It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey

Summary:
Piper Bellinger is fashionable, influential, and her reputation as a wild child means the paparazzi are constantly on her heels. When too much champagne and an out-of-control rooftop party lands Piper in the slammer, her stepfather decides enough is enough. So he cuts her off, and sends Piper and her sister to learn some responsibility running their late father’s dive bar… in Washington.
Piper hasn’t even been in Westport for five minutes when she meets big, bearded sea captain Brendan, who thinks she won’t last a week outside of Beverly Hills. So what if Piper can’t do math, and the idea of sleeping in a shabby apartment with bunk beds gives her hives. How bad could it really be? She’s determined to show her stepfather—and the hot, grumpy local—that she’s more than a pretty face.
Except it’s a small town and everywhere she turns, she bumps into Brendan. The fun-loving socialite and the gruff fisherman are polar opposites, but there’s an undeniable attraction simmering between them. Piper doesn’t want any distractions, especially feelings for a man who sails off into the sunset for weeks at a time. Yet as she reconnects with her past and begins to feel at home in Westport, Piper starts to wonder if the cold, glamorous life she knew is what she truly wants. LA is calling her name, but Brendan—and this town full of memories—may have already caught her heart. 

Review:
It Happened One Summer tells Piper’s story. She had just been dumped and arrested. But her stepfather isn’t feeling sympathetic. He cuts her off and sends her away from L.A. She’s sent to Westport, the small town she grew up in before her father died. It’s here that she meets Brendan and falls for more than just Westport.
I really didn’t think I was going to like Piper. I thought she was going to be a really spoiled and unlikable rich girl. Piper was some of those things. She’s spoiled, but she quickly showed that she’s willing to work for what she wants. She starts fixing up the bar that they technically own. She didn’t annoy me like I thought she was going to.
Brendan also surprised me because I thought he was going to be mean to Piper and he ended up being a total marshmallow.
I loved the two of them together. They were an easy couple to love. I’m excited to read Hannah’s story and see more of Westport.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas

Summary:
Catalina Martín, finally, not single. Her family is happy to announce that she will bring her American boyfriend to her sister’s wedding. Everyone is invited to come and witness the most magical event of the year.
That would certainly be tomorrow’s headline in the local newspaper of the small Spanish town I came from. Or the epitaph on my tombstone, seeing the turn my life had taken in the span of a phone call.
Four weeks wasn’t a lot of time to find someone willing to cross the Atlantic–from NYC and all the way to Spain–for a wedding. Let alone, someone eager to play along my charade. But that didn’t mean I was desperate enough to bring the 6’4 blue eyed pain in my ass standing before me.
Aaron Blackford. The man whose main occupation was making my blood boil had just offered himself to be my date. Right after inserting his nose in my business, calling me delusional, and calling himself my best option. See? Outrageous. Aggravating. Blood boiling. And much to my total despair, also right. Which left me with a surly and extra large dilemma in my hands. Was it worth the suffering to bring my colleague and bane of my existence as my fake boyfriend to my sister’s wedding? Or was I better off coming clean and facing the consequences of my panic induced lie?
Like my abuela would say, que dios nos pille confesados.

Review:
After seeing so many people online rave about this book, I selected it as the book for the subscription I have.
The Spanish Love Deception follows Catalina who is looking for a date to her sisters wedding. Her coworker, Aaron, quickly volunteers when he overhears Catalina talking about it. When Catalina can find no other option, she agrees to take him with her to the wedding.
I think the story had minimal plot outside of Catalina and Aaron flirting and getting to know one another before they travel to another country together. But I didn’t really mind that. I liked the slow burn. I liked seeing them get to know one another. But some of the story just felt a little over the top. It felt like it tried to use as many tropes as possible. I can totally see why so many people live this book, but for me it was a little corny.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Fool Me Once by Ashley Winstead

Summary:
Lee Stone is a twenty-first-century woman: she kicks butt at her job as a communications director at a women-run electric car company (that’s better than Tesla, thank you) and after work she is “Stoner,” drinking guys under the table and never letting any of them get too comfortable in her bed…
That’s because Lee’s learned one big lesson: never trust love. After four major heartbreaks set her straight, from her father cheating on her mom all the way to Ben Laderman in grad school—who wasn’t actually cheating, but she could have sworn he was, so she reciprocated in kind.
Then Ben shows up five years later, working as a policy expert for the most liberal governor in Texas history, just as Lee is trying to get a clean energy bill rolling. Things get complicated—and competitive as Lee and Ben are forced to work together. Tension builds just as old sparks reignite, fanning the flames for a romantic dustup the size of Texas.

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review. I was supposed to be a part of the blog tour team, but I dropped the ball with this review.
Fool Me Once follows Lee, also called “Stoner.” She has been working toward getting a clean energy bill ready to be promoted and hopefully passed. But her ex shows up at the office that’s working with Lee. An ex that she treated pretty poorly.
I really enjoyed this one. I felt like I could really relate to Lee. She was almost two different people when she was working versus the rest of the time. She also had some serious trust issues when it came to cheating and she let those issues guide her actions which led to hurting her ex, Ben. But it had been 5 years since all of that happened, so, Lee and Ben have agreed to be friends.
The progression of their relationship was well done, in my opinion. I really like the second chance romance trope. This one had the potential to go wrong, but I was happy with how the author handled their past and made amends for things both of the main characters had done. Their falling back in love with one another was believable and enjoyable.
I genuinely laughed out loud while I was reading this. I absolutely will be recommending this in the future and buying a finished copy for myself.  

