Friends With Benedicts (2021)

by Staci Hart
ASN/ISBN: B08HPD92F9
Publication: June 8, 2021

Friends With Benedicts, a brand new, heart felt rom-com from Staci Hart, is finally LIVE! Grab your copy today from your favorite online book retailer!

Amazon | AppleBooks | Kobo | B&N | Goodreads


DESCRIPTION

Timing is everything.

Presley Hale and Sebastian Vargas are no strangers to goodbye. Their high school summers were spent wrapped up in each other until she would inevitably go home to California. One season after college, Sebastian finally escaped the little Texas town to travel the world, and they said goodbye for what they thought might be the last time.

Sebastian went one way. Presley went the other.

For the first time in five years, they’re both in town, but the timing is no better than ever. So the only thing to do is what they do best. Keep it casual.

Friends with benefits.

They’ve done it before—doing it again will be easy.

But their hearts don’t get the memo.

When the lines of their arrangement blur, Presley and Sebastian are faced with decisions they’ve avoided for years. And that’s not even their biggest problem.

A small town in danger of failing.

A secret that could tear them apart.

And two hearts that can’t hide anymore.

They’ve shared so many summers, but none compare to what they’ll face.

Timing is everything.

And their time is almost up.

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.

Amazon | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Website | Newsletter


REViEW

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

Presley made multiple appearances with her daughter Priscilla (Cilla) in Bet the Farm, and now we get their story. Having moved from California, Presley is currently living in Texas with her aunt and cousins. As luck would have it, the boy she’s always loved is now also there, but just like when they were young, timing remains a problem. Sebastian is set to leave as soon as summer is over.

Friends with Benedicts was satisfying in a way that Hart’s Bet the Farm was not. A lot of it has to do with the chemistry between Presley and Sebastian and just Sebastian himself. It also helped a lot that Cilla is so adorable. I can’t help but fall for the cute kid trope.

I generally like Hart’s female protagonists because they are often strong-willed, determined, and independent. Presley has all these qualities. It’s usually the male love interests that have me going back and forth. Sebastian was a love interest that I liked. For the most part, he has some emotional depth to him. There’s more to him than just being angry all the time (yes, I am comparing him to Jake from Bet the Farm, whom I was not a fan of).

Sebastian and Presley’s relationship moved both too quickly and at just the right pace. They just barely meet again but can’t keep their hands off each other despite different existing complications. Of course, jumping into their old habits is directly the result of their shared history. It’s always just been this way except for the last five years. Having quickly established this meant I wasn’t as bothered by their instant relationship as I could have been. The most irksome part of the book is the lines of communications headlining as one of the major tropes. It ranged from lack of communication to miscommunication. What helped lessen my dislike of the trope here was the amount of introspection from the characters and other characters pointing out the obvious communication problems. (Thank you so much for trying to make them see reason!)

A small town Hallmark-ish subplot is also present as Sebastian and Presley try to navigate their relationship. I’m not sure how necessary this was to the main storyline because the book already had a few things going for it. I would have kept on reading the book even if this hadn’t been present. In fact, when it popped up, I was surprised by it.

Overall, I connected to the characters because their connection to each other was one I generally liked. Their story was messy in the way real life love stories are, showcasing the difficulties of adjusting to a new life and a renewed love. I also appreciated that the main “villain” in the story was more complex than she could have been, she was made more human and had feelings.

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! 💕

Amazon | AppleBooks | Kobo | B&N | Goodreads


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.

Amazon | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Website | Newsletter


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.

{teaser blast} Bet the Farm (2021)

Staci Hart has a brand new rom-com standalone coming January 23rd!

BET THE FARM is a heartfelt, flirty story of opposites attract. You can pre-order your copy today!

Amazon | AppleBooks | Kobo | B&N | Goodreads

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.

EXCERPT

“You said you’d stay out of my way.”

He took a step closer. “And I have. But I said no goats.”

“What’s your problem with them?”

