THE COUNTRY GUESTHOUSE by Robyn Carr

January 17, 2020

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Sullivan’s Crossing, Book 5

From the publisher:

#1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr delivers an emotional and triumphant novel about the fierce power of a mother’s love.

A summer rental, a new beginning…

Hannah Russell’s carefully crafted plans for her life have been upended without warning. When her best friend died suddenly, Hannah became guardian to a five-year-old named Noah. With no experience at motherhood, she’s terrified she’s not up to the challenge. She and Noah need time to get to know each other, so she decides to rent a country house with stunning views on a lake in rural Colorado.

When they arrive at the house, they are greeted by the owner, a handsome man who promises to stay out of their way. But his clumsy Great Dane, Romeo, has other ideas and Noah immediately bonds with the lovable dog. As Hannah learns to become a mother, Owen Abrams, who is recovering from his own grief, can’t help but be drawn out of his solitude by his guests.

But life throws more challenges at this unlikely trio and they are tested in ways they never thought possible. All three will discover their strengths and, despite their differences, they will fight to become a family. And the people of Sullivan’s Crossing will rally around them to offer all of the support they need.


Robyn Carr is one of my favorite authors. I love all of her series, and I was really excited when I saw there was a new addition to the Sullivan’s Crossing series. The setting is one of my favorites. But I must admit, I had a little trouble with this book.

I liked Hannah a lot, and I loved Noah. These characters were well developed and believable. On the other hand, Owen was a bit of an enigma to me. I didn’t feel like he was as well developed, even though his background was explored and was very dramatic. Something just felt off to me. Maybe it was the lack of chemistry between Hannah and Owen. They went from platonic to romantic without any real buildup. This book had a lot of telling, rather than showing, and I never like that as much.

Not my favorite, but I’m still glad I read it.

1/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE COUNTRY GUESTHOUSE by Robyn Carr. MIRA; Original edition (January 7, 2020).  ISBN 978-0778309055. 336 p.

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THE AMISH WEDDING PROMISE by Laura V. Hilton

January 12, 2020

1/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE AMISH WEDDING PROMISE by Laura V. Hilton. Forever (December 17, 2019). ISBN 978-1538700648. 352p.

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25 DAYS ‘TIL CHRISTMAS by Poppy Alexander

January 10, 2020

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From the publisher:

In this heartwarming, feel-good holiday novel, one woman needs to find a little inspiration in the 25 days leading up to Christmas to help her remember the magic of the season and the magic of falling in love—perfect for fans of Jenny Colgan and Josie Silver.

Kate Potter used to love Christmas. A few years ago, she would have been wrapping her presents in September and baking mince pies on Halloween, counting down the days and hours to Christmas. But that was before Kate’s husband left for the army and never came home. Now she can hardly stand December at all.

Kate can’t deny she’s lonely, yet she doesn’t think she’s ready for romance. She knows that her son, Jack, needs a Christmas to remember—just like Kate needs a miracle to help her finally move forward with her life. So she’s decided if there isn’t a miracle on its way, she’ll just have to make her own.

As Kate’s advent countdown to the best Christmas ever begins, she soon realizes that even with the best laid plans, you can’t plan for the unexpected. For when the path of the loneliest woman in town crosses with that of the loneliest man, these two destined hearts might find a way to save the holiday for both of them.


For some reason, I missed this book. I had probably a dozen Christmas books to read this year, and unfortunately, I started and put down the vast majority of them. There were a couple I finished that were okay, and one that I liked a lot. So when I finally read this one, I was sorry I missed it earlier. It was really good. If (unlike me) you want to read your Christmas books before the holiday, grab this one and set it aside until you’re ready. I promise, it is worth it. I like how the book is set up like an Advent calendar. Each chapter is titled by the number of days until Christmas, counting down to the big day. It would be fun to read it that way if you are saving it for next Christmas.

