FAKE IT TILL YOU BAKE IT by Jamie Wesley 

July 15, 2022

From the publisher:

A reality star and a cupcake-baking football player pretend to be a couple in order to save his bakery in this sweet and sexy romance from Jamie Wesley, Fake It Till You Bake It.

Jada Townsend-Matthews is the most reviled woman in America after turning down a proposal on a reality dating show. When she comes home to lick her wounds, Jada finds herself working at San Diego’s newest cupcake bakery, Sugar Blitz, alongside the uptight owner and professional football player Donovan Dell.

When a reporter mistakenly believes Jada and Donovan are an item, they realize they can use the misunderstanding to their advantage to help the struggling bakery and rehabilitate Jada’s image. Faking a relationship should be simple, but sometimes love is the most unexpected ingredient.

Fake it Till You Bake It is a sweet confection of a novel, the perfect story to curl up with and enjoy with a cupcake on the side.

https://amzn.to/3yBoRAG

Jada was on a Bachelor-type reality show, but when she won and got the proposal, she said no. When pressed, she said she had met someone right before she started on the show, and wanted to pursue that relationship. She becomes the most reviled woman in the social media sphere for turning down the sweet, handsome Dr. John. She goes home to regroup and hide out, for the most part. Her parents have had it with her. They are both scientists, as is her sister, and none of them understand why she didn’t pursue a loftier goal. But her grandmother, who inherited an NFL team from her husband, does understand and always her back.

Jada’s friend drags her out of the house to go to a newish cupcake store. Jada makes a few snarky remarks in earshot of one of the owners, who happens to be a football player on her grandmother’s team. He takes great offense, and she won’t give him an inch despite the delicious cupcake she’s trying.

Jada’s parents are cutting her off, financially, so she goes to see her grandmother, hoping to convince her to let her have her trust fun a few months early. But her grandmother has another idea; one of her star football players, Donovan, is in her office, too. Donovan agrees to hire Jada, but when he finds out she is his nitpicky customer, he is torn. His new contract is under negotiation and he doesn’t want to rock the boat, so he agrees to hire Jada.

She is a shit baker, and she is the first one to admit that, especially after she almost burns down the bakery. But Donovan is so patient and kind with her that she can’t help but want to try and please him. The more time they spend together, the more they realize they are developing feelings for one another.

Jada can’t bake, but she is social media savvy for sure. When some of her “fans”, i.e. women who hate her for turning down the bachelor, show up at the cupcake shop, she impulsively kisses Donovan, claiming he is the man she was hoping to connect with. She talks him into fake dating her, and it goes really well. Social media goes wild and people start pouring into the struggling bakeshop. When Jada suggests holding evening events, like a neighborhood book club, in the bakery after hours, Donovan reluctantly agrees. Business is booming, so who is he to argue with success.

Between Jada’s events and her social media following, business is booming. These enemies become lovers but this is no easy trip down Lovers Lane, there are enough hurdles to give the football player a real workout. This is a good enemies-to-lovers romance, but even though the male protagonist is an athlete, everything takes place in the off season, so to me, it doesn’t fall into the sports romance category. But it is a terrific story with a lot of laughs, great characters, a bit of heat, and enough drama to keep the pages turning. I’m hoping this is the first book of a series; Donovan has two partners in the bakery that are also his teammates – seems like a natural.

7/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

FAKE IT TILL YOU BAKE IT by Jamie Wesley. Griffin (June 21, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-1250801852. 336p.

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HOTTIE ON HER SHELF by Christi Barth

July 15, 2022

From the publisher:

Hallie Scott expected the hangover from her thirtieth birthday. She did not expect to find her calm, orderly life as Swan Cove’s head librarian to completely change overnight when her best friend added Hallie to the mayoral ballot because of one little remark. One. Now she’s going head-to-head with the small coastal town’s prominent “prince,” Fitz Montgomery…whose charm is about to get seriously checked.

All Fitz wants is to prove himself, beyond being the latest in the unbroken line of Montgomery mayors. Nobody, least of all Fitz, expected the town’s cute-as-hell librarian to step up and run against him. Hallie’s definitely in over her head, which is a problem, since Fitz wants a fair fight. But is he helping Hallie level the playing field…or arming his opponent?

