SUMMER ON HONEYSUCKLE RIDGE by Debbie Mason

July 29, 2021

Highland Falls, Book 1

From the publisher:

Sparks fly between an L.A. career woman and a former Army Ranger in this delightful enemies-to-lovers romance from the USA Today bestselling queen of small-town love stories.

Welcome to Highland Falls, a small town where love is always in the air.

In just a few months Abby Everhart has gone from being a top LA media influencer to an unemployed divorcée living out of her car. So inheriting her great-aunt’s homestead comes at the perfect time. Abby heads to Highland Falls, North Carolina, to spruce up Honeysuckle Farm before putting it on the market for some much-needed cash. But instead of finding a charming getaway, she discovers a serious fixer-upper, complete with a leaky roof, overgrown yard, and a reclusive — albeit sexy — man living on the property.

Ex-Delta Force soldier Hunter MacKenzie has faced war and loss, but nothing has quite prepared him for an outgoing redhead who’s determined to turn his life upside down. Hunter doesn’t want to get involved with anyone, especially a city girl who plans to sell the only place he’s ever felt at home. But the sparks between them are undeniable. Spending time with Abby is easy. Convincing her to stay for good is another matter entirely.


I’ve read the second and third books in this series and really enjoyed them, so I went back and found the first book that I missed. Sometimes the first book in a series ends up being the best, but I actually liked the two that followed better. I think part of that is an author goes into a series knowing they have to introduce a bunch of characters who won’t play a big part in the story, but will in later books. So there are a lot of characters here that are briefly mentioned and sometimes I found that distracting.

Abby and Hunter are the most mismatched pair I’ve read about in a while. They both have tons of baggage but handle it differently. Abby is determined to get past her previous rejection and regain the fame and fortune that was taken from her. Hunter appears to have PTSD (my diagnosis, thank you very much!) and has chosen to withdraw from society completely. He lives on the farm and Abby’s Aunt bequeathed him most of the land and the barn, while leaving Abby the house and the backyard. Neither is thrilled about that but Abby desperately needs money, so she has to take on renovating the house to sell it. It is in very bad shape.

While Hunter was living on the farm, he somehow managed to avoid seeing his family or anyone, for that matter, by never going into the small town where they all live. Apparently he felt it worth his time to travel to the next town to do his shopping – a town where no one knows him or bothers him. At least that was my understanding. He is also an artist, a sculptor, and his barn houses all his creations as he refuses to show them or try and sell them.

Abby is a YouTube star with millions of followers. But when she gets dumped, the ex manages to take it all away from her. She ends up living in her car for a while, works as an Uber driver, and is just barely hanging on when she inherits the farmhouse across the country. Thinking it is the solution to her problems, she is determined to fix it up and sell it. Then she meets Hunter.

It’s pretty much hate at first sight. He hates women who wear high heels on a farm and carry a tiny dog wearing a dress. She hates that he is so taciturn and obviously has disdain for her, but she is a very friendly woman who likes to chatter, something else he hates. But grudgingly he agrees to help her fix up the place.

You can guess what happens but it takes a long time for them to get together. Usually the journey is the most fun, but it sort of dragged a bit for me. Honestly, if I had read this book first I might not have read the next two. Sometimes things happen for a reason, and I’m glad I didn’t read this series in order. There are plenty of laughs here though, and it is a sweet romance with a satisfying ending. By the way, the Kindle version is on sale for $2.99 for however long that lasts.

7/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

SUMMER ON HONEYSUCKLE RIDGE by Debbie Mason. Forever (May 26, 2020). ISBN: 978-1538716946. 400 pages.

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IT’S RAINING MEN by Julie Hammerle

July 28, 2021

From the publisher:

Don’t drink and text.

Even on the cusp of forty, I had to learn that the hard way. After discovering my best friend, who I was supposed to grow old and single with, got engaged, I drowned my loneliness in one too many Old Fashioneds and woke up with thirty-nine responses from every available man in my phone. Yup, I even texted my plumber…and he turned me down.

Apparently, my liquor-infused text said that while I don’t need a man, maybe I’d be down for a constant sidekick for movies, plus-one invites, and dinner on the table after my grueling shifts as a concierge doctor―till death do us part…and was anyone in?

