THE SHAADI SET-UP by Lillie Vale

September 21, 2021

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From the publisher:

In this witty and heartfelt rom-com debut for fans of Jasmine Guillory, Emily Henry, and Tessa Bailey, an Indian American woman signs herself and her boyfriend up for a matchmaking site to prove they’re a perfect match, only to be paired with her ex instead.

High school sweethearts Rita Chitniss and Milan Rao were the golden couple, until the day he broke her heart. Now, six years later, Rita has turned her passion for furniture restoration into a career and has an almost-perfect boyfriend, Neil. The last thing she needs is for Milan to re-enter her life, but that’s exactly what happens when her mother, an unfailing believer in second chances, sets them up. Milan is just as charming, cocky, and confident as he was back in school. Only this time, he actually needs her business expertise, not her heart, to flip a hard-to-sell house for his realty agency. 

While Rita begrudgingly agrees to help, she’s not taking any risks. To prove she’s definitely over him, she signs herself and Neil up on MyShaadi.com, a Desi matchmaking site famous for its success stories and trustworthy enough to convince everyone that she and Neil are the new and improved couple. Instead, she’s shocked when MyShaadi’s perfect match for her isn’t Neil…it’s Milan. Ignoring the website and her mother is one thing, but ignoring Milan proves much more difficult, especially when she promises to help him renovate the beach house of her dreams. And as the two of them dive deeper into work—and their pasts—Rita begins to wonder if maybe her match wasn’t so wrong after all….


Milan dumped Rita in a voicemail while she was flying to meet him for their trip to Europe during college. He never shows and she is heartbroken, but determined to go on their trip anyway. Six years later, Rita met Neil on Tinder and they hit it off. It’s been a few months of him spending the night a couple of times a week. But his life is ruled by his mother, and she wants him to find a wife, an Indian wife.

In a weird coincidence, Rita’s mom was a young woman when she fell in love with a man. But his family arranged a marriage for him and he broke her heart. Rita thinks her mother never got over him, and it turns out Neil’s father is that man. Rita doesn’t want to get any more involved with Neil that what they already are; he has marriage on his mind. She finally figures out that she can make this all public if the Indian marriage/dating app matches her with Neil. They coordinate their answers, but the 100% match for her is not Neil, it’s Milan.

Meanwhile, Neil’s mother “wrestles” his password to the app from him (she asks him for it) and starts arranging dates for him with the women from the site. And he goes. Rita is pissed but doesn’t really care and isn’t the least bit jealous. And Rita’s mom conspires with Milan’s mom to bring them back together. He is a very successful real estate agent, and she loves decorating and woodworking – she takes other people’s junk and turns the junk into treasures.

Milan has been sitting with a listing for this ultra-modern house for close to a year. No one wants it. So when the moms decide that Rita can fix up the place so he can sell it, they both agree to give it a try. It is very successful, and the house sells almost immediately for above list price. Milan had purchased an old B&B on the beach and has been renovating it to flip. He asks Rita to do the decorating and she agrees. The more time they spend together, the more they both realize that they are still in love. But Rita is leery; she knows she’s not the same girl he fell in love with, and she wants to make sure they are both going into this with their eyes wide open.

This was a really fun read. The families lent a lot of humor to the story, and the characters were all interesting and believable. I am looking forward to her next book – this was a debut novel (for adults; she writes children’s books, too!)

9/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE SHAADI SET-UP by Lillie Vale. G.P. Putnam’s Sons (September 7, 2021). ISBN: 978-0593328712. 368 pages.

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PORTRAIT OF A SCOTSMAN by Evie Dunmore

September 20, 2021

A League of Extraordinary Women, Book 3

From the publisher:

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:

1. Acclaim as an artist.
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 desire for 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.

The Instant USA Today Bestseller!
One of Marie Claire’s most anticipated romances of 2021!
One of Cosmopolitan’s most anticipated fall books of 2021!
A BuzzFeed Best Summer Read of 2021!


This was my first read of this author or series. One of my reviewers, Caitlin, read the first book, Bringing Down the Duke, and loved it. I meant to read it, but forgot – so many books, so little time! I liked this book a lot and didn’t really feel like I was missing anything having not read the first two books in the series. I may poke around my Kindle though; I probably have both of them on there somewhere.