“You gonna clip their hooves? How about mend all the fences when they bust out, because they’re a pack of brainless Houdinis. How about deworming? And you’ve gotta breed. You ever smelled a goat buck? Tell me, smartass—have you ever seen goats mate?”

I shook my head.

“Let’s just say there’s a reason the devil has goat horns, and you’re gonna have a front row seat to the horror shop. If you knew anything about anything, you’d never have started all this.”

Another step, his arms folding across his expansive chest, which was covered. And thank God. I couldn’t think when he was shirtless.

Part of me thought he knew it too.

“Lemme tell you something, Olivia. It’s gonna be me who deals with the fucking goats, not you. And I told you no.”

“Fine. I hereby take all responsibility for the goats. All hoof clipping, fence mending, and deworming will be done by me.”

He stared me down for a second, and whatever he was thinking tugged at one corner of his lips for that whisper of a smile. He stuck his hand out for a shake.

I took it, aware of every nerve touching his skin. The rough of his calluses. The warmth in his palms. The odd sensation of my hand being almost completely enveloped by his.

I squeezed and pumped our hands once.

“Just promise me one thing,” he said, still holding my hand.

“What?”

“Let me know when you’re clipping their hooves so I can make popcorn.”

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.

Amazon | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Website | Newsletter

Pride and Papercuts (2020)

by Staci Hart
ISBN: 9798695274769
Publication: October 13, 2020
Series: The Austens #5 (also connected to series The Bennet Brothers)

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

You don’t have to be a Pride and Prejudice (P&P) fan to enjoy Pride and Papercuts.  In fact, not reading P&P might even be beneficial because if you’ve read (or watched) the former, you might end up making too many comparisons and forget to enjoy Hart’s retelling on its own merit. Overall, Pride and Papercuts is better than average at 3.5 stars. 

The book tracks the original well, integrating new elements into the original plot quite nicely.  There were points when I wondered how an incident would fit in, but Hart managed it seamlessly.  In particular, Lydia is now Luke and married (see Coming Up Roses) so I wondered what would happen to Wickham but this was resolved satisfactorily.  Hart infuses enough of her flair to make the story her own. Like many of her other novels, the imagery and the evocation of emotions is present (these are largely why I am a fan of Staci Hart and continue to read her novels even if I haven’t loved all of them).  While I came here for the romance between Liam (Darcy) and Laney (Lizzy), it was the bonds between siblings and the commitment to family that I truly took away from the novel. Of course, this isn’t to say that readers will be disappointed in the romance.  This is an enemies-to-lovers novel after all, and it checks all the right boxes: bickering, angst, and desire.

***The remaining is the comparison I couldn’t help but make.***

I found the elements outside Liam and Laney’s relationship to be the real standouts of the novel.  Hart’s Georgie is the most welcomed change. Georgie is a combination of two characters, Bingley (Darcy’s best friend) and Georgiana (Darcy’s sister).  I always felt Georgiana was a missed opportunity in Austen’s novel. She was treated delicately with nothing much to do but this iteration of Georgiana is one I like much better. Georgie still loves her brother but she isn’t so fragile that something like seeing Wickham again could break her.  While Georgie still listens to Liam, they are at least on a more equal footing than they were in P&P. 

Georgie and Liam’s relationship, one of respect and adoration, demonstrates Hart’s strength in writing strong familial bonds.  Like Georgie and Liam, Jett and Laney are quite close, likely even closer than P&P’s Jane and Lizzy. The lengths they’re willing to go to for one another made me root for their HEA even more.  I did wish more time was spent showcasing Mr. Bennet’s fondness for his daughter.

