THE BOARDWALK BOOKSHOP by Susan Mallery

June 3, 2022

From the publisher:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery—a story of friends who become family, giving each other courage to start over…

When fate brings three strangers to a charming space for lease on the California coast, the Boardwalk Bookshop is born. Part bookstore, part gift shop, part bakery, it’s a dream come true for Bree, Mikki and Ashley. But while their business is thriving, their personal lives are…not.

Bree, wounded by brilliant but cold parents and her late husband’s ultimate betrayal, has sworn to protect her heart at all costs. Even from Ashley’s brother, a writer and adventurer who has inspired millions. He’s the first man to see past Bree’s barricades to her true self, which terrifies her. Mikki has this divorce thing all figured out—somehow, she’s stayed friends with her ex and her in-laws…until a new man changes how everyone looks at her, and how she sees herself. Meanwhile, Ashley discovers that the love of her life never intends to marry. Can she live without being a wife if it means she can have everything else she’s ever wanted?

At sunset every Friday on the beach in front of the Boardwalk Bookshop, the three friends share a champagne toast. As their bond grows closer, they challenge one another to become the best versions of themselves in this heartachingly beautiful story of friendship, sisterhood and the transformative power of love.

The Boardwalk Bookshop is a classic beach-read romance that will be enjoyed by fans of Robyn Carr and Sheryl Woods. Readers will appreciate that, while Mallery keeps the tone romantic and fun, the protagonists make hard choices and don’t default to the easy way out, giving everyone a character to root for.”—Booklist on The Boardwalk Bookshop

“A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.”Kirkus on The Boardwalk Bookshop

“Mallery is an expert at writing about strong women, their friendships, and their romances.” —Booklist

“Mallery beautifully illustrates the power of female friendship and the importance of reaching for one’s dreams.”—Publishers Weekly

https://amzn.to/3GPuFdC

Three women become business partners then friends when they lease a large space on the beach for their individual businesses; Bree has a bookstore, Ashley has a muffin/bakery, and Mikki has a gift shop, and all three businesses work well together in the shared space. Every Friday, the women close for the day then head to the beach with some champagne, a different kind every week. As they get to know one another, real friendships form.

Bree’s parents are both acclaimed literary fiction authors, and she inherited her bookstore from her late husband. Her parents could not be bothered with her and she had a very troubled, neglected childhood. Her marriage put the final nail in the coffin of her ability to love or even to be loved. While she recognizes she has some issues, she has found ways to cope – no relationships outside of sex once or twice with the same man. Then she moves on. Until she meets Ashley’s brother, Harding. Somehow Harding has gotten Bree to go on a few dates with him, and as they get to know one another, Bree realizes she is in trouble. She is developing feelings for the man, and that terrifies her.

Mikki is divorced but still friends with her ex. They have two kids, and her ex-mother-in-law works for her in the gift shop. It’s been three years since the divorce, and her youngest is almost ready for college. She has a running gag that she doesn’t date because she’s loyal to Earl, her vibrator. Truth is she hasn’t dated for over twenty years, has low self-esteem, and isn’t too tech savvy. But her friends help her get on a dating app, and to her shock, she gets tons of responses. One of the men is Duane, father of one of her daughter’s friends, also divorced. They meet and Mikki finds herself in a new relationship, which goes sideways when her ex-husband springs on her his desire to try again. Conflicted, Mikki has to dig deep, and her friends give the impetus she needs to set boundaries for herself and her ex.

Ashley is a bit younger than the other women and is head over heels in love with Seth. They live together, and he is hinting at buying a house. Ashley assumes he is going to propose, but one thing leads to another until Seth announces he wants to commit to her for a lifetime, but doesn’t believe in marriage and won’t even entertain the idea. They decide to try and see each other’s point of view, but quickly reach a stalemate.

This is a story about friendships and love, and I couldn’t put it down. The characters and their stories really drew me in until I (sadly) turned the last page. It is always hard to pick up another book after reading one that I was so immersed in – I loved this book!

6/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE BOARDWALK BOOKSHOP by Susan Mallery. MIRA; Original edition (May 31, 2022). ISBN: 978-0778386087. 448p.

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Spotlight Review: THE GOOD LEFT UNDONE by Adriana Trigiani

May 17, 2022

From the publisher:

AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

From “a master of visual and palpable detail” (The Washington Post), comes a lush, immersive novel about three generations of Tuscan artisans with one remarkable secret. Epic in scope and resplendent with the glorious themes of identity and belonging, The Good Left Undone unfolds in breathtaking turns.

