SNOWED IN FOR CHRISTMAS by Sarah Morgan 

October 21, 2022

From the publisher:

What happens if the only Christmas celebration you want to attend is one you haven’t been invited to? USA Today bestselling author Sarah Morgan delights with this hilarious and heartwarming Christmas cracker of a novel!

A family gathering

This Christmas the Miller siblings have one goal—to avoid their well-meaning family’s endless stream of prying questions. Ross, Alice and Clemmie have secrets that they don’t intend to share, and they are relying on each other to deflect attention.

An uninvited guest

Lucy Clarke is facing a Christmas alone and the prospect of losing her job. Unless she can win a major piece of business from Ross Miller, the season promises to be anything but festive. She’ll just deliver her proposal to his family home and then leave. After all, she wouldn’t want to intrude on the Miller family’s perfect Christmas.

A Christmas to remember

When Lucy appears on the Miller family’s snow-covered Highland doorstep, she’s mistaken for Ross’s girlfriend. By the time the confusion is cleared up, they’re snowed in—she can’t leave, even if she wants to! But does she want to? As secrets spill out like presents from an overstuffed stocking and the chemistry between her and Ross ignites, this is going to be either Lucy’s worst Christmas ever or the best mistake of her life.

“Morgan is a masterful storyteller…. For fans of Jojo Moyes, Taylor Jenkins Reid, and Stacey Ballis. —Booklist 

“Mallery’s second installment in this heartwarming and humorous holiday romance series (following The Christmas Wedding Guest) brings readers back to Wishing Tree, WA.  Hand to readers who enjoy romances featuring tight-knit small-town communities with heartfelt holiday traditions and friend groups that are more like found families.”—Library Journal

https://amzn.to/3g8oY0P

Lucy works hard at her job; she loves her boss and her co-workers, but the company is in trouble and she wants to help. She decides to put together a presentation for a hugely successful sportswear company. When she has to go to Scotland to film some reindeer for another account, Lucy decides she’ll gift wrap her presentation and drop it off at the owner’s nearby home. But when she gets to the house, the people there seem to recognize her, and they invite her in. Turns out Ross, the business owner’s sisters, tell his parents that he has a girlfriend, Lucy, to take some of the pressure off one of the sister’s who brought home a boyfriend. But when Ross gets there and doesn’t recognize her, there is a lot of explaining to do.

In her haste to escape, Lucy slips on the ice and badly hurts her ankle. Ross’s sister is a doctor, and he drives them both to the hospital. Upon returning home, the Miller’s invite Lucy to stay and recuperate. She demurs but the snowstorm has cancelled her train and the bridge to leave the Miller home is now impassable.

There are several storylines happening here but Lucy and Ross are at the center of it all. Lucy is all alone in the world; her parents died when she was a young child, and her grandmother raised her, but she passed away two Christmases ago. The Miller family embrace her and make her feel a part of their family, and Lucy loves that feeling. But Ross is annoyed that she brought her presentation to his home instead of to his office, where she became good friends with Ross’s assistant since he was never available.

Lucy is drawn to Ross but isn’t sure how he feels, but soon enough he makes his feelings known. Meanwhile his sister is having trouble with her boyfriend, his youngest sister announces she is planning on having a baby via artificial insemination and raising it on her own, and the whole family is in turmoil. But this is a holiday romance, and Christmas miracles occur right on these pages as everyone gets their happily ever after.

I loved spending time with these characters. Being snowed in was the best thing to happen to Lucy for sure, but the whole family manages to find love and work out their differences. This was such a heartwarming, beautiful story but with enough laughs to keep it light and entertaining. Gift this book to someone you love, and they’ll thank you.

10/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

SNOWED IN FOR CHRISTMAS by Sarah Morgan. HQN; Original edition (September 20, 2022). ISBN:‎  978-1335449962. 384p.

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HOME SWEET CHRISTMAS by Susan Mallery 

October 21, 2022

Wishing Tree, Book 2

From the publisher:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery comes a witty and heartfelt story of two friends who unexpectedly find the person-and the place in which-they belong this Christmas.

