JUST ANOTHER LOVE SONG by Kerry Winfrey

August 5, 2022

From the publisher:

Two high school sweethearts get a second chance at their perfect ending in this charming new romance by Kerry Winfrey, author of Very Sincerely Yours.

Once upon a time, Sandy Macintosh thought she would have her happily ever after with her high school sweetheart, Hank Tillman. Sandy wanted to be an artist, Hank was the only boy in town who seemed destined for bigger things, and they both had dreams to escape town together. But when Sandy’s plans fell through, she stayed in their small town in Ohio while Hank went off to Boston to follow his dreams to be a musician, with the promise to stay together. Only that plan fell through, too.

Fifteen years later, Sandy runs a successful greenhouse while helping her parents with their bed and breakfast. Everything is perfect…until Hank rolls back into town, now a famous alt-country singer with a son in tow. She’s happy with the life she’s built by herself, but seeing Hank makes her think about what might have been. There aren’t enough cliché love songs in the world to convince Sandy to give Hank another chance, but when the two of them get thrown together to help organize the town’s annual street fair, she wonders if there could be a new beginning for them or if what they had is just a tired old song of the past.

“A warm, heartfelt novel that’ll get stuck in your head like your favorite love song.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Winfrey’s sweet, low-heat read, with endearing and humorous characters and small-town setting, will appeal to fans of Candis Terry and Victoria James.”—Library Journal

https://amzn.to/3d9rMcM

Winfrey has turned into one of my favorite authors, and I really enjoyed this book. Sandy and Hank grew up together, best friends until they grew their relationship into something more. He was a musician who longed for a bigger life; she was an artist with the same longings. They planned to go away to college together, but a family emergency leaves Sandy with no money for college. Hank goes off to follow his dreams, and Sandy stays behind.

Sandy quickly realizes that she has to end things with Hank or he will come back to this small town and forget about his dreams. She loves him too much to do that to him, so she breaks his heart. Fifteen years later, Hank returns to town, a young son in town, recently divorced and a single dad. Sandy tries to avoid him at all costs -she has never stopped loving him.

You can guess what happens in this second-chance romance, but spending time with these characters was so much fun it doesn’t matter. This is a popular trope for a reason. The small town and all its quirky characters inject a lot of humor into this book. It is a fast, fun read and I loved it.

8/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

JUST ANOTHER LOVE SONG by Kerry Winfrey.  Berkley (August 2, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0593333433. 336p.

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THE DUKE’S ACCIDENTAL BRIDE by Eva Devon

August 5, 2022

From the publisher:

Never trust a rake to find you a husband…

Lady Jaqueline Peabody is extremely vexed. Her nemesis, the Duke of Stone, has just ruined her life by matching her sister with a perfect gentleman. Except the gentleman in question has little in the way of income. With the family fortune in tatters, it means Jacqueline is tasked with marrying well—and must bid adieu to her dreams of a lovely spinsterhood with her pianoforte.

James Haven has a respectable title and a rogue’s reputation. After all, love and passion can lead only to disaster. While he’s eschewed marriage for himself, he enjoys great success with matching London’s most eligible ladies and gentlemen. So if Jacqueline needs a wealthy husband, he’ll find her one. Love need not apply!

Only, James is having the devil of time finding the perfect husband for the spirited female. And certainly not because he’s falling for Lady Jacqueline, who heats his desire and dares to stand slipper-to-boot with him. Ridiculous. But, when scandal erupts, Jacqueline’s hopes for the perfect husband might be replaced by the perfect rake…

https://amzn.to/3QlB6Zb

Jacqueline, or Jack as she is known to her family and friends, is newly on the marriage mart. She has been studying pianoforte in Vienna, but when her father dies penniless, she must return home. Their next-door neighbor and her brother’s best friend, the Duke of Stone, has arranged a match for her sister, but she is marrying a vicar, which will do the family no good. It falls to Jack and her brother to marry money and fill the family coffers again.

The Duke of Stone loves matchmaking, a rather unusual hobby for a Duke, but no one can argue with success. All the matches he’s made are thriving and happy. But Jack isn’t happy that she will be forced to marry to save her family, and reverting to her wild childhood ways, she wears her brother’s clothes and climbs the tree outside the Duke’s window, launching herself into his private rooms.

