THE MOST LIKELY CLUB by Elyssa Friedland

September 23, 2022

From the publisher:

At their milestone high school reunion, a group of friends make a pact to finally achieve their high school superlatives one way or another, in the lively new novel from the acclaimed author of Last Summer at the Golden Hotel.

In 1997, grunge is king, Titanic is a blockbuster (and Blockbuster still exists), and Thursday nights are for Friends. In Bellport, Connecticut, four best friends and high school seniors are ready to light the world on fire. Melissa Levin, Priya Chowdhury, Tara Taylor, and Suki Hammer are going places. Their yearbook superlatives confirm it: Most Likely to Win the White House, Cure Cancer, Open a Michelin-Starred Restaurant, and Join the Forbes 400.

Fast forward twenty-five years and nothing has gone according to plan as the women regroup at their dreaded high school reunion. When a forgotten classmate emerges at the reunion with a surprising announcement, the friends dig out the yearbook and rethink their younger selves. Is it too late to make their dreams come true? Fueled by nostalgia and one too many drinks, they form a pact to push through their middle-aged angst to bring their teenage aspirations to fruition, dubbing themselves the “Most Likely Girls.”

Through the ensuing highs and lows, they are reminded of the enduring bonds of friendship, the ways our childhood dreams both sustain and surprise us — and why it’s deeply uncool to peak in high school.

“In the delightful latest from Friedland (Last Summer at the Golden Hotel), four women celebrate their 25th high school reunion…Friedland keeps up a steady stream of clever lines to convey the women’s mix of excitement and dread over the big event…Overall, this strikes a fine balance between lighthearted and serious.”—Publishers Weekly

“A high school reunion sparks new life for a group of best friends in Elyssa Friedland’s winning novel The Most Likely Club.… Through their triumphs and failures, the group cherishes the bond of their friendship, and honor their childhood selves in this hilarious and heartwarming tale.”—Popsugar

“We love this book about a group of girls who graduated in the ’90s and are coming up on a milestone high school reunion. Full of nostalgia and surprises, the “Most Likely Girls” will discover that it’s never too late to make their dreams come true.”–Medium.com

Good Morning America Buzz Pick

https://amzn.to/3UrFPLR

This book has been getting a lot of love, and I always worry that books that are hyped that much won’t live up to expectations – but I’m happy to report, this one does. It was a fun read for sure, light and entertaining but also had some depth to it. It deals with all that high school angst, then and now. Some things never change, but I have to say that social media has brought bullying and “mean girls” stuff to a new and terrifying level. I am so thankful my kids are long past that age because I don’t know how I would have handled seeing my child bullied online. It’s a minor plot point here, but enough to bring awareness.

These four women became best friends and are still in touch. One of them, Suki, has become a megastar with her app and makeup lines. Priya has become a doctor and is married to a surgeon. They have three kids and Priya is scheduled within an inch of her life, while her husband completely relies on her to do everything for the kids, and for him.

Melissa is president of the P.T.A. at the high school she and her kids attend, for eight years running. It is no surprise that the principal asks her to chair her class’s 25th reunion. She inveigles her friends to attend, and the invitations go out. Melissa is divorced, and her daughter goes between her house and her dad’s with his new, pregnant wife. They all get along, on the surface at least, but Melissa was really devastated by the divorce.

Tara was supposed to be a fancy chef, but instead she opened a cooking school for children. Now that there is a competitor in town, she knows her business is on the edge of collapse. One of the kids in her class has a mom who keeps saying she has this amazing opportunity for Tara, and when things start looking bad for her school, she goes for it. Turns out to be a TikTok restaurant, based on social media rather than food, but at least it’s a real chef’s job.

As these women gather for their reunion, they are disappointed that Suki can’t join them, she’s overseas promoting her business. But then Suki gets cancelled, big time, and she needs her friends more than ever. She’s holed up at one of Elon Musk’s houses (he’s a friend) and is trying to figure a way out of the mess she’s in. Melissa decides she’s had enough of the P.T.A. and she throws her hat in the ring and decides to run for Mayor. They form the “Most Likely Club” so they can follow those high school dreams and help support one another. There’s a touch of romance with a billionaire donor who was in their class but always felt bullied. Turns out he had a crush on one of these women and gets to follow up on it now.

