BEST SERVED HOT by Amanda Elliot 

February 24, 2023

From the publisher:

Two restaurant critics learn their opposing tastes might make for a five-star relationship in the next foodie romantic comedy from the author of Sadie on a Plate.

By day, Julie Zimmerman works as an executive assistant. After hours, she’s @JulieZeeEatsNYC, a social media restaurant reviewer with over fifty thousand followers. As much as she loves her self-employed side gig, what Julie really wants is to be a critic at a major newspaper, like the New York Scroll. The only thing worse than the Scroll’s rejection of her application is the fact that smarmy, social-media-averse society boy Bennett Richard Macalester Wright snagged her dream job.

While at the Central Park Food Festival, Julie confronts the annoyingly handsome Bennett about his outdated opinions on social media and posts the resulting video footage. Julie’s follower count soars—and so does the Scroll’s. Julie and Bennett grudgingly agree to partner up for a few reviews to further their buzz. Online buzz, obviously.

Over tapas, burgers, and more, Julie and Bennett connect over their shared love of food. But when the competitive fire between them turns extra spicy, they’ll have to decide how much heat their relationship can take.

Elliot leaves your stomach grumbling and your heart pounding, and it’s hard to discern what’s more delicious: the elaborate dishes or the couple’s simmering chemistry.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“This romantic comedy from Elliot (Sadie on a Plate) is a sexy slow burn with sizzling chemistry between the well-developed protagonists. Julie and Bennett fall in love over countless meals, and the descriptions of the foods they consume are incredibly described and guaranteed to make readers salivate. Highly recommended for all libraries.”—Library Journal (starred review)

“This classic enemies-to-lovers plot is a slow burn, but the result is worth the wait and the food descriptions along the way will make readers salivate. Romance fans are sure to be charmed.”—Publishers Weekly

Julie is struggling to make it on her own in New York City. She has a roommate, of course, gleaned through an ad but he is the best one she’s had. She works full time for Mr. Decker, a retired network executive who still maintains an office, but is rarely there leaving Julie with lots of free time to pursue her passion – food writing, more specifically, restaurant reviews. As @JulieZeeEatsNYC, she wanders the city from one new restaurant to the next, specializing in those little gems with affordable pricing. She keeps away from the big name, super expensive restaurants, and has gained a significant following online. But she’s ready for more.

A local paper is hiring a new restaurant reviewer, and Julie thinks of it as her dream job. They never get back to her so she isn’t surprised to find out they gave the job to yet another white, privileged man. He will be reviewing those expensive restaurants for sure. When Julie runs into him at a Central Park food festival, they butt heads over reviewing in print versus online, and Julie videos the whole thing and posts it. That video garners her a lot of new followers, but also bumps up the newspaper’s social media as well.

Bennett’s new boss tells him he should do a few joint reviews with Julie, it will be good for both their social media standing. Julie agrees and a partnership of sorts is formed. Except the more time they spend together, the more Julie realizes that Bennett isn’t the spoiled diletante she thought he was, and he learns that online restaurant reviewers have just as much credibility as do the reviews in print. Oh, and they fall in love somewhere along the way.

When they finally stop fighting their feelings, Julie sees something in his apartment that enrages her, and she takes off during the night. It seems this relationship has met its demise – or has it? I’ll give you a hint; this is a romance so there is a requisite happy ending.

An added bonus to this fast paced, often hilarious romance is the food writing. Elliot does a remarkable job with it – half the time I thought I should be taking notes of these intriguing restaurants, but I’m assuming the names were changed or made up. Kudos to Elliot for pulling off this foodie romance with such style – don’t miss it!

2/2023 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

BEST SERVED HOT by Amanda Elliot.  Berkley (February 21, 2023). ISBN:‎ 978-0593335734. 368p.





Spotlight Review: THE DUKE’S SECRET CINDERELLA by Eva Devon

February 21, 2023

Never a Wallflower, Book 3

From the publisher:

Charlotte Browne could just kick herself. What on earth possessed her to tell the Duke of Rockford that she is a lady? But something about the duke’s handsomeness and kind intelligence makes Charlotte blurt out the teeniest, tiniest falsehood. Now it’s too late to admit she’s just plain Charlotte of no particular importance―with cinder-stained hands, a wretched stepfather, and no prospects for marriage…

Rafe Dorchester, Duke of Rockford, has done what every self-respecting duke must do―avoid marriage at all costs. But the only thing stronger than the duke is his mother. When she lays down the highest ultimatum, he’ll need to find a duchess. Immediately. Only, when he calls on a potential bride, he instead finds the pert, fresh-faced Lady Charlotte. Rafe was warned to never mix the business of marriage with pleasure, but when it comes to her…oh, business would be a splendid pleasure.