The Duke is mesmerized by the very nature and spirit of this young woman who he used to play with as a child. Now he’s like to play with her again, but he cannot. The Duke’s parents had a terrifying marriage, and his father descended into madness before passing away. Sure he will inherit that madness, he is determined not to marry and certainly never to fall in love. Until he meets Jack again and she completely upends his life.

This was an enjoyable read and a quick one. I would have liked to see more character development, but there is enough angst to get me invested. The happy ending is guaranteed, of course, and it was fun getting there.

8/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE DUKE’S ACCIDENTAL BRIDE by Eva Devon. Entangled: Amara (August 1, 2022). ASIN: ‎B0B1BWCZ4T. 280p.

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NEVER ENOUGH COWBOY by Jennie Marts

August 5, 2022

Creedence Horse Rescue, Book 4

From the publisher:

Fans of Carolyn Brown, Maisey Yates, and Jennifer Ryan will fall head over cowboy boots for this second-chance romance from USA Today bestseller Jennie Marts.

A heartwarming cowboy romance on the ranch…

This lighthearted second-chance romance is filled with:

An independent single mom who’d do anything for her son

The handsome Sheriff’s deputy who can’t stop thinking about her

The undeniable attraction between them

Characters who must learn to trust in love again

Rescue animals who deserve their own second chances

Single mom Jillian Bennett barely has a moment to herself between raising her ten-year old son, volunteering at the horse rescue ranch, and her new job as head librarian of Creedence, Colorado. She doesn’t have the time or inclination for romance, even though she and the cute deputy, Ethan Rayburn, have been doing a little flirting the last few weeks. Still, when Ethan puts out a call out to all the horse rescues to help with a large rescue operation, Jillian jumps in to help.

Ethan doesn’t consider himself the impulsive type, but there’s something about Jillian that calls to him. When he also forms a bond with her son, Milo, Ethan soon realizes that there isn’t anything he wouldn’t do for the feisty librarian who’s won his heart.

https://amzn.to/3JxhG1p

I read the first two books in this series (not in order, of course!) but somehow missed the third, which I will be rectifying shortly. I really like this series. The romances are sweet and not too sexy, the characters are interesting and I can’t help but root for them to find their happily ever after. And they do. Throw in animal rescue, in this case horses, and I’m a happy reader.

Jillian reminded me of my mom – single and putting her child first. She is not interested in dating at all, except Deputy Ethan is super hot and even better, super kind. He falls hard and fast for the fiery, gutsy mom but she remains cautious – for a little while, at least. But he is so good with her son that he quickly wins her over.

This was a fun read, but the animal abuse may be difficult for some readers, even though they are rescued. On the other hand, there are a pig, goat, and a miniature horse that absolutely steal the show! This was a quick read for me; I got totally involved with these characters and was so sorry to turn the last page. This is a terrific series, and the books each stand alone so no worries if you can’t get them in order.

8/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

NEVER ENOUGH COWBOY by Jennie Marts. Sourcebooks Casablanca (July 26, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-1728226132. 336p.

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Spotlight Review: THE MAGIC OF LEMON DROP PIE by Rachel Linden

August 2, 2022

From the publisher:

An uplifting novel about a heartbroken young pie maker who is granted a magical second chance to live the life she didn’t choose. . . . from the bestselling author of The Enlightenment of Bees.

Lolly Blanchard’s life only seems to give her lemons. Ten years ago, after her mother’s tragic death, she broke up with her first love and abandoned her dream of opening a restaurant in order to keep her family’s struggling Seattle diner afloat and care for her younger sister and grieving father. Now, a decade later, she dutifully whips up the diner’s famous lemon meringue pies each morning while still pining for all she’s lost.

As Lolly’s thirty-third birthday approaches, her quirky great-aunt gives her a mysterious gift—three lemon drops, each of which allows her to live a single day in a life that might have been hers. What if her mom hadn’t passed away? What if she had opened her own restaurant in England? What if she hadn’t broken up with the only man she’s ever loved? Surprising and empowering, each experience helps Lolly let go of her regrets and realize the key to transforming her life lies not in redoing her past but in having the courage to embrace her present.

https://amzn.to/3cUzAyI

This is an engaging story with a touch of magic realism that works really well here. Lolly is a good and dutiful daughter. The eldest of two girls with several years between them, she takes family responsibility seriously. When her mother dies unexpectedly, she feels compelled to take her mother’s place in the family business, a Seattle diner. She wants to be there for her devastated father and to try and mother her little sister as best as she can.

