HIGHLAND THIEF by Alyson McLayne

September 9, 2021

The Sons of Gregor MacLeod, Book 5

From the publisher:

This Strong Laird is no Match for the Stubborn Lass He’s Long Had His Heart Set On

When a Highland laird decides to marry, nothing can stand in his way…not even the bride.

No one ever accused Kerr MacAlister of being a nice man. Everyone would agree, however, that when the laird makes a promise, nothing can stop him. Which is why everyone knows Isobel MacKinnon will end up his wife.

Isobel spent most of her childhood in love with the tall, dark, and sexy Scot. It wasn’t until she was fifteen and failed to entice Kerr into kissing her that things turned sour. Now, Kerr is the one trying to entice her, but Isobel won’t be swayed…no matter how tempting he might be.

Then Kerr discovers she may be eloping with someone else, and he has a choice to make―is this Highlander’s fate to steal her away himself, to a place where both love and danger lurk, or let her go and face losing her forever?

This author was new to me, as was the time period; the book starts off in 1453. Isobel has something most women of the day do not. Her mother granted her permission to choose her own husband, where pretty much all marriages are arranged by families but Isobel can say no. Most unusual. But the laird of their neighboring clan, Kerr, has decided to marry her even though she isn’t very nice to him. He knows he did something to make her angry, but he doesn’t know exactly what it was.

Isobel is sister to the laird, and while he is in charge of all their people as judge and jury, Isobel handles the little discrepancies that help make peace among their people. The way she does this is by setting traps or tricking them, ultimately humiliating the offender and making everyone happy that justice has been served. But she’s never been able to trick Kerr, he sees everything. But she’s not done trying.

Kerr realizes that the only way she will agree to marry him is if they spend some time together. Isobel plans a trap for him, telling him she is going to elope with another man. He finds her waiting by a boat, and the next thing you know he jumps in it with her and starts rowing away to the other side of the loch. The only fear Isobel has is of the water as she can’t swim, so she is panicky. Kerr tries to get her agree to go back, but she is angry and won’t do anything he wants. That leads them right into the middle of an army that is trying to take over Kerr’s clan.

There is a lot of action and fighting in this story, along with some humor. Kerr and Isobel have a steamy relationship, both in bed and out, but eventually they find their way to marriage and their happy ending.

This was a fast read and while the tricks plotline grew old for me, for the most part I enjoyed this. It’s always a pleasure to visit the Scottish Highlands, even if I can’t get there in person!

9/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

HIGHLAND THIEF by Alyson McLayne. Sourcebooks Casablanca (August 24, 2021). ISBN: 978-1492654629. 384 pages.





September 8, 2021

Wranglers of Wyoming, Book 2

New York Times bestselling author R.C. Ryan takes readers on a wild ride with a strong heroine who must trust the cowboy trying to save her life.

A cowboy with a wild side

Kirby Regan isn’t opposed living on the edge. After all, she just quit her career in Washington, D.C., so she could move back to Wyoming and buy her family’s ranch. But hiking the Tetons after dark during a snowstorm goes beyond being adventurous, especially when Kirby’s boss warns her that an escaped convict is at large. Sheltering in a cave seems the safest option to ride out the blizzard-until Kirby realizes it’s already occupied . . . by a ruggedly handsome cowboy.

Like the mustangs he treats, veterinarian and rancher Casey Merrick prefers to live wild and free, which is why a relationship is not in the cards for him. He doesn’t mind sharing his space with a gorgeous stranger, as long as they can both keep their distance-a task that begins to seem impossible as the attraction between them heats up. But before they can worry about the spark smoldering between them, Casey must find a way to protect Kirby from nature’s most ruthless conditions . . . and a convicted killer on the loose.

I love cowboy romances, and Ryan is one of my favorite authors. Yet somehow I missed this book last year and didn’t realize it until the third book came out (review to follow!)

Kirby Regan grew up on her uncle’s ranch in Wyoming, and eventually got a job with the Association of Land Management in Washington D.C. But her uncle has died, and her cousin wants to sell the ranch. Kirby manages to get a transfer to Wyoming with hopes of buying it from her cousin. Meanwhile, her first assignment is to go out into the Teton mountains and count the wild herd of horses.

