From the three-time Emmy Award-winning writer of Netflix sensation A Christmas Prince and Hallmark’s Christmas Camp, comes this heartwarming, feel-good Christmas romance about the power of believing in yourself to find your happily ever after…
A charming Christmas village, a storybook castle, a royal ball, and a gorgeous prince are the last things New York City reporter Kaylie Karlyle expects to find on her holiday freelance assignment to Europe. But when the family she’s interviewing turns out to be the royal family of Tolvania, Kaylie has a meltdown when the quirky queen wants her to write a Christmas fairy tale for the spunky, young princess. Kaylie must battle the princess’s father, who doesn’t trust the media, and her own insecurities about writing anything beyond the news.
To spark inspiration for the fairy tale, the queen recruits the prickly Prince Alexander to show Kaylie the family’s most spectacular royal holiday traditions. And sparks definitely fly when the only thing Kaylie and the prince agree on is that they’re both more “bah humbug” than “ho, ho, ho.”
But somewhere between sleigh rides and snow angels, merrymaking and mistletoe, upside-down Christmas trees, and a legendary Christmas crown, Kaylie and the prince open their hearts to Christmas and start believing in themselves and each other. It’s a real-life fairy tale in the making until Kaylie discovers a secret about a royal Christmas heirloom that jeopardizes everyone’s happily ever after. Can the magic of the season save this holiday happy ending?
Schaler has created a career out of writing these “royal” Christmas romances since the first one was a Netflix movie, “A Christmas Prince.” I liked the movie (more than anything on the Hallmark Channel) and I’ve enjoyed the books as well. She’s also written some movies for the Hallmark and Lifetime Channels. Scripts have to move a lot faster than books, so those skills really work in creating fast paced romance novels like this one.
Kaylie is an investigative reporter who dreams of going national. When the station where she works cuts her job, her boss is kind enough to recommend her for a rather unique, temporary position. All she knows is that she will be doing something about the royal family of Tolvania, a small European (fictional) country. Since she has nothing else to do, she jumps on it. And does a little more jumping once she gets there.
The “meet-cute” happens when Kaylie gets off the plane and sees a car waiting. It’s snowing and windy and she can’t really see much so she opens the door and jumps in – right onto the lap of a very good looking man who is not happy with her. She gets out and finds her ride, but when she gets to the castle she realizes he is the Prince and she is in trouble.
Prince Alexander is a widower with a precocious young daughter, Princess Anna. But it was his mother, the Queen, who hired Kaylie so he really can’t fire her. They have had a lot of bad press since he lost his wife, and they’ve banned reporters from anything royal so he is shocked his mother hired this tenacious, career driven journalist. But eventually Kaylie convinces him she is not there to report on his family. The Queen has hired her to learn about the Christmas traditions and write the young princess a fairy tale about them. Kaylie is shocked to learn this; she has never written any kind of fiction, much less a fairy tale. But the Queen does not take no for an answer, and Kaylie is embedded with the family.
I don’t want to give anything away so suffice it to say there is a happy ending. There are a whole lot of interesting and unique Christmas traditions, so it was a fun holiday read for sure. I hope the movie captures them all.
12/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
A ROYAL CHRISTMAS FAIRY TALE by Karen Schaler. HawkTale Publishing (October 5, 2021). ISBN: 978-1734766141. 356 pages.
What better way to unwind from the stress of a family Thanksgiving, than escaping with an armload of Christmas cookies?
Hannah Christy was eager to head home and devour her treats in solitude, while doing some prep work for the promotion she was vying for. Those plans came to a screeching halt… along with the elevator…. trapping her inside with her sexy neighbor.
After being trapped with his match-making family over Thanksgiving, getting stuck in an elevator was a welcome reprieve for Gage Lawson.
If it was up to him, he would gladly stay stranded well into the new year. Especially since his neighbor has a whole treasure trove of ideas on how to pass the time. The best Christmas cookies he’s ever tasted. Delicious spiced wine. Fun getting-to-know-you games. It’s the most holiday merriment he’s had in a long while.
Somewhere in the midst of it all, Gage comes up with the perfect plan. A fake romance to help make both their family get-togethers more jolly! To his surprise, Hannah agrees to be his for the holidays. Yet with the mistletoe in full bloom, and her on his arm, Gage soon realizes their little Christmas show isn’t enough. He wants her for real… and forever.
Roast the chestnuts and hang the stockings, Gage has a plan! With the help of the 55 and over residents, magical flurries, and a never-ending supply of hot cocoa with extra marshmallows, he’s determined to show Hannah that Christmas is the most wonderful time of year to fall in love.
I’ve read a few books by Chase and enjoyed them all, but I have issues with their covers. I really hate them, this one included. It just looks like an old, cheesy romance from the 80’s or something. Reading advance review copies on a Kindle often eliminates the cover image so I don’t see it until I go to post the review. For this author, I have learned to just ignore the cover and enjoy the book – and I did!
These characters had interesting backgrounds, and we get to know them fairly well for such a short book. Chase does a really good job with building her characters, and I especially liked Hannah. She is a strong woman, dedicated to her career, but not without some issues. Her career is in commercial interior design, but the rest of her family are in the medical profession – her parents and both sisters. She often feels like a failure around them.
We don’t know quite as much about Gage, at least not at first. I’m still not clear on what he does for a living, but who cares. He dresses nice, he’s employed, and he’s good to his family. He is the youngest and the only boy, and his sisters and mom are all on the hunt for a wife for him, to the point where he is considering not going home for Christmas. Their matchmaking is stressing him out.