Lolly and Rory met as kids and became best friends, as did their mothers. As they grew up, that friendship turned into something much deeper. They were engaged to be married when Lolly lost her mother. Rory was a brilliant student who had dreams of becoming a sports medicine doctor for as long as he could remember. When he is offered a residency at Johns Hopkins, he is torn and doesn’t know how to tell Lolly. She ends things between them and breaks both their hearts in the process.

Several years later, Lolly’s middle school diary makes an appearance, and she sees the list of goals she had set for herself. She realizes she hasn’t completed anything she wanted to do in her life. The diner is barely hanging on by a thread, but she feels trapped there. Rory is married, has a son, and is living in Tampa, lost to her forever. Despondent, she talks to her great aunt, whose advice is to “follow her bliss.” Then her aunt gives her three lemon drop candies and tells her they are very special. When she goes to bed, she should eat one of the candies and wish to look at whatever she thinks she’s missed out on, which will give her a glimpse of the life she could have had for one day, then she will return to this life.

Looking at what might have been is educational yet devastating, but so is her present. Lolly is determined to live her best life and perhaps learn what her bliss is by eating the candy and seeing what she’s missed. “What if” can be two dangerous words. When I couldn’t possibly see a way forward for her, she finds one and that leads to her happily ever after.

This was such a compelling and emotional story. I don’t like paranormal romances (vampires and whatnot) but I enjoy a touch of magic. This is an unputdownable magical story, and I loved it.

8/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE MAGIC OF LEMON DROP PIE by Rachel Linden. Berkley (August 2, 2022). ISBN: 978-0593440193. 352p.

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SUGAR AND SALT by Susan Wiggs

July 29, 2022

Bella Vista Chronicles, Book 4

From the publisher:

The New York Times bestselling author of The Lost and Found Bookshop brings readers a can’t-miss tale of friendship, hardship, redemption, and love between a San Francisco baker and a barbecue master from Texas.

Jerome Sugar learned the art of baking in his grandma’s bakery, also called Sugar, on historic Perdita Street in San Francisco. He supplies baked goods to the Lost and Found Bookshop across the street.

When the restaurant that shares his commercial kitchen loses its longtime tenant, a newcomer moves in: Margot Salton, a barbecue master from Texas.

Margot isn’t exactly on the run, but she needs a fresh start. She’s taken care of herself her whole life, pulling herself up by her fingernails to recover from trauma, and her dream has been to open a restaurant somewhere far, far from Texas. The shared kitchen with Jerome’s Sugar bakery is the perfect setup: a state-of-the-art kitchen and a vibrant neighborhood popular with tourists and locals.

Margot instantly takes to Jerome’s mother, the lively, opinionated Ida. The older woman proves to be a good mentor, and Margot is drawn to Jerome. Despite their different backgrounds their attraction is powerful—even though Jerome worries that Margot will simply move on from him once she’s found some peace and stability. But just as she starts to relax into a happy new future, Margot’s past in Texas comes back to haunt her…

https://amzn.to/3BiUOkf

I love Susan Wiggs’ books; they always have intriguing characters, interesting settings, and unputdownable stories, and this is no exception.

This is not the book I thought I would be reading based on the publisher’s description (above.) All that is true, but it misses the major plot points of the story and why I was so drawn into it. Yes, there is a romance, two in fact, but while it is the premise that allows this story to be told, it is not your usual boy-meets-girl-boy-loses-girl-boy-gets-girl-back-again story.

I don’t want to give anything away, so I will tell you it deals with a small town in Texas, a rape, and the unwanted pregnancy that follows (despite what some incredibly ignorant Republican congressmen have said about what they call “legitimate rape,” and that women’s bodies somehow can block an unwanted pregnancy. Science, people!) It deals with abortion and adoption and prison and women’s rights. It deals with our justice system and how it favors the rich. It could not be more timely, and all these things are handled with truth and grace and real life emotions.

