THE COUNTRY GUESTHOUSE by Robyn Carr

January 17, 2020

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Sullivan’s Crossing, Book 5

From the publisher:

#1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr delivers an emotional and triumphant novel about the fierce power of a mother’s love.

A summer rental, a new beginning…

Hannah Russell’s carefully crafted plans for her life have been upended without warning. When her best friend died suddenly, Hannah became guardian to a five-year-old named Noah. With no experience at motherhood, she’s terrified she’s not up to the challenge. She and Noah need time to get to know each other, so she decides to rent a country house with stunning views on a lake in rural Colorado.

When they arrive at the house, they are greeted by the owner, a handsome man who promises to stay out of their way. But his clumsy Great Dane, Romeo, has other ideas and Noah immediately bonds with the lovable dog. As Hannah learns to become a mother, Owen Abrams, who is recovering from his own grief, can’t help but be drawn out of his solitude by his guests.

But life throws more challenges at this unlikely trio and they are tested in ways they never thought possible. All three will discover their strengths and, despite their differences, they will fight to become a family. And the people of Sullivan’s Crossing will rally around them to offer all of the support they need.


Robyn Carr is one of my favorite authors. I love all of her series, and I was really excited when I saw there was a new addition to the Sullivan’s Crossing series. The setting is one of my favorites. But I must admit, I had a little trouble with this book.

I liked Hannah a lot, and I loved Noah. These characters were well developed and believable. On the other hand, Owen was a bit of an enigma to me. I didn’t feel like he was as well developed, even though his background was explored and was very dramatic. Something just felt off to me. Maybe it was the lack of chemistry between Hannah and Owen. They went from platonic to romantic without any real buildup. This book had a lot of telling, rather than showing, and I never like that as much.

Not my favorite, but I’m still glad I read it.

1/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE COUNTRY GUESTHOUSE by Robyn Carr. MIRA; Original edition (January 7, 2020).  ISBN 978-0778309055. 336 p.

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THE AMISH WEDDING PROMISE by Laura V. Hilton

January 12, 2020

1/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE AMISH WEDDING PROMISE by Laura V. Hilton. Forever (December 17, 2019). ISBN 978-1538700648. 352p.

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25 DAYS ‘TIL CHRISTMAS by Poppy Alexander

January 10, 2020

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From the publisher:

In this heartwarming, feel-good holiday novel, one woman needs to find a little inspiration in the 25 days leading up to Christmas to help her remember the magic of the season and the magic of falling in love—perfect for fans of Jenny Colgan and Josie Silver.

Kate Potter used to love Christmas. A few years ago, she would have been wrapping her presents in September and baking mince pies on Halloween, counting down the days and hours to Christmas. But that was before Kate’s husband left for the army and never came home. Now she can hardly stand December at all.

Kate can’t deny she’s lonely, yet she doesn’t think she’s ready for romance. She knows that her son, Jack, needs a Christmas to remember—just like Kate needs a miracle to help her finally move forward with her life. So she’s decided if there isn’t a miracle on its way, she’ll just have to make her own.

As Kate’s advent countdown to the best Christmas ever begins, she soon realizes that even with the best laid plans, you can’t plan for the unexpected. For when the path of the loneliest woman in town crosses with that of the loneliest man, these two destined hearts might find a way to save the holiday for both of them.


For some reason, I missed this book. I had probably a dozen Christmas books to read this year, and unfortunately, I started and put down the vast majority of them. There were a couple I finished that were okay, and one that I liked a lot. So when I finally read this one, I was sorry I missed it earlier. It was really good. If (unlike me) you want to read your Christmas books before the holiday, grab this one and set it aside until you’re ready. I promise, it is worth it. I like how the book is set up like an Advent calendar. Each chapter is titled by the number of days until Christmas, counting down to the big day. It would be fun to read it that way if you are saving it for next Christmas.

This is a British import so right away I liked the quirky little town and its characters. Kate is a struggling young widow with a little boy who is having some difficulties in school. She is fierce in her love for her boy, and determined to do her best by him, one way or another. Ever since she lost her husband, she hasn’t felt much like celebrating Christmas but she decides this year it is important to celebrate for Jack. Kate is working as a Christmas elf selling trees outside a department store. She hardly makes any money and her boss is a pig. She has regular customers and one she remembers well is Daniel. He is very good looking, but she remembers him more for bringing his sister to get a tree the past couple of years. She has seen the young woman go downhill over that time, and the prior Christmas she was in a wheelchair. Daniel always thought of Kate as “Christmas Tree Girl” and appreciated how kind she was to his sister. When he comes alone this year, she realizes something must have happened.

