THE BOARDWALK BOOKSHOP by Susan Mallery

June 3, 2022

From the publisher:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery—a story of friends who become family, giving each other courage to start over…

When fate brings three strangers to a charming space for lease on the California coast, the Boardwalk Bookshop is born. Part bookstore, part gift shop, part bakery, it’s a dream come true for Bree, Mikki and Ashley. But while their business is thriving, their personal lives are…not.

Bree, wounded by brilliant but cold parents and her late husband’s ultimate betrayal, has sworn to protect her heart at all costs. Even from Ashley’s brother, a writer and adventurer who has inspired millions. He’s the first man to see past Bree’s barricades to her true self, which terrifies her. Mikki has this divorce thing all figured out—somehow, she’s stayed friends with her ex and her in-laws…until a new man changes how everyone looks at her, and how she sees herself. Meanwhile, Ashley discovers that the love of her life never intends to marry. Can she live without being a wife if it means she can have everything else she’s ever wanted?

At sunset every Friday on the beach in front of the Boardwalk Bookshop, the three friends share a champagne toast. As their bond grows closer, they challenge one another to become the best versions of themselves in this heartachingly beautiful story of friendship, sisterhood and the transformative power of love.

The Boardwalk Bookshop is a classic beach-read romance that will be enjoyed by fans of Robyn Carr and Sheryl Woods. Readers will appreciate that, while Mallery keeps the tone romantic and fun, the protagonists make hard choices and don’t default to the easy way out, giving everyone a character to root for.”—Booklist on The Boardwalk Bookshop

“A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.”Kirkus on The Boardwalk Bookshop

“Mallery is an expert at writing about strong women, their friendships, and their romances.” —Booklist

“Mallery beautifully illustrates the power of female friendship and the importance of reaching for one’s dreams.”—Publishers Weekly

https://amzn.to/3GPuFdC

Three women become business partners then friends when they lease a large space on the beach for their individual businesses; Bree has a bookstore, Ashley has a muffin/bakery, and Mikki has a gift shop, and all three businesses work well together in the shared space. Every Friday, the women close for the day then head to the beach with some champagne, a different kind every week. As they get to know one another, real friendships form.

Bree’s parents are both acclaimed literary fiction authors, and she inherited her bookstore from her late husband. Her parents could not be bothered with her and she had a very troubled, neglected childhood. Her marriage put the final nail in the coffin of her ability to love or even to be loved. While she recognizes she has some issues, she has found ways to cope – no relationships outside of sex once or twice with the same man. Then she moves on. Until she meets Ashley’s brother, Harding. Somehow Harding has gotten Bree to go on a few dates with him, and as they get to know one another, Bree realizes she is in trouble. She is developing feelings for the man, and that terrifies her.

Mikki is divorced but still friends with her ex. They have two kids, and her ex-mother-in-law works for her in the gift shop. It’s been three years since the divorce, and her youngest is almost ready for college. She has a running gag that she doesn’t date because she’s loyal to Earl, her vibrator. Truth is she hasn’t dated for over twenty years, has low self-esteem, and isn’t too tech savvy. But her friends help her get on a dating app, and to her shock, she gets tons of responses. One of the men is Duane, father of one of her daughter’s friends, also divorced. They meet and Mikki finds herself in a new relationship, which goes sideways when her ex-husband springs on her his desire to try again. Conflicted, Mikki has to dig deep, and her friends give the impetus she needs to set boundaries for herself and her ex.

Ashley is a bit younger than the other women and is head over heels in love with Seth. They live together, and he is hinting at buying a house. Ashley assumes he is going to propose, but one thing leads to another until Seth announces he wants to commit to her for a lifetime, but doesn’t believe in marriage and won’t even entertain the idea. They decide to try and see each other’s point of view, but quickly reach a stalemate.

This is a story about friendships and love, and I couldn’t put it down. The characters and their stories really drew me in until I (sadly) turned the last page. It is always hard to pick up another book after reading one that I was so immersed in – I loved this book!

6/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE BOARDWALK BOOKSHOP by Susan Mallery. MIRA; Original edition (May 31, 2022). ISBN: 978-0778386087. 448p.

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IT TAKES A VILLA by Kilby Blades

June 3, 2022

From the publisher:

For the reasonable price of $1, Natalie Malone just bought herself an abandoned villa on the Amalfi Coast. With a detailed spreadsheet and an ancient key, she’s arrived in Italy ready to renovate―and only six months to do it. Which seemed reasonable until architect Pietro Indelicato began critically watching her every move…

From the sweeping ocean views to the scent of the lemon trees, there’s nothing Pietro loves more than his hometown. And after seeing too many botched jobs and garish design choices, he’s done watching from the sidelines. As far as he’s concerned, Natalie should quit before the project drains her entire bank account and her ridiculously sunny optimism.