Gage and Hannah are neighbors who don’t really know each other at all. Until they get stuck in the elevator together, for hours. By the time they get out, they are on very friendly terms. Hannah had suggested a way for Gage to avoid the matchmaking this Christmas by getting one of his female friends to fake date him. He isn’t comfortable lying to his family, but he likes Hannah so he asks her to do it.
At first she says no but circumstances change and she heads out to the small town where his mom lives with Gage. And shockingly, has a fantastic time. She loves his mom and his sisters and all his nieces and nephews and she is falling in love with Gage, too. But she knows this relationship has an expiration date. It looks like she is going to be moving out of state for work, so she doesn’t want to get too involved. But the heart wants what the heart wants.
There are hurdles to Hannah and Gage reaching their happily ever after, but it is so much fun getting there. I am definitely stealing the idea of a hot cocoa tasting (like a wine tasting but with cocoa! And I would love the recipe for the hot cocoa cookies!) I also really liked how their relationship was depicted. We know they are having sex, but it is not explicit and is mostly out of sight of the reader so it actually felt more real to me, if that makes sense? This was a charming, sweet romance just perfect for the holidays, and I loved it.
12/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
HIS FOR THE HOLIDAYS by Samantha Chase. Independently published (December 14, 2021). ISBN: 979-8784305725. 234 pages.
Falling for your best friend is one thing, accidentally getting knocked up by him is another…
Hockey hottie Garrett Dubiak has been my best friend since college and the one constant in my life the past seven years. Through distance, career changes, and other relationships, we’ve always found our way back to each other.
Including one wild weekend this winter, when he finally told me he wanted more… wanted everything from me.
Too afraid to admit I felt the same, I told him I needed time.
Twelve weeks later, here I am, pregnant with his baby, alone, and terrified.
He’s my best friend. He deserves to know the truth.
So I swallow my fear, my pride, and I shoot my shot. I just hope he’s still willing to have me—and our baby.
I love a good sports romance, and ice hockey is one of my favorites, so I was all in on this and was not disappointed. In a sort of role reversal, Garrett knows he is in love with Lizzie and wants to marry her. But when he told her he loved her, she bolted and said she’d be in touch.
Best friends since college and now with added benefits, Lizzie is scared. After spending the weekend with Garrett, she is sick as a dog, and somehow her meds have negated her birth control and hello, baby. She knows she has to tell him because she also knows Garrett wants a family. But she’s scared because she also knows she hurt him when she took off on him like that.
Lizzie finally gets up the courage to book a flight to Las Vegas to tell him in person. But before she can get on the plane, her social media is suddenly full of pictures of Garrett and some gorgeous woman, looking very cozy, to say the least. Devastated and unsure of what to do now, she waits. And waits. Until the Vipers are in Chicago and she decides it’s now or never.
To no one’s surprise but Lizzie’s, Garrett is thrilled about the baby. He is less thrilled about Lizzie, as he is afraid she will hurt him again and maybe keep him out of the baby’s life. But no worries, she’s all in, too, and while they have some hurdles – a scantily clad gorgeous woman in his bed, for instance, they manage to get to their happily ever after. This was a super fun, one night read for me. If you like sexy sports romances, don’t miss this one.
12/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
GAME CHANGER by Stacey Lynn. Bowker (November 29, 2021). ISBN: 978-0996275156. 266 pages.
Remi Carter has survived her fifteen minutes of fame and is putting LA in her rearview mirror. As a former reality show contestant, she’s trading staged expeditions and faked wilderness tours for real adventures. Only one fluke storm in Glacier National Park has her stranded with a handsome man, and adventure takes on a whole new meaning.
Seth King is as rugged and sexy as he is annoyed to be trapped with Remi. Probably because she ghosted him at the local bar not three days ago. But she’s got her reasons for ditching him, and twenty-four hours in an abandoned Montana cabin with the wildlife biologist isn’t nearly enough time to explain.
As tempting as he is by firelight, she’s been burned too many times.
Except one day together and suddenly her travel van doesn’t hold as much appeal. The open road feels lonely. Remi’s about to learn that shelter is more than a safe place to weather a storm.
Shelter might just be the man himself. If he can give her a reason to stay.
This was my first read in this series, and now I am going to try and track down the first book. Remi is a reality show TV star, having won a season of Survivor and done several other Survivor-type shows. She has made enough money to retire, and she wants to go on a real adventure, not a scripted one. She ends up in Montana, where she meets Seth at a bar one night. There is some real chemistry there, but Remi wants her adventure, not a romance. Seth is not looking for a relationship either, a one night stand would be fun, though.
But Remi blows him off, and a couple of days later she is out hiking when a snow storm blows in. Luckily for her, Seth knew she wouldn’t take his advice that it does snow in these mountains even in September, and he shows up to rescue her. They end up staying in an empty chalet that is closed for the season, at least until the next day when they can be dug out. They have a wild night, and Seth decides one night may not be enough.
They dance around their attraction to one another but end up staying at Seth’s cabin more often than not, until Remi realizes she has pretty much moved in. And Seth, the man who thought he’d never want a relationship, is in love and wants forever. Remi had a difficult childhood and is not close with her family, to say the least. She is not used to being taken care of, especially by family members, but decides she could definitely get used to it.
