August 18, 2021

From the publisher:

A smart, sexy, and witty romantic comedy—perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Sally Thorne—about a twentysomething who lives out every woman’s fantasy: getting paid to give men who do us wrong a taste of their own medicine. But when a previous target unexpectedly shows up at her office, she’s forced to rethink her life as a professional heartbreaker.

Brinkley Saunders has a secret.

To everyone in the academic world she left behind, she lost it all when she dropped out of grad school. Once a rising star following in her mother’s footsteps, she’s now an administrative assistant at an insurance agency—or so they think.

In reality, Brinkley works at Heartbreak for Hire, a secret service that specializes in revenge for jilted lovers, frenemies, and long-suffering coworkers with a little cash to spare and a man who needs to be taken down a notch. It might not be as prestigious as academia, but it helps Brinkley save for her dream of opening an art gallery and lets her exorcise a few demons, all while helping to empower women.

But when her boss announces she’s hiring male heartbreakers for the first time, Brinkley’s no longer so sure she’s doing the right thing—especially when her new coworker turns out to be a target she was paid to take down. Though Mark spends his days struggling up the academic ladder, he seems to be the opposite of a backstabbing adjunct: a nerd at heart in criminally sexy sweater vests who’s attentive both in and out of the bedroom. But as Brinkley finds it increasingly more difficult to focus on anything but Mark, she soon realizes that like herself, people aren’t always who they appear to be.

With Sonia Hartl’s “bitingly funny” (Publishers Weekly) prose, Heartbreak for Hire is a clever romcom you and your girlfriends won’t be able to stop talking about.

This was an interesting premise; women for hire to take down whatever man did you wrong. Not cheap, but possibly therapeutic? The woman who started the company found her employees crying in coffeeshops or bars etc. She offers them a way to work out their demons, and Brinkley certainly has some. She was in a psychologically abusive relationship for several years while she was in college. In fact, the breakup led her to drop out of her masters program at Northwestern, where her mother is a professor.

Brinkley and her mom do not get along. Her mother was determined that Brinkley follow her footsteps into a career in academia. But when Brinkley changes her major to art and then drops out, her mother is just beside herself. They meet up every week for lunch where her they end up fighting. Every week. Her mom thinks she is an administrative assistant in an insurance company because Brinkley never tells anyone what she really does for a living.

Then she meets Mark. The woman who contracted for his takedown is a nightmare, and Brinkley isn’t sure she even believes what she says, but a job is a job so off she goes. Except when she meets him, she likes him. A lot. They end up back at his place but she panics and runs out on him. Then they keep bumping into each other, and soon a relationship is keeping them both busy. But when he is hired by her company in their attempt to add men to the roster, none of the staff are happy, to say the least.

This was a laugh out loud book for me, lots of crazy situations along with the romance and some hot sex. Total fantasy, but what’s wrong with that!

8/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

HEARTBREAK FOR HIRE by Sonia Hartl. Gallery Books (July 27, 2021). ISBN: 978-1982167783. 320 pages.









August 17, 2021

Clandestine Affairs, Book 2

From the publisher:

Diana Quincy returns with the second novel in her Clandestine Affairs series featuring a steamy romance between a working class London bonesetter who is dangerously attracted to her mysterious noble client.  

A seduction that could ruin everything . . .

Hanna Zaydan has fought to become London’s finest bonesetter, but her appealing new patient threatens to destroy everything she’s worked so hard for. With each appointment, the daughter of foreign merchants is slowly seduced by the mysterious former soldier. She’s smart enough to know Griff is after more than he’ll reveal, but whatever it is, the bonesetter’s growing desire for the man just might tempt her to give it to him.

An attraction that cannot be denied . . .

Rumors that he killed his own parents have followed Thomas Ellis, Viscount Griffin, practically since he was a boy. More than a decade after the tragedy, Griff receives a tip about his parents’ killer . . . one that takes him straight to a beautiful bonesetter. Griff is convinced Hanna is a fraud, but she stirs genuine feelings in him that he thought had perished along with his family.