With twinkling humor and heartfelt Christmas spirit, two friends find love in a town called Wishing Tree…

Until Camryn Neff can return to her “real” life in Chicago, she’s in Wishing Tree to care for her twin sisters. She’s not looking for forever love, not here. But handsome hotelier Jake Crane is a temptation she can’t resist, so she suggests they pair up for the season. No golden rings, no broken hearts. At his side, she sees her hometown through Christmas-colored eyes. The cheer is cheerier, the joy more joyful. She thought she had put her future on hold…but maybe her real life was here all along, waiting for her to come home.

New in town, River Best is charmed by Wishing Tree’s homespun traditions and warmhearted people. When she’s crowned Snow Queen, she’s honored but wary. Dylan Tucker, her king, seems like the stuff of sugarplum dreams, but she can’t shake the feeling that he’s hiding something big. As they perform their “royal” duties—tasting cookies, lighting trees—Dylan’s good humor and melty kisses draw her to the brink of love. But she can’t let herself fall until she uncovers his secret, even if her lack of faith means losing him forever.

“Mallery’s second book set in Wishing Tree (after The Christmas Wedding Guest, 2021) is just as charming, with two gentle romance story lines and a reminder that family ties can bind a little too tightly, but it’s still family. The perfect holiday confection for fans of Jill Shalvis and Sarah Morgan.”—Booklist 

“Mallery’s second installment in this heartwarming and humorous holiday romance series (following The Christmas Wedding Guest) brings readers back to Wishing Tree, WA.  Hand to readers who enjoy romances featuring tight-knit small-town communities with heartfelt holiday traditions and friend groups that are more like found families.”—Library Journal

https://amzn.to/3CNPTGW

This is my new favorite holiday series, even though there are only two (and a half – the first book was a novella) out so far. Mallery is just a great storyteller, and I love this small town that is all about Christmas. I don’t know if there are such places in the real world, but the romance novel world abounds with them.

This is a two-fer romance; Camryn and Jake, who are the primary characters, and River and Dylan, the secondary romance. They are all friends, which adds to the fun.

Jake’s family owns the lavish resort in town and while he loves his mother dearly, her interference in his life has reached new bounds. She interviews Camryn as a possible bride for her son, and Camryn is none too pleased. She decides that Jake should probably know about this, and even though they are not especially close, they’ve known one another since their school days. Jake and Camryn have chemistry that practically leaps off the page, but so do River and Dylan.

River is fairly new to town but has been embraced by this small circle of friends and is loving that. When they stuff the ballot box she gets elected Snow Queen for the holiday festivities, along with Dylan, her “king”. Dylan and Jake have been best friends since they were kids, and Jake’s mom practically raised him since his parents just weren’t involved or interested.

The two couples are thrown together repeatedly and it is so much fun watching their relationships heat up. There are some definite hurdles to get through, but in the end, love wins out. And Christmas, of course. I’m just sorry I have to wait until next year for the next installment.

10/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

HOME SWEET CHRISTMAS by Susan Mallery. HQN; Original edition (October 4, 2022). ISBN:‎  978-1335449986. 400p.

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Spotlight Review: A COSMIC KIND OF LOVE by Samantha Young

October 18, 2022

From the publisher:

One of Amazon’s Best Romances of October!

Space is the last thing an event planner and an astronaut need in this charming new romantic comedy from New York Times bestselling author Samantha Young.

When event planner Hallie Goodman receives party-inspiration material from the bride of her latest wedding project, the last thing she expects to find is a collection of digital videos from Darcy’s ex-boyfriend. Hallie knows it’s wrong to keep watching these personal videos, but this guy is cute, funny, and an astronaut on the International Space Station to boot. She’s only human. And it’s not long until she starts sending e-mails and video diaries to his discontinued NASA address. Since they’re bouncing back, there’s no way anyone will ever be able to see them…right?

Christopher Ortiz is readjusting to life on earth and being constantly in the shadow of his deceased older brother. When a friend from NASA’s IT department forwards him the e-mails and video messages Hallie has sent, he can’t help but notice how much her sense of humor and pink hair make his heart race.

