Bet the Farm (2021)

by Staci Hart
ASN/ISBN: 9798710185599
Publication: February 23, 2021
Series: Small Town Romance

(Review at the End)

Bet the Farm is LIVE and available from your favorite online book retailer! This heartfelt, flirty story of opposites attract from Staci Hart is just what you need. Happy reading! 💕

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Description

Olivia Brent has one summer to save the dairy farm she just inherited. But there’s one problem, and it’s not her lactose intolerance.

Jake Milovic.

The brooding farmhand has inherited exactly fifty percent of Brent Farm, and he’s so convinced the city girl can’t work the land, he bets she can’t save it in a summer. 

Determined to prove him wrong, Olivia accepts what might be the dumbest wager of her life.

His strategy to win seems simple: follow her around, shirtlessly distracting her between bouts of relentless taunting. And it’s effective—if his dark eyes and rare smiles aren’t enough to sidetrack her, the sweaty, rolling topography of the manbeast’s body would do the trick.

What they don’t know: they’ll have to weather more than each other. 

Mysterious circumstances throw the farm into disarray, and with the dairy farm in danger, Olivia and Jake have to work together. But when they do, there’s more to fear than either of them imagined. Because now their hearts are on the line, and the farm won’t be the only casualty if they fail.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Staci has been a lot of things up to this point in her life — a graphic designer, an entrepreneur, a seamstress, a clothing and handbag designer, a waitress. Can’t forget that. She’s also been a mom, with three little girls who are sure to grow up to break a number of hearts. She’s been a wife, though she’s certainly not the cleanest, or the best cook. She’s also super, duper fun at a party, especially if she’s been drinking whiskey. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, sleeping, gaming, or designing graphics.

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REVIEW

**I was provided a copy of the book by publisher and author. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Bet the Farm is a romance set in a rural farming town in California, which I thought was a nice change from most small town settings. It gives a different view of California that most people aren’t exactly used to–something other than tech, beaches, and palm trees. The plot is fairly straight forward with city girl Olivia returning home to her roots to help save the farm she recently inherited from her grandfather.

Olivia is a regular Pollyanna with her happy-go-lucky attitude while Jake is a complete grump and set against any kind of changes Olivia wants to make to the farm. I liked Olivia. Her earnestness at helping with the farm is sweet. At times, her attitude annoyed me because she would feel bad for doing something that she shouldn’t have had to feel bad about because Jake was making her feel bad. She wasn’t flawless, but she didn’t have to apologize for so many things. Unlike the typical city girl with a farm on her hands, Olivia doesn’t want to return to the city nor does she want to sell the farm. Returning to the farm is returning home for her. While Olivia wants to stay, Jake would prefer she leave back to New York and allow him to manage the farm the way her grandpa always did. Jake draws the the line at just about every corner, including drawing the line between them. Jake is so fickle, he irritated me a lot. Just about everything would set him off, and Olivia would take the brunt of it. He would do something that showed he cared and then he’d run off or get mad. Don’t even get me started on how he never really apologizes to Olivia for being such a sh*t to her–if he did and I forgot, it’s likely because it didn’t sound like he meant it at all. I’m getting frustrated just thinking about him right now!

Olivia and Jake have some shared history but it wasn’t enough for me to root for them. In fact, I was rooting for Olivia and another character in the book despite knowing he wasn’t meant to be end game. He was charming, and they had chemistry even if Olivia said she supposedly didn’t feel it. I was never quite on board with the direction of Olivia and Jake’s relationship also because they butted heads more than they got along, which isn’t necessarily bad especially if there are undercurrents of attraction. Again, while each would explain there was something there, I never quite felt it the way I felt in Hart’s other books. (Spoiler but not really a spoiler because it is a romance novel…when they’re together, they’re pretty great together but the getting there wasn’t something I entirely I found convincing…or I just disliked Jake a lot. Ha!)

