Spotlight Review: WELL TRAVELED by Jen DeLuca 

December 6, 2022

Well Met, Book 4

From the publisher:

One of Amazon’s Best Romances of December
An Indie Next Pick
A December LibraryReads Pick

The Renaissance Faire is on the move, and Lulu and Dex are along for the ride, in the next utterly charming rom-com from Jen DeLuca.

A high-powered attorney from a success-oriented family, Louisa “Lulu” Malone lives to work, and everything seems to be going right, until the day she realizes it’s all wrong. Lulu’s cousin Mitch introduced her to the world of Renaissance Faires, and when she spies one at a time just when she needs an escape, she leaps into the welcoming environment of turkey legs, taverns, and tarot readers. The only drawback? Dex MacLean: a guitarist with a killer smile, the Casanova of the Faire… and her traveling companion for the summer.

Dex has never had to work for much in his life, and why should he? Touring with his brothers as The Dueling Kilts is going great, and he always finds a woman at every Faire. But when Lulu proves indifferent to his many plaid charms and a shake-up threatens the fate of the band, Dex must confront something he never has before: his future.

Forced to spend days and nights together on the road, Lulu’s interest in the kilted bad boy grows as he shows her a side of himself no one else has seen. The stresses of her old lifestyle fade away as she learns to trust her intuition and follow her heart instead of her head. But when her time on the road is over, will Lulu go with her gut, or are she and Dex destined for separate paths?

https://amzn.to/3VxcKi5

This is one of my favorite series, and it’s not because I love Renaissance Faires; in fact, I’ve never been to one. I used to know a guy who worked in one, traveling all over the west coast for a few years, until he got a real job. And I love the Gilmore Girls, and there is a RenFaire connection there (which I just rewatched for the hundredth time!) But honestly, I give all the credit for my delight in RenFaires to the author, Jen DeLuca. While I probably still won’t go to one, I love her books that are set there.

Louisa is an attorney who has been busting her butt to make partner for five years now. She has watched one white guy after another, usually with way less experience than she has, move up the ladder. One of the founding partners is a woman, but the one case she worked on with her didn’t lead anywhere. She is sent to North Carolina to take a deposition and her boss is driving her crazy for this interview that really won’t have any bearing on the case. She has a day to kill and there is a Renaissance Faire in town. Her cousin runs the one in the small town in Maryland where she lives, so she is familiar.

At her wit’s end after several phone calls from her boss, she finally confronts him and he admits that they are promoting a guy who has half the experience she has. She quits her job and hangs up on her boss. Infuriated, she ends up throwing her phone into a tub of water where the “laundry girls” are working, one of the shows at the RenFaire. Stacey happens to be there, and Louisa knows her from her cousin’s RenFaire. Stacey gives her the hug she needs and suggests she take some time off from the real world, and hang with her at the Faire. Louisa agrees, and her life changes immediately.

For one thing, she doesn’t have a phone. She is unplugged and off the grid, and finds she likes hanging with Stacey, her boyfriend and all their friends. Except for Dex. He is a musician with the Dueling Kilts and hooks up with a new girl at every faire. Everyone warns her away from him. But once he gets the message that she’s not going to be one of his girls, he finds that he likes just hanging out and talking with her. And she likes hanging out with him.

Dex and Lulu, the nickname she is known by her family, become friends. And then they become more than friends. But when a fantastic job offer falls into her lap, she knows that it is time to go. She can’t ask Dex to leave the Faire, and she can’t keep traveling with them. But because this is a romance, and DeLuca is so good at this, with some angst and a twist, they do get their happy ending.

I don’t think these books need to be read in order, they all stand alone. But you get to know these characters and they overlap throughout the series, making it a bit more fun for the reader who has read them all. That said, you can easily start here and if you love this as much as I did, you can go back and read the rest.

The series in order:

12/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

WELL TRAVELED by Jen DeLuca. Berkley (December 6, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0593200469. 336p.

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MOM JEANS AND OTHER MISTAKES by Alexa Martin 

December 2, 2022

From the publisher:

Two best friends say “I do” to living together, for better or worse, in this bold women’s fiction novel from Alexa Martin.

