A ROYAL CHRISTMAS FAIRY TALE by Karen Schaler

December 20, 2021

From the publisher:

From the three-time Emmy Award-winning writer of Netflix sensation A Christmas Prince and Hallmark’s Christmas Camp, comes this heartwarming, feel-good Christmas romance about the power of believing in yourself to find your happily ever after…

A charming Christmas village, a storybook castle, a royal ball, and a gorgeous prince are the last things New York City reporter Kaylie Karlyle expects to find on her holiday freelance assignment to Europe. But when the family she’s interviewing turns out to be the royal family of Tolvania, Kaylie has a meltdown when the quirky queen wants her to write a Christmas fairy tale for the spunky, young princess. Kaylie must battle the princess’s father, who doesn’t trust the media, and her own insecurities about writing anything beyond the news.

To spark inspiration for the fairy tale, the queen recruits the prickly Prince Alexander to show Kaylie the family’s most spectacular royal holiday traditions. And sparks definitely fly when the only thing Kaylie and the prince agree on is that they’re both more “bah humbug” than “ho, ho, ho.”

But somewhere between sleigh rides and snow angels, merrymaking and mistletoe, upside-down Christmas trees, and a legendary Christmas crown, Kaylie and the prince open their hearts to Christmas and start believing in themselves and each other. It’s a real-life fairy tale in the making until Kaylie discovers a secret about a royal Christmas heirloom that jeopardizes everyone’s happily ever after. Can the magic of the season save this holiday happy ending?

A “sweet Christmas charmer…” – Publishers Weekly

https://amzn.to/3J0KYF5

Schaler has created a career out of writing these “royal” Christmas romances since the first one was a Netflix movie, “A Christmas Prince.” I liked the movie (more than anything on the Hallmark Channel) and I’ve enjoyed the books as well. She’s also written some movies for the Hallmark and Lifetime Channels. Scripts have to move a lot faster than books, so those skills really work in creating fast paced romance novels like this one.

Kaylie is an investigative reporter who dreams of going national. When the station where she works cuts her job, her boss is kind enough to recommend her for a rather unique, temporary position. All she knows is that she will be doing something about the royal family of Tolvania, a small European (fictional) country. Since she has nothing else to do, she jumps on it. And does a little more jumping once she gets there.

The “meet-cute” happens when Kaylie gets off the plane and sees a car waiting. It’s snowing and windy and she can’t really see much so she opens the door and jumps in – right onto the lap of a very good looking man who is not happy with her. She gets out and finds her ride, but when she gets to the castle she realizes he is the Prince and she is in trouble.

Prince Alexander is a widower with a precocious young daughter, Princess Anna. But it was his mother, the Queen, who hired Kaylie so he really can’t fire her. They have had a lot of bad press since he lost his wife, and they’ve banned reporters from anything royal so he is shocked his mother hired this tenacious, career driven journalist. But eventually Kaylie convinces him she is not there to report on his family. The Queen has hired her to learn about the Christmas traditions and write the young princess a fairy tale about them. Kaylie is shocked to learn this; she has never written any kind of fiction, much less a fairy tale. But the Queen does not take no for an answer, and Kaylie is embedded with the family.

I don’t want to give anything away so suffice it to say there is a happy ending. There are a whole lot of interesting and unique Christmas traditions, so it was a fun holiday read for sure. I hope the movie captures them all.

12/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

A ROYAL CHRISTMAS FAIRY TALE by Karen Schaler. HawkTale Publishing (October 5, 2021). ISBN: 978-1734766141. 356 pages.

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HIS FOR THE HOLIDAYS by Samantha Chase

December 17, 2021

From the publisher:

What better way to unwind from the stress of a family Thanksgiving, than escaping with an armload of Christmas cookies?

Hannah Christy was eager to head home and devour her treats in solitude, while doing some prep work for the promotion she was vying for. Those plans came to a screeching halt… along with the elevator…. trapping her inside with her sexy neighbor.

After being trapped with his match-making family over Thanksgiving, getting stuck in an elevator was a welcome reprieve for Gage Lawson.

If it was up to him, he would gladly stay stranded well into the new year. Especially since his neighbor has a whole treasure trove of ideas on how to pass the time. The best Christmas cookies he’s ever tasted. Delicious spiced wine. Fun getting-to-know-you games. It’s the most holiday merriment he’s had in a long while.

