THE REWIND by Allison Winn Scotch 

November 11, 2022

From the publisher:

One of Amazon’s Best Romances of November!

Two exes wake up together with wedding bands on their fingers—and no idea how they got there. They have just one New Year’s Eve at the end of 1999 to figure it out in this big-hearted and nostalgic rom-com from New York Times bestselling author Allison Winn Scotch.

When college sweethearts Frankie and Ezra broke up before graduation, they vowed to never speak to each other again. Ten years later, on the eve of the new millennium, they find themselves back on their snowy, picturesque New England campus together for the first time for the wedding of mutual friends. Frankie’s on the rise as a music manager for the hottest bands of the late ’90s, and Ezra’s ready to propose to his girlfriend after the wedding. Everything is going to plan—they just have to avoid the chasm of emotions brought up when they inevitably come face to face.

But when they wake up in bed next to each other the following morning with Ezra’s grandmother’s diamond on Frankie’s finger, they have zero memory of how they got there—or about any of the events that transpired the night before. Now Frankie and Ezra have to put aside old grievances in order to figure out what happened, what didn’t happen…and to ask themselves the most troubling question of all: what if they both got it wrong the first time around?

Publishers Weekly wrote, “…this emotional outing delivers both laughs and poignancy. Fans of Emily Giffin, Katherine Center, and Christina Lauren should check this out.”

Library Journal said, “Nineties nostalgia is alive and well in this moving story of a lost first love and second chances. Readers will enjoy piecing together both the story of the forgotten night and the reasons behind the relationship’s disastrous first ending…the collegiate atmosphere and New Year’s Eve setting make this a cozy, romantic read from Scotch.”

The New York Post listed it in their “Required Reading” feature.

https://amzn.to/3NWHndY

This was a fast, fun read, albeit a slightly confusing one! The morning-after-marriage, when a couple wakes up married to one another but doesn’t remember how it happened is a popular trope in romance. Scotch gives it a nice twist- this couple isn’t sure they are married, and it’s set during New Year’s of the millennial. Remember Y2K?!

Frankie hasn’t really kept up with her college friends. Her career as a music manager has taken off and she’s been traveling the globe with her successful artists. But when she is asked to stand up for her freshman college roommate who really got her through that first year, she can’t say no. She just plans to avoid her ex at all costs.

Ezra and Frankie were best friends before they became lovers, and the breakup was a really bad one. Ezra has a serious girlfriend now – so serious he gave up poker for her, despite the fact he invented a poker app that has made him wealthy beyond measure. He is planning on proposing on this momentous New Year’s Eve, but the best-laid plans go awry when Frankie and Ezra meet up. They haven’t seen one another for ten years, so when they wake up in the single bed in Ezra’s old college dorm room, wearing wedding rings and a few clothes, neither is sure what happened or how they got there. This leads to a series of crazy adventures as they try and figure it all out.

There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, and some serious ones as well, and eventually they figure most of it out, including why the new girlfriend shouldn’t be the fiancée. Sometimes your first love is the right love. This was light-hearted fun and thoroughly enjoyable romance.

Bonus: ‘The Rewind’ Adaptation Set at Netflix

11/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE REWIND by Allison Winn Scotch. Berkley (November 1, 2022). ISBN:‎  978-0593546536. 368p.

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SWEET HOME ALASKA by Jennifer Snow 

November 11, 2022

A Wild Coast Novel, Book 1

From the publisher:

When old feelings resurface, will the truth bring them back together?

Skylar Beaumont never wanted to return to Alaska. Still, when duty calls, she can’t refuse. And, as a third-generation “Coastie” and the only female captain in the local coast guard, she has too much to prove. Being stationed in her hometown of Port Serenity isn’t ideal—but she’ll tough it out until her transfer goes through and she can move on to warmer waters. That’s the plan, at least, until she crashes into Dex Wakefield. Again.

Shocked to see his secret high school sweetheart after all this time, Dex can’t help but wonder if he should finally come clean. Skylar deserves to know the real reason why he abandoned the dream they’d shared—and broke her heart. But this small tourist town is home to one big grudge where their families are concerned… And leaving the past behind might be the only way Dex and Skylar will finally realize that their first love deserves a sweet second chance. 