The main character, Hattie, is a suffragist and an artist. She is not titled, but her father is a very wealthy man so her life is easy. As easy as it gets for women in Victorian England. Her parents indulge her interest in art by allowing her to take classes at Oxford. When she hears about a tour being given for a private collection of art, she decides to ditch her protector/chaperone/security guard, and sneaks out to the exhibit. But when she gets there, no one seems to know anything about a tour. They leave her in one of the rooms filled with art and sculpture and tchotchkes galore, and then a man comes in, walks up to her and kisses her. She slaps him good, and that is the meet cute.

The man is Luke Blackstone, and it is his home that she is visiting but he doesn’t know about any tours. He just knows she is an unaccompanied woman, and like many who have visited him in the past, he assumes she is visiting to have sex with him. He is also not of the gentry but is possibly even wealthier than her father. Blackstone has a terrible reputation as he has bankrupted many of the aristocracy by collecting their debts.

Blackstone is intrigued and attracted. A short time later, an actual tour is planned but somehow Hattie ends up alone in the drawing room with him and he tries to kiss her again – and she leans in for it. Unfortunately for her, the mirrors in the room are actually two-way mirrors, so her family and friends all witness the kiss. Blackstone quickly announces they are betrothed, and gets to working out a deal with her father as was often done.

Hattie is angry that she is being forced into a marriage with a man she doesn’t know. But she is attracted to him and after speaking to him about what she wants in a marriage (which I found quite unbelievable for the times) he acquiesces to her demands and they marry. The wedding night is not great, but he is kind and when she asks him to stop, he does. And the next night. And so on. But other things happen to cause her to want to leave, and her best friend is an expert at helping women escape bad situations and arranges for her to go to France. But Blackstone is one step ahead and whisks her off to Scotland before she can leave him.

Blackstone owns a mine in this small town and is trying to determine how to help the people who work there. Hattie visits some of the local women and decides to learn how to take their photographs, in an artistic way, in hopes of creating a gallery show to raise money for the town. They are forced to stay in the only inn in town in a single room with only one bed and the marriage is finally consummated.

But when Hattie finds out her husband basically paid for her and figures out that he arranged for them to be caught so they would have to marry, she is angry and asks to leave. Blackstone agrees even though he is in love with her. Eventually, he goes to her and they work things out.

This was a very interesting book, I liked learning about early photography and the mines and the miners lives. I did find it a bit slow and had a hard time believing the characters behaviors in the time period. But suspending disbelief is part of the deal and I did like the book enough to go look for the earlier books in the series.

9/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

PORTRAIT OF A SCOTSMAN by Evie Dunmore. Berkley (September 7, 2021). ISBN: 978-1984805720. 432 pages.

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THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS by Ali Hazelwood 

September 20, 2021

From the publisher:

When a fake relationship between scientists meets the irresistible force of attraction, it throws one woman’s carefully calculated theories on love into chaos.

As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn’t believe in lasting romantic relationships–but her best friend does, and that’s what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.

That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor–and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford’s reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive’s career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding…six-pack abs.

Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.

A BuzzFeed Best Summer Read of 2021


This is a terrific rom-com; smart characters, interesting storyline, great secondary characters and an interesting setting – Stanford University. Specifically, in the biology department. The first meet-cute happens a few years before the actual story. Olive was trying to decide if she wants to pursue her PhD in biology, but she is an impoverished student wearing contact lens that expired years earlier. It has made her vision blurry and she can’t stop crying, so she heads to the nearest restroom where she meets a man who she assumes is a grad student. She really can’t see him, he is just a very tall, very large blur. Olive isn’t sure academia is really for her, but he asks her a couple of good questions that help her decide.

Spring forward and Olive is a couple of years into her graduate program. She doesn’t really date, but did go out with Jeremy a couple of times, but there was no spark there. So when her best friend Anh and Jeremy realize that they really like each other, Olive is in a quandary. Her best friend won’t date Jeremy as long as she thinks Olive is interested, and no matter what Olive says, she isn’t changing her mind. So Olive tells her she has a date with someone else, but when Anh shows up, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.

That man is professor Adam Carlson, a MacArthur genius and Stanford legend, feared by his students and respected worldwide. Olive is mortified, but he is very kind. Once she explains why she did it, they decide to fake date. It will keep Anh dating Jeremy, and help Adam as well. The dean has frozen some of his grant money because he’s afraid Adam is going to leave Stanford; he’s considered a “flight risk.” But if Adam is dating someone, then maybe the dean will think he’s staying and release the funds. That is the premise behind the fake dating, and if you’ve ever read a romance or seen a romcom, you know what happens. I especially love the tongue-in-cheek references to other romcoms.