When Remi’s agent calls offering a boatload of money for a week’s “survivor” type contest, she decides to go. It’s only a week. But that forces her to face her feelings about Seth.
This book didn’t have a whole lot of drama, in fact, there wasn’t much in the way of obstacles to this romance. This would be a sweet romance except there are some very steamy scenes throughout. It was a very quick and enjoyable read.
12/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
SHELTER by Kristen Proby. Ampersand Publishing (December 14, 2021). ISBN: 978-1633501126. 262 pages.
I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed an entire series like this before, but there is always a first time, so here it is. I found this series when another librarian was trying to help her patron find this and she asked on a readers’ advisory listserv I frequent. The patron didn’t remember the author or any of the titles, only the barest facts about it: a small town setting in Wyoming, military veterans, romance. Another librarian suggested this series, and I was intrigued. I recently read another series set in a similar area, Wranglers of Wyoming by R.C. Ryan, which I loved, so I thought I’d check out this one.
I read them all in about two weeks. Sometimes that is not a good thing – I think I would have enjoyed them more with some time between each book. As it was, these books were addicting for me, even though I have some real criticism about them.
The setting is a small town in western Wyoming in the Wind River Valley (a real place.) In the books, this is a small, impoverished town with a few families that are well off; one is quite wealthy. They are about 50 miles from the very wealthy Jackson Hole area, which is referenced regularly.
There are some characters that are in pretty much all the books. Maud and Steve own the largest ranch in the area, over 100,000 acres. Maud runs the ranch, and Steve is a world renowned architect. They mostly hire veterans to work for them. Shay owns another ranch, but a much smaller one that is in bad shape. She inherited the ranch from her mother, who died when she was young. Her father is an alcoholic and quite abusive, and he has run the ranch into the ground. When he has a stroke, Shay gets a hardship discharge from the armed services to go home and take over the ranch. She decides to only hire veterans like herself who are suffering from PTSD.
Most of the books take place on one of these two ranches. There are occasional pointed jabs at the VA and the lack of help they provide for our veterans, but these books are not political in nature, and the author has lived a lot of what she puts her characters through. She’s a veteran, among other things, and you can read all about her here: https://lindsaymckenna.com/about/
While I have a lot of respect for the author, I have some issues with this series. All the characters are the same. Pretty much everyone is a veteran, which I really liked. Almost all have been Black Ops in Afghanistan, which makes them super vigilant and extremely observant. All the men are kind, have old school manners, calloused hands, and are afraid of relationships mostly because of their PTSD. They often display “sour smiles,” whatever that is. They are all tall and well built (these are romances!) and pretty much everyone in these books (and frankly, in most romance novels) have blue, green, or gray eyes with just a couple of exceptions. That’s been bugging me for a while, so I did some research.
Can you guess the rarest eye color in the United States?
The [American Academy of Ophthalmology] surveyed more than 2,000 Americans to determine what color eyes they have. Below are the results of that 2014 Harris Poll survey, weighted to reflect the United States population at that time.
Of the 2014 U.S. population:
45% have brown eyes
27% have blue eyes
18% have hazel eyes
9% have green eyes
1% have eyes a color not listed above (i.e. gray or amber)
The women are mostly tall and thin, usually underweight due to their PTSD. They are also afraid of relationships, same PTSD issues. They appreciate the gentleman-like manners. I loved that all the men treat the women as equals. There is so much respect for the military that it carries through to relationships these veterans have in civilian life. Every man and woman is a team player, works hard, never asks for help, hated and stopped taking the drugs prescribed by the VA, and are open to the physician’s assistant in town who is studying PTSD and offers them help via more natural methods.
Most of them have experienced homelessness, even if they come from good families. Some of the men are divorced due to PTSD, a couple are young widowers. All these veterans experience flashbacks and nightmares, making them feel like they can’t live at home with civilians who don’t understand their symptoms, not to mention they feel like they disturb the household too much to live there. They are all incredibly anxious and find salvation working with animals on these ranches. And they all acknowledge their sexual attraction to one another by feeling “warmth” or “tightness” in their “lower body,” which I found weird.
While some of the female vets did mention how badly a lot of the men in the armed services treated them, it was mostly glossed over. No mention whatsoever of the prevalence of sexual assaults, either, and of course all the men in these books totally respect women, especially those in combat, which I found quite aspirational rather than believable.
After the first book, both ranches offer their employees their own homes to live in on the ranch. At Shay’s ranch, all the wranglers are men. The homes are two bedrooms and when she hires a new wrangler, all women, she assigns them to one of the houses to live with the man who already lives there. How convenient it is that every one of these women and men fall in love with their house partner.
All the relationships take most of the book to come to fruition due to their fears and lack of communication. They all realize they have feelings, usually very strong feelings, for the person they are living with, but are hesitant to express those feelings because they are afraid they are not reciprocated. They are also afraid the other person is dealing with too much stress/psychological issues/PTSD to want to have a relationship.
A couple of these books have strong elements of suspense as well. There is a family in town who are the bad guys. The father abused his entire family. There are four sons and a mother, and all are drug users and violent criminals. Some or all of them feature prominently in a few of the books, are briefly mentioned in others.