Bonus Novella

In Jennifer Snow’s Love on the Coast, Rachel Hempshaw embarks on a themed cruise, aiming to dispel yet another local legend. But when her ship is caught up in a coast guard operation, one sexy officer makes it his mission to prove the existence of something that Rachel no longer believes in—real love.

Prepare to have your heartstrings tugged in Jennifer Snow’s new novel, Alaska For Christmas!

https://amzn.to/3hsK4I2

I read the second book in this series, Alaska for Christmas, and I loved it so much I immediately tracked down the first book in the series. They are probably better read in order, but you do you. I found the ebook at my library through cloudLibrary.

The Wakefields and the Beaumonts have been feuding for generations, although the youngest generation isn’t on board with it. Skylar is a Beaumont, and Dex is a Wakefield, and they secretly dated through high school. They were planning on going to the Coast Guard Academy together after graduation, but a few weeks before they graduate, Dex dumps Skylar with no explanation. She’s pissed off and hurt, and hasn’t spoken to Dex since.

When Skylar is assigned her first captain’s job in her hometown, she has mixed feelings. She knows the area better than just about anyone, but she wanted to go to a warm climate, like California or Florida. She figures she will bide her time at home until she can find another posting.

Dex has been living on his family’s yacht, which he has turned into a rescue boat. He is strictly a volunteer, but helps out the Coast Guard regularly. His wild sister has moved back home and is living with Dex. Turns out he has epilepsy, and really can’t stay alone – unless he gets a service dog. He has been putting that off, but now that Skylar is back in town, he wants to try again with her and his sister will definitely be cramping his style. Luckily for him, she’s allergic to dogs so when he arranges to get a service dog, she will have to move off the yacht.

Meanwhile, for Dex and Skylar, it’s like they were never apart. They both still love one another but have some issues to work through for sure. Dex never told Skylar about his epilepsy or why he didn’t go to the academy, and he is working up the courage to tell her. She is still looking for a position somewhere else, but does she want to leave him? The rescues add a bit of adventure and suspense to the story, and help make this a heartwarming read. I really enjoyed this book, and I’m looking forward to more Snow books in the future. (And yes, that is actually her name!) Happily, she has a pretty good backlist so I’ll be looking at those as well.

Note: both books in the series have a “bonus story” on the cover, but my library edition and the egalley I read didn’t have those.

11/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

SWEET HOME ALASKA by Jennifer Snow. HQN; Original edition (May 24, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-1335448613. 368p.

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Spotlight Review: NONE OF THIS WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF PRINCE WERE ALIVE by Carolyn Prusa

November 8, 2022

From the publisher:

Perfect for fans of Maria Semple and Jennifer Weiner, this smart and witty debut novel follows Ramona through the forty-eight hours after her life has been upended by the discovery of her husband’s affair and an approaching Category Four hurricane.

Ramona’s got a bratty boss, a toddler teetering through toilet training, a critical mom who doesn’t mind sharing, and oops—a cheating husband. That’s how a Category Four hurricane bearing down on her life in Savannah becomes just another item on her to-do list. In the next forty-eight hours she’ll add a neighborhood child and the class guinea pig named Clarence Thomas to her entourage as she struggles to evacuate town.

Ignoring the persistent glow of her minivan’s check engine light, Ramona navigates police check points, bathroom emergencies, demands from her boss, and torrential downpours while fielding calls and apology texts from her cheating husband and longing for the days when her life was like a Prince song, full of sexy creativity and joy.

Thoroughly entertaining and completely relatable, None of This Would Have Happened if Prince Were Alive is the hilarious, heartwarming story of a woman up to her elbows in calamities and about to drive off the brink of the rest of her life.

https://amzn.to/3vL0r7z

Ramona catches her husband cheating, setting off a chain of events that culminates with a Category 4 hurricane. Savannah is under hurricane watch, but Ramona has more than the storm on her mind; her daughter is struggling with potty training, her son needs to take care of the class guinea pig during the storm, the sixteen-year-old boy next door is living alone, and her mother refuses to leave her ramshackle waterfront home. Things get even more complicated when Ramona throws her husband out, piles her kids plus the teen next door into her minivan, and takes off for safer ground. Her mom refuses to go, but says she will evacuate with a friend. Ramona hits the road and doesn’t mind stopping for food and mini-golf, but then finds out her mother has decided to stay put; she piles everyone back in the car and heads back into the eye of the storm. Meanwhile, her husband’s fling keeps calling, he keeps texting apologies, and her boss/best friend ignores her advice and has an affair with the expected results. It’s all too much and in Prusa’s hands, too funny. Caring for her kids and her mom puts Ramona squarely in the sandwich generation, but Ramona manages to handle it all with aplomb while providing cultural touchstones along the way.