Kirby realizes she’s in trouble when it starts snowing, and then finds out there is a manhunt going on for an escaped prisoner. She finds a cave to ride out the storm in, but is shocked to find it already occupied. Luckily, it wasn’t the prisoner hiding out but a local veterinarian and rancher, Casey Merrick. Once that is established, they decide to share the cave until the snowstorm blows over.

Casey loves being out in the wild but he likes it best by himself. But sharing it with the beautiful Kirby doesn’t feel like too much of a hardship. Eventually the snow stops and they dig out, but they still have to worry about a killer wandering these mountains.

Casey and Regan realize how much they enjoy spending time together and fall in love, but there is a lot of drama before they reach their happy ending. Ryan writes a really good romance with strong characters and a beautiful setting. If you haven’t seen Enchanted by the Mountains’ Ever-Changing Beauty: 45 Miles on the Teton Crest Trail in the NY Times, enjoy!

8/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THIS COWBOY OF MINE by R. C. Ryan. Forever (December 15, 2020). ISBN:‎ 978-1538716885. 432 pages.







September 7, 2021

The Kiss Quotient, Book 3

From the publisher:

A woman struggling with burnout learns to embrace the unexpected—and the man she enlists to help her—in this heartfelt new romance by USA Today bestselling author Helen Hoang.

When violinist Anna Sun accidentally achieves career success with a viral YouTube video, she finds herself incapacitated and burned out from her attempts to replicate that moment. And when her longtime boyfriend announces he wants an open relationship before making a final commitment, a hurt and angry Anna decides that if he wants an open relationship, then she does, too.

Translation: She’s going to embark on a string of one-night stands. The more unacceptable the men, the better.

That’s where tattooed, motorcycle-riding Quan Diep comes in. Their first attempt at a one-night stand fails, as does their second, and their third, because being with Quan is more than sex—he accepts Anna on an unconditional level that she herself has just started to understand. However, when tragedy strikes Anna’s family she takes on a role that she is ill-suited for, until the burden of expectations threatens to destroy her. Anna and Quan have to fight for their chance at love, but to do that, they also have to fight for themselves.

This is the latest entry into one of the best contemporary romance series. While there are three books in the series, I think that each stands alone. To prove my point, the second book in the series is from 2019, and honestly, I don’t remember a whole lot about it other than the main points – a main character on the autism spectrum and an emotional journey to the happily-ever-after. And that I loved the first two books, so I was thrilled to find this new one. There is an author’s note at the end of the book explaining why there was two years before publishing, and I must insist that if you read this book, and you should, you should also read that note.

I don’t know a ton about autism. That the main character in this series is on the spectrum means that I learn more about it and I think that is a very good thing. For instance, I learned that Asperger’s Syndrome is no longer a diagnosis; instead, the diagnosis is “autism spectrum disorder.” But more importantly, I learned how this woman lives with her autism and deals with it. Interestingly, the author is also on the spectrum and that just makes it more real.

Anna is a concert violinist in San Francisco. She started learning as a child, but was no prodigy – but a viral video turns her into a sensation, and a famous composer even writes her own piece for her. But Anna has taken a leave of absence from her job because she is stuck. She can’t play her own piece all the way through. In fact, she can’t play anything all the way through other than scales. As soon as she makes any kind of mistake, she has to start over, leaving her playing in a loop and very, very frustrated.

There is also frustration in her personal life. For one thing, Anna has spent her life trying to fit in with her family and even with her boyfriend of five years. Julian tells her he wants to marry her, but first wants to sleep around a lot to make sure he’s not missing anything. He wants an open relationship. Anna isn’t happy about it, and then she gets angry and decides what’s good for the gander is good for the goose and downloads a dating app, She decides to have a one-night stand or even better, a bunch of one night stands. The first guy she finds is just perfect – Quan is very good looking in a very bad boy way. But when she goes to meet him at a bar, she has a panic attack.

Quan has his own issues as a cancer survivor. He’s not looking for a relationship; he just wants to get back in the saddle again, as it were. Anna is sweet and beautiful and quirky, and as all she wants is a one night stand, kismet. It doesn’t work out like either one of them planned, so they decide to try again. Meanwhile, they talk and text and watch documentaries together while texting. The second try also fails, but they are both enjoying each other’s company and keep it going. And for the first time in her life, Anna is being herself and not just trying to please someone else.