Somewhere in the midst of it all, Gage comes up with the perfect plan. A fake romance to help make both their family get-togethers more jolly! To his surprise, Hannah agrees to be his for the holidays. Yet with the mistletoe in full bloom, and her on his arm, Gage soon realizes their little Christmas show isn’t enough. He wants her for real… and forever.

Roast the chestnuts and hang the stockings, Gage has a plan! With the help of the 55 and over residents, magical flurries, and a never-ending supply of hot cocoa with extra marshmallows, he’s determined to show Hannah that Christmas is the most wonderful time of year to fall in love.

https://amzn.to/3q8bOSQ

A delicious new holiday romance!

I’ve read a few books by Chase and enjoyed them all, but I have issues with their covers. I really hate them, this one included. It just looks like an old, cheesy romance from the 80’s or something. Reading advance review copies on a Kindle often eliminates the cover image so I don’t see it until I go to post the review. For this author, I have learned to just ignore the cover and enjoy the book – and I did!

These characters had interesting backgrounds, and we get to know them fairly well for such a short book. Chase does a really good job with building her characters, and I especially liked Hannah. She is a strong woman, dedicated to her career, but not without some issues. Her career is in commercial interior design, but the rest of her family are in the medical profession – her parents and both sisters. She often feels like a failure around them.

We don’t know quite as much about Gage, at least not at first. I’m still not clear on what he does for a living, but who cares. He dresses nice, he’s employed, and he’s good to his family. He is the youngest and the only boy, and his sisters and mom are all on the hunt for a wife for him, to the point where he is considering not going home for Christmas. Their matchmaking is stressing him out.

Gage and Hannah are neighbors who don’t really know each other at all. Until they get stuck in the elevator together, for hours. By the time they get out, they are on very friendly terms. Hannah had suggested a way for Gage to avoid the matchmaking this Christmas by getting one of his female friends to fake date him. He isn’t comfortable lying to his family, but he likes Hannah so he asks her to do it.

At first she says no but circumstances change and she heads out to the small town where his mom lives with Gage. And shockingly, has a fantastic time. She loves his mom and his sisters and all his nieces and nephews and she is falling in love with Gage, too. But she knows this relationship has an expiration date. It looks like she is going to be moving out of state for work, so she doesn’t want to get too involved. But the heart wants what the heart wants.

There are hurdles to Hannah and Gage reaching their happily ever after, but it is so much fun getting there. I am definitely stealing the idea of a hot cocoa tasting (like a wine tasting but with cocoa! And I would love the recipe for the hot cocoa cookies!) I also really liked how their relationship was depicted. We know they are having sex, but it is not explicit and is mostly out of sight of the reader so it actually felt more real to me, if that makes sense? This was a charming, sweet romance just perfect for the holidays, and I loved it.

12/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

HIS FOR THE HOLIDAYS by Samantha Chase.  Independently published (December 14, 2021). ISBN: 979-8784305725. 234 pages.

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A HOLLY JOLLY DIWALI by Sonya Lalli

December 6, 2021

From the publisher:

One type-A data analyst discovers her free-spirited side on an impulsive journey from bustling Mumbai to the gorgeous beaches of Goa and finds love waiting for her on Christmas morning.

Twenty-nine-year-old Niki Randhawa has always made practical decisions. Despite her love for music and art, she became an analyst for the stability. She’s always stuck close to home, in case her family needed her. And she’s always dated guys that seem good on paper, rather than the ones who give her butterflies. When she’s laid off, Niki realizes that practical hasn’t exactly paid off for her. So for the first time ever, she throws caution to the wind and books a last-minute flight for her friend Diya’s wedding.

Niki arrives in India just in time to celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, where she meets London musician Sameer Mukherji. Maybe it’s the splendor of Mumbai or the magic of the holiday season, but Niki is immediately drawn to Sam. At the wedding, the champagne flows and their flirtatious banter makes it clear that the attraction is mutual.

When Niki and Sam join Diya, her husband and their friends on a group honeymoon, their connection grows deeper. Free-spirited Sam helps Niki get in touch with her passionate and creative side, and with her Indian roots. When she gets a new job offer back home, Niki must decide what she wants out of the next chapter of her life—to cling to the straight and narrow like always, or to take a leap of faith and live the kind of bold life the old Niki never would have dreamed of.

https://amzn.to/3poEDdu

Nikki has always been the good daughter. Her older sister, Jasmine, is a bit of a rebel, and Nikki has never wanted to upset her parents like her sister does. So when her parents offer to do a little matchmaking for her, she agrees. The young Indian doctor is a nephew of a friend, is good looking and successful, so they decide to meet for lunch.

