Book Review, Books, New Release, Romance, Uncategorized

Review of “Hold On Tight” (Returning Home, Book One) by Serena Bell

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5 out of 5 beautiful, sexy, heart-warming stars

I posted about this book a couple of days ago, to help get the word out about its release. Then I had a chance to actually read the book. YOU GUYS, this book is amazing! It is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year! I am lucky enough to be on Serena Bell’s ARC team, and was thrilled to be able to read this book so I could share it with you. The most exciting thing about this book, and the others in this series, is that it is a re-release, as Ms. Bell is now an INDIE author. I’m even more excited to be a part of her team now, because indie authors need even more support than the garden variety. 🙂

Now, I am a sucker for second chance romance. I also love a well-written story about a military hero, having grown up as an Army brat. I’m a big fan of the single parent, being one myself, and while I usually gravitate toward the hot single DAD books, I like to read about a single mom working hard to be all things to her kids, while also finding some time to take care of herself.  Lastly, I can occasionally be found reading a secret baby romance, although it’s not my favorite trope. Hold On Tight has all of these!

Here’s a quick synopsis by the author herself:

“Hold On Tight is the story of Jake—a guy who comes back from war, broken in body and spirit, to discover that he has a kid he never knew existed and a baby mama he’s been trying really hard to forget. It’s also the story of Mira, a single mom who has been working her butt off to hold all the pieces together, and does not need the complication of being attracted to a man who got her pregnant and disappeared off the face of the earth. Aaand, it’s the story of Sam, who—well, he’s seven, and just trying to figure out how all the pieces fit together, especially in light of the fact that his mom told him that his dad was a sperm donor.”

Jake and Mira had a very short, but passionate, relationship 8 years ago, and their paths are about to cross again. Jake is a war hero. Not only that, he’s a wounded war hero, who is back home after a devastating experience overseas. Mira is a single mom, who just moved across the country, and away from her parents, to prove that she can take care of herself and her 7-year-old son. What will happen when Jake finds out he has a son? How will Mira deal with Jake’s reemergence into her life? Will she tell her son, Sam, that Jake is his dad?

I adored Sam. This kid had a heart of gold, and he was not afraid to ask the tough questions. Have you heard the saying, “…and the little child shall lead them”? Sam is that child. I started reading one of the chapters, and when it started out, it made me think it was going to be from Sam’s POV.  It didn’t turn out to be, but I thought to myself, “How freaking great would that be, to get a chapter from a child’s own perspective???” It’s definitely something I have not seen before, and didn’t know I’d love until that moment.

I loved this book. LOVED. I’d read another military hero book recently, and it was pretty bad. It wasn’t realistic, and it was very light on the facts. I don’t know what experience Ms. Bell has with military life, but I found her descriptions to be very authentic. Jake had experienced some very harrowing things while he was deployed, and he had a very difficult time dealing with the challenges of life back home. It all felt very real and honest.

I’ve also come to realize over the past few years that sexy times must be REALLY difficult to write, because some authors just aren’t very good at it. Serena Bell, let it be known, is NOT one of those authors. Her sexy times are off-the-charts hot. It’s possible that I enjoy them so much because I’m really rooting for her characters and I want them to have good sexy times, but I don’t think so. She’s just really good at writing super sexy scenes, which at no point make the reader pause and say “wait…what?”

I’m very excited about book 2, Can’t Hold Back, because it’s not just another book in the series, it’s a continuation of sorts. We meet the main characters, Nate and Alia, at the end of Hold on Tight, and it appears we will also be able to follow Mira and Jake (and Sam!) on their continuing journey.

If you like military heroes, or second chance romance, or secret baby stories, or indie authors, or all of the above, PLEASE go buy this book. I will definitely be bringing you reviews of the other books in this series, as they are released. I hope you love Jake and Mira’s story as much as I did!

Buy Hold on Tight on Amazon

Pre-order Can’t Hold Back

Pre-order To Have and To Hold

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Books, Free book, Historical Romance, Romance

Genealogy by Mae Wood, free this weekend only!

I was able to read this wonderful book as a part of the Release Launch for the blog back in October. I blogged about its release, and read the book, but it affected me so emotionally that I was unable to write a review without taking some time to think about and reflect on this heart-warming and moving story. A few months have gone by, so it’s definitely past time for me to post my review!

This book is a lovely mix of past and present. It is a love story, without being what my daughters call one of my “shirtless man books.” Mae Wood normally writes books with some excellent sexy times, so when she started to talk about Genealogy, she warned her readers that this would be a different sort of book.

It was different, but it wasn’t. It had all the heart of a “sexy times” book by Mae Wood, but since it takes place in the early 1900s, there were no sexy times. It was a beautiful throwback to when a man courted a woman, when they wrote long handwritten letters that took weeks or months to arrive in the hands of their loved one. These letters are the foundation of this story, and the best part for me is that the letters in this book were based on real, hundred-year-old love letters.