Despite my frustration with Olivia, Jake, and their relationship, Hart doesn’t disappoint in her writing. It’s probably the biggest reason why I continue to read her novels. I was frustrated with her characters here but I couldn’t be frustrated with her descriptions. Some of my favorite parts in this book come from the beginning when Olivia describes riding in the car and looking out the window or the feeling of coming home and still feeling her grandfather everywhere. These were the moments I just wanted to give the book 5 stars everywhere–it was the what and the way Hart made me feel.

Bet the Farm might not be the best fit for readers looking for a bold female lead but I would recommend this book for Staci Hart fans. I’d also recommend this book for those who like small town romances with hate-to-love as a central trope.

Twist of Fate (2021)

by Tia Louise
ASN/ISBN: 9798704702146
Publication: February 22, 2021
Series: Standalone but crossover with other books

(Review at the End)

A sexy, friends-to-lovers, second-chance romance with a twist by USA Today bestselling author Tia Louise.

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DESCRIPTION

To be “just friends” with a guy, you’ve got to follow The Rules:
Don’t touch him unnecessarily.
Don’t share your intimate dreams with him (even if he asks).
Don’t kiss him, and definitely don’t sleep with him.

Scout Dunne and I have been “just friends” since childhood.
He’s everything you could want—sexy, charming, confident—every girl’s wet dream.
Until we broke The Rules.
We broke them in the ocean, in my aunt’s bathroom, in my bed…
It was the hottest week of my life.
I’m one of the few people who knows the first-round NFL draft pick wants more than a life of sports.
Because we’re friends, right?
Not anymore.

Now he’s gone, and I’m trying to get my career back on track.
Mamma said a guy would never put your dreams ahead of his.
But the twist of fate?
It’s something you never see coming.

(TWIST OF FATE is a STAND-ALONE friends-to-lovers, single-parent romance. No cheating. No cliffhanger.)


ALSO AVAILABLE!


EXCERPT

Scout

“It’s been a long time since we danced together.”

She doesn’t look up, but her smile grows. “It was homecoming, first dance of the year.”

“And the last. I still can’t believe you didn’t go to prom with me. All high school romances end at the prom.”

Her nose curls. “We were not a high school romance.”

“We might’ve been. The high school quarterback, all around hot guy who falls for the quiet, bookish future librarian. It’s the perfect setup for a movie.”

“All-around hot guy…” Her brown eyes roll adorably, and I’m glad the tension seems to have melted. “I’m not a future librarian.”

“I know.” I think about that night. “You did promise to have my back, though.”

“Until you broke the rules and kissed me.”

“It was a really good kiss. We should try it again to see if we’ve still got it.”

She steps out of my arms. “I’ve got a job to finish. Then I’m leaving Fireside.”

“Okay.” I shrug. “I’m not going to be here for long. Maybe we could pass the time together. Hang out.” I lean down to catch her eye. “What do you say, Tink?”

“Tink?”

“Tinkerbell. You remind me of her.”

“Does that make you Peter Pan, the eternal man-child?”

“I’m no child.” It comes out a bit hungrier than I intended, and her cheeks turn red so fast.

Should I say oops? I’m sure as hell not taking it back.

“I’ve got to go.”

She does it, too. She walks off, leaving me alone on the dance floor…

© TLM Productions LLC, 2021

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tia Louise is the USA TODAY best-selling, award-winning author of super-hot and sexy romances. All her heroes are alphas with hearts of gold, and all her heroines are the smart, sassy ladies who love them.

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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.**

Twist of Fate is an appropriate title for a book that’s all about how lives can change when least expected. Sometimes the things we want will also change along with what life throws at us. The plot of the book reflects the title along these lines starting with Daisy and Scout’s relationship–or lack of one–when they unexpectedly meet each other again. The twists continue to fall like dominoes from here.