The competitive school setting was terrific, with all its politics and chicanery, and Olive is as quirky a character as I could love. Adam is the quiet type, but enough hints are dropped that you know this is more than fake dating for him. And eventually for Olive as well, but there are a lot of complications that get in the way. Title IX, the sexual harassment laws that govern colleges and universities, comes into play here, pretty much paving the way to the happy ending.

The humor and the characters really make this book, and there is a bit of steamy sex which is well done. I loved this book – don’t miss it!

9/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS by Ali Hazelwood. Berkley (September 14, 2021). ISBN: 978-0593336823. 384 pages.

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COUNTRY MUSIC COWBOY by Sasha Summers

September 19, 2021

Kings of Country, Book 3

Captivating Opposites-Attract Romance 

What’s a country music star to do
when his world is falling apart around him?
Can he find his way back home?

According to his record label, Travis King’s drinking and partying has to stop. Or else… Image rebranding means joining AA and singing opposite one of the industry’s rising stars at an upcoming awards show. It wouldn’t be so bad if Loretta Gram wasn’t cold as ice. No matter how hard he turns on the charm, she won’t give him a break. It looks like this cowboy has finally met his match.

Loretta is still grieving the death of her original singing partner, and she doesn’t have it in her to deal with playboy Travis King. But her career is all she has, so if singing with the Three Kings is what she needs, she’ll do it. Loretta isn’t as cold as she lets on, but she’s had more than her share of heartache. When she finally shows Travis who she is, he knows he’ll do anything to be her forever cowboy.

Perfect for fans of:

Enemies-to-lovers and opposites-attract romance

Behind-the-scenes glimpses into country music

Characters who find the courage to be their true selves

Poignant romance that warms your heart


This is the third book of the series, and my first read from this author. I have to say that I am not a fan of country music, it’s about the only music I really don’t care for. There are a few exceptions (looking at you, Dolly Parton!) and I love Coal Miner’s Daughter, the Loretta Lynn movie, but beyond that I am not too familiar with many country artists. Nevertheless, I really liked this book so it didn’t matter at all.

Loretta lost her music partner when he died way too young. Her record label is not ready to give her a solo career, so they match her up with Travis King. His whole family are stars, starting with his daddy. His sisters are twins and they are hugely popular country stars, and Travis has been singing backup. But he has an alcohol problem and one night he loses it, someone with a phone gets it all and the video goes viral. He gets himself to rehab, and has been sober for months.

Neither of them is thrilled about being forced to work together, but Travis thinks Loretta is beautiful so that helps. And she thinks he’s gorgeous but way too much trouble. But working together brings them close, and eventually Travis wears down her defenses and they find their happy ending, both professionally and personally.

These characters were well developed and really came alive on the page, even the secondary characters. The story is a good one, and it was an easy and very enjoyable read. Not sure I would categorize this as a cowboy romance, but more of a music industry romance. Now I’m curious about the books that came before.

9/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

COUNTRY MUSIC COWBOY by Sasha Summers. Sourcebooks Casablanca (August 24, 2021). ISBN:‎ 978-1492688624. 288 pages.

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THE LAST CHANCE LIBRARY by Freya Sampson

September 18, 2021

Welcome to Thorndale, Book 4

From the publisher:

Can the magic of Christmas and the

June Jones emerges from her shell to fight for her beloved local library, and through the efforts and support of an eclectic group of library patrons, she discovers life-changing friendships along the way.

Lonely librarian June Jones has never left the sleepy English village where she grew up. Shy and reclusive, the thirty-year-old would rather spend her time buried in books than venture out into the world. But when her library is threatened with closure, June is forced to emerge from behind the shelves to save the heart of her community and the place that holds the dearest memories of her mother.

Joining a band of eccentric yet dedicated locals in a campaign to keep the library, June opens herself up to other people for the first time since her mother died. It just so happens that her old school friend Alex Chen is back in town and willing to lend a helping hand. The kindhearted lawyer’s feelings for her are obvious to everyone but June, who won’t believe that anyone could ever care for her in that way.