Verdict: Family drama has never been so much fun! Readers who enjoy books by Maria Semple, Jennifer Weiner, and Laurie Gelman should enjoy this debut.

©Library Journal, 2022

11/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

NONE OF THIS WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF PRINCE WERE ALIVE by Carolyn Prusa. Atria Books (November 8, 2022) ISBN: 978-1982188863. 336p.

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Spotlight Review: SECLUDED CABIN SLEEPS SIX by Lisa Unger

November 8, 2022

From the publisher:

Three couples rent a luxury cabin in the woods for a weekend getaway to die for in this chilling locked-room thriller byNew York Times bestselling author Lisa Unger.

What could be more restful than a weekend getaway with family and friends? An isolated luxury cabin in the woods, spectacular views, a hot tub and a personal chef. Hannah’s generous brother found the listing online. The reviews are stellar. It’ll be three couples on this trip with good food, good company and lots of R & R.

But the dreamy weekend is about to turn into a nightmare. 

A deadly storm is brewing. The rental host seems just a little too present. The personal chef reveals that their beautiful house has a spine-tingling history. And the friends have their own complicated past, with secrets that run blood deep.

How well does Hannah know her brother, her own husband? Can she trust her best friend? Meanwhile, someone is determined to ruin the weekend, looking to exact a payback for deeds long buried. Who is the stranger among them?

“Hidden history and 21st-century technology collide in a breathtaking thriller.” —Kirkus, starred review

“Embedded in a riveting novel of suspense is a revealing examination of the dangers inherent in public DNA sharing…[Lisa Unger] is in good form here, in her twentieth outing, and her fans will be eager to dive right in.” —Booklist

“Genetics and nature-versus-nurture take the spotlight in Unger’s 20th novel…Readers will revel in the search for genealogical justice amid best-kept secrets, while wondering who will live and who will die.” —Library Journal, starred review

https://amzn.to/3fKCpEk

I have been reading Lisa Unger since she was Lisa Miscione (her maiden name; she wrote the terrific Lydia Strong mystery series!) When she switched to thrillers using her married name, I was along for the ride. Her books all have one thing in common; all are unputdownable! And this one caused me to stay up way too late into the night to finish it. I wouldn’t have been able to sleep worrying about these characters, and that says a lot about the author.

Someone bought everyone in the family a DNA test kit for Christmas, but no one is claiming responsibility for it. Some family members take the test, others trash it, but the results for those who took the test are confusing at best.

Hannah and Mako are brother and sister; Hannah is married to a tech wizard who is a consultant and does some work for Mako, who is married to a yogi. Mako books this amazing cabin deep in the Georgia woods (insert Deliverance music here – I did, in my head at any rate!) for all of them plus Hannah’s best friend, who also happens to be Mako’s ex, along with her current boyfriend. So six people in this gorgeous cabin with an owner who is spying on them. He has cameras secreted everywhere in the house, including the shower head! Then a massive storm comes rolling in, and even though the owner checked the generator, it’s not working. Mako’s wife leaves a note that she is leaving him and she takes off for parts unknown.

Meanwhile, the storm rages on. A tree has fallen, blocking the only road out. And everyone has their own agenda, it seems. Hannah is knocked unconscious while trying to fix the electrical problem, the men seem to have vanished, and everything is dark and mysterious and scary. This is not horror, however, but it is very suspenseful. At times it is hard to tell who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. DNA testing plays an important role here as well, and is most thought-provoking and interwoven into the plot.

This is a terrific locked room type mystery, but with enough suspense to really keep the pages turning. The characters are well-defined, even if we don’t know who to trust, adding to the complexity of the plot. This is another unputdownable book from one of my favorite authors. Don’t miss it!

SECLUDED CABIN SLEEPS SIX by Lisa Unger. Park Row; Original edition (November 8, 2022). ISBN: 978-0778333234. 400p.

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ALASKA FOR CHRISTMAS by Jennifer Snow 

November 4, 2022

A Wild Coast Novel, Book 2

From the publisher:

Can a hometown Christmas bring together these two polar opposites?