Hallie and Fitz are on completely different sides. Their backgrounds, their lives, their ongoing ebook vs paperback argument. But they’re both about to learn that the art of war is nowhere near as complicated as falling for the enemy…

https://amzn.to/3awkyPa

This was as cute a book as the title suggested! I always love a librarian protagonist, and Hallie is a good one; not exactly a stereotype, but I recognized her among my co-workers for sure. She’s smart and determined and always has the facts on her side. So after ranting about the mayor, her best friend puts Hallie’s name on the ballot and the race is on.

Hallie may be many things, but a politician she is not. Her opponent, Fitz Montgomery, is his family’s heir apparent. The Montgomery’s own many of the businesses in town, live in a huge home, and have basically run things in this small town for over a hundred years. Fitz is the latest Montgomery to become mayor, after his uncle retired and moved to Florida. Turns out there is more to that story, but no spoilers here.

Fitz sincerely welcomes the competition. He is not comfortable being mayor, but tries to do a good job anyway, and wants a fair fight. At their first event, Hallie’s fact spouting doesn’t earn her any admirers and she knows it. Fitz offers to help her learn to be a politician and Hallie eventually acquiesces. That forces them to spend some time together and they both realize they are developing feelings for one another.

This is a really fun, contemporary rom-com with some nice surprises along the way. Both of these characters have more depth than meets the eye, and as they learn about one another, we can see they are meant to be together, despite Hallie’s being born on the wrong side of the tracks. Librarians will love this for sure, and so will readers who enjoy small town romances with an enemies to lovers vibe.

7/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

HOTTIE ON HER SHELF by Christi Barth. Entangled: Amara (July 11, 2022). ASIN: ‎B0B1BWBH5F. 325p.

Paperback

 

 


Spotlight Review: COOKOUT CARNAGE by Kelly Kay & Evie Alexander

July 12, 2022

Evie and Kelly’s Holiday Disasters, Book 2

From the publisher:

Two friends-to-lovers romantic comedies for the Fourth of July

One Fourth of July, two couples, complete carnage. These hot and hilarious stories are the perfect romcom recipe.

Off with a Bang – by Evie Alexander: Posh Brit Tristan has fallen for his American work colleague over Zoom. When she invites him to spend the Fourth of July with her and her family, he leaps at the chance to meet face to face. Maybe they can be more than just friends?

Sherilyn is in big trouble. She’s in love with someone she’s never met, and he’s just accepted an invitation she was sure he’d turn down. Tristan might think he’s about to meet a cute girl and her cookie-cutter family, but she’s Sherrie-Lynne, not Sherilyn. And when he discovers her family are lawless rednecks, he’s going to run a country mile.

Now, Sherilyn has to produce a fake family and put on a show bigger than her small town’s Fourth of July celebrations. Can she pull it off, or will she end up driving both Tristan and her family away forever?

Up in Smoke – by Kelly Kay: Cute farm boy Jonathan is about to get married to the wrong person. He’s clinging to an ideal of love, but his bride-to-be seems more interested in his best man, and wants to eat his pet. Jonathan’s heart has always belonged to his friend Juliet, but she left town years ago.

Now, the day before his nuptials, Juliet’s back and Jonathan’s had an epiphany. Can he get the right girl and find real happiness? Or is everything about to go up in smoke, including his pet pig?

Evie and Kelly’s Holiday Disasters are a series of hot and hilarious romantic comedies with interconnected characters, focusing on one holiday and one trope at a time. No cheating, no cliff-hangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after (HEA).

https://amzn.to/3uegJV7

Novellas are not usually my favorite, but Cupid Calamity, the first book in the series, was so much fun I couldn’t resist this new one set around the 4th of July.

These novellas were a bit longer than the ones in the first book, but just as fast a read – and they are both laugh out loud funny! These stories are connected via a text chain among a group of people who were stranded in an airport one night. They proceeded to drink themselves silly and formed a lasting friendship, despite the fact that they live all over the world, from Scotland to the UK to the U.S. In these stories, Kentucky and Chicago are the settings.