This is one of the most thought provoking books I’ve read in a while. It made me think about things I’d rather not, but it was okay in this novel. It would undoubtedly lead to a lively (possibly contentious) book discussion and it makes me sorry I don’t have that option anymore. It’s an important story, a woman’s story, and I hope it is widely read and discussed.

While this is the fourth book of a series, it easily stands alone, as do all the books in this series. That said, I have loved every one of them and highly recommend them all. Do yourself a favor and read them in whatever order you can get them. This one is sure to make my best books of the year list.

The Bella Vista Chronicles in Order:

  1. The Apple Orchard
  2. The Beekeeper’s Ball
  3. The Lost and Found Bookshop
  4. Sugar and Salt

 You’re welcome.

7/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

SUGAR AND SALT by Susan Wiggs. William Morrow (July 26, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0062914224. 368p.

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THE HONEYMOON COTTAGE by Lori Foster

July 29, 2022

From the publisher:

From New York Times bestselling author Lori Foster comes a heartwarming, romantic story for fans of Jill Shalvis, Lori Wilde and Sarah Morgan. In The Honeymoon Cottage, locals of a quirky small town help their favorite wedding planner find her own happily-ever-after.

She was fine arranging other people’s weddings… But life had other plans.

When it comes to creating the perfect happily-ever-after, Yardley Belanger is a bona fide miracle worker. From bridal bouquets to matching cowboy boots, the quirky wedding planner’s country-chic affairs have caused quite a stir in the small town of Cemetery. But when it comes to her own love life? She’s clueless.

Completely clueless.

Perhaps it’s for the best. The thirty-one-year-old has poured her heart and soul into her business and doesn’t have time for anything—or anyone—else. And that’s something not even the gorgeous older brother of her newest client can change…right?

All Travis Long wanted was to give his little sister, Sheena, the wedding of her dreams. Ever since the tragic death of their parents, he’s done everything he can to make her feel loved and give her everything she needs. Still…a country wedding? In a place called Cemetery? But Yardley seems to know exactly what to do and how to do it—and Travis finds himself falling for her a little more each day.

Soon Yardley and Travis find themselves being nudged together by well-meaning locals who want to see the town’s favorite wedding planner get her own happy ending.

https://amzn.to/3OyxdPm

This is a lovely small-town romance, replete with quirky characters, charming traditions, and a lot of laughs. The town is Cemetery, named after the founder and his great-granddaughter, Betty Cemetery, now in her 80’s, has been running the town for years. She has forced every business to include the Cemetery name in their names, so Cemetery Floral, Cemetery Weddings, and so forth – which is a fun tradition, except for the business owners who resent it. In fact, they resent it so much they want Yardley to run for office against Betty, which puts both women into a panic.

Yardley is a young woman running her family’s wedding planning business. Her mother and aunt live with her, and she never knew her father. Both ladies have pretty much retired from everything other than shopping, letting Yardley do all the work in the business as well as at home. But Yardley never complains, even when her best friend Mimi invites her to do so. She just soldiers on.

Then she meets her new client, Sheena, and instead of bringing her fiance along, her much older brother is in tow while her fiance is working all kinds of overtime. Travis is not only her big brother; he practically raised her himself – they lost their parents when Sheena was just five years old. They are very close and Travis is determined to see her get the wedding of her dreams.

Yardley and Travis are immediately drawn to one another, but Travis has been on a single track of raising his sister and building up his house-flipping business. Yardley hasn’t been on a date in so long she almost qualifies as a virgin again. But as they spend time together, they can’t help but be drawn to one another.

This is a sweet romance with one sex scene. There are a lot of laughs here as well with all these quirky characters, and a dog rescue just adds to the lovefest. If you enjoy reading books that make you feel good, then this is your book. I swear I was smiling the entire time I was reading!

7/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE HONEYMOON COTTAGE by Lori Foster. Berkley (June 28, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0593102121. 336p.