This is a British import so right away I liked the quirky little town and its characters. Kate is a struggling young widow with a little boy who is having some difficulties in school. She is fierce in her love for her boy, and determined to do her best by him, one way or another. Ever since she lost her husband, she hasn’t felt much like celebrating Christmas but she decides this year it is important to celebrate for Jack. Kate is working as a Christmas elf selling trees outside a department store. She hardly makes any money and her boss is a pig. She has regular customers and one she remembers well is Daniel. He is very good looking, but she remembers him more for bringing his sister to get a tree the past couple of years. She has seen the young woman go downhill over that time, and the prior Christmas she was in a wheelchair. Daniel always thought of Kate as “Christmas Tree Girl” and appreciated how kind she was to his sister. When he comes alone this year, she realizes something must have happened.

Daniel and Kate are like two ships passing in the night until an event brings them together. They are both very lonely, and Kate especially isn’t sure she is ready for a relationship. But ultimately this is a romance so you know they will have their happy ending. At times their stories are quite sad, but essentially this is an uplifting and lovely holiday read.

1/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

25 DAYS ‘TIL CHRISTMAS by Poppy Alexander.  Berkley (October 15, 2019). ISBN 978-1984804006. 320p.

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BLITZED by Alexa Martin

January 8, 2020

1/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

BLITZED by Alexa Martin. Berkley (December 3, 2019). ISBN 978-0451491992. 336p.

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LOVE LETTERING by Kate Clayborn

January 3, 2020

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From the publisher:

In this warm and witty romance from acclaimed author Kate Clayborn, one little word puts one woman’s business—and her heart—in jeopardy . . .

Meg Mackworth’s hand-lettering skill has made her famous as the Planner of Park Slope, designing beautiful custom journals for New York City’s elite. She has another skill too: reading signs that other people miss. Like the time she sat across from Reid Sutherland and his gorgeous fiancée, and knew their upcoming marriage was doomed to fail. Weaving a secret word into their wedding program was a little unprofessional, but she was sure no one else would spot it. She hadn’t counted on sharp-eyed, pattern-obsessed Reid . . .

A year later, Reid has tracked Meg down to find out—before he leaves New York for good—how she knew that his meticulously planned future was about to implode. But with a looming deadline, a fractured friendship, and a bad case of creative block, Meg doesn’t have time for Reid’s questions—unless he can help her find her missing inspiration. As they gradually open up to each other about their lives, work, and regrets, both try to ignore the fact that their unlikely connection is growing deeper. But the signs are there—irresistible, indisputable, urging Meg to heed the messages Reid is sending her, before it’s too late . . .


Is it too late to add a title to my favorite books of 2019?  Released on the final day of 2019, Love Lettering quickly became one of my favorite books of the year.  The first thing that struck me about this book was the writing.  The prose has a lyrical quality to it that I don’t often see in contemporary romance. I would describe the writing as artistic if that makes sense.  The language that Clayborn uses to describe Meg, Reid, and New York almost seems to embody Meg’s profession as an artist and calligrapher.

Clayborn expertly builds Meg and Reid’s relationship as Meg tries to convince Reid to stay in New York through a series of walks around the city looking for inspiration for her next project.  The reader gets to see the city through Reid’s eyes, for the first time really getting to know and love the city he has lived in for six years, and through Meg’s eyes, the eyes of an artist who looks for signs everywhere she goes.  I had never given much thought to hand lettering as an art form and I would have a hard time listing fonts beyond Times New Roman, but after reading about Meg’s passion for her art I find myself paying more attention to fonts and stopping to notice the style and design of signs.  I absolutely loved Meg and Reid as a couple.  Meg is creative, persistent and witty which serves as a perfect foil for Reid who prefers numbers and can have a hard time connecting with people. Since it was published at an awkward time (the last day of the year) I haven’t seen Love Lettering make many recommendation lists and get the attention it deserves.  I highly recommend Love Lettering, even to those who do not usually read romance.  It is exceptionally well written, features complex characters and an insightful look into the city of New York and the art of hand lettering.

