December 2, 2022

From the publisher:

An irresistible comedy of manners about three generations of a Chicago restaurant family and the deep-fried, beer-battered, cream cheese-frosted love that feeds them all—from the best-selling author of Girls in White Dresses

Here are the three things the Sullivan family knows to be true: the Chicago Cubs will always be the underdogs; historical progress is inevitable; and their grandfather, Bud, founder of JP Sullivan’s, will always make the best burgers in Oak Park. But when, over the course of three strange months, the Cubs win the World Series, Trump is elected president, and Bud drops dead, suddenly everyone in the family finds themselves doubting all they hold dear.

Take Gretchen for example, lead singer for a ’90s cover band who has been flirting with fame for a decade but is beginning to wonder if she’s too old to be chasing a childish dream. Or Jane, Gretchen’s older sister, who is starting to suspect that her fitness-obsessed husband who hides the screen of his phone isn’t always “working late.” And then there’s Teddy, their steadfast, unfailingly good cousin, nursing heartbreak and confusion because the guy who dumped him keeps showing up for lunch at JP Sullivan’s where Teddy is the manager. How can any of them be expected to make the right decisions when the world feels sideways—and the bartender at JP Sullivan’s makes such strong cocktails?

Outrageously funny and wickedly astute, Marrying the Ketchups is a delicious confection by one of our most beloved authors.

“Close…drops readers smack into Oak Park, a leafy Chicago suburb, and lets them hear the hiss of fryers hitting hot oil and catch an ice-cold Old Style sliding across the bar… Close lets each character’s unique personality shine. Fans of Tracey Lange’s We Are the Brennans and Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Malibu Rising will fall in love with these maddening, loving, stubborn relatives. Setting nostalgia against progress, tradition against rebirth, Close outlines the cousins’ grief and personal growth as they work with, and against, one another.” —Booklist, starred review

“[An] amusing, engaging novel about life, death, and the restorative power of a grilled cheese sandwich… Well-drawn characters always keep you interested in what happens next. Close navigates their entanglements and dissolutions with wry humor: She understands the difficulties and distractions of modern romance. As Jane, Gretchen, and Teddy struggle to find their footing, the close-knit Oak Park neighborhood is changing, too. But is that so terrible? Like marrying the ketchups, a long-standing kitchen task now deemed unsanitary, traditions can adapt to a new world order. Just like the Sullivans. An entertaining family story with realistic, interesting characters.” —Kirkus

I’ve had this book for quite a while (it came out in April) and it’s another that was lost on my Kindle. Then two good friends recommended it so I dug it up. I struggled with this book, it took me about a week to get through it, and when I turned the last page, my first thought was “what a stupid book.” I’m sorry, but that’s my truth.

There are a lot of characters, none of which is a main character or protagonist as a few vie for that title. The big events that define the book – the Cubs winning the World Series, Trump getting elected, and the family patriarch dying, are really on the periphery of this story. The Sullivan family owns a bar/restaurant and that is the thing that ties them together. I just never felt invested in these characters or their lives, and without that, I struggled.

This is literary fiction, and the writing is fine if not a bit dull, and the story is definitely character driven without a whole lot of plot. I wasn’t always a fan of the choices these characters made and I never really felt like I got to know these people. There are some funny moments, which were enjoyable. And for readers who don’t understand the title reference, for years restaurants that served (usually) Heinz ketchup via a bottle on the table, would, at the end of the day, combine half empty bottles and refill the rest so they would have full bottles on every table. Apparently, this is not the most sanitary practice, so I’m not sure if restaurants still do that or not.

Regular readers of this site know that I struggle with negative reviews. I’ve reached the point in my life where if I hate a book, I put it down and don’t finish it or review it. I didn’t hate this book, it just felt mediocre to me. All in all, not my favorite.

11/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

MARRYING THE KETCHUPS by Jennifer Close. Knopf (April 26, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0525658870. 320p.





Spotlight Review: BETTER THAN FICTION by Alexa Martin 

November 29, 2022

From the publisher:

Love isn’t always by the book in this charming romantic comedy about a bookseller discovering how to be the main character in her story.

As a self-proclaimed book hater and a firm believer that the movie is always better, Drew Young didn’t anticipate inheriting her grandma’s bookstore, the Book Nook. She’s in way over her head even before the shop’s resident book club, comprising seven of the naughtiest old ladies ever, begin to do what they do best—meddle.

Bestselling author Jasper Williams is a hopeless romantic. When he meets Drew at his Book Nook signing event, he becomes determined to show her the beauty of reading. He curates a book bucket list in exchange for her help exploring the local Denver scene for his current manuscript. From going river rafting to trying local restaurants, Drew begins to connect with Jasper in a way she only thought happened in fiction.

When messy family ties jeopardize the future of the Book Nook, Drew is caught between a bookshelf and a hard place. She’s reminded that real life isn’t always big dreams and sweeping romance. But Jasper is the plot twist she never saw coming and he’s writing a happily ever after just for them.