In my review copy, the first story was “Up in Smoke.” Jonathan is engaged to be married, but why I could not tell you. He literally has no feelings for his fiancé, they haven’t even slept together, mostly because she is busy sleeping around the small Kentucky town where they live. Her contemptuous attitude towards Jonathan just confused me even more. So that night he met all those friends? One of them called his ex, Juliet, and then he called her after that, confessing he still is in love with her. She still loves him, but somehow he’s blocked her number so he never gets any of the many texts she sends over the months between Valentine’s Day and the 4th of July. She moves back to their Kentucky hometown just in time to stop the wedding. But the bride isn’t getting the message, turning this into a farce that is so over the top I’m surprised it hasn’t been made into a movie yet. Lots of laughs here amid my confusion, but the happy ending was guaranteed and it delivered.

The second story, “Off With a Bang” was my favorite, if I had to pick one. This story centers around another of the friends from the airport, Tristan. He is from the UK but is working for a US company. One of his team members in the Chicago office is Sherilyn, and they form a long distance friendship. They talk, Zoom, and text daily. Tristan decides to ask for a transfer to the Chicago office. He has fallen in love long distance, but is afraid he isn’t good enough for Sherilyn. Tristan has an interesting back story that we don’t learn about until nearly the end.

Meanwhile Sherilyn has also fallen for Tristan, but thinks she isn’t good enough for him. She is from a small Kentucky backwater town, and she had the unfortunate experience of bringing a boyfriend home once, where he humiliated her about her family. When Jonathan invites Tristan to his wedding, it turns out he lives about half an hour from Sherilyn, so Tristan decides to surprise Sherilyn in her hometown for the 4th of July, a couple of days before the wedding. She had talked about the holiday and her family’s participation and invited him to come by any time he was in the area. She never really expected him to show up, and when he does, she is mortified and half the town agrees to help her hide her real family from Tristan. Of course that doesn’t work out very well, but Tristan and Sherilyn still manage to find their happy ending.

I felt more emotionally invested in Sherilyn & Tristan’s story, but both stories were really funny and sweet and sexy, all the good stuff. Highly recommend!

7/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

COOKOUT CARNAGE by Kelly Kay & Evie Alexander. Emlin Press (June 13, 2022) ISBN: 978-1914473111. 330p.

Kindle


FIRST BRIDE TO FALL by Ginny Baird

July 8, 2022

Majestic Maine, Book 1

From the publisher:

A shy woman. Her outdoorsy crush. And the bet that could bring them together…or implode spectacularly.

Nell Delaney will do almost anything for her parents and her two sisters. But enter a marriage of convenience to save the family’s coffee shop? Too far. So Nell and her sisters strike a deal: whoever hasn’t found love in thirty days has to step up to take one for the team. The good news? Nell knows the perfect guy to fall in love with. The bad news? She’s going to have to pretend she likes the outdoors…a lot.

Adventure guide Grant Williams knows immediately that Nell is not exactly Little Miss Outdoorsy. She’s a walking natural disaster―an amazingly adorable disaster. And whoa, their chemistry is unbelievable. Everything between them is so perfect, he’s not even a little bit shocked when he starts thinking of forever…

Right up until he catches the town gossiping about the Delaney sisters’ bargain and realizes she’s just using him to win a bet. His family’s unreliable reputation means he can’t just dump one of the town’s sweethearts. No, she needs to dump him. If she’s going to pretend to be the perfect doting bride, well, he’ll just pretend to be the worst bachelor on the market.

Let the games begin…

Each book in the Majestic, Maine series is a STANDALONE:

1. First Bride to Fall

2. Second Bride Down

https://amzn.to/3ArEyNf

The premise of this series is a bit farfetched, but it’s such a good romance that it didn’t matter. Three sisters are told by their parents that the only way to save their family business and home is for one of them to marry the son of their former business partner who screwed them over. So the three girls decide whoever isn’t married or engaged within 30 days will have to be the bride.