With Natalie determined to move forward, the gorgeous architect reluctantly agrees to pitch in, giving her a real chance to succeed. But when the fine print on Natalie’s contract is brought to light, she might have no choice but to leave her dream, and Pietro, behind.

https://amzn.to/3zghCjn

I was very excited to read this book because my husband and I have discussed the possibility of buying one of these $1 (Euro) homes in Sicily, but we can’t really afford the time or the money needed for rehabbing the homes. Lorraine Bracco (Sopranos, Goodfellas) also has Sicilian roots, and she bought one of these homes and turned the reno into an HGTV show, My Big Italian Adventure, which was a lot of fun to watch. This book revolves around one of these homes in a fictional town on the Amalfi coast of Italy.

Natalie, or Natalia as her name becomes Italianized, purchased an old inn with her grandmother. But her grandmother passes away before they can get to Italy and even start the rehab. Money is tight, but an inheritance from a man she never heard of helps get her the money she needs to move forward with the project on her own. When she arrives, she finds the inn uninhabitable, but there is a separate garage where she can live until the inn is updated.

The small town has a council in charge of this project and her fellow renovators meet weekly to share tips and help. There is some political infighting between the council chair, who is the mayor, and his son, Pietro, a renowned architect who has renovated buildings all over Italy. Pietro runs into Natalie when she is trying to get her building permit, but it is August, and pretty much most of Italy is on vacation. Her Italian isn’t very good (yet) so she is a bit confused until Pietro steps in to explain in English.

There is a definite spark when they meet, but Natalie has too much work to do and she’s not looking to get involved. On the other hand, Pietro’s reaction reminded me of the “thunderbolt” Michael gets when he sees Apollonia for the first time in The Godfather – if you aren’t familiar with the reference, it’s basically love at first sight. Pietro has her back, and with his influence, knowledge, and skills, Natalia’s renovation gets going.

The is a slow growing romance with enough turmoil to keep things interesting. The politics in the town and the troubles some of the other renovations run into are the subplots, and they help shape this book into something more than just a romance. There are some funny moments, a bit of intrigue with the mysterious bequest, and some steamy scenes as well. All in all, a terrific read for me!

6/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

IT TAKES A VILLA by Kilby Blades. Entangled: Amara (May 24, 2022). ISBN: 978-1649372086. 352p.

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Spotlight Review: TALK FLIRTY TO ME by Livy Hart

May 31, 2022

From the publisher:

I’ve got ninety-nine problems and my brother’s snarky, smart-mouthed best friend Sam is tangled up in every last one of them.

When it comes to firefighter Sam O’Shea, absence―and a regime of tactical avoidance―has been working for me just fiiiine. But when the audition of a lifetime falls in my pathetically broke lap, and he’s the only one who can help me land the job, I’m willing to make a deal with the devil if it means I can kickstart my career as a narrator for audio books.

The problem? We’d have to actually do the job. Together. And then we’re told it’s for an erotic romance. Narrating steamy lines in a tiny studio with a man who lights a fire under your skin? An occupational hazard. Accidentally inciting a town scandal when your erotic audiobook clips wind up on the radio? A crisis. And falling for the one man I promised my brother―and my heart―I wouldn’t touch?

A disaster―and temptation―I can’t resist.

https://amzn.to/3LEXzxx

Piper is the only girl among eleven children in her family, and of course she falls for her older brother’s best friend, Sam. They date for a couple of years in high school, but as Sam is getting ready to graduate, Piper decides the best thing she can do for him is to let him go away to college without her hindering his decision. She tells Sam she needs a break; he hears she is breaking up with him. A few days later she walks in on him making out with another girl.

Devastated doesn’t begin to cover how Piper feels. She gets angry, and when Sam is falling down drunk a few nights later, she videos his shameful evening and posts it all over social media. It’s embarrassing to him, but it’s not like it was a fake video or anything; it was all on him and he owns it. To her credit, Piper pulls the video down a few days later.

Piper’s family rallies around her, and even her older brother, Caleb, stops talking to his best friend. It takes six years for them to reconcile, and the only way they can is to avoid talking about Piper no matter what. Her whole family supports her and Sam becomes a pariah to them all.

Sam is a firefighter and is running for mayor of their small town. When he runs into Piper at the local bar, things start changing between them. She is still very angry with him, but he decides to help her out when she needs him. Piper is a voice actor, and her big break may be coming when she finds an open audition for a very successful audiobook company. The only catch is that it is a couples read; they want a man and a woman to audition as a team. Sam agrees to do it, much to Piper’s surprise, but she is desperate.

When they are hired to read the audiobook, they soon find out it is an erotic romance. Reading it together is stirring up all sorts of feelings that Piper wishes would go away. But the more they work together, the closer they get to getting back together. And when they are stranded in an old hotel with only one room available, they cross that line for good.

This is a second chance romance and a really good one. Sam and Piper’s lives are so intertwined that it somehow feels inevitable that they will work as a couple, despite all their problems – and more seem to pop up every day. This is a fun, sexy read from an author who is new to me, but I will definitely seek out more of her books. A perfect read to while away a lazy summer afternoon – don’t miss it!

5/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

TALK FLIRTY TO ME by Livy Hart. Entangled: Embrace (May 30, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-1649373564. 300p.