Daniel and Kate are like two ships passing in the night until an event brings them together. They are both very lonely, and Kate especially isn’t sure she is ready for a relationship. But ultimately this is a romance so you know they will have their happy ending. At times their stories are quite sad, but essentially this is an uplifting and lovely holiday read.

1/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

25 DAYS ‘TIL CHRISTMAS by Poppy Alexander.  Berkley (October 15, 2019). ISBN 978-1984804006. 320p.

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BLITZED by Alexa Martin

January 8, 2020

1/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

BLITZED by Alexa Martin. Berkley (December 3, 2019). ISBN 978-0451491992. 336p.

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LOVE LETTERING by Kate Clayborn

January 3, 2020

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From the publisher:

In this warm and witty romance from acclaimed author Kate Clayborn, one little word puts one woman’s business—and her heart—in jeopardy . . .

Meg Mackworth’s hand-lettering skill has made her famous as the Planner of Park Slope, designing beautiful custom journals for New York City’s elite. She has another skill too: reading signs that other people miss. Like the time she sat across from Reid Sutherland and his gorgeous fiancée, and knew their upcoming marriage was doomed to fail. Weaving a secret word into their wedding program was a little unprofessional, but she was sure no one else would spot it. She hadn’t counted on sharp-eyed, pattern-obsessed Reid . . .

A year later, Reid has tracked Meg down to find out—before he leaves New York for good—how she knew that his meticulously planned future was about to implode. But with a looming deadline, a fractured friendship, and a bad case of creative block, Meg doesn’t have time for Reid’s questions—unless he can help her find her missing inspiration. As they gradually open up to each other about their lives, work, and regrets, both try to ignore the fact that their unlikely connection is growing deeper. But the signs are there—irresistible, indisputable, urging Meg to heed the messages Reid is sending her, before it’s too late . . .


Is it too late to add a title to my favorite books of 2019?  Released on the final day of 2019, Love Lettering quickly became one of my favorite books of the year.  The first thing that struck me about this book was the writing.  The prose has a lyrical quality to it that I don’t often see in contemporary romance. I would describe the writing as artistic if that makes sense.  The language that Clayborn uses to describe Meg, Reid, and New York almost seems to embody Meg’s profession as an artist and calligrapher.

Clayborn expertly builds Meg and Reid’s relationship as Meg tries to convince Reid to stay in New York through a series of walks around the city looking for inspiration for her next project.  The reader gets to see the city through Reid’s eyes, for the first time really getting to know and love the city he has lived in for six years, and through Meg’s eyes, the eyes of an artist who looks for signs everywhere she goes.  I had never given much thought to hand lettering as an art form and I would have a hard time listing fonts beyond Times New Roman, but after reading about Meg’s passion for her art I find myself paying more attention to fonts and stopping to notice the style and design of signs.  I absolutely loved Meg and Reid as a couple.  Meg is creative, persistent and witty which serves as a perfect foil for Reid who prefers numbers and can have a hard time connecting with people. Since it was published at an awkward time (the last day of the year) I haven’t seen Love Lettering make many recommendation lists and get the attention it deserves.  I highly recommend Love Lettering, even to those who do not usually read romance.  It is exceptionally well written, features complex characters and an insightful look into the city of New York and the art of hand lettering.

1/20 Caitlin Brisson


A note from the BookBitch

I have to add my two cents here. Caitlin had texted me that she thought I would enjoy this book. I was off for a few weeks over the holidays and did quite a bit of reading. But this last week I had encountered several stinkers in a row. Books I did not finish. Books I didn’t get past the first chapter. Books I wasn’t in the mood for (but went back to and loved) and well, you get the idea. So I eagerly started this book on New Year’s Eve day and finished it before dinner. I loved it, for a lot of the reasons Caitlin mentioned. I would add that it is also a love letter to New York City.  The characters were interesting and well developed, the setting was really another character, and the romance seemed to bloom organically, if you’ll pardon the pun. The art of hand lettering so intrigued me that I started down a rabbit hole, and first found this interview with the author, which led me to this article on Bullet Journaling, which I had never even heard of.