Jude Andrews is famous. Well, at least on Instagram. Her brand is clean eating, good vibes, Pilates, and casually looking like a sun-kissed goddess. In real life, however, she’s a total disaster. She has a strained relationship with her fame-hungry mom and her latest bad decision emptied out her entire savings account.

Lauren Turner had a plan: graduate medical school and become the top surgeon in the country. But when she became unexpectedly pregnant, those plans changed. And when her fiancé left her, they changed again. Now navigating the new world of coparenting, mom groups, and dating,  she decides to launch a mommy podcast with all the advice she wishes someone had given her.

Jude and Lauren don’t have much in common, but maybe that’s why they’ve been best friends since the third grade. Through ups and downs, they’ve been by each other’s sides. But now? They’re broke, single, and do the only thing that makes sense—move in together, just like they talked about when they were teenagers. Except when they were younger, the plan didn’t include a five-year-old daughter and more baggage than their new townhouse can hold.

“Full of laughter, romance, and a few startup scares, the latest from sports romance author Martin (SnappedBlitzed) packs a punch…Readers of this hilarious, heartfelt novel will feel like they’re chatting with their BFF. It dives deep into family issues but keeps readers on their toes as Jude and Lauren deal with what life throws at them.”Library Journal

“I can’t wait to see what she writes next.”USA Today

https://amzn.to/3Vdm8rf

I missed this when it came out in September, but I’m so glad I found it! This book is a bit of a departure for Martin who has been writing the best sports romances, although her most recent book, Better Than Fiction, didn’t have sports figures but rather was a romance between an author and a bookseller (right in my wheelhouse!) This book moves her out of the romance genre and into women’s fiction, and she does it with the same strong storytelling, character building skills that are in all her books.

Let me add kudos to Berkley for not forcing her to change her name to some pseudonym because she’s writing in a new genre. I hate when publishers do that. Most recently I felt like I was scammed because Scandalized by Ivy Owens was publicized as this fabulous debut novel, but turns out it was written by Lauren Billings, half of the “Christina Laurens” writing duo that has written several terrific books. Because this was only written by Billings, they changed her name altogether which I totally don’t understand. Why have this bestselling author write under a pseudonym? No wonder it was so well written – this woman is a pro! Why not tell people that? Even after dealing with them for over 20 years, I still don’t understand how publicists’ minds work.

Anyway, back to Mom Jeans. This is a book about women’s friendships and it was so good! Jude and Lauren have been friends since they were kids. When Lauren’s husband dumps her and their daughter, they move in with her parents, but that just isn’t a sustainable way to live. There is too much friction there; Lauren dropped out of medical school when she got pregnant, and her lawyer mother is none too thrilled about that. So Jude, Lauren, and her young daughter all move in together and form their own “sister wives” family. Everybody benefits until Jude makes a tragic mistake that sends Lauren packing.

Meanwhile, Lauren’s ex has found a new girlfriend, Stephanie, and surprisingly, Lauren really likes her – she’s kind and thoughtful and so good to her daughter. Her ex, on the other hand, is an arrogant doctor and has been pretty much absent from their lives until he hooks up with Stephanie. Then he decides to sue for custody and things get really ugly.

Lauren is a Black woman, and her ex is a white doctor, so they feel the odds are in his favor. Jude comes up with the idea of doing a podcast on parenting, thinking it will give Lauren an edge in the custody battle. Jude is a social media influencer with millions of followers, and she is really good at her job. Taking those influencer skills to promote a new podcast is a surefire way to help it get off the ground. “Mom Jeans and Martinis” takes off, and Lauren finds herself loving her new job.

I loved this story of strong women helping one another. These characters are flawed for sure, but watching them grow and change is half the fun. I learned about social media influencers and how that all works, so that was interesting, too. All in all, Martin’s first women’s fiction book is a terrific read. Frankly, I will read anything this woman writes and I’m really looking forward to her next book!

11/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

MOM JEANS AND OTHER MISTAKES by Alexa Martin. Berkley (September 7, 2021). ISBN:‎ 978-0593198896. 384p.

