AFTER by Anna Todd

September 19, 2019

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The After Series, Book 1

From the publisher:

Experience the internet’s most talked-about book, now a major motion picture, from Anna Todd, the writer Cosmopolitan called “the biggest literary phenomenon of her generation.” Now with new exclusive material!

There was the time before Tessa met Hardin, and then there’s everything AFTER Life will never be the same. #Hessa

Tessa is a good girl with a sweet, reliable boyfriend back home. She’s got direction, ambition, and a mother who’s intent on keeping her that way.

But she’s barely moved into her freshman dorm when she runs into Hardin. With his tousled brown hair, cocky British accent, and tattoos, Hardin is cute and different from what she’s used to.

But he’s also rude—to the point of cruelty, even. For all his attitude, Tessa should hate Hardin. And she does—until she finds herself alone with him in his room. Something about his dark mood grabs her, and when they kiss it ignites within her a passion she’s never known before.

He’ll call her beautiful, then insist he isn’t the one for her and disappear again and again. Despite the reckless way he treats her, Tessa is compelled to dig deeper and find the real Hardin beneath all his lies. He pushes her away again and again, yet every time she pushes back, he only pulls her in deeper.

Tessa already has the perfect boyfriend. So why is she trying so hard to overcome her own hurt pride and Hardin’s prejudice about nice girls like her?

Unless…could this be love?

Age Range: Adult


Where to start? Okay, I’ll just say it. I hated this book. The writing is awful. The story is incredibly repetitive.  And boring. These characters are in college, and Tessa is a virgin. Not just a virgin, she’s barely been kissed by her boyfriend of many, many years. They were saving themselves for marriage. An appealing goal to some, to be sure. But in this story, it’s just a challenge. Literally. Like these short, choppy sentences? Then this may be your book.

Despite the length of this book, the main character, Tessa, is not very well developed. She is a one-dimensional caricature of a naive 18-year-old who has never had a drink or seen anyone with a tattoo. Oh, stereotypes run hard here. Tattoos and/or piercings and/or Kool-Aid colored hair equals bad. Clean cut equals good, just like in real life. Because you can always judge a person based on their haircut, and everyone knows only good people wear preppy clothes. Like Robert Chambers, for example.

Hardin, a year or so older, is the male protagonist. He is slightly more developed, although it takes an inordinate amount of time (and pages) to get his story out. We know he has wildly shifting mood swings, and Tessa constantly refers to his probably bipolarity or other mental illnesses (see sentence above about stereotypes.) The way he is portrayed, and talked about, in my humble opinion, does grave disservice to those who suffer from mental illness. On the bright side, Tessa is an English major and a huge Jane Austen fan. If this book makes young people read Austen, then it may all be worth it.

This is a couple whose time is spent veering between sexual fumbling and screaming matches. It was painful to read, over and over and over and over and over again. It doesn’t help that proper grammar was tossed out the window, and a good editor, or any kind of editor, was nowhere in sight. I understand that “new adults” like to read about characters like themselves. The “new adult” designation means these are older teens who have a lot of sex, versus “young adult” who are younger teens who also have a lot of sex.

I picked up this book because I was curious. It was made into a movie that has a really bad 17% Rotten Tomato score, while the audience rating is 72%. It has over a 1000 reviews on Amazon and tops out at four stars. A friend told me this was originally published on Wattpad, a self-publishing platform, and was fan fiction based on Harry Styles of One Direction. I’m a few generations removed from that, so it didn’t mean much to me, and I did a little digging. I found this article at The Atlantic (spoilers galore) that tells the whole story of this publishing phenom. The After series seems to be at the cusp of a major shift in publishing, and frankly, it does not bode well for the future.

9/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

AFTER by Anna Todd. Gallery Books; Media Tie-In edition (March 12, 2019). ISBN 978-1982111007. 608p.

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CALL HER MINE by Melissa Foster

September 14, 2019

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Harmony Pointe, Book 1

From the publisher:

Two besties and a baby make for an instafamily and a surprising romance in a delightful series by Melissa Foster, the New York Times bestselling author of the Sugar Lake novels.

Ben Dalton has always been honest, except where his heart is concerned. He’s been in love with his best friend—saucy, smart-mouthed Aurelia Stark—forever. But Ben’s a planner, and timing has never been on his side. When he finally decides to make his move, Aurelia beats him to the punch with a move of her own—to a different town.