Separated by screens, Hallie and Chris are falling in love with each other, one transmission at a time. But can they make their star-crossed romance work when they each learn the other’s baggage?

https://amzn.to/3ENh73h

An astronaut and a party planner fall in love, but both have to deal with their very messy families and their own past mistakes. Chris was dating Darcy for a couple of years before his mission to the Space Station, where he was stationed for five months. During his time up there, he recorded videos to send home to Darcy. But when he got back, he found out she was cheating on him and he ends their relationship. Darcy gets engaged to the other man, and a party planner works on their engagement party.

Hallie is the party planner, and she is a real people-pleaser, which isn’t a bad thing in her line of work. While working on the engagement party, Darcy emails her a file with the pertinent information, but doesn’t know (or care) that she also included all the videos that Chris had sent her. Hallie starts watching the first one, realizes that this is personal and she probably shouldn’t be watching it, but she is so drawn to Chris that she just can’t help herself. She watches all the videos, then feels so guilty she decides to record her own, apologizing for watching them, and sends them to the email address from the videos. When Chris gets Hallie’s video, he is annoyed that she watched his at all, and tells NASA to have it look like her email bounced. Undeterred, Hallie decides she like recording videos that no one will see, and she does a few more and they all bounce.

Little does she know that Chris has been watching her personal videos, and he is smitten with the party planner with the pink hair. When his ex invites him to the engagement party, he figures that Hallie will be there so he goes. That’s a long meet-cute, but it works. Chris and Hallie hit it off, especially when the first thing she does is apologize to him for watching his videos. But he likes her too much to admit he did the same, he wants to get to know her first.

Hallie and Chris fall into a friendly relationship. He is at a crossroads in his life; he resigned from the Air Force, and he knows he doesn’t want to go back out into space, but until he figures out his next move, it doesn’t seem fair to get involved in a romantic relationship, as much as he likes Hallie. And Hallie is falling for Chris, too – until he friend-zones her.

The ups and downs of their relationship keep them both reeling, not to mention they both have a lot of family issues they are also dealing with. But this is a romance, and even though the odds seem insurmountable, love always wins out. At least in fiction it does.

This was an engaging story with interesting characters, a bit of heat, and the requisite happy ending. I didn’t know a whole lot about astronauts and the Space Station, so I really enjoyed learning more about that, which was just the icing on the cake. A Cosmic Kind of Love is my kind of book – don’t miss it!

A COSMIC KIND OF LOVE by Samantha Young. Berkley (October 18, 2022). ISBN: 978-0593438619. 416p.

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THE IDEA OF YOU by Robinne Lee 

October 14, 2022

From the publisher:

Solène Marchand, the thirty-nine-year-old owner of an art gallery in Los Angeles, is reluctant to take her daughter, Isabelle, to meet her favorite boy band. But since her divorce, she’s more eager than ever to be close to Isabelle. The last thing Solène expects is to make a connection with one of the members of the world-famous August Moon. But Hayes Campbell is clever, winning, confident, and posh, and the attraction is immediate. That he is all of twenty years old further complicates things.

What begins as a series of clandestine trysts quickly evolves into a passionate and genuine relationship. It is a journey that spans continents as Solène and Hayes navigate each other’s worlds: from stadium tours to international art fairs to secluded hideaways in Paris and Miami. For Solène, it is a reclaiming of self, as well as a rediscovery of happiness and love. When Solène and Hayes’ romance becomes a viral sensation, and both she and her daughter become the target of rabid fans and an insatiable media, Solène must face how her romantic life has impacted the lives of those she cares about most.

Included on The Skimm’s 2020 list of Eight Books Both You and Mom Will Love

https://amzn.to/3RYXOXt

I had not heard of this debut novel that came out in 2017 until I received an email from a publicist with Amazon Original Movies. More on that later. I asked for a copy of the book to review but I found it at my library. I read it in a day and to be honest, it is a first novel and it shows. It is also purported to be a romance but is missing the main element of romance, the happy ending. Instead of romance, I would call this more of an erotic love story.

Sophie is a divorced mom with a 13 year-old-daughter, Isabelle. Her ex, Daniel, had left her for a much younger woman, but the marriage was doomed anyway. Sophie owns a contemporary art gallery, and her ex didn’t want her to work at all. He’s a very successful entertainment lawyer, and these are very wealthy people. When Daniel flakes out on taking Isabelle to see her favorite boy band, August Moon, in Las Vegas, Sophie steps up and takes Isabelle and two of her friends. They even have backstage passes to meet the band.