This was a very engrossing story and the characters really propel it forward, making this a fast as well as a very enjoyable read. This would make a fun book discussion!

9/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE MOST LIKELY CLUB by Elyssa Friedland. Berkley (September 6, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0593199749. 368p.

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Spotlight Review: TAKE IT FROM ME by Jamie Beck

September 20, 2022

From the publisher:

A humorous and heartwarming novel about friendship and all its little secrets by Wall Street Journal bestselling author Jamie Beck.

Wendy Moore hides her collection of pilfered bric-a-brac from everyone, including her husband. He thinks she licked her kleptomania in therapy more than a decade ago. Therapy did help, as did focusing her attention on motherhood. But now Wendy’s gardening and furniture-refinishing hobbies fill up only so much of the day, leaving the recent empty nester lonely and anxious – a combination likely to trigger her little problem. She needs a project, fast. Luckily, Harper Ross – a single, childless younger woman in desperate need of highlights – just moved in next door.

The only thing Harper wants to change is the writer’s block toppling her confidence and career. Then a muse comes knocking. Sensing fodder for a new antagonist, Harper plays along with Wendy’s “helpful” advice while keeping her career a secret so Wendy keeps talking. Sure, she’s torn about profiting off her neighbor’s goodwill – especially when Wendy’s matchmaking actually pans out – but Harper’s novel is practically writing itself.

Just as a real friendship begins to cement, their deceptions come to light, threatening Wendy’s and Harper’s futures and forcing them to reconcile who they are with who they want to be. Easier said than done.

https://amzn.to/3xbMIHG

Harper is a novelist whose first two books met with acclaim, but her third was a stinker. Afraid she’s lost her talent, she puts her Manhattan condo up for sale and rents a house in the suburbs of Connecticut. Her agent and editor are pushing her in a different direction, and she is hopeful that the fresh start in a new locale will give her the impetus she needs to write a better book. Wendy lives nearby and is dealing with an upcoming empty nest, and doesn’t have many friends. She has a shameful secret; she suffers from a mental illness which is handled sensitively here. The two women meet and form a friendship of sorts, except Harper is using Wendy as inspiration for her new book, and is lying about her occupation. Wendy is happy to have a new friend, especially a younger woman she can mother a bit and act as a matchmaker, too. When all the secrets come out, the friendship is strained beyond repair, or so it seems.

Verdict: Many women will see aspects of themselves here in this relatable women’s fiction that should appeal to book clubs and readers who enjoy books by Danielle Steel or Kristin Hannah.

©Library Journal, 2022

9/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

TAKE IT FROM ME by Jamie Beck. Montlake (September 20, 2022). ISBN: 978-1542032391. 347p.

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Spotlight Review: LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY by Bonnie Garmus

August 30, 2022

From the publisher:

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • GOOD MORNING AMERICA BOOK CLUB PICK • A must-read debut! Meet Elizabeth Zott: a “formidable, unapologetic and inspiring” (PARADE) scientist in 1960s California whose career takes a detour when she becomes the unlikely star of a beloved TV cooking show in this novel that is “irresistible, satisfying and full of fuel. It reminds you that change takes time and always requires heat” (The New York Times Book Review).

“A unique heroine … you’ll find yourself wishing she wasn’t fictional.” —Seattle Times

Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel–prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with—of all things—her mind. True chemistry results.

But like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (“combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride”) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo. 

Laugh-out-loud funny, shrewdly observant, and studded with a dazzling cast of supporting characters, Lessons in Chemistry is as original and vibrant as its protagonist.

“Indefatigable and formidable, Elizabeth pushes the bounds of how women and their work are perceived in this thoroughly engaging debut novel.” —Booklist

“[An] energetic debut…A more adorable plea for rationalism and gender equality would be hard to find.” —Kirkus (starred review)

https://amzn.to/3AwuFw8

This is a fantastic debut novel that got lost on my Kindle (it came out in April), so thanks, Judy, for reminding me about it!