Anna has been in therapy for a while to try and deal with her violin issues, and it’s not helping. On the other hand, she tries very hard to tell her therapist what she thinks she wants to hear. It’s not very useful and eventually the therapist tells her she believes Anna has been “masking”, trying to fit in, and gives Anna articles and a book about women on the autism spectrum.

Then Anna’s father has a massive stroke. Despite the fact that the doctors want to call in hospice, her mother and her much older, very dominating sister decide to bring him home and take care of him themselves. Anna moves home and is assigned an eight hour shift. She hates living there, hates taking care of her father not because she doesn’t love him, but because it is just so hard for her to try and fit in 24/7. To make matters worse, she thinks her father hates living like this and wants to die. He has a feeding tube, diapers, he can’t talk at all and it just breaks her heart.

Her sister thinks that autism diagnosis is crap and that Anna just needs to work harder. She also is planning a big birthday party for their father and wants Anna to play her violin at the party. Anna has fallen in love with Quan, but her wealthy Chinese family is not thrilled with this Vietnamese non-professional man. Julian is a doctor and his parents are good friends with Anna’s parents so they are invited to the party. But nothing goes right for Anna, and her struggle is real.

This is the type of book that is almost impossible to put down. That said, the crisis point of the story got me so emotional that I had to put it down and just cry. I avoided going back for a couple of hours, but then steeled myself to keep going and get to the happy ending I knew was coming.

Caretaking is a big issue in this story. In fact, the book is divided into three sections; before, during, and after [the stroke.] These characters wormed their way into my heart and there they stay, especially after reading the author’s note. I loved this book so much – I think it is the best book of an already excellent series, and everyone should read it. This is a wonderful romance with lots of humor, pathos, and hot sex, but it is the emotional journey that means everything here. It was worth the two year wait! Don’t miss it.

9/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE HEART PRINCIPLE by Helen Hoang. Berkley (August 31, 2021). ISBN: 978-0451490841. 352 pages.








September 6, 2021

The Palace of Rogues, Book 3

From the publisher:

USA Today bestselling author Julie Anne Long continues her Palace of Rogues series with a brand-new romance about an ambitious American and a headstrong British heiress.

Nothing can stop Hugh Cassidy’s drive to build an American empire…unless it’s his new nemesis, the arrogant, beautiful, too-clever-by-half Lady Lillias Vaughn. The fascination is mutual. The temptation is merciless. And the inevitable indiscretion? Soul-searing—and the ruination of them both. Hugh’s proposal salvages Lillias’s honor but kills their dreams for their futures…until they arrive at a plan that could honorably set them free.  
But unraveling their entanglement inadvertently uncovers enthralling truths: about Lillias’s wounded, tender heart and fierce spirit. About Hugh’s stunning gentleness, depth, and courage. Soon Hugh knows that as surely as he’d fight a thousand battles to win her…the best way to love Lillias means breaking his own heart. 

I think this is my favorite book of the series so far! This series is supposed to conclude with the next book, but who knows. It seems simple enough to add characters who are staying in the boarding house at the center of the story.

Hugh Cassidy is an American from New York. His mentor’s daughter has taken off for England, and Hugh offers to go after her. He can’t help thinking of her as a possible wife, but he is more concerned for her father, who is very worried. Hugh is staying in the boarding house, and because he has building/construction experience, he volunteers to help out the ladies who own the house.

Then an aristocratic family comes to stay in their newly acquired addition to the boarding house, an annex with suites for families. They are having some trouble with a snake missing in the house, and are staying put until it is found. The eldest daughter, Lady Lilliana, appears to be a typical debutante. She’s gorgeous and expected to make a good match with a titled man, and those plans are pretty much set in stone. But when Hugh enters the annex to work, he finds her there, smoking. He brings her back to her father and tells him, and she is grounded for a couple of weeks.

Hugh is immediately taken with Lady Lilliana, but realizes she is out of his league. Nonetheless, they start spending some time together, until they are caught in an embrace by her family and some friends. Hugh immediately realizes her reputation is on the line, and tells everyone they are engaged.

The only fly in the ointment is that Lilliana is in love with her childhood friend, except that he is expected to follow a long standing family tradition and marry a cousin. Lilliana is devastated, but can’t show it. Hugh realizes what she is feeling, and cares enough about her to try and help her land the man of her dreams. But when she does, she realizes that Hugh is the man for her.