Matelda, the Cabrelli family’s matriarch, has always been brusque and opinionated. Now, as she faces the end of her life, she is determined to share a long-held secret with her family about her own mother’s great love story: with her childhood friend, Silvio, and with dashing Scottish sea captain John Lawrie McVicars, the father Matelda never knew. . . .

In the halcyon past, Domenica Cabrelli thrives in the coastal town of Viareggio until her beloved home becomes unsafe when Italy teeters on the brink of World War II. Her journey takes her from the rocky shores of Marseille to the mystical beauty of Scotland to the dangers of wartime Liverpool—where Italian Scots are imprisoned without cause—as Domenica experiences love, loss, and grief while she longs for home. A hundred years later, her daughter, Matelda, and her granddaughter, Anina, face the same big questions about life and their family’s legacy, while Matelda contemplates what is worth fighting for. But Matelda is running out of time, and the two timelines intersect and weave together in unexpected and heartbreaking ways that lead the family to shocking revelations and, ultimately, redemption. 

“Trigiani conveys the beauty of Italy, the hardships of war, the taste of family recipes, and the enduring love of family.”—Library Journal (starred)

“[An] immersive saga. . . . A celebration of family and a paean to the power of storytelling.”—People, “Book of the Week”

https://amzn.to/37StqwZ

Trigiani gives us another gem; three generations of women, their stories interwoven from 1929 through World War II through present day, from a small village in Italy to Scotland and the expulsion of “Britalians”, history comes alive on the page, as does the food, the family, and the scenery.

Trigiani is one of my favorite writers and favorite people! She is so full of life, and her exuberance carries over on her pages. bringing every story she tells to life. Sadly, she is not on a book-a-year schedule; in fact, it’s been about four years since her last book, Tony’s Wife. In that review, I said “reading Trigiani is an immersive experience into Italian family life and food and love,” and that tradition continues here, with the Cabrelli family.

Matelda Cabrelli is nearing the end of her life, and wants to share her life and her mother’s life stories with the next generations. They are a family of jewelers, but they are working class – the sell the jewelry they make to the upper classes. Matelda’s mother, Domenica, starts the story with her life in a small village where she became a nurse, and met and married first a Scotsman, then her childhood best friend. she really wants to share her life stories with her granddaughter, Anina, and we all get drawn in.

This book has a slow start, but quickly becomes unputdownable. The descriptions of the locations, and especially the food, are exquisite. But it’s these women who invaded my life and my dreams and will be staying with me for a long time to come. I don’t want to give anything away – one of the treats of reading a Trigiani novel is watching events unfold and lives change. Don’t miss it.

5/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE GOOD LEFT UNDONE by Adriana Trigiani. Dutton (April 26, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0593183328. 448p.

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CHASE WILDE COMES HOME by Jennifer Ryan

May 6, 2022

Wyoming Wilde, Book 1

From the publisher:

New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Ryan begins a brand-new series with a western set romance between a former soldier and the mother of his child. Perfect for fans of Diana Palmer, Linda Lael Miller, and BJ Daniels.

They’re tough, tender, and sometimes tormented; they’re the Wildes of Wyoming, three brothers whose family ties are as strong as their wills.

Chase Wilde never expected to fall in love, especially with Shelby Payne. Years before, one passionate night had drawn these two lost souls together. Then Chase left on deployment with the Army, while Shelby raised their baby alone. Now he’s back, a wounded warrior determined to turn his life around. Shelby knows what it’s like to lose everything, including her own family. So she offers him a bargain: if he can prove himself to be the man he says he is, she will let him into their daughter’s life…and maybe even into hers.

Chase knows it will take a lot to prove to Shelby that there’s more between them than the single night they spent together. She’s everything he’s ever wanted, including the voice of reason he needs to reconcile his past and be the man he wants to be for them both. But just as their lives come together, she’s torn away from him by a dangerous person from her past, and saving her means saving himself . . . because he can’t live without her.

https://amzn.to/3ycmVjr

Ryan writes good romances with interesting characters, and this is no exception. This is the first book of a new series, and it looks to be a really good one. There are three Wilde brothers, and this story centers around the eldest, Chase.