I can’t say enough about this beautiful story. I love historical fiction, and origin stories, and time travel. This book is a bit of all three, and I was honored to be a part of the promotional team.

Buy Genealogy on Amazon for FREE this weekend only!

Books, Romance

Review of The Dating Alternative by Jennifer Woodhull

4.5 of 5 fun, fast-paced stars

This is my first time reading a book by Jennifer Woodhull, and I am very interested in reading more of her work. I read it in about 24 hours, and enjoyed it a lot. The storyline was a new take on an old theme: Friends-with-Benefits, but with a fun twist. I liked “Cheese” and “Max” very much. I enjoyed their relationships with their friends and family, especially “Alexander’s” spunky grandma.

There were a few jaw-dropping “no way!” moments, and an expected twist. A couple of times, something happened that maybe crossed the line into unbelievability. For the most part, this was a fun, interesting, fast-paced story. This author writes “sexy times” really well, and I’ve found that not all authors do. Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this terrific book.

Buy The Dating Alternative on Amazon

Books, Romance

Review of “My Favorite Half-Night Stand” by Christina Lauren

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5 of 5 virtual stars

“I have never read anything like this.”

I say the same thing every time I finish a book by Christina Lauren.

I said it about Roomies. I said it about Beautiful Stranger. I said it about Love and Other Words.

It’s a pattern.

The premise of Half-Night Stand may be familiar to you: two people, who have been friends for years, realize that they’re in love with each other.

I have read some terrific Friends-to-Lovers books:

Head Over Heels by Serena Bell

Truth or Beard by Penny Reid

Some Sort of Crazy by Melanie Harlow

But I have never read a FtoL book like this.

The main characters are Millie and Reid. And Ed. And Alex. And Chris. A friend group that includes four guys and one girl. At first, I thought, oh no, I’ll never keep track of that many main characters. But I did!

Chris has it all together.

Alex is a player.

Ed is a 30-year-old kid who only has beer in his fridge, and answers the door in his bathrobe. (Ed is my spirit animal!)

Reid is loyal, and hard-working, and passionate.

And then there’s Millie. She’s quirky, and closed off, and not comfortable talking about her feelings. (Millie. Is. Me!)

These five friends are generally satisfied with their lives. They have jobs that they enjoy, they have a group of good friends, they have a comfortable routine. The shenanigans begin when one of them decides that they should bring a “plus-one” to an upcoming event, and figure the best way to find one is by using a dating app. This is very relevant to today’s environment, as it seems to be the only way to find a partner in this day and age. (I love that this book delves into this topic, as I’ve had some experience with online dating in the past few months, and I haven’t found many books that even bring it up as an option! People in books seem to meet other people “the old-fashioned way.”)

Each of the friends has a different experience with the dating app, called IRL. When Millie is matched with one of her best friends, she starts to look at her relationship with that friend in a different light.

I always see something new when I read Christina Lauren book. We see the group text conversations among the gang, each accompanied by an icon of each character. I’m a very visual person, so it helped my brain to have a picture to connect with each member of the friend group. This is unique, and fun, and very Christina Lauren.

With every CL book I read, I fall more in love with the style of this writing duo. They are clever, the sexy times are steamy, and they always make me cry at some point. If you haven’t read a Christina Lauren book yet, please pick one up and be sure to tell me what you think!!

Buy My Favorite Half-Night Stand on Amazon

Books, New Release, Romance

Review of “Next in Line” by Amy Daws

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5 of 5 pun-loving stars

Sam has his family, and his business, and his best friend Miles. He’s a pretty solitary guy, and isn’t interested in a relationship. But when he comes to the rescue of a “damsel in distress” in his favorite bait shop, his life changes in a way he didn’t expect.

Maggie is at a bit of a crossroads in her life, (which I can relate to). She thought her life was going in one direction and suddenly she’s looking at a very different future than she expected. She decides to go on a bit of a voyage of self-discovery, and gets more than she bargains for.

Next in Line was my first Amy Daws book, and pardon the fish pun, but I am hooked! It’s a Best Friend’s Little Sister story, but there’s so much more to it than a simple trope. First of all, ice fishing! Have you read a book whose opening scene takes place in a Bait & Tackle shop? Because I haven’t! Secondly, the couple in question does not know they have a common interest until chapter 5. Third and finally, Maggie’s main goal throughout most of the book is getting her ex-boyfriend back! Of course, things turn out much differently than she expects and we are all better off for it.

Next in Line is the second in a series whose first book is titled Wait with Me. Each can be read as a standalone, available to read for free through Kindle Unlimited.

Buy Next in Line on Amazon

Thanks to Amy Daws for the opportunity to read and review this book.

Books, Romance

Review of Finally Mine: A Small Town Love Story by Lucy Score

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5 of 5 Small Town Stars

Finally Mine is the second book in a series about the couples in a small town called Benevolence. The first is called Pretend You’re Mine, which was the first Lucy Score book that I ever read. I have been fortunate enough since then to have become a member of her ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) team, and am so happy to have been given the chance to read Finally Mine!