Caitlin had emailed me that her entire review could have been, “This book is amazing. Read it.” Yep, that sums it up and I concur.

LOVE LETTERING by Kate Clayborn. Kensington Publishing Corp. (December 31, 2019).  ISBN 9781496725172. 320 p.

 

 


10 BLIND DATES by Ashley Elston

December 24, 2019

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From the publisher:

Sophie wants one thing for Christmas-a little freedom from her overprotective parents. So when they decide to spend Christmas in South Louisiana with her very pregnant older sister, Sophie is looking forward to some much needed private (read: make-out) time with her long-term boyfriend, Griffin. Except it turns out that Griffin wants a little freedom from their relationship. Cue devastation.

Heartbroken, Sophie flees to her grandparents’ house, where the rest of her boisterous extended family is gathered for the holiday. That’s when her nonna devises a (not so) brilliant plan: Over the next ten days, Sophie will be set up on ten different blind dates by different family members. Like her sweet cousin Sara, who sets her up with a hot guy at an exclusive underground party. Or her crazy aunt Patrice, who signs Sophie up for a lead role in a living nativity. With a boy who barely reaches her shoulder. And a screaming baby.

When Griffin turns up unexpectedly and begs for a second chance, Sophie feels more confused than ever. Because maybe, just maybe, she’s started to have feelings for someone else . . . Someone who is definitely not available.


This is going to be the worst Christmas break ever… or is it?

A live nativity, bowling tournament, and an ugly sweater party.  Those activities wouldn’t exactly scream first date to most people, but to Sophie’s large, and well-meaning family they do.  After being dumped by her boyfriend the first night of winter break, Sophie’s extended family embarks on a plan to ensure that she has a date for every night of the break.  This plan results in a series of ten blind dates, some outrageous, some cringeworthy, and some actually fun.  It has been a while since I’ve read a teen romance that so well balances both humor and heart.  There are plenty of funny moments, a goat at the aforementioned live nativity and a drive-in movie that goes very wrong among them, but I also really enjoyed how Sophie’s family was at center stage in the story.  They are large, loud and meddle, but they genuinely love her and despite her recent heartbreak they always come first to Sophie.  Even though the book is about ten dates, it was refreshing to see a teen romance where the main character put her family and herself before a love interest.  With Netflix’s successful adaptation of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, I could see 10 Blind Dates being their next teen rom-com.  If you are looking for a heartwarming, but not sappy, holiday story I recommend 10 Blind Dates.

10 BLIND DATES by Ashley Elston. Disney-Hperion (October 1, 2019).  ISBN 9781368027496. 336p.

12/19 Caitlin Brisson

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THE TROUBLE WITH CHRISTMAS by Amy Andrews

December 23, 2019

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From the publisher:

All Suzanne St. Michelle wants is an over-the-top, eggnog-induced holiday with her best friend in Credence, Colorado. But when her hoity-toity parents insist she come home for Christmas in New York, she blurts out that her sexy landlord is actually her boyfriend and she can’t leave him—Joshy loves Christmas. The more twinkle lights the better.

Rancher Joshua Grady does not love Christmas. Or company, or chatty women. Unfortunately for him, the chattiest woman ever has rented the cottage on his ranch, invited her rich, art-scene parents, and now insists he play “fake rancher boyfriend” in a production of the Hokiest Christmas Ever. And somehow…she gets him to agree.

Apparently, he’ll do anything to get his quiet life back. At least there’s mistletoe every two feet—and kissing Suzy is surprisingly easy. But in the midst of acres of tinsel, far too many tacky Christmas sweaters, and a tree that can be seen from space, he’s starting to want what he lost when he was a kid—a family. Too bad it’s with a woman heading back to New York before the ball drops…