A couple of the books center on women who aren’t working on one of the ranches. Kassie’s Cowboy is a novella, hence the addition of “6.5” in the series, and is only available as an ebook. Kassie owns the diner in this small town, and hires veterans for her staff. She is one of the few characters that doesn’t have PTSD, but all her staff do so she understands and knows how to deal with it. Wind River Lawman centers around the sheriff of the county, an odd title considering that Sarah is the sheriff, elected after her father retired. She is a veteran with issues and her love interest is a wrangler hired to work on her family’s ranch.
Finally, sex. Most romances have sex, and while these books definitely lean towards the sweet side of romance, all have one sex scene towards the end of the book. It is not very explicit, and in every book it is as close to being the exact same scene as in every other book in this series. It is the type of sex that I thought indicated a man actually wrote this series. Then, as I learned about the author, I thought ah ha! I’m right, he’s writing under a pseudonym. But her website indicates she is a woman, and the one photo I found is of a woman. Maybe it is an age thing? But that really isn’t an excuse to write bad sex scenes. All the men in these books are assumed to be great lovers by all the women in these books because, from what I can tell, of their good manners?
Worst of all, these are the type of sex scenes that make me want to stop reading; kissing leads to simultaneous orgasms from intercourse over a page or two, and that’s all she wrote. Literally.
Besides the instantaneous & simultaneous orgasms, my other big issue with the sex is that every single character hates & refuses to use condoms. One of the women is on the pill, but everyone else is “clean” and the women are all in a “safe” time of the month. I really wanted to suggest they drive by the nearest parochial school and ask the moms picking up those kids how many of those kids are there despite the “safe” time of the month.
There are so many coincidences sprinkled throughout these books that it makes the mind reel. So many of the veterans in this town were people who served together in Afghanistan. According to the Washington Post, 775,000 men and women served there. Not sure what the odds are that so many of these soldiers would end up in this little town many years later, with some of them having served together, too. It all seems pretty far fetched to me. But what do I know.
There is also a bit of confusion about the wealthy family in town. Early in the series, we are told that over the years they fostered some children who are now grown, and are still helping them out. Later in the series, it turns out these children were adopted. There are four of them, and we really don’t learn anything about them until book 8 when the oldest daughter comes home. Then we learn that three of them are in the military, and the fourth is in drug enforcement (DEA.) He shows up in the last book.
That’s a whole of complaining about a series of books that I still managed to read. I believe these books are best read in order. They are formulaic as hell; change the names, swap out the ranch or occupation, and everything else pretty much stays the same. I never thought I would like a series that is so formulaic with such bad sex scenes, but I overlooked all that because I did like these stories. I liked the respect for the military. I liked how strong these women were, even if they occasionally lapse into helpless female on rare occasion. I always like small town romances, and I really liked this small town that revolves around helping veterans. I liked the men; how strong they were, the work they do, the way they treat one another and their women. There was enough good there to keep me picking up book after book, even if I can’t quantify it exactly.
That said, I doubt I’d read anything else by this author (or any of her pseudonyms.) There is one storyline that hangs over all these books, concerning Shay’s abusive father. As he starts recovering from his stroke, he is determined to take back the ranch from his daughter. He files a lawsuit but it is not resolved; it’s just hanging over all these characters and books. I’m hoping there will be another book that finally resolves that. But it’s looking doubtful – the last book in this series was published in 2020.
Finally, I wanted to add that I read all of these books on Hoopla, an app that is available through libraries. If your library doesn’t offer it, ask for it! I don’t love reading in the app, it’s not nearly as seamless as my Kindle but it works and I read these all on my iPad. They offer ebooks, audiobooks, comics (graphic novels,) movies, TV series, and music; pretty much any kind of streaming material. My library allows patrons to borrow 18 items per month, but your mileage may vary. Oh, and the content changes at the whim of Hoopla, libraries have no say in it beyond suggestions. So just because I found all these books there now, they may not be there next month or next year. What I like best about Hoopla is that whatever they have is always available. If you are used to borrowing ebooks through Cloud Library or Overdrive, you know you have to reserve popular items and wait. That doesn’t happen on Hoopla – what you see is what you get.
First in the series from the bestselling author. “The ever-present sensuality is a magnetic force that propels the novel forward amid simmering suspense.”—Publishers Weekly
From the moment Roan Taggart picks up the pretty redhead at the Jackson Hole airport, his training and experience tells him she is spooked. She’s left New York City to visit the Wind River Ranch, where Roan is a wrangler, and just as he can pick up a horse’s mood, he can feel the tension coming off her body. And that vulnerability is triggering all his protective instincts . . .
A Marine veteran finds a chance for redemption and romance in this novel from the New York Times–bestselling author of Wind River Undercover.
Not so long ago, Reese Lockhart was commanding a company of Marines. Now his life is spiraling out of control. The Bar C ranch outside Jackson Hole, Wyoming may be his last chance to save himself . . .
Shaylene Crawford, an Afghanistan veteran herself, knows all too well the demons of PTSD—that’s why she’s determined to turn her family’s cattle ranch into a place where wounded warriors can work, find a home, and rebuild their souls. Her embittered father nearly drank and gambled the place away, but with help from a small crew of vets—including the newest arrival, the quietly compelling Reese Lockhart—she intends to hold on to her dream. And when someone tries to destroy that dream, Reese will do whatever it takes to defend her . . .
Two veterans reunited at a Wyoming ranch reignite their passion for each other—from the New York Times–bestselling author of Wind River Undercover.