One passionate, illicit kiss sends Charlotte fleeing, leaving only a delicate blue ribbon behind. For Rafe can never discover her secret, or it will ruin her beloved sister’s chance at marriage. But the duke knows that when you’ve found the one person that ignites you, body and soul, nothing can keep you away.

Each book in the Never a Wallflower series is STANDALONE:
* The Spinster and the Rake
* Much Ado About Dukes
* The Duke’s Secret Cinderella

I read the first book in this series and really enjoyed it, but missed the next book. I will go back and read it for sure. This is the third book in this series. and it was pretty good.

Charlotte is your stereotypical stepdaughter, banned from society and kept busy cleaning and basically being her stepsister’s lady’s maid. Fortunately, they are as close as real sisters, so there is no bad stuff going on with them. The bad stuff comes from Charlotte’s stepfather, a nice twist on the Cinderella story. Charlotte lost her father so early that she doesn’t remember him at all, and lost her mother when she was still pretty young. Her stepfather is a cruel, tight-fisted man, at least with her; he’s much more generous with his daughter, Francesca, but both girls live in fear of his violent temper and demanding ways.

Rockford is a most unusual Duke; beyond wealthy, of course, but also kind and caring and using his position and power to improve the lives of impoverished Londoners, especially the children. His family started a foundling hospital for orphans, and it is his dream to take over that responsibility. He is very close with his mother since losing his father at a young age. The men in this family don’t seem to live very long, and his mother is determined that he will marry and have his heir and a spare lined up before anything happens to him. He can’t say no to her, but when she gives him her “list” of young women he should court, there is only one name on the list, Francesca.

Charlotte has scrounged together enough money to free one of the servants from the horrors of debtors’ prison. Her stepfather had him placed there, mostly to punish Charlotte and the other servants. But on her way to the prison, someone tries to attack her. She is armed with a brick and fends him off, with a little help from a nobleman. He turns out to be the Duke of Rockford, and he insists on accompanying her to the prison. When she realizes that she lost the money she brought to free her friend, Rockford steps up and takes care of it. He is completely smitten with this outspoken, caring young woman.

When he calls on Francesca per his mother’s instructions, he is delighted to find Lady Charlotte also living there. They have real chemistry, but beyond that, they share the same concerns about the poverty around them as well as their views on love.

Charlotte has lied about who she is, and when Rockford wants to marry her she refuses, explaining that she is not good enough for him, but doesn’t come clean. This goes on for most of the book and honestly, it made the story drag a bit. But I hung in there because I knew the happy ending was coming, and much to my surprise, there were several twists I never saw coming that made it all worthwhile. I really enjoyed this book, despite the lag in the middle, and look forward to reading the book I missed, as well as the next one in this series.

2/2023 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE DUKE’S SECRET CINDERELLA by Eva Devon. Entangled: Amara (February 21, 2023). ISBN:‎  978-1649372413. 384p.





GO HEX YOURSELF by Jessica Clare

February 17, 2023

Hex, Book 1

From the publisher:

It’s one hex of an attraction in this romantic comedy from New York Times bestselling author Jessica Clare.

When Reggie Johnson answers a job ad in the paper, she’s astonished to find that she’s not applying to work at her favorite card game, Spellcraft: The Magicking. Instead, she’s applying to be an actual familiar for an actual witch. As in, real magic.

The new job has a few perks – great room and board, excellent pay, and she’s apprenticing to a powerful witch. Sure, the witch is a bit eccentric. And sure, there was that issue with the black cat Reggie would prefer to forget about. The biggest problem, however, is warlock Ben Magnus, her employer’s nephew and the most arrogant, insufferable, maddening man to ever cast a spell.

Reggie absolutely hates him. He’s handsome, but he’s also bossy and irritating and orders her around. Ben’s butt might look great in a crystal ball vision, but that’s as far as it goes. But when someone with a vendetta targets the household, she finds herself working with Ben to break a deadly curse. Apparently, when they’re not fighting like cats and dogs, things get downright…bewitching.

