THE KEY TO HAPPILY EVERY AFTER by Tif Marcelo

April 23, 2019

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©Library Journal, 2019

4/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE KEY TO HAPPILY EVER AFTER by Tif Marcelo. Gallery Books (April 23, 2019). ISBN 978-1501197581. 320p.

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A DUKE CHANGES EVERYTHING by Christy Carlyle

April 20, 2019

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The Duke’s Den, Book 1

From the publisher:

In the first novel in Christy Carlyle’s sizzling Duke’s Den series, three men, intent on making a fortune,discover irresistible opportunities . . .

Nicholas Lyon gambled his way into a fortune and ownership of the most opulent, notorious gentlemen’s club in England. But when Nick’s cruel brother dies, he inherits a title he never wanted. The sooner Nick is rid of the estate that has always haunted him, the sooner he can return to the life he’s built in London. But there’s one obstacle—the exquisite Thomasina Thorne.

When the new heir to the Tremayne dukedom suddenly appears in Mina Thorne’s life, she’s flustered. Not only is he breathtakingly handsome, but he’s also determined to take away her home and position as steward of the Enderley estate. If Mina learns what makes the enigmatic duke tick, perhaps she can change his mind—as long as she doesn’t get too close to him.

With each day Nick spends with Mina, his resolve weakens as their colliding wills lead to explosive desire. Could she be the one woman who can help him finally bury the ghosts of his past?


This was a really emotional story. Our hero, Nick, has an unsightly scar across his face and how he got it is simply heartbreaking. As is his whole backstory. Mina’s story is much easier, thank goodness. I don’t think I could have handled any more. Interestingly, Mina is the estate steward, a job she trained for all her life and inherited when her father died. The new Duke is not aware of this, however, since Mina’s full name is Thomasina and she signs all her correspondence with her initial, just like her father. So when the Duke arrives, he is not happy that he’s been lied to.

Mina and Nick are an unlikely couple, and it’s just class that separates them. The bigger hurdle is the estate she calls home and he calls hell. They need to overcome many obstacles to reach their happily ever after, and it was not a smooth journey by any means. I was racing through this book but the last part sort of slowed down and meandered a bit, but ultimately it was worth it. No spoilers here – let’s just say there were some unusual plot twists that I really enjoyed.

I am really looking forward to the next book in this series, Anything But a Duke, which comes out April 30. A review should be out sometime that week – stay tuned!

4/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

A DUKE CHANGES EVERYTHING by Christy Carlyle. Avon (November 27, 2018).  ISBN 978-0062853950. 384p.

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LADY DERRING TAKES A LOVER by Julie Anne Long

April 18, 2019

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The Palace of Rogues, Book 1

From the publisher:

A mistress. A mountain of debt. A mysterious wreck of a building.

Delilah Swanpoole, Countess of Derring, learns the hard way that her husband, “Dear Dull Derring,” is a lot more interesting—and perfidious—dead than alive. It’s a devil of an inheritance, but in the grand ruins of the one building Derring left her, are the seeds of her liberation. And she vows never again to place herself at the mercy of a man.

But battle-hardened Captain Tristan Hardy is nothing if not merciless. When the charismatic naval hero tracks a notorious smuggler to a London boarding house known as the Rogue’s Palace, seducing the beautiful, blue-blooded proprietress to get his man seems like a small sacrifice.

They both believe love is a myth. But a desire beyond reason threatens to destroy the armor around their hearts. Now a shattering decision looms: Will Tristan betray his own code of honor…or choose a love that might be the truest thing he’s ever known?


In a very weird coincidence, I read two books in a row, both romances but one contemporary (Under the Table) and this one, historical, where the hero is named Tristan. This book actually came out at the end of February but somehow it slipped under my radar. I must confess to having a ridiculous number of books on my Kindle, hovering just under 3000. No, that is not a typo. I don’t know how many of those I’ve already read as Amazon has no way of me sorting them that way, but a lot! Figure a book a day for close to 3 or so years that I’ve read mostly on my Kindle so maybe about a third? (Side note to Amazon, you really should let me sort out the books I’ve read, it would be beneficial for me to be able to delete all the books I’ve read before I run out of room!) Lately I have been removing titles from my device when I finish reading them but that’s new. And sometimes I forget. Oh well.