But a few minutes before they are to meet, Nikki gets laid off from her tech job. They go out for lunch and get very drunk, and the good doctor invites her back to his apartment. Thinking he’s kidding, she declines and goes home. Then she decides to attend her college roommate’s wedding in India – two days before she has to leave. Nikki is not the impulsive, spontaneous type, so this is completely out of character for her. But she decides the time is now. Her parents were born in Punjab, and while the wedding is in Mumbai, she can stay in India for a few weeks and meet her relatives for the first time.

The wedding is more than just a one day affair; there are a week’s worth of events leading up to it, and the bride has invited all her wedding party to join her and her new husband on their honeymoon in Goa, a beach resort area. At her first event, Nikki encounters a racist old auntie who upsets her. leading her to meet another auntie, a kind and good person. She wants to set up Nikki with her son, but she declines. Then at the event, she can’t help but notice the gorgeous bass player in the band, and he appears to notice her as well. Turns out Sam is the kind auntie’s son.

Sam and Nikki start spending time together at the wedding events, and she is invited to Goa to stay in his family’s apartment there. His mother will be there as well, so she decides to put off visiting her relatives in Punjab for a few days.

As Sam and Nikki grow closer, they both start to realize that this is way more than a holiday fling. But Sam lives in London, and she lives in Seattle. There are other hurdles as well; besides Nikki’s job loss, Sam is struggling with his career as well. When she offers to move to London to be with him, he tells her he isn’t sure he is going back but doesn’t offer any alternative. Convinced that whatever they were building towards is now over, Nikki goes on to Punjab and meets her family for the first time. When she returns home, she is determined to get over Sam.

Set during the Diwali holiday around Christmas, the holiday cheer is a part of the story. I knew as little about Diwali as Nikki does, so it was fun learning about this important holiday. Sam and Nikki seem to be over, but this is a romance so a holiday miracle is expected and occurs. This was an interesting and fast moving story, and a good read. This holiday romance is filled with charm, pathos, love, and laughter. Enjoy!

12/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

A HOLLY JOLLY DIWALI by Sonya Lalli. Berkley (October 5, 2021). ISBN: 978-0593100950. 336 pages.

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THE CHRISTMAS WEDDING GUEST by Susan Mallery

December 4, 2021

Wishing Tree, Book 1

From the publisher:

Susan Mallery, author of the Fool’s Gold romances, cheerfully invites you to Wishing Tree, where Christmas comes to life…

The Somerville sisters believe in love, but they’ve lost faith it will happen for them. Reggie hasn’t been home since the end of the world’s shortest engagement. When her parents decide to renew their vows, she buffs up her twinkle to help with the Christmas wedding. Unexpectedly, Toby, her first love, is back too, and the spark between them shines as brightly as ever. In the spirit of the season, will they let go of past hurts and greet the New Year together?

Done waiting for the one, Dena is pregnant and on her own—on purpose. But then a gorgeous, sad-eyed songwriter checks in to a room at her inn. Micah, unable to write since he lost his wife, finds inspiration in Dena’s determination to be a mom. One snowflake-speckled kiss and he’s a goner. But Dena is afraid to believe that a rock star could fall for a cookie-cutter small-town girl like her.

As the Christmas wedding draws closer, these two sisters just might unwrap the most treasured gift of all—love.

Don’t miss The Summer Getaway by Susan Mallery where one woman discovers the beauty in chaos in a poignant and heartwarming story about the threads that hold family together.

https://amzn.to/3daap8o

Susan Mallery has a new series and I am thrilled! This one is all Christmas, all the time, and that’s pretty wonderful, too. Set in the small town of Wishing Tree, a town that should exist if it doesn’t.

Dena and Reggie are sisters, and they are close even though Reggie moved an hour away. Dena has given up on love and decided she wants a family anyway. She gets pregnant through in vitro, and of course then she meets Micah Ruiz, a famous singer who’s best friend lives in town. He’s staying at Dena’s B&B, trying to get inspiration to write music again. There is a strong attraction there, but they don’t rush into anything. When Micah has to return to LaLaLand, Dena is sure she’s lost him.