To save the place and the books that mean so much to her, June must finally make some changes to her life. For once, she’s determined not to go down without a fight. And maybe, in fighting for her cherished library, June can save herself, too.

Good Morning America Buzz Pick
A Library Reads Pick


This book is a love letter to libraries and librarians; no wonder it made the Library Reads top picks! Let me add my voice to the chorus.

If you like charming English villages with quirky characters, then this is your book. If you love libraries, then this is your book. If you like a fairy tale, then this is your book. It certainly was mine.

June’s mom was the head librarian at their little village library for most of June’s life. June started working there right out of school when her mother became ill. June’s father has never been in the picture, and she is extremely close to her mother and nursed her through cancer until she lost her. June has been dealing with her grief by staying in the same house, not changing a thing, and only leaving for work or if she’s absolutely forced to. When the town council announces that they have had budget cuts and are looking at possibly closing six area libraries, including June’s, the town goes into revolt. The politics aren’t good -June’s job is threatened if she conspires with the town folk who are trying to save the library, so she goes undercover. But then she outs herself and decides it is too important to hide.

There is a lot of humor here, along a touch of romance. I loved that this is a look at the importance of libraries in a community, beyond the bookshelves. I loved this book and wish everyone would read it!

9/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE LAST CHANCE LIBRARY by Freya Sampson. Berkley (August 31, 2021). ISBN: 978-0593201381. 336 pages.

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WHEN YOU WISH UPON A DUKE by Charis Michaels

September 17, 2021

Awakened by a Kiss, Book 2

From the publisher:

USA Today bestselling author Charis Michaels returns to her Awakened by a Kiss series where overlooked fairy tale characters get their own happy endings, with a captivating romance about Miss Isobel Tinker and the duke who makes her believe in magic.

All it takes….

After a childhood spent cavorting around Europe with a dangerous crowd, Miss Isobel Tinker has parlayed her experience and language skills into a safe, reliable life. Working as a clerk in Mayfair’s Everland Travel Shop, she dreams of someday owning her own travel agency and has vowed never to leave the familiar shores of England ever again. When a handsome duke arrives at her doorstep, she realizes her staid existence is about to take flight.

…is faith and hope

Jason “North” Beckett, the Duke of Northumberland, desperately needs a travel guide. He’s inherited a dukedom but has a final mission for the Foreign Office—rescuing his wayward cousin from Nordic pirates. Isobel Tinker is the ideal translator, discreet and unknown, but she’s also uncooperative, stubborn, and disarmingly beautiful.

And a little bit of trust

In exchange for her help, North promises Miss Tinker her own travel agency upon return and strict professionalism at sea. Isobel cautiously agrees but soon realizes “strict” and “professional” are not how she would describe her feelings for the irresistible duke. As their adventure sweeps them to the shores of Iceland and beyond, can temptation and growing trust give way to the magic of wild, passionate love?


I’ve read a few of this author’s books from a few different series and I’ve liked them all, but this is the first book I’ve read in this series.

Isobel is a unique character, especially for historical fiction. She is the offspring of nobility (her father) who had an affair with her mother, a famous, well regarded actress. As a young child, her father came around often but eventually stopped. Isobel traveled with her mother throughout Europe as she performed. A bunch of the children of the cast and crew ran wild, traveling together and getting into all sorts of trouble, and Isobel was no different.

Isobel’s all grown up now and managing a travel agency for a lovely family. But when the couple who owns it dies, she has to deal with their son, who is lazy, lewd, and just not a very nice person. But she manages because she needs the job and the apartment it comes with above the shop.

The Duke of Northumberland, North as he is known, inherited the position after his father and two older brothers passed away. He never wanted the title. He has been working as a spy for the Foreign Office, and dreads giving it up to run the family estate. He has one last mission, to rescue his cousin and his associated who have been taken captive by pirates in Iceland. North asks Isobel to help, as she has traveled extensively there and knows the language.

It takes a lot of convincing and a major bribe – her own travel agency in her own building with an apartment for her -and she eventually agrees. There is a mutual attraction between Isobel and the Duke, which intensifies as they travel together, but there is also a lot of excitement (pirates!) and drama before they get to their happily ever after. This was a very fast read, and I really liked the characters. I will go back and read the first book, and then just have to be patient and wait for the next.

9/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

WHEN YOU WISH UPON A DUKE by Charis Michaels. Avon (August 24, 2021). ISBN: 978-0062984975. 416 pages.