Hanna has a gift for fixing fractured people, but can she also mend a broken heart? More importantly, will Griff let her?

I read the first book in this series, Her Night with the Duke, and really liked it, so I was happy to get my hands on this one. This is a terrific romance with the most fascinating heroine.

I never heard of a bonesetter before, but based on the work she does in this story, it is sort of a cross between a chiropractor, orthopedist, and maybe physical therapist, all rolled into one. Hanna is not allowed to go to medical school, she is a young woman, but nothing stopped her from learning from her father. He, too, was a bonesetter, and from the time she was a young girl Hanna knew this was her destiny. The only problem is that the medical community thinks of bonesetters as charlatans and quacks.

Griff’s parents were murdered when he was a teenager and he hasn’t heard from his sisters since. His father’s best friend was named his guardian, and he took care of Griff as best he could. Eventually, Griff joins the army until he is severely injured and sent home. His shoulder, elbow and wrist were injured and never healed properly, leaving him in constant pain for years. His guardian, a doctor and head of a local hospital, tells him to just give it more time and offers opium, which Griff is avoiding at all costs.

Griff happens to be nearby when a young man along with a group of his rowdy friends, approaches Hanna, offering his wrist up as being “injured” to see if she’ll fall for it. Not only doesn’t she fall for it, she is so angry and embarrassed at being made a spectacle that she dislocates his wrist. Before she can walk away, Griff notices the unusual sapphire pendant she is wearing. It was his mother’s, and had disappeared after her murder.

Thinking it may lead him to whoever murdered his parents, he goes to visit the bonesetter under the pretext of his war injuries. She examines him, and there is chemistry between them. She says she thinks she can help him, and by manipulating his shoulder, she relieves the pain he has been in for years. He is amazed, but still curious about the necklace. She prescribes a salve to be strongly massaged into his joints and eventually helps his elbow and wrist as well. Griff was on the precipice of suicide; he just didn’t know how much longer he could live with the pain but after her treatment, he was a new man.

His guardian doesn’t believe that she actually helped him. He thinks it is a coincidence because he felt that at some point it would just heal on its own, and he thinks it did. But Griff knows better. He gets closer to Hanna, even bringing her another patient, but his guardian is set on having her thrown out of London.

Griff and Hanna can never be together. He is of the aristocracy, and she is of the working class. Even if he wanted to look past that, Hanna is also Arab and her family would never allow her to marry outside her race. With all these seemingly insurmountable odds against them, the mystery of his murdered parents, and the struggles Hanna is having with the hospital board, it is quite the hurdle to get to their happily ever after.

This was a terrific love story and Hanna was an intelligent, interesting character. I liked the mystery that was entangled in the story, and of course, the happy ending. I think this books stands alone beautifully, but do read the first one as well, it was also a really interesting read.

8/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

TTHE VISCOUNT MADE ME DO IT by Diana Quincy. Avon (July 27, 2021). ISBN: 978-0062986818. 384 pages.




SO WE MEET AGAIN by Suzanne Park

August 16, 2021

From the publisher:

From the author of the “genuinely funny” and “delightful” Loathe at First Sight (NPR), a young Korean American woman’s journey to finding a new career and new love means learning to embrace the awkward and unexpected—exploring familial expectations, finding your voice, and unimaginably falling for your childhood rival.

When investment banker Jessie Kim is laid off in a virtual meeting and then overhears why (“she’s already being overpaid anyway for a woman” and “Asians are worker bees, not someone who can drum up new deals”) she delivers an “eff you guys” speech and storms out. 

After moving back home to Tennessee to live with her loving but meddling mother and father, she runs into her childhood nemesis—golden child Daniel Choi—at the local Asian grocery store. The smart, charming lawyer appears to have it all…while Jessie has nothing.

Jess begrudgingly accepts Daniel’s help to relaunch her long abandoned Korean cooking YouTube channel: HANGUK HACKS, showcasing easy meal prep for busy professionals. But just as she discovers Daniel’s life isn’t as perfect as it seems and there’s more to him than meets the eye, he shows up for a life-changing business opportunity, and their rivalry is back on . . .