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A COUNTRY KIND OF LOVE by K.T. Raine

May 27, 2022

Huckleberry Ridge Romance, Book 1

From the publisher:

A Clean, Second Chance Family Romance

After being abandoned by her husband, single mom and reporter, CeCe Bixby, has spent the last six years focusing on raising her young son, Cody. The last thing she needs is more drama in her life. But when her name is leaked in connection with a dangerously controversial story, drama is exactly what she gets.

She and Cody flee 400 miles from Boise to small town Huckleberry Ridge, Idaho, hoping for a fresh start. But life’s never simple, and CeCe is dismayed to find her troubles have followed her.

Help may come in the form of her handsome, state-trooper landlord, Shane Wickham, who’s also raising a young son after the death of his wife. But despite the spark between them, the reasons for not becoming entangled are much stronger, and both shy away from making any commitment.

Just as Shane seems ready to move on with his life and find happiness again, CeCe’s past suddenly resurfaces, bringing problems that cannot be ignored.

Will Shane be able to see beyond CeCe’s deception to start a new life with her?

♥ Clean, contemporary romance with a dollop of suspense. ♥

https://amzn.to/3KRHxjr

I found this book on Netgalley, home to digital review copies of books for librarians (and maybe booksellers?) and I have been finding more and more self-published books on there, which is kinda cool – why shouldn’t indie authors get reviewed by librarians? Indie authors can be hit or miss for me. If a book isn’t edited, it is usually strikingly apparent within a few pages, but the ones I’ve read lately haven’t had that issue. This is a good example. A traditional editor would probably have pushed for more pages – this falls into the very short book or possibly even a novella territory, but it is so well done I didn’t even notice.

CeCe is on the run and we don’t find out why for quite a while. She’s a protective single mom of a ten-year-old boy, and her new landlord is Shane, a state trooper. The chemistry between them is apparent right at the outset. And best of all, Shane has a son the same age as Cody, and they become fast friends.

While CeCe thinks he is married, turns out Shane is widowed, and at such a young age. He has a lot of baggage that you would think goes along with that. But CeCe has her baggage, too. While she is definitely afraid of something or someone, it takes Shane a while to coax it out of her. Meanwhile, a true friendship is formed that leads to something much deeper.

This was a sweet, heartwarming romance. The suspense took a back seat to the romance, but it added a bit of tension which I enjoyed. Sometimes you just want to read something light and entertaining to escape the horrors of the news cycle – especially this week. So thank you, K.T. Raine, for that little window of fun when I needed it most.

5/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

A COUNTRY KIND OF LOVE by K.T. Raine. Independently published (March 8, 2022). ISBN:‎ 979-8428594782. 180p.

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DESPERATELY SEEKING A DUCHESS by Christi Caldwell

May 27, 2022

All the Duke’s Sins, Book 2

From the publisher:

What happens when an impoverished duke with a reputation for being a rogue collides with a strong-willed heiress who wants to explore the world? An unlikely friendship…and unexpected passion.

Cailin Audley doesn’t fit in with Polite Society. A life spent among the working class taught her to value her independence in a way no newfound fortune or glittering ballroom could ever erase. When a major misstep sees the new heiress whisked away to the English countryside, Cailin soon realizes the vexing lengths her family will go to see her settled.  But having risked her heart once before, Cailin has no interest in the men of the ton—especially not the frustratingly charming Duke of St. James.

Courtland Balfour, the Duke of St. James, devoted brother and notorious rogue, despises what he must become—a fortune hunter. But with the ducal coffers drained by his late, spendthrift of a father, Courtland knows his duty lies at the altar and he will do anything to ensure a future for his siblings. Just his luck that the one lady who could make this new fate bearable, who enflames him like no other, is the one woman who wants nothing to do with him or his title.

But when an act of desperation inadvertently lands he and Cailin at the heart of another scandal, Courtland knows better than to waste his chance. Surely he can convince Cailin to love him?

“Packed with familial warmth and peppered with humor…An endearing romance.”—Kirkus

https://amzn.to/3z2CUku

I didn’t read the first book in the series, or the prequel novellas, and that really felt like a disadvantage here. Cailin is one of four illegitimate children of a duke. Their mother, his mistress, apparently never told him that she had children.  I guess he visited her so infrequently that he never noticed her pregnancies? I found that a bit odd, but maybe I should have read the earlier books, so that’s on me.

Courtland is the elder identical twin, so he inherits his father’s title and properties. Unfortunately, his father was a terrible person and basically left his family in severe debt. Things are so bad there is talk of debtor’s prison. His twin, Keir, has a very well paying position with another Duke, Cailin’s father. When he asks Keir to try and persuade his children to come visit, Courtland offers to go in his stead, as he more charming than the very serious Keir and has a better shot of getting them to agree. Instead, he is shot at and beaten by Cailin and her brother, so returns home without them. 

Keir loses his job because of Courtland and Cailin, and things are not looking good for the family. Courtland knows he needs to marry an heiress, but every time he and Cailin are together, their chemistry just leaps off the page. 