Nell is the oldest of the sisters, and she has always taken care of her siblings to the point where she still makes them lunch! These women are all adults, in fact Nell is pushing 30 so she really needs to take a step back. She has always prioritized taking care of her family and friends over herself, but she doesn’t want to the bride of anyone except Grant. The only problem is Grant doesn’t know she’s alive.

Grant was a couple of years ahead of Nell in high school, and a popular, well liked boy who always had a girlfriend. Nell was a bit of a loner with typical high school low self esteem. They both still live in this small town in Maine, but she works for the family coffee business, and he owns an outdoor adventure store and guide business. With the clock ticking, Nell decides it’s now or never. She signs up for a “moderate” hike with Grant and arrives late and inappropriately dressed for the hike. But there is definite chemistry between them.

When Nell’s fear of heights throws her into a panic, Grant stays behind to help her down. But then she lands badly and twists her ankle, the skies open up and they are in a deluge which wipes out the bridge and the road back. Luckily, Grant has a fishing cabin nearby, so he helps her get there to dry off and wait out the storm. Since they can’t get back until the bridge and road is repaired, they get to spend the night together; Grant takes the couch and gives Nell the bed. He takes good care of her sprained ankle, makes her dinner, and really makes her feel special.

The next morning, Grant decides to see if he can get through on the back road, and by clearing a fallen tree, he makes it back to town to her family’s cafe. He is truly smitten and wants to surprise Nell with her favorite coffee and breakfast pastry. But while he’s there, her sisters let slip the bet and somehow think he and Nell are engaged. Instead, he is enraged by hides it well. He cooks up a plan to act like a Neanderthal so that Nell will break up with him. Instead, she realizes that something’s up, Grant is not the same man she has loved from afar all these years.

They manage to really piss each other off and Nell quickly plans to become the bride to save her family. I was so involved with this romance that I couldn’t put the book down and was totally invested in their happily ever after. I imagine the other two books in this trilogy will be about the other sisters, and I am looking forward to their stories.

7/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

FIRST BRIDE TO FALL by Ginny Baird. Entangled: Amara (June 28, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-1649372109. 352p.

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MANSPLAINER by Avery Flynn

July 8, 2022

The Last Man Standing Series, Book 3

From the publisher:

As the only Beckett cousin who is still unattached, I’m a shoo-in to win the bet with my cousins to be the last man blissfully not in love by Christmas. Of course, I know they’re still going to make me follow the rules of our bet and go on six dates with the same woman—but I’ve figured out a way out of that too. I’m getting married. Is it love? Not even close. Chelle Finch needs a temporary husband and I need to win this bet. We agree to put a ring on it knowing that in six months this marriage of convenience will end in divorce. Except, somehow dating my wife has me realizing that I don’t ever want to take this ring off if it means losing her.

What does the guy who can talk his way out of anything have to do to sweet talk his temporary wife into forever?

https://amzn.to/3NpXE9l

I actually read the first two books in this series (applause, please!) so I was eagerly anticipating this one. I don’t think it was quite as good as the first two. I have to give it extra points for the cute title and cover though.

Beckett comes from a super competitive family, but they are all really close. When their grandmother dies leaving behind a Christmas gift, the three cousins decide to bet on it. Whoever goes on six dates of the other cousins’ choosing with the first woman who responds to their dating app profile, and doesn’t fall in love, wins the bet. The first two books were the first two cousins’ stories, and they both fell in love and were happy to lose the bet. But now it’s Beckett’s turn, and he has a plan.

Chelle comes from a dysfunctional, misogynistic family. She runs the family foundation, but her father’s will explicitly states that if she isn’t married, she’s out and her slimy uncle will take over, and run it into the ground. So when Beckett’s mom works up an introduction for them, they both realize they can help each other out. The will doesn’t say how long she has to be married, and Beckett figures if he’s married and not in love, he’ll win the bet. Then he can get a divorce and the mystery Christmas gift.

It’s a bit convoluted but fun nonetheless. There is definite heat between them, and I liked that Chelle is a plus-sized woman, dealing with those insecurities compounded by her miserable family. But no worries, they find their happy ending and the mysterious Christmas gift gets opened. I wish there was a bit more to this story, it was a bit too short to really get me invested, but because I read the earlier books, I was all in anyway. It’s fun, it’s sexy, and it’s a quick read, so perfect for an afternoon on the beach.