One reason I like a friends-to-lovers stories is because when characters get together at the very beginning, it never feels like their relationship is moving too fast, especially when it’s possible one is in love with the other or they’re both in love with each other right from the start. Louise sets this up really well because in the span of one week, Daisy and Scout can’t keep their hands off each other and I was all for it. There was chemistry and I was rooting for then. I did want more of a backstory about the rules they set up in high school when they kept referring to what happened, but it doesn’t take away too much from the present day storyline. There were some events in the story I wish had been given more time or better explanations. While it can be read as a standalone, there’s a time or two when there was a reference to events that happen in a related book This Much is True (Scout’s brother JR’s book) and it made me wonder what happened or if I was missing something.

Life can change at any moment, and sometimes the things we want may change too. We just need to figure out what we’re willing to do about it. The twists that befall Daisy and Scout aren’t exactly surprising but it was still an enjoyable read.

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.

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.

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.

Make Up Break Up (2021)

by Lily Menon
ASIN/ISBN: 9781250761996
Publication: February 02, 2021

**I was provided a copy of the book by the publisher through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Make Up Break Up is about rival app makers, Annika, who believes in the power of love and second chances even if she may never find love herself, and Hudson Craft, who likes having clean breaks. When Hudson and Break Up move their offices next door, Annika cannot help but be a lot miffed (and petty…hehehe) at their success, especially because she is adamant he stole her idea. But, her thoughts also often drift to their summer fling in Las Vegas.

Make Up Break Up brings girl power to the table with an optimistic Indian main character in the tech industry who is passionate about her business. I liked Annika’s idealistic view on love and relationships; it’s one I cannot help but support (okay, fine I largely subscribe to it myself…hahaha). As much as I liked her, she complained a lot about Hudson and Break Up…a lot. I wanted her to get to work and show him that her app was better–because it really is. What speaks better than blowing people away with your work? I admired that she sticks to her morals throughout the novel, but she can also be judgmental. I wasn’t a big fan of her disregard for what he thought was important and the sacrifices he was willing to make–but that’s probably me being picky since I share some of Hudson’s feelings on family. Also, Hudson is undeniably sexy as both rival and love interest. I was conflicted over some of the changes I saw in Hudson especially because I don’t know how reliable I found it, despite the hints being here and there all along.

The book is predictable, but I don’t mind predictability as long as it’s done well. The ride needs to be interesting, and for the most part, it is, especially with the chemistry-filled run-ins and showdowns between the leads. There was one thing that Hudson did which I thought pushed the boundaries a bit–it made me mad–and I don’t think it should have been easily forgiven. I might be making it sound worse than it is but I’m still bitter about it. I would have liked more petty antics, allowing it more of the rom-com vibe Menon was potentially going for. Overall, Make Up Break Up is a good choice to start the most romantic month with.

Romance Interlude 2.5


The Strike Out (2021)
by Meghan Quinn
ASIN/ISBN: B08RNFL4C6
Publication: January 4, 2021
Goodreads Summary
Series: Brentwood Boys (Baseball Romances)

One liner: Holt pursues Harmony but she isn’t looking for a relationship.

Harmony and Holt have such great chemistry together. As annoying as Holt was, I had to give him credit for working so hard to get Harmony to give him a chance. While their romance is the focus, I enjoyed Holt’s conversations with his dad the most. In many of the novels I’ve been reading, the leads usually have bad relationships with their parents or their parents are no longer with him so it was refreshing to read about a healthy one. It was sweet that one of the first people he wanted to talk to about Harmony was his dad. While it was a good read, there were a few things I wasn’t a fan of…like some of Holt’s tendencies. Then there were were a few things that happened closer to the end that felt like they came out of no where.


Rules of Engagement (2020)
by J.T. Geissinger
ASIN/ISBN:
Publication: January 28, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: N/A

One liner: Quarterback looking for a wife through a matchmaking service discovers his real match might be the matchmaker.