The young teens are all in love with these British boys in the band, and when Sophie meets Hayes, their leader/founder/songwriter, she can see why. He is beautiful, and he seems to be intrigued with her. But he’s twenty years old, and she is, as she puts it, thirty-nine and a half. So twice his age. Nevertheless, he pursues her, and she agrees to meet him for a drink.

Hayes is really turning on the charm and Sophie decides she can just use the young man for sex and then move on. Except he keeps pursuing her and he is obviously paying attention to everything she says, and he is much more mature than one would assume. He’s also very smart and good with people.

It turns into a full-blown affair, with Sophie and Hayes meeting up in various cities around the world as she grows her art gallery business and he is doing concerts with the band. For a long while, Sophie assumes he is seeing other women as they only get together every month or so, and while he never confirms it, he never denies it, either. And when he finally tells her he is not seeing anyone else, she is relieved. They are falling in love but are also keeping their affair a secret. When they are spotted together, Sophie claims that he is just a client. Her business partner and friends soon know, but Sophie is afraid to tell her daughter, who is madly in love with Hayes.

Eventually, some salacious pictures come out, and the world knows. This turns Sophie into a pariah, replete with death threats and the usual internet trolling. At this point it becomes like watching a train wreck; you know it isn’t going to end well, yet you can’t look away.

There is a lot of explicit sex in this book as their relationship is based on sex before it grows into something more. It’s a nice change to see the older woman/younger man relationship and it is a very fast read as you follow Sophie and Hayes around the world, having sex. Fashionistas will love all the designer name-dropping, and women in their thirties & forties will identify with Sophie and love escaping with Sophie & Hayes.

So, the Amazon publicist sent info about the film and a picture of the lead actor, Nicholas Galitzine, who plays Hayes, and informed me that Anne Hathaway is playing Sophie. That this is an Amazon Prime movie shouldn’t be a surprise as more and more actors that dominate the film industry are showing up on streaming television. Hathaway was excellent in “WeCrashed” on Apple+ TV, a limited series based on the downfall of WeWork. The role was very different for her and I thought she did a phenomenal job, even though she was ignored at awards time. But I digress…here are all the details I’ve gotten so far. I couldn’t help but notice that there are several discrepancies from the book, so I’m assuming this is the direction the film is taking:

  • Today it was announced that Nicholas Galitzine will star in Prime Video’s The Idea of You in the role of ‘Hayes Campbell,’ alongside Academy Award winner Anne Hathaway. 
  • The film, based on Robinne Lee’s bestselling contemporary love story of the same name, centers on Sophie (Hathaway), a 40-year-old divorced mother. Sophie’s husband Dan left her for a younger woman, and now he has canceled his Coachella trip with their 15-year-old daughter. Sophie picks up the pieces and braves the crowds and desert heat. There, she meets 24-year-old Hayes Campbell (Galitzine), the lead singer of the hottest boy band on the planet, August Moon.
  • Galitzine will next be seen in Prime Video’s highly anticipated romantic comedy Red, White & Royal Blue, based on Casey McQuiston’s fan-favorite and instant New York Times and USA Today best-selling novel of the same name and Bottoms from MGM’s Orion Pictures. He also recently starred as the male lead in Netflix’s Purple Hearts, alongside Sofia Carson, and as ‘Prince Robert’ in Prime Video’s Cinderella, opposite Camila Cabello. Prior to that, he starred as the male lead in Zoe Lister-Jones’ The Craft: Legacy. On the television side, he can be seen in Netflix’s Chambers. Some of Galitzine’s other credits include A24’s Share, Handsome Devil, The Beat Beneath My Feet, The Changeover, and The Watcher in the Woods.
  • Michael Showalter (The Big Sick, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, The Dropout) will direct. Academy Award winning producer Cathy Schulman (Crash, The Woman King) will produce the film via her Welle Entertainment label, joined by I’ll Have Another’s Gabrielle Union, Anne Hathaway via her Somewhere Pictures label, Robinne Lee, Eric Hayes, Michael Showalter, and Jordana Mollick. Jennifer Westfeldt (Kissing Jessica Stein, Friends with Kids) wrote the screenplay and will executive produce. I’ll Have Another’s Kian Gass will also executive produce.
  • The Amazon Original Movie will premiere on Prime Video in more than 240 countries and territories worldwide at release. Production will begin in October.