There is a lot of drama, laughter, and some sizzle before Hugh and Lilliana reach their happy ending. This was a fast paced story and I just loved it.

9/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

I’M ONLY WICKED WITH YOU by Julie Anne Long. Avon (August 24, 2021). ISBN: 978-0063045088. 400 pages.




ANGEL IN A DEVIL’S ARMS by Julie Anne Long

September 5, 2021

The Palace of Rogues, Book 2

From the publisher:

From USA Today bestselling author Julie Anne Long comes the second book in an exciting new historical romance series, the first since her beloved Pennyroyal Green series.

He has devil’s blood in his veins. At least, that’s always been the legend. How else could the Duke of Brexford’s notorious bastard son return from the dead? The brutal decade since Lucien Durand, Lord Bolt, allegedly drowned in the Thames forged him into a man who always gets what—and who—he wants. And what he wants is vengeance for his stolen birthright . . . and one wild night in Angelique Breedlove’s bed.

Angelique recognizes heartbreak when the enigmatic Lord Bolt walks into The Grand Palace on the Thames, and not even his devastating charm can tempt her to risk her own ever again. One scorching kiss drives home the danger.

But in the space between them springs a trust that feels anything but safe. And the passion—explosive, consuming—drives Lucien to his knees. Now his whole life depends on proving his love to a woman who doesn’t believe in it . . . because his true birthright, he now knows, is guardian of Angelique Breedlove’s heart.

I really liked the first book in this series, Lady Derring Takes a Lover, which ended on a cliffhanger and still, I somehow missed this next book! But as the third book just came out (and the last book is due in November) I decided to catch up.

I think it is helpful to have read the first book, but probably enough explanations are given to make this an easy read for someone new to the series. The story is set at The Grand Palace on the Thames, a boarding house near the docks in London, so not the best neighborhood. But the two women who run it, Angelique and Delilah, have something in common – Delilah is the widow of an earl, and Angelique was her husband’s mistress. The first book explains how they end up living and working together, but all you really need to know is they are as close as sisters. Delilah met her husband in the first book, and now it is Angelique’s turn.

The first book ended with a mysterious stranger reserving the best room in the boarding house. In this book, he turns up. He is Lord Bolt, who has long been thought dead. He was thrown into the river ten years earlier, and when a body was found, it was assumed to be him. Instead, he was rescued by a passing ship and he worked on that ship for ten years, learning a lot and earning a lot. Now he’s back in London for revenge.

The characters who live in the boarding house are the source of much of the humor. Bolt doesn’t quite seem to fit in, yet he makes it his business to do so. Meanwhile, he and Angelique have some sizzling chemistry. He is looking for one and done, she is not. Eventually they find their way to one another and their happily ever after.

This was a fine sequel to the first book and there is definitely some heat here along with the humor and the drama. All in all, I really enjoyed it and went right for the next book in this series – review to follow!

9/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

ANGEL IN A DEVIL’S ARMS by Julie Anne Long. Avon (October 29, 2019). ISBN: 978-0062867490. 368 pages.




SAY YOU’LL STAY by Susan Mallery

September 4, 2021

The Wishing Tree Series

From the publisher:

Welcome to Wishing Tree, where the magic of Christmas in July will bring you home in this heartwarming story by #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery.

Some heartbreaks hit harder than others. For Shaye Harper, the last one was so bad she swore off men for good. Wishing Tree, Washington, was supposed to be a pit stop on the road to a fresh start, but Shaye is swiftly drawn in by the quirky small town’s celebrations—and a handsome stranger she can’t resist.

After deployments around the world, army vet Lawson Easley knows there’s no place better than his hometown. And he’s determined to stay right here, forever. Too bad the first woman who feels like “the one” is just passing through. The more time he spends with Shaye, the more he knows that she’s the piece his heart’s been missing.