Back to our story. So this Tristan is your basic, run-of-the-mill, tall, strong, gorgeous hero who, as many heroes are, is rather reticent in sharing his thoughts or feelings. So much so that it is a running joke throughout the book that he when he utters more than a word or two, it is commented upon. Cute.

Deirdre definitely falls into the new historical romance class of heroines who are strong, independent, and most unlikely given the time period, career driven. I don’t mind these liberties being taken in sacrifice of historical accuracy. It’s about time women were put in a better place, even if it rarely happened back then; I rather enjoy seeing it happen now.

The boundaries of realism are pushed even further when the wife and mistress of a member of the peerage end up in business and living together. It actually makes sense here so kudos to Long for writing such a believable suspension of disbelief, that is quite the coup. But best of all, it is a really good story with interesting, quirky characters, delicious humor and sizzling sex.

I started this new series with the first book – quite the coup for me, I tend not to do that for some reason – but I really have enjoyed this author’s previous books so when I saw a new one on Edelweiss (one of the homes of advanced digital galleys for reviewers) I grabbed it. I was very glad I did. This was a very enjoyable read and now I can’t wait for the next book in this series – this one ends on quite the cliffhanger! Very well done.

4/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

LADY DERRING TAKES A LOVER by Julie Anne Long. Avon; Reissue edition (February 26, 2019).  ISBN 978-0062867469. 384p.

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UNDER THE TABLE by Stephanie Evanovich

April 16, 2019

I was so excited that Evanovich finally had a new book coming out – it had been about three years since her last book (The Total Package) and I really loved all three of her previous books. While I enjoyed this one, I must admit that I was the tiniest bit disappointed.

This is a very short book (272 pages) and a very quick read. The basic plot line is good, but I would have liked a bit more character development, especially for Tristan, our man of the hour, and Derek, the ex. I felt like I got to know Zoey pretty well and this is definitely her story to tell, but her ex was a real mystery. He barely made a blip in the story even though a lot of the plot, Zoey’s reason for being in New York, the reason she almost loses Tristan, depended on Derek. There was just enough back story to make the major plot points feasible but I would have liked more, especially his relationship with Zoey’s family – as lifelong friends before marriage, that seemed important but is barely glossed over.

Tristan was also a bit of an enigma but definitely a man in want of a makeover. We do get most of his backstory, but some of the choices he makes throughout the book weren’t always clear to me. That said, I couldn’t help but root for Zoey and Tristan to find their way to one another so I did get my happy ending. There’s not as much sizzle as in previous books, but that really worked well for these characters in this story.

There are some really funny moments in the story, as well as some sweet ones. And of course, I loved the foodie subplot. Wishing hard for that kitchen! Ultimately, I couldn’t put the book down and read it in one sitting, despite my minor quibbles. Now I hope I don’t have to wait as long for the next book!

4/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

UNDER THE TABLE by Stephanie Evanovich. William Morrow (April 16, 2019). ISBN 978-0062415929. 272p.

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COLORADO COWBOY by Sara Richardson

April 15, 2019

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Rocky Mountain Riders, Book 5

From the publisher:

Come home to Topaz Falls, Colorado where a down-on-her-luck bull rider falls for the cowboy she can’t resist in this heart-warming western romance!
As a champion barrel racer, Charity Stone has learned to hold her own in the male-dominated rodeo world. There’s no cowboy she can’t handle…except for one. Officer Dev Jenkins has made it clear he doesn’t look at her like one of the guys. He’s caught her attention but Charity doesn’t do relationships–especially not with a cowboy. When she suddenly finds herself in charge of her thirteen-year-old nephew, who’s had a few brushes with the law, Charity has no choice but to ask for the deputy’s help.

Dev hasn’t stopped fantasizing about Charity since she moved to Topaz Falls, but she’s been hell bent on keeping her distance. When she comes to him for help with her nephew, he finally has the chance to make his move. Winning her over won’t be easy, thoughespecially when her nephew’s mistakes start to threaten his town. How can he do his job and still convince Charity he’s the cowboy for her?