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SINGLE AND READY TO JINGLE by Piper Rayne

December 2, 2022


From the publisher:

The girl who loves Christmas falls for the Grinch—it’s a Christmas miracle.

What started as a dumpster fire of a blind date turns into a deal.

In truth, it probably didn’t help that I showed up dressed like an elf but that’s a story for another time. Our start was rocky at best which is why it’s so frustrating that I can’t stop thinking about his sexy British accent. Or the way his chest and arms fill out his suit. Or his perfect hair with that single streak of grey at the front.

Santa likes lists and so do I, so here’s all the reasons why Andrew and I aren’t right for each other:

He’s my brother’s best friend
He’s the biggest grump I’ve ever met.
He hates Christmas.

That last one is big for a girl like me who thinks that the entire month of December should be a national holiday. So, when he calls for my help in planning his firm’s holiday party, I can’t pass up the opportunity to grow my small business. Bonus, we make a deal, and he agrees to attend three holiday events with me so I can make him fall in love with Christmas. As if I’d pass up an opportunity to make a Grinch’s heart grow three times its size.

It isn’t long until I discover Andrew has a very real reason to hate Christmas and I start to see him in a different light. That’s when the Christmas miracle begins.

https://amzn.to/3gIEEbQ


I love Piper Rayne books and this was a really fun read. The meet-cute is Christmas-appropriate; Andrew and Kenzie met on a dating app and arranged to have dinner together. To Andrew’s horror, the crazy woman in the elf costume, replete with bells on her elf shoes, is his date. Kenzie is an events planner, and her previous engagement ran late. She had the option of going home to change and being super late or showing up in her costume. She picked the latter.

Things get even more complicated very quickly when they realize that Kenzie is Andrew’s best friend’s little sister, who he calls Mac. short for MacKenzie. Kenzie’s brother and Andrew met in law school, but Kenzie’s never met him before. Andrew is pretty sure his buddy isn’t going to be thrilled that he is dating his kid sister, but since he is anti-Christmas (for good reason, it turns out) there is no way he is going to date the elf once this dinner is over.

Andrew is up for partner in his law firm, and the competition is one ass-kissing lawyer. When the senior partner’s trophy wife can’t find a party planner to meet her standards for the firm’s Christmas party, Andrew recommends Kenzie. It’s short notice and the woman is a bit nutso, but Kenzie agrees to do it but only if she can take Andrew on three holiday-themed outings. She is determined to get the Scrooge out of him.

Enemies to lovers is always a fun device, and Piper Rayne are masters at it. This book has it all – it’s laugh out loud funny, heartwrenching on occasion, has some real heat in the bedroom, brings the holiday cheer, and of course, the requisite happy ending. I loved it.

11/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

SINGLE AND READY TO JINGLE by Piper Rayne.  Piper Rayne Inc. (November 13, 2022). ISBN: 979-8887140902. 250p.

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MARRYING THE KETCHUPS by Jennifer Close 

December 2, 2022

From the publisher:

An irresistible comedy of manners about three generations of a Chicago restaurant family and the deep-fried, beer-battered, cream cheese-frosted love that feeds them all—from the best-selling author of Girls in White Dresses

Here are the three things the Sullivan family knows to be true: the Chicago Cubs will always be the underdogs; historical progress is inevitable; and their grandfather, Bud, founder of JP Sullivan’s, will always make the best burgers in Oak Park. But when, over the course of three strange months, the Cubs win the World Series, Trump is elected president, and Bud drops dead, suddenly everyone in the family finds themselves doubting all they hold dear.

Take Gretchen for example, lead singer for a ’90s cover band who has been flirting with fame for a decade but is beginning to wonder if she’s too old to be chasing a childish dream. Or Jane, Gretchen’s older sister, who is starting to suspect that her fitness-obsessed husband who hides the screen of his phone isn’t always “working late.” And then there’s Teddy, their steadfast, unfailingly good cousin, nursing heartbreak and confusion because the guy who dumped him keeps showing up for lunch at JP Sullivan’s where Teddy is the manager. How can any of them be expected to make the right decisions when the world feels sideways—and the bartender at JP Sullivan’s makes such strong cocktails?

