are rough around the edges.

Fumbled (2021)

by Cala Riley
ASIN/ISBN: B087PVMZQ5
Publication: February 15, 2021
Series: Quick Snap Novella

(Review at the End)

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$10 Amazon Gift Card GIVEAWAY

Jude

Before training camp, I went on one last trip. Just me and the beaches of Miami without doting fans and the pressures of fame. Then I ran into Ivy, literally.

One thing led to another, and we spent a glorious week together. Then she utters the words I never wanted to hear: Just Friends.

I’m playing the best I’ve ever played, yet somehow with Ivy I keep fumbling. Our lives are worlds apart, but with each text, call, and stolen moment, my feelings for her grow. Can I keep my career and land the woman of my dreams?

Ivy

When I met Jude, I had no idea who he was to the world. He was a hot, vacation companion, nothing more. We spent one week getting to know each other, but at the end we went our separate ways as just friends.

Then he showed up back in my life. Jude Taylor, star wide receiver.

I don’t care that he’s on the TV every Sunday when I go to my parent’s house or that thousands of people worship him. I care about the man I met in Miami. I thought we could be friends, but the way he makes my heart race when the cameras are off is far from friendly. Every wink, smirk, and deep timbre of his voice makes me question why I ever wanted to be friends. Can I compromise my life plans to allow him a place by my side?

Also Available!



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cala Riley Logo

Cala Riley, better known as Cala and Riley, are a pair of friends with a deep seated love of books and writing. Both Cala and Riley are happily married and each have children, Cala with the four-legged kind while Riley has a mixture of both two-legged and four. While they live apart, that does not affect their connection. They are the true definition of family. What started as an idea that quickly turned into a full-length book and a bond that will never end. 

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REVIEW

**I was provided a copy of the book by Give Me Books as part of the promotional campaign. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Fumbled is a novella that packs nearly an entire 300-page novel worth of events into it’s limited number of pages (just over 100). This can be viewed as good or bad depending on what it is you’re searching for. Ivy and Jude meet, spend a week together, and then go their separate ways to only reconsider whether a week together was long enough. Because it’s so short, the events that occur don’t pack an emotional punch like they would if the story were a lot longer. There’s just not enough to go into detail about things that happen. There are only a few pages to spend on it, if at all, before quickly moving on to the next thing. There are a few places here and there where more than just a few pages are spent on a moment, and these allowed the ability of the authors to evoke emotion shine through. If you would like something that provides greater detail by concentrating on just one or a few significant events, that allows you to connect with the characters, this novella might not be the right one for you. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a quick read, this book will do the job. It reads like a full length novel but the pace is so fast–everything flies by. A lot of things happen and any problems or situations get resolved quickly.


There is a GIVEAWAY for a $10 Amazon Gift Card

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!

I made Valentine’s Day Cards! My cousin is a huge BTS fan so I made these just for her–that was originally my intention at least. I wanted to make some cards for some of my favorite book characters but I was having too much fun making these. Hopefully I’ll be able to make some next year. (They’re gifs so be wary of lots of motions..sorry!)

For some reason The Sound of Music was on my mind a few weeks ago
and then she showed me this photo of JK, reminding me of the famous Julie Andrews scene.


Are any of you Guardian: The Lonely and Great God (Goblin) fans?
You know what it means if you see the sword…right? Heh…


The rest turned into cards for me instead of her…Enjoy the cringe! Feel free to send/share!
I had a lot of fun making them. Suga’s is probably my favorite.





Jimin is just too…
{insert any adjective that describes how insanely good looking he is}

Romance Interlude 2.7


Unexpected (2021)
by Bailey B.
ASIN/ISBN: B08KF8V9KD
Publication: February 5, 2021
Goodreads Summary
Series: N/A

One liner: Ellie/Lainey pretends to date an old friend, Asher, after her best friend, Liam, decides they should stop seeing one another because he’s in love with someone else.

I picked this up after seeing the release blitz promotion. Initially, the plot was good but the additional side plots detracted from the main story, the fake dating and the potential love triangle. I felt for the characters, especially Ellie/Lainey who was being used by someone she loved and thought loved her in return. Liam was a horrible excuse for a friend while Asher was the bad boy with a good heart. I thought there was enough of a plot present and I liked the writing enough for it to keep me invested in what was going to happen. While I understood there needed to be some kind of conflict at the end, what I thought was the the main conflict just resolved itself too easily.