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Summary:
Ari Abrams has always been fascinated by the weather, and she loves almost everything about her job as a TV meteorologist. Her boss, legendary Seattle weatherwoman Torrance Hale, is too distracted by her tempestuous relationship with her ex-husband, the station’s news director, to give Ari the mentorship she wants. Ari, who runs on sunshine and optimism, is at her wits’ end. The only person who seems to understand how she feels is sweet but reserved sports reporter Russell Barringer.
In the aftermath of a disastrous holiday party, Ari and Russell decide to team up to solve their bosses’ relationship issues. Between secret gifts and double dates, they start nudging their bosses back together. But their well-meaning meddling backfires when the real chemistry builds between Ari and Russell.
Working closely with Russell means allowing him to get to know parts of herself that Ari keeps hidden from everyone. Will he be able to embrace her dark clouds as well as her clear skies?

Book Cover

Review:
Weather Girl was one of my most anticipated January 2022 releases. The story follows Ari Abrams who is a meteorologist in Seattle, Washington. She and a coworker, Russell, get drunk after their work holiday party and come up with a plot to get their bosses to fall back in love. Their bosses, Torrance and Seth, make working at KSEA almost unbearable even though both Russell and Ari love their jobs. The constant fighting and drama that come from Seth and Torrance is unprofessional and is creating a pretty toxic work environment. So, Russell and Ari come up with a plan to see if they can make things better by getting their bosses back together. And maybe Russell and Ari manage to find love along the way as well.
Ari is Jewish and struggles with depression. These are two things that play a big role in the story. Ari manages her depression with medication and therapy. I absolutely loved this inclusion in the story. I know that depression looks different for different people, but for me, I loved the thoughtful and caring way that it’s shown in this story. Ari’s childhood memories are often discussed because her mother also suffers from depression but her mother never did anything about it and Ari really resent that. I thought this was an interesting aspect of the story too because Ari is pretty harsh in her judgments of her mother, which is sometimes understandable. I loved the way things worked out with Ari and her relationship with her mother, though. We get to see quite a bit with Ari being Jewish as well. I can’t speak to this representation, but I’ve seen a few glowing reviews from Jewish bookstagrammers about the representation. So, I did want to mention it. I just genuinely liked Ari. She’s doing her best, and that’s all we can as of her. She grows a lot and I liked her “aha” moment when she’s talking with her therapist and she says “I didn’t think of it like that” and it makes her think about a situation in a whole different way. I love growth and learning like that.
Russell is also Jewish. He’s a single dad. And he’s fat. He was honestly just a cinnamon roll and I loved him. And then we got to some sex scenes and damn he has a filthy mouth and I absolutely loved it. He kept himself pretty closed off, so every time we learned something new about him it felt like a huge deal (like him being Jewish and again when we learned he has a daughter.) I really liked getting to know Russell. He was just genuinely such a nice guy (even when he needs to shove his whole foot in his mouth). I loved how his relationship with Ari developed. We only really got to see things from her perspective, so I feel like we got to know her way better, but I still really liked Russell.
Overall, I had such a good time reading this book. I loved the romance between Ari and Russell. I loved the romance between Seth and Torrance, even though that was a lesser focus of the story. I liked the way the story unfolded. I think this will absolutely be a huge hit with many of the romance readers that I know.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang

Summary:
When violinist Anna Sun accidentally achieves career success with a viral YouTube video, she finds herself incapacitated and burned out from her attempts to replicate that moment. And when her longtime boyfriend announces he wants an open relationship before making a final commitment, a hurt and angry Anna decides that if he wants an open relationship, then she does, too. Translation: She’s going to embark on a string of one-night stands. The more unacceptable the men, the better.
That’s where tattooed, motorcycle-riding Quan Diep comes in. Their first attempt at a one-night stand fails, as does their second, and their third, because being with Quan is more than sex—he accepts Anna on an unconditional level that she has just started to understand herself. However, when tragedy strikes Anna’s family she takes on a role that she is ill-suited for, until the burden of expectations threatens to destroy her. Anna and Quan have to fight for their chance at love, but to do that, they also have to fight for themselves.