10/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE IDEA OF YOU by Robinne Lee. St. Martin’s Griffin; 1st Edition (June 13, 2017). ISBN:‎  978-1250125903. 384p.

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Spotlight Review: ONCE UPON A DECEMBER by Amy E. Reichert

October 11, 2022

From the publisher:

A one-of-a-kind Christmas market offers holiday magic in this new romance from the author of The Kindred Spirits Supper Club.

With a name like Astra Noel Snow, holiday spirit isn’t just a seasonal specialty—it’s a way of life. But after a stinging divorce, Astra’s yearly trip to the Milwaukee Christmas market takes on a whole new meaning. She’s ready to eat, drink, and be merry, especially with the handsome stranger who saves the best kringle for her at his family bakery.

For Jack Clausen, the Julemarked with its snowy lights and charming shops stays the same, while the world outside the joyful street changes, magically leaping from one December to the next every four weeks. He’s never minded living this charmed existence until Astra shows him the life he’s been missing outside of the festive red brick alley.

After a swoon-worthy series of dates, some Yuletide magic, and the unexpected glow of new love, Astra and Jack must decide whether this relationship can weather all seasons, or if what they’re feeling is as ephemeral as marshmallows in a mug of hot cocoa.

“An absolutely perfect holiday hug.”–New York Times bestselling author Christina Lauren

“Reichert’s cozy romance is a nice blend of a sweet love story and Christmas magic.”–Library Journal

https://amzn.to/3RQSEg2

Reichert doesn’t put out a lot of books, but I’ve read most of them and loved them all. This one was a bit different for her; this is a Christmas romance with some magical realism that always works around the holidays.

Jack Clausen lives in the Julemarked, a traveling Christmas market that is somewhat other worldly. The market arrives every December 1, and disappears on Christmas eve. It is in an alley, an offshoot of an existing Christmas market, but one of the reasons it’s magical has to do with the fact that people don’t remember anything specific about it, and don’t even notice when it disappears. Jack, along with his brothers, is a baker and they work in the Kringle shop. When Astra and her friends come in, there is a definite attraction between Jack and Astra. She gives him a hat; he gives her a tiny Christmas gnome that he hand carves. They meet up every year or two, and slowly she starts forming some memories.

When they meet, Astra has been through a rough divorce with a controlling husband who almost cost her her friendships. Now that she has her best friends back, Astra is so much happier. She and Jack get to know one another as the market appears every so often – Jack has all his memories of their meetings, but it is a much slower process for Astra. Only those who could live in the Julemarked are able to remember, but Jack makes it clear that he won’t leave, so it is up to Astra to figure out whether or not they have a future.

This is a charming, sweet love story with more than a touch of magical realism, but if you can’t accept magic at Christmas, when can you? This book is sure to put you in the holiday mood (and I’m off to Trader Joe’s to see what kind of Kringles they have now!) I loved this book.

Bonus: Reichert provided this fabulous holiday playlist. Scan the QR code to play it on Apple Music or recreate it on your own.

10/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

ONCE UPON A DECEMBER by Amy E. Reichert. Berkley (October 4, 2022). ISBN:  978-0593197790. 336p.

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Spotlight Review: SAVVY SHELDON FEELS GOOD AS HELL by Taj McCoy

September 27, 2022

From the publisher:

A sexy romance about a plus-size sweetheart who gets a full-life makeover after a brutal breakup and falls for the incredibly hot contractor renovating her home.

Savvy Sheldon spends a lot of time tiptoeing around the cracks in her life: her high-stress and low-thanks job, her clueless boyfriend and the falling-apart kitchen she inherited from her beloved grandma—who taught her how to cook and how to love people by feeding them. But when Savvy’s world starts to crash down around her, she knows it’s time for some renovations.