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Every December I embark upon a binge of holiday themed book reading. A friend who also shares a love of all things Christmas recently commented that she had only enjoyed one Christmas book so far this year. I’ve been having similar poor luck this year, but then I read The Trouble with Christmas. I hadn’t read the first book in this series (and it doesn’t matter, this book can be read as a stand-alone) but when I took Book Riot’s “What Holiday Romance Should You Read?” quiz this is the book they suggested. I figured a hot rancher and Colorado scenery should be fun. And The Trouble with Christmas is a fun book. Since taking a trip to Montana and Wyoming last year I have been eager to return to the West and Colorado is on the list. The small of town of Credence, Colorado sounds like it would be a great destination and the descriptions of snow-covered ranches and cozy cabins were perfect for a holiday romance. Suzy and Grady’s efforts to keep up the facade of their fake relationship with increasingly tacky and outlandish Christmas decor was fun to read. Suzy and Grady were a great couple with her sense of humor and tendency to talk too much balancing out Grady’s role of a stoic rancher. And of course, fake relationships in romance novels never lead to real feelings… If you enjoy Hallmark style holiday romances you’ll enjoy The Trouble with Christmas.

12/19 Caitlin Brisson

THE TROUBLE WITH CHRISTMAS by Amy Andrews. Entangled: Amara (September 24, 2019). ISBN 9781640638198. 418p.

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TO BED THE BRIDE by Karen Ranney

December 13, 2019

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All for Love Trilogy, Book 3

From the publisher:

New York Times Bestselling Author Karen Ranney’s captivating series concludes with a tale of opposites whose attraction scorches a trail from the Highlands to the glittering halls of London—and courts scandal at every turn . . .

Politics has introduced MP Logan McKnight to many fascinating people, but the lady he encounters on the lands bordering his ancestral Scottish home outshines them all. Eleanor Craig of Hearthmere seats a Thoroughbred like a queen, knows as much about world events as any of his colleagues—and is engaged to one of the worst men Logan knows. She also seems lonely, so Logan brings her a friend. Thus should their acquaintance end, yet it’s only just begun.

The puppy Logan delivers is every bit as irresistible as the man himself. How could this stranger sense the isolation Eleanor suffers among her scheming, snobbish extended family and fiancé who control her life? It’s even worse in London—until she begins meeting Logan secretly in a secluded park. Their passionate connection frees Eleanor, body and soul. But discovery threatens disgrace—or worse.


Eleanor lost her mother as an infant, and her father as a young child. He leaves her their estate in Scotland with the proviso that her Uncle move there to take care of her. He brings his wife and children, and they remain there until her uncle dies when she is 17 years old. Her aunt immediately moves them all to London, marries a wealthy man, and convinces the solicitor to just allow Eleanor to visit for a month every year.

Eleanor is engaged to Michael, the Earl of Westcott and she really has no idea why he chose her. Her father always stressed how important family is, and she knows her family wants her to marry the Earl. He is a good catch, so she agrees to marry him. But her fiance shortens her visit home to two weeks.

Eleanor returns home, knowing in her heart that she may not be allowed back to visit again. Eleanor and Logan have a rocky start. They meet while she is out riding and finds herself surrounded by sheep. Thinking he is the shepherd, she is condescending to him until she manages to get through. Eleanor doesn’t think much of the shepherd, but Logan can’t get her out of his mind. He gives her a puppy that she really doesn’t want but disappears before she can return the dog. She names him Bruce and I have to say, the best part of the first half of the book was the dog.

There seems to be too much time spent on Eleanor’s thoughts and way too much telling, not showing as the relationship between Eleanor and Logan grows. It seems like she decided to like him after she finds out that he is not a shepherd, but is an MP in the House of Commons, representing his part of Scotland. He is shocked to find out that she is engaged to the Earl of Westcott, an arrogant, selfish man that Logan can’t stand.

This book moved slowly for at least the first half, but the last few chapters made up for it. When Eleanor realizes she can’t marry the Earl and tells him, he refuses to allow her to break their engagement. Her aunt tells her she has no choice, she must marry the Earl, and what happens after that is just shocking. I don’t want to give anything away! Just know that Eleanor and Logan get their happily ever after, despite the enormous obstacles in their way.

While I’m glad they got together, the ending felt a bit abrupt. I would have liked an epilogue or something. All in all, this was just an okay read for me.

12/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

TO BED THE BRIDE by Karen Ranney. Avon (November 26, 2019).  ISBN 978-0062841087. 384p.

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THE ROGUE TO RUIN by Vivienne Lorret

December 10, 2019

Misadventures in Matchmaking, Book 3

From the publisher:

The Bourne Matrimonial Agency has one rule:

Never fall in love with the client.

Which shouldn’t be a problem when one’s faking an engagement to the rogue across the street . . .