Kira Duval was part of a Special Forces team that got caught in an ambush—leaving only two wounded survivors: herself and Weapons Sergeant Garret Fleming. Losing her team was traumatic, and in the chaotic aftermath, as the Army moved them from hospital to hospital, she lost Garret too. But she never lost her secret yearning for him.
Finally, she gave up trying to track him down back in the States. But as she settles in at the Bar C cattle ranch in Wyoming, a place where veterans can find a home and a place to heal, she’s introduced to her sandy-haired, hazel-eyed housemate: none other than Garret Fleming.
They’re a long way from Afghanistan—and a long way from the people they used to be before tragedy changed their lives. But as Kira earns her keep by caregiving for the ranch owner’s bedridden, alcoholic father—a task that sometimes feels more challenging than any black ops mission—she finds that even in peacetime Garret still has her back, and that in this warm, welcoming place, the passion she resisted in the heat of battle may finally have a chance to flourish…
Two military veterans find solace, and each other, on a horse ranch in this romance from the New York Times–bestselling author of Wind River Undercover.
For Noah Mabry, it’s easier sometimes to relate to the dogs and horses he trains than to other people. Ever since his marriage became a casualty of the war in Afghanistan—torn apart by the PTSD he brought back with him—he prefers to be on his own. At the Bar C Ranch in Wyoming, where he works with a crew of fellow military vets, his gentle patience helps tame even the rowdiest mustang—but he’s about to meet a woman who needs a healing touch he’s not sure he can give.
Dair Wilson, a half-Comanche ex-Marine who lost a foot to an IED, has been hired on to assist Noah, but her deepest wounds aren’t visible. Growing up in an abusive home, she learned not to trust men, even ones who seem nothing but kind. After a wild horse sends her sprawling, the attentive care she receives from the Bar C family—and especially from Noah—is enough to convince her she’s found a place she can finally breathe easy. But one angry, damaged man poses a threat not only to Dair and Noah, but to everyone who’s built a new home at the Bar C…
5. Lone Rider (Wind River Valley Book 5) by Lindsay McKenna
A Wyoming ranch holds the future for a combat medic and a photographer in this romance from the New York Times–bestselling author of Wind River Undercover.
As a combat photographer in Afghanistan, Tara Dalton saw things she won’t ever forget, as much as she would like to. And after returning Stateside, she can’t fight her way past the PTSD that’s haunted her ever since. Desperate to make a change, she joins her old friend Shay at the Bar C Ranch, where a group of ex-military vets are putting their lives back together one step at a time—including one strong, gentle bear of a man who makes her feel safer than she has in years.
Harper Sutton fell farther than he ever imagined after his tour of duty as a medic was up, and he’s not proud of it. But at the Bar C, he’s doing work that means something, and he’s training to be a professional paramedic. That’s enough to concentrate on, until Tara comes to share his place at the ranch. The shadows in her eyes are darker than simply memories of war, and every moment he spends with her opens up parts of himself he’d thought long dead. But as Tara’s troubled past threatens the present, it will take trust in each other to fight for a future together…
A small-town sheriff gets some backup in more ways than one from a Navy veteran turned rancher in this romance from a New York Times–bestselling author.
After serving as a Navy medic, Dawson Callahan is back in the States and ready to start over. Leaving his native Texas, he heads for the wide-open spaces of Wyoming, where he finds work as a wrangler. True, he’ll mainly be wrangling chickens—and wrangling Sarah Carter’s granny, who’s still spry, but in need of a little caregiving. But ranch work is ranch work, and it’s hard to turn down a job offer from the beautiful Sheriff Carter—especially when she deputizes him as one of her lawmen.
Sarah loves her grandmother, but with her law enforcement career keeping her busy, they could both use some help from a strong, steady man. And policing Lincoln County has only gotten tougher since a merciless drug lord arrived in the area. When Sarah takes a bullet on the job, it’s Dawson who comes to her rescue—and though they both thought they left war behind in Afghanistan, they’ll do whatever it takes to protect what’s theirs, even if it means facing down traumas they’ve buried for years. Because love isn’t for the faint of heart…
A Christmas blizzard reunites a Marine veteran with his high school sweetheart in this romance novella from a New York Times–bestselling author.
A brutal blue norther is battering Wind River Valley in Wyoming just in time for Christmas when retired Marine Travis Grant spies a driver spinning out of control on black ice. It’s probably a tourist who doesn’t understand the deadly conditions, and Travis knows he has to help. The last person he expects to find behind the wheel is his childhood love, Kassie Murphy. She’s injured, but alive. And now, for Travis and Kassie, this snowy silent night will be one last chance to put the painful past behind them—and treat the wounds only love can heal.
An ex-Marine and an Army nurse discover the strength to love again on a Wyoming ranch—from the New York Times–bestselling author of Wind River Undercover.
After a harrowing tour of duty in Afghanistan, Army nurse Lily Thompson escapes to Wind River Ranch to find herself once more. Working as a caregiver to foreman Jake Murdoch’s elderly mother, Lily almost feels at peace—except for the unsettling presence of Jake, a tight-lipped, intimidating man everyone calls Bear. But one look in the powerful ex-Marine’s eyes and Lily glimpses a vulnerability that shakes her soul: a hurt she understands all too well—and longs to heal . . .
Jake is ready to rail at the fates when Lily moves into his home. Everything about this captivating woman calls to him, demanding that he abandon his solitary stance and start to live again. But Jake is a man who knows that no one can save him from the past that stalks his heart and mind. Not even sweet, achingly beautiful Lily. Still, that doesn’t stop his longing to pull her into his arms—and keep her there forever. Will time, and patience, bring them the courage to make their connection real?…
The new novel from the bestselling author of Home to Wind River.