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AN OBSERVANT WIFE by Naomi Ragen

September 16, 2021

From the publisher:

In this rich and compassionate novel, An Observant Wife, Naomi Ragen continues the love story between newly observant California-girl Leah and ultra-Orthodox widower Yaakov from An Unorthodox Match.

From the joy of their wedding day surrounded by supportive friends and family, Yaakov and Leah are soon plunged into the complex reality of their new lives together as Yaakov leaves his beloved yeshiva to work in the city, and Leah confronts the often agonizing restrictions imposed by religious laws governing even the most intimate moments of their married lives. Adding to their difficulties is the hostility of some in the community who continue to view Leah as a dangerous interloper, questioning her sincerity and adherence to religious laws and spreading outrageous rumors.

In the midst of their heartfelt attempts to reach a balance between their human needs and their spiritual obligations, the discovery of a secret, forbidden relationship between troubled teenage daughter Shaindele and a local boy precipitates a maelstrom of life-changing consequences for all.


I didn’t realize that this was the sequel to An Unorthodox Match until I started reading it and the characters seemed familiar. I loved that book and I was happy to revisit Boro Park and see how Leah and Yaakov were doing. It is unnecessary to read An Unorthodox Match to enjoy this book, but it does give a better perspective of their lives leading up to their marriage.

Leah and Yaakov are Orthodox Jews living in a part of Brooklyn that is a community of people just like them. Except that Leah wasn’t brought up Orthodox; her mother shed the rigors of that life and Leah grew up in California. But when everything in her life goes bad, she seeks refuge in this strict community where they are supposed to welcome those who have “returned” to orthodoxy. The reality is that maybe the rabbis treat her that way, but her neighbors do not. They are suspicious of her different upbringing, and rumors abound.

But Leah loves Yaakov and his children. She loves her Orthodox life, for the most part. She isn’t thrilled about not having sex for half the month, though. This is actually the first time I’ve seen Orthodox sex discussed. I found the “rules” and explanations fascinating. That said, there are no sex scenes in this book. The closest it gets is when they push the twin beds together.

The oldest boys have been sent to study at a Yeshiva and live with their uncle in Philadelphia. The eldest at home is Shaindel, a fifteen year old who is not thrilled with her new stepmother. The first wife suffered from debilitating post partum depression, and the way this Jewish community handled it contributed to her death. This has greatly affected Shaindel, while the younger children are babies and not really aware. They love Leah, and Leah tries hard with Shaindel, and they form a fairly good relationship.

But Shaindel has a rebellious streak, and when she sees the principal’s son working at a kosher pizza place, she starts hanging out there everyday after school. The boy is good looking, and he notices her. He convinces her to meet him after dark in local parks, and they do some kissing and more, which is completely unacceptable in this community. The boy has been thrown out of his father’s school, he is not a good kid. In this society, boys and girls do not talk, touch, and are never left alone. Matches are arranged for them, usually when a girl is 18 or so. They meet, they marry – more or less. 

When the school finds out, they threaten expulsion. Shaindel wants to be a teacher like her mother was, and is devastated that a stupid mistake could bring such shame. But Leah defends her and convinces the principal to let her remain. He agrees but only if she will go see a counselor of his choosing. The man he sends her to is Hassidic and very well respected. But when Shaindel goes, he makes her very uncomfortable, to say the least. He is a sexual predator, and how the family and the community deal with that is at the heart of this story.

I really like Naomi Ragen’s books, I like learning about the different culture she writes about. Even though I’m Jewish, I am not Orthodox, so it is a lifestyle much different from my own. Ragen is a terrific storyteller, and the story and these characters really drew me in. If you haven’t read her, this is as good a place to start as any. That said, I think her best books are her older ones, particularly The Sacrifice of Tamar and Jephte’s Daughter. They should be available at your local library.

9/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

AN OBSERVANT WIFE by Naomi Ragen. St. Martin’s Press (September 14, 2021). ISBN: 978-1250260079. 352 pages.

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A LOT LIKE ADIOS by Alexis Daria

September 15, 2021

From the publisher:

The national bestselling author of You Had Me at Hola returns with a seductive second-chance romance about a commitment-phobic Latina and her childhood best friend who has finally returned home.

Hi Mich. It’s Gabe.