Another fun and funny romance featuring food, always a winner for me. Jessie loses her job in finance and moves back home with her parents. They are Korean and a bit old fashioned. Jessie is surprised to learn that her lifelong nemesis, the boy she was always compared to and always lost to, is also back home and living with his parents. Daniel was the preacher’s kid, and his father is back working in the church where he was raised. Everyone is told Daniel has taken a sabbatical from his high powered, high paying job in Silicon Valley, but no one really knows why or any more than that.

When Jessie runs into him at the grocery store, she cannot believe the scrawny boy with a bowl cut that she remembers is now this super hot guy who evidently works out. But she is embarrassed and her come down in the world and doesn’t want to deal with the competition that always rears up between them. But it’s a small community, and when Jessie joins a local entrepreneur group, she finds Daniel is the hero of the group. He even wants to help her.

Jessie decides to bring back to life her old YouTube channel. This time, she gets the idea of hacking the prepared meal kits that are so popular, but often boring. She is going to add some Korean flair to those, and she starts off cooking in the kitchen. But her mom shows up, throws in her two cents, and a meme is born. People love her mom, and her dad shows up too, also drawing good comments. The video goes viral, and her YouTube is up and on its way.

Business is great but it turns out Daniel is in cahoots with one of her business partners, and things get messy. Jessie has fallen for Daniel, but this is just the breaking point. Eventually, her business grows even more successful, and Daniel helps her take it to the next level, along with their relationship. There are a lot of laugh out loud moments here, and the romance is more sweet than sexy, which is understandable as they both live with their parents. But it really works, and I loved it.

Park tells a good story and I really respect her female lead characters; they are smart women working in male dominated industries. I loved her previous book, Loathe at First Sight, and while this is a very different book, it is also a terrific read. Park moves onto my “must read” list and I can’t wait for her next book!

8/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

SO WE MEET AGAIN by Suzanne Park. Avon (August 3, 2021). ISBN: 978-0062990716. 368 pages.







HOT UNDER HIS COLLAR by Andie J. Christopher

August 15, 2021

From the publisher:

He’s forbidden fruit and she’s a rule follower, but their connection is something to believe in. 

Father Patrick Dooley joined the clergy to fulfill his mother’s dying wish. While it once gave him purpose, he not so sure it’s his calling anymore. But it’s all he’s ever known and he’s not sure what he wants to do with his life if he decides to leave the priesthood. How can he reconcile his faith with his growing desire to live a different life?

Sasha Finerghty was content to admire Patrick from afar while she dated men who were perfect on paper and wrong in real life. But with Patrick’s church in need of funding to keep a community program afloat, she’s just the girl to solve their fundraising problem. Spending more time together only fuels Sasha’s crush on him, who finds a kindred soul in her.

The more Patrick gets to know Sasha, the easier it is for him to see a future unfolding for them. But it will take a leap of faith to turn their friendship into something more, and neither of them are quite ready to make the jump.

This is another book that if I had seen the cover before reading, I probably wouldn’t have bothered. I had some problems with this book, but I liked it enough to keep reading and finish it. One minor quibble is that I don’t have any idea how to pronounce Sasha Finerghty’s last name and it comes up more often that you would think.

The major quibble, and really it is more than a quibble, was that the protagonist, the hero of this love story, is a priest. Now I’m not Catholic and I’ve read (and watched) The Thorn Birds, but this just didn’t sit right with me. I’m sure this sort of thing happens now and again and it is incredibly meaningful that a man would give up his collar, his life, for a woman he loves, but I still had trouble with it.

Patrick became a priest basically to please his mother, and I know that is a thing in some Catholic families. But it was more than that for him, at least until he starts spending time with Sasha. So if you don’t mind the major plot point of the story, then it is a good romance. I just couldn’t get past it.

8/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

HOT UNDER HIS COLLAR by Andie J. Christopher. Berkley (July 20, 2021). ISBN: 978-0593100851. 384 pages.