Reggie is in town to help their parents prepare for a big wedding – their own. They never had a wedding, and her mom decided it was time to have the wedding she always wanted. She hasn’t been back in town since her infamous engagement; engaged one day, dumped the next. Literally. But she is surprised to see her old high school boyfriend is also back in town with his little boy. They start seeing each other everywhere (small town!) and decide to try again.

This is an emotional read, and a really good one. There are two romances going on, and everyone gets their happy ending. These are sweet romances, just perfect for the holidays and I highly recommend!

12/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE CHRISTMAS WEDDING GUEST by Susan Mallery. HQN; Original edition (September 28, 2021). ISBN: 978-1335522450. 432 pages.

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SECOND CHANCE CHRISTMAS by Lori Wilde

December 3, 2021

A Twilight, Texas Novel: Book 15*

From the publisher:

New York Times bestselling author Lori Wilde returns to Twilight, Texas, with a love story filled with the magic of the season, about a couple who discover an abandoned baby on Christmas Eve-Eve.

It’s Christmastime in Twilight, TX. The lights are twinkling, carols are being sung, and the cookies are baking. And this year, best friends Joel and Jana discover a shocking surprise: as they are organizing the living Nativity, they find a sweet little baby in the manger with a note saying the mother will return…soon.

Jana tucks the infant into her arms, and she and Joel make the impulsive decision to take the baby home. Jana is spontaneous, Joel is a planner, but they agree that it’s better to care for this precious bundle for the holidays, in hopes that the mother really will come back by New Year’s.

As the days pass, the pair begins to fall in love with the child and they’re also forced to face facts: their relationship goes far deeper than friendship. As the spirit of Christmas—and the magic of Twilight, TX—takes over, this unlikely couple must open up to the feelings they’ve been hiding from each other all along. 

https://amzn.to/3G2fcFh

Anytime I can return to Twilight, Texas, I do, and this was a wonderful Christmas story! The nativity scene at the church that featured live animals, suddenly becomes a living nativity when a teen mom puts her newborn baby in the manger. She sees this couple nearby, and is hopeful they will take the baby. She leaves a note saying she will return soon, and just as she hopes, they find the baby. A baby in a manger at Christmas – you gotta love it!

Jana has been working for Joel for a while, and really likes him. He’s a great boss so as much as she would like to pursue something more, she’s afraid to mess up her job. Little does she know that Joel is having the same thoughts and doubts. But they’ve both volunteered to put the animals away at night, so they do find the baby. They get the pastor involved, and as Twilight is a very small town, soon everyone is weighing in.

Jana wants to keep the baby until the mom comes back. Growing up in foster homes, she doesn’t want that life for this sweet child. She also has other secrets about her past, but she’s not sharing. Joel understands how she feels and offers to help. They decide the best way is for Jana to move into Joel’s guest room so they both can care for the baby. Of course, half the people in town want to help, too.

Eventually, Jana and Joel realize they can no longer fight their attraction and their relationship progresses to a new level of intimacy. This is a beautiful story with all the Christmas feels. This series is mostly Christmas books, and Wilde really excels at them. I loved it.

*NOTE: Amazon says this is book 13; Goodreads says this is book 12; Lori Wilde says this is book 15!

12/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

SECOND CHANCE CHRISTMAS by Lori Wilde. Avon (October 26, 2021). ISBN: 978-0062953230. 400 pages.

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A REAL COWBOY FOR THE HOLIDAYS by Stephanie Rowe

November 16, 2021

Wyoming Rebels, Book 9

From the publisher:

A single mom returns to her family’s Wyoming Christmas tree farm for the holidays and runs into an injured cowboy from her past who just might be the Christmas miracle her little boy needs. A wonderful holiday romance that will melt your heart.

After a shattering divorce, Emma Rollins returns to Wyoming, hoping for a Christmas miracle for her son. When she accidentally runs into a truck driven by the cowboy who was her teenage partner-in-crime, Emma quickly discovers that he might be just the miracle she needs. Or did she already miss her chance with the rebel who used to make her laugh so long ago?

Sidelined from smokejumping with a devastating injury, Quintin Stockton is struggling to deal with the fact his career might be over. But when a family situation drags the former cowboy home for Christmas, he finds himself haunted by the shadows he’s never been able to escape.

When the woman he once called Nerd Girl needs his help hauling Christmas trees at her family farm, it’s the distraction Quintin needs. She makes him laugh, which he hasn’t done in a long, long time. But as the loner cowboy spends more time with Emma and her brave little boy, suddenly he has a chance for the Christmas love he didn’t even know he wanted.