Through the absolute mortification of thirty-seven rejections, shockingly, I realize two men have said yes. Behind Bachelor Door #1 is Rob, my old high school crush: the comfortable, dependable boy-next-door. Behind Bachelor Door #2 is Darius, the exciting, flashy news reporter about to hit it big. Does this mean I’ll have to get out of my yoga pants and actually go on dates now?

Dax, the local bartender who got me into this disaster in the first place―remember the Old Fashioneds?―can’t believe I’ve given up on finding true love. What does a tattooed, broody twentysomething know about carving out a future for yourself, anyway?

Too bad the further into this hot mess I get, the less I know about who I am. And I’m going to have to figure out exactly what I need if I ever want to find a true happily ever after.


Adorable title, cute cover, I was in. And according to Amazon’s “about the author”, Hammerle, who is new to me, is a “USA Today bestselling, RITA (R) nominated author (who) writes romantic comedies focused on women over forty.” Our protagonist is just under at 39, but that 40th birthday is definitely looming.

Annie has two best friends, one of whom, Yessi, is married and has a child, and the other, Kelly, single and living in her basement apartment. Kelly and Annie are focused on their careers. Kelly sells real estate and Annie is a concierge doctor who recently took over a very successful practice. But she’s on her own and on call to her patients 24/7, and they take full advantage of that. So when Kelly announces she’s engaged to a man that Annie hasn’t met or even heard of, things become strained between the two friends. Then Kelly moves across the state to be with her fiancé.

After that announcement, Annie stays at the bar where they had been playing trivia and gets hammered. The bartender, Dax, is a hot young 27-year-old but he ends up taken the very drunk Annie home. She wakes up with an awful hangover and the young man sleeping on her couch. She also wakes up to the fact that she drunk-texted every man she knows and basically proposed to them. Shockingly, two men said yes.

Even though Annie is pushing 40 and knows she is way too old for Dax, they definitely have chemistry. But Annie is looking to settle down, so she is going to marry for companionship and just has to choose between the two men who said yes.

I really enjoyed this romance because the characters were so believable. I couldn’t help but root for Annie to find her happily ever after. Like Dax, I don’t believe marrying for companionship is ever a good idea, but Annie had to figure that out for herself, as well as mend fences with the friends she brushed off for her patients. This was a fast, fun read and I highly recommend!

7/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

IT’S RAINING MEN by Julie Hammerle. Entangled: Amara (July 27, 2021). ISBN: 978-1649370280. 400 pages.

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HEART ON A LEASH by Alanna Martin

July 25, 2021

Hearts of Alaska, Book 1

From the publisher:

Young pups teach frozen hearts new tricks when a pack of rescue huskies inspire love and romance in a coastal Alaskan town fractured by feuding families.

Taylor Lipin has made it her life’s mission to leave her hometown and its ridiculous, century-old feud with the Porters behind. But when her sister needs help running the family inn, Taylor agrees to return to Helen, Alaska on a temporary, definitely not longer than two weeks, basis. Or so she thinks, until she’s quite literally swept off her feet and into enemy territory by three happy huskies and their drool-worthy owner, Dr. Josh Krane.

Though Josh didn’t grow up in Helen with the rest of his Porter cousins, he’s heard the stories: Porters rescue huskies. The Lipins are cat people. Keep to your pack. But Taylor is too tempting to give up–plus, his dogs love her.

As Taylor and Josh grow closer, tensions in the town escalate and the need for secrecy starts taking a toll. Soon they’ll need to decide whether their newfound love is just a summer fling or if they’ve found their forever home.


As soon as I finished reading the second book in this series (Paws and Prejudice) I sought out this book. It would have been better had I read this one first. Some series are meant to be read in order and I think this series works better that way.

First of all, the cover. The dogs are a major part of both stories, and I love that. The small town of Helen, Alaska has this century-old feud going on between the Lipin and Porter families. The history of the feud is shady, at best, but it supposedly started when one of the families tries to steal the other family’s dogs, and that was it. Porters are the dog people, and Lipins like cats. So cats and dogs!