Aurelia loves her new life in the charming town of Harmony Pointe. She has a great apartment and her very own bookstore, and best of all, the sinfully hot, commitment-phobic friend she’s crushed on for years is no longer just around the corner. Maybe she’ll finally be able to leave her unrequited love behind and move on.

But when a baby is left on Ben’s front porch—a baby that is presumably his—Aurelia is there for him. Neither one knows the first thing about babies, but how hard can it be? Ben and Aurelia are catapulted into a world of love, laughter, and tracking down the baby mama, and it might even add up to a very happily ever after… just not one either of them expects.


Aurelia owns a bookstore, so of course I had to read this. I am a complete sucker for any book that features a bookstore or library. Those are my happy places.

This is the first book of a new series from Foster. This is light and fluffy and entertaining, even with the specter of the unwanted baby left on the doorstep. It’s also a very short book, sort of between novella and novel, so not a whole lot of character or plot development. It’s a simple story and it works. There are some sad moments to be sure, but the happiness washes it all away and left me with a smile on my face. If you are looking for a fun, sexy fast read, this is your book. It was a good romance for sure.

9/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

CALL HER MINE by Melissa Foster. Montlake Romance (August 13, 2019). ISBN 978-1542007382. 265p.

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SISTERS OF SUMMER’S END by Lori Foster

September 13, 2019

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Summer Resort Series, Book 2

From the publisher:

As the summer ends, friendship begins…

When single mom Joy Lee abandoned her old life to take a job at a lakeside resort, she found something that her family’s wealth and influence could never buy: peace of mind. Not easy to come by for the once-burned divorcée who keeps everyone at a distance. But when her new friend, Maris, dares her to take a chance with the drive-in’s charismatic new owner, everything changes for Joy and her young son.

A difficult childhood has left Maris Kennedy with definite priorities. Her job running Summer’s End, the camp store and café, comes first. Always. Nothing could ever make her risk that hard-won security—especially not her free-spirited colleague. But the more she encourages Joy to open herself up to new experiences, the more Maris begins to wonder what she, too, might be missing.

Learning how to trust will bring Joy and Maris together. And soon they form a friendship that leaves them as close as sisters—and open to love where they least expect it…in Summer’s End.


This is the sequel to Cooper’s Charm, which I read last year and loved. I remembered these characters and the setting and was very happy to be back with them.

Foster has given us another two-fer, two romances in one, and she does a really good job with it. I think this story worked so well because the women involved, Joy and Maris, become the best of friends. Even though they’ve been working together for years, they never really had much of a relationship. Maris is single minded in her pursuit of making her business a success. And Joy is just as single minded in making her son a priority.

Single motherhood is never easy, but Joy’s husband took off as soon as he learned she was pregnant. Her family disowned her, disapproving of the wastrel she married. Maris has buried both her parents, and has no family other than the people who work at the campground where her store is. As the women slowly knock down their barriers, a real friendship, a sisterhood in fact, is formed.

This is a wonderful story of the power of women’s friendships, and of love. It is heartwarming and at times, sexy, and occasionally even humorous. There is a lot to like here if you like contemporary romance as much as I do. Foster has become a favorite.

9/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

SISTERS OF SUMMER’S END by Lori Foster. Berkley (September 3, 2019). ISBN 978-1984805386. 336p.

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HOW TO HACK A HEARTBREAK by Kristin Rockaway

September 11, 2019

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Please welcome a new reviewer to the site! Caitlin was my “work daughter” when I was at the Palm Beach County Public Library. She’s still there and working hard in Youth System Services. I miss her every day!


Mel Strickland is an overqualified help desk employee at a start up incubator who spends her days putting up with a sexist boss and male co-workers who are constantly downloading viruses onto their laptops.  After a series of bad dates, and being on the receiving end of one too many pictures of male genitalia through a dating app, Mel decides to put her coding skills to good use and creates her own app. JerkAlert allows women to document the harassers and ghosters they encounter in the world of online dating. Mel is unprepared, however, when JerkAlert goes viral overnight, bringing with it unexpected consequences for her career and personal relationships.

It is refreshing to read a book where the heroine is employed in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) field. “How to Hack a Heartbreak” tackles sexism and how women must work twice as hard as men to gain respect in the tech field. I’ve seen this book classified as romance, and while Mel does have a love interest, (Alex is a programmer at the start up where Mel works,) I would consider it more along the lines of women’s fiction.  Mel’s relationship with Alex is underdeveloped and I found it difficult to get invested in their romance.  More important are Mel’s relationships with her group of girlfriends who offer never ending support and empowerment while she works at starting her own business. While the ending felt a bit rushed, “How to Hack a Heartbreak” is a fun read that takes an uplifting and feminist look at making it in the tech world, all with a side of romance.