So the storyline was a bit confusing for me at times, but I got enough of the gist of it to see where it is going. I didn’t love Cailin, but I liked Courtland a lot, which was a surprise to me. There is no rush to romance here, and the ending felt a bit muddled to me as well. I didn’t love this book (obviously) but I did like it enough to go back and read the first one before passing judgement. 

5/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

DESPERATELY SEEKING A DUCHESS by Christi Caldwell. Atria Books (April 5, 2022). ISBN: 978-1982190484. 336p.

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Spotlight Review: BOOK LOVERS by Emily Henry

May 24, 2022

From the publisher:

An insightful, delightful, instant #1 New York Times bestseller from the author of Beach Read and People We Meet on Vacation.

Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2022 by Oprah Daily ∙ Today ∙ Parade ∙ Marie Claire ∙ Bustle ∙ PopSugar ∙ Katie Couric Media ∙ Book Bub ∙ SheReads ∙ Medium ∙ The Washington Post ∙ and more!

One summer. Two rivals. A plot twist they didn’t see coming…

Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.

Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute.

If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again—in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow—what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.

“One of my favorite authors.”—Colleen Hoover

https://amzn.to/3LEXzxx

This was such a fun read! Nora is an uber successful literary agent who fights to the death for her clients, earning her a reputation as a real shark. Charlie is an editor with a stellar reputation, but also for one who doesn’t coddle his authors. When Nora’s most successful author loses her editor to maternity leave, Charlie wants to take her on. But he hated her last, most successful book, so Nora doesn’t think he’s a great choice. She meets with him anyway, and it does not go well.

Nora is recently out of a bad relationship, so the only real relationship in her life is with her younger sister, Libby. Libby is married and pregnant again, so when she asks Nora to take a sisters’ vacation together while the publishing industry goes on vacation for the month of August, Nora reluctantly agrees. Libby wants to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina, where Nora’s author’s bestselling book was set. They rent a cottage and leave their beloved New York City for the month.

The girls had lost their mother a few years earlier, and Nora feels like she needed to take over that spot for her sister. She tries to fix everything in Libby’s life, even when Libby refuses to ask for help. Libby thinks Nora works too hard and too much, but they agree that Nora will work during the day remotely, but from 5:00 pm on she will be available to Libby. It works out pretty well – except her first day in Sunshine Falls, she runs into Charlie.

Somehow he finagles his way into editing that book, but Nora stipulates that all his notes go through her so she can soften them and not scare her skittish author away. Except when she gets the first ten pages of the book, she realizes that her author has made Nora the villain of the story. She changed the name of course, but Nora recognizes herself on the page and while it isn’t pretty, it is engaging and a phenomenal start to the new book.

Turns out Charlie grew up in Sunshine Falls, and one of the reasons he hated the book that was set there was because it was obvious to him that the author had barely set foot in the place. But the small town takes their fame to glory, loving that they are now on the map and tourists are flocking in.

Charlie has returned home to Sunshine Falls to help out his parents. His dad isn’t well, and his hippy-dippy mom needs help running the family business – a bookstore, of course. As Charlie and Nora start working together, the chemistry between them ignites, but they both push it onto the back burner, as much as they can. Until they realize what they have is special, but to complicate things further, they also have major logistical issues in the way.

Henry is a pro at writing snappy dialogue and finding the humor in a relationship. It goes a smidgeon long in the will-they-or-won’t-they, and it was a bit of a slow start for me, but it quickly turned into a terrific read – warm, sweet, sometimes sexy, and very funny. Highly recommend!

5/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

BOOK LOVERS by Emily Henry. Berkley (May 3, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0593334836. 400p.

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KNOCKED UP IN ALASKA by Samanthe Beck

May 20, 2022

Captivity, Alaska: Book 3

From the publisher:

Everyone in Captivity, Alaska now knows Lilah Iquat’s big (and getting bigger) secret. She’s knocked up. Pregnant. All it took was a foolish decision with lasting consequences. Now Lilah’s going it alone—with the help of the town. But with one particular craving getting stronger, Lilah has her eyes on just one thing: too-sexy Ford Langley.

Ford may be out of the army, but his Special Forces sense of honor and duty hasn’t disappeared. Which is exactly why Lilah is fully off-limits, hands-off, and don’t even think about it, Ford. She’s too young and too bright for a man who’s seen too much, too soon. He’ll hold to his code—even if it kills him. And it just might.

Now Lilah is showing Ford how much light and life and love he’s missing out on, testing every last shred of his resolve. But with a baby on the way and the whole town involved, Ford and Lilah are about to learn the hard way that life never goes according to plan…especially when it comes to love.

https://amzn.to/3lITBK5

It’s amazing to me how an author can create characters in a location that somehow stays with me for months and months. The second book in this series, Playing Dirty in Alaska, came out in January, yet when I took a dive into this new book, I felt right at home. It was great catching up with my not-so-long-lost friends from Alaska.