Can Christmas magic bring love to two hearts that were once closed forever?


I wasn’t sure if I would be lost with this book as it is the 9th book of the series, and I haven’t read any of them. So while I knew I was missing information, it didn’t seem to matter all that much. This book can easily be read as a standalone, and I loved it.

Quintin is one of nine siblings in the Stockton family, and they have all had a horrible childhood. Instead of falling into where the badness could have lead them, Chase, the oldest, made sure they all ended up on the straight and narrow. Quintin is a smokejumper, one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. But on his last jump, he is severely injured, shattering his leg. Several operations later, he is still not healing all that well, at least not well enough to go back to his job – the only thing that sustains him. Without smokejumping, Quintin is depressed and unhappy, to say the least. But when Chase asks him to come home for Christmas, he shows up, planning on being there just for the day. Until Emma literally runs into his truck.

They were good friends in high school as Quintin worked at her family’s Christmas tree farm. Seeing her family was one of the good things in his young life, so he is happy to see Emma again. And when he finds out her father had been hurt and is having a hard time running the place, he offers to help out.

Emma has her own unhappiness. Her son was born with a birth defect, and as soon as it showed up on the ultrasound, her husband was out. They have a financial arrangement which precludes Emma from having any kind of relationship again, or from telling anyone about the arrangement. So as much as she is enjoying Quintin’s company, she can’t risk her son’s health and she refuses to take help from anyone.

But Quintin is falling in love, something he never thought would happen to him. He is especially drawn to her son, and to kids in general, like the rest of his family. They all have foster kids and adopted kids and just do whatever they can to help any child in need. While Quintin can tell Emma feels the same way, he doesn’t understand why she won’t let him help, so he figures out a way to do so.

This is a heartwarming holiday romance with characters that I just fell in love with – yes, it’s a bit of a fairytale, but isn’t Christmas the perfect time for that?

11/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

A REAL COWBOY FOR THE HOLIDAYS by Stephanie Rowe. Authenticity Playground, LLC (November 16, 2021). ASIN: B097CK7JW6. 282 pages.

 

 

 

 


DEAR SANTA by Debbie Macomber

November 15, 2021

From the publisher:

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A special holiday wish list brings about hope, love, and second chances in this nostalgic novel from the queen of Christmas stories, Debbie Macomber.

Lindy Carmichael isn’t feeling particularly joyful when she returns home to Wenatchee, Washington, for Christmas. The man she thought was “the one” has cheated on her with her best friend, and she feels completely devoid of creativity in her graphic-design job. Not even carolers or Christmas cookies can cheer her up—but Lindy’s mother, Ellen, remembers an old tradition that might lift her daughter’s spirits.

Reading through a box of childhood letters to Santa and reminiscing about what she’d wished for as a young girl may be just the inspiration Lindy needs. With Ellen’s encouragement, she decides to write a new letter to Santa, one that will encourage her to have faith and believe just as she’d done all those years ago. Little does Lindy know that this exercise in gratitude will cause her wishes to unfold before her in miraculous ways. And, thanks to some fateful twists of Christmas magic—especially an unexpected connection with a handsome former classmate—Lindy ultimately realizes that there is truly no place like home for the holidays.

In Dear Santa, Debbie Macomber celebrates the joys of Christmas blessings, old and new.


I have run hot and cold with Macomber’s annual Christmas novel/novella, and I’m happy to say I enjoyed this one. As a Jewish woman who loves Christmas romances, I prefer them to be more inspirational and uplifting than religious, and Macomber always walks a fine line there but there weren’t enough Christ references to make this uncomfortable for me, so yay.

Lindy is finally in her dream job, or so she thinks. A web designer, she was hired by a major Seattle company over an in-house candidate, leaving her co-workers skeptical and unwelcoming, and Lindy feels the need to work late nights and weekends to prove herself. She has just submitted a major proposal; if the company wins the business, her reputation will be intact. Meanwhile, they’ve given her two weeks off over Christmas.

Lindy heads home, never needing home more. When her best friend moved to be closer to her job, Lindy showed up at her new apartment, planning on surprising her friend. Instead, she is shocked to find her boyfriend is living there. Her ex-boyfriend and ex-best friend now, and she is more devastated about her friend than anything. She hasn’t told anyone what happened and is carrying around her heartache on her own.