Includes the bonus story “Unbroken” by Jay Crownover!

I started this series by reading the fourth book True-Blue Cowboy, and at that time, it felt like I must have missed something by not reading the earlier books in the series. With this fifth book, I didn’t have that feeling. In fact, I didn’t even realize it was a series book until after I’d read it. To me, that says a lot about the writing – this book easily stands alone. From what I can surmise, this series is set in the town of Topaz Falls, Colorado, but beyond that, I’m not sure what else crosses over.

I loved, loved, loved the strong female protagonist in this book. Charity isn’t looking for a cowboy, she is one. Cowgirl. Whatever. She’s a rodeo star in her own right which was a refreshing change to me. I’ve read a lot of cowboy romances and while there have been some strong women for sure, I don’t remember one that felt turned on its head like this one. The man in the other half of this equation is a cop, not a cowboy; well, not a rodeo star at any rate. He does help work his family ranch so he can wear the cowboy hat without irony.

There are a lot of family dynamics at play here, the subplots are as interesting as the main romance. This was a terrific story and I highly recommend it.

If you’d like to read them in order (and tell me what I’m missing!) here you go:

  1. Hometown Cowboy, Book 1
  2. Comeback Cowboy, Book 2
  3. Renegade Cowboy, Book 3
  4. True-Blue Cowboy, Book 4

 

4/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

COLORADO COWBOY by Sara Richardson. Forever (April 2, 2019). ISBN 978-1538712276.  448p.

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MEET CUTE by Helena Hunting

April 15, 2019

This was the first book I’ve read from this author and I immediately put her last book, Good Luck Charm, on reserve at my library. I really liked this book – it lives up to its “meet cute” title. In a delicious twist, it’s the male protagonist, Dax, who explains what a meet cute is to our heroine.

I loved these characters. Kailyn is a smart cookie, and even though she’s definitely a fangirl, her anger over a perceived slight from their law school days keeps her emotions in check. That is, until she starts having to spend time with Dax and his teenage sister. As their relationship deepens, there is a secret that Kailyn is keeping. Yes, that old trope rears its ugly head again. But it almost works here, the rationale seems fairly logical even though it’s dragged out a little too long. But then again, they need a good hurdle to make the ending worthwhile. I could live with it because I liked both of these characters and wanted them to work out. And of course they do, with enough sex thrown in to keep it interesting.

My only (minor) quibble is with the subplot that deals with a custody battle between Dax and his aunt over his little sister. It was pretty obvious what was going on but the why was at least interesting. The denouement could have been a little less obvious, too – it seemed like Hunting got to that point and said okay, time to fix this and boom, there you have it.

Give me great characters, a decent storyline, and enough drama to keep me turning the pages. Throw in some laughs and I’m a happy reader. Well done.

4/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

MEET CUTE by Helena Hunting. Forever (April 9, 2019). ISBN 978-1538760185. 384p.

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HARD LOVING COWBOY by A. J. Pine

April 12, 2019

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Crossroads Ranch Series, Book 4

From the publisher:

This cowboy’s handsome, sexy, and definitely off limits . . .

Walker Everett spends his days at the Crossroads Ranch wrangling cattle-and steering clear of anything that would complicate his already too-complicated life. Until Violet Chastain, the ranch’s newest employee, asks him to pretend to be her boyfriend for her parents’ anniversary party. She’s the most beautiful woman he’s ever met and needs his help. How can he refuse?Violet isn’t about to fall for a brooding bad-boy cowboy, no matter how sizzling their chemistry. But she also never expected Walker to go along with the charade. Before long, he’s charming her parents at their weekly dinners and kissing her way more than necessary. Spending so much time together tests the limits of their “just friends” relationship, but what happens when their game of pretend becomes all too real?

Includes the bonus story Rocky Mountain Cowboy by Sara Richardson!


I read the third book in this series, Tough Luck Cowboy, which I mistook for the second book, but somehow missed the first (not unusual for me!) and the actual second book. Maybe. Apparently Amazon is as confused as I am about the order of this series! I am going to have to backtrack and find them because I know there are holes in the background that I’m missing.