Talk about a damaged character; PTSD from a stint in the armed services, and a painkiller addiction. Just to make matters even worse, right when Chase is about to be released from rehab, a friend ODs in front of him and he uses mouth-to-mouth to try and save her. Instead, he ends up with the drugs in his system from touching her, and extends his stay in rehab another week.

Chase’s family is mad at him to begin with because they feel like he helped their mother end her life when she was dying of cancer. There are a lot of hard feelings all the way around, so when he finally is released, he’s not even sure where he’ll stay. To his surprise, Shelby is waiting for him as he walks out.

Chase and Shelby had a life-changing one night stand before he left for the army. They met in the bar in town, and the next morning went their separate ways. But Shelby got pregnant, and Chase takes that responsibility to heart.

Shelby is another damaged character. She is the result of her mother’s being raped, and as an infant, her mother tried to drown her then committed suicide. Her grandparents raised her but Shelby knew that every time they looked at her, they saw what happened to their daughter. She grows up the talk of the town and very much alone.

Shelby and Chase have strong feelings for one another, but there are so many hurdles in the way of their happily every after. There is also quite a bit of suspense running through this romance because the man who raped her mother has been released from prison. He stalked her mother until he kidnapped her, and now he seems to be just as obsessed with his daughter and granddaughter.

Ryan touches on a lot of serious issues, making this much darker and deeper than many romance novels. She does a really good job building the suspense of the stalker/rapist and the romance, but rules are rules and a happy ending is reached. I am looking forward to the next book in this series – some breadcrumbs were laid so we can see where it is going and I can’t wait!

5/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

CHASE WILDE COMES HOME by Jennifer Ryan. Avon (March 29, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0063111400. 400p.

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HIGHLAND JUSTICE by Heather McCollum

May 6, 2022

Sons of Sinclair, Book 3

From the publisher:

As the new chief of Clan Mackay, Gideon Sinclair knows the importance of maintaining order at any cost. To keep the conquered clan in line, Gideon must mete out ruthless justice or risk losing their precious new peace. But from the moment he meets Cait Mackay―aye, from the moment the sweetness of her lips captures his―all of Gideon’s careful objectivity is well and thoroughly compromised.

Cait knows that kissing the brawny Highlander is a dangerous game. It was bad enough she picked his pocket to feed the children in her care, but sometimes a desperate woman must disguise her crimes any way she can. Only her act of deception has made things worse… Because one kiss with the Highland’s most brutal chief leaves her breathless and out of her depth.

Now Gideon must choose between his duty and his heart when his lovely thief is accused of treason against the king himself.

Each book in the Sons of Sinclair series is STANDALONE:

* Highland Conquest

* Highland Warrior

* Highland Justice

https://amzn.to/3Fmj1Wx

I read the first book in this series, Highland Conquest, but somehow I never got the second book. So here I am, reviewing the third and I have to say it’s true, they definitely stand alone. And they are so good!

This series is set in Scotland during the 1500s, so a fascinating time period. This book begins each chapter with a rule of law that was used during that time and I found those so interesting, and each law explained ties into the story. The main characters are Cait, a beautiful young widow, and Gideon, one of the sons of Sinclair. They were raised as the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and Gideon is the Horseman of Justice. He makes the laws, and he enforces the laws, determining each suspect’s guilt or innocence. But when he meets Cait, everything changes.

Cait was married off when she was 15 years old by her father, to settle some debts. Her younger sister Willa was part of the package deal. But her husband was a cruel man, and told her she didn’t conceive because she’s a cold woman. She believes that until she meets Gideon.

Cait loves babies, and she takes in any children that need a home. Gideon is impressed with her good heart, and there is a strong attraction there. But when her oldest child, Jack, is accused of heinous crimes, Gideon must decide between helping Cait with her child, or the helping James, the King of Scotland, as ordered.

I really enjoyed this story and this time period. I haven’t read much set back then and I find it so interesting. These characters really touched me, and now I have to backtrack and try to find the second book in the series that I missed. If you like historical romances with some steamy sex, this is a good one.

5/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

HIGHLAND JUSTICE by Heather McCollum. Entangled: Amara (April 26, 2022) ISBN:‎ 978-1649370761. 400p.

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THE SUMMER GETAWAY by Susan Mallery

April 22, 2022

From the publisher:

One woman takes the vacation of a lifetime in this poignant and heartwarming story about the threads that hold a family together from #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery.