WAIT FOR IT by Jenn McKinlay

August 14, 2021

From the publisher:

A woman looking for a new lease on life moves to Arizona where she rents a guest house on a gorgeous property with a mysterious owner—a man who teaches her about resilience, courage, and ultimately true love, in this funny, bighearted novel about hope and healing from New York Times bestselling author Jenn McKinlay.

Stuck in a dreary Boston winter, Annabelle Martin would like nothing more than to run away from her current life. She’s not even thirty years old, twice-divorced, and has just dodged a marriage proposal… from her ex-husband. When she’s offered her dream job as creative director at a cutting-edge graphic design studio in Phoenix, she jumps at the opportunity to start over.
When she arrives in the Valley of the Sun, Annabelle is instantly intrigued by her anonymous landlord. Based on the cranky, handwritten notes Nick Daire leaves her, she assumes he is an old, rich curmudgeon. Annabelle is shocked when she finally meets Nick and discovers that he’s her age and uses a wheelchair. Nick suffered from a stroke a year ago, and while there’s no physical reason for him not to recover, he is struggling to overcome the paralyzing fear that has kept him a prisoner in his own home.
Despite her promise to herself not to get involved, Annabelle finds herself irresistibly drawn to Nick. And soon she wonders if she and Nick might help each other find the courage to embrace life, happiness, and true love.

This author was new to me, and I really liked this book. So yay, she has a ton of books for me to find.

Annabelle is a graphic designer who works freelance. She’s pretty successful in her professional life, but her personal life is a mess. She lost her mom when she was in high school, and married the first guy who asked. They were both really young and no big surprise, it didn’t work out. But then she married the next guy who asked, and that marriage was even worse. Her best friend lives in Phoenix with her husband, and they are partners in an up and coming marketing firm. They want Annabelle to come be their creative director, but she’s pretty happy in Boston, despite the cold.

Annabelle and the first husband are still friends. In fact, they “celebrate” the date of their divorce with dinner every year. But this year, Annabelle realizes things are different. Her ex seems like he is going full proposal at dinner, and she panics, downs her champagne and ends up choking then swallowing the ring. Then before he can ask, she announces she is taking the job and moving to Phoenix.

Her friends arrange for her to rent a guest house on an estate that is walking distance to her new job. She is told to avoid going to the big house on the property, and not to bother the landlord who lives there. Annabelle assumes the landlord is some rich old guy who apparently is quite the curmudgeon. She receives a ten page list of rules to live by, and she is not happy because the pool is marked off limits. But there is no mention of the hot tub, so she decides to give it a go. Then she receives another note stating the hot tub is also off limits.

Annabelle is a real people person, and she thinks if she meets the landlord, then she can charm him into giving her pool rights. But he is not interested in meeting her. Until she throws a Friday night happy hour, replete with her work friends using the hot tub, lots of loud laughter and music, and enough rule breaking to get the landlord to meet her.

Turns out Nick is not old, just cranky. He is a 35-year-old man who had a stroke. Luckily, it didn’t affect his speech or his brain really, just his body. It’s been almost a year and he still has issues with the left side of his body suddenly going numb, including his leg which means he tends to topple over unexpectedly. He has become a recluse, with his hired physical therapist, groundskeeper and housekeeper all living with him and taking care of him.

Meanwhile, Annabelle is having some trouble at her new job. Her friend’s husband had hired a college fraternity brother when they first started the business, and he was expecting the promotion that they gave to Annabelle. He is not nice, to say the least, but Annabelle is very friendly with some of the staff and is determined to do a good job, despite him.

When Annabelle finally meets Nick, there is a lot of chemistry but he is still determined to keep away from her. But he can’t. Their worlds are colliding and it is for the best, even if he doesn’t realize it.

This was a really good story with characters I got to know well. There were a lot of serious issues but it is a romance so happily ever after is achieved. Reviews have been good all around, so don’t miss it! I also found her last book, Paris is Always a Good Idea, on my Kindle so I will be reading that next!

8/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

WAIT FOR IT by Jenn McKinlay. Berkley (August 10, 2021). ISBN: 978-0593101377. 352 pages.