1/20 Caitlin Brisson


A note from the BookBitch

I have to add my two cents here. Caitlin had texted me that she thought I would enjoy this book. I was off for a few weeks over the holidays and did quite a bit of reading. But this last week I had encountered several stinkers in a row. Books I did not finish. Books I didn’t get past the first chapter. Books I wasn’t in the mood for (but went back to and loved) and well, you get the idea. So I eagerly started this book on New Year’s Eve day and finished it before dinner. I loved it, for a lot of the reasons Caitlin mentioned. I would add that it is also a love letter to New York City.  The characters were interesting and well developed, the setting was really another character, and the romance seemed to bloom organically, if you’ll pardon the pun. The art of hand lettering so intrigued me that I started down a rabbit hole, and first found this interview with the author, which led me to this article on Bullet Journaling, which I had never even heard of.

Caitlin had emailed me that her entire review could have been, “This book is amazing. Read it.” Yep, that sums it up and I concur.

LOVE LETTERING by Kate Clayborn. Kensington Publishing Corp. (December 31, 2019).  ISBN 9781496725172. 320 p.

 

 


A COWBOY UNDER THE MISTLETOE by Jessica Clare

December 8, 2019

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The Wyoming Cowboys Series, Book 3

From the publisher:

‘Tis the season for starting over for one military man turned cowboy in this new novel by the New York Times bestselling author of The Cowboy and His Baby.

Former Navy master-at-arms Jason Clements is down on his luck and calling in one last favor. His cousin has secured him a job opportunity as a cowboy working at Price Ranch in Wyoming. Too bad Jason has never even saddled a horse. If he can keep this job without his PTSD getting in the way, it’ll be a Christmas miracle.

Local busybody Sage Cooper loves Painted Barrel something fierce, but it’s time for her to move on. Since her father passed away, the family ranch feels too big for just her, and there’s no chance of finding a husband in this small town. To the rest of the world, she’s just another local fixture, known for her closet full of ugly Christmas sweaters and being perpetually single.

It isn’t until Jason shows up in desperate need of a cowboy crash course that Sage discovers a tall, dark, and handsome reason to stick around. And with the holidays coming up, Sage is in need of a date for a special event—maybe they’ll turn out to be each other’s best Christmas present.


This romance ticked a lot of boxes that I really like; damaged characters, small town, cowboys, and Christmas.

Sage has no self-esteem. Living in this small town, she’s had a long-standing crush on a man who is about to marry. Someone else. She lost her mom as an infant, and her dad fairly recently, leaving her alone on a big ranch in a big empty house. She has decided to sell the ranch in the spring, and move to a larger community, in hopes of meeting someone.

Jason suffers from PTSD, but his cousin landed him this job as a cowboy, of all things. He’s never even been on a horse, much less a ranch. Desperate for help, he wanders into what passes for a library in this small town, a few shelves of books and the town’s only employee, Sage. She ignores his symptoms and lends him a helping hand with a crash course in ranching. Sage has a calming effect on Jason, and a relationship begins.

This was a warm, holiday read filled with love and grace and hope. A wonderful holiday romance!

12/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

A COWBOY UNDER THE MISTLETOE by Jessica Clare.  Berkley (October 15, 2019). ISBN 978-1984804006. 320p.

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ALL FIRED UP by Lori Foster

December 2, 2019

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Road to Love, Book 3

From the publisher:

He’s tantalizing trouble she can’t resist…

Charlotte Parrish has always wanted a certain kind of man: someone responsible, settled, boring. Bad boys need not apply. But when her car leaves her stranded and a mysterious stranger with brooding eyes and a protective streak comes to her rescue, she can’t deny how drawn she is to him. In town searching for family he’s never met, Mitch is everything she never thought she wanted—and suddenly everything she craves.

Finding his half brothers after all these years is more than Mitch Crews has allowed himself to wish for. Finding love never even crossed his mind…until he meets Charlotte. She’s sweet, warmhearted, sexier than she knows—and too damn good for an ex-con like him. But when his past comes back to haunt him, putting Charlotte—and the family he’s come to care for—in danger, Mitch isn’t playing by the rules. He’s already surrendered his heart, but now he’ll risk his life.