The series in order:

  1. Mama’s Boy
  2. Neanderthal
  3. Mansplainer

7/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

MANSPLAINER by Avery Flynn.  Entangled: Amara (June 27, 2022). ISBN:‎ 979-8835428281. 260p.

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Spotlight Review: A MATTER OF TEMPTATION by Stacy Reid

July 5, 2022

From the publisher:

Miss Wilhelmina “Mina” Crawford is desperate. Having been ruined in the eyes of society years ago for one foolish, starry-eyed mistake, she spends her days secreted away at her family’s crumbling estate, helping her brother manage the land but not able to truly live life the way she’s always dreamed. When her brother admits to just how dire their finances have gotten, she takes it upon herself to procure employment…but the only one who will even consider the scandalous idea of a female secretary is the brilliant, ruthless, and infuriating Earl of Creswick.

Simon Loughton, the Earl of Creswick, needs help if he wants to finally pass the reform bill he’s been championing for years and secure the vote for England’s most vulnerable constituents. Too bad help comes in the form of a woman with breathtaking nerve, fiery red hair, and a sense of humor to match.

Now temptation―disguised as a lovely, clever-mouthed devil―lives and works under Simon’s very roof. And Mina finally feels as though she’s truly living life to her wildest dreams. But even the most incendiary of kisses can’t incinerate Mina’s past…or the shocking secret that could ruin them both.

https://amzn.to/3yqzupZ

Mina is a strong female protagonist in a sea of weakness. Orphaned, she and her twin brother are close; so close, that when he foolishly challenges the Earl of Creswick to a duel, she takes his place and bests the heretofore unbeaten swordsman. Astonished to realize he was beaten by a girl, the Earl offers her a job as his secretary in a time when women just didn’t do that sort of thing. Desperate for the money, she agrees but quickly they become very close, which irks him to no end.

Theirs is a bumpy relationship at first, but as they get to know one another, things start changing – except while the Earl knows of her reputation, there are still secrets she has yet to share. The Earl is being pressured by his family to marry, and he is so uninterested he tells his grandmother to pick anyone she likes and he’ll marry her. Until his feelings for Mina overtake his logic.

This was a fun read, with lots of witty banter, well developed characters, some hot sex, and interesting politics of the time. I found myself completely engrossed in their world, and had a good time while there.

7/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

A MATTER OF TEMPTATION by Stacy Reid. Entangled: Amara (June 28, 2022). ISBN: 978-1649370969. 400p.

Kindle

 


CRUSH IN THE CASCADES by Lisa S. Gayle

July 1, 2022

From the author:

Reality TV, riches, and a race for romance! What’s not to like?

For Easton Cooper, everything—except a chance at one million dollars. Desperate for cash, he’ll even compete on an outrageous action-adventure reality show, and he hates reality TV. As luck would have it, he’s thrust into his element, a series of outdoor challenges in the Oregon Cascade Mountains. But there’s a catch—he’s staring across the meadow at his partner—a tan, hot, out-of-place California girl, wearing heels and a formal dress in the middle of freaking nowhere—and she will not bring him down! Even if he has to drag her across the finish line.

Amity Rose wants an adventure. No one told her that “dress accordingly” meant deck out in hardcore mountain gear. So she wore strappy heels and a fancy dress to the opening scene. So she hates bugs, cold air, tents, campfires—must she go on? Now all the contestants think she’s a pampered princess—and to add to her bad luck, her partner is the worst—a gangly, overconfident, know-it-all mountain trail guide. Did the directors just add a romantic twist to the drama? Sure, why not? Maybe she’ll leave the race with something more valuable than money. Just not with him!