The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang

Review:
The Heart Principle is the third book in The Kiss Quotient series. I loved the first two books in this series, so it’s no surprise that I really enjoyed this one too.
We follow Quan (who we met in previous books) and Anna. Quan had cancer and he’s now in remission, but this former playboy hasn’t really tried to get back into the dating world. Anna is a musician that’s really struggling. She’s having trouble with her music, and then her long-term boyfriend tells her that they should start seeing other people to make sure that the pair should get married. Anna and Quan both download a dating app and that’s how they meet. Things go from there.
I feel like the first two books in this series focused a lot more on the actual romance between the couples where The Heart Principle focused more on the emotional struggles of the two main characters. I liked that their romance was a slow burn and took its time. But the characters are what made the story. Quan was such a soft and sweet man. He’s dealing with his own issues and insecurities, but he always made a point to make sure Anna was comfortable. Anna was incredibly unsure, about everything. We see her visit with her therapist and we see her in the throes of depression. We also see her learn that she is on the autism spectrum. Anna’s journey learning things like this about herself was the biggest focus.
Overall, I wanted more of the romance between Quan and Anna, but I loved what we got. I think I just wanted the book to be longer. Both characters are dealing with so much. I wanted more time to see them happily together. It’s a much heavier book than the first two, I think. I think this will absolutely be a hit, just like the first two.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Float Plan by Trish Doller

Summary:
Since the loss of her fiancé, Anna has spent the last year foundering on land, shipwrecked by her grief and inability to move on. But when a reminder goes off about a trip they were supposed to take, she impulsively sets off in their sailboat, intending to complete the planned voyage around the Caribbean that Ben had mapped out for them.
But after a treacherous night’s sail and a brush with an ocean tanker, she decides she can’t do it alone, and hires a professional sailor to help her get to Puerto Rico. Much like her, Keane is struggling with a very different future than the one he had planned, and he can’t refuse her offer. Together they find a way to rebuild their lives and the possibility of new love.

Float Plan by Trish Doller

Review:
I didn’t really know much about Float Plan before going into it. I’d seen it a bunch online and assumed it was another romance novel, but it isn’t, not really.
At the start of this story, we’re following Anna who is deep in her grief over the loss of her fiancé. He committed suicide about a year before this story starts. She’s really struggling and, in an attempt, to move forward, she takes his boat, now hers, on the trip that they had planned to take together. But she soon realized that she’s not at all qualified to take this trip on her own. After a short trip, she puts out an ad for someone to help sail with her. This brings Keane into her life. Keane is dealing with his own struggles. He’s lost a leg and he’s trying to get back into his career in the boating world, but people won’t hire him anymore. The two set sail together and mostly follow the path that Anna’s fiancé had planned.
I enjoyed this book. Going into it, I quickly realized that it wasn’t going to be a romance like I’d thought it was. But it was still a beautiful story about moving forward and finding love after loss. I think the author did an excellent job of showing Anna’s grief but also showing her moving forward and slowly being able to take her happiness into her own hands. I loved the way that Anna and Keane’s relationship developed. I think their slow friendship that eventually turned romantic was really well done. They took their time and didn’t rush anything.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I will definitely be reading more from Doller in the future. She did such a great job of showing the characters’ emotions and showing them grow and move on from the struggles of their past. I can absolutely see why so many people loved this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blog Tour: Love at First Spite by Anna E. Collins

Summary:
Falling in love is the ultimate payback in this delightful romcom about an interior designer who teams up with an enigmatic architect at her firm to get revenge on her ex the only way she knows how: by building a spite house next door
They say living well is the best revenge. But sometimes, spreading the misery seems a whole lot more satisfying. That’s interior designer Dani Porter’s justification for buying the vacant lot next to her ex-fiancé’s house…the house they were supposed to live in together, before he cheated on her with their Realtor. Dani plans to build a vacation rental that will a) mess with his view and his peace of mind and b) prove that Dani is not someone to be stepped on. Welcome to project Spite House.
That plan quickly becomes complicated when Dani is forced to team up with Wyatt Montego, the handsome, haughty architect at her firm, and the only person available to draw up blueprints. Wyatt is terse and stern, the kind of man who eats his sandwich with a knife and fork. But as they spend time together on- and off-site, Dani glimpses something deeper beneath that hard veneer, something surprising, vulnerable, and real. And the closer she gets to her goal, the more she wonders if winning revenge could mean losing something infinitely sweeter…

Love at First Spite by Anna E. Collins

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley for this eARC in exchange for an honest review. Thank you also to HarperCollins for inviting me to be on this blog tour.
Love at First Spite follows Dani, who has just been cheated on by her fiancé. The story opens with her destroying her wedding gown in the absolute best way. Dani is an interior designer for a big company, so we get a lot of the details of her work life. But we also get to know her friends. Mia is Dani’s cousin and also her best friend. And there’s Iris who becomes Dani’s landlady/roommate. But most importantly, there’s Wyatt. He’s our love interest. He works with Dani at the same company, but he’s an architect. So, when Dani, Mia, and Iris buy the property right next door to Dani’s ex-fiancé to build a spite house, Wyatt ends up being the architect that helps design said spite house.
I really liked Dani as the main character. I loved her friendship with Iris and Mia. These three women were hilarious. Mia doesn’t hesitate to call Dani on her shit when she needs it. And Iris is delightfully vague and unhelpful when Dani goes to her for advice. The three together were absolutely one of the highlights of this story. Most of all, I enjoyed Dani’s growth and development. She’s learning that she shouldn’t compare things to her past relationships and that maybe building a spite house isn’t the healthiest way to move on from her ex.
The romance was one I was easily engaged in. The chemistry between Dani and Wyatt was obvious right from the start, despite Dani actively disliking Wyatt when the story started. I loved Wyatt more and more as we got to know him better through Dani. The two of them together were a couple that I became invested in right away. I also really liked the way that the third act break up was handled.
Overall, this absolutely was a fun story to read. All of the antics that Iris, Mia, and Dani got up to while planning and building the spite house made me smile and laugh. The romance was enjoyable and easy to root for. I will definitely be recommending this book in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Portrait of a Scotsman by Evie Dunmore