Elizabeth Zott is a feminist icon – or should be, if fictional characters could be. She is a chemist in the late 1950s-early 1960s when a woman’s place was in the home – in the kitchen and the bedroom, really, but she has no interest in that sort of life. She is studying for her master’s degree when she is attacked by her professor. She manages to elude the rapist, but again, this time period allows for women who are raped to get victimized all over again by the police and the judicial system. She is forced to leave school and lands a job at a research facility.

Zott’s boss is a misogynistic slime ball who steals her research and constantly degrades her. But he needs her because her specific research is being funded and no one else can do it. The lab has its star chemist, Calvin, who has the reputation of being brilliant and aloof. Calvin and Elizabeth meet when she steals some of his beakers, as her lab is bereft of necessary supplies. They meet again when he vomits on her, a first for a “meet cute” for me. Calvin has had a tragic life that rivals even Elizabeth’s tragic life, and they fall in love. But she has no interest in marrying. Instead, they live together and are very happy. They adopt a rescue dog that turns out to be about as brilliant as his owners and is a marvelous character in his own right. Six-thirty is his name, and there are snippets of his thoughts throughout the book, reminding me a bit of one of my favorite books, Garth Stein’s Racing in the Rain.

Tragedy befalls the happy couple, and Elizabeth’s life takes a turn when she finds out she is pregnant. She has the baby and is learning to parent when a neighbor helps her out. Harriet becomes her closest friend and ally. Needing a job, Elizabeth agrees to host an afternoon TV show, a cooking show that she is turning into Chemistry 101. Her fanbase grows but the old lech who runs the station wants her to dress sexy and make cocktails. She sticks to her guns and her show is a huge success. Eventually, she finds her way back to chemistry, her first love.

Elizabeth is a quirky, strong character and her story is both hilarious and heartbreaking, yet ultimately inspiring. She truly is unforgettable, as is this novel, which will appear on my best books of the year list. Book groups will have much to discuss here. Don’t miss it!

8/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY by Bonnie Garmus. Doubleday; First Edition (April 5, 2022). ISBN: 978-0385547345. 400p.

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MAD ABOUT YOU by Mhairi McFarlane

August 19, 2022

From the publisher:

International bestseller Mhairi McFarlane delivers a sharp, emotional new novel about a woman who calls off her engagement to “the perfect man” and moves in with a charming stranger who makes her question everything about her life, her past, and the secrets she’s kept for far too long…

Harriet Hatley is the most in-demand wedding photographer in town, but she doesn’t believe in romance, loathes the idea of marriage, and thinks chocolate fountains are an abomination. Which is why, when her long-time partner proposes, she panics. Suddenly Harriet is single… and living down the hall from her ex. She needs a new apartment, like, yesterday.

Enter Cal Clarke, a hopeless romantic who just experienced his own wedding-related disaster. Harriet and Cal are like chalk and cheese, but as they go from strangers to roommates to friends, it becomes clear they’re both running from something. When Harriet’s most heavily guarded secret comes to light, her world implodes. And Cal, with his witty humor and gentle advice, is a surprising source of calm at the center of the storm.

With her career, friendships, and reputation on the line, Harriet must finally face her past in order to take control of her future. Because if she’s willing to stop playing it safe and risk everything to share her truth, real love and happiness may be waiting on the other side…

“McFarlane’s gift is writing romantic comedy that depicts a recognizable world… without dimming the luster of shining moments of humor, love, and connection.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Despite its heavy themes of coping with past abuse and loss, McFarlane’s latest, following Just Last Night (2021), is a mostly lighthearted romp through friendship, love, and starting over. Readers of Marian Keyes will be drawn to this British charmer.” — Booklist

https://amzn.to/3PBznyi

This is more women’s fiction than romance or rom-com. Harriet has been through a lot; first, several years with an emotional abuser, then a couple of years with basically a rebound, although it takes her a while to figure that out. She meets Cal when she needs to find a new place to live. One of her closest friends is in real estate and tips her off to this room for rent before it gets posted online. A brief phone call later, and Harriet is moving in.