Outrageously funny and wickedly astute, Marrying the Ketchups is a delicious confection by one of our most beloved authors.

“Close…drops readers smack into Oak Park, a leafy Chicago suburb, and lets them hear the hiss of fryers hitting hot oil and catch an ice-cold Old Style sliding across the bar… Close lets each character’s unique personality shine. Fans of Tracey Lange’s We Are the Brennans and Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Malibu Rising will fall in love with these maddening, loving, stubborn relatives. Setting nostalgia against progress, tradition against rebirth, Close outlines the cousins’ grief and personal growth as they work with, and against, one another.” —Booklist, starred review

“[An] amusing, engaging novel about life, death, and the restorative power of a grilled cheese sandwich… Well-drawn characters always keep you interested in what happens next. Close navigates their entanglements and dissolutions with wry humor: She understands the difficulties and distractions of modern romance. As Jane, Gretchen, and Teddy struggle to find their footing, the close-knit Oak Park neighborhood is changing, too. But is that so terrible? Like marrying the ketchups, a long-standing kitchen task now deemed unsanitary, traditions can adapt to a new world order. Just like the Sullivans. An entertaining family story with realistic, interesting characters.” —Kirkus

https://amzn.to/3FqJbtt

I’ve had this book for quite a while (it came out in April) and it’s another that was lost on my Kindle. Then two good friends recommended it so I dug it up. I struggled with this book, it took me about a week to get through it, and when I turned the last page, my first thought was “what a stupid book.” I’m sorry, but that’s my truth.

There are a lot of characters, none of which is a main character or protagonist as a few vie for that title. The big events that define the book – the Cubs winning the World Series, Trump getting elected, and the family patriarch dying, are really on the periphery of this story. The Sullivan family owns a bar/restaurant and that is the thing that ties them together. I just never felt invested in these characters or their lives, and without that, I struggled.

This is literary fiction, and the writing is fine if not a bit dull, and the story is definitely character driven without a whole lot of plot. I wasn’t always a fan of the choices these characters made and I never really felt like I got to know these people. There are some funny moments, which were enjoyable. And for readers who don’t understand the title reference, for years restaurants that served (usually) Heinz ketchup via a bottle on the table, would, at the end of the day, combine half empty bottles and refill the rest so they would have full bottles on every table. Apparently, this is not the most sanitary practice, so I’m not sure if restaurants still do that or not.

Regular readers of this site know that I struggle with negative reviews. I’ve reached the point in my life where if I hate a book, I put it down and don’t finish it or review it. I didn’t hate this book, it just felt mediocre to me. All in all, not my favorite.

11/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

MARRYING THE KETCHUPS by Jennifer Close. Knopf (April 26, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0525658870. 320p.

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Coronavirus Diary: December 1, 2022

December 1, 2022

This is the time of year when I thank you all, my readers, for your support and your comments and emails. I don’t take a single one of you for granted! I appreciate your telling your family and friends about the site, and I hope you all have found great reads! I’m working on my favorite reads of the year and should have that posted shortly.

Whatever you celebrate, I hope you get to share it with family and friends. And I wish you every happiness for the coming year!

As always, thanks for reading and stay safe.


Spotlight Review: BETTER THAN FICTION by Alexa Martin 

November 29, 2022

From the publisher:

Love isn’t always by the book in this charming romantic comedy about a bookseller discovering how to be the main character in her story.

As a self-proclaimed book hater and a firm believer that the movie is always better, Drew Young didn’t anticipate inheriting her grandma’s bookstore, the Book Nook. She’s in way over her head even before the shop’s resident book club, comprising seven of the naughtiest old ladies ever, begin to do what they do best—meddle.

Bestselling author Jasper Williams is a hopeless romantic. When he meets Drew at his Book Nook signing event, he becomes determined to show her the beauty of reading. He curates a book bucket list in exchange for her help exploring the local Denver scene for his current manuscript. From going river rafting to trying local restaurants, Drew begins to connect with Jasper in a way she only thought happened in fiction.