Real love is worth every risk . . .
Ex-Air Force pilot Andy Whitcomb loves nothing more than the wide blue skies, but when a helicopter crash fighting forest fires in California leaves her injured and shaken, she’s ready to return home to the peace of Wind River Ranch. The good news is, there’s a chance for her to fly helos for the county sheriff’s department. The bad news? The person in charge is none other than Dev Mitchell, an ex-Army Black Hawk pilot—and the rugged, sharp-eyed man Andy has never forgotten after five days together running from the Taliban after a nerve-wracking near-miss in Afghanistan.
Dev can’t believe his eyes when Andy walks into the interview. She’s as strong and sexy as he remembers, and every bit qualified for the job, which she clearly wants. Unfortunately, if he’s going to be her boss, their relationship has to remain strictly professional—a regret Dev fights to keep hidden as they begin to work together. But when a chance encounter with violent drug traffickers forces them into survival mode, both of them will fight to hold on to the connection they can’t ignore—and the chance of a future together.
)The new novel from the bestselling author of Wind River Protector.
Hide in plain sight.
For native Guatemalan Anna Navaro, nothing is more satisfying than capturing drug traffickers for the U.S. DEA. Her career has always been her focus, but just as she’s beginning to yearn for something more, she’s given a brand-new assignment with DEA agent Gabe Whitcomb. In his well-worn Stetson and boots, he’s part cowboy and part law enforcement, a combination Anna finds irresistibly sexy. But desire has no place on a job as dangerous as this one, because the drug lord they’re after is the violent fugitive who killed her father . . .
Gabe’s worked some treacherous assignments in the past, but this one raises every alarm—and not just because his partner is a gorgeous woman with the grace of a cat and a sniper’s deadly aim. He and Anna are being sent to the Wind River Valley where he grew up—and where his adoptive parents still own a ranch just eighty miles from the Elson family, who have been recruited into the ruthless Gonzalez cartel. Posing as new ranch-owners and ingratiating themselves with the Elsons to uncover evidence, Anna and Gabe can only fight the heat flaring between them until they realize that building a life together, here in Wind River, is worth risking everything for . . .
Opposites attract in this laugh-out-loud romantic comedy about a free-spirited lawyer who is determined tofind the perfect match forthe grumpy bachelor at her cousin’s wedding.
After a devastating break-up, celebrity-obsessed lawyer Zara Patel is determined never to open her heart again. She puts her energy into building her career and helping her friends find their happily-ever-afters. She’s never faced a guest at the singles table she couldn’t match, until she crosses paths with the sinfully sexy Jay Dayal.
Former military security specialist Jay has no time for love. His life is about working hard, staying focused, and winning at all costs. When charismatic Zara crashes into his life, he’s thrown into close contact with exactly the kind of chaos he wants to avoid. Worse, they’re stuck together for the entire wedding season.
So they make a deal. She’ll find his special someone if he introduces her to his celebrity clients. But when their arrangement brings them together in ways they never expected, they realize that the perfect match might just be their own.
This is one of my favorite series, and I’m happy to say this latest entry is another terrific read, both funny and heartwarming. Zara and Jay meet at the pre-wedding paintball party of a couple that Zara had matched up. She may suck at dating, but she’s great at matchmaking, giving the old aunties some competition. For Jay and Zara, it’s pretty much hate at first sight though. He’s so competitive he takes paintball seriously, and while Zara is equally competitive, she thinks outside the box and manages to win while simultaneously pissing off Jay. So of course they are seated together at the singles table at the wedding.
Zara is trying to become an entertainment lawyer, but isn’t having a lot of luck. She likes her job, and she likes the people she works with, but they are a small firm so if she can get some big name celebrity clients, she would be happy and so would her bosses. Turns out Jay owns a high profile security firm, and has contacts with a lot of celebrities. A deal is struck: he will introduce her to some big names, and she will find him a girlfriend.
Every girl she introduces him to doesn’t quite measure up. Much to his surprise, it turns out he’s using Zara as his yardstick, which he cannot understand. She is everything that he doesn’t want; loud, wild, pretty much out of control, but she also conveys happiness upon everyone she meets, and for some reason, that is appealing to Jay.
Zara thinks he has a stick so far up his butt it will never see daylight, but as they spend time together at weddings and other events, she starts to warm up to him. Especially when he introduces her to Lin Manuel Miranda. His protectiveness appeals to her as well, and they both slowly realize they are meant to be.
I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions, and the secondary characters, especially the matchmaking aunties, add to the fun. These books do not need to be read in order, I think they each stand alone. Read my reviews of the first two books in the series.
12/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
THE SINGLES TABLE by Sara Desai. Berkley (November 16, 2021). ISBN: 978-0593100608. 336 pages.
New York Times bestselling author Sarah MacLean returns with a blazingly sexy, unapologetically feminist new series, Hell’s Belles, beginning with a bold, bombshell of a heroine, able to dispose of a scoundrel—or seduce one—in a single night.
After years of living as London’s brightest scandal, Lady Sesily Talbot has embraced the reputation and the freedom that comes with the title. No one looks twice when she lures a gentleman into the dark gardens beyond a Mayfair ballroom…and no one realizes those trysts are not what they seem.