One of…
Amazon’s Best Romances of April, 2022
Goodreads’ Most Anticipated April Romances, 2022
BookRiot’s Best Books of the Week
PopSugar’s Romance Novels for When You Need a Little Spice
Culturess’ April Romance to Have on Your Spring TBR

“A magical rom-com with both literal and figurative sparks aplenty.”Popsugar

“In this breezy paranormal rom-com from bestseller Clare (Holly Jolly Cowboy), an intense young woman trying to pay off family debts finds a job with unexpected erotic side benefits.”Publishers Weekly

“A lighthearted and fun romp.”—Library Journal

This author was new to me and to be honest, so is this subgenre of paranormal romance. I usually avoid paranormals as I have no interest in fantastical worlds, vampires, zombies, etc. I’ve read enough to know it’s not usually my thing. I read the Lizzy & Diesel Series by Janet Evanovich and mostly enjoyed those until they got stupid. I do like a touch of magical realism now and again, too. I guess I was in some kind of weird reading mood – looking for something a little different – when I received an email from Jessica Clare’s publicist about the second book in this series. It sounded fun so I asked for the first book, even though I was assured they each stand alone. This is the first book; the second book, What the Hex, comes out in April and I can hardly wait!

Reggie is a bit of a mess. She has lost many jobs due to her OCD-like tendencies to organize and clean and generally take over. She’s applied for a job as an assistant at what she thinks is a gaming business similar to Magick the Gathering type of thing. Instead, it’s assistant to an old woman, and she has no idea how old she really is. When she arrives at the house for her interview, the young woman she’s replacing due to maternity leave, brings her in and explains that this job includes room and board; she is expected to be available whenever she is needed. And the pay is $25,000, which doesn’t sound like enough, even with the living arrangements, until it is explained to her that that is the monthly salary. Reggie is floored; with that kind of money she can get herself out of debt and keep paying her gay best friend and roommate the rent, even though she won’t be living there.

Reggie has debt due to her parents, a pair of grifters that think nothing of stealing her identity, opening credit cards in her name, and leaving her with the bills. So she moves in and finds out that the sweet old lady thinks she’s a witch, and everyone around her just goes along with it, including her nephew, Ben. He is gorgeous but a real jerk to her and doesn’t want his aunt hiring her at all. On the other hand, he is completely entranced by her freckles…

Ben and Reggie go from enemies to lovers in this fun romance. He is grumpy to her sunshine, and as she gets more immersed in their world, she eventually realizes that the magic is real. While set in our reality, the boundaries are stretched almost to the breaking point but never goes over the top, at least not for me. There is some heat, a lot of snarky dialogue, some really funny subplots, and of course, the happy ending. This was a one night read for me, fast and breezy and just a whole lot of fun – a thoroughly enjoyable book!

2/2023 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

GO HEX YOURSELF by Jessica Clare. Berkley (April 19, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0593337561. 384p.






February 17, 2023

From the publisher:

An utterly delightful and surprising family drama—think Moonstruck and My Big Fat Greek Wedding set in New Jersey—about a boisterous, complicated Italian family determined to help their widowed mother find a new boyfriend. 

Lively widow Varina Paladino has lived in the same house in Wyldale, New Jersey, her entire life. The town might be slightly stuck in the 1960s, when small businesses thrived and most residents were Italian, but its population is getting younger and the Paladinos are embracing the change. What Varina’s not embracing, much to her ninety-two-year-old mother’s dismay, is dating. Running Paladino’s Italian Specialties grocery, caring for her mother, and keeping her large, loud Jersey Italian family from killing one another takes up all of Varina’s energy anyway.

Sylvia Spini worries about her daughter Varina being left all alone when she dies. Sylvia knows what it is to be old and alone, so when her granddaughter, Donatella, comes to her with an ill-conceived plan to find Varina a man, Sylvia dives in. The three men of the family—Dante, Tommy, and Paulie—are each secretly plotting their own big life changes, which will throw everyone for a loop.

Three generations of Paladinos butt heads and break one another’s hearts as they wrestle with their own Jersey Italian love stories in this hilarious and life-affirming ode to love and family.

It’s been a few years since DeFino’s The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their  Muses,) but it was worth the wait for this story of a big, boisterous Italian family, replete with New Jersey-mutated-Italian lessons.