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Spotlight Review: THE GUNSLINGER’S GUIDE TO AVOIDING MATRIMONY by Michelle McLean

July 26, 2022

Gunslinger, Book 2

From the publisher:

At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, desperate-to-retire gunslinger Adam Brady has exactly two rules. And one of them is never, ever get married. So he’ll be danged when his dreams of permanently avoiding the bounty hunter on his tail in Desolation, the only town where notorious men like him can find respite, comes with one helluva string attached. The town has a new rule: gunslingers welcome―if they get a job…or marry.

Without realizing it, Adam stumbles into a big town wedding and accidentally marries Nora Schumacher, a sassy-mouthed mountain of a woman with legs as long as his wanted poster. So what’s a gunslinger to do but get himself unhitched and find a job. Any job. Except Adam keeps getting fired, one odd circumstance after another. And he’s running out of options.

Desolation was supposed to be his safe haven. Except, he’s not only running from his past but from the irresistible woman he married. And worse, he’s finding that he rather likes the enticing, if damnably independent, wife of his. But some men just aren’t the marrying kind. Only, if he leaves, his own life won’t be worth living. If he stays, he puts the lives of his newfound family and the woman he loves on the line. So much for Desolation being the answer to all his problems.

https://amzn.to/3RXNJeK

This is a very funny book that is sort of anomaly, at least in my reading experience; it’s an historical cowboy romance. All the other cowboy romances I’ve read are contemporary, featuring a lot of rodeo stars or ranch hands or ranch owners. This book is set in the Wild West, and features gunslingers, which you don’t hear much about anymore. 

Adam is on the move, trying to escape his past. He’s quick with a gun, so successful at his past occupation, but he’s tired of it. All he wants to do is settle down somewhere and feel safe. When he stumbles into the small town of Desolation, he starts to think he found his place. Much to his surprise, the sheriff is a former gunslinger himself, and he has instituted some rules for the people in his town. They need to either be married or find a job within the first thirty days of arrival, or they need to go.

Adam doesn’t want a wife. He’s had some bad experiences and with the wanted posted hanging over his head, he doesn’t want to endanger any woman. But when he arrives in town, he finds himself in the midst of a crowd, and somehow he ends up married to Nora, the tall, good looking woman standing next to him. He refuses to sign the marriage certificate though, but the preacher says he’s married in the eyes of God, and isn’t sure how to go about ending things.

Nora needs a husband, although just temporarily. Ever since her mother passed away, her father has become a drunk. He takes all the money that Nora earns and drinks it away. He’s sold off part of the farm they live on, and she is afraid he will lose it all in a poker game or sell it off. She inherits the farm but not until she turns thirty, several years off, or gets married. Hence her need for a husband.

Meanwhile, Adam tries very hard to find a job. But the townspeople are all about helping Nora, so every job he gets turns into a disaster and that is the basis of all the humor in this book, and it’s pretty funny. But the more time he spends with Nora, the more his feelings for her grow stronger, and for her as well. But when his nemesis, a marshall, shows up, Adam knows he needs to get away but before he can, Nora is captured.

There is some suspense here, but mostly a lot of laughs and a bit of sex. This is a really fun read and a fast moving story. I did read the first book in the series, Hitched to the Gunslinger, but it is not necessary. These books stand alone and can be read in any order. I enjoyed them both, and hope another book is in the works.

7/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE GUNSLINGER’S GUIDE TO AVOIDING MATRIMONY by Michelle McLean. Entangled: Amara (July 26, 2022). ISBN: 978-1649372123. 368p.

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BEACH HOUSE SUMMER by Sarah Morgan

July 22, 2022

From the publisher:

USA Today bestselling author Sarah Morgan returns with the ultimate beach read, as one woman forges the most unlikely friendship of all, and embarks on a summer of confronting her past in order to build the future she wants…

When Joanna Whitman’s famous ex-husband dies in a car accident, she doesn’t know what to feel. Their dysfunctional marriage held more painful secrets than she cares to remember. But when she discovers that the young woman with him in the crash is pregnant, Joanna feels compelled to act, knowing exactly how brutal the media spotlight will be on celebrity chef Cliff Whitman’s ex-wife and his mysterious female friend.

Ashley Blake can’t believe it when Joanna shows up in her hospital room and suggests they hide away at her beach house on a sleepy stretch of California coast. Joanna should be hating her, not helping her. But alone and pregnant, Ashley can’t turn down Joanna’s offer. Yet she knows that if Joanna ever found out the real reason Ashley was in that car, their tentative bond would shatter instantly.