After traveling to all corners of the globe, Isla Wakefield has returned home to celebrate Christmas with her adoptive family. The gorgeous Alaskan wilderness is the perfect place to recharge before moving on to her next adventure—whatever that may be. Too bad that being home means once more butting heads with Chief Petty Officer Aaron Segura, Port Serenity’s resident buzzkill.

Isla’s fearless spirit has always infuriated Aaron—but fascinated him, too. Having lost his sister years ago, he’s never understood how some people can live so recklessly. But after a terrifying ice-climbing accident leaves Isla with amnesia, she and Aaron both see each other in a brand-new light. Forgetting the pain of her past makes Isla fearless in a completely different way. She’s not afraid to show Aaron exactly how she feels, yet he can’t help but wonder…will this temporary change of mind lead to a permanent change of heart?

Bonus Novella

In Love in the Forecast, meteorologist Monica Mallard signs up for Port Serenity’s annual navigation contest as a distraction from recent heartbreak. But when she’s paired with silver fox Captain Keith Beaumont, Monica finds the second chance she never could have predicted.

https://amzn.to/3Uf0C4p

Amnesia! I don’t think I’ve read a book that uses amnesia in years and years, if ever. I seem to recall more TV/movies that use it. I certainly find it fascinating, especially the different degrees. Isla has muscle memory that helps with some physical stuff, but she has no memories of people, her family, anyone really. So when Aaron rescues her after a bad fall, she doesn’t know who he is or that she finds him incredibly boring – now she just thinks he’s very good-looking and brave. Unfortunately, she also doesn’t remember the pilot who drove the helicopter to her rescue, despite having gone out with him for a few months. He wants her back and his best friend/co-worker is seriously in the way, causing even more strife.

Aaron always found Isla incredibly wild, and cannot understand how or why she is such a dare devil. His sister died in an accident, and his parents haven’t recovered. In fact, they moved to Florida from Alaska and are heavily involved in grief groups. It’s their way of coping, but Aaron feels abandoned. They haven’t celebrated Christmas since his sister’s death, but as he spends time with Isla and they grow closer, he can’t help but give in to her Christmas spirit. They’ve always had an attraction to one another, but have been at odds since they were children. Now that Isla is so unguarded, they are falling in love and Aaron is afraid that once her memory comes back, she will be furious and leave him.

I love books set in Alaska, maybe because I live in south Florida and it’s different in every possible way. I grew up in New York so I’ve experienced winter and snow and ice, but not to the levels of Alaska for sure. And I’ve never missed winter, not one day of it. My husband thinks its hilarious that visiting Alaska is on my bucket list as (everyone who knows me) knows that I am always cold; when it drops below 70, I pull out the Uggs! I have a collection of fingerless gloves that I wear at work where I have no control over the air conditioning, and I have more boots and scarves than probably any Floridian would dream of. But I don’t want to go during winter – summer would be more than cold enough for me so it remains on my bucket list!

This was a good romance with enough suspense – will she get her memory back? will she be pissed at Aaron? to keep the pages turning, making this a one night read for me. A little heat, a lot of sweet, and Christmas fun all combine perfectly in this terrific story. Now I have to go find the first book in this series, Sweet Home Alaska; luckily, my library has it! And just an aside; is the author’s last name really Snow???

11/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

ALASKA FOR CHRISTMAS by Jennifer Snow. HQN; Original edition (October 25, 2022). ISBN:‎  978-1335448637. 368p.

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Coronavirus Diary: November 1, 2022

November 1, 2022

I am fully boosted, got my flu shot, and yet I was sick as a dog last week with terrible sinusitis. Every time I get sick, it hits my sinuses, and usually a few days of allergy meds, decongestants, sinus rinse (AKA what feels like waterboarding!) and Excedrin every six hours gets me through it. But this time instead of clearing up, a new symptom appeared – terrible dizziness, and at times, bed spins (which I haven’t had since my college drinking days and DID NOT MISS AT ALL!) If I turned my head too fast, well, let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. At one point, I heard what sounded like sloshing in my ear but then that went away. I was waking up during the night when I rolled over, which caused me to feel like the bed was spinning, which would cause me to wake up, curse, and grab onto the bed and/or my husband so I would stay grounded. No one got good sleep. I had some Amoxicillin in the house so I took that for a few days, and it didn’t seem to help much. Then I started getting worse again six days into this thing. I finally went to the doctor, and she prescribed a Z-pack (antibiotics) and a Medrol pack (steroids,) and 48 hours later I felt human again. The miracle of drugs! I also did a couple of Covid tests, just in case, but luckily they were negative.