IF THE SHOE FITS by Julie Murphy

August 13, 2021

A Meant to be Novel, Book 1

From the publisher:

If the shoe doesn’t fit, maybe it’s time to design your own.

Cindy loves shoes. A well-placed bow or a chic stacked heel is her form of self-expression. As a fashion-obsessed plus-size woman, she can never find designer clothes that work on her body, but a special pair of shoes always fits just right.  

With a shiny new design degree but no job in sight, Cindy moves back in with her stepmother, Erica Tremaine, the executive producer of the world’s biggest dating reality show. When a contestant on Before Midnight bows out at the last minute, Cindy is thrust into the spotlight. Showcasing her killer shoe collection on network TV seems like a great way to jump-start her career. And, while she’s at it, why not go on a few lavish dates with an eligible suitor?

But being the first and only fat contestant on Before Midnight turns her into a viral sensation—and a body-positivity icon—overnight. Even harder to believe? She can actually see herself falling for this Prince Charming. To make it to the end, despite the fans, the haters, and a house full of fellow contestants she’s not sure she can trust, Cindy will have to take a leap of faith and hope her heels— and her heart—don’t break in the process.

Best-selling author Julie Murphy’s reimagining of a beloved fairy tale is an enchanting story of self-love and believing in the happy ending each and every one of us deserves.

“If the Shoe Fits encompasses everything I love about rom-coms. I laughed, I swooned, I smiled. Another hit for Julie Murphy!”
   —Colleen Hoover, #1 New York Times best-selling author of Hopeless

Fairy tales are often fodder for romance novels, and the last ones I remember were the books in the Fairy Tales series by Eloisa James. Those were historical romances and I loved them, so i was happy to try out this contemporary version. This book is very loosely based on Cinderella.

Cindy just graduated from Parson School of Design, and her career choice is to design shoes. But how to break into such a competitive industry is a bit disheartening. Cindy lost her mom when she was young, and her father died while she was in high school. Her stepmother and stepsisters are there for her, though, and she offers to be her stepmother’s nanny for the summer. After her father died, her stepmother had his triplets, and she can use the help.

Cindy isn’t entirely comfortable with her stepfamily, but they try their hardest to make her feel like a member of the family, and she just loves the triplets. Her stepmother is the executive producer of a top dating reality show, and when a couple of the girls drop out at the last minute, she asks her daughters to step in, but not Cindy. Cindy is a plus size girl, and her stepmother is afraid that the Twitterverse will be cruel. But Beck, her second in command, thinks Cindy would be great, and talks her into it by telling her that her shoe designs will get a ton of publicity so Cindy talks her stepmother into letting her onto the show.

Living with a house full of skinny women competing for the same man doesn’t really phase Cindy. And when it turns out the bachelor (or in this series, the “suitor”) is the really nice guy she met on her flight home from school, she is in it to win it. As the competition continues, Cindy moves along and makes it to the final three. The public adores her, and her shoes are a big hit as well. Beck has been giving Cindy some intel about the whole process, and when she finds out that the winner was pretty much determined before they even started shooting, she declines to participate in the finale. Then the suitor disappears too.

This was a really fun read, and I have never even watched “The Bachelor.” But reality TV makes for a good plot, and it works here. We don’t get to know the “suitor” quite as well as Cindy, but I still wanted them to get their happily ever after. I’m looking forward to the next book in this series.

8/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

IF THE SHOE FITS by Julie Murphy. Hyperion Avenue (August 3, 2021). ISBN: 978-0593100851. 384 pages.









August 12, 2021

The Rajes, Book 3

From the publisher:

Yash Raje, California’s first Indian-American gubernatorial candidate, has always known exactly what he wants—and how to use his privileged background to get it. He attributes his success to a simple mantra: control your feelings and you can control the world. But when a hate crime at a rally critically injures his friend, Yash’s easy life suddenly feels like a lie, his control an illusion. When he tries to get back on the campaign trail, he blacks out with panic.

Desperate to keep Yash’s condition from leaking to the media, his family turns to the one person they trust—his sister’s best friend, India Dashwood, California’s foremost stress management coach. Raised by a family of yoga teachers, India has helped San Francisco’s high strung overachievers for a decade without so much as altering her breath. But this man—with his boundless ambition, simmering intensity, and absolute faith in his political beliefs—is like no other.