But when Josh, a Porter, falls in love with Taylor, a Lipin, the families take sides and both are determined to break up the happy couple. They had a few weeks of peace by sneaking around, but once the families find out, all bets are off. Vandalism, threats, family sit-downs and more don’t deter the couple but the families will not stop. Until finally Josh is scared that Taylor could get seriously hurt, so he dumps her to protect her. Big mistake.

The characters, and there are a lot of them, come to life on the page and the setting is, well, small town Alaska and all that I love. Oh, and Josh is half Jewish. I’ve found it interesting to find Jews in Alaska when it seems like most (all) small town romances usually end up with a Christmas book at some point. I love those, but I like finding my people, even if it’s just one character in the story. It means a lot to me.

There are lots of laugh out loud moments here plus some steamy sex and packs of cute dogs, Huskies to be exact. Look at that cover! Completely irresistible, like this story. Can’t wait for the next book in the series (and I hope it’s Taylor’s sister Lydia’s happy ending next!)

7/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

HEART ON A LEASH by Alanna Martin. Berkley (April 27, 2021). ISBN: 978-0593198834. 368 pages.

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IT HAPPENED ONE SUMMER by Tessa Bailey

July 23, 2021

It Happened One Summer, Book 1

From the publisher:

Tessa Bailey is back with a Schitt’s Creek-inspired rom-com about a Hollywood “It Girl” who’s cut off from her wealthy family and exiled to a small Pacific Northwest beach town… where she butts heads with a surly, sexy local who thinks she doesn’t belong. 

As seen on E!Online, PopSugar, CNN, EliteDaily, Vulture, Buzzfeed, Bustle, the Nerd Daily, PARADE, LA Magazine, Country Living, USA Today, and more!

Piper Bellinger is fashionable, influential, and her reputation as a wild child means the paparazzi are constantly on her heels. When too much champagne and an out-of-control rooftop party lands Piper in the slammer, her stepfather decides enough is enough. So he cuts her off, and sends Piper and her sister to learn some responsibility running their late father’s dive bar… in Washington.

Piper hasn’t even been in Westport for five minutes when she meets big, bearded sea captain Brendan, who thinks she won’t last a week outside of Beverly Hills. So what if Piper can’t do math, and the idea of sleeping in a shabby apartment with bunk beds gives her hives. How bad could it really be? She’s determined to show her stepfather—and the hot, grumpy local—that she’s more than a pretty face.

Except it’s a small town and everywhere she turns, she bumps into Brendan. The fun-loving socialite and the gruff fisherman are polar opposites, but there’s an undeniable attraction simmering between them. Piper doesn’t want any distractions, especially feelings for a man who sails off into the sunset for weeks at a time. Yet as she reconnects with her past and begins to feel at home in Westport, Piper starts to wonder if the cold, glamorous life she knew is what she truly wants. LA is calling her name, but Brendan—and this town full of memories—may have already caught her heart. 


We started watching Schitt’s Creek not that long ago, during the pandemic, and finished it a few weeks ago. Apparently, I’m in the minority because I didn’t love it. I liked the most of the characters, but I expect sitcoms to make me laugh. I think I laughed just a few times throughout six seasons, so I didn’t find it especially funny. I enjoyed the final season the most so when I saw this book was inspired by the show, specifically the Alexis Rose character, I was intrigued. Bailey is one of my go to writers; I read all her books so even though I didn’t find the show particularly funny, I could see where it would be a good jumping off point for a book.

The main character, Piper, is basically Alexis Rose. She’s a Beverly Hills social media darling, and Instagram is her world. Pretty, vapid, and shallow, as her boyfriend tells her while breaking up with her three weeks after they started dating, about the longest relationship she has had. After the breakup, Piper invites everyone she knows to break into the Mondrian Hotel pool and after being turned in as the ringleader by her “best friend”, Piper spends the night in jail. Upon her return home, her very wealthy movie mogul stepfather informs her that he has had enough. Her little hotel stunt may have cost him the funding he needs for his next film.

Piper learns that her father, who died when she was a toddler, has left her and her sister a dive bar in Washington state. Her stepfather has been paying someone for minimal upkeep but he decides that Piper needs to learn how most people live, and he gives her a bare minimum of funds and sends her off to the small town of Westport for three months. Hannah, her sister, decides to go with her. The girls are close, and Piper is thrilled she won’t be banished alone.