9/19 Caitlin Brisson

HOW TO HACK A HEARTBREAK by Kristin Rockaway. Graydon House (July 30, 2019). ISBN 9781525834257. 352p.

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THE AUSSIE NEXT DOOR by Stephanie London

September 10, 2019

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From the publisher:

“A sweet, sexy read, featuring a couple that feels both true-to-life and aspirational.” Kirkus Review, Starred Review

American Angie Donovan has never wanted much. When you grow up getting bounced from foster home to foster home, you learn not to become attached to anything, anyone, or any place. But it only took her two days to fall in love with Australia. With her visa clock ticking, surely she can fall in love with an Australian―and get hitched―in two months. Especially if he’s as hot and funny as her next-door neighbor…

Jace Walters has never wanted much―except a bathroom he didn’t have to share. The last cookie all to himself. And solitude. But when you grow up in a family of seven, you can kiss those things goodbye. He’s finally living alone and working on his syndicated comic strip in privacy. Sure, his American neighbor is distractingly sexy and annoyingly nosy, but she’ll be gone in a few months…

Except now she’s determined to find her perfect match by checking out every eligible male in the town, and her choices are even more distracting. So why does it suddenly feel like he―and his obnoxious tight-knit family, and even these two wayward dogs―could be exactly what she needs?


An American girl moves to Australia to escape her notoriety and falls in love with the place. Angie is sweet and kind but has a lot of baggage. Growing up in the foster care system, she became the poster child for its horrors and just wanted to live her life in peace. She can’t find any in the US so moves halfway around the world to do so.

Jace is her landlord. While he doesn’t tell her for most of the book, it was fairly obvious that he is high functioning autistic, the hottest trend in diverse romance. If anything can “normalize” autism, reading about characters like Jace certainly will. He is not scary, he just has some personality quirks, and really, who doesn’t? Angie likes his quirks, they make her feel comfortable and their relationship works. Of course, it takes some time to get to that point!

There are some very funny scenes and some really sweet ones as well. Both of these characters have their challenges, but the way they complement each other makes the struggle to get to their happily ever after worth all the effort. Very well done and sure to appeal to fans of the Helen Hoang books, The Bride Test and The Kiss Quotient. Loved it!

9/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE AUSSIE NEXT DOOR by Stephanie London. Entangled: Amara (August 27, 2019). ISBN 978-1640636682. 350p.

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THINGS YOU SAVE IN A FIRE by Katherine Center

September 8, 2019

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From the publisher:

**INDIE NEXT PICK FOR AUGUST**

**AN AUGUST 2019 LIBRARYREADS SELECTION**

**BOOK OF THE MONTH PICK FOR JULY**

**AN AMAZON EDITOR’S PICK FOR AUGUST**

“Center gives readers a sharp and witty exploration of love and forgiveness that is at once insightful, entertaining, and thoroughly addictive.”
 KIRKUS, STARRED REVIEW

“An appealing heroine, a compelling love story, a tearjerking twist, and a thoroughly absorbing story. Another winner from Center.”
 BOOKLIST, STARRED REVIEW

A spirited, independent heroine meets a smoking-hot fireman in Center’s smart romance… If you enjoyed ‘The Kiss Quotient,’ by Helen Hoang, read Things You Save in a Fire”’
– THE WASHINGTON POST

From the New York Times bestselling author of How to Walk Away comes a stunning new novel about courage, hope, and learning to love against all odds.

Cassie Hanwell was born for emergencies. As one of the only female firefighters in her Texas firehouse, she’s seen her fair share of them, and she’s a total pro at other people’s tragedies. But when her estranged and ailing mother asks her to give up her whole life and move to Boston, Cassie suddenly has an emergency of her own.

The tough, old-school Boston firehouse is as different from Cassie’s old job as it could possibly be. Hazing, a lack of funding, and poor facilities mean that the firemen aren’t exactly thrilled to have a “lady” on the crew―even one as competent and smart as Cassie. Except for the infatuation-inspiring rookie, who doesn’t seem to mind having Cassie around. But she can’t think about that. Because love is girly, and it’s not her thing. And don’t forget the advice her old captain gave her: Never date firefighters. Cassie can feel her resolve slipping…and it means risking it all―the only job she’s ever loved, and the hero she’s worked like hell to become.