Crush in the Cascades is a full-length contemporary romance that can be read as a standalone. It features an emotionally-charged, enemies-to-lovers romance weaved into an action-packed, fast-moving plot.

https://amzn.to/3I2qg7F

Even though I’m not a fan of reality TV (aside from Top Chef,) I still found a lot to like here. Easton & Amity meet as contestants on a “Survivor” type reality TV show. Or maybe it’s more like that race one, what do I know. Basically the contestants have to team up as boy/girl couples for challenges. Is that really a thing in reality TV? The ones who come in last are out, and the couple that wins gets an advantage. It’s set in the Cascade Mountains in Oregon (I’m assuming that’s real, but what does this geographically challenged east coast girl know?) The challenges are things like chopping wood, racing on a trail, starting a fire, etc. Outdoorsy stuff.

Easton has a big advantage here – he is a mountain climbing tour guide from Aspen, Colorado. On the other hand, Amity shows up in designer duds and high heels, earning her a few not-so-nice nicknames. Easton is here for the money; his best friend and business partner has some sort of rare heart disease that can be treated, but not through insurance. So Easton wants to win the money to save his friend’s life.

Amity isn’t as bad as she seems. Turns out she is a runner, and that gives her a leg up more than once. She’s also good at doing puzzles, another plus for her, and her balance is nothing short of amazing – but her true skill is that she is terrific at thinking outside the box. She is here because she lost her father, and he always wanted her to travel and go on adventures. So she is here for the adventure.

Amity is a beautiful girl, and somehow she gets under Easton’s skin, despite her lack of skills. This is a sort of enemies to lovers trope; they start off hating one another and eventually fall in love. But there are many hurdles (no pun intended) to get through before they find their happily ever after. There is a super cute ending as well, which hopefully will lead to another book, making this a series? We shall see.

All in all, this was a fun read, especially I imagine, if you love those outdoorsy sort of reality TV shows. It’s light, funny, and sweet, making this a winner and a terrific escape. And since these past couple of weeks have been just brutal, it was much appreciated.

7/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

CRUSH IN THE CASCADES by Lisa S. Gayle. ASIN:‎ B09Z9LBHHS. 324p. 

 


Spotlight Review: THE ACCIDENTAL NEWLYWED GAME by Jaci Burton 

June 28, 2022

Boots and Bouquets, Book 3

From the publisher:

What happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas, when one night out turns into a wedding that neither newlywed can remember, from New York Times bestselling author Jaci Burton.

Wedding planner Honor Bellini is in Las Vegas for a work convention when she runs into her sister’s ex-fiancé, Owen Stone, who’s also in town for his craft brewery business. They’re both glad to see a familiar face from home…until a night of drinking leads to waking up in bed together—and a marriage certificate from a wedding that neither of them can recall.

Horrified, Owen suggests an immediate annulment. Honor agrees, but when they spend the day together, their chemistry is overwhelming. Plus, Honor has a flash of memory of their steamy wedding night, and she definitely likes what she remembers. They decide to wait before cancelling the whole marriage thing, though they both head back to Oklahoma determined not to tell anyone at home what happened in Vegas.

The problem is, Honor and Owen can’t seem to stay away from each other—or keep their hands off one another. The longer they keep their secret, the harder it gets to deny how they really feel. Even worse, this huge secret has the potential to hurt someone they both care about. They need to get an annulment before this accidental marriage turns into love.

https://amzn.to/3u49BKT

This is my first foray in this series, but I want to read the earlier books now! I must admit, the drunk-and-married-in-Vegas plotline is not my favorite. I just find it almost impossible to believe, but I like Jaci Burton as a rule so I went with it. It is a popular device in romance, so I can’t fault anyone for using it, plus the “accidental marriage” is a favorite plot device for a lot of romance readers. 

Owen was engaged to Honor’s sister, but that was a while ago and now her sister is happily married. He basically dumped her right before the wedding when he was diagnosed with cancer. It’s been a couple of years though, and he is living his best life. Honor always thought Owen was cute and they’ve always been friends, so when she spies him across the lobby in her hotel in Vegas, she texts him and he joins her for lunch. One tequila leads to another and the next thing you know, they are waking up in bed together, married.