The family includes a couple of sons, their wives, exes, and kids; Donatella’s best friend, a gay man abandoned by his Italian family and taken in by hers; and “Vicky,” the haunted record-playing Victrola. The family matriarch, Sylvia, is approaching her 93rd birthday and is worried about her widowed daughter, Varina. Together with her favorite grandchild, Donatella, the two of them cook up a scheme to attract single grandfathers looking for love as possible matches for Varina. Meanwhile, Varina books herself a secret cruise and finds a new best friend, her daughter gets a diagnosis that surprises no one, and a new baby is on the way.

Verdict: There are a lot of laughs despite the mayhem and drama, and of course, many family dinners (with recipes!) but it’s the love that permeates and elevates this terrific Italian family saga. Adriana Trigiani fans will feel right at home here. There is an older book, certainly less well known than Trigiani, and maybe even more food-centric but a good read-alike, Angelina’s Bachelors by Brian O’Reilly.

©Library Journal, 2023

2/2023 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

VARINA PALLADINO’S JERSEY ITALIAN LOVE STORY by Terri-Lynne DeFino.  William Morrow (February 14, 2023). ISBN:  978-0063228436. 416p.



Spotlight Review: STONE COLD FOX by Rachel Koller Croft

February 14, 2023

From the publisher:

A perfectly wicked debut thriller about an ambitious woman who, after a lifetime of conning alongside her mother, wants to leave her dark past behind and marry the heir to one of the country’s wealthiest families.

Like any enterprising woman, Bea knows what she’s worth and is determined to get all she deserves—it just so happens that what she deserves is to marry rich. Filthy rich. After years of forced instruction by her mother in the art of swindling men, a now-solo Bea wants nothing more than to close and lock the door on their sordid partnership so she can disappear safely into old-money domesticity, sealing the final phase of her escape.

When Bea chooses her ultimate target in the fully loaded, thoroughly dull and blue-blooded Collin Case, she’s ready to deploy all of her tricks one last time. The challenge isn’t getting the ring, but rather the approval of Collin’s family and everyone else in their 1 percent tax bracket, particularly his childhood best friend, Gale Wallace-Leicester.

Going toe-to-toe with Gale isn’t a threat to an expert like Bea, but what begins as an amusing cat-and-mouse game quickly develops into a dangerous pursuit of the grisly truth. Finding herself at a literal life-and-death crossroads with everything on the line, Bea must finally decide who she really wants to be.

“This delicious, twisty tale of deception and daughterhood will have everyone holding onto their wallets.” —Good Morning America

“This is excellent writing for a debut author and is a must-read for fans of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl or Lisa Unger’s Confessions on the 7:45.” —Library Journal

“An absorbing story that plays with ideas of good and evil, keeping readers guessing who is the hero and who the villain.” —Kirkus (starred review)

This book was completely unputdownable! It starts off one way then takes you over a cliff. It appears to be a story about a woman who is the epitome of a gold digger. Bea knows she’s gorgeous, smart, and sexy and she’s determined to marry rich. Filthy rich. She dates several older men, the type who want trophy wives, but no proposals come from them and the relationships fizzle out. Then she meets Collin.

Collin isn’t just rich, he’s generationally wealthy, heir to a family fortune that is incredibly appealing to Bea. This is the type of character, the type of woman, I would generally have no use for whatsoever, so I have to give credit to this author who somehow made me care about her and root for her to fool Collin enough to get her wed. Part of it is that she is so good to Collin; she listens to him when he speaks, and even though she won’t allow herself to fall in love, she cares enough about him to want to make him happy. Her methods work; he is completely besotted.

Things take a slightly darker tone with intermittent chapters that harken back to Bea’s childhood, but it takes a while before we realize how egregious her mother, and her upbringing, truly were. There is additional turmoil with Collin’s best friend, Gail, who he not only relies on, but his entire family and her family are all very close friends. These are the 1%, the uber-wealthy who stick together and are not very welcoming to outsiders, to say the least. But Collin goes to bat for Bea, standing up to his parents and his best friend. Things get dicey when Bea recognizes an enemy in Gail, and Bea is sharp enough to realize that Gail is in love with Collin. Luckily for Bea, Collin has zero romantic interest in Gail so that makes Bea and Gail enemies.

Collin and Bea seem like their happily ever after is in the bag. She gets the enormous engagement ring, the wedding of her in-laws’ dreams, and the ultra-wealthy family she’s always wanted. Then things get really dark. No spoilers here – let’s just say there are twists I never saw coming, and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. This was a totally intriguing book with an unusual storyline that really works. Incredible debut – don’t miss it!

2/2023 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

STONE COLD FOX by Rachel Koller Croft.  Berkley (February 14, 2023). ISBN:‎  978-0593547502. 368p.