This time, the story centers around Lilah, who is best friends with Bridget and Izzy (from the first two books in the series.) Lilah grew up at the Inn that is the center of this tourist supported town. Her mother, Rose, worked her way up from housekeeping to hotel manager, and it seems Lilah is following in her footsteps in more ways than one.

Rose was a single mother, and she drummed it into Lilah’s head not to follow that same path. She was a very strict mother, and Lilah is a very good girl and almost always obedient. Except for that one night in the hot tub with Shay…

That was Lilah’s only sexual experience. When she found out she was pregnant, she immediately told Shay. The next day Shay was in a fatal plane crash, leaving the very scared and pregnant Lilah on her own. She hides the pregnancy as best as she can, but eventually she gets too big to hide it. When her mother finds out, she is incensed, and throws Lilah out. She ends up bouncing around between Bridget’s house and Ford’s. She is strongly attracted to Ford, and he to her, but he realizes how young she is, only 21, and inexperienced, especially compared to a Special Forces veteran. He puts her on a pedestal, but she really would rather be in his bed.

There are lots of ups and downs before the relationship heats up, including another baby-turned-teenager showing up to turn Ford’s life upside down. This is a sweet, sexy romance that really took me on an emotional ride. I couldn’t help but empathize with both Lilah and Ford. And one of my favorite four-legged characters makes an appearance as well.  

I mentioned this in my review of Wild in Captivity, the first book in this series. A giant Husky/Malamute mixed dog named K’eyush, or Key for short, is one of the more memorable characters. The dog is brilliant and talks – he somehow says his favorite peoples’ names. Anyone who has spent any time poking around my website knows that I am a cat person, but I also love dogs. Well, animals, in general, although I am afraid of birds. My husband has gotten me a tiny bit obsessed with this dog: K’eyush the Stunt Dog and I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between the dog in the book and the dog in the video. So I reached out to the author, who confirmed she is also a K’eyush fan and was inspired to use a dog with similar traits in the book. I love when my worlds collide like that!

5/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

KNOCKED UP IN ALASKA by Samanthe Beck. Entangled: Amara (May 16, 2022). ASIN: B09Y479G6V. 360p.

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Spotlight Review: THE GOOD LEFT UNDONE by Adriana Trigiani

May 17, 2022

From the publisher:

AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

From “a master of visual and palpable detail” (The Washington Post), comes a lush, immersive novel about three generations of Tuscan artisans with one remarkable secret. Epic in scope and resplendent with the glorious themes of identity and belonging, The Good Left Undone unfolds in breathtaking turns.

Matelda, the Cabrelli family’s matriarch, has always been brusque and opinionated. Now, as she faces the end of her life, she is determined to share a long-held secret with her family about her own mother’s great love story: with her childhood friend, Silvio, and with dashing Scottish sea captain John Lawrie McVicars, the father Matelda never knew. . . .

In the halcyon past, Domenica Cabrelli thrives in the coastal town of Viareggio until her beloved home becomes unsafe when Italy teeters on the brink of World War II. Her journey takes her from the rocky shores of Marseille to the mystical beauty of Scotland to the dangers of wartime Liverpool—where Italian Scots are imprisoned without cause—as Domenica experiences love, loss, and grief while she longs for home. A hundred years later, her daughter, Matelda, and her granddaughter, Anina, face the same big questions about life and their family’s legacy, while Matelda contemplates what is worth fighting for. But Matelda is running out of time, and the two timelines intersect and weave together in unexpected and heartbreaking ways that lead the family to shocking revelations and, ultimately, redemption. 

“Trigiani conveys the beauty of Italy, the hardships of war, the taste of family recipes, and the enduring love of family.”—Library Journal (starred)

“[An] immersive saga. . . . A celebration of family and a paean to the power of storytelling.”—People, “Book of the Week”

https://amzn.to/37StqwZ

Trigiani gives us another gem; three generations of women, their stories interwoven from 1929 through World War II through present day, from a small village in Italy to Scotland and the expulsion of “Britalians”, history comes alive on the page, as does the food, the family, and the scenery.

Trigiani is one of my favorite writers and favorite people! She is so full of life, and her exuberance carries over on her pages. bringing every story she tells to life. Sadly, she is not on a book-a-year schedule; in fact, it’s been about four years since her last book, Tony’s Wife. In that review, I said “reading Trigiani is an immersive experience into Italian family life and food and love,” and that tradition continues here, with the Cabrelli family.

Matelda Cabrelli is nearing the end of her life, and wants to share her life and her mother’s life stories with the next generations. They are a family of jewelers, but they are working class – the sell the jewelry they make to the upper classes. Matelda’s mother, Domenica, starts the story with her life in a small village where she became a nurse, and met and married first a Scotsman, then her childhood best friend. she really wants to share her life stories with her granddaughter, Anina, and we all get drawn in.

This book has a slow start, but quickly becomes unputdownable. The descriptions of the locations, and especially the food, are exquisite. But it’s these women who invaded my life and my dreams and will be staying with me for a long time to come. I don’t want to give anything away – one of the treats of reading a Trigiani novel is watching events unfold and lives change. Don’t miss it.