All that said, there is always more to worry about:


Book News

New Right to Read Bill Expands School Library Access, Students’ Rights to Read [Book Riot]

The Trash Library of Ankara: Another unlikely library — this one made from books salvaged from the garbage of Ankara.

Food News

Two of my favorites have new cookbooks!

Smitten Kitchen Keepers: New Classics for Your Forever Files by Deb Perelman

BON APPETIT BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR! (preorder; available Nov. 15)

“For her third cookbook, Perelman has taken the wisdom she has accumulated in the 16 years since she created Smitten Kitchen and funneled it into “keepers,” i.e., recipes deserving of a place in her “forever files” and yours. That means, for example, a towering broccoli cheddar quiche baked in a springform pan, deli pickle potato salad that makes smart use of both pickles and brine, and chocolate peanut butter cup cookies that I can personally attest merit the “keeper” designation. Perelman, as is her wont, employs her trademark warmth and humor as she shepherds you from breakfast to dessert and beyond, making this both a fun and practical read.” –Rebecca Flint Marx, Eater

“Recipes become regulars when they’re fast, reliable, and deliciously worth the effort. In her third book, Smitten Kitchen founder Deb Perelman offers 100 recipes for oft-requested favorites like a fuss-free lemon poppy seed cake and “an epic quiche” sure to become some of the last you’ll ever need to learn.” –Jacqueline Raposo, Epicurious

 “Every cookbook creator makes a dish again and again so that we don’t have to, and Perelman ( Smitten Kitchen Every Day, 2017) just seems to have more fun doing so. With us strangers in mind…she shares recipes that withstand the most important test: folks will actually want to make and eat them over and over. For breakfast, a bodega-style fried-egg sandwich can be yours in three minutes, and a salad-topped frittata cooks entirely in the oven. Vegetables get their own chapters, organized by size…Meat dishes are balanced and homey, like a skillet-chicken parmesan that promises crispiness and sauciness and fail-safe, 10-ingredient pulled pork. Repeat-worthy cookies and unfussy cakes fill out the sweets chapter before Perelman invites readers to host more parties with a tight edit of crowd-pleasing drinks (alcoholic and non) and snacks. There’s a reason readers are still smitten, and this ode to “Weeknight Greatness” confirms it.” –Annie Bostrom, Booklist (starred review)

“In her third cookbook, Perelman returns with a gathering of the best versions of her key dishes—recipes that she has tested, trialed, and tweaked until they became what she wants her kids and readers to learn by heart and cook with delight…The book is a joy to read, with Perelman’s confiding, cheering voice showcased in short prefaces and recipe notes. She writes as if she were dashing off a recipe on a napkin for her best friend, while at the same time telling them what to do to really make it work. It is pure pleasure. The book covers breakfasts (which Perelman says are good at any time of day), salads, soups, vegetables, meats, sweets, and even a few drinks. Vegetarians and gluten-free eaters will find plenty of options and can adapt many of the other recipes…Essential for all collections. The cookbook, like the recipes it shares, is a keeper.” –Neal Wyatt, Library Journal (starred review)

Go-To Dinners: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten

America’s favorite home cook presents delicious, crowd-pleasing, go-to recipes that you’ll want to make over and over again! (available now)

Coming out of the pandemic with a renewed appreciation for dishes that can be frozen and prepped in advance as well as simply assembled, cookbook doyenne Garten (Modern Comfort Food) serves up a delicious, no-nonsense collection of weeknight recipes that are “simple to follow and work every time.” Those features—plus a “rethink” about leftovers (she never liked them) and what constitutes a worthy meal—are amply celebrated throughout. Boards composed of store-bought and homemade items—such as balsamic-roasted baby peppers with Italian cheeses, cured meats, and breadsticks, and a dessert board with small tarts, fresh and dried fruit, chocolate bark, and slices of pound cake—are her new go-to, she writes, because “cooking fatigue is a real thing, even for me.” For a fresh and flavorful twist, the author applies cacio e pepe treatment to scrambled eggs and roasted asparagus, while hot dogs are wrapped in mustard-swiped puff pastry. Garten also draws on the wisdom of other accomplished cooks with such dishes as a potato salad à la Julia Child; a one-pot chicken with orzo from Nigella Lawson; and molasses baked beans and dark chocolate tart from Erin French of the Lost Kitchen in Maine. Practical and practically faultless, this is a real treat. (Oct.)Publishers Weekly