No one, that is, but Caleb Calhoun, who has spent years trying not to notice his best friend’s beautiful, brash, brilliant sister. If you ask him, he’s been a saint about it, considering the way she looks at him…and the way she talks to him…and the way she’d felt in his arms during their one ill-advised kiss.
Except someone has to keep Sesily from tumbling into trouble during her dangerous late-night escapades, and maybe close proximity is exactly what Caleb needs to get this infuriating, outrageous woman out of his system. But now Caleb is the one in trouble, because he’s fast realizing that Sesily isn’t for forgetting…she’s forever. And forever isn’t something he can risk.
If you have been dying to read an historical romance with a strong heroine who is also vulnerable, intelligent, and sassy, then this is your book! On the other hand, if modern slang put in the mouth of said heroine rubs you the wrong way, then maybe not. I am not a fan of modernism rearing its head in historical anything, be it TV (I’m looking at you, “Dickinson”) or a book like this. MacLean doesn’t typically do this, but it is definitely trendy so I’m guessing that’s what is going on here.
Forgetting all that, Sesily is an interesting character for sure. Caleb, on the other hand, is not as well developed. The attraction between them is strong, but Sesily isn’t interested in being part of someone’s forever. Until the very end of the book.
I liked how these women are trying to help other women, and how Caleb is happy with a woman who doesn’t need to be rescued, yet he keeps rescuing her. It’s all a bit of a mishmash, with Sesily’s interior monologue leading the way through the mess. Despite all my misgivings, I did end up liking this book. I just wish it could have been written differently. While that is my problem, it may not be yours. MacLean is a good writer as a rule, so I would say give this a try. The reviews have mostly been positive and I understand that. I did like it, and I will read the next book in the series for sure.
12/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
BOMBSHELL by Sarah MacLean. Avon (August 24, 2021). ISBN: 978-0063056152. 400 pages.
Following Spoiler Alert, Olivia Dade returns with another utterly charming romantic comedy about a devil-may-care actor—who actually cares more than anyone knows—and the no-nonsense woman hired to keep him in line.
Alexander Woodroe has it all. Charm. Sex appeal. Wealth. Fame. A starring role as Cupid on TV’s biggest show, Gods of the Gates. But the showrunners have wrecked his character, he’s dogged by old demons, and his post-show future remains uncertain. When all that reckless emotion explodes into a bar fight, the tabloids and public agree: his star is falling.
Enter Lauren Clegg, the former ER therapist hired to keep him in line. Compared to her previous work, watching over handsome but impulsive Alex shouldn’t be especially difficult. But the more time they spend together, the harder it gets to keep her professional remove and her heart intact, especially when she discovers the reasons behind his recklessness…not to mention his Cupid fanfiction habit.
When another scandal lands Alex in major hot water and costs Lauren her job, she’ll have to choose between protecting him and offering him what he really wants—her. But he’s determined to keep his improbably short, impossibly stubborn, and extremely endearing minder in his life any way he can. And on a road trip up the California coast together, he intends to show her exactly what a falling star will do to catch the woman he loves: anything at all.
Alex is a TV star who ends up in a bar fight, giving the paparazzi plenty of ammunition to keep him in the tabloids. But the powers that be in charge of his TV show are really angry, and the showrunner hires his cousin Lauren to basically babysit Alex until the new season premiers. The series is based on books, but they have run out of the original author’s materials and a team of TV writers has written the final season. Alex hates what they’ve done to the storyline and to his character, and he starts writing fanfiction under a pseudonym.
Lauren works in an emergency room determining whether patients need to be held for psychiatric evaluation. It’s a tough job, both physically and emotionally, and she needs some time off. While on vacation, her cousin asks her to take on babysitting their TV star. Sounds like an easy gig, the money is terrific, and she agrees.
What we learn about Lauren is that she is not Hollywood beautiful. In fact, she is overweight, round in shape, and not especially attractive. In fact, when Alex meets her, he pretty much calls her ugly to her face. But Lauren is used to people being unkind about her looks, and she brushes it off as best as she can, chalking it up to an actor’s giant ego and spoiled personna.
But as Lauren and Alex are spending all day, every day, together, they learn to get along. Lauren is fiercely guarding her heart from the very good looking man, and surprisingly, Alex is realizing he needs Lauren as more than just a babysitter. They have some real hurdles to overcome, and the sensitivity portrayed goes a long way towards “all the feels.” This was very different from most romances where everyone is beautiful, and I really liked that realism. Dade did something similar in Spoiler Alert, but I liked this one better.
12/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
ALL THE FEELS by Olivia Dade. Avon (November 16, 2021). ISBN: 978-0063005587. 416 pages.
One type-A data analyst discovers her free-spirited side on an impulsive journey from bustling Mumbai to the gorgeous beaches of Goa and finds love waiting for her on Christmas morning.
Twenty-nine-year-old Niki Randhawa has always made practical decisions. Despite her love for music and art, she became an analyst for the stability. She’s always stuck close to home, in case her family needed her. And she’s always dated guys that seem good on paper, rather than the ones who give her butterflies. When she’s laid off, Niki realizes that practical hasn’t exactly paid off for her. So for the first time ever, she throws caution to the wind and books a last-minute flight for her friend Diya’s wedding.
Niki arrives in India just in time to celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, where she meets London musician Sameer Mukherji. Maybe it’s the splendor of Mumbai or the magic of the holiday season, but Niki is immediately drawn to Sam. At the wedding, the champagne flows and their flirtatious banter makes it clear that the attraction is mutual.