Summary:
Going toe-to-toe with a brooding Scotsman is rather bold for a respectable suffragist, but when he happens to be one’s unexpected husband, what else is an unwilling bride to do?
London banking heiress Hattie Greenfield wanted just three things in life:
2. A noble cause.
3. Marriage to a young lord who puts the gentle in gentleman.
Why then does this Oxford scholar find herself at the altar with the darkly attractive financier Lucian Blackstone, whose murky past and ruthless business practices strike fear in the hearts of Britain’s peerage? Trust Hattie to take an invigorating little adventure too far. Now she’s stuck with a churlish Scot who just might be the end of her ambitions….
When the daughter of his business rival all but falls into his lap, Lucian sees opportunity. As a self-made man, he has vast wealth but holds little power, and Hattie might be the key to finally setting long-harbored political plans in motion. Driven by an old revenge, he has no room for his new wife’s apprehensions or romantic notions, bewitching as he finds her.
But a sudden journey to Scotland paints everything in a different light. Hattie slowly sees the real Lucian and realizes she could win everything–as long as she is prepared to lose her heart.

Portrait of a Scotsman by Evie Dunmore

Review:
Portrait of a Scotsman follows Hattie who is the daughter of a wealthy banker. She’s also an artist and a part of the newly allowed females attending Oxford. Hattie has always been the “lovely” sister because she had what we now know as dyslexia and perhaps some ADHD as well. But these aren’t names that exist yet in the regency romance time period, so Hattie is just thought of as not as smart as her siblings. Anyway, she ends up finding herself in a compromising position with Lucian Blackstone. Obviously, the pair must now get married.
I really enjoyed this book. I liked the romance between Lucian and Hattie. I liked that we got to see a bit from Lucian side as well as Hattie’s. I thought it was really fun for Hattie to be taken out of town and to a place where life is different from what she is used to. I thought it really gave space to show how smart and kind Hattie is. But it also let us see some of her insecurities come to life too.
I liked Lucian too. He’s explained to be this heartless man. But we learn that he does everything for a reason. It was a genuine joy to see him realize that he’d fallen in love with Hattie.
I also thought this book did a really good thing with showing via these characters (mostly Hattie) how women of means were kept purposefully ignorant about sex and their bodies but also expected to completely overcome that on their wedding night. The taboo that women’s bodies have been made into is still relevant to today and I liked how that was shown in the story.
Overall, another book in this series that I really enjoyed. I will absolutely be continuing any books that are to be published. I liked the romance. The sex scenes were pretty good. We got a main character with a disability that was still shown to be smart and strong and kind. I would definitely recommend this one.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron

Summary:
Reena Manji doesn’t love her career, her single status, and most of all, her family inserting themselves into every detail of her life. But when caring for her precious sourdough starters, Reena can drown it all out. At least until her father moves his newest employee across the hall–with hopes that Reena will marry him.
But Nadim’s not like the other Muslim bachelors-du-jour that her parents have dug up. If the Captain America body and the British accent weren’t enough, the man appears to love eating her bread creations as much as she loves making them. She sure as hell would never marry a man who works for her father, but friendship with a neighbor is okay, right? And when Reena’s career takes a nosedive, Nadim happily agrees to fake an engagement so they can enter a couples video cooking contest to win the artisan bread course of her dreams.
As cooking at home together brings them closer, things turn physical, but Reena isn’t worried. She knows Nadim is keeping secrets, but it’s fine— secrets are always on the menu where her family is concerned. And her heart is protected… she’s not marrying the man. But even secrets kept for self-preservation have a way of getting out, especially when meddling parents and gossiping families are involved.

Book Cover

Review:
Accidentally Engaged follows Reena and Nadim as they fall in love over their shared interest in food and cooking. Reena has been trying to escape her meddling parents for most of her life and even though she’s moved out of their house, they still find ways to try to set her up with men and try to convince her to come work for the family business. She’s sick of being compared to her perfect older brother and has a whole different set of issues with her younger sister. Nadim has a story of his own, one that we don’t really get until the big conflict of the story.
As a romance novel, I really enjoyed this book. I liked the romance between Reena and Nadim. They had great chemistry and hit it off right from the start. I really enjoyed their banter and their shared love of food and culture. I think I especially liked Reena’s friends and family, or the growth and development of her relationships with them. I genuinely was happy for Reena when she started to be more honest with her family, especially her younger sister (that was my favorite of the familial relationships). I thought the irony of everyone keeping secrets that everyone else already knew about was a good twist.
Overall, as a romance novel, I liked this book. I was easily invested in the characters. The cooking show was fun and creative. I cared about the romance and rooted for them to be together. But I do want to mention the Muslim representation because it’s mentioned right in the synopsis. I am not a Muslim, nor am I affiliated with any religions (read this review and this review by Muslim reviewers!) But it’s pretty obvious, even to me, the things that these characters do go against their religion. I’m not here to say whether it’s good or bad representation because it’s not me being represented. But I did want to mention that there’s an excessive amount of drinking mentioned, the characters engage in premarital sex, there’s talk of some of the Muslim characters gambling, which are all things that Islam forbids. So, if you picked this one up for the Muslim representation, just know that much before you read it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochran

Summary:
Dev Deshpande has always believed in fairy tales. So it’s no wonder then that he’s spent his career crafting them on the long-running reality dating show Ever After. As the most successful producer in the franchise’s history, Dev always scripts the perfect love story for his contestants, even as his own love life crashes and burns. But then the show casts disgraced tech wunderkind Charlie Winshaw as its star.
Charlie is far from the romantic Prince Charming Ever After expects. He doesn’t believe in true love, and only agreed to the show as a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate his image. In front of the cameras, he’s a stiff, anxious mess with no idea how to date twenty women on national television. Behind the scenes, he’s cold, awkward, and emotionally closed-off.
As Dev fights to get Charlie to connect with the contestants on a whirlwind, worldwide tour, they begin to open up to each other, and Charlie realizes he has better chemistry with Dev than with any of his female co-stars. But even reality TV has a script, and in order to find to happily ever after, they’ll have to reconsider whose love story gets told.
In this witty and heartwarming romantic comedy—reminiscent of Red, White & Royal Blue and One to Watch—an awkward tech wunderkind on a reality dating show goes off-script when sparks fly with his producer.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. This story is basically what would happen if the star of the bachelor fell in love with one of the crew members instead of one of the fellow contestants. But also, make it gay and bring some really great conversations in about mental health.
I loved this. I thought the forbidden romance between the star of the show, Charlie, and his producer, Dev, was really well done. We see them make excuses for their actions, but there’s still an ‘oh no, what if we get caught’ element to the story and that’s a trope that I totally eat up. I liked both Charlie and Dev. They both struggle with different mental illnesses. Charlie has OCD and anxiety and Dev has clinical depression. It was so heartwarming to see them interact when they were struggling with their mental illnesses and they simply asked what the other one needed. Saying “what do you need from me?” is such a simple way to show someone you love that you’re listening and that you’re there for them. I also think this book did a great job showing lots of different aspects of having a mental illness. The stigma is shown and talked about with how people with mental illness are treated in the workplace. I think the representation was so great.
Overall, I liked this book. I was easily invested in the romance. I didn’t totally hate the third act break up. I had a lot of fun with the reality tv aspect of the story too. I really loved how things turned out with the reality show. I really loved all of the characters. Dev and Charlie were a very lovable couple, but their friends were also such great additions to the story. I definitely think this one is going to be a hit with romance readers.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Dating Dare by Jayci Lee

Summary:
Tara Park doesn’t do serious relationships. Neither does she hop into bed with virtual strangers. Especially when that particular stranger is her best friend’s new brother-in-law. It isn’t an easy decision, though. Seth Kim is temptation personified. His unreasonably handsome looks and charming personality makes him easy on the eyes and good for her ego.
When a friendly game of Truth or Dare leads to an uncomplicated four-date arrangement with Seth, Tara can’t say she minds. But their dates, while sweet and sexy, have a tendency to hit roadblocks. Thankfully, their non-dates and chance meetings get frequent and heated.
Seth is leaving for a new job in Paris in a month and a no-strings attached fling seemed like a nice little distraction for both… But soon Seth realizes that Tara Park doesn’t come in a “nice & little” package–she’s funny and bold, sweet and sexy, and everything he ever wanted and never expected to find. Neither of them are ready for something serious and both have past relationship baggage they’ve been ignoring, but with a shot at forever on the line will they follow their hearts and take a chance on happily-ever-after?

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this advanced copy, here is my honest review. The Dating Dare follows Tara (who is the bff from A Sweet)and Seth (the brother of the love interest in A Sweet Mess). The story starts off at the wedding of the couple from A Sweet Mess. Tara tells Seth to stop staring at her and they are immediately flirting and the attraction between them is obvious. The issue is that both Seth and Tara have sworn off of serious relationships because they were both hurt very badly in their first serious relationships in college. So, Seth dares Tara to go on four dates with him and not fall in love with him while he’s house sitting for his brother, before he leaves to move to Paris. Obviously the two fall in love, but not without some bumps in the road.
I liked this book. It was a fun romance that had great sexual tension and flirting. The lead up and tension to the pair finally having sex was excellent. They kept finding themselves out in public or in other places where it wasn’t really appropriate to get naked and I thought that was a funny, but good way to build up the anticipation of them finally getting together. I didn’t love that both Seth and Tara had the same emotional issues. I don’t know why I didn’t like that though. There was just something about it that had me rolling my eyes a little bit. I also didn’t love that they didn’t really talk about any of those things until after they finally mended things after the third act break up.
Overall, I had fun reading this book. Their dates were fun and sweet. It was a bit funny to see them try to keep things between them a secret. I liked the familiar setting of Wheldon. And I was happy to see them end up together at the end of the book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Well Matched by Jen DeLuca