Kitchen maven Garten (Modern Comfort Food) returns with a cookbook born of the pandemic. These recipes are low stress, comforting, and, of course, delicious. Garten believes an invitation to dinner is an expression of love, but unlike her past lavish dinners, the pandemic helped her discover that simple can be just right. Garten offers creative ways to re-create leftovers into new and exciting dishes and encourages challenging oneself to make a meal with whatever is on hand. Hotdogs in pastry were the result of her own success at making do; the recipe became a keeper even after grocery shopping became routine again. Simple can yield sophisticated flavors too, with recipes like caramelized butternut squash with burrata. Garten’s helpful notations, such as “make ahead” and “two-fer” (make into two different meals), guide readers. She also includes other useful tips (store roasted vegetables in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel to keep them crisp). Each recipe receives one photo on the adjacent page, and several full-page spreads add to the enticement. VERDICT Another pleaser from Garten; sure to be in demand.P.J. Gardiner, Library Journal


Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!

As always, thanks for reading and stay safe.

*Thanks to The New York Times for allowing me to “gift” my readers with free access to these articles, a lovely perk for subscribers.


Spotlight Review: A VERY MERRY BROMANCE by Lyssa Kay Adams

November 1, 2022

Bromance Book Club, Book 5

From the publisher:

‘Tis the season for a Bromance Book Club matchmaking mission! This time, they’re pulling out the mistletoe for everyone’s favorite country music star, Colton, and his second chance at love.

Country music’s golden boy Colton Wheeler felt the most perfect harmony when he was with Gretchen Winthrop. But for her, it was a love him and leave him situation. A year later, Colton is struggling to push his music forward in a new direction. If it weren’t about to be the most magical time of year and the support of the Bromance Book Club, he’d be wallowing in self-pity. 

It’s hard for immigration attorney Gretchen not to feel a little Scrooge-ish about the excess of Christmas when her clients are scrambling to afford their rent. So when her estranged, wealthy family reaches out with an offer that will allow her to better serve the community, she’s unable to say no. She just needs to convince Colton to be the new face of her family’s whiskey brand. No big deal…
 
Colton agrees to consider Gretchen’s offer in exchange for three dates before Christmas. With the help of the Bromance Book Club, Colton throws himself into the task of proving to her there’s a spark between them. But Gretchen and Colton will both need to overcome the ghosts of Christmas past to build a future together.

“The romance-loving men that give the series its name are a reliable joy, and fans will be especially pleased by all the cameos from past heroes. The result is cute, funny, and heartfelt.”Publishers Weekly

https://amzn.to/3NtKSs3

I love this series, and this was a terrific addition – hopefully, not the last! The books do not have to be read in order, and I think this one would stand alone just fine, but they are all so good, I highly recommend reading them all.

This is the story of a happy-go-lucky country music star and the poor-little-rich-girl he falls for. Colton and Gretchen met at a wedding, which led to a one-night-stand – at least for Gretchen. Colton has been after her for a year since that morning when she just took off and ignored him after that. But when her family’s whiskey company wants to hire Colton as a celebrity brand ambassador, Gretchen is asked to try and corral him. She doesn’t work in the family business; instead, she owns a nonprofit immigration law center, where she works her butt off for families who are being deported, with or without their children, and cannot afford to pay her.

Gretchen is a grump, and it takes a while for her backstory to unfurl so we can understand why she is the way she is. Colton doesn’t mind waiting, but he has no interest in helping the whiskey company unless she is part of the deal. Things get complicated with Gretchen’s family – this is a dysfunctional family on the surface, and it is much, much worse underneath the facade.

Having Colton & Gretchen get together seems like such a long shot, and just when they finally are happy, more family drama is injected into the relationship, setting off an explosion that seems insurmountable. Yet this is a romance, so a happy ending is guaranteed. I loved spending time with these characters, and I loved the Christmas storyline here, especially all the Dickens references. There are a lot of laughs here, some steamy scenes, and lots of angst, too, making this an unputdownable book. I loved it.

A VERY MERRY BROMANCE by Lyssa Kay Adams. Berkley (November 1, 2022). ISBN: 978-0593332795. 368p.