I have to admit, I wish I could have gone back to read PYM before reading FM, but due to time constraints (not to mention the SNEAK ATTACK of this book on us unsuspecting readers!), I was not able to. (I did find a paperback copy of PYM at a used bookstore the other day, though, so a re-read is in my future.)

It had been so long since I’d read PYM, that I only had vague recollections of what happened in that book. I do remember a fun polar plunge and a very sexy office scene, and a mention of Gloria and Aldo here and there, but other than that, I could have used a refresher.

That being said, you could totally read this book as a standalone, without having read PYM. It would give you some spoilers about things that happen in PYM, but I don’t see it as a big problem. I actually loved that it wasn’t really a sequel, as it took place around the same time as the events in PYM were taking place. (Penny Reid does that with her Winston brothers series, and I really enjoy that.)

The bottom line: Aldo and Gloria have a complicated history, which is one of my favorite kinds of couples. They are both damaged, in more ways than one, and the real heart of this book is whether each of them can see past their scars (not wounds!) and allow themselves to love and be loved.

As an Army brat, I really liked the military aspect of this story. There’s also the Small Town feel that Lucy is so good at (see her Blue Moon series), as well as some very fun sexy times. Not every author writes these well, but Lucy really does! This particular book delved into some interesting issues surrounding sexy times, which I won’t spoil, but it was very well handled and I enjoyed it very much.

I will admit that I do hate that inevitable moment when the couple “breaks up,” and I *really* hate when it’s because one or the other of them is being an idiot, and that’s what happens here. But I understand that the conflict has to happen so that they can have their reunion and subsequent HEA.

Lucy Score is one of my favorite authors. She is crack-me-up funny, but oftentimes, she will hit you with a life lesson that is simple but profound. For example, “It doesn’t matter what happens to you. In the end, all we are is our ability to love. That never gets taken away or diminished.” and, “Without pain, there is no joy.” Phew. Deep!! Her writing made me tear up multiple times in this book. I love when that happens.

This may be my new favorite Lucy Score book, and I was especially excited to see that we will be going back to Benevolence sometimes next year to see Lincoln Reed meet his match!

Buy Finally Mine on Amazon, or read for free with Kindle Unlimited!
Continue reading “Review of Finally Mine: A Small Town Love Story by Lucy Score”

Romance

Dual Review of “Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating” by Christina Lauren

Beth’s Review 

Bekka and I have pretty similar taste in books, and often compare notes while reading the same ones. When we discovered that we were both planning on reading Christina Lauren’s newest release, “Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating,” we decided that we should each write a review for the blog!

If you’re not familiar with this author, Christina Lauren is the combined pen name of long-time writing partners/besties Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings. They have written a couple of different series together, as well as several standalones. With the exception of their very first book, Beautiful Bastard, I have really enjoyed every single one of their books. I will even go so far as to say that they have ruined me for other authors! It is very rare for me to give another author’s work 5 stars, because most of the other books I read can’t live up to the wonderful stories written by these two ladies.

That being said, I only gave Josh and Hazel four stars. It is a best friends to lovers romance, which I love. It’s very funny and witty and clever, which is true of all of their books. I loved the zaniness of Hazel, and the way she adores her best friend, the straight-laced Josh. I liked the premise, where they want to help the other find their “person,” so they each choose someone they think the other would like, and go on double dates together. Of course, things do not go as planned, and with each disastrous date, we readers just want to shout at them, “Can’t you see you’re falling in love with each other?!?!” While I did enjoy this book, it lacked the emotional punch of Roomies, Beautiful Player, or my very favorite, Love and Other Words, (a book I still haven’t written a review for because it left me so emotionally drained!)

 

Bekka’s Review

Beth said “all the things”. These authors have raised the bar on romance reads. First things first, here are my impressions of “Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating”.

I gave it 3 stars. I know, I know. I enjoyed the writing, it was so clever at times, and very very entertaining. The ebb and flow of the story line, and the seamless progression to where these two main characters end up was applaudable (I think I made that word up). She finds a guy who she considers perfect and compares all other men to. Josh who is the Yin to her Yang creates a playful and satisfying story. They become good friends and as entertainment, set each other up on double blind dates. You can always feel the undercurrent of where this was going and you root for them the whole way. Why 3 stars? There is something about when a main character is messy and very free sprited that doesn’t grab me 100%. I know its a personal preference – I most enjoy when I can connect to a main female character, with this one, I liked her, she had LOTS of “character” but I didn’t feel that personal connection. I definitely recommend it because it is an entertaining and enjoyable read.

Back to the writing duo of Christina and Lauren. My counterpart Beth gives me great recommendations for reads. The day she told me to stop everything and read “Love and Other Words” changed my lens on Romance novels. It pulled on my heart, and really had me connected. Truly, one of the best I’ve read in a long time. “Roomies” was a nice surprise, not at all what I was anticipating.  I will continue to read and post about works from this great duo.

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