But as soon as she gets home, her mom knows something is wrong and Lindy spills it all. Her mom comes up with the idea that doing a little reminiscing will help Lindy heal. She pulls out a box of letters to Santa that Lindy had written as a child. She doesn’t remember most of them, but she does remember the one where she asked Santa to bring Billy coal for Christmas. He’s been torturing her forever in the way that little boys do when they have a crush on a little girl, but she didn’t get that then. Then her mom suggests she write another letter to Santa. Lindy thinks that’s ridiculous, but she realizes that Santa always granted her wishes in one way or another, so she does it. She asks to meet a good man and to find a new best friend.

Turns out her best friend from elementary school is back in town and they rekindle that long ago friendship. At a girls night out at a new hot spot in town, Lindy is surprised to see that the proprietor is none other than her old nemesis, Billy, now called Will. But when Lindy finds out what happened that Christmas she wished him coal, guilt kicks in and she ends up bringing him homemade cookies to apologize. They start hanging out and realize there is a strong attraction there. But Billy is tied to this small town with his new business, and Lindy is going back to Seattle. Long distance won’t work, not with the hours they both work. So Lindy decides this will just be a holiday romance, but of course, that doesn’t quite work out.

It wouldn’t be a Debbie Macomber novel without a happily ever after, and Billy and Lindy find theirs. The magical Santa throughout the novel adds another dimension of holiday joy, making this a perfect Christmas read. If sweet romances built around the holiday are your jam, then don’t miss this one. Or wait for the Hallmark movie – it seems like most of Macomber’s Christmas novels end up there.

11/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

DEAR SANTA by Debbie Macomber. Ballantine Books (October 19, 2021). ISBN: 978-1984818812. 272 pages.

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HIGHLAND GAMES by Evie Alexander

November 5, 2021

The Kinloch Series, Book 1

From the publisher:

Sparkling, sexy and utterly unputdownable – it’s the romantic comedy of the year!

A fiery heroine, a Scottish god, a cabin, a castle, and enough heat to warm the coldest Scottish winter…

Highland Games is an unputdownable, enemies-to-lovers, romantic comedy, with sparkle and sizzle and a guaranteed happy ending. This steamy, witty, debut from Evie Alexander will have you laughing, swooning, and staying up way past your bedtime…

Perfect for fans of Sally ThorneTalia Hibbert, Sophie Kinsella, and Helen Hoang. If you’re looking for a riotous romantic comedy with plenty of heat, then Highland Games is for you!

♥♥♥ Welcome to Kinloch, and the hottest winter Scotland’s ever seen. ♥♥♥

Zoe’s always played it safe, just as her parents wanted. But when her great-uncle dies and leaves her a ramshackle cabin in the Scottish Highlands, she decides it’s time to change her life.

Upping sticks seems like a good idea in her cosy flat in London, but the reality is very different. There’s no electricity or running water, the roof leaks and there’s no front door. If that wasn’t bad enough, she’s moved up in the depths of winter and her scorching hot neighbour wants her out.

Rory’s got a fifty thousand tonne problem. If he can’t make Kinloch castle profitable, he’s out of a job. He needs a clear head, but there’s someone living in the cabin he saw as his own and she’s turned his world upside down.

Rory needs Zoe out of Scotland, and out of his life. The trouble is, she has no intention of leaving.

Let the games begin…


This was my first Evie Alexander read and it was a good one. From the title, I assumed it was an historical Scottish romance but the cover gives it away. This is a contemporary romcom set in the Scottish Highlands of today, and that was interesting for sure.

Zoe is an amazing heroine; fierce and fun. She has great memories of the summer she spent with her uncle in his cabin in the Highlands, so when he leaves it to her after he passes away, she decides to quit her job, leave London and move in. Except her uncle hadn’t lived there for a few years before he died, and the place is a wreck. Luckily, her neighbor, the very hot Rory, is there to help. Sort of.

Turns out Rory thought he was getting the cottage and is pissed off that Zoe has moved in. He helpfully points out that the front door is broken, the roof leaks, and there is no electricity or water. But Zoe doesn’t care, she will fix the place up and make it her own. Rory has a few tricks up his sleeve to try and get rid of her, but Zoe is one tough cookie and manages to turn the tables on Rory more than once.