After burning out in her corporate marketing career, Michelle Amato has built a thriving freelance business as a graphic designer. So what if her love life is nonexistent? She’s perfectly fine being the black sheep of her marriage-obsessed Puerto Rican-Italian family. Besides, the only guy who ever made her want happily-ever-after disappeared thirteen years ago.

It’s been a long time.

Gabriel Aguilar left the Bronx at eighteen to escape his parents’ demanding expectations, but it also meant saying goodbye to Michelle, his best friend and longtime crush. Now, he’s the successful co-owner of LA’s hottest celebrity gym, with an investor who insists on opening a New York City location. It’s the last place Gabe wants to go, but when Michelle is unexpectedly brought on board to spearhead the new marketing campaign, everything Gabe’s been running from catches up with him.

I’ve missed you.

Michelle is torn between holding Gabe at arm’s length or picking up right where they left off—in her bed. As they work on the campaign, old feelings resurface, and their reunion takes a sexy turn. Facing mounting pressure from their families—who think they’re dating—and growing uncertainty about their futures, can they resolve their past mistakes, or is it only a matter of time before Gabe says adiós again?


Michelle is a talented graphic artist and one of her marketing campaigns went viral. Gabe’s partner in the gym they own is pushing hard to expand to New York, and wants to hire her. He doesn’t know about Gabe’s previous relationship with Michelle. When his partner can’t go to NY, Gabe has to do it. And the only way Michelle is going to help them is if he agrees to stay with her. She has an apartment in the city, and Gabe agrees.

They have unfinished business. Best friends all through school, their relationship intensified the summer after they graduated. Except unbeknownst to Michelle, Gabe is planning on going to college in California, not NY where they both live. When she finds out she is livid. Feeling her temper got the best of her, Michelle reaches out occasionally over the years. She really misses her friend and can’t understand why he won’t respond.

But her apartment is being renovated and shockingly, the date to finish has past and there is no toilet in the apartment. Since her parents are away, Michelle moves back home to the Bronx, next door to Gabe’s family. But when she brings him to the Bronx instead of Manhattan, he freaks out.

What Michelle doesn’t know is that Gabe had a big falling out with his parents. He told them he was going to California, on scholarship, but his father wants him to stay and help out in the stationary store he owns. They have a big fight, and Gabe hasn’t been back or even talked to his parents for nine years. This is really Gabe’s story; he needs to resolve the issues with his family and his business, and learn who he really is. With Michelle’s help, he does that.

The only part of the book I didn’t love were the “interstitials;” snippets of fanfiction they had written together when they were in high school. I could have lived without that, it reminded me of my least favorite parts of Rainbow Rowell’s books. But it did play a big part of the ending, and I did like that!

This is a terrific romance with some humor and interesting, diverse characters. There isn’t a whole lot of sex but it is steamy. If you like the friends to lovers trope (and I do) then this is your book! It is the sequel to You Had Me at Hola, but while I highly recommend you read it (I loved it) you don’t have to for this book to work. Enjoy!

9/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

A LOT LIKE ADIOS by Alexis Daria. Avon (September 14, 2021). ISBN: 978-0062959966. 416 pages.

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TRUE LOVE COWBOY by Jennifer Ryan

September 14, 2021

A McGrath Novel , Book 3

New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Ryan is known for her cowboy heroes, strong-willed heroines, and powerful love stories. Always page-turning, her western set romances are perfect for fans of Diana Palmer, BJ Daniels, and Linda Lael Miller.

Cowboys live by their word, their wits, and their loyalty.

Jon Crawford has returned to Montana, determined to take over his father’s ranch and raise his daughter in Big Sky Country, leaving the big-city life behind once and for all. He doesn’t have time to fall in love, but he doesn’t count on stubborn but beautiful Trinity McGrath, who arouses his protective instincts even as she tries to push him away.

Life hasn’t always been easy for Trinity, but now she has everything she needs—her family, friends, and a safe and secure life. With a business to build, Trinity doesn’t have time for romance…until Jon comes barging into her life and all her intentions are turned upside down! 

Still, an attraction like theirs is too powerful to deny, and sometimes true love comes along when you least expect it. But when someone from Jon’s past comes back with a vengeance, Trinity and Jon will have to do everything they can to save themselves and their new love…


Trinity has a successful small business and is trying to grow it. She had a terrible experience (in the previous book) and has PTSD which flares up from time to time. She meets Jon when he moves back to this small town. He is moving to his family ranch because he wants his daughter to grow up there. He had a very successful business in L.A., but realizes he needs to spend time with her. She’s only 4 and is the cutest part of the book for sure. Her mother, on the other hand, is a nightmare. Luckily, they are not (and have never been) married, but she is hopeful they will get back together. He is adamant that it will never happen.