THE ROM-COM AGENDA by Jayne Denker 

February 10, 2023

From the publisher:

Vibrantly funny, endearingly sweet, and a love letter to all things rom com, Jayne Denker’s The Rom Com Agenda is a story of two people finding love right when they least expect it.

You know how the story’s supposed to go…but love makes its own plans.

STEP 1: Find yourself
Leah Keegan is used to being alone, especially after taking care of her sick foster mother for the past year. But now there’s nothing keeping her in the sweet town of Willow Cove. It’s time to move on. Again.

STEP 2: Win back the one who got away
Eli Masterson thought he and Victoria were meant to be together until she decided to jet off to Rome for a year. Eli is determined to win her back. But how?

STEP 3: Become a romantic hero
Changing Eli’s physical appearance is easy, but to turn Eli into the sophisticated-yet-vulnerable ideal man, his girl pals force him to watch classic rom-coms. And take notes.

STEP 4: Fall in love?
Inadvertently drawn into the makeover scheme, Leah ends up being Eli’s guide through the wild world of meet-cutes and grand gestures. Even though she believes Eli doesn’t need to change a thing about himself. Even though she just might be falling for Eli . . . and Eli falling for her.

A Most Anticipated Romance by Popsugar and Goodreads!

“You’ll be obsessed with every page.” – Cosmo

“Denker spins rom-com gold in this vibrant, genre-savvy tale… A funny and poignant ride, enhanced by sparkling prose and a stellar lineup of supporting characters.” – Publishers Weekly

“A sweet and slow-burn love story, showcasing in-depth knowledge of romantic comedies and featuring a supporting cast worthy of their own novels.” – Library Journal

This author was new to me and I’m so glad I found her! If you love watching romcoms, you will definitely appreciate this book.

Leah is working one of her many part-time jobs, painting a boat house. In fact, her nickname becomes “Kirk” and all you Gilmore Girls fans will get the joke. There is a couple outside the boathouse, and Leah overhears the woman saying that she’s ending things. Eli takes it hard, and his sister and their friends decide to help him win her back. It won’t be easy; Victoria isn’t just leaving Eli, she’s leaving the country and moving to Italy for a year. She does leave Eli with her cat, though. <eye roll>

The man makeover begins with buying him a new and more stylish wardrobe. Leah is working at Thousand Island Dressing, a clothing shop in this small Western New York town, and she is helpful in picking out some new clothes for him. Then she suggests they take the new stuff next door to have it tailored. Turns out Leah is the tailor, as well.

Somehow Eli’s entourage gets Leah involved in their project. There’s only one problem; she really likes Eli, and the attraction is mutual. Leah was placed in the foster system when her mom’s mental health declined so much that she was institutionalized. The last foster home for Leah was in this small town with Cathy, a foster mother who had a biological son and a couple of younger foster daughters. When she ages out of the system, Leah ends up back with Cathy to take care of her as she is dying from cancer.

We learn what an unselfish and caring person Leah is, and what a good person Eli is as well. Everyone can see they are made for each other, but Eli stubbornly thinks Victoria is the love of his life. Leah tries to protect her heart from him, but fails spectacularly. Until he comes around.

This was a really fun read for me. I loved all the romcom film discussions, the slow burn of romance, and the small town – even the severe winter plays an enchanting role here. I loved these characters, and seeing them find their happy ever after was positively swoon-worthy! And that’s not something I say very often (or ever!)

2/2023 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE ROM-COM AGENDA by Jayne Denker. Griffin (January 10, 2023). ISBN:‎ 978-1250821485. 320p.





Spotlight Review: SECRETLY YOURS by Tessa Bailey

February 7, 2023

Vine Mess, Book 1

From the publisher:

From Tessa Bailey#1 New York Times bestselling author, TikTok favorite, and “the Michelangelo of dirty talk” (Entertainment Weekly)comes a steamy small town rom-com about a starchy professor and the bubbly neighbor he clashes with at every turn…

Hallie Welch fell hard for Julian Vos at fourteen, after they almost kissed in the dark vineyards of his family’s winery. Now the prodigal hottie has returned to Napa Valley and when Hallie is hired to revamp the gardens on the Vos estate, she wonders if she’ll finally get that smooch. But the grumpy professor isn’t the teenager she remembers and their polar opposite personalities clash spectacularly.