So the general plot is rich girl gets cut off from her money, much like Schitt’s Creek. Piper meets Brendan shortly after arriving in town, and he is not a fan. But as she and Hannah start cleaning up the bar and the apartment above, he starts to help them. Piper is not used to men wanting anything but sex from her, so she doesn’t quite understand why this man is helping her. And eventually they fall in love.

There are a lot of really funny scenes throughout the book, and some really sweet ones, too. When they finally get together, there is some hot sex as well. But for me the best part was how Piper grows and changes, all for the better. There are enough quirky characters to add another layer of interest. Also I had no idea that crab fishing was so profitable. All in all, a very interesting and entertaining romance. Best of all, this is the first book of a new series.

7/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

IT HAPPENED ONE SUMMER by Tessa Bailey. Avon (July 13, 2021). ISBN: 978-0063045651. 416 pages.

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PRETENDING by Holly Bourne

July 21, 2021

From the publisher:

He said he was looking for a “partner in crime,” which everyone knows is shorthand for “a woman who isn’t real.”

April is kind, pretty and relatively normal—yet she can’t seem to get past date five. Every time she thinks she’s found someone to trust, they reveal themselves to be awful, leaving her heartbroken. And angry. Until she realizes that men aren’t looking for real women—they’re looking for Gretel.

Gretel is perfect—beautiful but low-maintenance, sweet but never clingy, sexy but not too easy. She’s your regular, everyday Manic-Pixie-Dream-Girl-Next-Door with no problems.

When April starts pretending to be Gretel, dating becomes much more fun—especially once she reels in the unsuspecting Joshua. Finally, April is the one in control. It’s refreshing. Exhilarating, even. But as she and Joshua grow closer, and the pressure of keeping her painful past a secret begins to build, how long will she be able to keep on pretending?

“Thoughtful, smart and painfully true.” —Cosmopolitan UK


Dating sucks. April has learned this painful lesson so well that she invents the perfect date and even gives her a name, Gretel. Gretel is everything April is not. She’s confident, has great self esteem, is independent, and of course, sexy. After so many bad dates, April decides to channel her inner Gretel when she meets Joshua.

Joshua is your basic unicorn; a genuinely nice guy. And he falls pretty quickly for April/Gretel, only he doesn’t know the real April, only the Gretel she lets him see. But soon April finds it tiring to be on all the time, and as they grow closer, Joshua realizes something is up. But April is scared to be herself until Joshua proves that he wants the real April.

This is a fun, easy read, perfect for whiling away a Sunday afternoon when it is too hot to do anything else but read. Okay, it doesn’t have to be too hot, it doesn’t have to be too anything, it’s just an entertaining read and yes, I spend a good part of my weekends reading (and my house looks like it!) But what I liked best about this book was the strong female lead character and the humor – there were a lot of laughs here. While some may see it as anti-men, I see it as anti-misogynistic men, and (wo)mansplained in a language anyone can understand. Plus a great cover!

7/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

PRETENDING by Holly Bourne. MIRA; Original edition (November 17, 2020). ISBN: 978-0778331506. 416 pages.

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PAWS AND PREJUDICE by Alanna Martin

July 20, 2021

Hearts of Alaska, Book 2

From the publisher:

It’s up to a trio of adorable rescue huskies to make two lonely hearts in a coastal Alaskan town realize that true love is worth too much to turn tail and run.

Glaciers have nothing on Kelsey Porter when she decides to freeze someone out. After getting burned once, she’s not about to let it happen again. And right now all that icy contempt is focused on one annoyingly attractive and entitled interloper: Ian Roth. Not only is he looking to take advantage of her quaint, coastal community, tainting the small-town charm of Helen, Alaska, but he has committed the one crime she can never forgive–he doesn’t like her dogs.

Unlike what Kelsey believes, Ian loves Helen’s charms as much as she does. That’s partly why he’s determined to open a brewery there, and he’s not about to let anything or anyone stop his dream from coming true. But he didn’t count on the beautiful, prickly woman getting under his skin. Or having to be within hand-biting proximity of her three huge huskies.