Giving up, Rory and Zoe form a friendship and he ends up helping her out quite a bit. And then they become something more – except Rory has some major secrets he hasn’t shared with Zoe that could cause their whole relationship to blow up. But no fear, they get their happily ever after but not until the fireworks have passed.

There were a couple of things that took me right out of the story, but this was the worst: Rory says, “I reckon.” Do they say that in the Highlands? In England where he went to school? Or is it just the southern/western thing that I thought it was. I poked around the internet a bit but never did get a satisfactory answer. But the thing is, I didn’t want to poke around the internet in the middle of the book, so that was annoying.

Aside from those little things, it was a good story with interesting characters in an unusual setting. There are some real laugh out loud moments, and lots of witty dialogue between Rory and Zoe, making this a fun read and a real romcom. Would love to see this as a movie!

11/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

HIGHLAND GAMES by Evie Alexander. Emlin Press (October 5, 2021). ISBN: 978-1914473012. 310 pages.

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THE FASTEST WAY TO FALL by Denise Williams

November 4, 2021

From the publisher:

Britta didn’t plan on falling for her personal trainer, and Wes didn’t plan on Britta. Plans change and it’s unclear if love, career, or both will meet them at the finish line.

Britta Colby works for a lifestyle website, and when tasked to write about her experience with a hot new body-positive fitness app that includes personal coaching, she knows it’s a major opportunity to prove she should write for the site full-time.

As CEO of the FitMi Fitness app, Wes Lawson finally has the financial security he grew up without, but despite his success, his floundering love life and complicated family situation leaves him feeling isolated and unfulfilled. He decides to get back to what he loves—coaching. Britta’s his first new client and they click immediately.

As weeks pass, she’s surprised at how much she enjoys experimenting with her exercise routine. He’s surprised at how much he looks forward to talking to her every day. They convince themselves their attraction is harmless, but when they start working out in person, Wes and Britta find it increasingly challenging to deny their chemistry and maintain a professional distance.

Wes isn’t supposed to be training clients, much less meeting with them, and Britta’s credibility will be sunk if the lifestyle site finds out she’s practically dating the fitness coach she’s reviewing. Walking away from each other is the smartest thing to do, but running side by side feels like the start of something big.


I loved Williams’ debut novel, How to Fail at Flirting, so I was really looking forward to this new one, and it did not disappoint! This book stands alone just fine, however, so no worries if you didn’t read the first one. Like many romances, the connection between the two books is the friendship between the female characters. The first book was about Naya, and this book is about her friend Britta.

Britta wants to be a writer. She is an editorial assistant for a lifestyle magazine with a strong online presence, and there is one opening for a writer coming up. Her competitor for the job is Claire, and they are rather wary of one another. But when Britta suggests a series on one of the new health and wellness apps, her boss decides that Claire should test out a different app. They will both write about their experiences and Britta is thrilled.

Britta is, in her words, fat. She struggles with accepting her body but her goal isn’t to lose weight; it’s to feel better about herself naked, and to jump out of a plane. She was denied the skydiving experience because of weight limits. She joins a fitness app that stresses wellness over weight loss, and assigns a personal coach to each user. Her coach is Wes.

Wes is very experienced at coaching; in fact, he owns the company. He hates his role as CEO and misses coaching clients, so his partner urges him to take on a client or two and get back to what made him happy, at least part of the time. He takes the two newest clients, one of whom is Britta. Her profile makes him laugh, and he reaches out to her, explaining that this isn’t a weight loss app and the goal is never pounds off, but rather eating better and exercising more. Britta is all in.

We don’t hear a whole lot from Claire, who is quite svelte, but the app she is using is big on pushing tons of exercise and crazy diet tips, with the goal of losing pounds every week. This app just started using coaches as well.

Britta gets to work, tracking what she eats every day, her exercise – a dance class for seniors that she accidentally joined – and how she feels about all of it. Wes is very encouraging but not pushy, and they get along well. Pretty quickly Britta points out that their email communications would be so much better in chat, so Wes shares his chat name and they move to that, and eventually texting. Coincidentally, they both live in Chicago, but this is online app so meeting up isn’t possible. Except Wes really likes her, and the feeling is mutual. Eventually, an accident forces a meetup, and things gets interesting.

Wes hasn’t like anyone this much in a very long time. His ex was a cold woman, and she left him and the company to start up her own wellness app, now in direct competition with his. Britta has had a crush for a long time on a former wo-worker, but he treats her badly, and she is finally ready to move on. And Wes is so nice and so hot!