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IT STARTS WITH US by Colleen Hoover 

October 28, 2022

It Ends with Us, Book 2

From the publisher:

Before It Ends with Us, it started with Atlas. Colleen Hoover tells fan favorite Atlas’s side of the story and shares what comes next in this long-anticipated sequel to the “glorious and touching” (USA TODAY) #1 New York Times bestseller It Ends with Us.

Lily and her ex-husband, Ryle, have just settled into a civil coparenting rhythm when she suddenly bumps into her first love, Atlas, again. After nearly two years separated, she is elated that for once, time is on their side, and she immediately says yes when Atlas asks her on a date.

But her excitement is quickly hampered by the knowledge that, though they are no longer married, Ryle is still very much a part of her life—and Atlas Corrigan is the one man he will hate being in his ex-wife and daughter’s life.

Switching between the perspectives of Lily and Atlas, It Starts with Us picks up right where the epilogue for the “gripping, pulse-pounding” (Sarah Pekkanen, author of Perfect Neighbors) bestselling phenomenon It Ends with Us left off. Revealing more about Atlas’s past and following Lily as she embraces a second chance at true love while navigating a jealous ex-husband, it proves that “no one delivers an emotional read like Colleen Hoover” (Anna Todd, New York Times bestselling author).

“Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.” ― Kirkus Reviews

“Hoover breaks hearts all over again in this stunning sequel to her bestselling It Ends with Us . . . The author’s talent for creating nuanced and empathetic characters is on full display, and fans will be especially excited to finally hear Atlas’s side of the story. Hoover is as unafraid as ever to explore the darker and more vulnerable aspects of love, expertly demonstrating the soul-deep trust required to reach happily after ever.” ― Publishers Weekly (starred)

https://amzn.to/3FqJbtt

I’m not on TikTok. I occasionally watch a video there, and I check out BookTok every now and then, but I missed the whole Colleen Hoover thing that was happening there until a friend (thanks, Caitlin!) told me what was going on. Since leaving the public library for an academic one, I don’t watch the bestseller lists as closely either, so I have to admit I was a little surprised to see Hoover dominating both the USA Today list, and the paperback NY Times list (this book opened as number 1), but I couldn’t be happier for her. Talk about a mega success! I haven’t seen anything like this since E.L. James and the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon. I mentioned the USA Today piece about her back in September, and the New York Times did a terrific piece on her more recently, so if you are not familiar with this author, it’s a good place to start. I’ve been reading and reviewing her since 2015, and while I haven’t read all of her books, I’ve read most and she is definitely one of my favorite writers, and now I have tons of company!

Several years ago she wrote It Ends With Us, which I loved, and it (like most of her books) made my Best Books of the Year list. Apparently, her fans started a petition for a sequel which she really wasn’t planning on doing, but the outpouring of love was enough to push her into doing it. And here we are.

It Starts With Us can possibly be read on its own, but I don’t recommend doing that. Read It Ends With Us first. I actually went back and reread it as it’s been several years and it was still an emotional, gut-wrenching read. The sequel is a bit gentler, and the perfect ending to this two-book series. I don’t want to give anything away so I’m not going to tell you anything more than the publisher does about the plot. This book was simply stunning – it will be on my Best Books of the Year list this year. I loved it.

10/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

IT STARTS WITH US by Colleen Hoover. Atria (October 18, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-1668001226. 336p.

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MERRY CHRISTMAS COWBOY by Maisey Yates 

October 28, 2022

Four Corners Ranch, Book 2

From the publisher:

As the snow falls on Four Corners Ranch, all this untamed cowboy wants for Christmas is the family he’s never had…

Cowboy Wolf Garrett is delighted his brother is happily married—really, he is. But time can never heal Wolf’s own wounds, so being surrounded by such marital joy is a bit…much. A trip to his extended family’s ranch in Copper Ridge seems the ideal change of scenery. Until he meets local innkeeper Violet Donnelly and realizes he’s exchanged one form of torture for another—trying, and spectacularly failing, to resist their instant, wildly hot chemistry.

Violet knew Wolf was trouble the moment he walked into her inn. But it’s a whole new level of trouble when she discovers that their secret nights have left her pregnant! Especially when she has six feet of gorgeous, furious cowboy demanding that she come home with him for the holidays and marry him. Wolf has lost more than she could ever imagine, but Violet believes in the power of love to heal, and she’ll do anything to give their future family a chance. Wolf has already given her so many firsts—dare she hope he’s about to become her first Christmas miracle too?