Yash has spent a lifetime repressing everything to succeed, including their one magical night ten years ago—a too brief, too bright passion that if rekindled threatens to destroy the dream he’s willingly shouldered for his family and community . . . until now.

I read all three books in this series last week, and frankly, that says a lot. I loved spending time with the Rajes, and while each book stands alone, I think they are best read in order. This is Yash’s and India’s story.

Yash is the crown prince of the Raje family, everyone’s favorite son. He is brilliant and kind, and has devoted his life to public service. Now he is running for Governor of California. His sister is his campaign manager, but the whole family is involved. When shots are fired at a rally, Yash’s bodyguard takes the bullet meant for Yash, but it passes through his body into Yash’s. Both are taken to the hospital.

Yash has pretty superficial wounds, but Abdul, the bodyguard, is in critical condition. Abdul’s wife is in the hospital as well, having given birth to their first child, a daughter, just two days earlier. Yash is just beside himself, feeling guilty and out of control, and control is his most important character trait. He recovers quickly, and a couple of weeks later is set to speak at another rally. But as he is supposed to go on, he has what seems like a panic attack. His sister’s best friend Ashna suffered from panic attacks, but their friend India was able to help her so they want Yash to see India.

India, her sister China, and their mom live in a building that also houses their yoga studio and handmade incense factory. India and Yash met at his sister’s wedding ten years earlier, and had an amazing connection. They spent the night together, just talking, and Yash showed her around his family’s estate. But he was leaving the next day, so their plans were put on hold. But Yash’s best friend, Naina, makes him a proposition. She wants to work on her plan to help women around the world, but her family is driving her crazy because they want her to marry. Naima and Yash come to a decision; they will be “spoken for” and that will allow them both to do their work unimpeded by their families’ marriage plans. Both families are thrilled with the idea, and it works well for them. They are rarely in the same place, but for ten years they have avoided having to marry. Of course, Yash has to give up on India for the greater good, his political career.

India is heartbroken when she learns about Yash and Naina. No one but the two of them know it is a relationship of convenience, but Naina returns to California where she will be working for a while. She is in the audience when Yash is shot, and the picture of her crying over his body goes viral. Naina wants to get married because she thinks it will be best for the careers. There is no love there; they tried having sex a few times but it wasn’t good. This will be a marriage of convenience, but Yash has had it. He is tired of living the lie, and he certainly doesn’t want to move forward into a marriage. But Naina lets slip to the media that they are engaged, and he doesn’t now how to get out of it.

Meanwhile, Yash goes to India for help. She is not of a mind to help the man who broke her heart, but India is a kind soul and would never refuse to help someone who needed her. As their relationship deepens, Yash is torn and cannot figure out how to get out of the mess he finds himself in, especially when he is leading the polls so close to the election.

One of the reviews of this book that I read described it as “West Wing meets Jane Austen” and while that is quite a stretch, the politics are an important part of the story. It seems hopeless that Yash and India will ever be able to get together, but have no fear, they get their happy ending. I loved this latest entry into this wonderful series, so now I have to patiently wait for the next Sonali Dev book. Something to look forward to!

8/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

INCENSE AND SENSIBILITY by Sonali Dev. William Morrow Paperbacks (July 6, 2021). ISBN: 978-0063051805. 400 pages.







August 11, 2021

The Rajes, Book 2

From the publisher:

From the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors comes another , clever, deeply layered, and heartwarming romantic comedy that follows in the Jane Austen tradition―this time, with a twist on Persuasion.

Chef Ashna Raje desperately needs a new strategy. How else can she save her beloved restaurant and prove to her estranged, overachieving mother that she isn’t a complete screw up? When she’s asked to join the cast of Cooking with the Stars, the latest hit reality show teaming chefs with celebrities, it seems like just the leap of faith she needs to put her restaurant back on the map. She’s a chef, what’s the worst that could happen? 

Rico Silva, that’s what.  

