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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WE MET IN DECEMBER by Rosie Curtis

November 11, 2019

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From the publisher:

Following a year in the life of a twenty-something British woman who falls hard for her London flat mate, this clever, fun, and unforgettable romantic comedy is the perfect feel-good holiday read.

Two people. One house. A year that changes everything. 

Twenty-nine-year-old Jess is following her dream and moving to London. It’s December, and she’s taking a room in a crumbling, but grand, Notting Hill house-share with four virtual strangers. On her first night, Jess meets Alex, the guy sharing her floor, at a Christmas dinner hosted by her landlord. They don’t kiss, but as far as Jess is concerned the connection is clear. She starts planning how they will knock down the wall between them to spend more time together.

But when Jess returns from a two-week Christmas holiday, she finds Alex has started dating someone else—beautiful Emma, who lives on the floor above them. Now Jess faces a year of bumping into (hell, sharing a bathroom with) the man of her dreams…and the woman of his. 


I generally love anything British, but I didn’t love this book. I felt like I was wading through molasses to get to the end. It was slowwwww. That said, I did like the characters quite a bit, at least the two main characters. The rest were all sort of lumped in together, except for maybe Sophie, Jess’s best friend since childhood. And Jess’s grandma, I loved her.

The synopsis by the publisher doesn’t quite hit the mark for me. Jess moves into the house with a bargain-basement rent because the owner of the house is one of her best friends from “uni” (university,) as they say. Becky has inherited the house, and it is worth millions, as is explained many, many times.

What I did love about this book is that Jess and Alex often take walks around different London neighborhoods, so this book is part travelogue, and I think those pages are the best bits. I learned there is a neighborhood near Notting Hill called Paddington and neighboring that is Little Venice. Which I had never heard of, and neither had my husband – and he thought he had walked all of London when he was there many years ago. In a funny coincidence, my son’s in-laws are staying in London for several months in the Paddington neighborhood, and regularly visit the Starbucks that is in Little Venice! They sent me this picture (thanks, Nancy!) And why is there no word in English for that familial relationship? In Yiddish, they are my machatunim, which Slate questions as well.

Other quibbles – the cover, and the title, and even the synopsis make this seem like it is a Christmas book, which it is not. It is written sort of like a journal, with dates starting each chapter as they move through the year from December to December. It is mostly told from Jess’s viewpoint, but Alex has several chapters as well. I didn’t love that changing point of view, it seems a bit like cheating to me. The author wanted to make sure we understood that both Alex and Jess had feelings for one another even though they date/sleep with other people and don’t declare their feelings for one another until the end. Not really a spoiler since this is a romance, and that is a very common ploy. There is no explicit sex here, just implied (for lack of a better word,) and that didn’t affect me one way or another.

This was just an okay read for me. I did like the characters and the ending, it just took too long to get there.

11/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

WE MET IN DECEMBER by Rosie Curtis. Berkley (November 5, 2019). ISBN 978-1984806093. 352p.

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DOWN TOO DEEP by J. Daniels

November 8, 2019

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Dirty Deeds Series, Book 4

From the publisher:

Two single parents and three adorable kids are about to have a summer they’ll never forget in this sexy, heartwarming new novel of the New York Times bestselling series.
Following the sudden death of his wife, Nathan Bell spent nearly two years burying himself in work and neglecting his biggest responsibility: his daughter. Overcome with guilt, he wants to connect with little Marley, but he doesn’t know how to do it alone. And then Jenna Savage throws him a lifeline.
A single mom of twins, Jenna is more than capable of taking care of Nathan’s adorable two-year-old and wants to help Nathan however she can. As the days go by and her attraction to Nathan grows, she can’t help wondering what might happen if they became a family for real. And the closer everyone becomes, the more right it feels.
Falling in love forces Nathan to face his biggest fear, and when hearts — both big and little — are on the line, the only thing scarier than needing Jenna and her kids so much is losing them all.

I have to admit I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. It is publicized as romantic erotica, and the cover has that sort of look to it, although the guy does have his shirt on. So I was the tiniest bit surprised when I got about halfway through it and realized that I really, really, liked this book and these characters, and they hadn’t even kissed yet.

I’m not sure how erotica is being defined these days but I tend to think of books like Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, Bared to You by Sylvia Day, or The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure. Sex from the beginning. Sex on almost every page. But this was sweet and fun, and yes eventually it did get sexy, but the sex definitely felt secondary to the plot. At least to me. Guess I’m curious what other people think. Where is the line between a sexy romance and romantic erotica? Or are they the same thing?

Whatever kind of label the publisher wants to give this book, I give it my own label: sweet & sexy. I am going to hunt down the earlier books in this series.

11/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

DOWN TOO DEEP by J. Daniels. Berkley (November 5, 2019). ISBN 978-1984806093. 352p.

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BROMANCE BOOK CLUB by Lyssa Kay Adams

November 5, 2019

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Bromance Book Club Series, Book 1

From the publisher:

The first rule of book club:
You don’t talk about book club.

Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott’s marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him.

Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.

Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville’s top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it’ll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife.


This was the most brilliant and original idea for a romance novel that I have seen in a very long time. The premise of men reading romance novels to learn about women was positively inspired, and made me think all men should be forced to read them! It seems to me that Adams has given the romance genre, and in particular the books being published today, a whole lot of thought. One of the men explains the rationale behind reading a Regency romance like this: “Modern romance novelists use the patriarchal society of old British aristocracy to explore the gender-based limitations placed on women today in both the professional and personal spheres. That shit is feminist as fuck.” Yep.