Swept up by the joyful summer festivities and Lawson’s obvious affection, Shaye starts to feel she belongs. Here, with him. She never meant to end up in Wishing Tree. Then again, she never meant to fall in love…

I love Susan Mallery, and when I heard she has a new series coming out, I was all in. The first book in the series is The Christmas Wedding Guest and comes out 9/29/21, but this little novella was published as an ebook (and on Audible) to get a jump on it. I generally don’t like novellas very much, but this one sounded so intriguing I ***BOUGHT the book!*** Just FYI, as a reviewer and librarian, I have access to millions of books and I rarely buy any, other than as gifts. So it is a very big deal that I bought this one! And it was worth it.

This is a Christmas series. The setting is this small town that is just crazy for Christmas. The town square is round and called The Wreath. The street names often have Christmas themes. And they are a big tourist destination, even in summer, with their Christmas in July celebration.

Shaye has had one bad relationship too many and is done with men. She decides to start over somewhere new, and heads to Seattle. But on the way she stops off for a hand pie in this charming little town. Then she notices a large group of people running what seems to be a 5K, but they are all wearing reindeer antler headbands! Not something you see every day. Luckily, a good looking man is nearby and explains about the Christmas in July celebration.

Lawson and Shaye hang out for a while. She decides to stay for the celebration, and Lawson finds her a room in a beautiful old Victorian home with a lovely landlady. The hand pie shop has a help wanted sign and needs a temp, and she decides to go for it. A month long detour is of no consequence as she knows no one in Seattle and has no job or home lined up.

Lawson seems too good to be true after the run of bad luck she’s had with men. So she keeps him at a distance. Lawson isn’t looking for a long term relationship, but something about Shaye really appeals to him. Meanwhile, she starts making friends in town and getting involved in the celebration.

Shaye and Lawson realize they have feelings for each other, but she keeps telling him she’s leaving. Until she starts to rethink her decision. She has nothing in Seattle, and Wishing Tree is starting to feel like home. Especially with Lawson.

It really speaks to Mallery’s skill that I didn’t feel like I missed anything with the novella. The characters felt real and three dimensional, the setting was quirky and fun, and the romance was terrific. I can’t wait for the “first” book in the series!

9/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

SAY YOU’LL STAY by Susan Mallery. HQN Books (July 1, 2021). ASIN:‎ B08WKK1RXF. 100 pages.







September 3, 2021

Wilder, Book 3

From the publisher:

T.J. Wilder is the perfect package of breathtaking adventure and raw sex appeal. Even better, he’s about to reconnect with the one woman he’s never been able to forget…

Get Your Pulse Racing

To Harley, the landscape around Wishful, California, is exhilarating, untamed, and more than a little dangerous. The same could be said for T.J. Wilder, who’s invited himself along on her trek to study a rare coyote. Harley’s career is riding on this trip, and she doesn’t need a stubborn, incredibly sexy distraction. But T.J. is a professional guide who knows when to stay back and when to provide invaluable expertise-just like he’s done since they were in high school. And Harley, as usual, is torn between throttling him and giving in to the raw attraction that’s been smoldering all these years.

T.J. knows how proud and capable Harley is, but he’s damned sure not letting her put herself at risk when there are illegal hunters in the area. She needs him, with the same soul-stirring urgency that he’s always craved her. And here, in this beautiful place days from civilization, he’ll finally have a chance to prove it-over and over again…

T.J. is the last (and oldest) of the Wilder brothers to find true love, so this ends the series, which makes me sad. Luckily, Shalvis is a prolific writer so lots more books ahead!

T.J. and Harley both grew up in this small town and went all through school together. They were friends, but something happened in high school that changed everything. T.J. has no idea what he did, but Harley’s hated him for years. Every time they run into each other in this small town, they fight. But there is also sizzling sexual chemistry there that she chooses to ignore.

When Haley goes off into the mountains for research, T.J. goes along, determined to keep her safe even though she doesn’t want him there. T.J. has always loved the ladies, but hasn’t had any kind of long term relationship since his girlfriend died on an adventure trip. He takes all the month long treks and the Alaska ones, too. He is super cautious and organized, determined to keep everyone safe. Haley is no exception.

Eventually he breaks down some of her barriers, and she tells him what he did that has angered her for so long. Making up is always fun, especially for two people with their magnetism out in the middle of the wild.

I loved that T.J. found his happily ever after, and that Haley found hers. They are a great couple and a terrific ending to this series. This is another hot and steamy romance and I loved it!

BONUS: One of things I like best about this series is the setting – the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. The NY Times just ran this piece with the most amazing pictures that really brought this setting to life!