Harriet is a wedding photographer. She has her own business and it has grown pretty much by word of mouth, helped along by social media. She is shocked to find her abusive ex is the best man at a wedding she is shooting and is even more shocked when it turns out the ex is engaged. Feeling a responsibility to perhaps warn his fiancée about him, she sends the young woman a letter, and unfortunately, she shares it with the ex. Payback is brutal and it costs her a lot of business, and eventually a friendship.

Meanwhile, Harriet finds out that her new landlord is actually the runaway groom from a wedding she was supposed to shoot. She’s harbored bad feelings about him ever since, but it’s getting harder to reconcile that behavior with the landlord she has come to know. Harriet and Cal have a spark for sure, but it is very slow burning.

This story is more about abuse and revenge and friendship, but eventually, it leads to a romance with the requisite happy ending. There are some very funny moments as well as a bit of sex. The characters feel real on the page, and I was completely engrossed in their story. This is another winner from McFarlane!

8/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

MAD ABOUT YOU by Mhairi McFarlane. Avon (August 9, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0063117945. 416p.

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NEVER ENOUGH COWBOY by Jennie Marts

August 5, 2022

Creedence Horse Rescue, Book 4

From the publisher:

Fans of Carolyn Brown, Maisey Yates, and Jennifer Ryan will fall head over cowboy boots for this second-chance romance from USA Today bestseller Jennie Marts.

A heartwarming cowboy romance on the ranch…

This lighthearted second-chance romance is filled with:

An independent single mom who’d do anything for her son

The handsome Sheriff’s deputy who can’t stop thinking about her

The undeniable attraction between them

Characters who must learn to trust in love again

Rescue animals who deserve their own second chances

Single mom Jillian Bennett barely has a moment to herself between raising her ten-year old son, volunteering at the horse rescue ranch, and her new job as head librarian of Creedence, Colorado. She doesn’t have the time or inclination for romance, even though she and the cute deputy, Ethan Rayburn, have been doing a little flirting the last few weeks. Still, when Ethan puts out a call out to all the horse rescues to help with a large rescue operation, Jillian jumps in to help.

Ethan doesn’t consider himself the impulsive type, but there’s something about Jillian that calls to him. When he also forms a bond with her son, Milo, Ethan soon realizes that there isn’t anything he wouldn’t do for the feisty librarian who’s won his heart.

https://amzn.to/3JxhG1p

I read the first two books in this series (not in order, of course!) but somehow missed the third, which I will be rectifying shortly. I really like this series. The romances are sweet and not too sexy, the characters are interesting and I can’t help but root for them to find their happily ever after. And they do. Throw in animal rescue, in this case horses, and I’m a happy reader.

Jillian reminded me of my mom – single and putting her child first. She is not interested in dating at all, except Deputy Ethan is super hot and even better, super kind. He falls hard and fast for the fiery, gutsy mom but she remains cautious – for a little while, at least. But he is so good with her son that he quickly wins her over.

This was a fun read, but the animal abuse may be difficult for some readers, even though they are rescued. On the other hand, there are a pig, goat, and a miniature horse that absolutely steal the show! This was a quick read for me; I got totally involved with these characters and was so sorry to turn the last page. This is a terrific series, and the books each stand alone so no worries if you can’t get them in order.

8/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

NEVER ENOUGH COWBOY by Jennie Marts. Sourcebooks Casablanca (July 26, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-1728226132. 336p.

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SUGAR AND SALT by Susan Wiggs

July 29, 2022

Bella Vista Chronicles, Book 4

From the publisher:

The New York Times bestselling author of The Lost and Found Bookshop brings readers a can’t-miss tale of friendship, hardship, redemption, and love between a San Francisco baker and a barbecue master from Texas.

Jerome Sugar learned the art of baking in his grandma’s bakery, also called Sugar, on historic Perdita Street in San Francisco. He supplies baked goods to the Lost and Found Bookshop across the street.