Beyond the feminist trope, this book had me laughing out loud and moved me to tears as well. The characters are really well developed, and I couldn’t help but root for them to find their happily ever after. Neither Gavin nor Thea are perfect, and I think that’s what makes them feel so real.

There is a sweetness here that never gets sappy, and it is tempered by some very hot sex. I loved the way “excerpts” from the historical romance the men are reading are woven into the contemporary story. This is a clever, heartwarming, fun sexy read. I can’t wait for the next book in this new series!

11/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

BROMANCE BOOK CLUB by Lyssa Kay Adams. Berkley (November 5, 2019). ISBN 978-1984806093. 352p.

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THE CHRISTMAS DARE by Lori Wilde

October 27, 2019

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Twilight Texas, Book 10

From the publisher:

A jilted-at-the-altar bride reunites with her high school sweetheart in Lori Wilde’s sensational new Twilight, Texas Christmas novel.

Kelsey James always played by the rules and look where it got her—dumped and half-drunk in a poofy white dress, her Christmas wedding ruined. Then her best friend talks her into going on her “honeymoon” anyway, daring her to a “Christmas of Yes.”  It’s about time she lets loose a little, so Kelsey agrees to say “yes” to fun, to romance, and to adventure! And adventure leads her right smack into the arms of sexy Noah MacGregor.

Noah’s never one to say no to a risk—from leading his NBA team to victory to making Christmas cookies in Twilight, he’s up to the challenge! But a lot has gone on since they were teenagers, and he knows he has to take his time to make Kelsey dare to believe that what they feel is more than just the holiday magic that’s in the air . . .

 


I enjoy the Twilight, Texas series and this year’s Christmas entry is a good one. Kelsey is basically a psychologically abused daughter. She grew up with a mother that constantly belittles her, “gaslights” her, and in general, keeps her self esteem lower than a hole in the ground. The mom here reminded me a bit of my stepmother, in a slightly more exaggerated way (sorry, Helena, if you’re reading this, but it’s true.) So when Kelsey gets dumped on her wedding day when her fiance runs off with his best man, she is ready for a change.

Luckily, she has a best friend, Tasha, who is there to help her pick up the broken pieces and put them back together in a stronger, more independent way. Phase one of the process involves cashing in the honeymoon plans and taking Kelsey to Twilight, where she is reunited with her high school sweetheart, her first love, the one who got away.

This whole series is based on the first love is your one true love subgenre and Wilde does a good job with it. Personally, though, I had a hard time with Kelsey. She is a real dichotomy of controlled, strong campaign manager and weak, ineffectual woman. She wallows in self-pity, not because she was left at the altar, but because of her mother. Noah, her first love, understands her though. Their history is bumpy, to say the least, but he is on board in helping her gain control of her life. Finally.

These damaged characters make for a good story, and this was a one night read for me. The Christmas magic happens in Twilight, and I bought it.

10/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE CHRISTMAS DARE by Lori Wilde. Avon (October 22, 2019). ISBN 978-0062468314. 400p.

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MEANT TO BE YOURS by Susan Mallery

October 25, 2019

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Happily Inc, Book 5

From the publisher:

Wedding coordinator Renee Grothen isn’t meant for marriage. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, plan. But she never could have planned on gorgeous, talented thriller writer Jasper Dembenski proposing—a fling, that is. Fun without a future. And the attraction between them is too strong for Renee to resist. Now she can have her no-wedding cake…and eat it, too.

After years in the military, Jasper is convinced he’s too damaged for relationships. So a flirtation—and more—with fiery, determined Renee is way too good to pass up…until his flame becomes his muse.

Renee is an expert at averting every crisis. But is she finally ready to leap into the one thing that can never be controlled: love?


I love Susan Mallery, and this series is one of my favorites. This latest entry is another terrific romance filled with interesting (and occasionally quirky) characters that we really get to know, lots of humor, and of course, a happily ever after. This is book five of the series, but I think Mallery does a really good job of bringing new readers up to speed without annoying readers who have been there since book one, like me. Let me tell you, that is a difficult feat to pull off, but I think she does a really good job of it. The book comes with a short story at the end which is basically a synopsis of one of the earlier books in the series, so once I saw what it was about, I didn’t bother with it. But if you haven’t read the other books, this is a good glimpse of what you missed.

Renee and Jasper both think they are too damaged for any kind of real relationship beyond friends with benefits, but that would not make for a very good story. The relationship springs up before either one of them realizes what’s happening, and both are a little freaked out by it. Renee has the usual baggage of a woman who has had a few bad relationships. Jasper has been a one-night-stand kind of guy and hasn’t really had a relationship since high school. So both are happy to just be together without any kind of commitment. Until Jasper realizes that he’s fallen in love.

There are some really funny subplots going on as well. Renee’s mother has this weird gift of being able to hear what animals are thinking and she has embarrassed Renee for most of her life, so their relationship is not as good as it could be. But the elements are there for some really funny scenes. Jasper is a thriller writer who is winding up his popular series by marrying off his main character. Except the only women he has ever written about were victims of a serial killer, and he just doesn’t have a clue. Renee suggests he watch some movies, which helps, and he also watches the Gilmore Girls, starting with the reboot then going back to the beginning, He has some strong opinions about Rory, and if you are a fan, you will definitely relate. It made me laugh out loud (and want to go back and watch the whole series. Again.) It becomes clear to the reader that these two are meant to be together, although it takes them a lot longer to work that out.

If you like contemporary romances with warm, wonderful characters, some humor, and a bit of sex, then read this book. I couldn’t put it down.

10/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

MEANT TO BE YOURS by Susan Mallery. HQN; Original edition (October 22, 2019). ISBN 978-1335041494. 4646p.

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