5/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE GOOD LEFT UNDONE by Adriana Trigiani. Dutton (April 26, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0593183328. 448p.

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THE BAILEYS SERIES by Piper Rayne

May 13, 2022

Yes, I am still immersed in Piper Rayne’s world. I started this series last week and posted reviews of the first few books in the series, then I kept going, setting everything else aside. I tried reading a couple of other books but the Bailey’s kept calling me, so I succumbed.

From the author: This small town romance series set in the fictional town of Lake Starlight, Alaska follows the lives of nine orphaned Bailey siblings as they tumble into love. But between the anonymous town gossip blog and their matchmaker grandma, finding their happy ever after isn’t always a smooth or straight path.

Each book centers around one of the Bailey siblings, except for the “Operation” books. Those are novellas (available as eBooks or downloadable audio books) that give a little more detail to some of the storylines from previous books, and propel the story forward. There are also “bonus scenes” offered at the end of each ebook which compel you to subscribe to the Piper Rayne newsletters. Of course you can cancel, but I haven’t bothered because they are not overwhelming and I want all the bonus scenes! This option is not available in print books, as far as I know. If someone knows differently, please let me know in the comments.

All the books in the series are quick reads, humorous, with explicit sex scenes. It feels like this series covers most of the contemporary romance tropes; enemies to lovers, surprise baby, millionaire romance, boss/employee relationship, and so forth. I am fairly secure in saying you will find your favorite romance trope in this series, and maybe find some new ones! Some of the books deal with serious issues, like alcoholism and disability, yet they still manage to maintain the series feel of sweet, sexy romcoms.

And damn if Piper Rayne didn’t draw me in to the next series, the Greene Family. These books are like potato chips to me; I can’t just read one! But there are a bunch of new books that I have been waiting to read so I am setting aside the Greene Family, for at least a few days. Willpower!

The series in order:

1. Lessons from a One-Night Stand

If you’re a guy like me, and you find yourself having banged your sexy new boss—the school principal—in the back of your Jeep one drunken night, here’s a few takeaways based on my experience…

Lesson One: Always get her FULL name.

Lesson Two: Consider asking what she does for a living.

Lesson Three: Find out why she’s moved to town. Get details. Details are crucial.

Lesson Four: Don’t alter her bio in front of an auditorium of high school students unless you know she has a sense of humor for that sort of thing.

Lesson Five: If you ignore Lesson Four, apologize instead of flirt when you’re sent to the principal’s office.

Lesson Six: NEVER sleep with her again.

Lesson Seven: Pay attention to this one—it’s the most important of them all.

Don’t fall for your one-night stand.

Class dismissed.

https://amzn.to/35HKncD

This is Austin Bailey and Holly Radcliffe’s story. Austin is the eldest Bailey sibling. He returned home, giving up a promising career in baseball, when their parents were killed in a freak snowmobile accident. Austin got a job as a coach at the local high school, and the eldest girl, Savannah, took over their parents’ timber business. The two of them became pseudo-parents, guardians, for the rest of the kids.

The family of nine siblings include two sets of identical twins, one girls, one boys, along with other brothers and sisters. All the children are named for the cities in which they were conceived. Their mom was a travel writer, and their dad often accompanied her on trips. Grandma Dorie is the only grandparent they have, and she is a trip! Very much into her grandchildren, to say the least, she is a matchmaker at heart and determined to see all the kids settled.


2. Advice From A Jilted Bride

What’s a girl to do after being ditched at the altar by text message? That’s right. Text. Message.

How does she pick up the pieces and move on? I’m no Dear Abby but here’s a little free advice…

Advice #1 – First, purge your apartment of all things him—by tossing his belongings off the balcony.

Advice #2 – Do not, I repeat do not, throw anything out into the hallway because you’ll injure your hot new neighbor.

Advice #3 – When said neighbor brings over Chinese Food do not let him stay and keep you company. It’s awkward when you realize he’s your boss.

Advice #4 – Accept his offer to help you with your side business but think twice before using a date to his sister’s wedding as collateral.

Advice #5 – Investigate who your mystery neighbor really is. Don’t trust his word even if he’s the world’s best kisser.

If you listen to nothing else, pay attention to that last one. It’s the most important and will save you a lot of heartache.

Xo,

LOVESICK IN LAKE STARLIGHT

https://amzn.to/3MjZwks

3. Birth of a Baby Daddy

If you’re having fun living your bachelor life in your Alaskan hometown and out of nowhere a woman shows up holding a baby she insists is yours, you need a plan-a birth plan.

BP Step #1 – Lift your jaw off the floor.

BP Step #2 – Figure out the baby’s age-do the math.

BP Step #3 – Try to remember the woman and with any luck, her name.

BP Step #4 – Double check that she’s not confusing you with your twin brother.

BP Step #5 – Ignore your five sister’s scowls as your entire family watches the drama unfold.There’s only one thing you shouldn’t do.

BP Step #6 – Don’t assume she’s there because she wants your daughter to call you Daddy. You’ll only end up disappointed.