Single mom Robyn Caldwell needs a new plan for her future.  She has always put her family first.  Now, with her kids grown, she yearns for a change. But what can she do when her daughter has become the most demanding bride ever, her son won’t even consider college, her best friend is on the brink of marital disaster and her ex is making a monumentally bad decision that could ruin everything?

Take a vacation, of course. Press reset. When her great-aunt Lillian invites her to Santa Barbara for the summer, Robyn hops on the first plane to sunny California.

But it’s hard to get away when you’re the heart of the family. One by one, everyone she loves follows her across the country. Somehow, their baggage doesn’t feel as heavy in the sun-drenched, mishmash mansion. The more time Robyn spends with free-spirited Lillian, the more possibilities she sees—for dreams, love, family. She can have everything she ever wanted, if only she can muster the courage to take a chance on herself.

“The perfect escape for readers wanting to get away.”—Booklist

https://amzn.to/3xK1BBG

Mallery has the skill to take an almost unbelievable situation and turn it into something that is clearly happening, with characters you can’t help but root for, and she does it really well. In this case, Robyn is fed up with her life. Her cheating ex is too reliant on her, her kids are growing up, and she is coming up on a balloon mortgage of sorts that she has not prepared for.

Robyn’s daughter has turned into bridezilla, and there is little she can do about it other than persevere. Her ex is dating their daughter’s fiance’s twin sister (read that again) and making life uncomfortable for everyone. Her boss and good friend is contemplating an affair and won’t listen to reason. Her doctor boyfriends lets slip that he doesn’t have much respect for her, and at this point, Robyn doesn’t have a whole lot of respect for herself. When her favorite great great aunt invites her to stay with her for as long as she wants, Robyn packs her bags and runs off to the other coast, shocking her family.

Once there, she meets Mason, a long lost relative of her deceased uncle, who is set to inherit the crazy mansion where they are all staying. Robyn learns she is to inherit the furnishings of the home which includes many priceless pieces of art and other ephemera, not to mention antiques galore. Cataloging it all alone could take a year or more. There is something about Mason that draws Robyn in, and he is completely smitten with her.

Meanwhile, her family starts following her across the country and before long, everyone she ran away from is there with her. Lots of craziness ensues, but love always prevails. This is a wonderful, feel good story with a lot of laughs and some tears shed along the way. If you like family fiction with a touch of romance, then you should love this book as much as I do.

4/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE SUMMER GETAWAY by Susan Mallery. HQN; Original edition (March 15, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-1335479990. 416p.

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THE WAY FROM HERE by Jane Cockram

March 25, 2022

From the publisher:

Three generations of women. Three generations worth of secrets. Will a cache of letters from beyond the grave hold the key to unravelling them all? The answer to that question lies at the heart of this addictive and atmospheric novel from the author of The House of Brides.

Growing up, the Anderson sisters could not have been more different. Susie, the wild one, had an adventurous life while Camilla— Mills—followed a safer path. When Susie suddenly dies, Mills falls apart. Until she receives a bundle of mysterious letters from her estranged sister to be read in the case of her death. Each letter instructs her to visit a place special to Susie, both to spread her ashes but also to uncover some truths Susie has long kept hidden from her family.

Their mother Margaret has secrets of her own. When living in Swinging Sixties London, she too made a decision about her life that not only haunts her, but will reverberate through the generations.

One family, three very different women. What choices and secrets connect them? In this novel of truth and lies, concealment and regret, Jane Cockram flips the looking glass to expose our true face, revealing the deep lines of deception that can run through families and how the people we love the most often have the most to hide.

https://amzn.to/3Aq33Zj

This multi-generational story of family secrets by Cockram (The House of Brides) centers on two sisters; Camilla, the “good” daughter who follows the rules, and Susie, the rebel.  When Susie suddenly dies, she leaves behind a series of letters for Camilla, instructing her to scatter Susie’s ashes in the various places she visited one summer in 1998. Camilla honors her sister’s wishes even though it puts a strain on her marriage.

Three generations of women in this family have skeletons in their closets, all involving another family, the Rowes. Susie met David Rowe that fateful summer in London, followed him to a tiny island in France, where she met his girlfriend Isabelle, then met Henri and fell in love. Things ended badly, and now Susie’s letters have sent Camilla on a trail that has threatened to reveal things her mother and grandmother never wanted exposed. Turns out there is a lot of juicy history between the families, and all is eventually revealed.

Verdict: This somewhat convoluted story gets bogged down by jumping time periods, but ultimately reaches a satisfying conclusion. Should appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty or Celeste Ng.