Katherine Center’s Things You Save in a Fire is a heartfelt and healing tour-de-force about the strength of vulnerability, the nourishing magic of forgiveness, and the life-changing power of defining courage, at last, for yourself.


There is a whole firefighter romance subgenre, but that generally means hot firemen. As in men. And while there are certainly hot firemen here, our heroine is also a firefighter, and she takes her job seriously. Extremely seriously. So when her estranged mother asks us to leave her beloved Austin job and move to Boston for her, Cassie’s first – and second – response is hell no. But then she receives an award for saving a bunch of kids from a school bus and wigs out on the councilman who gives her the award, who manages to grab her ass in the process. Apparently they have history. She flattens him and her options are to apologize or get out. With the help of her female boss, she finds a job near her mother and heads cross country.

The small fire station she joins is Boston Irish, over a hundred years old, and has never had a woman working there. Lots of changes in store for Cassie, and she is on her best behavior. But the other newbie, a rookie they call Rookie, is too hot for even Cassie to ignore. They are pranked and teased mercilessly, just for being new, so there is no way for them to pursue anything romantic or that would be unbearable. But when the Rookie begs her to be his date at his parents’ anniversary party, she caves and that everything they have kept buried comes to the surface.

There is a lot of information on the inner workings of fire stations, both new and old, and it is all presented in a way that is both informative yet completely entertaining. The characters are great, I really loved this feminist firefighter and how she deals with everything thrown at her. Her backstory was really good as well. There are some laugh out loud moments, and enough drama to really keep the pages turning. This is a terrific romance with enough depth to bring these characters to life and get the reader invested in them and their story.

There are lots of starred reviews for this and tons of praise, all of it well deserved. It isn’t often that a book lives up to its hype for me, so shout out to Mary Kay Andrews, who helped bring this book to my attention. Thanks, I loved it!

9/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THINGS YOU SAVE IN A FIRE by Katherine Center. St. Martin’s Press (August 13, 2019). ISBN 978-1984805386. 336p.

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WELL MET by Jen DeLuca

September 3, 2019

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From the publisher:

All’s faire in love and war for two sworn enemies who indulge in a harmless flirtation in a laugh-out-loud rom-com from debut author Jen DeLuca.

Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?

The faire is Simon’s family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn’t have time for Emily’s lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she’s in her revealing wench’s costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they’re portraying?

This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can’t seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek.


I have never been to a Renaissance Fair (Faire?), even though there is an annual one in a park fifteen minutes from my house. Both my kids have been many times, both as school field trips and on their own. The closest I’ve ever gotten to one of these is dinner at Medieval Times outside of Disneyworld in Orlando. It was fun but that was about my limit for jousting and eating without utensils.

Many years ago, when online meant AOL and chatrooms, I had a friend (Hi Glen!) who worked at these fairs, travelling around the country, sleeping in tents, and so forth. I had a lot of respect for him but still never went. Maybe if he had made it to Florida I would have gone. Nonetheless, when my work daughter (Hi Caitlin!) recommended this, I figured it must be good – she has impeccable taste. And it was!

All this rambling has a point: even if you, like me, are not a Renaissance Fair type person, if you’ve never donned a fair maiden dress or you don’t know (as I didn’t) that “well met” is a Renaissance Fair greeting or you never watched grown men joust and toss logs and such, you may also enjoy this book. Renaissance Fair knowledge is not a requirement and lack thereof is not an impediment. In other words, this is a fun read!

To start with, Emily has no experience either, but she is sucked into performing when she finds out it is a requirement for her niece to participate. Plus men in kilts – who could say no to hanging out around that? Beyond the fair setting, this is a good contemporary romance with the meet-cute of our hero and heroine butting heads and hating each other on sight. Then things progress from there with lots of obstacles, back story, and fun along the way.

This is a very entertaining read, sweet and laugh out loud funny at times while alternately tugging at the heart strings. Well Met is very well done.

9/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

WELL MET by Jen DeLuca. Berkley (September 3, 2019). ISBN 978-1984805386. 336p.