Melted (2019)
by Hadley Harlin
ASIN/ISBN: B07Y5V98T8
Publication: October 8, 2019
Goodreads Summary
Series: Cooking Up a Celebrity #2

One liner: Two celebrity chefs serve as judges on a new cooking show

This enemies-to-lovers book was good in the beginning but slowly started to lose steam as it got closer to the end. The animosity between the Hawthorne and Sophia is established quickly so when they start pulling their shenanigans while travelling and filming, it’s believable. While I liked the characters, I never quite connected to either of them as well as I hoped. They have chemistry but I’m not sure they have the chemistry that would sustain the HEA I’m supposed to believe is meant for them–the romance felt forced. The lust and hate sex made sense just not the development of their feelings.


Not Your Average Road Trip (2019)
by Cassie Mae
ASIN/ISBN: 9781101885796
Publication: August 12, 2019
Goodreads Summary
Series: Not Your Average #2

One liner: An unplanned road trip to an audition leads to unexpected feelings between an actor and his agent.

Jace is headed to an audition that can potentially change the trajectory of his idling acting career and his agent Shay is accompanying him. It’s her fault they’ve been stranded, and partially his fault the company credit is no longer in her possession so with very little money, they keep heading to his audition because both their livelihoods depend on it. Everything that can go wrong does go wrong. The book is told entirely from Jace’s perspective. He often laments about what things would or should be like if it was an actual script being written and I found it entertaining. (I’m always thinking…if what just happened was a book this is how it would have ended…hehehe) We get to know Jace a lot better than we get to know Shay. Jace is a playboy–he refers to How I Met Your Mother and Barney throughout the book–and his work relationship with Shay is probably the longest he’s had with a woman. At first, I wasn’t a fan of Jace but I loved how he started seeing everything about Shay and liked her just the way she was. Shay’s character isn’t as developed, feeling almost like a generic character but I couldn’t help liking her. She puts up with Jace and knows how to put him in his place. I liked their relationship because they weren’t afraid to be themselves around each other.

Top 5: Romance Tropes

February is the reason the red and pink hearts start popping up at the end of December and rose arrangements all of a sudden take a price hike. It’s also a time when kids pass out cards, and I loved passing out Valentine’s Day cards, especially the candy that often came with them. While writing this, I remembered my 4th grade Valentine’s Day card exchange. I received a card from a kid named Andrew telling me he loved me…hahaha. The memories stirred awake while blogging has been pretty entertaining.

I decided to share my top 5 romance tropes. I never mind tropes. I see them as a starting point, stepping stones to a potentially great book with the great being dependent on the author’s abilities. For readers, tropes can serve as heuristics to help decide whether they want to read a book or not. It’s not a perfect shortcut, but with so many books to choose from it helps make choices easier–I’m more willing to pick up a book with a trope I like than one where I have no idea what is going on.

FRIENDS TO LOVERS

There’s something comforting about friends-to-lovers. This is about two people who are already familiar with one another, likes and dislikes, quirks, and so many things in-between, and decide there is a next step to their relationship. This person knows you so well, and they still choose to love you! (Heh…) I like the angst that sometimes accompanies this trope. For instance, the jealousy that springs up when someone else shows an interest in the friend but the other friend thinks that person is completely not good enough. (Mmmhmm…) This happens in one of my recent favorites by Kayley Loring. In A Very Friendly Valentine’s Day, Birdie and Eddie are best friends traveling to by train to New York for Valentine’s Day. Eddie gets completely jealous when he thinks another passenger on the train is interested in Birdie. He insists he’s not jealous, but we obviously know better. (My Review; Reviewed at Escapist Book Blog)

RIVALS TO LOVERS

Rivals to lover is such a fun trope. The bantering that occurs between the rivals is always entertaining. One of my favorite aspects of this trope is when the realization hits, that it might be love and not just purely competitive feelings because there’s usually this level of denial that has to be dealt with. “Am I–could I be in love with her?” “But I don’t like him? I refuse to believe it!” My favorite read of 2020 is one I haven’t been able to review yet because I just adored it so much. I will be able to write a review for this book but until then please grab this love letter to Seattle as Rowan and Neil temporarily put their rivalry aside to work together to outrun their peers on a scavenger hunt through the city, finding that their rivalty might have developed into something more. (Reviewed at Magical Reads)