So first things first, as my mother used to say, do as I say, not as I do, and read this series in order! I am investigating. Because of my little bit of confusion, I skipped reading the bonus novella but I’m sure I will get to that eventually.

The fake boyfriend is a good romance standby, and it works really well here. Violet has some serious family issues, and when Walker fakes it for her parents, too, she is really happy. Especially as she’s falling for him, despite all her reasons not to.

Walker is a good man, even if he is a cowboy. I lived in Dallas for five years in the early 80’s and rarely saw cowboys like the ones in these books. I think I mostly saw urban cowboys, thanks to the movie (John Travolta) and the TV series, “Dallas.” I lived just a few miles from Southfork and never saw them filming. I did see Susan Howard (“Donna Krebs”) in the hair salon once. But I digress.

I love this contemporary cowboy romance subgenre, and this one is pretty good. But I think it will be better once I read the other books in the series!

Crossroads Ranch Series, in order according to Amazon, sometimes:

  1. Second Chance Cowboy (Crossroads Ranch Book 1) Feb 27, 2018
  2. Saved by the Cowboy (Crossroads Ranch Book 2) Aug 7, 2018 (according to the author’s website, this is book 1.5 so maybe a novella?)
  3. Tough Luck Cowboy (Crossroads Ranch Book 3) Aug 28, 2018 (according to the author’s website, this is book 2)
  4. Hard Loving Cowboy (Crossroads Ranch Book 4) Mar 26, 2019 (according to the author’s website, this is book 3)

So according to the author, I read books 2 and book 3 and there is no book 4. And I can’t borrow Saved by the Cowboy from my library so I guess I’ll just be missing that one. Sigh.

4/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

HARD LOVING COWBOY by A. J. Pine. Forever (March 26, 2019). ISBN 978-1538727119.  480p.

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THIS SCOT OF MINE by Sophie Jordan

April 10, 2019

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The Rogue Files, Book 4

From the publisher:

A daring deception…

Desperate to escape her vile fiancé, Lady Clara devises a bold lie—that she’s pregnant with another man’s child. With her reputation in tatters, Clara flees to Scotland to live out her days in disgrace, resigned to her fate as a spinster…until she claps eyes on the powerful and wickedly handsome Laird Hunt MacLarin.

She’s the answer to his curse…

Laird of an ancient clan, Hunt needs an heir, but he comes from a long line of men cursed to die before the birth of their firstborn. When the Duke of Autenberry approaches him with a proposition—marry my ruined sister—it seems the perfect solution. Even better, the defiant lass stirs him to his very soul.

No escaping the truth…

Except marriage cannot set them free. No matter how much Hunt desires her. No matter how much Clara burns for him. Soon she is falling for her husband, but is love enough to end the curse? Or is the tragic history of the MacLarin Clan doomed to repeat itself?


This silly curse.

May all future lairds of Clan MacLarin live out their days knowing they are marked to love, but not to live. Until a laird of this line lives to see his first-born draw breath, this curse shall never be broken.

Clara thinks it’s silly. Her brother thinks it’s silly. But Hunt grew up with it and he and his grandmother strongly believe. She lost her husband before her son was born, and her son before her grandson was born. Hunt was raised knowing that if he procreated, he would die. So when he meets Clara, he thinks he met the perfect woman.

Clara is the daughter and brother of a duke. But when she is ruined in London, she is sent to live with her brother in Scotland. Everyone believes her lie and assumes that she is pregnant. Hunt happily acquiesces to the Duke and is happy to marry her and raise her child as his own, thus working around the curse and hopefully living a long life. Until the morning after the wedding night when he finds out about the lie.

Feeling that he is doomed, he tries to stay away from Clara but the attraction between them is sizzling hot. So is the sex in this book, for that matter. So despite his grandmother’s dire warnings and his own feeling of dread, Hunt and Clara find a way to their happily ever after.

No spoilers here, I’ll just say I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and thoroughly enjoyed this latest entry into one of my favorite series. I don’t think they need to be read in order, but in case you want to, here you go:

1. While the duke was sleeping
2. The scandal of it all
3. The duke buys a bride

4/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THIS SCOT OF MINE by Sophie Jordan. Avon (March 12, 2019).  ISBN 978-0062463661. 352p.