When messy family ties jeopardize the future of the Book Nook, Drew is caught between a bookshelf and a hard place. She’s reminded that real life isn’t always big dreams and sweeping romance. But Jasper is the plot twist she never saw coming and he’s writing a happily ever after just for them.

One of…
Amazon’s Best Romances of November
Buzzfeed’s New Romances to Read This Fall
Cosmopolitan’s Best Books Coming Out In November
Bustle’s Most Anticipated Books of November
Women’s Health’s Swooniest Romance Novels of 2022

“Martin (Intercepted) shines in this enchanting tale of a reluctant bookstore owner and the author who shows her love is possible…The charmingly ornery Drew makes a great contrast, and it’s emotionally satisfying to watch her high walls come down. Stellar supporting characters—especially Drew’s bestie, Elsie, and sister, Daisy—add humor throughout. The result is utterly entertaining.”—Publishers Weekly

“Martin’s latest multicultural contemporary rom-com explores grief and anxiety and is romantic with just the right amount of spice.”—Booklist

https://amzn.to/3Vdm8rf

I loved Alexa Martin’s Playbook series, and while I understand all good things must come to an end. it was still disappointing to hear. But then I read this book – I believe it is a standalone and it was so good! Even if it did feature a main character who hates reading. Cannot relate to that at all, but part of the happy ending, at least for me, is that the book hater gets reformed. Whew!

Drew Young is the book hater who also owns a bookstore. Yeah, does not compute. Turns out she inherited the bookstore from her beloved grandmother, bypassing her vituperative father who is still determined to get his hands on the store, just to sell it for the real estate value. He already sold the house his mother left him without letting Drew even take a memento. Growing up helping out her grandmother in the store didn’t instill a love of reading, but she is determined to keep her grandmother’s store running.

Luckily for Drew, a group of her grandmother’s closest friends, who she dubs the “Dirty Birds” are always around to lend a hand. In fact, they have invited a best-selling author to meet with their book group in the store. Jasper Williams, a sort of Nicholas Sparks type author only his books have the romance standard happily ever after (HEA) while Sparks’ are always tear jerkers. But he’s the only man I know to write straight romance-adjacent books, so that’s where my mind went. Naturally, Drew’s never read his books but is happy to have the author visit, especially since all she has to do is sell books.

When Jasper stops by prior to his event, Drew is shocked to find he is a very good-looking young man, around her age in fact. He seems drawn to Drew as well, and they decide to help one another. Drew has lived in Colorado all her life and is a photographer. She’s given up her dream to run the store. Jasper tends to move for each of his books, so he will be in Colorado for a while. He needs to learn about the area for his latest book, and when Drew gives him a detailed list, he has a counter-offer; he will give her a list of books to read, and she will take him to the places on her list. It’s a good way for these characters to spend time together, but things get complicated the more Drew’s father sticks his nose in.

I loved these characters and a bookstore setting always works for me! The romance is slow building and powerful, there is definitely an HEA, and the “Dirty Birds” add to the fun. Martin has never let me down; all of her books are terrific as is this new one. Highly recommend!

11/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

BETTER THAN FICTION by Alexa Martin. Berkley (November 8, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0593337226. 336p.

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CHRISTMAS CHAOS by Kelly Kay & Evie Alexander

November 25, 2022


Two steamy romantic comedies for the holidays!

Evie and Kelly’s Holiday Disasters, Book 3

From the publisher:

One Christmas, two couples, utter chaos. These laugh-out-loud novellas are hotter than chestnuts roasting on an open fire!

No Way in a Manger – by Evie Alexander 

Rory’s seen battle, conquered the wiles of the Scottish Highlands, and won Zoe’s heart. But now he faces his biggest challenge of all, Christmas at the castle and a heavily pregnant wife who wants everything to be perfect. The holidays should be relaxing, and having a baby’s easy, right? But with wayward in-laws, an out-of-control cow and mad Santa getting in the way, nothing is going to plan…

No Crib and No Bed – by Kelly Kay 

Tabi Aganos has put her belief in miracles behind her and redirected her life to focus on her husband, Bax, the winery they’ve built, and fixing up her beloved old farmhouse. They have everything in place for the perfect Holiday, until one hot night sends their plans crashing through the floor. But when family and friends pitch in to help, and Santa brings some unexpectedly magical gifts, their Christmas turns from chaos into joy.