Being paired with a celebrity who was her first love, the man who ghosted her at the worst possible time in her life, only proves what Ashna has always believed: leaps of faith are a recipe for disaster. 

FIFA winning soccer star Rico Silva isn’t too happy to be paired up with Ashna either. Losing Ashna years ago almost destroyed him. The only silver lining to this bizarre situation is that he can finally prove to Ashna that he’s definitely over her. 

But when their catastrophic first meeting goes viral, social media becomes obsessed with their chemistry. The competition on the show is fierce…and so is the simmering desire between Ashna and Rico.  Every minute they spend together rekindles feelings that pull them toward their disastrous past. Will letting go again be another recipe for heartbreak―or a recipe for persuasion…? 

In Recipe for Persuasion, Sonali Dev once again takes readers on an unforgettable adventure in this fresh, fun, and enchanting romantic comedy.

I read the first book in the series, Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors, when it came out in 2019 and I really liked it. But somehow I missed this second book, and the third book is out now, too. So I went back to the beginning and re-read the first book before running through the rest of the series. Yes, these books are that good.

If you are a Food Network fan, then this is your book. It is centered around a cooking competition show based on Dancing with the Stars; professional chefs are paired with “stars”, most of which are B list celebrities, in a cooking competition. Ashna is a chef and graduate of the Cordon Bleu in Paris.

Ashna’s family is a mess. Her mother left to work in India, and Ashna’s relationship with her is poor, to say the least. Her father raised her but he commits suicide and Ashna is the one to find him. So serious emotional issues abound here. Ashna goes to Paris to learn how to cook at The Cordon Bleu, leaving his chef and manager in charge of the restaurant for two years. Unfortunately, while she is gone, they ripped off the restaurant and disappeared with over $5 million dollars, leaving Ashna is a very bad place. She returns to run the restaurant, but things are really bad. The restaurant is old and looking it, and the customers are few and far between.

Ashna gets some help from her friend DJ as he creates new recipes for her, in hopes of getting new customers. But Ashna has some serious baggage and finds herself having panic attacks when she tries to cook anything other than her father’s recipes. When her cousin, a producer of the cooking show, loses one of the chefs at the last minute, she begs Ashna to fill in. The winner gets $100,000 plus the restaurant will get a ton of free publicity, so despite her misgivings, Ashna feels like she doesn’t really have a choice if she wants to save her restaurant.

She is shocked to find herself paired with Rico, one of the best soccer players in the world, and her high school boyfriend. No one knew about their relationship and she broke his heart when she left him. Rico has enough star power to demand to be on the show and to be paired with Ashna and their first meeting goes viral, pushing them in the lead as the contest starts. Cooking together means Ashna has no way of ignoring him, and as she works through her fear of cooking, especially in public, Rico has her back and they grow even closer.

The Rajes are a large, wealthy family and Ashna, while not exactly a sibling, is considered one. With her mother never around, the Raje matriarch is like a second mother to Ashna, and her children consider Ashna a sister. I love this family, and their relationships give another layer to this story. This was a terrific follow up to the first book, and I can’t wait for the next book. Fortunately, I don’t have to wait. Review to follow shortly.

8/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

RECIPE FOR PERSUASION by Sonali Dev. William Morrow Paperbacks (May 26, 2020). ISBN: 978-0062839077. 448 pages.






WHILE WE WERE DATING by Jasmine Guillory

August 10, 2021

Wedding Date, Book 6

From the publisher:

An instant New York Times bestseller!

Two people realize that it’s no longer an act when they veer off-script in this sizzling romantic comedy by New York Times bestselling author Jasmine Guillory.

Ben Stephens has never bothered with serious relationships. He has plenty of casual dates to keep him busy, family drama he’s trying to ignore and his advertising job to focus on. When Ben lands a huge ad campaign featuring movie star, Anna Gardiner, however, it’s hard to keep it purely professional. Anna is not just gorgeous and sexy, she’s also down to earth and considerate, and he can’t help flirting a little…

Anna Gardiner is on a mission: to make herself a household name, and this ad campaign will be a great distraction while she waits to hear if she’s booked her next movie. However, she didn’t expect Ben Stephens to be her biggest distraction. She knows mixing business with pleasure never works out, but why not indulge in a harmless flirtation? 