When Kelsey’s family conscripts her into helping Ian get his brewery off the ground, she finds herself caught between a rock and a hard . . . muscular . . . man who has a fear of dogs. But the longer they work together, the more she can feel herself begin to thaw. Now she’ll have to choose: let sleeping dogs lie to protect her heart, or mush head-on toward love.


I am always predisposed to like books set in Alaska, and I am happy to say this book delivered. The setting is Helen, Alaska, one of the many small towns scattered throughout the state. But Helen has something special; two families involved in a century old feud.

Kelsey Porter is the daughter of the one of the feud’s chieftains and has been raised to keep it going. Her father offers up her writing talent to the new brewery that just bought his building, and while Kelsey is annoyed with him, she doesn’t say no. But when she goes to the brewery, Ian slams the door in her face.

Turns out he’s afraid of dogs, and even worse, afraid to admit it. Kelsey has three huskies and thinks of them as her children, so she doesn’t take too kindly to anyone who doesn’t love them. But she’s agreed to help out the brewery, and Ian is quite good looking as is his brewery partner. Both men are Jewish, which you don’t find every day especially in small town Alaska. Or pretty much any small town. So I liked that aspect a lot.

Eventually Kelsey ferrets out Ian’s dog fear, and they start to help one another. Things get more complicated when the whole town gets involved with both sides of the feud taking pot shots at the brewery. Things really come to a head (pardon the pun!) when the town finds out that Ian is dating a Porter. He can’t let the brewery fail because of the feud, so he dumps Kelsey. He quickly realizes that was the biggest mistake of his life, but it takes some time for them to work it out and reach their happily ever after.

This is definitely the book to cool off with this summer! It’s a sweet romance and I am looking forward to the first book in the series, Heart on a Leash, that I missed. (As usual.) Luckily, it was just lost on my Kindle but I have it queued up to read next. Look for the review shortly.

NOTE: There is an excerpt available at https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/636309/paws-and-prejudice-by-alanna-martin/

7/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

PAWS AND PREJUDICE by Alanna Martin. Berkley (June 29, 2021). ISBN: 978-0593198858. 336 pages.

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CHRISTMAS AT THE RESTAURANT by Pamela Kelley

July 16, 2021

The Nantucket Restaurant Series, Book 2

From the publisher:

Nantucket’s famous Christmas Stroll is always the first week of December and this year sisters Mandy and Emma and Paul, the executive chef want to do something extra special for Mimi’s Place, the restaurant that they co-own. 

 It will be Emma and Paul’s first Christmas together as a couple and Mandy’s first holiday as a newly single and divorced mother of two. Although Mandy does have a promising new relationship, though she wants to take things very slow. 

Their sister Jill and her new husband, Billy, are planning to spend the whole month of December on Nantucket too, juggling working remotely for the executive search firm they own together in Manhattan and relaxing and spending time with family and helping out at the restaurant too. 

And Gina, their awesome bartender is spending her first winter on Nantucket and it’s a bit of an adjustment–winters on Nantucket are so much quieter than the city life she was used to. She’s even more confused when someone she had a major crush on back in the city moves to Nantucket. Suddenly her boring winter is starting to look a lot more interesting.


I recently found this series so I was excited to see that the second book was a Christmas story, just in time for the Christmas in July summer extravaganza. It was not meant for that, but it’s how it fell into my lap. So be it. It’s a fun read and a nice break from the Hallmark Channel movie bonanza. I don’t have as much patience with those movies, I can’t watch more than one a week at most. But books? I’m all in. This may even be a Hallmark movie, I didn’t check.

I loved reconnecting with the characters from the first book, but the romance is centered around the new bartender, Gina, and two men she starts dating. But I really enjoyed catching up with the sisters and seeing how their relationships were doing a year later. Nantucket in winter was fun, too, and while I didn’t enjoy this as much as the first book, it was still an enjoyable read. If you need a little holiday magic in your summer, look no further!

7/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

CHRISTMAS AT THE RESTAURANT by Pamela Kelley. Piping Plover Press (December 10, 2020). ISBN: 978-1953060044. 216 pages.