Summary:
Single mother April Parker has lived in Willow Creek for twelve years with a wall around her heart. On the verge of being an empty nester, she’s decided to move on from her quaint little town, and asks her friend Mitch for his help with some home improvement projects to get her house ready to sell.
Mitch Malone is known for being the life of every party, but mostly for the attire he wears to the local Renaissance Faire — a kilt (and not much else) that shows off his muscled form to perfection. While he agrees to help April, he needs a favor too: she’ll pretend to be his girlfriend at an upcoming family dinner, so that he can avoid the lectures about settling down and having a more “serious” career than high school coach and gym teacher. April reluctantly agrees, but when dinner turns into a weekend trip, it becomes hard to tell what’s real and what’s been just for show. But when the weekend ends, so must their fake relationship.
As summer begins, Faire returns to Willow Creek, and April volunteers for the first time. When Mitch’s family shows up unexpectedly, April pretends to be Mitch’s girlfriend again… something that doesn’t feel so fake anymore. Despite their obvious connection, April insists they’ve just been putting on an act. But when there’s the chance for something real, she has to decide whether to change her plans — and open her heart — for the kilt-wearing hunk who might just be the love of her life.

Book Cover

Review:
Well Matched is finally the book where we get April and Mitch falling in love! I had a lot of fun reading this one but I wanted more of it. The story follows April, who is mostly focused on helping her daughter get ready to graduate high school. April’s plan has always been to move out of Willow Creek once Caitlin went off to college. So, she’s doing some things around her house, like painting, to get ready to sell it and move closer to her job in the city. But things get a little complicated when Mitch asks April to be his fake girlfriend and go with him to his grandparent’s anniversary family get-together. As this is a romance novel, obviously hijinks ensue, and the two fall in love. I’m happy to say that we get not only the fake dating trope but also the “there’s only one-bed” trope (which was absolute perfection).
I had a hard time connecting with April for the first half of this book. She’s incredibly defensive, which I might not have noticed if the story wasn’t told from her perspective. She’s been a single mom for almost 18 years, and she’s still living like she’s just arrived in Willow Creek. She’s private and doesn’t allow herself to really connect or develop relationships with anyone. Her sister, Emily (the main character of Well Met), has gotten April a little bit more involved and April has sort of become friends with Emily’s friends. But even after living here for all this time, she’s kept herself pretty distanced. I had a hard time with this until I realized that it wasn’t that April hadn’t changed in the last 15+ years she’d lived in Willow Creek, it was just that she hadn’t *realized* that she’d changed. And once that was pointed out, I liked April a lot more.
Mitch is a total cinnamon roll. I loved every bit that we got to see with him in previous books and this book only made me love him more. His family is incredibly judge mental of his career choice and they dismiss him. So, they’ve never really gotten to know the extent of what he does for the kids he teaches or what he does for the Faire. I thought this was a really interesting aspect of the story and allowed for great development between April and Mitch when April learns of this dynamic in his family.
I really liked April and Mitch as a couple, but I felt a little bit like we didn’t really get to see them fall in love. We did see that, as they worked on painting her house, staining her deck, putting in new carpet. But so many of those scenes felt so similar to one another that when they finally said they loved each other I couldn’t help but think “wait, when did that happen?” I think a part of this was because of April’s desire to deny that anything real was going on between them and her thinking that their relationship needed to be a secret. Everything being kept so quiet and sneaky meant that we didn’t really get to see them doing a lot of the usual things that we might see couples do (like dating, in front of other people). We did get some absolutely excellent scenes of the two of them at the Faire.
Overall, I really had a fun time with this book. It was a fun romance following two characters that had depth and a romantic connection I was easily invested in. I really love this series and I can’t wait to see what other romantic tensions at the Ren Faire DeLuca can come up with. I can’t wait to get to know Lulu more in the next book in the series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle

Summary:
Maybell Parish has always been a dreamer and a hopeless romantic. But living in her own world has long been preferable to dealing with the disappointments of real life. So when Maybell inherits a charming house in the Smokies from her Great-Aunt Violet, she seizes the opportunity to make a fresh start.
Yet when she arrives, it seems her troubles have only just begun. Not only is the house falling apart around her, but she isn’t the only inheritor: she has to share everything with Wesley Koehler, the groundskeeper who’s as grouchy as he is gorgeous—and it turns out he has very different vision for the property’s future.
Convincing the taciturn Wesley to stop avoiding her and compromise is a task more formidable than the other dying wishes Great-Aunt Violet left behind. But when Maybell uncovers something unexpectedly sweet beneath Wesley’s scowls, and as the two slowly begin to let their guard down, they might learn that sometimes the smallest steps outside one’s comfort zone can lead to the greatest rewards.