One of…
Amazon’s Best Romances of November
Buzzfeed’s New Romances to Read This Fall
Cosmopolitan’s Best Books Coming Out In November
Bustle’s Most Anticipated Books of November
Women’s Health’s Swooniest Romance Novels of 2022

“Martin (Intercepted) shines in this enchanting tale of a reluctant bookstore owner and the author who shows her love is possible…The charmingly ornery Drew makes a great contrast, and it’s emotionally satisfying to watch her high walls come down. Stellar supporting characters—especially Drew’s bestie, Elsie, and sister, Daisy—add humor throughout. The result is utterly entertaining.”—Publishers Weekly

“Martin’s latest multicultural contemporary rom-com explores grief and anxiety and is romantic with just the right amount of spice.”—Booklist

I loved Alexa Martin’s Playbook series, and while I understand all good things must come to an end. it was still disappointing to hear. But then I read this book – I believe it is a standalone and it was so good! Even if it did feature a main character who hates reading. Cannot relate to that at all, but part of the happy ending, at least for me, is that the book hater gets reformed. Whew!

Drew Young is the book hater who also owns a bookstore. Yeah, does not compute. Turns out she inherited the bookstore from her beloved grandmother, bypassing her vituperative father who is still determined to get his hands on the store, just to sell it for the real estate value. He already sold the house his mother left him without letting Drew even take a memento. Growing up helping out her grandmother in the store didn’t instill a love of reading, but she is determined to keep her grandmother’s store running.

Luckily for Drew, a group of her grandmother’s closest friends, who she dubs the “Dirty Birds” are always around to lend a hand. In fact, they have invited a best-selling author to meet with their book group in the store. Jasper Williams, a sort of Nicholas Sparks type author only his books have the romance standard happily ever after (HEA) while Sparks’ are always tear jerkers. But he’s the only man I know to write straight romance-adjacent books, so that’s where my mind went. Naturally, Drew’s never read his books but is happy to have the author visit, especially since all she has to do is sell books.

When Jasper stops by prior to his event, Drew is shocked to find he is a very good-looking young man, around her age in fact. He seems drawn to Drew as well, and they decide to help one another. Drew has lived in Colorado all her life and is a photographer. She’s given up her dream to run the store. Jasper tends to move for each of his books, so he will be in Colorado for a while. He needs to learn about the area for his latest book, and when Drew gives him a detailed list, he has a counter-offer; he will give her a list of books to read, and she will take him to the places on her list. It’s a good way for these characters to spend time together, but things get complicated the more Drew’s father sticks his nose in.

I loved these characters and a bookstore setting always works for me! The romance is slow building and powerful, there is definitely an HEA, and the “Dirty Birds” add to the fun. Martin has never let me down; all of her books are terrific as is this new one. Highly recommend!

11/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

BETTER THAN FICTION by Alexa Martin. Berkley (November 8, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0593337226. 336p.






November 18, 2022

Silver Springs, Book 6

From the publisher:

Come home to Silver Springs for the holidays, where broken hearts learn to love again…together.

So much for forever. When Harper Devlin’s rock star husband ditches her on his way to the top, she takes her two daughters to her sister’s place in Silver Springs for the holidays, hoping family can heal her broken heart. But comfort comes in unexpected places when she crosses paths with local Tobias Richardson.

The moment Tobias spots Harper, he recognizes a sadness he knows all too well. After spending thirteen years in prison paying for his regretful past, Tobias is ready to make amends, and maybe helping Harper is the way to do it. But offering her a shoulder to cry on ignites a powerful attraction and a desire neither saw coming.

Fearing her reaction, Tobias doesn’t reveal his checkered past. He’s falling hard, and if Harper finds out, he’ll lose her for good, especially because her famous ex is now trying to win her back. Secrets have a way of coming out, but maybe this Christmas will bring Tobias the forgiveness—and the love—he deserves.

I love Brenda Novak and I love this series, and somehow I missed this book! I’ve read the first five, and number eight, but somehow skipped six, seven, & nine but will catch up quickly. I searched my Kindle for Christmas books and was shocked to find this one. Not sure why, I have so many books on there that it’s easy for some to slip through the cracks. I’m working on getting more organized but it’s definitely a process. But hey, if I haven’t read it, it’s new to me and I’m always happy to find a new book to love!

This was an interesting premise. Tobias is a recently released felon, so not your typical hero by any means. And he was guilty, so no easy way out of that. When he meets Harper, he falls pretty hard, but is afraid he will lose her if she finds out about his felonious past. When her ex comes to town to try and win her back, everything is exposed.

These are interesting characters with great back stories and real problems. I love how they come together and even with all the hurdles thrust in their way, they still manage to find their happily ever after. This was a lovely, warm, wonderful Christmas romance and I loved it. Now I’m on the hunt for books 7 & 9, and luckily for me, they are both Christmas romances!