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MISTLETOE & MR. RIGHT by Sarah Morgenthaler

July 15, 2021

Moose Springs, Alaska Series, Book 2

From the publisher:

How the moose (almost) stole Christmas.

Lana Montgomery is everything the quirky small town of Moose Springs, Alaska can’t stand: a rich socialite with dreams of changing things for the better. But Lana’s determined to prove that she belongs…even if it means trading her stilettos for snow boots and tracking one of the town’s hairiest Christmas mysteries: the Santa Moose, an antlered Grinch hell-bent on destroying every bit of holiday cheer (and tinsel) it can sink its teeth into.

And really…how hard could it be?

The last few years have been tough on Rick Harding, and it’s not getting any easier now that his dream girl’s back in town. When Lana accidentally tranquilizes him instead of the Santa Moose, it’s clear she needs help, fast…and this could be his chance to finally catch her eye. It’s an all-out Christmas war, but if they can nab that darn moose before it destroys the town, Rick and Lana might finally find a place where they both belong…together.


‘Tis the season! Christmas in July, of course. If you’ve been enjoying the Hallmark Channel’s celebration in film, why not in books as well? This is a terrific book to get you going.

This is one of my favorite series, and I’ve read all three books; The Tourist Attraction (Book 1) and Enjoy the View (book 3) and of course this one. They are all really fun reads. I love the Alaska setting and the characters are really well developed, I couldn’t help but care about them.

This is a light, funny read with all the charm of a small town Christmas. Most of the laughs come from the moose that is running amok and from the characters, too. This was a laugh out loud book for me, and a sweet romance, my favorite combination for pure escape reading. If you want to extend your Christmas in July celebration, have fun with this terrific read.

7/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

MISTLETOE & MR. RIGHT by Sarah Morgenthaler. Sourcebooks Casablanca (October 6, 2020). ISBN: 978-1492693161. 400 pages.

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INSTAMOM by Chantel Guertin

July 13, 2021

A Modern Romance with Humor and Heart

From the publisher:

Fans of Lauren Weisberger and Emily Henry won’t want to miss this funny, sexy, and emotional novel that looks at modern relationships, modern choices, and redefining—not to mention rebranding—your dreams, through the eyes of an Instagram influencer.

“Themes of personal choice and female empowerment underscore this tender rom-com from Guertin… A cast of wonderful supporting characters, led by spunky Addie, add authenticity and tug at the heartstrings. Readers will be charmed.”— Publishers Weekly

PopSugar Beach Reads Selection

In this #funny, #wise, #emotionally compelling look at modern love and finding your true path, a proudly kid-free influencer meets the ultimate #dealbreaker . . .

It’s the influencer’s golden rule: know your niche. Kit Kidding has found hers on Instagram, where she gets paid to promote brands and share expertly curated posts about her fun, fabulous, child-free life. Kit likes kids just fine, but she passionately believes that women who choose not to become mothers shouldn’t have to face guilt. Or judgement. Or really hot chefs who turn out to be single dads.

Will MacGregor is aggravating, sexy, persistent, averse to social media, and definitely a bad idea. As soon as Kit learns his parenting status, she vows to put their scorching one-night stand behind her and move on. But Will and Kit are thrown together on an Instagram campaign, and the more time she spends with him—and his whip-smart, eight-year-old daughter, Addie—the more difficult it is to stay away, much less sustain what Will so cleverly calls her “Resting Beach Face.” Kit’s picture-perfect career path is suddenly clashing with the possibility of a different future—messy, complicated, and real. Which life does she truly want? Will she have to re-invent herself? And will love still be waiting by the time she figures it out?


I don’t know a whole lot about Instagram, especially influencers, so this was a really interesting read for me. Plus it’s fun, funny, and has a terrific romance at its center. As the bookstagram folks say, it’s got “all the feels”.

Kit Kidding lost her mom when she was only 10 years old. She decided early on that she didn’t want kids, mostly because she was afraid that she, too, would die by her 35th birthday. Her sister also doesn’t have kids, nor do her friends. In fact, she has built a career on it, writing a book about the “child-free” lifestyle. Her instagram feed has a couple of million followers, and her life is in the pictures. At least, the parts of her life that she is paid to share.