More difficult for me to enjoy or settle into was Liam and Laney’s relationship. I did like Laney and felt she was an accurate depiction of present-day Lizzy. I liked Liam as well–I really liked being able to see into his head– but I’m not exactly sure how I feel about them together. They verbally sparred so often it became difficult for me to believe they could be attracted to one another despite each repeatedly noting how they were attracted to the other.  While P&P has less interaction between the leads (as compared to Pride and Papercuts) it still creates this slow burn that makes hearts race when Darcy unexpectedly confesses, Pride and Papercuts’ leads, more often than not, left me frustrated. The consolation, however, was how much I liked them working together when they could overlook one another’s perceived faults. Of course, I’m also quite aware that I hold Lizzy and Darcy in a special vault in my heart.  I may have made Lizzy and Darcy too much to live up to.  But, it’s also possible I would still feel this way about the book even if I wasn’t a P&P devotee.

{teaser blast} Pride & Papercuts (2020)

Only one more week!! Staci Hart is heading back to her Austen series and bringing us Pride & Papercuts, a modern love story inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice!

Amazon | AppleBooks | Kobo | B&N | Goodreads

Hate is a strong word.

Depending on the company, loathe is a good substitute. Abhor might be a little fancy, but it gets the job done. But the word that really sums up how I feel about Liam Darcy is, without question, hate.

He doesn’t seem to think much of me either. The second he lays his fault-seeking eyes on me, he sets out to oppose me. Everything about him is imposing, as if he consumes the nearby air to power the rise and fall of his broad chest, and it’s clear he resents my presence on his advertising team. Every idea I have is shot down. Every olive branch I offer is set on fire by nothing more than the blistering coals he calls eyes.

In return, I light him up with my words.

It’s not as if he can dismiss me, since I work for his client, Wasted Words. Instead, he’s forced to tolerate me, which seems the closest we’ll ever be to friends. Fine by me.

I can be civil and still hate Liam Darcy.

But if there’s more to him than his exterior shows, I won’t be able to hate him at all. I might stumble over that line between love and hate and fall right into his arms.

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.

Amazon | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Website | Newsletter

Coming Up Roses (2019)

by Staci Hart
ISBN: 9781082579479
Publication: August 1, 2019
Series: Bennet Brothers #1


I’m an Austen fan so you’ll probably see Austen-related titles here and there. If you’re a Pride and Prejudice fan, you may want to check out Hart’s Bennet Brothers series.  This isn’t a retelling of P&P—that’s a separate book called Pride and Papercuts—but a contemporary reimagining of the Bennet sisters as brothers, flipping genders with the exception of Elizabeth (Laney in the series).  Luke returns home after a whirlwind marriage and divorce to help revive the family business, Longbourne Flower Shop.  Luke is Lydia’s male counterpart, and this is the story of Lydia after her divorce to Wickham. 

Hart manages to remain true to Lydia’s original character.  Luke is fun, flirtatious, popular among the opposite sex, and a bit insufferable. (Sounds like Lydia, right?) Similar to Lydia, Luke is fickle in his emotions and jumps headfirst into situations without really thinking things through.  Luke is steady in his devotion once he realizes what or who he wants, and it could be argued that Lydia also has this quality—she did fall for Wickham and commit to him.  Luke puts his energy into winning over Tess, an employee of the flower shop and a former friend—yes, this is an enemies to lovers story. Unlike Lydia, Luke can recognize his foolishness and is more than willing to try to fix his wrongdoings. Luke is a more mature Lydia.

Luke is more likable than Lydia will ever be, but I never quite rooted for him—he was just okay. I would have liked a lot more bantering between Luke and Tess to build their chemistry with each other. It started to lose a bit of steam once our lead characters got together (this is both a spoiler and not a spoiler because it is a romance novel after all). I think what did it for me was that the problem that arises between our leads and its resolution is predictable.  

This is an interesting take on P&P, giving life to the other sisters, or brothers in this case. I liked the premise of the series but didn’t find this particular story to be compelling.  I liked it enough to finish reading it but it wasn’t a page-turner. If you’re a P&P fan, it is an acceptable book to pass the time, to see Hart’s take on Lydia and how Lydia potentially matures, but you’re not missing much if you pass it up.