CUTE/ADORABLE KID

I love kids. I’m the crazy aunt that gets chastised for playing with the kids rather than making small, and not very fun, talk with adults. It isn’t too surprising I always find myself falling for the cute adorable kid before making heart eyes at the parent/guardian lead in a book. Usually the presence of the adorable kid connects the lead and the love interest or helps the adults work through some sort of problem, potentially making some kind of internal realization. This one endears me to the guardian and the love interest a lot. It’s especially interesting when the guardianship over the kid is unexpected like in Helena Hunting’s Meet Cute. Daxton is forced to set aside his playboy ways when he becomes his teen sister’s guardian. This sets up the story to allow him to repeatedly meet with lead Kailyn. There’s one scene in particular where Daxton’s inside a store and has to call Kailyn for help. It’s funny but completely made me melt. It was one of my favorite scenes in the book. (My Review; Reviewed at Kimberly Faye Reads)

FAKE RELATIONSHIP

The fake dating trope can never not be entertaining. Two individuals pretend they’re dating for a variety of reasons from making an ex jealous to trying to stop family from fixing them up with someone. In Mhairi McFarlane’s If I Never Met You, Laurie and Jamie decide a fake relationship will be in their best interest. Laurie’s partner just broke up with her, and Jamie needs to show his bosses he has stability in his life. It’s a bit slow moving but Laurie and Jamie end up being perfect for each other even if they seem like a mismatch at first. This one has the added satisfaction of a despicable ex having regrets, which is another reason why the fake dating trope can be great. (Reviewed at One Book More)

FORBIDDEN LOVE

Forbidden love is a very broad trope and takes on many forms. Generally, two people who aren’t supposed to fall in love with each other end up falling in love with each other. Romeo and Juliet is the the quintessential example. Forbidden love can be due to a variety of things from falling for your best friend’s sibling to dating your coworker or dating your sibling’s ex. I really like Alisha Rai’s Girl Gone Viral about a bodyguard who falls in love with his employer. I’m not a big fan of the power dynamic at play with employer-employee relationships, especially if the employer uses it to their advantage (grr…) but the power dynamic isn’t as present here. (My Review; Reviewed at Smitten by Books)

What are some of your favorite romance tropes?
What are your favorite books containing these tropes?

Girl Gone Viral (2020)

by Alisha Rai
ASIN/ISBN: 9780062877888
Publication: April 1, 2020
Series: Modern Love #2

Katrina is a former model who has since left that life behind and now tries to stay out of the camera as much as possible. After sharing her table with a stranger at a cafe, Katrina finds her privacy invaded when the whole thing is posted on social media in real-time. To escape the potential media frenzy, her bodyguard–whom she’s secretly in love with–takes her to his hometown so they can figure out her next steps.

Recently, I was skimming books I liked for my top 5 favorite romance tropes for a post and I came across Girl Gone Viral. It was one of the books I read right after overcoming a long reading slump. Skimming the book turned into a full-blown reread. I wondered if its effects on me had worn off but quickly realized I had nothing to worry about. It still put a goofy smile on my face 8 months and many romance novels later.

The Modern Love series focuses on love in the modern age with apps to swipe right, social media, and meet cutes going viral. Rai addresses the darker aspect of social media and issues around privacy. The conversations in the book surrounding this were thoughtful in presentation. It’s a bit overwhelming to know that anything you do can potentially be uploaded somewhere for entertainment. That’s always bothered me when someone is live posting as things happen to someone or to people around them. There is always the potential that your privacy is being invaded because someone decides to share a picture or a video online. Maybe sharing without audio/video and images might not be so bad but I am not a fan of sharing things that might make people easily identifiable without permission. For individuals like Katrina who value their privacy, this can be both frightening and overwhelming. It’s common decency to think twice about what or who you’re posting about.

A few things about Girl Gone Viral make it stand out among the romance novels I’ve read. Girl Gone Viral remains one of the most racially/ethnically diverse romance novels I’ve read up to date. One would think the diversity that exists in the real world would be reflected in the more books being published, but that isn’t the case. Katrina is biracial, half-White and half-Thai, and Jas is Punjabi but also with Mexican heritage. They’re both considered non-traditional leads in a romance novel, which shouldn’t be the case but is. Jas’s family is one of my favorite parts of the book. His entire family including mom, dad, brother, and Grandpa are all likeable. Although Jas’s relationship with his family is somewhat strained, they all love each other dearly. The person he seems to get along the least with is his grandpa but it’s mostly because they’re both so much alike.