When the restaurant that shares his commercial kitchen loses its longtime tenant, a newcomer moves in: Margot Salton, a barbecue master from Texas.

Margot isn’t exactly on the run, but she needs a fresh start. She’s taken care of herself her whole life, pulling herself up by her fingernails to recover from trauma, and her dream has been to open a restaurant somewhere far, far from Texas. The shared kitchen with Jerome’s Sugar bakery is the perfect setup: a state-of-the-art kitchen and a vibrant neighborhood popular with tourists and locals.

Margot instantly takes to Jerome’s mother, the lively, opinionated Ida. The older woman proves to be a good mentor, and Margot is drawn to Jerome. Despite their different backgrounds their attraction is powerful—even though Jerome worries that Margot will simply move on from him once she’s found some peace and stability. But just as she starts to relax into a happy new future, Margot’s past in Texas comes back to haunt her…

https://amzn.to/3BiUOkf

I love Susan Wiggs’ books; they always have intriguing characters, interesting settings, and unputdownable stories, and this is no exception.

This is not the book I thought I would be reading based on the publisher’s description (above.) All that is true, but it misses the major plot points of the story and why I was so drawn into it. Yes, there is a romance, two in fact, but while it is the premise that allows this story to be told, it is not your usual boy-meets-girl-boy-loses-girl-boy-gets-girl-back-again story.

I don’t want to give anything away, so I will tell you it deals with a small town in Texas, a rape, and the unwanted pregnancy that follows (despite what some incredibly ignorant Republican congressmen have said about what they call “legitimate rape,” and that women’s bodies somehow can block an unwanted pregnancy. Science, people!) It deals with abortion and adoption and prison and women’s rights. It deals with our justice system and how it favors the rich. It could not be more timely, and all these things are handled with truth and grace and real life emotions.

This is one of the most thought provoking books I’ve read in a while. It made me think about things I’d rather not, but it was okay in this novel. It would undoubtedly lead to a lively (possibly contentious) book discussion and it makes me sorry I don’t have that option anymore. It’s an important story, a woman’s story, and I hope it is widely read and discussed.

While this is the fourth book of a series, it easily stands alone, as do all the books in this series. That said, I have loved every one of them and highly recommend them all. Do yourself a favor and read them in whatever order you can get them. This one is sure to make my best books of the year list.

The Bella Vista Chronicles in Order:

  1. The Apple Orchard
  2. The Beekeeper’s Ball
  3. The Lost and Found Bookshop
  4. Sugar and Salt

 You’re welcome.

7/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

SUGAR AND SALT by Susan Wiggs. William Morrow (July 26, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0062914224. 368p.

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A SHOE STORY by Jane L. Rosen

July 29, 2022

From the publisher:

A young woman has one month and a closetful of shoes to discover the future she thought she’d lost in this captivating new novel from the author of Eliza Starts a Rumor and Nine Women, One Dress.

Esme Nash is eager to leave her small town and begin her carefully planned post-grad life: a move to New York City, an apartment with her loving college boyfriend, and a fancy job at an art gallery. But when tragedy strikes, instead of heading to Manhattan, she returns home to care for her ailing father, leaving every bit of her dream behind.

Seven trying years later, Esme is offered a dog-sitting job in Greenwich Village by a mysterious stranger, giving her access to all of her long-buried hopes and dreams—as well as to an epic collection of designer shoes. Esme jumps at a second chance to step into the future she’s sure was meant to be hers.