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Review:
Twice Shy follows people pleaser Maybell and grumpy Wesley after they find out they have co-inherited Maybell’s great-aunt’s house. Maybell didn’t have a super great childhood. Her mom wasn’t really a stable adult, so she never had a stable home. They were always staying with relatives here or there for a week before having to find somewhere new. Maybell remembers her great-aunt’s house as one of her best memories of childhood. So, she is saddened to hear that her aunt has passed but delighted to inherit the beautiful house and property from her childhood memories. But she’s in for a surprise when she shows up at the house and it’s in complete disrepair. And also, she’s not the only one that inherited the property.
Our love interest, Wesley, has been the groundskeeper of great-aunt Violet’s property for almost five years. She’s told him that he will inherit it after she dies, so he has lots of things planned to fix up the house and the property. But of course, Maybell arrives to complicate all those plans. Wesley has social anxiety. I loved this representation so much. I love the social anxiety representation, but especially in a man. I thought it was wonderful and really well done. I loved how he explained his anxiety and panic and how Maybell reacted to learning about it as well as her behavior toward him after she learned of his social anxiety. Wesley was just a wholesome cinnamon roll and I wanted to give him a great big hug the whole book.
I really enjoyed the slow pace and build up of the romance. I didn’t think I was going to because it’s almost halfway through the book before they really start to actually interact with each other. But I think the payoff was worth the wait. I liked that the author took the time to let us get to know Maybell before we got into the romance. I also weirdly enjoyed the whole process of fixing up the house. I think there were some great opportunities for banter and playfulness between the characters and we definitely got to see that.
Overall, this was such a sweet and wholesome story. It wasn’t a hot and passionate romance. It was slow and steady, but the pay off when the pair finally admits their feelings for one another was excellent. I especially liked that there wasn’t a third-act break-up. There totally could have been, but the author took things in a different direction and I really loved how that whole situation was handled. I want a whole sequel of Maybell and Wesley running their hotel/animal sanctuary together because it will be so sweet might need to check my blood sugar afterward. I really loved this story and its characters and I cannot wait to read what the author writes next.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Day Twenty-Five: 6 Fall Romance Recommendations

Hi, lovelies! I am usually a summer romance reader, but while I was browsing my ‘read’ books for Blogtober ideas, I saw Well Met and thought to myself how perfect that book is for the autumn. I couldn’t help but wonder what other romances I read in the summer that would be perfect to read in the fall. So, these aren’t all books that take place in the autumn season, just books that I think have a fall vibe.

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Well Met by Jen DeLuca
“All’s faire in love and war for two sworn enemies who indulge in a harmless flirtation in a laugh-out-loud rom-com from debut author, Jen DeLuca.
Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him? The faire is Simon’s family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn’t have time for Emily’s lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she’s in her revealing wench’s costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they’re portraying? This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can’t seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon, or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek.”

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Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers
“With her newly completed PhD in astronomy in hand, twenty-eight-year-old Grace Porter goes on a girls’ trip to Vegas to celebrate. She is not the kind of person who goes to Vegas and gets drunkenly married to a woman whose name she doesn’t know…until she does exactly that. This one moment of departure from her stern ex-military father’s plans for her life has Grace wondering why she doesn’t feel more fulfilled from completing her degree. Staggering under the weight of her father’s expectations, a struggling job market and feelings of burnout, Grace flees her home in Portland for a summer in New York with the wife she barely knows. When reality comes crashing in, Grace must face what she’s been running from all along—the fears that make us human, the family scars that need to heal and the longing for connection, especially when navigating the messiness of adulthood.”

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The Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker
“Calla Fletcher wasn’t even two when her mother took her and fled the Alaskan wild, unable to handle the isolation of the extreme, rural lifestyle, leaving behind Calla’s father, Wren Fletcher, in the process. Calla never looked back, and at twenty-six, a busy life in Toronto is all she knows. But when Calla learns that Wren’s days may be numbered, she knows that it’s time to make the long trip back to the remote frontier town where she was born. She braves the roaming wildlife, the odd daylight hours, the exorbitant prices, and even the occasional—dear God—outhouse, all for the chance to connect with her father: a man who, despite his many faults, she can’t help but care for. While she struggles to adjust to this rugged environment, Jonah—the unkempt, obnoxious, and proud Alaskan pilot who helps keep her father’s charter plane company operational—can’t imagine calling anywhere else home. And he’s clearly waiting with one hand on the throttle to fly this city girl back to where she belongs, convinced that she’s too pampered to handle the wild. Jonah is probably right, but Calla is determined to prove him wrong. Soon, she finds herself forming an unexpected bond with the burly pilot. As his undercurrent of disapproval dwindles, it’s replaced by friendship—or perhaps something deeper? But Calla is not in Alaska to stay and Jonah will never leave. It would be foolish of her to kindle a romance, to take the same path her parents tried—and failed at—years ago. It’s a simple truth that turns out to be not so simple after all.”