The romance itself is another aspect of the novel I adored. A lot of my original review posted on Goodreads still rings true, especially as it relates to the progression of Katrina and Jas’s relationship. It isn’t all passion and hormones. Their romance is slow but they both have this sweet innocence that makes it so easy to root for them. They’re both adults but lack more recent relationship experience. Both constantly wonder and second guess about whether the other person feels at all the same because they don’t believe their feelings are returned. I thought it was endearing. They’re always thinking of each other as well. Katrina wants to do things for Jas, and Jas always tries to make sure Katrina has everything she needs. How more thoughtful could two people be? The ending remains as sweet as ever.

It might not necessarily be for everyone because the beginning is slow but it’s worth it to get to the end. It’s a well-written novel with a diverse cast of characters with two endearing leads suffering from what each believes is unrequited love and are caught in a slow-burn romance. Alisha Rai knows how to bring on the zings while also addressing meaningful topics like romance in the age of social media and viral posts. I am looking forward to her next installment of the series with First Comes Like out on February 16.



Inked Persuasion (2021)

by Carrie Ann Ryan
ASIN/ISBN: 9781950443000
Publication: February 9, 2021
Series: Montgomery Ink: Fort Collins #1, Montgomery Ink #16

(Review at the End)

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The Montgomery Ink saga from NYT Bestselling Author Carrie Ann Ryan continues with a steamy new series.

Years ago, Annabelle Montgomery married not for love but for a promise of hope. When she lost him weeks later, she told herself she never needed those sentiments again. Only when she discovers years later that her new neighbor is her late husband’s brother, Annabelle finds she can’t quite shake the emotions she’s long since buried. 

Jacob Queen vowed he’d never set eyes on Annabelle again. When they’re forced into each other’s lives once more, they realize that no matter how far they run, no distance can keep them apart forever. More than ghosts lay between them, and when they finally give in to temptation, walking away whole may no longer be an option.

Coming Soon!

#2 Releasing July 20
#3 Releasing October 26

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carrie Ann RyanCarrie Ann Ryan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary, paranormal, and young adult romance. Her works include the Montgomery Ink, Redwood Pack, Fractured Connections, and Elements of Five series, which have sold over 3.0 million books worldwide. She started writing while in graduate school for her advanced degree in chemistry and hasn’t stopped since. Carrie Ann has written over seventy-five novels and novellas with more in the works. When she’s not losing herself in her emotional and action-packed worlds, she’s reading as much as she can while wrangling her clowder of cats who have more followers than she does.

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REVIEW

**I was provided a copy of the book by Give Me Books as part of the promotional campaign. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

This is my first book by Carrie Ann Ryan. I was excited to read it because the book description was interesting. While there are positive aspects to the novel, I ultimately couldn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted. My favorite aspect of the book is its emphasis on family. Anabelle is the middle child being one half of a set of twins (a younger brother), with two older brothers (also a set of twins), and a younger sister. The five siblings all work together and get along fairly well. They book starts off by displaying the sibling love as Anabelle and her two older brothers discuss the partners of their younger siblings, mainly how they’re going to vet them to ensure they’re good enough. Ryan does a good job showcasing how close the Montgomery siblings are to each other and how they look out for one another. I love how they look out for one another as well.

Outside of the family dynamics is the main relationship between Jacob and Anabelle. It progresses relatively quickly from enemies-to-lovers. One moment Jacob hated her, and then the next he was fighting emotions he wasn’t supposed to feel. I liked the book and where it was heading until this happened, which felt a bit abrupt to me. There was hardly any time for them to be in a transitional period of figuring out their relationship before their relationship was heading to something more than friendship. This is more problematic for Jacob than Anabelle. While Anabelle never quite hated him, Jacob was adamant about how much he disliked her during and after his brother’s death. It wasn’t so much the writing because I generally liked the glimpses of the relationship I was getting. It had more to do with the story and how many things happened outside of the pages of the book. I’d turn the chapter and they’d apparently gone somewhere or did something. I didn’t get a chance to feel much chemistry before I was reading about Annabelle or Jacob realizing how they felt about each other. I was missing the growth and the changes that were supposed to be happening in the relationship.