“Fans of Robyn Carr and RaeAnne Thayne will enjoy [Yates’s] small-town romance.”—Booklist

https://amzn.to/3g8oY0P

Wolf has been through a lot – too much, really, for the cowboy to handle. The Garett’s have what Wolf considers a curse on their property. Women don’t stay. His mother left when he was 6 years old, and his half-brothers’ mothers left as well. His father is not much of a parent, either. When Wolf was in high school, he fell hard for a girl, but she died – another woman leaving him. So it is understandable that he fears any type of intimacy. He’s a charming, good-looking man in a dangerous sort of way, so one-night stands come easy for him and suit him just fine. Until he meets Violet.

Violet runs the inn in the small town where Wolf’s cousins live. He’s visiting to help them with their ranch for a couple of weeks. Their chemistry is off the charts, but Wolf makes it clear from the outset that this can only be a fling and he has no intention of anything more. Of course, the best of intentions can go awry. Violet falls hard and ends up begging him to stay, but as much as he enjoys her company, he knows he will get hurt when she leaves him, as all women do, so he returns home.

A few months later, Violet finds out she’s pregnant and goes to tell him. Wolf’s reaction is to take her home with him for the holidays and try and convince her to marry him. He is a traditionalist at heart, and he refuses to think that a child of his would grow up without both parents.Violet’s mother also left, which is something they bond over, but she isn’t sure about marrying Wolf. He has so much to work through, but she is hopeful that she will get some kind of Christmas miracle – and she does.

Violet and Wolf eventually find their happy ending, and I was so happy that they did. He was a difficult character, so hurt and lost and afraid of love, but Violet was the best thing that ever happened to him, and he figures that out soon enough. This was a very emotional read that really pulled me in and was impossible to put down. I loved it.

10/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

MERRY CHRISTMAS COWBOY by Maisey Yates. HQN; Original edition (October 25, 2022). ISBN:‎  978-1335600950. 384p.

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KISSING GAMES by Evie Alexander  

October 28, 2022

The Kinloch Series, Book 3

From the publisher:

She might have made it to Hollywood, but he’s about to show her what she’s missed…

When actress Valentina Valverde arrives in Scotland to film Braveheart 2, she’s at breaking point. Driven by demons, she’s worked tirelessly since she was a teen. But she can’t stop now: everyone she loves depends on her. Yet despite all the glitz and glamor, Valentina can’t shake the feeling that she isn’t really living.

Bodyguard Charlie Hamilton’s lived too much. With looks and charm, he should have it all. But he’s broken. Estranged from his family, sacked from his job and with nothing left to lose, he flies to the Scottish Highlands to help his best friend protect Kinloch castle from a crazy Hollywood film crew. 

But falling hard for a movie star isn’t in Charlie’s contract…

Thrown together on set, chemistry crackles between them. When Charlie suggests she take a holiday from life, Valentina is tempted to let down her guard and live a little. But as fun crosses the line into love, disaster bursts their bubble.

Can they let go of the past and find a future together? Or is this just a Highland fling?

Kissing Games is a steamy, dual POV, laugh-out-loud romantic comedy, with no cheating, no cliff-hanger, and a guaranteed happy ever after (HEA).

https://amzn.to/3W19OLh

This series is a lot of fun, and this latest installment was a good read. It’s a contemporary romance set in the Scottish Highlands, one of my favorite settings. What is it about men in kilts?

Charlie has left the military and is working in private security. He left for his married girlfriend, but she went back to her husband. He decides to help out his buddy and protect the castle from a Hollywood film crew, who don’t always understand boundaries.

Valentina has been a working actress for what seems like forever. When she meets Charlie, sparks are apparent but neither of them is looking for love. But this is a romance so it’s unavoidable. Charlie basically dares Valentina to do some of the things that teenagers generally do, like skinnydipping and writing bad love poems. She missed out on all that while she was working.

Besides falling in love, Charlie works out some family issues and Valentina learns to relax a bit and enjoy life. There are some hot scenes and some really funny ones as well, making this a fast, fun read. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

10/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

KISSING GAMES by Evie Alexander. Emlin Press (September 10, 2022). ISBN:‎  978-1914473050. 340p.

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