But their light-hearted banter takes a turn for the serious when Ben helps Anna in a family emergency, and they reveal truths about themselves to each other, truths they’ve barely shared with those closest to them. 

When the opportunity comes to turn their real-life fling into something more for the Hollywood spotlight, will Ben be content to play the background role in Anna’s life and leave when the cameras stop rolling? Or could he be the leading man she needs to craft their own Hollywood ending?

I love this series and this book reminded me why! I must admit I couldn’t tell you what the last book was about, so this definitely reads like a stand alone to me, so I don’t think this series needs to be read in order. If you want to try this one, it’s as good a place to start as any. Then if you love it as much as I did, you can go back and read the rest of the books in the series.

It’s the characters that make this story. Anna is a plus size Black actress who is hoping this commercial is going to give her more exposure. She’s an Oscar-nominated actress who is hoping for a new role that she thinks will get her the win. But the studio isn’t sure about her, they want a bigger, whiter, name.

Ben is hard working but doesn’t always get the opportunities some of his co-workers get. So when the rest of his team is late for a pitch meeting, he gets to take lead. He is surprised that the star of the commercial is there, but they quickly achieve a rapport that is going to move his career forward in a big way when Anna announces she wants him to run the shoot. The star always gets what she wants in these situations, and reluctantly Ben’s boss allows it.

Ben and Anna have a little fling during the shoot, and she decides it would be good publicity if he could hang out with her for a while, and the fake relationship is born. He agrees and they have an end date when all the fun and games will be over. But of course the fake relationship turns real.

This was a good love story with engaging characters and an interesting plotline, making this a one night read for me. I can’t wait for the next book in the series!

8/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

WHILE WE WERE DATING by Jasmine Guillory. Berkley (July 13, 2021). ISBN: 978-0593100851. 384 pages.









August 9, 2021

Private Pleasures, Book 5

Buttoned-down Eden Brixton is less than thrilled when she’s partnered with smooth-talking wild card Marcus Swain in an undercover op. Both their careers hinge on convincing folks in tight-knit Bluelick, KY that he’s the love of her life. She’d sooner tase him than prance around in practically nothing, hanging all over his chiseled body like she can’t get enough.

For Swain, being partnered with the too-gorgeous-for-his-sanity Eden promises to test his well-honed control. She’s smart, she’s skilled, she’s not just by-the-book—she knows the damn book backward and forward. And she hates his guts.

When Eden absolutely nails her role as his sexy fiancée—where the hell did she learn to seduce with a single glance?—Swain is knocked right on his ass. Living with a temptation like Eden makes it hard to remember their chemistry is strictly for show. And when the heat gets too real, doing the undercover op might prove to be their undoing.

This author was new to me, so I haven’t read any of the other books in this series. But when I read this one, I had no idea it was part of a series so it definitely works on its own. I also hadn’t seen the cover when I read it, or I might not have picked it up. I hate covers like this with half naked couples.

Eden and Marcus are in the police academy together. She is at the top of their class, he is right behind her. She is the studious type and he trusts his instincts. And they hate each other. Or at least, Eden hates him.

As they graduate, he is hired by the county sheriff, she by the local police. But their first assignment puts them undercover to try and break up a drug ring with both agencies working together. They are to portray an engaged couple, make friends with some of the known dopers in town and try and get to their source. But first they have to find a way to live together without killing one another.

They say there is a fine line between love and hate, and this couple burns it down. There is a lot of explicit sex in this story, so if that is not your thing, look elsewhere for your next read. I liked this book a lot; I liked the main characters and totally bought their relationship. There is a bare modicum of suspense needed for the story to make sense, and it meets that goal. All in all, this was a fast, fun, sexy read and I enjoyed it.

8/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

UNDERCOVER ENGAGEMENT by Samanthe Beck.  Independently published (July 28, 2021). ISBN: 979-8545457939. 300 pages.