Joanna’s only goal for the summer is privacy, but her return causes major waves in the local community, especially for the man she left behind years ago. All Ashley wants is space to plan for her and her baby’s future, and to avoid causing any trouble for Joanna. But as secrets spill out under the hot summer sun, this unlikely friendship is about to be put to the test.

“[A] poignant tale of opportunities lost and regained…This emotional romance is an easy choice to throw in the beach bag.”—Publishers Weekly

https://amzn.to/3PErHeW

Morgan is such a great storyteller, and I loved this book. But it is a book of secrets, and I don’t want to spoil any of it. It is a story with many strands, beautifully woven together; about friendships, new and old, second chance romance, following your dreams, dealing with paparazzi, a marriage broken into a million pieces, learning how to trust again – all set in a small beach town in California. And there’s even a bookstore. It is a wonderful book, and I hope you’ll read it!

7/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

BEACH HOUSE SUMMER by Sarah Morgan. HQN; Original edition (May 17, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-1335462824. 384p.

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HONOR ‘N’ DUTY by Tee O’Fallon

July 22, 2022

Federal K-9, Book 6

From the publisher:

Two years after his brother’s murder in jail, Department of Homeland Security K-9 Officer Kade Sampson is still haunted by guilt. No man should ever have to arrest his own brother, even if he is laundering money for a drug cartel. Fortunately, Laia Velez—his brother’s gorgeous widow—never learned the truth about Kade’s involvement. But when she asks him for help, he knows that trouble with the cartel is far from over…

Kade is the last person Laia wants to call. But between her house being thoroughly trashed and the uneasy sense that she and her young daughter are being watched, Laia isn’t taking any chances. The cartel wants something from her. And Kade and his K-9 partner, Smoke, are her only chance to survive whatever fresh hell is coming their way…

Now Laia and Kade are trying to stay one step ahead in a game that’s growing more deadly by the minute. But what the cartel wants, the cartel gets. And Kade is running out of time to save the woman he loves from the same fate that killed his brother…

https://amzn.to/3cvuM2I

I read the first book in this series but missed the rest until this one. I’m sure they are better read in order, but from what I can tell from the two books I’ve read, they easily stand alone. This is a fast paced book with lots of suspense, a bit of violence, and at the heart of the story, a romance.

Kade and Laia met when they were stranded in an elevator for forty minutes. There was such a strong attraction that Kade asked her out, but when they step off the elevator, he finds out why she said she can’t. Laia was engaged to Kade’s brother, Josh.

Kade figures the best way to handle his attraction to his sister-in-law is to avoid her. He attends the wedding, and he’s there for his brother’s funeral, but other than that, he ghosts her. He spends as much time as possible with his niece when she visits her grandparents, and that seems to work for him.

Six years have gone by and Kade still struggles with his guilt over his brother. Josh was a successful accountant, but turned out that much of his success came from laundering money for a drug cartel. Eventually he gets caught, but is killed on his first day in prison. The cops take everything they own, leaving Laia and her daughter to struggle on their own.

All these years later, Laia comes home to find that her house has been trashed. Every piece of furniture is destroyed, and she can’t understand why nothing is missing. She calls the cops, but she also calls her brother-in-law, Kade, thinking he probably won’t come. But he does.

Kade shows up in full protector mode, along with his K-9 partner, Smoke. He hustles Laia and her daughter out of there, quickly realizing that this wasn’t an ordinary robbery. The cartel is after something.

I don’t want to give anything away, so let’s just say the pages fly by as the attraction between Laia and Kade reaches the boiling point, with each of them thinking the other just isn’t interested. Plus the cartel is obviously interested in Laia, so Kade hides her as best as he can. But spending all that time together is just making it harder and harder to pretend they don’t have strong feelings for one another.

I really enjoyed this fast paced romantic thriller. I was very invested in these characters and their story. Highly recommend!

7/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

HONOR ‘N’ DUTY by Tee O’Fallon. Entangled: Amara (July 18, 2022). ASIN: B0B54LBPD2. 356p.