The plot was a interesting and the writing kept me reading but I wasn’t a fan of how quickly the relationship moved without additional details. While the book was not a good fit for me, individuals looking for an enemies to lovers romance that is a quick read may enjoy the book.

Romance Interlude 2.6


Dirty Talk (2020)
by Ali Parker
ASIN/ISBN: B08599MMXK
Publication: February 27, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: Business of Love #1

The description gives away just about every thing that happens. It’s not necessarily a bad thing if the book is able to follow through and fills it in with good details. First, I liked that Vanessa was curvy. I appreciated the plus-size representation. She starts off with low self-esteem and pretty much remains with low self-esteem all the way through. I kept waiting for her to have an epiphany that she is awesome the way she is rather than constantly thinking about how other people might see her. Then there was the radio talk show that seemed like it would play a big role but actually doesn’t. She was supposed to be a host that gave great advice but we hardly saw her in action. Additionally, there were some discrepancies in the book that confused me. Vanessa ends a chapter narrating that he doesn’t even know…O_o… but I swear she just told him a few pages ago. Then at the worst particularly moment she decided she deserved so much better than what she was getting in return. First, that needed to happen a long time ago and then I disagreed with how she handled the situation.


Boyfriend for Hire (2019)
by Kendall Ryan
ASIN/ISBN: B07H8SVQNJ
Publication: February 19, 2019
Goodreads Summary
Series: Escorts Inc., #1

One liner: Bridesmaid falls for the date she doesn’t know the bride hired for her.

This is a trope I can’t help reading. I was waiting for the “I do everything but this” rule…and…yes, there is one. The first time I heard the “no kissing” rule in Pretty Woman it was novel, but then it popped up in a lot of different places. When it popped up here too, I couldn’t help but cringe a little but also chuckle, giving it the “I knew that was coming” side eye. Nick is pretty much perfect and Elle is the “normal” girl who doesn’t realize how great she is who gives him all the feels that he’s been waiting for that will make him consider changing his occupation. There isn’t anything particularly new here. It’s predictable and a fairly quick light read.


That Man Next Door (2017)
by Nadia Lee
ASIN/ISBN: B076J3GXYT
Publication: October 24, 2017
Goodreads Summary
Series: Sweet Darlings Inc. #1

One liner: Woman who skips out on her one night stand finds out he’s her new neighbor as well as new co-worker.

I read a previous novel by Lee that got great reviews but I didn’t really like it. I thought I’d give another of her novels a try, and I ended up liking this one a lot more. If you’re not a fan of the virgin trope, you probably won’t like this but the premise is funny. Jan Doe, yup that’s her real name, goes on one-night stands intent on losing her virginity only to freak out and leave before it happens. This isn’t the first time that it’s happened. Matt is this genuinely sweet guy who is one of her attempted one-night stands. It’s pretty funny with all the situations Jan finds herself when trying to avoid him until finally she realizes that maybe he’s more than just a one-night type of guy. There was laughing and swooning on my end too. There’s more depth to Jan’s character than is let on by the description that added to this being 3-star read rather than a 2-star. Because of her past, she feels like the odd person out in her very large extended family. She’s still trying to figure out her place in the family so while she’s comfortable in her current position in the family-owned company, it’s also clear that she could be doing more. Matt might be able to help her understand that. This was a fun read.

Valentine’s Day Playlist 2021

I had fun with my 2020 Christmas Playlist so I thought I would do a Valentine’s Day Playlist for 2021. It’s less involved because I used my Christmas Playlist also as a way to think about the year in review (despite also having a year in review post…hehehe). It may be Valentine’s Day but these aren’t all happy love songs. Sawry!
The complete playlist can be found here.

Track 01: The Bellas – Flashlight
“I’m stuck in the dark but you’re my flashlight / You’re getting me, getting me through the night”
book with a strong friendship

I cheated on this and couldn’t pick so I chose three books I like that highlight the bonds of friendship.

Track 02: John Legend feat. Jhene Aiko – U Move, I Move
“I can’t believe I found someone like you”
a book I really loved

Written in Red is my favorite of Anne Bishop’s The Others series. This is one of the books that help me get out of a very long reading slump. It has a cute wolf shifter kid in it and his relationship with Meg, the heroine, is my favorite part of this book. This is also one I pick up and read again once in a while.