When Niki and Sam join Diya, her husband and their friends on a group honeymoon, their connection grows deeper. Free-spirited Sam helps Niki get in touch with her passionate and creative side, and with her Indian roots. When she gets a new job offer back home, Niki must decide what she wants out of the next chapter of her life—to cling to the straight and narrow like always, or to take a leap of faith and live the kind of bold life the old Niki never would have dreamed of.
Nikki has always been the good daughter. Her older sister, Jasmine, is a bit of a rebel, and Nikki has never wanted to upset her parents like her sister does. So when her parents offer to do a little matchmaking for her, she agrees. The young Indian doctor is a nephew of a friend, is good looking and successful, so they decide to meet for lunch.
But a few minutes before they are to meet, Nikki gets laid off from her tech job. They go out for lunch and get very drunk, and the good doctor invites her back to his apartment. Thinking he’s kidding, she declines and goes home. Then she decides to attend her college roommate’s wedding in India – two days before she has to leave. Nikki is not the impulsive, spontaneous type, so this is completely out of character for her. But she decides the time is now. Her parents were born in Punjab, and while the wedding is in Mumbai, she can stay in India for a few weeks and meet her relatives for the first time.
The wedding is more than just a one day affair; there are a week’s worth of events leading up to it, and the bride has invited all her wedding party to join her and her new husband on their honeymoon in Goa, a beach resort area. At her first event, Nikki encounters a racist old auntie who upsets her. leading her to meet another auntie, a kind and good person. She wants to set up Nikki with her son, but she declines. Then at the event, she can’t help but notice the gorgeous bass player in the band, and he appears to notice her as well. Turns out Sam is the kind auntie’s son.
Sam and Nikki start spending time together at the wedding events, and she is invited to Goa to stay in his family’s apartment there. His mother will be there as well, so she decides to put off visiting her relatives in Punjab for a few days.
As Sam and Nikki grow closer, they both start to realize that this is way more than a holiday fling. But Sam lives in London, and she lives in Seattle. There are other hurdles as well; besides Nikki’s job loss, Sam is struggling with his career as well. When she offers to move to London to be with him, he tells her he isn’t sure he is going back but doesn’t offer any alternative. Convinced that whatever they were building towards is now over, Nikki goes on to Punjab and meets her family for the first time. When she returns home, she is determined to get over Sam.
Set during the Diwali holiday around Christmas, the holiday cheer is a part of the story. I knew as little about Diwali as Nikki does, so it was fun learning about this important holiday. Sam and Nikki seem to be over, but this is a romance so a holiday miracle is expected and occurs. This was an interesting and fast moving story, and a good read. This holiday romance is filled with charm, pathos, love, and laughter. Enjoy!
12/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
A HOLLY JOLLY DIWALI by Sonya Lalli. Berkley (October 5, 2021). ISBN: 978-0593100950. 336 pages.
Susan Mallery, author of the Fool’s Gold romances, cheerfully invites you to Wishing Tree, where Christmas comes to life…
The Somerville sisters believe in love, but they’ve lost faith it will happen for them. Reggie hasn’t been home since the end of the world’s shortest engagement. When her parents decide to renew their vows, she buffs up her twinkle to help with the Christmas wedding. Unexpectedly, Toby, her first love, is back too, and the spark between them shines as brightly as ever. In the spirit of the season, will they let go of past hurts and greet the New Year together?
Done waiting for the one, Dena is pregnant and on her own—on purpose. But then a gorgeous, sad-eyed songwriter checks in to a room at her inn. Micah, unable to write since he lost his wife, finds inspiration in Dena’s determination to be a mom. One snowflake-speckled kiss and he’s a goner. But Dena is afraid to believe that a rock star could fall for a cookie-cutter small-town girl like her.
As the Christmas wedding draws closer, these two sisters just might unwrap the most treasured gift of all—love.
Don’t miss The Summer Getaway by Susan Mallerywhere one woman discovers the beauty in chaos in a poignant and heartwarming story about the threads that hold family together.
Susan Mallery has a new series and I am thrilled! This one is all Christmas, all the time, and that’s pretty wonderful, too. Set in the small town of Wishing Tree, a town that should exist if it doesn’t.
Dena and Reggie are sisters, and they are close even though Reggie moved an hour away. Dena has given up on love and decided she wants a family anyway. She gets pregnant through in vitro, and of course then she meets Micah Ruiz, a famous singer who’s best friend lives in town. He’s staying at Dena’s B&B, trying to get inspiration to write music again. There is a strong attraction there, but they don’t rush into anything. When Micah has to return to LaLaLand, Dena is sure she’s lost him.
Reggie is in town to help their parents prepare for a big wedding – their own. They never had a wedding, and her mom decided it was time to have the wedding she always wanted. She hasn’t been back in town since her infamous engagement; engaged one day, dumped the next. Literally. But she is surprised to see her old high school boyfriend is also back in town with his little boy. They start seeing each other everywhere (small town!) and decide to try again.
This is an emotional read, and a really good one. There are two romances going on, and everyone gets their happy ending. These are sweet romances, just perfect for the holidays and I highly recommend!
12/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
THE CHRISTMAS WEDDING GUEST by Susan Mallery. HQN; Original edition (September 28, 2021). ISBN: 978-1335522450. 432 pages.