Time to figure out a new plan-one that changes her mind.

https://amzn.to/3l95GI4

3.5 Operation Bailey Wedding

No one could have guessed a marriage could sprout from a one-night stand, but Holly Radcliffe and Austin Bailey appear to be written in the stars.

From the backseat of Austin’s Jeep to the altar they come.

The town of Lake Starlight along with the Bailey’s are prepping for the event of the year, but as usual things never go smoothly with these nine siblings and let’s not forget Grandma Dori!

This is a novella in the Bailey series!

https://amzn.to/3LbUAMQ

4. Falling for my Brother’s Best Friend

Let’s say you’re an independent, self-sufficient woman who runs the family company and you find yourself falling for your little brother’s best friend. Now, more than ever, you need to count all the reasons why you need to abandon falling.

Abandon Falling #1 – He’s a womanizer. Hasn’t had a serious relationship a day in his life and changes women more often than he changes his sheets.

Abandon Falling #2 – He’s never serious. He cracks one-liners, mostly at your expense.

Abandon Falling #3 – When things go wrong, he seems unfazed and always remains in control. It’s so annoying.

Abandon Falling #4 – He has tattoos. Lots of them. Everywhere. Not to mention, he owns a tattoo parlor. (Damn it! Why doesn’t that sound like a bad thing anymore?)

Abandon Falling #5 – There’s a growing list of how different you two are. You can’t get along for fifteen minutes—a lifetime together would land one of you in prison.

Keep repeating those reasons and drown yourself in work. Pretend you don’t notice his good qualities or how enticing he looks without a shirt, and do not, I repeat, do not agree to live with the man while your place is being repaired from flood damage.

Trust me, even the strongest of us can only forego temptation for so long.

https://amzn.to/3lapw5y

5. Demise of a Self-Centered Playboy

You might be wondering how you’ll know when your playboy ways are coming to an end. For some it might be an unexpected pregnancy (ahem… you know who), for others it might be finally landing the one woman you’ve always wanted (cough… I won’t mention any names).

For me, it was the death of my mentor and the subsequent reading of his will.The signs were there, they always are. But I didn’t notice them until it was too late, and my demise was complete.

Demise Sign #1 – You find yourself thrust into the land of responsibility and you don’t immediately hightail it out of town.

Demise Sign #2 – Despite being stuck with the world’s biggest Jekyll & Hyde, some sadistic part of you actually enjoys spending time with her.

Demise Sign #3 – Your family suddenly stops wanting to weigh in on every decision in your life.

Demise Sign #4 – Somehow you end up being the voice of reason in your tumultuous partnership.

Demise Sign #5 – You start thinking of other people before yourself.

Demise Sign #6 – You agree to put yourself in the middle of an Alaskan reality TV show that has both of you sleeping in the same tent.

Demise Complete.

https://amzn.to/3szJv1E

6. Confessions of a Naughty Nanny

When a famous music producer moves to Lake Starlight it can’t just be a coincidence. It’s the universe helping to move things along in the right direction so that Griffin Thorne can discover me.

I have to confess—I’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen.

Confession #1: I may have overhead that he was in search of a nanny. What can I say? My brother has a big mouth.

Confession #2: It’s possible I helped along the assumption that I had nanny experience. Hey, babysitting my nieces and nephew counts, right?

Confession #3: There’s a good chance I oversold my qualifications. But my Grandma Dori backed me up, so it’s not completely my fault.

And it worked. He hired me. Only for me to find out that he left the business. I guess it’s on to Plan B.

When he accidentally overhears me singing, I expect nothing from him. Then he asks to work with me on a song for our town’s Founder’s Day Parade and it feels like a dream come true. Until…

Confession #4: I’ve fallen for him.

https://amzn.to/39MAfkf


6.5 Operation Bailey Babies

BUZZ WHEEL PRESS RELEASE:

Don’t drink the Lake Starlight water!

Bailey babies are busy growing in their mommies tummies and the Baileys are having a triple baby shower to celebrate.

If you want in on the pool on who pops first and when contact me. 😉

This is a novella in the series.

https://amzn.to/3l5HRRx


7. Secrets of the World’s Worst Matchmaker

Imagine you’re a matchmaker and you realize too late you’re in love with your childhood best friend. You only have yourself to blame—you’re the one who matched him and now he’s engaged to be married. When you find yourself in this position there’s a few secrets you’re going to need to keep…

Secret #1 – Smile when he tells you the happy news, even if your heart cracks in half.

Secret #2 – Don’t compare yourself to his beautiful French fiancée. You’re just as beautiful.

Secret #3 – Don’t tag along to the tux fitting with him alone. Just no.

Secret #4 – Don’t help him learn to dance to his wedding song.

Secret #5 – Erase all memories of the two of you through the years when lines blurred for even the briefest of moments.

https://amzn.to/38kvtu9

8. Winning my Best Friend’s Girl

Imagine lying in a hospital bed and the doctor who pulls the curtain back to treat you is the one who got away. Even if you never really had her in the first place. She’s not only your high school crush, she’s the ex-girlfriend of your ex-best friend. The one girl you’ve always wanted.