Starting from the outside in, Savvy tackles her crumbling kitchen, her relationship with her body, her work–life balance (or lack thereof) and, last but not least, her love life. The only thing that doesn’t seem to require effort is her ride-or-die squad of friends. But as any home-reno-show junkie can tell you, something always falls apart during renovations. First, Savvy passes out during hot yoga. Then it turns out that the contractor she hires is the same sexy stranger she unintentionally offended by judging based on appearances. Worst of all, Savvy can’t seem to go anywhere without tripping over her ex and his latest “upgrade.” Savvy begins to realize that maybe she should’ve started her renovations the other way around: beginning with how she sees herself before building a love that lasts.

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“A heartfelt, hopeful, and humorous exploration of the importance of learning to love yourself…a joy to read.” –Booklist, STARRED review

“This novel is a paean to self-care and support systems . . . A true highlight of the book is its depiction of food, as Savvy is a great cook, and McCoy delights in describing the delicious dishes she whips up. . . . Full of positivity, good food, and love.” —Kirkus Reviews

“McCoy populates Savvy’s world with a diverse cast of immediately endearing friends and family, especially besties Joan and Maggie, who reinforce positivity and love for Savvy and help her prioritize the things that make her happy. With a focus on heartbreak and reflection, Savvy’s story has every flavor of love. McCoy is sure to win fans.” —Publishers Weekly

https://amzn.to/3QZbBwM

I love seeing a debut author get so much love; and in this case, it is well deserved. Savvy is a complex character and she carries this story. Her love interest is Spencer, who she originally thinks is homeless. Once they get past that, there are still issues, mostly stemming from Savvy’s insecurities.

Savvy is a plus-size Black woman who was in a relationship for six years, and when her boyfriend dumps her he tells her it’s because she’s too fat and works too much. Pretty horrible, to say the least. Savvy decides to get her “revenge” body on and starts hiking, playing tennis, and doing Bikram yoga. As she and Spencer get to know one another, they constantly run into her ex at every turn. Fortunately, Spencer is most understanding and Savvy’s best friends always have her back and then some.

I loved watching Savvy learn to love herself. The home renovation and the cooking were just bonuses for me. I admit to skimming the pages-long descriptions of tennis matches, but that is a minor complaint in an otherwise excellent debut. I am looking forward to seeing what McCoy brings us next.

9/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

SAVVY SHELDON FEELS GOOD AS HELL by Taj McCoy. @HarlequinBooks; Original edition (March 22, 2022). ISBN:‎  978-0778311843. 320p.

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DRUNK ON LOVE by Jasmine Guillory

September 23, 2022

From the publisher:

An intoxicating and sparkling new romance by New York Times bestselling author Jasmine Guillory.

Margot Noble needs some relief from the stress of running the family winery with her brother. Enter Luke: sexy, charming, and best of all in the too-small world of Napa, a stranger. The chemistry between them is undeniable, and Margot is delighted that she lucked into the perfect one-night stand she’ll never have to see again. That is, until the winery’s newest hire, Luke, walks in the next morning. Margot is determined to keep things purely professional, but when their every interaction reminds her of the attraction still bubbling between them, it proves to be much more challenging than she expects.

Luke Williams had it all, but when he quits his high-salary tech job in Silicon Valley in a blaze of burnout and moves back to Napa to help a friend, he realizes he doesn’t want to tell the world—or his mom—why he’s now working at a winery. His mom loves bragging about her successful son—how can he admit that the job she’s so proud of broke him? Luke has no idea what is next for him, but one thing is certain: he wants more from the incredibly smart and sexy woman he hooked up with—even after he learns she’s his new boss. But even if they can find a way to be together that wouldn’t be an ethical nightmare, would such a successful woman really want a tech-world dropout?

Set against a lush backdrop of Napa Valley wine country, nothing goes to your head as fast as a taste of love—even if it means changing all your plans.

“Suffused with tenderness and delight, this is Guillory’s best book yet.”—Booklist, starred review

“The lush background and Guillory’s signature blend of sexy, sweet, and funny keep the pages flying. This is a gem.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Guillory’s latest, imbued with her signature heat, wit, and scene-stealing secondary characters, is sure to be popular.”—Library Journal, starred review

https://amzn.to/3QY10ly

A book set in wine country? Count me in! And in Guillory’s talented hands, this book is a fun, sexy romance with a trip to Napa on the side.