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The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morganthaler
“When Graham Barnett named his diner The Tourist Trap, he meant it as a joke. Now he’s stuck slinging reindeer dogs to an endless string of resort visitors who couldn’t interest him less. Not even the sweet, enthusiastic tourist in the corner who blushes every time he looks her way… Two weeks in Alaska isn’t just the top item on Zoey Caldwell’s bucket list. It’s the whole bucket. One look at the mountain town of Moose Springs and she’s smitten. But when an act of kindness brings Zoey into Graham’s world, she may just find there’s more to the man than meets the eye…and more to love in Moose Springs than just the Alaskan wilderness.”

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The Next Always by Nora Roberts
“The historic hotel in Boonsboro has endured war and peace, changing hands, even rumored hauntings. Now it’s getting a major facelift from the Montgomery brothers and their eccentric mother. Beckett is the architect of the family, and his social life consists mostly of talking shop over pizza and beer. But there’s another project he’s got his eye on: the girl he’s been waiting to kiss since he was fifteen. After losing her husband and returning to her hometown, Clare Brewster soon settles into her life as the mother of three young sons while running the town’s bookstore. Busy, with little time for romance, Clare is drawn across the street by Beckett’s transformation of the old inn, wanting to take a closer look . . . at the building and the man behind it. With the grand opening inching closer, Beckett’s happy to give Clare a private tour – one room at a time. It’s no first date, but these stolen moments are the beginning of something new – and open the door to the extraordinary adventure of what comes next . . .”

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You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle
“Naomi Westfield has the perfect fiancé: Nicholas Rose holds doors open for her, remembers her restaurant orders, and comes from the kind of upstanding society family any bride would love to be a part of. They never fight. They’re preparing for their lavish wedding that’s three months away. And she is miserably and utterly sick of him. Naomi wants out, but there’s a catch: whoever ends the engagement will have to foot the nonrefundable wedding bill. When Naomi discovers that Nicholas, too, has been feigning contentment, the two of them go head-to-head in a battle of pranks, sabotage, and all-out emotional warfare. But with the countdown looming to the wedding that may or may not come to pass, Naomi finds her resolve slipping. Because now that they have nothing to lose, they’re finally being themselves–and having fun with the last person they expect: each other.”

These are six romance novels that I think have some fall vibes in them. Some of them just have fall settings and others actually have fall events like Thanksgiving and what not. What do you think of my choices?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten

Summary:
The first daughter is for the Throne.
The second daughter is for the Wolf.

For fans of Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale comes a dark fantasy novel about a young woman who must be sacrificed to the legendary Wolf of the Wood to save her kingdom. But not all legends are true, and the Wolf isn’t the only danger lurking in the Wilderwood.
As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose-to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he’ll return the world’s captured gods.
Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again.
But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood-and her world-whole.

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Review:
For the Wolf was chosen by my book club for September. I’m so glad that we ended up reading this book because it’s going to be one of my 2021 favorites. This story really pulled me in and spit me out in a way that a book hasn’t in a while. I alternated between the eBook and the audiobook because I just could not story reading this story. I needed to know how it ended. I stayed up until way later than I should have so that I could finish.
There are two daughters. The first, Neve, will become Queen, in time. And the second, Redarys, was to be given over to the Wilderwood, and the Wolf that lived there. There hasn’t been a second daughter in many years, so when it’s finally time for Red to be given to the Wolf, the people hope that the Wolf will finally return their kings to them. But there’s so much in the legends of the Wilderwood that just isn’t true. That’s what the heart of this story really is, learning the truths behind the tales and how to right the wrongs that have been done.
The world really fascinated me. There was just so much of it that it was hard to get a handle on at times. The kings from legend, the ones supposedly trapped by the Wolf, brought all of the kingdoms together under one ruler, the first daughter. So, there are quite a few different places mentioned and once I just sort of ignored everywhere other than the Wilderwood and Red’s home, it was less confusing. This world felt vast, so narrowing it down felt necessary for me to enjoy it rather than get lost in trying to remember all the names that didn’t really need remembering. So, the Wilderwood is incredibly mysterious, but also endlessly fascinating. I was filled with so many questions. I think Whitten did a good job creating suspense and mystery by not answering questions, but I think some of those questions could have been answered a bit sooner and still had the same or a similar effect on the story. But the setting of the Wilderwood was stunning. I could picture it and I’m not usually very good at picturing settings, especially in fantasy stories.
The characters were ones that were easy to love. Red is a fierce woman that willingly goes into the Wilderwood to meet the Wolf because she has magic that she’s kept hidden, a magic that she’s terrified will hurt her sister if she cannot control it. But when she learns the truth of the Wolf, she falls for him, slowly. He tries to protect her, Eammon. But his protection is in the form of keeping secrets (one of my least favorite tropes). I think their romance was a little bit insta-lovey which I don’t usually love. But I think the way that it was set up worked for this story. I still liked them both individually and grew to love them together. By the end, I was definitely invested in their romance. I think the lack of clarity with the way the Wilderwood’s magic worked honestly just added to the story. I usually like well explained magic, but it somehow worked for this story.
Overall, I loved this book even with the few things that I didn’t like. I also might have died a little reading the preview we got of book two. I am beyond excited to learn more about the kings and what will end up happening with Neve. Plus, man is that book cover to die for and the cover for book two is just as stunning. I cannot wait to read more from Whitten in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.