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THE DUCHESS IN HIS BED by Lorraine Heath

August 29, 2019

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A Sin for All Seasons, Book 4

From the publisher:

For a duchess with practical desires, falling in love is an inconceivable part of her plan…

As owner of the Elysium Club which caters to women’s fantasies, Aiden Trewlove is accustomed to introducing adventurous ladies to sin and vice. But he is uncharacteristically intrigued by the mysterious beauty who visits his club one night, yearning to indulge in the forbidden—with him. Drawn to her indomitable spirit, he breaks his rule of never becoming personally involved with his clientele and is determined to fully awaken her desires.

A recent widow, Selena Sheffield, Duchess of Lushing, has never known passion, not until Aiden’s slow, sensual seduction leads her on a journey of discovery and incredible pleasure. But her reasons for visiting the notorious club are not all that they seem.

As Selena’s motives become complicated by love, she finds herself with a most unexpected choice: forge ahead with a secret plan that could secure her future—or follow her heart which could prove ruinous.


This is one of my favorite series, and book number four is a terrific addition.

The Duchess of Lushing is quite calculating, which normally turns me off. But Heath does such a good job of explaining why she has to be that way that I was all in. I have to say that for the first time in a very long time, I actually wondered how this couple was going to get to their happily ever after. The obstacles just seemed insurmountable, and I can’t even remember the last time I felt that way about a romance. So kudos to Heath, well done!

Aiden Trewlove is the protagonist here, and I remembered him and his businesses from the previous books. And considering how many books I read, that is really saying something. The Trewlove brothers have been well introduced in earlier books in the series, so I think this is one series that is best read in order.

Like most of Heath’s books, there is a lot of steamy sex on these pages, so if that is not your thing, feel free to move along. On the other hand, I loved this book and read it in one go. I was so involved with these characters and this story, especially as I couldn’t see a way out for them. But a happily ever after is a romance requirement, and the denouement was worth all the worry. An another excellent read from one of my favorite authors.

8/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE DUCHESS IN HIS BED by Lorraine Heath.  Avon (August 20, 2019).  ISBN 978-0062676061. 400p.

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ELLIE AND THE HARP MAKER by Hazel Prior

August 28, 2019

8/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

ELLIE AND THE HARP MAKER by Hazel Prior. Berkley (August 6, 2019). ISBN  978-1984803788. 336p.

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BUTTERFLY IN FROST by Sylvia Day

August 27, 2019

BLOG TOUR!

From the publisher:

From #1 New York Times bestselling phenomenon Sylvia Day comes a hotly anticipated and passionate new love story.

Once, I would never have imagined myself here. But I’m settled now. In a place I love, in a home I renovated, spending time with new friends I adore, and working a job that fulfills me. I am reconciling the past and laying the groundwork for the future.

Then Garrett Frost moves in next door.

He’s obstinate and too bold, a raging force of nature that disrupts the careful order of my life. I recognize the ghosts that haunt him, the torment driving him. Garrett would be risky in any form, but wounded, he’s far more dangerous. I fear I’m too fragile for the storm raging inside him, too delicate to withstand the pain that buffets him. But he’s too determined…and too tempting.

And sometimes hope soars above even the iciest desolation.

Emotional and heartrending, Butterfly in Frost marks a brilliant return by global sensation Sylvia Day, the #1 international multimillion bestselling author of the Crossfire saga.


 

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Garrett is almost stalker-like in his pursuit of the damaged Teagan, but she doesn’t seem to mind, which I found a bit confusing. Actually, I found the basic plot of this book confusing, which I suspect was the point. This is romantic suspense with an unreliable narrator (or two,) only I didn’t know it until the big twist near the end.

This is a very different book for Day, and while it is a quick read, it lacks the depth it needs to make these characters come to life. If you like unreliable narrators, or romantic suspense, this may be the book for you. Die hard fans will love it, but I’m not sure about everyone else.

8/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

BUTTERFLY IN FROST by Sylvia Day. Montlake Romance (August 27, 2019). ISBN: 978-1542016735. 203p.

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About Sylvia Day:
Sylvia Day is the No.1 New York Times, No.1 USA Today & No.1 international bestselling author of over twenty award-winning novels translated into 41 languages. With tens of millions of copies of her books in print, she is a No.1 bestseller in 28 countries. Sylvia served as the 22nd President of Romance Writers of America and presently serves on the Authors Guild’s Board of Directors.Sylvia’s work has been covered in TimeVarietyPeople, The Wall Street JournalCosmopolitanAssociated PressUSA Today, and Entertainment Weekly.