Mason needs a wife to help him clean up his image. Despite his grumpy nature, he’s a sweetheart but not many people get to see it. Maddie is the good natured matchmaker who Mason’s agent seeks out to help find a wife. She doesn’t realize Mason’s only looking for a marriage of convenience until they finally meet and, to make matters worse, there are sparks between the two. I liked Maddie more than I liked Mason because she’s so happy all the time and she loves pink–hahaha, reminds me of me. What I liked best about her was her ability to see through Mason’s prickly nature and how she would remind him what a great person he actually is. Their bantering was top notch–so fun–and they have great chemistry. Maddie’s aunt was unexpected with her talk of auras and seances. While most chapters alternate between Maddie and Mason, I liked the additional perspectives of Maddie’s aunt and Mason’s agent from time to time.

The Wall of Winnipeg and Me (2016)
by Mariana Zapata
ASIN/ISBN: B01CDDTGRY
Publication: February 28, 2016
Goodreads Summary
Series: Standalone but appearances by other characters from other books

One liner: After quitting to work for herself, Vanny’s former boss shows up at her apartment asking her to come back.

Zapata has a way with slow burn romances. She makes her readers work as much as she does her characters and the ending is so satisfying. Despite her novels being tomes, I’ve never regretted picking them up. Especially with this particular book, the first 100 pages didn’t feel like it was 100 pages at all whereas I’ve read other books that make 20 pages feel like an eternity. I liked Vanny and how she was just genuinely nice despite Aiden being Aiden. What is Aiden like? He works hard but is closed off. He never greets her despite all her attempts at being nice to him. Despite living with his teammate Zac, they can’t really be called friends either. He’s a wall (physically and emotionally) and then as soon as he does something nice, I couldn’t help but swoon. Despite being over 600+ pages, I couldn’t put it down.

Feisty (2020)

by Julia Kent
ASIN/ISBN: B07VL5GXV8
Publication: January 28, 2020
Series: Do-Over #3

(Review at the End)

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I’m not too proud to admit that finding Mr. Right involves swiping right. Right? Welcome to dating in avocado toastland.

Here I am, on my first blind date, ever, courtesy of a smartphone app and my two annoying best friends.

So what is Chris “Fletch” Fletcher doing, walking across the room, looking at his phone like he’s pattern matching a picture to find a real person he’s never met before?

Oh.

Oh, no.

The guy I drop-kicked in seventh grade cannot be my blind date. The guy who earned me this infernal nickname.

That’s right.

Feisty.

More from New York Times bestselling author Julia Kent as Fiona “Feisty” Gaskill gets her chance at love – drop-kick included.

The Do-Over Series is complete!

Do-Over #1
Do-Over #2
Do-Over #3
Do-Over #4

EXCERPT

My lungs have decided that the world is too dangerous to make a move, utter a sound, do anything. I’m frozen, the pulse inside me growing stronger as time ticks away. My own shut-down system is the barrier to oxygen. The disconnect between what my body needs and what my tattered psyche can handle is causing my overload to leak out in a really obvious way.

“Fiona?” Josh says, shaking me gently, Michelle looking to him for certainty.

And then suddenly, Josh is out of my sight, replaced by two clear, calm, green eyes, light brown hair, and hands that feel like anchors.

“Feisty? Feis–Fiona?” Fletch corrects. The sudden pivot to using my proper name is jarring, given the fact that every atom in the world is buzzing inside my ears and nothing anyone does will help me to breathe.

I make a strange sound. I know it’s strange because his eyebrows turn down in the middle, his facial muscles pushing them low enough to show concern.

Concern for me.

“Breathe,” he says slowly as he puts one hand on my diaphragm, fingers warm and firm.

I make a sound to indicate that I am confused and the speech centers in my brain have shut down. Empathy floods me as I realize this is exactly what my student with severe apraxia, little Myles, must feel like when he loses his words under extreme stress. For years, I’ve said “use your words” to four-year-olds having anxiety fits.

Never again.