©Library Journal, 2022

3/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE WAY FROM HERE by Jane Cockram. Harper (March 1, 2022). ISBN: 978-0062939326. 320p.

way from here TURNER

Kindle: NOTE: The Kindle version is showing a different cover and a different author – I’m assuming one of these names is a pseudonym?

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CUPID CALAMITY by Kelly Kay & Evie Alexander

February 4, 2022

Evie and Kelly’s Holiday Disasters, Book 1

From the publisher:

Valentine’s day romantic comedy at its finest!

One cupid, two calamities, four uproarious lovers. Insta-love meets insta-disaster in these laugh-out-loud Valentine’s day novellas.

Animal Attraction by Evie Alexander: Overworked, underpaid, and perpetually single, Laurie is stuck in a rut. A birthday on Valentine’s day is bad enough, but when her insensitive colleagues drag her to a secret Safari dining experience, her day hits rock bottom – she’s terrified of animals. Workaholic Ben has just swapped the States for Somerset. He’s on track to fulfil a childhood dream, and the only date he wants on Valentine’s day is a business one. But when his fantasy woman approaches with an offer he can’t refuse, his priorities start to change. Laurie and Ben have an instant connection and their chemistry is wild. Unfortunately so are the animals. When the menagerie goes into meltdown they’re thrown into a Darwinian Hunger Games, fighting for their lives as well as love. Can Businessman Ben unleash his inner Tarzan and save Laurie? Or has this survival of the fittest reached the point of no return?

Stupid Cupid by Kelly Kay: Resourceful Sabrina always puts others’ needs first. She never thought she’d be abandoning a blind date to run off with a stranger. But now she’s got the chance to face her demons and choose happiness – even if it’s just for one night. Charmer Patrick can make any situation work in his favor. But snark and humor won’t be enough to win Sabrina’s heart. He’s got to dig deep, open up, and take on fate as well as New York City. Armed with a fire extinguisher, a cobbler’s hammer, and an EpiPen, can Patrick and Sabrina survive the worst-best date of their lives and find true love? Or will they lose each other as well as the plot?

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/3L1GjUj

I don’t usually love novellas, but this was such a fun read! Plus there are two novellas, so twice the fun, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Because these are so short, there is not a whole lot of character development or back story, but it doesn’t seem to matter. I was immediately drawn in to both of these stories. They are both set on Valentine’s Day, one a blind date gone sideways, the other a disastrous dinner with friends. I don’t want to give anything away, so bear with me.

The disastrous dinner is set in a restaurant that has wild animals roaming around, including chimpanzees, a talking bird, and an elephant. It is a bit over the top, but the meet-cute is heroic, and the romance is fun.

The blind date goes sideways when Patrick and Sabrina lay eyes on each other. They are each at this restaurant to meet someone else, blind dates, but their attraction is instantaneous and strong. Their rejected dates are not happy about the situation, to say the least. Patrick and Sabrina take off and encounter one problem after another, making this the date from hell that brings them impossibly close in one night.

This is the first book of a series set around holidays. This is the light, frothy, fun read I wanted for Valentine’s Day. It made me laugh out loud several times, which is always a plus. Even though it is two novellas, it is still a very short book (less than 200 pages) and a very easy read. Enjoy!

2/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

CUPID CALAMITY by Kelly Kay & Evie Alexander. Emlin Press (January 10, 2022). ISBN: 978-1914473098. 172p.

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THE SWEETHEART DEAL by Miranda Liasson

January 28, 2022

Blossom Glen, Book 1

From the publisher:

From the bestselling author of the Angel Falls series, two enemies say “I do” in the first irresistible book about Blossom Glen.

Pastry chef Tessa Montgomery knows what everyone in the teeny town of Blossom Glen says about her. Spinster. Ice Queen. Such a shame. It’s enough to make a woman bake her troubles away, dreaming of Parisian delicacies while she makes bread at her mother’s struggling boulangerie. That is until Tessa’s mortal enemy―deliciously handsome (if arrogant) chef Leo Castorini, who owns the restaurant next door―proposes a business plan…to get married.

Leo knows that the Castorinis and the Montgomerys hate each other, but a marriage might just force these stubborn families to work together and blend their businesses for success. The deal is simple: Tessa and Leo marry, live together for six months, and then go their separate ways. Easy peasy.