Annulment immediately springs to mind but Honor sort of remembers having sex with Owen, but doesn’t remember if they used protection. They decide to go home to Oklahoma and wait to see if she is pregnant. That takes weeks, and meanwhile they are secretly dating. Honor doesn’t want to upset her sister. The three sisters and their mom run a wedding venue at the family vineyard, and they are all very close, so Honor is very uncomfortable keeping her relationship a secret.

There is so much chemistry between Owen and Honor, I don’t know how her family didn’t notice for so long. Without giving too much away, let’s say a friendship plus steamy sex makes for a marriage that works. This was pure escapism, so if, like me, you don’t want to deal with the real world right now, try escaping with Honor and Owen.

The series in order:

.5 – The Matchmaker’s Mistletoe Mission (a prequel novella, Kindle only)

1- The Café By the Sea

2 – The Engagement Arrangement

3 – The Accidental Newlywed Game

6/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE ACCIDENTAL NEWLYWED GAME by Jaci Burton. Berkley (June 28, 2022). ISBN: 978-0593439630. 336p.

Kindle

 


MY DOUBLE LIFE by Angela Pearse 

June 24, 2022

From the publisher:

A witty, entertaining rom-com about an introverted librarian with a wild side

Emma McTavish likes nothing better than curling up with a good book. But sometimes she just wants to be a little bit naughty

Struggling to make ends meet, librarian Emma McTavish takes on a side gig as a life model to earn some extra cash. Knowing her straitlaced realtor boyfriend won’t approve, she keeps it quiet.

But her spur-of-the-moment decision starts making life complicated. Suddenly she’s juggling her job, her boyfriend, her sexy new flatmate, and posing nude for a bunch of strangers. Then, one night, she accidentally overhears a conversation that changes everything.

As her life begins to fall apart in spectacular fashion, Emma realises that giving her alter ego the reins isn’t such a bad idea. Actually, it could be the perfect way to get out of the mess she’s in.

A high-spirited heroine who can’t help getting into trouble. Expect shocking secrets, hilarious mix-ups and a heartfelt romance!

https://amzn.to/3bl7trR

I really enjoyed this contemporary romance set in Edinburgh, Scotland. I feel like most of the romances I read that are set in Scotland are historical, so this was a nice change. And having a heroine who is a librarian is just the icing on the cake.

Emma has been in a relationship with Callum for two years. They met when she went to his real estate office to find an apartment. He got her a great apartment in an upscale neighborhood, and they’ve been seeing each other ever since. But the relationship is tepid at best; their sex life has morphed into quickies a few times a week, leaving Emma deeply unsatisfied. It seems like they are just staying together out of habit more than anything.

When Emma’s rent goes up and she is turned down for a promotion yet again, Callum decides she should take on a roommate and arranges meetings with several women. Emma’s closest friend at the library knows someone who needs a place to stay, but he’s a guy and Callum would never approve. Emma decides to meet him anyway, and he is by far the best of the lot of possible roommates. Plus he is hot and there seems to be instant chemistry there. Emma decides to intimate to Callum that Nathan is probably gay, and he goes along with it to an extreme.

Meanwhile, Emma decides to become a “life model” which I believe we call a nude model here in the states. She poses nude for art classes and makes good money doing it. But she knows Callum would never approve so she keeps it from him. It turns out Callum has some secrets of his own, leading the way to a breakup and new relationship with Nathan.

Emma starts off as a wishy-washy type character to me, but she grows and becomes stronger and more independent. Her relationship with Callum was doomed from the start, but I liked that way the story flowed and that Nathan had his own issues as well. There were some very steamy scenes, a lot of witty banter, and some truly funny moments, making this a fast read and a fun one.

6/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

MY DOUBLE LIFE by Angela Pearse.  Clamp Ltd (May 4, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-1914531941. 379p.

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SOMETHING WILDER by Christina Lauren

June 24, 2022

From the publisher:

The “reigning romance queens” (PopSugar) and New York Times bestselling authors of The Soulmate Equation and The Unhoneymooners present a charming and laugh-out-loud funny novel filled with adventure, treasure, and, of course, love.