“Breathe, Fiona,” he murmurs, taking a deep breath to demonstrate, his belly expanding in a comical way, though I know his technique is strong. Hypnotic and commanding, his voice and body tell me what to do, guide me back from being lost in the woods to a cleared trail where I can find my footing, take a rest, and possibly feel safe again, knowing I can find my way home.

I inhale, the insides of my nostrils cold, the air hitting my nasal passages a welcome assault, diaphragm spasming and sputtering back to life.

“That’s my girl,” he whispers against the curl of my ear, his breath like coffee, his hard forearm muscles all I can see, the ripped cord of his strong lines drawing my gaze. “You just breathe. It’s over now. You did it. You saved them. It’s okay to breathe.” He inhales, then slowly exhales. “Let’s do this together now.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Julia Kent writes romantic comedy with an edge. Since 2013, she has sold more than 2 million books, with 4 New York Times bestsellers and more than 19 appearances on the USA Today bestseller list. Her books have been translated into French and German, with more titles releasing in 2020 and beyond.

From billionaires to BBWs to new adult rock stars, Julia finds a sensual, goofy joy in every contemporary romance she writes. Unlike Shannon from Shopping for a Billionaire, she did not meet her husband after dropping her phone in a men’s room toilet (and he isn’t a billionaire she met in a romantic comedy).

She lives in New England with her husband and three children where she is the only person in the household with the gene required to change empty toilet paper rolls.

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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.**

The description doesn’t do the book justice with the exception that yes, there’s a dating app, and yes, Fletch shows up during Fiona’s blind date. The description focuses on a single moment and the use of the app itself isn’t pivotal to the story. The description has the potential to lead readers astray, like it did to me. I expected dating and the app to be a more significant part of the book and I was wrong. While the focus is on Fiona and Fletch, here’s what happens…

A situation at Fiona’s workplace leads to the need for emergency responders. One of the individuals to arrive at the scene is Fletch, who immediately comes to her aid. After the situation at Fiona’s workplace, they keep bumping into each other. She’s never been fond of Fletch because an incident in the past has characterized their entire relationship–she dropkicked him and he gave her a nickname she still despises–but now different feelings are also starting to form. As she’s trying to reconcile her feelings over Fletch and trying to find peace within herself, she’s also busy being part of her best friend’s wedding party and trying to date (hence the whole book description). There’s a few other things too but they’re all secondary to the feelings and the finding peace.

I was conflicted about the first half of the book because I wasn’t sure if it was a romantic comedy or not. What happens in the beginning is some heavy material, which was unexpected, and then there are a few funny things thrown here and there. It isn’t until about halfway in the book where it establishes that it is definitely a rom com and redeems itself for being unsure of what road it wanted to take me. I would have been okay either way just as long as it had been clearer.

Fiona and Fletch had chemistry, which is why I ended up giving the book 3 stars. While Fiona was indecisive and still figuring things out, Fletch was this somewhat smitten guy who kept trying to straighten out Fiona’s mixed signals. It’s not that she was being childish and couldn’t decide, it was her still trying to figure out who she was so she could better understand where he might fit into her life and if she even wanted him in it. Some of her findings resonated with me as well. Their bantering was enjoyable. Feisty is a good read if you’re looking for a couple that has good chemistry. Fletch has the potential to be a good choice for a book boyfriend (#fletchisacatch).

Romance Interlude 2.4



Happily Letter After (2020)
by Vi Keeland, Penelope Ward
ASIN/ISBN: 9781542025133
Publication: October 20, 2020
Goodreads Summary

One liner: Woman fulfills the wishes of a little girl writing to Santa Claus and falls in love with her father.

The set up is cute, and I’m a total sucker for the single parent trope but I ultimately didn’t like it as much as I hoped I would. Maybe it was all the “crazy coincidences.” I normally do not mind when there are one or two but when there are too may then it turns my brain off. A part of it was also about expectations and it was unexpected and not necessarily in the best way for me. Sadie is a likeable character, and Birdie is an adorable little girl. I liked the bond they developed. Add in Sebastian a devoted dad who puts his daughter first and we have an adorable potential family. It was a sweet story.