It’s a sweetheart deal where everyone gets what they want―until feelings between the faux newlyweds start seriously complicating the mix. Have they discovered the perfect recipe for success…or is disaster on the way?

https://amzn.to/3KJU4a2

This was such a fun read! And look at me, starting a series with the first book. I will definitely be looking for the next.

Tessa and Leo have some history, and their families do as well. In fact, the feud between the Montgomerys and the Castorinis goes back almost a hundred years. Tessa and Leo have been competitive since high school, when Leo beat out Tessa for a coveted college scholarship that allowed him to escape their small town and go to school in New York City. He graduated and worked in the financial market there for ten years, while Tessa stayed, working in her family’s boulangerie but dreaming of owning her own pastry shop. For those of you who didn’t have Mlle. Levitt for French class, (she of the love affair with all French food,) or you were smarter than me and took Spanish, a boulangerie is a bakery that only sells bread. A patisserie sells pastry, cake, cookies, etc., and never the twain shall meet under the same roof. In France. In America, it’s a rare bakery that narrows itself that much, but I digress.

Leo and Tessa have more in common than a lifelong rivalry. He lost his mother when he was young; Tessa lost her father. Their family businesses are next door neighbors, which only increases the friction. Now that Leo has returned from New York, he wants to help his father save the family business, an Italian restaurant that has been in decline since his mother died. But his father isn’t interested in Leo’s ideas or trying anything new. All he wants is for Leo to get married. Leo soon realizes that the only way he will be able to help save the restaurant is if he gets married, but Leo has been a player for years, not interested in any kind of relationship. Until now.

Tessa’s family business is also on the skids. They lost their biggest account, a small grocery chain that was swallowed by a bigger one. Her mother will not allow her to sell any pastries in the shop, and is also stuck in the mindset of it used to work just fine this way and it will again. But will they have the time to find that out?

Leo proposes a marriage of convenience to Tessa; they will work together to save both family businesses, then in six months or so, divorce. It takes some persuading but Tessa finally caves. The fake marriage, a variation of the fake dating trope, is always fun and it is here. Do I have to tell you that Tessa and Leo fall in love? That they have a major falling out that threatens everything? And that they find their way back to one another?

I loved these characters and their stubbornness. I loved how they both caved, dragging their families out of the Romeo & Juliet feud into a happy ending. There is a lot of humor here, and a lot of heart in this sweet romance. The only thing that could have made this book better would have been recipes! I can’t wait for the next book in this series, The Sweetheart Fix. Sadly, it will be a bit of a wait.

1/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE SWEETHEART DEAL by Miranda Liasson. Montlake (January 18, 2022). ISBN: 978-1649370273. 330p.

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Spotlight Review: SEOULMATES by Jen Frederick

January 25, 2022

Seoul, Book 2

From the publisher:

A Korean-American adoptee fights to be with the one she loves while coming to terms with her new identity in this enthralling romantic drama and sequel to Heart and Seoul by USA Today bestselling author Jen Frederick.

When Hara Wilson lands in Seoul to find her birth mother, she doesn’t plan on falling in love with the first man she lays eyes on, but Choi Yujun is irresistible. If his broad shoulders and dimples weren’t enough, Choi Yujun is the most genuine, decent, gorgeous guy to exist. Too bad he’s also her stepbrother.

Fate brought her to the Choi doorstep but the gift of family comes with burdens. A job in her mother’s company has perks of endless company dinners and super resentful coworkers. A new country means learning a new language which twenty-five year old Hara is finding to be a Herculean task. A forbidden love means having to choose between her birth family or Choi Yujun.

All Hara wanted was to find a place to belong in this world—but in order to have it all, she’ll have to risk it all.

One of Amazon’s Best Romances of January 2022!

https://amzn.to/3fUqz73

This is the follow up to Heart and Seoul, which ended on a cliff hanger so I was all in. These books were marketed as romance, but the first one did not have the “happily ever after” requirement that most romance readers look for. This time, there is a HEA.

So while this has the happy ending, the book is again a more immersive dive into family and Korean culture than romance. Hara and Yujun met and fell in love in the first book, so we don’t get the meet-cute here. Instead, we get a lot of Korean family values and why these two cannot be together. Yujun seems more invested while Hara is more torn about everything. But that makes sense; as a character, Yujun is strong and self assured while Hara questions everything in her life.