Foster writes reliably good contemporary romances, and this is her latest entry into the Road to Love series. I really like this series, probably because I enjoy her writing style. Her characters are well defined and come to life on the page, and I couldn’t help but care about what happens to them. Her settings are vivid, and there is enough suspense to keep the pages turning. And the romance is sizzling! That probably explains the hundreds of five-star ratings this book has on Goodreads.

Mitch has had a very troubled past; drug addict mom, her dealer/boyfriend physically abused Mitch, and a father who came and went because he was married to someone else. Mitch loses his mom and ends up in jail, but this is no spoiler. The book starts as he has just gotten out of prison and has landed in town to meet the half brothers who don’t even know he exists. So right away I was drawn to this damaged character.

Charlotte is almost too good to be true. But every time I think she can’t be that nice – nobody is that nice –  she opens up her mouth and reveals she’s got some backbone, too. I couldn’t help but cheer this relationship on, despite all the hurdles they have to jump.

There is a bit of suspense because Mitch’s mom’s drug dealer boyfriend is after him, and he is a nasty piece of work. But the romance trumps all, just the way I like it.

Foster is a pro, and this book stands alone beautifully. If you prefer to read in order:

Driven to Distraction (Book 1)

Slow Ride (Book 2)

12/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

ALL FIRED UP by Lori Foster. HQN; Original edition (November 19, 2019). ISBN 978-1335505071. 384p.

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NOT THE GIRL YOU MARRY by Andie J. Christopher

November 20, 2019

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From the publisher:

How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days gets a millennial makeover in this romantic comedy by USA Today bestselling author Andie J. Christopher.

Jack Nolan is a gentleman, a journalist, and unlucky in love. His viral success has pigeon-holed him as the how-to guy for a buzzy, internet media company instead of covering hard-hitting politics. Fed up with his fluffy articles and the app-based dating scene as well, he strikes a deal with his boss to write a final piece de resistance: How to Lose a Girl. Easier said than done when the girl he meets is Hannah Mayfield, and he’s not sure he wants her to dump him.

Hannah is an extremely successful event planner who’s focused on climbing the career ladder. Her firm is one of the most prestigious in the city, and she’s determined to secure her next promotion. But Hannah has a bit of an image problem. She needs to show her boss that she has range, including planning dreaded, romantic weddings. Enter Jack. He’s the perfect man to date for a couple weeks to prove to her boss that she’s not scared of feelings.

Before Jack and Hannah know it, their fake relationship starts to feel all too real—and neither of them can stand to lose each other.


I loved the movie this book was based on, and I liked that the book is gender-reversed, Millenial sensitive, and has a biracial lead. But somehow it just didn’t come together the way I thought it should, or would. The characters supposedly had instant chemistry, but I didn’t really feel it. The fake dating thing plays out for the entire book, until the very end, so it felt the tiniest bit unsatisfying.

I did like the characters but they could have been fleshed out a bit more. They fell a little flat for me. The con they were playing on one another often felt forced instead of more naturally occurring, if that makes sense. Maybe this plotline just works better visually, I don’t know. Or maybe because I loved the movie it was based on, my expectations were just too high. All that said, it is a very light, cute romantic romp, and ultimately, I did enjoy it. Just not as much as I had hoped.

11/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

NOT THE GIRL YOU MARRY by Andie J. Christopher. Berkley (November 12, 2019). ISBN 978-1984802682. 336p.

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RESTLESS RANCHER by Jennifer Ryan

November 17, 2019

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Wild Rose Ranch Series, Book 2

From the publisher:

If you like bad-boy heroes, western settings, and a sexy, sassy heroine you will love Jennifer Ryan’s newest Wild Rose Ranch book! Perfect for fans of Diana Palmer, Linda Lael Miller, and Jodi Thomas.