There is a lot of drama here between their jobs, their love lives, and their relationship, but I couldn’t help but root for Britta and Wes to find their happy ending, and eventually they do. There are a lot of laughs along the way, and a bit of sex, just enough to keep it real, and of course some angst. It was also refreshing to read a romance with a plus-size heroine, which I’m sure more exists but is rare. This is another terrific read from this author, and I am looking forward to the next book in this unnamed series.

11/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE FASTEST WAY TO FALL by Denise Williams. Berkley (November 2, 2021). ISBN: 978-0593101926. 384 pages.

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THE HOLIDAY SWAP by Maggie Knox

October 27, 2021

From the publisher:

The International Bestseller—A feel-good, holiday rom com about identical twins who swap lives twelve days before Christmas—perfect for fans of Christina Lauren’s In a Holidaze and Josie Silver’s One Day in December
 
All they want for Christmas is a different life.

When chef Charlie Goodwin gets hit on the head on the L.A. set of her reality baking show, she loses a lot more than consciousness; she also loses her ability to taste and smell—both critical to her success as show judge. Meanwhile, Charlie’s identical twin, Cass, is frantically trying to hold her own life together back in their quaint mountain hometown while running the family’s bustling bakery and dealing with her ex, who won’t get the memo that they’re over.

With only days until Christmas, a desperate Charlie asks Cass to do something they haven’t done since they were kids: switch places. Looking for her own escape from reality, Cass agrees. But temporarily trading lives proves more complicated than they imagined, especially when rugged firefighter Jake Greenman and gorgeous physician assistant Miguel Rodriguez are thrown into the mix. Will the twins’ identity swap be a recipe for disaster, or does it have all the right ingredients for getting their lives back on track?


I love this time of year with all the Christmas romances, and I was super excited about this one because of this blurb:

The Great British Bake Off AKA The Great British Baking Show here in America was my happy place during the pandemic, and I’m loving the new season as well. I am a long time Gilmore Girls fan – my daughter and I started watching when she was in middle school, and it is one of my comfort TV watches (is that a thing? It is for me!). In fact, I recently started re-watching the series a few weeks ago, for about the tenth time? So Jennifer Robson, shame on you for this blurb. There’s no tent, no contestants helping each other out, no Lorelai & Rory, no Kirk, no Taylor, no Luke! The closest I could get to Stars Hollow was the small town where the twins family bakery is, called Starlight Peak. Not even close. I have serious doubts that Robson even read it.

Enough ranting about a blurb – the book was good despite my dashed expectations.

Charlie and Cass are identical twins and both love to bake, but they took it in different directions. Charlie couldn’t wait to leave the family bakery and the small California town and went to culinary school to perfect her pastry skills. Cass stayed home and is now running the family business while their parents are traveling. Cass has a long time boyfriend who is pushing her to get married, but she realizes that over the years they have grown apart, so she tells him she needs time to think. He takes that as a yes and buys them a house. She is furious, and breaks up with him – or at least tries to, he’s not taking no for an answer.

Charlie has found success on reality TV cooking shows, and is co-hosting a holiday baking show with a super ambitious and totally obnoxious co-host. They are both up to host a new baking show solo, and Charlie is determined to win that job. An accident on set takes her out, but despite her concussion and the cute ER doctor telling her to take time off, she is determined to finish out the show. But then she realizes she has lost her sense of smell and taste, so how will she be able to judge anything?

Enter the oldest trick in the book, the Parent Trap if you will: identical twins changing places. Cass is happy to get out of town and away from her ex and is hoping that Charlie will be able to convince him they are done. Charlie needs this job and hopes Cass can fool everyone enough to ensure she gets the solo hosting gig.

Then Charlie has a small kitchen fire and one of the firemen really catches her eye. It seems the attraction is mutual, except he thinks she is Cass and that is not a great way to start a relationship. Meanwhile, Cass runs into the cute ER doctor and things heat up there, with him thinking she is Charlie. Let’s just say hijinks ensue until the happy ending is reached for both twins.

No real surprises here, just a sweet Christmas romance which worked for me. Enjoy!

NOTE: The author, Maggie Knox, is actually Karma Brown’s and Marissa Stapley’s first joint project writing under that pseudonym.

10/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE HOLIDAY SWAP by Maggie Knox. G.P. Putnam’s Sons (October 5, 2021). ISBN: 978-0593330739. 352 pages.

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