Evie and Kelly’s Holiday Disasters are a series of hot and hilarious romantic comedies with interconnected characters, focusing on one holiday and one trope at a time. No cheating, no cliff-hangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after (HEA).

https://amzn.to/3UZnmGl


Novellas are not usually my favorite, but I love this series! Maybe because the characters are all interrelated. Not family-related, but rather a group of strangers who get stuck in an airport for hours, and get drunk (most of them) together. They live all over the world and stay in touch via text

These novellas are a very fast read (are you stuck in an airport? Guarantee this book will raise your spirits!) And they are both laugh-out-loud funny, but more importantly, completely heartwarming.

“No Way in a Manger” is set in the Scottish Highlands. Rory, one of the men who was in the airport but didn’t drink, is home with the love of his life, and she is pregnant. Very pregnant. There are family issues, of course, and nothing goes according to plan, but there are lots of laughs along the way to their happy ending.

The second story, “No Crib and No Bed” was my favorite if I had to pick one, probably because I related a bit more to the infertility issues. This story is set in California wine country where Tabi runs a winery with her family. She has been trying to get pregnant for quite a while, but nothing is sticking. They even lost the two young boys there were fostering. In a story that is reminiscent of the familiar Christmas story with no room at the inn for the very pregnant mother-to-be, this couple is also having housing issues. The only thing Tabi can truly count on is her husband, Bax. But it turns out the universe has other plans for them, and I was so happy with their ending.

I felt more emotionally invested in Tabi & Bax’s story, but both stories were really funny and sweet and sexy, all the good stuff. Highly recommend!

I’m sorry to say that this is the last of the three-book series. Both authors have other series they write on their own, but I am definitely going to miss these characters and all their crazy shenanigans. On the other hand, I am delighted that this series is available on Kindle Unlimited – if someone you love is a Kindle reader, a subscription to Kindle Unlimited makes a fantastic gift! (Especially if you are also a Kindle reader.)

Kindle Unlimited Gifting Information:
If you purchase the Kindle + Kindle Unlimited membership as a gift, both you and the gift recipient will receive the free Kindle Unlimited offer. Your membership will begin once your order has been successfully placed. Upon your gift recipient registering their Kindle they will receive an email with instructions on how to redeem their free Kindle Unlimited. After the free trial period, the Kindle Unlimited membership will auto-renew for $9.99 per month. Cancel anytime.

11/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

CHRISTMAS CHAOS by Kelly Kay & Evie Alexander. Emlin Press (November 14, 2022). ISBN: 978-1914473135. 244p.

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CHRISTMAS IN SILVER SPRINGS by Brenda Novak 

November 18, 2022

Silver Springs, Book 6

From the publisher:

Come home to Silver Springs for the holidays, where broken hearts learn to love again…together.

So much for forever. When Harper Devlin’s rock star husband ditches her on his way to the top, she takes her two daughters to her sister’s place in Silver Springs for the holidays, hoping family can heal her broken heart. But comfort comes in unexpected places when she crosses paths with local Tobias Richardson.

The moment Tobias spots Harper, he recognizes a sadness he knows all too well. After spending thirteen years in prison paying for his regretful past, Tobias is ready to make amends, and maybe helping Harper is the way to do it. But offering her a shoulder to cry on ignites a powerful attraction and a desire neither saw coming.

Fearing her reaction, Tobias doesn’t reveal his checkered past. He’s falling hard, and if Harper finds out, he’ll lose her for good, especially because her famous ex is now trying to win her back. Secrets have a way of coming out, but maybe this Christmas will bring Tobias the forgiveness—and the love—he deserves.

https://amzn.to/3gcjse2

I love Brenda Novak and I love this series, and somehow I missed this book! I’ve read the first five, and number eight, but somehow skipped six, seven, & nine but will catch up quickly. I searched my Kindle for Christmas books and was shocked to find this one. Not sure why, I have so many books on there that it’s easy for some to slip through the cracks. I’m working on getting more organized but it’s definitely a process. But hey, if I haven’t read it, it’s new to me and I’m always happy to find a new book to love!