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THE TROUBLE WITH COWBOYS by Victoria James

April 8, 2019

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From the publisher:

From New York Times bestseller Victoria James comes a poignant and heartfelt romance that wraps you in a warm embrace…

Eight years ago, Tyler Donnelly left Wishing River, Montana, after a terrible fight with his father and swore he’d never return. But when his father has a stroke, guilt and duty drive him home, and nothing is as he remembers––from the run-down ranch to Lainey Sullivan, who is all grown up now. And darn if he can’t seem to stay away.

Lainey’s late grandma left her two things: the family diner and a deep-seated mistrust of cowboys. So when Tyler quietly rides back into town looking better than hot apple pie, she knows she’s in trouble. But she owes his dad everything, and she’s determined to show Ty what it means to be part of a small town…and part of a family.

Lainey’s courage pushes Ty to want to make Wishing River into a home again―together. But one of them is harboring a secret that could change everything.


This was the first book I read by this author, and it was pretty good. It is a sweet romance, centered around family dynamics and has just enough drama to keep the pages turning. The characters are well developed, even the secondary ones, and I liked getting to know them all and the small town that is pretty much another character in this story. There is a bit of mystery surrounding the family feud between Ty and his dad which makes sense as it unfolds.

Lainey’s keeping a secret from Ty. This is a common trope in romances, and not my favorite. She knows she should tell him yet there never seems to be a good time until it blows up. I guess I’m too blunt in my own life to truly understand why people do this. You’re in a relationship, be honest or get out. Just my opinion, for what it’s worth.

That is a minor quibble though. The story moves along nicely, and it is always good to end a book with a smile. I love the happily ever after found here.

4/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE TROUBLE WITH COWBOYS by Victoria James. Entangled: Amara (March 26, 2019). ISBN 978-1640635418.  320p.

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THREE LITTLE WORDS by Jenny Holiday

April 7, 2019

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Bridesmaids Behaving Badly, Book 3

From the publisher:

From the USA Today bestselling author who is a “master of witty banter” (Entertainment Weekly) comes a hilarious road trip romance that proves opposites don’t just attract, they ignite.
Gia Gallo is officially in bridesmaid hell. Stranded in New York with her best friend’s wedding dress, Gia has six days to make it to Florida in time for the ceremony. And oh-so-charming best man Bennett Buchanan has taken the last available rental car. Looks like she’s in for one long road trip with the sexiest – and most irritating – Southern gentleman she’s ever met…
Bennett’s pretty sure that if there was ever a woman to break his “no flings” rule, Gia would be it. Sure, she’s stubborn. She’s also funny, smart, and the attraction between them is getting hotter with every state line they cross. While Bennett doesn’t do casual, Gia doesn’t do “relationships.” But if they break the rules, this unlikely pair might discover that their impromptu road trip could turn out to be the best ride of their lives.

This laugh-out-loud book was my antidote to the news this week. I wanted fun. I wanted to laugh. I wanted to get lost in someone else’s life and not have to think about what is going on in this country. This book checked off all the boxes for me. It’s the third book of a terrific series, and I’ve enjoyed all of them so far. Since the stories revolve around four best friends, I’m guessing there is one more book to follow. There are also a couple of novellas tucked into this series, but I haven’t found them yet.

Gia has appeared in the first couple of books and I felt like I got to know her a little bit from those so I think this is a series that is best read in order. Gia is a model, so it can be easy to hate her <cough>. But Holiday doesn’t let us fall into that trap. Instead, she takes someone who definitely has a bad side and turns her into someone we can root for.

Bennett is something of an anomaly of a man, but as we get to know him it starts to make sense. Again, Holiday steers this ship and keeps it upright, dodging big waves and ultimately taking us to the happily ever after – which is why I picked up this book.

Another fast, fun read in a sexy series. I really enjoyed this escape.

04/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THREE LITTLE WORDS by Jenny Holiday. Forever (January 29, 2019).  ISBN 978-1455542468.  368p.

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