As she retraces her steps, one pair of borrowed shoes at a time, making new friends and reconnecting with her old love, Esme tries on versions of herself she didn’t know existed. But the hazy August days and warm summer nights pass too quickly, and Esme must decide how much of the life she imagined still fits, and what—and who—is on the road ahead of her.

https://amzn.to/3cGF93M

This is the second Rosen book I’ve read, after Nine Women, One Dress, and all I can say is that this is a worthy successor. New York City is pretty much another character here, and I really enjoyed that aspect. Esme is a great character, too; smart, caring, a heart big enough to survive and prosper in NYC. When her father falls ill, Esme leaves all her plans behind to go back upstate to take care of him. Several years later, she finally loses him and finds a unique opportunity. Not really sure what she wants to do with the rest of her life, she takes a job dogsitting/apartment sitting for a woman in a very nice apartment, complete with an amazing shoe collection. Esme has a bit of a shoe fetish herself, so she definitely can relate. When the owner, who is in rehab for what Esme assumes is her shoe/shopping addiction, offers her to try anything she likes in the apartment, Esme takes her up on it and every day is a new shoe adventure.

She meets a young man and they become good friends, hanging out quite a bit. She also meets an elderly gentleman in the dog park, and they, too, form a friendship. Esme is having a great time, but what she really wants is to sort of “accidentally” run into her college ex, the boy she dumped to go home to care for her father. He is still in the city, and it turns out he is living in the apartment they were supposed to share.

Of course everything is not quite as Esme hoped it would be, and while she’s finding her way to her future, these relationships all help clarify things. Along with the shoes, of course. This sweet and funny novel is heartwarming with a touch of romance, and I highly recommend it.

7/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

A SHOE STORY by Jane L. Rosen.  Berkley (June 28, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0593102121. 336p.

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Spotlight Review: THE GODPARENT TRAP by Rachel Van Dyken 

July 19, 2022

From the publisher:

Life’s Too Short meets The Unhoneymooners in this sparkling, steamy, and swoon-worthy novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Rachel Van Dyken, in which two sworn enemies must share house, home—and maybe their hearts—when they become co-parents after a sudden loss.

Colby’s living her best life: as a popular food blogger, she gets to fulfill her dreams of exploring the globe. But her world comes crashing down when a tragic accident leaves her co-guardian of her best friend’s two adorable children. Not only does she need to put down roots—fast—but she’ll be sharing custody with the one man she can’t stand sharing a continent with, let alone a house.  

Accountant-extraordinaire Rip values rules and plans. But when he loses his sister and his best friend and becomes an insta-guardian all in one night, Rip sees his organized life imploding. What he really doesn’t need is his sister’s irresponsible, flighty—albeit kind and gorgeous—best friend making it worse.

Rip doesn’t trust Colby to take their new responsibilities seriously, while Colby can’t believe Rip thinks children will thrive under his rigid control. Yet soon Rip and Colby discover they need each other more than they hate each other. Could it be possible that following their hearts is just what their new little family needs?

https://amzn.to/3IU3GhR

This is a very cute book that reminded me of a not-so-great movie with Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel, “Life As We Know It.” Same basic premise; couple die in an accident leaving their child to be raised by their best friends, who naturally hate one another. In the book, there are two kids, doubling the trouble. Makes me kind of wish Van Dyken had a hand in that movie, it would have been so much better.

Colby lives a life that a lot of people would envy. As a food and travel blogger, she travels the world and writes about it. Rip is a very successful accountant, and his sister was married to his best friend, and her best friend is Colby. It’s not all that complicated but you can guess that a by-the-numbers kind of guy isn’t going to be impressed by someone who floats around the world for a living. But they are godparents and legal guardians to a toddler girl and her elementary school age brother, so they have to step up. 

Both of them are grieving in their own way, and so are the kids. It’s a heart wrenching premise to be sure, but it works here. Colby and Rip both prioritize the kids, so even though she is a hot mess to his perfectionism, they have to get along for the kids’ sake, no matter how difficult that is. But as they spend time together – the both move into the kids home – they learn to rely on one another. Of course there is a sexual attraction as well, but both are fighting it. Until they no longer can.

Despite the devastating loss, there are a lot of laughs here, and as Colby and Rip give in to their attraction to one another, some steamy sex scenes, too. This was a fast, fun read and a perfect book to take on vacation, which I did. If you are looking for an escape, this is a good one.

7/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE GODPARENT TRAP by Rachel Van Dyken. Forever (July 19, 2022). ISBN: 978-1538720530. 352p.

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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


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