Track 03: Taylor Swift – Begin Again
“on a Wednesday in a cafe / I watched it begin again”
book I enjoyed by an author who is new to me

I recently read Fable in preparation for Namesake. It’s the very first book I’ve read by Adrienne Young and it was so good. I couldn’t stop reading it. Don’t the books look great next to each other? Since I couldn’t link them with the covers, here are the
Goodreads Summaries:
Fable / Namesake

Track 04: Gabby Barrett – The Good Ones
“he’s one of the good ones / and he’s all mine / he’s one of the good ones”
a book with a love interest I adored…one of the good ones

When I first came across this title, I avoided it because I wasn’t a fan of the title. I know, I know. Now, I reread it once in a while because Shane Beckett grew on me. He is a hot fireman in love, looking for a second chance with the girl he regret letting go in high school.

Track 05: Lenny Kravitz – Again
“Where have you been / I wonder if I’ll ever see you again”
a book I didn’t finish but am considering reading…again

I’ve liked all the books I’ve been able to read by Zapata but I didn’t have a chance to get very far into this one. It’s pretty long at 493 pages so I temporarily let it go to concentrate on other things. I’m hoping to pick it up when I have more time. This one is about a figure skater who decides to switch over to pairs skating.

Track 06: Himala – Ace Banzuelo
“Hahanapin, sasabihin, aamining ika’y mapapasakin”
(I will find you, I will tell you, I will admit you will one day be mine)
an upcoming book I’ve been wanting to read

For lyrics and translation please click here. If you like “Himala,” check out this OPM playlist. I’ve been listening to this on repeat.

I talked about it in December but I’ll point it out this month too. Ha! It feels like I’ve been waiting for For the Wolf for ages. Maybe someone from Orbit will see how much I want to read it and have some mercy on me.

Track 07: Park Hyo Shin – Wildflower (with Han/Rom/Eng lyrics)
“Only until I can forget you, until I will be alright /
I’ll swallow my tears and at the end of my wait / I will bloom once again”
a book I finished but took a while to let go

The highlight of this song comes at around 3:57 and it’s beautiful. Park Hyo Shin’s vocals are magnificent. My favorite is this version here with just him and the piano.

You know that book you can’t help flipping through again once you’re done? The one that leaves you in a coma? I was okay it ended, because the ending was a satisfying one, but I brought this along with me everywhere just so to read my favorite parts again. This went on for almost a week.

Track 08: Pink Sweat$ – At My Worst
“I need somebody who can love me at my worst/ No, I’m not perfect, but I hope you see my worth”
a book I loved but not many people did (on average)

I tried to do this as scientifically as possible, which is to say it wasn’t at all. I compared the average rating on Goodreads with my personal rating (difference of 1.37 stars). Apparently I liked this erotica retelling of Cinderella more than the average reviewer. (Hmm…what does that say about me? Heh…) When I first read it, I thought this was such a different Cinderella retelling, and the erotica was an unexpected bonus. It introduced me to Bettie Sharpe. I haven’t been able to find very much by her though, which is a shame because I would love to see what her full-length novels would have been like.

Track 09: The New Basement Tapes – When I Get My Hands On You
“When I come home to you / Hold you in my arm all night
a book on my shelf I can’t wait to read

My copy of We Free the Stars, the second half of the Sands of Arawiya, finally came in, and I’m almost too excited to read it. It’s in my room, on my desk. Sometimes I look at it longingly because I want to know what happens to Altair, Nasir, and Zafira but I can’t get my hands on it just yet. I have a lot of work I need to finish first. It’s just not fair.

Track 10: NIKI – Around
“But even though this ain’t pretty and simple like a bed of roses /
‘least I know my hope is / That you stick around ’til the end / ’cause you’re my best friend”

my most recent favorite friends-to-lovers book

NIKI is one of my favorite artists. Her music was my much of my 2020 soundtrack. I wanted to put one of her other songs on here but decided I should end with a sweet number instead. It is a Valentine’s Day playlist, I guess.

Okay, we can end it the playlist with Wendy and Noah, friends who realize maybe they’ve always loved the other person. I adore this book, and now I’ll want to go reread my favorite parts. My full review is here.

I’d love to hear what’s on your playlist! I’d also love to hear what books you think pair well with the prompts!
Happy Valentine’s Day!