Growing up the daughter of notorious treasure hunter and absentee father Duke Wilder left Lily without much patience for the profession…or much money in the bank. But Lily is resourceful, and now uses Duke’s coveted hand-drawn maps to guide tourists on fake treasure hunts through the red rock canyons of Utah. It pays the bills but doesn’t leave enough to fulfill her dream of buying back the beloved ranch her father sold years ago, and definitely not enough to deal with the sight of the man she once loved walking back into her life with a motley crew of friends ready to hit the trails. Frankly, Lily would like to take him out into the wilderness and leave him there.

Leo Grady knew mirages were a thing in the desert, but they’d barely left civilization when the silhouette of his greatest regret comes into focus in the flickering light of the campfire. Ready to leave the past behind him, Leo wants nothing more than to reconnect with his first and only love. Unfortunately, Lily Wilder is all business, drawing a clear line in the sand: it’s never going to happen.

But when the trip goes horribly and hilariously wrong, the group wonders if maybe the legend of the hidden treasure wasn’t a gimmick after all. There’s a chance to right the wrongs—of Duke’s past and their own—but only if Leo and Lily can confront their history and work together. Alone under the stars in the isolated and dangerous mazes of the Canyonlands, Leo and Lily must decide whether they’ll risk their lives and hearts on the adventure of a lifetime.

From the author of the “heartfelt and funny” (Publishers Weekly) sensation The Unhoneymooners, this page-turning adventure full of second chances, complicated relationships, and the breathtaking beauty of the American Southwest will take fans on one wild ride.

“Writing duo Lauren Billings and Christina Hobbs strike gold again in this thrilling contemporary romance set in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park. Equal parts exhilarating puzzle-filled adventure and steamy second-chance romance, this cinematic wild-west rom-com is a must-have.” —Booklist (starred review)

“Fans of Christina Lauren, known for their delightful rom-coms, may be surprised by this shift into the world of adventure romance. It should be a pleasant surprise, though, given that the story is fast-paced, exciting, and still full of that classic Christina Lauren swoon (in between the danger, occasional violence, and plot twists). Lily and Leo’s romance is plenty steamy, but the real star is the landscape, which is described in sweltering, dusty detail. A vivid escape that’s perfect for romantic thrill-seekers.” Kirkus (starred review)

https://amzn.to/3zJZRJM

I’ve included two quotes from starred reviews in authoritative journals because I didn’t love this book. I don’t always agree with other reviewers, so I think it only fair to show another point of view.

This was no rom-com, the subgenre of romance that these authors generally write, despite what Kirkus said. A rom-com is light and frothy and most of all, funny – the “com” in rom-com stands for comedy. This was also labeled as “adventure romance,” a subgenre I’m not familiar with at all. To me it was romantic suspense, which I enjoy now and then. The suspense is definitely there; it is enough to keep the pages turning for sure.

My issue with this book is the romance and the main characters. There is very little in the way of character development. We learn that Leo and Lily spent a couple of months together ten years earlier, and somehow they are still madly in love. They’ve not been in touch nor seen one another in that time, so I just found it very hard to believe. This is a second chance love story, and usually I like those, but I didn’t buy their story and I didn’t feel especially drawn to these characters. If I’m not invested in the characters, I’m not invested in their story.

I did like the setting a lot. The basic plot is Lily is eking out a living by taking tour groups on a treasure hunting adventure through the Utah desert. Her father, Duke Wilder, was a world renowned treasure hunter, and Lily has all his maps and uses them to help her tourists find “treasure.” When Leo shows up with his friends, he is just as shocked to see Lily as she is to see him.

The premise of the book is that Butch Cassidy hid much of his bank robbery earnings throughout the Utah desert, and Duke supposedly knows where, so people want to come on these tours. However, the group with Leo’s friends are sketchy at best, and that’s where the suspense comes in. Unfortunately, the characters are very one dimensional including Leo and Lily.

I put this book down several times – I think I read four other books while reading this one because I just couldn’t get into it. It probably would have been a DNF for me if it wasn’t by Christina Lauren – I have loved all their books until this one. I understand they wanted to try something new, but for me it was a disappointment. Please see starred reviews above for a different point of view!

6/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

SOMETHING WILDER by Christina Lauren. Gallery Books (May 17, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-1982173401. 384p.

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