One wine-fueled girls’ night later, Hallie can’t shake the sense that she did something reckless—and then she remembers the drunken secret admirer letter she left for Julian. Oh shit.

On sabbatical from his ivy league job, Julian plans to write a novel. But having Hallie gardening right outside his window is the ultimate distraction. She’s eccentric, chronically late, often literally covered in dirt—and so unbelievably beautiful, he can’t focus on anything else. Until he finds an anonymous letter sent by a woman from his past.

Even as Julian wonders about this admirer, he’s sucked further into Hallie’s orbit. Like the flowers she plants all over town, Hallie is a burst of color in Julian’s grayscale life. For a man who irons his socks and runs on tight schedules, her sunny chaotic energy makes zero sense. But there’s something so familiar about her… and her very presence is turning his world upside down.

“This sexy opposites-attract romantic comedy features witty banter, steamy dialogue, and well-developed characters… Readers will devour Bailey’s latest (after Hook, Line, and Sinker) in one sitting, then go back to again and again to pick up on its intricate subtleties. Highly recommended.” — Library Journal (starred review)

“With her latest addictively readable rom-com, the cheeky humor and full-blown sexiness that are organic elements in all of Bailey’s writing are in full, glorious bloom. The end result is a lushly sensual romance that brilliantly exploits the opposites-attract trope between a buttoned-up, by-the-book academic and a cheerfully chaotic Earth goddess-gardener for the maximum amount of love and laughter. — Booklist

“A haughty professor and a spirited gardener face off in this raunchy and enchanting rom-com from bestseller Bailey… The witty banter and gripping tension will make this a treat for the author’s many fans.” — Publishers Weekly

Bailey is one of my favorite authors, and I am thrilled she is starting a new series! The setting is a family winery, so reading with a glass of wine was practically a requirement (that I very much enjoyed.) I’m happy to say this book was unputdownable.

Julian is a professor at Stanford, but he has come home to his family winery and is staying in the guest house. He is on sabbatical, writing a novel. He craves the peace and quiet of the area, so when a beautiful young woman shows up, three barking dogs in tow, and proceeds to start digging around the yard, he is really thrown off his schedule. For one thing, he can’t take his eyes off of her…

A few years earlier, wildfires reached the vineyard. Julian saved his sister’s life, then had a major panic attack. His father was furious about his mental health issues (because that’s always helpful) and he takes off, divorcing Julian’s mom for whatever his reasons, and leaving his family vineyard in her hands. He is trekking around Europe and hasn’t been heard from since he left.

Julian has suffered from anxiety for quite a while, and the way he manages it is to keep to a schedule. Every day he writes out his hour-by-hour schedule for the day, and that brings him calm. Until Hallie shows up.

Julian is so strongly attracted to Hallie that he almost doesn’t mind that she has thrown him off schedule. Hallie has her own issues as well. Her mother is gone, and the grandmother who raised her has recently passed away. She felt like her grandmother was her anchor, and kept her in check, so without her, she is just living a chaotic life. Talk about opposites – Hallie is all lightness and smiles and chaos, and Julian is all dark and somber and rigid. What he doesn’t remember is that he almost kissed Hallie at a party when they were in high school, and she has harbored enough of a crush on Julian – despite not having seen him for fifteen years – that she is still a virgin.

The chemistry between these opposites is off the charts, but it takes a lot of laughter, some steamy sex, anonymous “secret admirer” letters, and a bit of serious angst before these two find their happy ending. I loved spending time with these characters and can’t wait for the next book in the series. Don’t miss it!

2/2023 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

SECRETLY YOURS by Tessa Bailey. Avon (February 7, 2023). ISBN:‎  978-0063239029. 384p.







February 3, 2023

The Finlay Donovan Series, Book 3

From the publisher:

From USA Today bestseller and Edgar Award nominee Elle Cosimano, comes Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun―the hilarious and heart-pounding next installment in the beloved Finlay Donovan series.

“Fresh, heartfelt and witty, Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun is a twisty page-turner, and its relatable heroine Finlay Donovan is irresistible!” ―Janet Evanovich, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Stephanie Plum series

Dating. Diapers. And dodging bullets. Who said single moms can’t have fun?

Finlay Donovan has been in messes before―after all, she’s an author and single mom who’s a pro at getting out bloodstains for rather unexpected reasons―but none quite like this. After she and her nanny/partner-in-crime Vero accidentally destroyed a luxury car that they may have “borrowed” in the process of saving the life of Finlay’s ex-husband, the Russian mob got her out of debt. But now Finlay owes them

Still running the show from behind bars, mob boss Feliks has a task for Finlay: find a contract killer before the cops do. Problem is, the killer might be an officer.