Ainsley Bourne needs the family business to succeed. But one obstacle stands in her way—Reed Sterling, the huge, handsome, former prize fighter and owner of the gaming hall across the street. His scandalous customers scare off all her marriage-minded patrons, and since the devilish brute has no intention of relocating, she sets out to ruin his unsavory establishment. Yet when a vile suitor from her past reappears, Ainsley hastily claims an attachment to the first man who comes to mind . . . Mr. Sterling, to be exact.

Reed doesn’t know who is more surprised by Miss Bourne’s declaration. She clearly hates him, and he’d never admit their arguments simmer with unrequited attraction. Something about the pleading look in her eyes calls to Reed, and against his better judgment, he quickly plays the part of the besotted fiancé.

Pretending to be in love requires a convincing charade. But with each tantalizing touch and every scandalous kiss, Ainsley starts to wonder if Reed was ever really the enemy at all.


This author was new to me. The book started out slowly; in fact, I started it and kept putting it down until I got about a quarter of the way through. Then I read it the rest all the way through and ultimately enjoyed it. The plot was fairly predictable, the ever-popular trope of enemies to lovers, and it worked. There was also a bit of suspense. Ainsley had been betrothed to another man, and she ended it because he was abusive. He remarried, but when his wife died, he came looking for Ainsley again. And was not very pleasant, to say the least.

Reed was a great character. He is a commoner who made a fortune by fighting, boxing of sorts I suppose. But while he has retired from the ring, there are opponents who still wish to fight him. He is also thoughtful and smart, and very intuitive about people in general, but especially about Ainsley.

There are some obstacles along the way to happily ever after. Even marriage doesn’t resolve everything. I liked those twists and that is what kept me turning the pages for sure. I will look for the earlier books in the series. Ainsley has two sisters who are married, so they probably had their stories told in the earlier books. Since I haven’t read the earlier books, I don’t know if they should be read in order or if it doesn’t matter. These characters are fairly closely aligned, so it might have been the little knowledge I was lacking that made the beginning of this book so slow. I will find out!

12/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE ROGUE TO RUIN by Vivienne Lorret. Avon (July 30, 2019).  ISBN 978-0062685520. 400p.

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A COWBOY UNDER THE MISTLETOE by Jessica Clare

December 8, 2019

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The Wyoming Cowboys Series, Book 3

From the publisher:

‘Tis the season for starting over for one military man turned cowboy in this new novel by the New York Times bestselling author of The Cowboy and His Baby.

Former Navy master-at-arms Jason Clements is down on his luck and calling in one last favor. His cousin has secured him a job opportunity as a cowboy working at Price Ranch in Wyoming. Too bad Jason has never even saddled a horse. If he can keep this job without his PTSD getting in the way, it’ll be a Christmas miracle.

Local busybody Sage Cooper loves Painted Barrel something fierce, but it’s time for her to move on. Since her father passed away, the family ranch feels too big for just her, and there’s no chance of finding a husband in this small town. To the rest of the world, she’s just another local fixture, known for her closet full of ugly Christmas sweaters and being perpetually single.

It isn’t until Jason shows up in desperate need of a cowboy crash course that Sage discovers a tall, dark, and handsome reason to stick around. And with the holidays coming up, Sage is in need of a date for a special event—maybe they’ll turn out to be each other’s best Christmas present.


This romance ticked a lot of boxes that I really like; damaged characters, small town, cowboys, and Christmas.

Sage has no self-esteem. Living in this small town, she’s had a long-standing crush on a man who is about to marry. Someone else. She lost her mom as an infant, and her dad fairly recently, leaving her alone on a big ranch in a big empty house. She has decided to sell the ranch in the spring, and move to a larger community, in hopes of meeting someone.

Jason suffers from PTSD, but his cousin landed him this job as a cowboy, of all things. He’s never even been on a horse, much less a ranch. Desperate for help, he wanders into what passes for a library in this small town, a few shelves of books and the town’s only employee, Sage. She ignores his symptoms and lends him a helping hand with a crash course in ranching. Sage has a calming effect on Jason, and a relationship begins.

This was a warm, holiday read filled with love and grace and hope. A wonderful holiday romance!

12/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

A COWBOY UNDER THE MISTLETOE by Jessica Clare.  Berkley (October 15, 2019). ISBN 978-1984804006. 320p.

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