This was an interesting premise. Tobias is a recently released felon, so not your typical hero by any means. And he was guilty, so no easy way out of that. When he meets Harper, he falls pretty hard, but is afraid he will lose her if she finds out about his felonious past. When her ex comes to town to try and win her back, everything is exposed.

These are interesting characters with great back stories and real problems. I love how they come together and even with all the hurdles thrust in their way, they still manage to find their happily ever after. This was a lovely, warm, wonderful Christmas romance and I loved it. Now I’m on the hunt for books 7 & 9, and luckily for me, they are both Christmas romances!

Silver Springs series in order:

  1. Finding Our Forever
  2. No One But You
  3. Until You Loved Me
  4. Right Where We Belong
  5. Unforgettable You
  6. Christmas in Silver Springs
  7. A California Christmas
  8. When I Found You
  9. Keep Me Warm at Christmas

11/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

CHRISTMAS IN SILVER SPRINGS by Brenda Novak. MIRA; Original edition (October 29, 2019). ISBN:‎ 978-0778308126. 432p.

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WHEN IN ROME by Sarah Adams 

November 18, 2022

From the publisher:

Opposites certainly attract for the stranded pop star and small-town baker in this charming slice of romance from the author of the TikTok sensation The Cheat Sheet.

“This modern take on the Hepburn classic Roman Holiday is a quick, fun, slow-burn rom-com.”—Abby Jimenez, bestselling author of The Friend Zone

Amelia Rose, known as Rae Rose to her adoring fans, is burned-out from years of maintaining her “princess of pop” image. Inspired by her favorite Audrey Hepburn film, Roman Holiday, she drives off in the middle of the night for a break in Rome . . . Rome, Kentucky, that is. 

When Noah Walker finds Amelia on his front lawn in her broken-down car, he makes it clear he doesn’t have the time or patience for celebrity problems. He’s too busy running the pie shop his grandmother left him and reminding his nosy but lovable neighbors to mind their own damn business. Despite his better judgment, he lets her stay in his guest room—but only until her car is fixed—then she’s on her own. 

Then Noah starts to see a different side of Rae Rose—she’s Amelia: kindhearted and goofy, yet lonely from years in the public eye. He can’t help but get close to her. Soon she’ll have to return to her glamorous life on tour, but until then, Noah will show Amelia all the charming small-town experiences she’s been missing, and she’ll help him open his heart to more. 

Amelia can’t resist falling for the cozy town and her grumpy tour guide, but even Audrey had to leave Rome eventually. 

https://amzn.to/3EhBCDb

This author was new to me – I think this is her second book and I will be looking for the first. This was a sweet, small town romance with a celebrity twist.

Amelia Rose, best known as Rae Rose, a famous pop singer, needs a break. Things have gotten strained with her mother, her manager is constantly telling her how to live her life, and she has a small window before her world tour kicks off. She decides to take a “Roman Holiday” like her favorite Audrey Hepburn movie. She doesn’t have time for Rome, Italy, so she picks Rome, Kentucky. She jumps in her old car, the one she’s had since high school, and of course the car breaks down just as she reaches town. There’s no cell service, it’s getting dark, and she figures she’ll just lock herself into her car until morning. Except this cute guy is knocking on the window and offering to help.

Amelia isn’t sure she can trust him, so he calls someone and hands her the phone. This old woman tells her he’s a good guy and she decides to risk it. Noah is an old curmudgeon in a hot young man’s body. He isn’t thrilled about having a house guest but he’s been raised well enough to know he can’t leave a woman stranded. The only mechanic in town will come get the car in the morning and they’ll figure things out. Oh, and he doesn’t recognize her which works for her.

It’s going to take a couple of weeks to get the parts needed to fix the car, and the only hotel in town is a B&B who claims to be full. So Noah grudgingly tells her she can stay with him. She really needs a break from her life and is happy to spend it in this small town. But Noah’s sisters immediately recognize her, and soon the whole town is in on her identity but also in on keeping her hidden from the papparazzi who eventually show up.