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GRACE UNDER FIRE by Julie Garwood

July 22, 2022

Buchanan/FBI, Book 14

From the publisher:

Michael Buchanan will need every bit of his extensive skill set when he appoints himself as bodyguard to a woman determined not to need one in this thrilling new novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Julie Garwood.

Grace Isabel MacKenna has a hundred things to do today. Killing someone isn’t one of them. It is supposed to be a quick visit to Boston for the Buchanan anniversary party, then on to Scotland to collect an inheritance. She checks into her hotel and then decides to go for a brisk walk. But after getting lost, she ends up with a wounded man stumbling into her arms—and his shooter coming after them both. When she fires back in self-defense, she doesn’t expect him to drop dead. After Isabel endures an interrogation by police, she is free to go, thanks to the Buchanans dispatching former Navy SEAL and now lawyer Michael Buchanan to assist her.

Isabel knows she should be grateful for Michael’s help, but since she’s harbored an extreme dislike for him for years, gratitude is difficult to muster. Michael has appointed himself her de facto guardian, and she’s stuck with him despite their constant bickering and sizzling attraction. Even when Isabel goes to Scotland to claim her inheritance, Michael follows her—but he isn’t the only thing she can’t shake. Mysterious threats against Isabel surface, and before they can deal with their growing feelings for each other, Michael and Isabel must first survive.

“Garwood delivers plenty of twists to keep the suspense brewing and a subplot about Grace’s potential music career adds color. Readers will be hooked.”—Publishers Weekly

“Fans of the series will clamor for this book, which can also be read as a standalone.”—Library Journal

https://amzn.to/3ArEyNf

This is only the third Garwood book I’ve read, and I’m not sure why because I really like her books. I will have to be more diligent, and I will go back and read some more of this series, which I think is actually called Buchanan-Renard, but Amazon turned into Buchanan-FBI for whatever reason – maybe her publisher? Either way, this is the 14th book of the series, and the only other one in the series that I’ve read was The Ideal Man, the 9th book, so lots more to discover.

Michael is your typical romantic hero; tall, dark, and handsome, sure, but also a former Navy SEAL and a lawyer. His career goal is the FBI, like two of his brothers. Isabel is a dreamer and a song writer, and on her last night out with her friends before graduation, she sings one of her songs at a karaoke bar and it goes viral, attracting the attention of Xavier, or XO as his friends call him. So her career is about to take off, even if she doesn’t realize it.

Isabel is attending a family party in a secluded island near Boston before she heads over to Scotland. She has inherited a large, valuable property from an estranged relative, but the will stipulates she needs to be there in person on or after her next birthday, a week away. She is being harassed by a developer who wants to purchase the property.

Things take a turn for the worse when she arrives at her hotel and goes for a walk. She gets lost in her head, writing a song, while wandering the streets of Boston and before she knows it, she is lost. She is about to turn around when she hears gun shots and sees a man fall. She rushes to help him and when the shooter approaches, she manages to grab a loose gun and kills the shooter.

Turns out that it isn’t as random as it appears, and therein lies the suspense. Michael is entrusted to keep her safe, but he has a bad habit of not listening when people talk to him; he tends to cut them off and assume the rest of the conversation. So when his brother says Isabel loves to drive, that’s all he hears and he lets her drive. Some of the comic relief is in her driving – she is a super crazy driver and scares her passengers to death, if the are brave/stupid enough to let her drive.

With her new found fame, Isabel realizes she hates being in the spotlight but that doesn’t make it go away. Michael protects her as they try to resolve the shooting and the upcoming trip to Scotland, and soon they can’t stop their attraction and they end up in bed. Repeatedly. But Michael has plans and they don’t coincide with Isabel’s lifestyle, and she braces herself for the end. It wouldn’t be a romance without the happily ever after, so after quite a bit of suspense, they finally get there.

This was a real page turner for me. The romance was still front and center though, despite all the suspense, and the combination is terrific. If you like suspense with your romance, then this is the book for you. It definitely can be read as a standalone – I quickly realized that there were probably books that came before but it didn’t impede on this story at all. Garwood’s years of experience really show here, and she never phones it in. Very well done and a terrific read – don’t miss it.

7/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

GRACE UNDER FIRE by Julie Garwood. Berkley (July 19, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0593546291. 448p.

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