When one of her sponsors, a ready-to-cook meal delivery service wants pictures of her actually cooking the food, she panics. Kit stores books in her oven, her cabinets, and well, pretty much everywhere. She has all of her mom’s books, plus all the books she’s collected over the years. She even has a private bookstagram account. But the sponsor is willing to send a chef to help her learn to cook, so she caves. It’s all about the money.

Except the chef is the hot guy she had a one night stand with and now he’s ready for more. There is no fighting the strong attraction between them except he has something she definitely isn’t willing to cave on – a young daughter. Lots of struggles here to get to the happy ending, but what a fun ride to get there! A terrific, entertaining read.

7/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

INSTAMOM by Chantel Guertin. Kensington (June 29, 2021). ISBN: 978-1496735355. 329 pages.

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THE BOOKSTORE ON THE BEACH by Brenda Novak

July 12, 2021

From the publisher:

How do you start a new chapter of your life when you haven’t closed the book on the previous one?

Eighteen months ago, Autumn Divac’s husband went missing. Her desperate search has yielded no answers, and she can’t imagine moving forward without him. But for the sake of their two teenage children, she has to try.

Autumn takes her kids home for the summer to the charming beachside town where she was raised. She seeks comfort working alongside her mother and aunt at their bookshop, only to learn that her daughter is facing a huge life change and her mother has been hiding a terrible secret for years. And when she runs into the boy who stole her heart in high school, old feelings start to bubble up again. Is she free to love him, or should she hold out hope for her husband’s return? She can only trust her heart…and hope it won’t lead her astray.


Autumn has been searching for her missing husband for so long that she knows it’s time to give up, but it’s a hard thing to do. While some people think he took off with another woman, Autumn is pretty sure he didn’t. Why would he leave without any money or any of his possessions? She thinks he went to the Ukraine and was doing something for the FBI, but they are not helpful so she hires a private detective. He turns out to be not so helpful either.

Autumn’s kids are in their final years of high school. Taylor will be a senior, and her brother Caden is just a year behind. It’s been difficult for them to deal with their father’s disappearance but they have had to go on with their own lives. Autumn’s mom won’t travel so she decides to bring the kids to her mom for the summer. She lives in Sable Beach, a small beach town, and it takes several hours to drive there from their home in Tampa. Her mom’s house isn’t big, so Taylor gets the bedroom and Caden gets the couch, while Autumn sleeps in the small apartment above the garage.

The kids make friends and seem happy-ish, so Autumn relaxes a bit. It’s incredibly difficult being stuck in limbo, not knowing if her husband is alive or dead but she knows she has to end the search soon. Things take a turn when she runs into Quinn, her high school crush. He married his high school sweetheart and broke Autumn’s heart, not that he knew that. But his wife suffers from a debilitating mental illness, which culminates in her stabbing Quinn in his sleep. He survived but she’s in prison, and her mom is still in this small town, badmouthing Quinn.

Quinn and Autumn start seeing each other and all the old feelings come back but there is that pesky missing husband lingering in the background. Taylor is having some major issues, including questioning whether or not she is a lesbian. I was so impressed with how Autumn handled it, so kudos to Novak for a sensitive and realistic (to me) response.

It’s not a stretch to say you can guess what happens once Autumn and Quinn realize they have fallen in love and want to spend their lives together. The kids really like him, too.

There is another plot line regarding Mary, Autumn’s mother. Mary and Laura own the bookstore in the title, and are best friends. Mary has a very disturbing background that takes a while to unravel, but adds another dimension to the story.

This is a really good read with a lot of twists for a romance that really isn’t romantic suspense. There is the mystery of the missing husband, and Mary’s background, but everything comes together by the end. I couldn’t put this book down and I really cared what happened to all these characters. Novak always writes a good story, and I loved this one.

NOTE: Novak is offering a free “Bookstore on the Beach” Bonus Epilogue that also signs you up for her newsletter. The epilogue was truly the icing on the cake here, and I was happy to share my email so I won’t miss her next book!

7/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE BOOKSTORE ON THE BEACH by Brenda Novak. MIRA; Original edition (April 6, 2021). ISBN: 978-0778361053. 448 pages.

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