Amelia and Noah have a strong attraction to one another, but he has been burned badly before by a woman he fell in love with and followed to New York. He is not going to make that same mistake again. Amelia knows she cannot stay here, she has committments that she cannot get out of so she’s being careful, guarding her heart. Best laid plans and all that…lead to an affair that is sure to break both their hearts unless they can figure out a way past all their obstacles. I mean the man can bake, he’s a keeper!

I loved this town and all the quirky characters and couldn’t help but root for Amelia and Noah to find their happy ending. This was a fast, fun read and I highly recommend!

11/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

WHEN IN ROME by Sarah Adams. Dell (September 20, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0593500781. 320p.

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Spotlight Review: DESERT STAR by Michael Connelly

November 15, 2022

Renée Ballard, Book 5 and/or Harry Bosch, Book 24

From the publisher:

LAPD detective Renée Ballard and Harry Bosch team up to hunt the brutal killer who is Bosch’s “white whale”—a man responsible for the murder of an entire family.

A year has passed since LAPD detective Renée Ballard quit the force in the face of misogyny, demoralization, and endless red tape. But after the chief of police himself tells her she can write her own ticket within the department, Ballard takes back her badge, leaving “the Late Show” to rebuild and lead the cold case unit at the elite Robbery-Homicide Division.

For years, Harry Bosch has been working a case that haunts him—the murder of an entire family by a psychopath who still walks free. Ballard makes Bosch an offer: come volunteer as an investigator in her new Open-Unsolved Unit, and he can pursue his “white whale” with the resources of the LAPD behind him.

First priority for Ballard is to clear the unsolved rape and murder of a sixteen-year-old girl. The decades-old case is essential to the councilman who supported re-forming the unit, and who could shutter it again—the victim was his sister. When Ballard gets a “cold hit” connecting the killing to a similar crime, proving that a serial predator has been at work in the city for years, the political pressure has never been higher. To keep momentum going, she has to pull Bosch off his own investigation, the case that is the consummation of his lifelong mission.

The two must put aside old resentments and new tensions to run to ground not one but two dangerous killers who have operated with brash impunity. In what may be his most gripping and profoundly moving book yet, Michael Connelly shows once again why he has been dubbed “one of the greatest crime writers of all time” (Ryan Steck, Crimereads).

“Thrilling… Both cases require deep dives into the past; both lead to great action scenes; and, as always, Connelly displays his encyclopedic knowledge of the latest forensics… Bosch, however, takes a low-tech approach and follows leads in the field with his trademark intensity, driven by his desire to restore order in a violent world… [Desert Star] ranks up there with Connelly’s best.”―Publishers Weekly

“Longtime Bosch followers will be taking deep breaths after this one’s superb finale, especially given its implications for the future.” —Booklist, Starred Review

https://amzn.to/3O2uGym

There is no retiring Harry Bosch. The Vietnam War vet is now a volunteer on Renée Ballard’s new Open/Unsolved unit for the Los Angeles police department. Ballard has been given pretty much carte blanche to run the unit, other than former cop Lou Rawls, who was foisted on her by the local politico who is behind this cold cases reboot. Turns out the councilman has a personal interest; his sister was murdered several years earlier and her killer was never caught.

This new unit is a motley crew that includes a former prosecutor and a genealogy expert/psychic, or empath as she prefers, among others. Bosch agrees to the volunteer position, eager to get his hands on an old case that has been haunting him for years. The Gallagher family – mom, dad, and two young children – were murdered, their bodies dumped in a desert grave and only found by accident a year after their disappearance. But working these two cases takes Bosch down a dark road.

No spoilers here but the ending definitely feels like an ending. I understand it, and I trust Connelly to do the right thing with his most beloved character. This is another gem from one of the finest crime writers in the world – and that is not hyperbole.

DESERT STAR by Michael Connelly. Little, Brown and Company (November 8, 2022). ISBN: 978-0316485654. 400p.

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