Silver Springs series in order:

  1. Finding Our Forever
  2. No One But You
  3. Until You Loved Me
  4. Right Where We Belong
  5. Unforgettable You
  6. Christmas in Silver Springs
  7. A California Christmas
  8. When I Found You
  9. Keep Me Warm at Christmas

11/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

CHRISTMAS IN SILVER SPRINGS by Brenda Novak. MIRA; Original edition (October 29, 2019). ISBN:‎ 978-0778308126. 432p.





WHEN IN ROME by Sarah Adams 

November 18, 2022

From the publisher:

Opposites certainly attract for the stranded pop star and small-town baker in this charming slice of romance from the author of the TikTok sensation The Cheat Sheet.

“This modern take on the Hepburn classic Roman Holiday is a quick, fun, slow-burn rom-com.”—Abby Jimenez, bestselling author of The Friend Zone

Amelia Rose, known as Rae Rose to her adoring fans, is burned-out from years of maintaining her “princess of pop” image. Inspired by her favorite Audrey Hepburn film, Roman Holiday, she drives off in the middle of the night for a break in Rome . . . Rome, Kentucky, that is. 

When Noah Walker finds Amelia on his front lawn in her broken-down car, he makes it clear he doesn’t have the time or patience for celebrity problems. He’s too busy running the pie shop his grandmother left him and reminding his nosy but lovable neighbors to mind their own damn business. Despite his better judgment, he lets her stay in his guest room—but only until her car is fixed—then she’s on her own. 

Then Noah starts to see a different side of Rae Rose—she’s Amelia: kindhearted and goofy, yet lonely from years in the public eye. He can’t help but get close to her. Soon she’ll have to return to her glamorous life on tour, but until then, Noah will show Amelia all the charming small-town experiences she’s been missing, and she’ll help him open his heart to more. 

Amelia can’t resist falling for the cozy town and her grumpy tour guide, but even Audrey had to leave Rome eventually.

This author was new to me – I think this is her second book and I will be looking for the first. This was a sweet, small town romance with a celebrity twist.

Amelia Rose, best known as Rae Rose, a famous pop singer, needs a break. Things have gotten strained with her mother, her manager is constantly telling her how to live her life, and she has a small window before her world tour kicks off. She decides to take a “Roman Holiday” like her favorite Audrey Hepburn movie. She doesn’t have time for Rome, Italy, so she picks Rome, Kentucky. She jumps in her old car, the one she’s had since high school, and of course the car breaks down just as she reaches town. There’s no cell service, it’s getting dark, and she figures she’ll just lock herself into her car until morning. Except this cute guy is knocking on the window and offering to help.

Amelia isn’t sure she can trust him, so he calls someone and hands her the phone. This old woman tells her he’s a good guy and she decides to risk it. Noah is an old curmudgeon in a hot young man’s body. He isn’t thrilled about having a house guest but he’s been raised well enough to know he can’t leave a woman stranded. The only mechanic in town will come get the car in the morning and they’ll figure things out. Oh, and he doesn’t recognize her which works for her.

It’s going to take a couple of weeks to get the parts needed to fix the car, and the only hotel in town is a B&B who claims to be full. So Noah grudgingly tells her she can stay with him. She really needs a break from her life and is happy to spend it in this small town. But Noah’s sisters immediately recognize her, and soon the whole town is in on her identity but also in on keeping her hidden from the papparazzi who eventually show up.

Amelia and Noah have a strong attraction to one another, but he has been burned badly before by a woman he fell in love with and followed to New York. He is not going to make that same mistake again. Amelia knows she cannot stay here, she has committments that she cannot get out of so she’s being careful, guarding her heart. Best laid plans and all that…lead to an affair that is sure to break both their hearts unless they can figure out a way past all their obstacles. I mean the man can bake, he’s a keeper!

I loved this town and all the quirky characters and couldn’t help but root for Amelia and Noah to find their happy ending. This was a fast, fun read and I highly recommend!

11/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

WHEN IN ROME by Sarah Adams. Dell (September 20, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0593500781. 320p.





THE REWIND by Allison Winn Scotch 

November 11, 2022

From the publisher:

One of Amazon’s Best Romances of November!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonus: ‘The Rewind’ Adaptation Set at Netflix

11/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

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





SWEET HOME ALASKA by Jennifer Snow 

November 11, 2022

A Wild Coast Novel, Book 1

From the publisher:

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

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

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

Bonus Novella

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

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






November 4, 2022

A Wild Coast Novel, Book 2

From the publisher:

Can a hometown Christmas bring together these two polar opposites?

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

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

Bonus Novella

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

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

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

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

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

11/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

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





Spotlight Review: A VERY MERRY BROMANCE by Lyssa Kay Adams

November 1, 2022

Bromance Book Club, Book 5

From the publisher:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



IT STARTS WITH US by Colleen Hoover 

October 28, 2022

It Ends with Us, Book 2

From the publisher:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

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






October 28, 2022

Four Corners Ranch, Book 2

From the publisher:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

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