The Stopover (Year)
by T. L. Swan
ASIN/ISBN: B07QNKVR3N
Publication: September 26, 2019
Goodreads Summary
Series: The Miles High Club #1

One liner: A flight delay leads to a one night stand between seatmates and they meet again nearly a year later as boss and employee.

The book took off (hehe) quickly, immediately drawing me in but I became annoyed with Jim/Jay/Jamison. He’s someone who likes to be in control and wants things to go his way. When things don’t go his way, he pretty much pouts and continues to try to make things go his way anyway. He consistently ignored Emily’s protests/hesitation about certain things, and she mostly just gave in. Because Emily knows what she wants and can be assertive as well as snarky at times, Jim/Jay/Jamison is often asking her about her “b*tchy attitude.” I completely thought Emily deserved better. The book is well-paced and started out as an entertaining read but Jamison’s personality affected the experience.


Dirty Talk (2017)
by Lauren Landish
ASIN/ISBN: B078N6643J
Publication: December 26, 2017
Goodreads Summary
Series: Get Dirty #1

One liner: After phoning in to a radio show about her cheating boyfriend, Kat Snow ends up having a different kind of phone call after hours with show host Derrick King.

It’s called Dirty Talk and rightfully so. I had to fan myself a lot. WHEW!! Things get hot and heavy fast for Kat and Derrick after the initial phone call. The dirty talk is hot and the sex…yeah, that’s hot too. If you like those two things, this book is a good one to pick up BUT what I really liked about the book was it’s emphasis on communicating with your partner: talking, listening, and honesty. While I understand that romance novels (especially explicit, open door ones) are not for everyone, the book is a reminder of the many reasons that I love them. Sure, romance novels offer escape but they also provide introspection and reinforce sex positivity.

The Kinder Poison (2020)

by Natalie Mae
ISBN: 9781984835215
Publication: June 16, 2020
Series: The Kinder Poison #1

Rather than decide on an heir, the king chooses to invoke the Crossing, a race between his children that will take them across the desert and ultimately end with a human sacrifice. The first one to finish and kill the sacrifice will be named heir. Zahru’s desire to join in the festivities, unfortunately, ends up placing her in the middle of a sibling rivalry where she ends up becoming the chosen sacrifice. Now, she needs to figure out how to get out of it.

There’s just enough world-building to get a sense of the environment, including the politics and the social system but not extremely detailed. Magical ability is tied to one’s value, with those lacking ability seen as worthless and given limited resources. Interestingly, magic comes with a price such as a shorter life span for some and, after a time, some magical abilities will also completely disappear. Because magic has consequences, it’s (only somewhat) surprising that people would not also defend those born without magic to ensure they are treated as citizens of the kingdom as well. As you can see, I wasn’t a fan of how those without magical abilities are treated.

While the beginning was interesting, the race itself wasn’t all that exciting. I was invested in the book mostly because I wanted to know if Zahru would be able to escape her fate; however, along the way, I started to get increasingly frustrated with her. I liked her optimism–some may see this as her being naive but I would disagree–and her ability to try to see the best in people. She’s prone to speaking her mind but is also a genuinely nice individual. She is a capable individual but society only values individuals with strong magical abilities. As a whisperer, someone who can speak to animals, society deems her to be nearly useless, just above those without magical abilities. In viewing her worth through society’s lens, she doesn’t see herself as someone with much to offer. This lack of self-confidence carries through the majority of the book and irritated me greatly. She kept waiting to be saved while I kept waiting for her to save herself. Can you imagine being able to speak with animals? There is so much they can tell you especially if you need to escape!

While I liked The Kinder Poison, it wasn’t as thrilling as I hoped it would be. The ending makes up for a lot of the book and it does end on a cliffhanger. Good thing The Cruelest Mercy (The Kinder Poison #2) will be out June 2021. I will definitely be picking that up because I need to know what happens next.