Luckily, hot cop Nick has started up a citizen’s police academy, and combined pressure from Finlay’s looming book deadline and Feliks is enough to convince Finlay and Vero to get involved. Through firearm training and forensic classes (and some hands-on research with the tempting detective), Finlay and Vero have the perfect cover-up to sleuth out the real criminal and free themselves from the mob’s clutches―all the while dodging spies, confronting Vero’s past, and juggling the daily trials of parenthood.

“Fasten your seat belts . . . murder most madcap.”―Kirkus Reviews

“Finlay’s strong narrative voice carries the reader . . . This is good, fast fun.”―Publishers Weekly

“Readers who love fast-paced, action-packed mysteries should pick this up.”―Library Journal

One of CrimeReads’ “Most Anticipated Crime Fiction of 2023”
One of Bookbub’s “Winter’s Most Anticipated Mysteries and Thrillers”
One of SheReads’ “Most Anticipated Thrillers Coming in 2023”
One of Novel Suspects’ “Most Anticipated Crime Fiction Coming in Early 2023”
One of BookRiot’s “New Year New Mystery & Thrillers to Read in January”

I loved the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich, but I had to stop reading them. They became so formulaic and silly that it just wasn’t fun to read them anymore, as much as I miss those crazy characters. But in a few short years and three books, Finlay Donovan has filled that void for me.

Finlay is an author who writes romantic suspense, but her latest endeavor has her editor up in arms. She hates the book, and Finlay knows why. But she just can’t seem to make herself write the sex scenes that are necessary to complete the story. Finlay’s sister is a cop, and she suggests that Finlay and Vero, her best friend and nanny, go to this citizen’s police academy training camp. It’s for a week, they would live in dorms, and her ex will keep the kids. Maybe she’d pick up some useful information for her books, plus she’d get to spend some time with Nick, the hot cop she can’t stop thinking about.

Each of these books ends on a cliffhanger, so this one picks up where the last one left off. There are Russian Mafia, too many dead bodies. and lots of money at stake which just amps up the suspense even while we can’t stop laughing – truly a gift. These books are a little bit darker than the Stephanie Plum series, but they lean more black comedy than anything else. I found myself ripping through the book as I just couldn’t put it down.

These books really need to be read in order; the first two are available in paperback now. If you enjoy a fast-paced, laugh-out-loud mystery with a touch of romance, you will love this series. I certainly do.

1. Finlay Donovan is Killing It

2. Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead

3. Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun

2/2023 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

FINLAY DONOVAN JUMPS THE GUN by Elle Cosimano. Minotaur Books (January 31, 2023). ISBN:‎  978-1250846037. 304p.





THE SWEET SPOT by Amy Poeppel

February 3, 2023

From the publisher:

Amy Poeppel brings her signature “big-hearted, charming” (The Washington Post) style to this wise and joyful novel that celebrates love, hate, and all of the glorious absurdity in between.

In the heart of Greenwich Village, three women form an accidental sorority when a baby—belonging to exactly none of them—lands on their collective doorstep.

Lauren and her family—lucky bastards—have been granted the use of a spectacular brownstone, teeming with history and dizzyingly unattractive 70s wallpaper. Adding to the home’s bohemian, grungy splendor is the bar occupying the basement, a (mostly) beloved dive called The Sweet Spot. Within days of moving in, Lauren discovers that she has already made an enemy in the neighborhood by inadvertently sparking the divorce of a couple she has never actually met.

Melinda’s husband of thirty years has dumped her for a young celebrity entrepreneur named Felicity, and, to Melinda’s horror, the lovebirds are soon to become parents. In her incandescent rage, Melinda wreaks havoc wherever she can, including in Felicity’s Soho boutique, where she has a fit of epic proportions, which happens to be caught on film.​

Olivia—the industrious twenty-something behind the counter, who has big dreams and bigger debt—gets caught in the crossfire. In an effort to diffuse Melinda’s temper, Olivia has a tantrum of her own and gets unceremoniously canned, thanks to TikTok.

When Melinda’s ex follows his lover across the country, leaving their squalling baby behind, the three women rise to the occasion in order to forgive, to forget, to Ferberize, and to track down the wayward parents. But can their little village find a way toward the happily ever afters they all desire? Welcome to The Sweet Spot.