THE WORLD THROUGH A LENS: Enchanted by the Mountains’ Ever-Changing Beauty: 45 Miles on the Teton Crest Trail

9/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

INSTANT TEMPTATION by Jill Shalvis. Kensington; Reprint edition (September 25, 2018). ISBN: 978-1496720856. 304 pages.








August 31, 2021

Wilder, Book 2

From the publisher:

Welcome to Wishful, California, where the air is mountain clean, the people are small-town friendly and the wide-open spaces are perfect for a woman wanting to reinvent herself.


There was a time when Dr. Emma Sinclair wanted to challenge herself, sharpen her medical skills by plunging into the relentless pace of a New York City ER. But she was younger then. Now she’s not that much older, but at least she’s wise enough to jump at the chance to run her father’s clinic for a summer in the Sierra Nevadas. Here she treats bee stings, stomach flu, and the occasional pet cat. She also contends with patients like Stone Wilder, laid-back and well-aware of his good looks—and irritating beyond belief. The man laughs at her. And Emma loathes him. Partly because she can’t resist his smile and the gleam in his eyes . . .

As co-owner of Wilder Adventures and Expeditions, Stone knows when he sees a fish out of water. He also knows how to put it back in the water. When he tries to help Emma loosen up a bit, he pictures white-water rafting or scenic mountain hikes. He never bargained for a much more intimate encounter. Still, Emma’s sure she has no place in a town like Wishful, but Stone knows different. Emma belongs here—in this town, in his life. Convincing her is a challenge he was born to take . . .

This is the second book in the Wilder series and I liked it as much as the first. This story centers around Stone and Emma. Emma lived in Wishful when she was a young girl, but when her mother decided to leave her father, there was no looking back for either of them. Emma was hurt that her father never tried to stay in touch with her, but she doesn’t have the whole story. I really liked this subplot, it added a lot of depth to the story and the character.

Emma’s father stayed in Wishful and is the town doctor. When he has a mild heart attack, Emma decides to help him out. She recently lost her mother and her father is her only family. But she is used to running a very busy ER in a NYC hospital, and the trickling in of patients is not fun for her. Especially when Stone shows up.

Stone is argumentative, stubborn, and has a real fear of needles. But he is really banged up and finally allows Emma to treat him. He drives her nuts but he is really good looking. And he thinks she is a knockout. Eventually they work out their differences and start dating and pretty soon, they are a couple. But the road to true love never runs smoothly, but that is half the fun of getting there.

This is a very hot romance with well developed characters and some humor. I loved it, and immediately read the rest of the trilogy. Reviews to follow.

8/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

IINSTANT GRATIFICATION by Jill Shalvis. Kensington; Reprint edition (July 31, 2018). ISBN: 978-1496720849. 304 pages.

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August 30, 2021

The Westcott Series, Book 9

From the publisher:

Is love worth the loss of one’s freedom and independence? This is what Mrs. Tavernor must decide in the new novel in the Westcott series from New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh.

When Harry Westcott lost the title Earl of Riverdale after the discovery of his father’s bigamy, he shipped off to fight in the Napoleonic Wars, where he was near-fatally wounded. After a harrowing recovery, the once cheery, light-hearted boy has become a reclusive, somber man. Though Harry insists he enjoys the solitude, he does wonder sometimes if he is lonely.

Lydia Tavernor, recently widowed, dreams of taking a lover. Her marriage to Reverend Isaiah Tavernor was one of service and obedience, and she has secretly enjoyed her freedom since his death. She doesn’t want to shackle herself to another man in marriage, but sometimes, she wonders if she is lonely. 

Both are unwilling to face the truth until they find themselves alone together one night, and Lydia surprises even herself with a simple question: “Are you ever lonely?” Harry’s answer leads them down a path neither could ever have imagined…

I think there are too many books in this series. I’ve not really had this issue before, and I’ve read some pretty long series; for example, Virgin River has 19 books and I’ve read them all. I’ve read about half of the Westcott series, but I really felt like I was slogging through this book. The entire first chapter is just introducing the family and all those characters from previous books. Then it seems like every time one of them is mentioned, there is a brief explanation of their circumstances or relationship, making this a very slow read for me.