Here’s a step-by-step list to finally win her over…

Key to win #1: Try not to take offense that she snuck back into town without telling you—six months ago.

Key to win #2: Rekindle the friendship to ease the awkwardness. But… DO NOT enter the friend zone.

Key to win #3: Ignore the fact that she went speed dating the night before. Take it as good a sign—maybe she’s looking for a relationship.

Key to win #4: Attempt to keep the two of you out of the town gossip blog and away from your large family. Make sure you don’t let this last one throw you off your mission.

Key to win #5: Don’t get deterred when you find out the past is about to repeat itself. Because the man she met at the speed dating night is your best buddy from work.

Just remember, you sat back and let her slip away once, you won’t do it a second time. Failure is not an option.

Author Note: This book does NOT contain cheating.

https://amzn.to/37HLji5

9. Rules for Dating Your Ex

If your ex arrives in your hometown eighteen months after you walked out on him while you were eight months pregnant, follow this short list of rules before you give him a second chance.

Rule #1 – Don’t stand in the way of your brothers who want to rough him up.

Rule #2 – Don’t meet him for coffee and agree to allow him to meet your daughter.

Rule #3 – Don’t drool when your daughter falls asleep on his chest for the first time. It’s just your ovaries talking.

Rule #4 – Don’t let him hold your hand. While we’re at it, no hugs, no kisses on the cheek… just no physical contact in general. That only leads to remembering better times.

The last one is the most important…

Rule #5 – When you find yourself needing someone’s help and you’re tired of always asking your family, don’t let him be the one who’s there for you.

Because all those good qualities of his will suck you right back in and you’ll have no chance of fighting your feelings, especially now that he’s ready to be a father to your daughter.

https://amzn.to/39kULrV

9.5 Operation Bailey Birthday

LAKE STARLIGHT BUZZ WHEEL

PRESS RELEASE: Rumor around town is a certain matriarch of the Bailey family is having a BIG BIRTHDAY! It’s even spurred a few of the Bailey kids to return home to celebrate with their beloved great-grandmother, Dori. In fact, now that there are twenty-six Bailey great-grandchildren the event is going to be overflowing with laughter and love.

Also… I heard that Piper & Rayne have been speaking to some of the kids (i.e. Calista, Maverick, Easton, Brinley and Palmer) and so we’re getting some special POV’s. I can’t wait to report my findings the day after the party!

https://amzn.to/39giWI8

This is the last book/novella of the series, and it was great spending a bit more time with the Bailey’s. It also introduces the next series, The Greene Family, and I am looking forward to reading those nine books soon!

5/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch


Spotlight Review: ACROSS THE AISLE by Stephanie Vance

May 10, 2022

From the publisher:

Tough as nails DC lobbyist Dallas McGrath can’t believe she’s being ordered to reach a legislative compromise with the opposition. And not just with anyone…with the most arrogant, obnoxious lobbyist in DC, Grant Pierce. He always finds a way to get under her skin, and it usually starts with that kissable mouth of his turning up into an annoying smirk. Well, this is one negotiation she plans to win at any cost.

Career lobbyist Grant Pierce knows he shouldn’t enjoy ruffling the feathers of the opposition this much, but he can’t help it. Almost no one leaves him without a witty comeback—except Dallas McGrath. Maybe it’s her sharp mind, or maybe it’s the sexy way she bulldozes his every argument. Either way, he’s got the perfect plan to put her off her game. He suggests they negotiate at baseball games, jazz clubs, and nap studios—but even he’s not prepared for what happens next…

https://amzn.to/3P8LpzV

I was very excited to read this as it is set in the political world of Washington D.C. It doesn’t feel like there are many romances in that setting for some reason, and I find it interesting. Maybe romance writers don’t want to dip their toes into politics because of how divided this country is today, but Vance really nailed it. There is no discord or references to all the division and, let’s call it what it really is, insanity that is going on in this country right now, so that alone made this a pleasurable read.

I didn’t know a whole lot about how lobbyists work (other than by throwing money at every person who could possibly help them achieve their ends) and now I feel a little better informed, albeit in an entertaining way. And isn’t that the best way to learn?

Dallas McGrath and Grant Pierce and two lobbyists on opposing sides of an agricultural issue. Naturally, they hate one another. Dallas has the additional stress of a father who is heavily invested in the outcome. So when they are forced to work together to reach a compromise (I did mention this is fiction, yes?) they also fall in love. Trust, on the other hand, remains an issue that ultimately can cripple the fledgling relationship.

The only downside to this novel is that it may be hard to follow how the American political structure works if you are not already familiar with it, as in all you international readers. I think Vance does a really good job with it, but I am very politically aware so take that under advisement. Vance works in that world so her point of view is from the inside. Need I say a happy ending is achieved?

5/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

ACROSS THE AISLE by Stephanie Vance. Entangled: Amara (May 9, 2022). ASIN: B08X3DV4KY. 240p.

Paperback