Hara is now working for her birth mother in the company Yujun helps run. Needless to say, her boss and co-workers in the marketing department are not thrilled to have nepotism thrust in their faces. She is living with her birth mother in an enormous house in Seoul, and her mother showers her with gifts, mostly designer wear, which makes Hara uncomfortable. She misses her mom and wishes she had a better relationship with her birth mother, who is a bit standoffish. She hates her job, is bored most of the time, and doesn’t get to spend nearly enough time with Yujun as his mother keeps him away as much as possible.

The more we learn about customs in Korea, the more impossible it seems for Hara and Yujun to stay together or have any kind of future. But a happy ending is eked out. This is again more women’s fiction or multicultural fiction than romance, but it is an enjoyable read if you adjust your expectations accordingly.

1/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

SEOULMATES by Jen Frederick. Berkley (January 25, 2022). ISBN: 978-0593100165. 304p.

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Spotlight Review: REMINDERS OF HIM by Colleen Hoover

January 18, 2022

From the publisher:

A troubled young mother yearns for a shot at redemption in this heartbreaking yet hopeful story from #1 New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover.

After serving five years in prison for a tragic mistake, Kenna Rowan returns to the town where it all went wrong, hoping to reunite with her four-year-old daughter. But the bridges Kenna burned are proving impossible to rebuild. Everyone in her daughter’s life is determined to shut Kenna out, no matter how hard she works to prove herself.

The only person who hasn’t closed the door on her completely is Ledger Ward, a local bar owner and one of the few remaining links to Kenna’s daughter. But if anyone were to discover how Ledger is slowly becoming an important part of Kenna’s life, both would risk losing the trust of everyone important to them.

The two form a connection despite the pressure surrounding them, but as their romance grows, so does the risk. Kenna must find a way to absolve the mistakes of her past in order to build a future out of hope and healing.

https://amzn.to/33I4nu7

This is the kind of book that should come with a warning: make sure you have tissues available while reading! I cried a few times reading this, yet I couldn’t put it down. It is also one of those books that I hated turning the last page, I wanted to spend more time here.

The “here” of it is also interesting. The author’s note references that there is no location given in this story – it is set in Any Small Town, USA and it worked – actual geography just wasn’t necessary. But it’s the characters that make this book so unputdownable.

Kenna was a teenager in love with Scotty. They were out one night, both had a bit too much to drink and some weed, and Scotty asked Kenna to drive because she was in a little bit better shape than he was, which isn’t saying much. She was also a fairly new driver, so when she sped through a turn on a gravel road, she lost control of the car and it flipped. She walked away, but Scotty was killed.

Heartbroken, Kenna pleads guilty at her trial and is sentenced to prison. A few weeks later, she finds out she is pregnant. The baby comes six weeks early and Scotty’s parents get custody as Kenna still has several years of prison ahead of her. Kenna is pretty much alone in the world, so when she gets out of prison five years later, she has nothing but the desire to at least see her daughter.

She saves up enough money to move to the small town where her daughter is living. She finds a dumpy apartment and moves in, figuring she’ll look for a job the next day. She heads over the to bookstore where she and Scotty spent so much time but it isn’t there anymore, it’s been turned into a bar. The bartender is intrigued with her, and asks her to come back when he gets off work, which she does. There is definite chemistry there, but once she sees his orange truck and finds out his name is Ledger, she knows this can go no further. Ledger was Scotty’s best friend.

Scotty has become a surrogate uncle to Kenna’s daughter, Diem, and he is outraged when he realizes who she is. Scotty’s parents are also incensed that the woman who killed their son has returned, and they are all determined to keep her away from Diem. But as Ledger gets to know Kenna, he starts to realize that things aren’t as black and white as they all assumed.

There is a lot going on here. The story is told alternately from Kenna and Ledger’s perspectives, which give us more depth. This is a story of mother separated from her child. It is, at times, an epistolary novel, as part of Kenna’s story is told through the hundreds of letters she has written Scotty since his death. It is also a romance, and there are a couple of sex scenes. It explores the messy emotions we all struggle with; guilt, sorrow, love, and forgiveness. It examines how everything is not always as it seems, and how assumptions can have a devastating effect on someone’s life. Ultimately, it is a story of redemption and hope.

This may be Hoover’s best book yet. It is a compelling story and a recognizable, relatable one. I read it in one afternoon, and I loved it. Book groups, please take note – lots to discuss here!

1/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

REMINDERS OF HIM by Colleen Hoover. Montlake (January 18, 2022). ISBN: 978-1542025607. 335 pages.

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