I liked the characters, at least the main characters, and their story was a good one. Lydia is a young widow of the church vicar. Her husband was a charismatic and fervent leader, which led him to make some interesting life choices. He was also very good looking, and Lydia fell head over heels for him. But the marriage wasn’t a happy one, not that anyone ever suspected. He called her his “helpmeet” and made her feel as if her only purpose was to serve him and God. She wasn’t allowed to think or feel or have friends outside the church.

Lydia is much beloved in this small village. The vicar died while saving a child from drowning, elevating him to practically saint status – along with his widow. But it’s been more than a year, and it is time for Lydia to start living her life. She refused to move home with her father and brothers, and instead purchased a small cottage at the end of town where she lives alone, without even a servant. So when Harry is seen entering her home, then again at night, the scandal is real.

Harry is turning thirty, and his enormous family wants him to come to London. He doesn’t want to go, he doesn’t want a birthday party, and he really doesn’t want his family picking out a wife for him. He does attend the local parties he is invited to, and he finally meets Lydia, whose cottage is basically at the end of the driveway that leads to his estate. He ends up walking her home where she blurts out a few remarks about loneliness, and intimates that she would be open to taking Harry as a lover.

This is a small village, but Harry is intrigued. Lydia is not the woman he thought she was, a shy, retiring, invisible helpmeet. And he likes her. Things progress but there is that scandal, which in these times means marriage. But Lydia refuses him.

Lydia loves her freedom and independence. For the first time in her life, she is making all her own decisions and has some women friends. She is not willing to give that up to “obey” another husband.

We all know how this ends, and there is enough interesting backstory to keep the story moving, although all those pesky relatives slow things down too much for my taste. I think it is time I retired from reading this series. Probably.

8/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

SOMEONE TO CHERISH by Mary Balogh. Berkley (June 29, 2021). ISBN: 978-1984802415. 416 pages.






August 29, 2021

Wilder, Book 1

From the publisher:

The first in a sensational new series, Jill Shalvis introduces Cameron, Stone, and T.J. Wilder—three bad-boy heroes who effortlessly mix breathtaking adventure and scorching sex appeal…

Get Wild… And Then Get Wilder…

Accountant Katie Kramer is a quintessential good girl—working hard, recycling diligently, all the while trying to ignore the feeling that she doesn’t fit in anywhere. That’s all she wants. Well, that—and amazing sex, and the kind of daredevil escapade she can look back on when she’s crunching numbers in a dusty cubicle. Which explains why she just took a job in Wishful, California, working for Wilder Adventures and Expeditions. Waking up to find a magnificently built stranger towering over her bed—that part defies explanation…

After wandering the planet for months following a life-changing accident, Cameron Wilder has come back to the only home he knows. Under other circumstances, he might be thrilled to find a gorgeous woman sleeping in his cabin, but now, while he’ll risk his body taking clients on adrenaline-drenched excursions, his heart is off limits. Still, Katie’s killer smile triggers something deep in his gut… among other places. Showing her how exhilarating it can be to stop balancing her life as if it was a checkbook is the biggest rush he’s ever felt—and an adventure Katie’s wishing would never end…

Cam was an Olympic snowboarder until a horrific accident left him unable to compete on a professional level anymore. He made tons of money, but is just devastated that the life he lived was no longer. He wanders the globe for a year, until he finally comes home to his brothers and their adventure business. But when he goes into his cabin, dead tired and wanting nothing more than a bed, he finds a beautiful young woman sleeping there. Too tired to even discuss it, he calls her Goldilocks then falls asleep in the chair.

Katie has also had a life changing experience when the bridge she was driving on collapsed, and she was the only survivor. Determined to start a new life, she jumps in her car and heads north to Wishful. There she gets a temporary job as a bookkeeper for the adventure company. Determined to live her life to the fullest, she also wants adventure and good sex, and guess what: she finds it.

Cam has always had groupies and never had an actual relationship, but there is something about Katie. She isn’t looking for a relationship, just good sex. But of course, they both find love and a way to help one another heal.

This is a very hot romance with interesting characters and some humor. I loved it, and immediately read the rest of the trilogy. Reviews to follow.

8/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

INSTANT ATTRACTION by Jill Shalvis. Kensington; Reprint edition (March 27, 2018). ISBN: 978-1496720832. 320 pages.