Amy Poeppel (Musical Chairs) writes charming, humorous family stories, and this is a good one. Lauren is married with three kids and a rambunctious dog, living in a dilapidated brownstone in Greenwich Village with a bar, the Sweet Spot, in the basement. She is an artisan who has landed a contract with a high-end home accessories store, owned by an entrepreneur/TV home improvement star, Felicity. When Felicity casually mentions she is having an affair with a married man and is pregnant, Lauren blithely suggests she should chase her happiness. The next thing she knows, Meredith, the now ex-wife of the baby daddy, is on a rampage, spewing vitriol and swearing vengeance. Meredith goes down the rabbit hole, fulfilling every scorned woman’s fantasies until she finally realizes it isn’t helping her feel any better. Olivia, a bright young woman who works for Felicity, loses her job over this, and while she and Lauren become collateral damage here, somehow, the three women become friends. When Melinda’s ex leaves the baby with her to chase Felicity across the country. Melinda gets her new friends to help out in this Shakespearean comedy of errors.

Verdict: Quirky characters breathe life into this lighthearted family farce that should appeal to readers who enjoy Curtis Sittenfeld, Cathleen Schine, or Eleanor Brown

©Library Journal, 2023

1/2023 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE SWEET SPOT by Amy Poeppel. Atria/Emily Bestler Books (January 31, 2023). ISBN:  978-1982176457. 400p.



Spotlight Review: MUSICAL GAMES by Evie Alexander  

January 31, 2023

The Kinloch Series, Book 4

From the publisher:

He’s never been kissed, and she’s about to rock his world…

Bubbly actress Sam is on the brink of the bigtime — all she needs is one lucky break. But when she drops everything for the chance to meet Hollywood’s biggest star, she blows it by blurting out a lie.

Now, she’s got ten days to write an album with a man who wants nothing to do with her.

Shy electrician Jamie has never set foot outside Scotland — or his comfort zone. Then beautiful and vivacious Sam gatecrashes his world, and he’s unwillingly swept up in her grand plan. But though Jamie has the voice of an angel and the body of a god, he’s never even kissed a girl… and fame is the last thing on his mind.

As the songs emerge, so do feelings — but Sam’s determination to reach the top is matched only by how fast her lies are catching her up.

When the duo are offered the opportunity of a lifetime, the spotlight illuminates their glaring differences. Can Sam and Jamie face the music, or will fame tear them apart?

Musical Games is a steamy, slow-burn, grumpy/sunshine, laugh-out-loud, dual POV romantic comedy. Featuring an extremely hot virgin hero and a big-hearted heroine with a runaway mouth — there’s no cheating, no cliff-hanger, and you’re guaranteed a happy ever after (HEA).

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this series is a lot of fun, and this latest installment was a good read. It’s a contemporary romance set in the Scottish Highlands, one of my favorite settings. What is it about men in kilts? And let me add that each of these books stands alone, so start with whichever one you can get your hands on!

Sam plays a slut on a British soap, but when her best friend, Zoe, invites her to the Highlands to meet a superstar producer, she calls out with a “granny dying” excuse and takes off. Zoe has arranged for her to stay with a good friend, Morag, and her son, the super hot Jamie. Sam is a bit obsessed with him since Zoe sent her a video of him playing guitar and singing a beautiful song – that he wrote. On the other hand, Jamie isn’t thrilled that the gorgeous actress will be staying in the room next door. Jamie is 27 years old, and never even kissed a girl, much less anything else. He falls for Sam the minute he meets her, and she’s completely entranced with him, although no one would ever know.

Jaimie is an electrician by day, and songwriter/singer in his spare time. When he plays his song at the local pub, he is shocked when Sam starts singing and harmonizing along. When the Hollywood producer seems interested, she lies and tells him they have been working on an album together. He asks for a chance to hear it the following week; he is looking for music for the movie he is shooting.

Sam’s gift of mimicry gets Jaimie out of work for a week so they can work on these songs together. Sam is dangerously attracted to him, which could put a crimp in her plans to make it big in Hollywood. Jamie is recalcitrant and quiet, her complete opposite. But somehow they find their way together, but not without a lot of drama, fun, and sex.

This was a terrific read; fast-paced, funny, and just steamy enough to keep things interesting. I highly recommend!

1/2023 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

MUSICAL GAMES by Evie Alexander. Emlin Press (January 22, 2023). ISBN:‎  978-1914473074. 336p.