One minute down-on-his-luck rancher Austin Hubbard slept soundly, the next, a sassy spitfire dumped a pitcher of water on his head and woke him up—in more ways than one. Hired to help him rebuild his ranch, Sonya Tucker ends up helping him put the tattered pieces of his life back together. The capable, all-business accountant is on a mission to get the ranch up and running, but can he convince the temptingly beautiful woman to take a chance on him?

Sonya was dismayed that Austin had lost it all: money, family, respectability. Things she—who’d been raised by her mother at Nevada’s notorious brothel Wild Rose Ranch—only dreamed about. But working with the long, lean cowboy shows her that Austin is honorable to his core. Together they slowly grow to see what the love between them might bring.

But then Austin’s powder keg of a family feud explodes, exposing long-buried secrets, and threatening their new-found love…


Just when I was thinking I hadn’t read a good cowboy romance in a while, this one dropped in my lap. I liked the first book in this series, but I think this one is even better. I guess like the premise of a smart woman bossing around a cowboy! At least here, it really works. It sort of turns on its head the cowboy saving the woman, although there is a hint of that as well. But mostly Sonya is fierce and in charge.

Both of these characters have a lot of baggage and troubling backgrounds, and they both can appreciate that in the other. I couldn’t help but root for them to get together, but first, they had to learn to trust one another. Another good cowboy romance!

11/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

RESTLESS RANCHER by Jennifer Ryan.  Avon (November 12, 2019). ISBN 978-0062851901.  384p.

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GET A LIFE, CHLOE BROWN by Talia Hibbert

November 14, 2019

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The Brown Sisters, Book 1

From the publisher:

 

“Absolutely charming… a flawless balance of humor, heat, sweetness, and depth, and I loved every page.” – Helen Hoang, USA Today bestselling author of The Bride Test

 

Talia Hibbert, one of contemporary romance’s brightest new stars, delivers a witty, hilarious romantic comedy about a woman who’s tired of being “boring” and recruits her mysterious, sexy neighbor to help her experience new thingsperfect for fans of Sally Thorne, Jasmine Guillory, and Helen Hoang!

Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?

Enjoy a drunken night out.

Ride a motorcycle.

Go camping.

Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.

Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.

And… do something bad.

But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.

Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.

But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…


This is a British import and a wonderful read! I read the advance copy, an e-galley, on my Kindle. I’m telling you this because most of the time, I can’t see the cover of the book. Either it’s just plain white with the title and author in black text, or as in this case, it is the actual cover but small. At least until it is opened, but I started reading this on my phone (yes, I do that, especially when I’m waiting…in line, at a red light, to pay, whatever!) My point being, I never really looked at the cover so I didn’t realize that this was a book with a biracial couple until I was about halfway through it. That just seemed meaningful to me for some reason. I’m not going to analyze it but did want to mention it.

The push for diversity in romance has been strong, and we, the readers, are reaping the benefits. It is lovely to read about someone who looks like you or acts like you, and everyone should have that opportunity.

Chloe has fibromyalgia and other various ailments, most of which leave her in pain most of the time. She tires easily and takes a lot of medication to manage her pain. And she’s smart, book smart, but not necessarily people smart. She’s been hurt by the people who should never hurt her; her friends, and her fiance. Ex-fiance, and former friends. So she lives a somewhat lonely existence, save for her two sisters, and the rest of her family.

Red thinks she is gorgeous, but also stuck up. Snooty rich girl, like his former girlfriend. But as Chloe tries to accomplish her goals, she learns Red is not the scary, tattooed biker she assumed him to be. And Red learns that Chloe, while maybe from a family with money, is nothing like his ex. Of course, it takes most of the book for them to reach those conclusions, and there is a lot of fun, and some angst, along the way. And a lot of sex, too.

I loved these characters. I was completely immersed in their world, and could not put down this book. Happily, there is a sequel coming, centering around one of Chloe’s sisters. If it’s only half as good as this one, it will still be another terrific read. I loved this book!

11/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

GET A LIFE, CHLOE BROWN by Talia Hibbert. Avon (November 5, 2019). ISBN 978-0062941206. 384p.

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