The mom is an awful, selfish woman who does not take very good care of their daughter. Jon finds it frustrating, and is trying to make things work. They have shared custody, which helps, but he knows there are some serious issues going on and isn’t sure how to handle it all.

Trinity is making a delivery to Jon’s dad and that’s how they meet. When she doesn’t get a response to her knock, she goes in and finds him barely breathing on the floor. She struggles to get him out of the house and into her car, thinking it will be much faster for her to take him to the hospital than to wait for an ambulance that has to come from another town. When she finally gets him outside, Jon is there to help. He makes her a bit nervous, but eventually she figures out he is truly the son and a nice guy. In fact, he’s a very nice guy and he is immediately drawn to Trinity. She’s not so sure.

The more they see each other, the more they both realize they have something special. But dealing with the mom is very difficult, and things progressively get worse with her. Eventually, Jon and Trinity find their happily ever after with his daughter, and a happy ending is reached. But there is a lot of drama before they get there, and just a little bit of sex. I really loved these characters and realize I need to go back and read the last book. I did review Waiting on a Cowboy, the first book. Another excellent read from Jennifer Ryan!

9/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

TRUE LOVE COWBOY by Jennifer Ryan. Avon (August 24, 2021). ISBN:‎ 978-0063020801. 384 pages.

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BATTLE ROYAL by Lucy Parker

September 13, 2021

Wilder, Book 3

From the publisher:

Beloved author Lucy Parker pens a delicious new romantic comedy that is a battle of whisks and wits.

Ready…

Four years ago, Sylvie Fairchild charmed the world as a contestant on the hit baking show, Operation Cake. Her ingenious, creations captivated viewers and intrigued all but one of the judges, Dominic De Vere. When Sylvie’s unicorn cake went spectacularly sideways, Dominic was quick to vote her off the show. Since then, Sylvie has used her fame to fulfill her dream of opening a bakery. The toast of Instagram, Sugar Fair has captured the attention of the Operation Cake producers…and a princess.

Set…

Dominic is His Majesty the King’s favorite baker and a veritable British institution. He’s brilliant, talented, hard-working. And an icy, starchy grouch. Learning that Sylvie will be joining him on the Operation Cake judging panel is enough to make the famously dour baker even more grim. Her fantastical baking is only slightly more troublesome than the fact that he can’t stop thinking about her pink-streaked hair and irrepressible dimple.

Match…

When Dominic and Sylvie learn they will be fighting for the once in a lifetime opportunity to bake a cake for the upcoming wedding of Princess Rose, the flour begins to fly as they fight to come out on top.

The bride adores Sylvie’s quirky style. The palace wants Dominic’s classic perfection.

In this royal battle, can there be room for two?


This is the perfect amalgam of romcom and British Bakeoff; no wonder it garnered starred reviews all around. It’s also the classic enemies to lovers trope of romance, and done really well.

Sylvie lost on “Operation Cake” when her unicorn cake blew up and attacked the judge, Dominic. He had no patience for her quirky, sparkly cakes anyway. Dominic is the classically trained pastry chef whose cakes appeal to the Royal family. Sylvie opened her own cake shop right across the street from his, but there customers don’t really overlap. Except for the princess who is now planning her wedding. Her parents want Dominic, she wants Sylvie and both are invited to submit cake designs for the wedding, adding another layer of discord between them. Then one of the judges on Operation Cake leaves, and Sylvie is invited to be a judge. She can’t afford not to do it, plus it will give her shop tons of exposure. Of course, she’ll have to work with Dominic, but maybe it won’t be so bad.

Turns out Dominic isn’t exactly the stuffy ogre Sylvie always thought him to be. And she’s not the flighty miscreant he thought her to be. Eventually, they realize they have a lot more in common than they thought and team up in a variety of ways – even romantically.

This was a really fun read with a lot of emotional resonance. Romcoms don’t get much better than this! Don’t miss it.

9/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

BATTLE ROYAL by Lucy Parker. Avon (August 17, 2021). ISBN: 978-0063040069. 416 pages.

Kindle

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