After inheriting the winery from their favorite uncle, Margot has been running the business side while her brother is the actual winemaker. She’s a rarity in Napa, a black woman running a winery. She’s growing the business with their wine tastings growing in popularity, and she really wants to upgrade the area surrounding the tasting room with some nice landscaping. Then she wants to celebrate it with an anniversary party for the vineyard. Her brother, on the other hand, thinks that is all a lot of stress for nothing. But Margot perseveres, and eventually, he gives in.

Margot’s best friend owns a restaurant/bar in town, and Margot hangs out with her when she can. When a good-looking younger man sits next to her at the bar and starts flirting, Margot decides to go for it. Luke will be gone soon, thus making him the perfect one night stand. Until she gets to work in the morning and her brother introduces his new hire – Luke. Margot cannot carry on with an employee; that would break every rule in the HR handbook. Despite their amazing chemistry, Margot holds firm to her hands-off policy and Luke reluctantly goes along with it.

As they work together, they get to know one another and that’s not helping either. Luke is a natural in the tasting room and the customers love him. Luke worked in the tech industry until he couldn’t bear it another minute and quit. As a Black man in Silicon Valley, Luke and Margot share being a minority in their respective industries. On the other hand, he is surprised to find how much he is enjoying this job he took just so he would have something to do, and a lot of that has to do with spending time with Margot.

Meanwhile, Luke hasn’t told his super proud mom that he quit; instead he tells her he’s on sabbatical. His best friend had an ugly breakup and he wants to be there for her, too, which his mom interprets as they are dating. He doesn’t deny that either, keeping his mom in the dark about his life. We know that never ends well.

Margot and Luke have an interesting journey to reach their happily ever after, and it was so much fun going along for the ride. This is another terrific romance from one of my favorite authors.

9/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

DRUNK ON LOVE by Jasmine Guillory. Berkley (September 20, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0593100882. 400p.

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CHRISTMAS IN BLUE DOG VALLEY by Annie England Noblin

September 23, 2022

From the publisher:

For anyone who ever loved All Creatures Great and Small, Annie England Noblin’s newest novel—about a big city vet transplanted to a small Wisconsin town—is pure delight as we meet aging alpacas, stump-tailed cats, goats in tutus, a vagabond border collie named Kevin, and the people who think they own them. And through it all, Goldie McKenzie, DVM, navigating the small town of Blue Dog, Wisconsin.

Welcome to Blue Dog Valley. Home of the Fighting Elk. Population 3,411. 

When Goldie McKenzie, DVM, vet to the L.A. pet stars, arrives from Los Angeles to Blue Dog Valley she realizes three things.

  1. Never agree to upend your life when you’re hungover
  2. Pot-belly pigs are not true farm animals
  3. She’s going to need a warmer coat

At first Goldie is nothing more than a fish out of water, with few clients and few friends. But after a less than pleasant encounter with a man whose dog is suffering from a possibly fatal case of bloat, she’s finally earning the trust and goodwill from her fellow Blue Dog Valley citizens. Her clientele grows to include the many farm animals in the town, including a horse named Large Marge, a cape-wearing therapy alpaca, and a yardful of sweater-wearing goats. Add in Kevin, the “worst sheepdog in Blue Dog Valley,” and a Sphinx cat named Airport, and Goldie is having the best time a vet can have. . . aside from the annoying attractive town grump, Cohen, who seems intent on making sure she always feels like an outsider.

With her newfound goodwill, Goldie comes up with an idea to reinvigorate the once flourishing Blue Dog Valley: a Christmas carnival. A petting zoo, pictures with Santa, a baking contest, what more could they want? After only some brief resistance from Cohen and his father, they begin the great plan to reinvigorate Blue Dog Valley.

Will Christmas be enough to salvage this dying town—and be enough to bring Goldie closer to a certain grumpy man?

https://amzn.to/3U79ycJ

This was my first Christmas book of 2022 and there are lots more to come – most holiday romances come out in September and October. I found it interesting (and sort of odd) that the two main characters have what I think of as Jewish names; Goldie was the mom in Fiddler on the Roof, and Cohen, while in this case a first name, is generally a Jewish last name. Or maybe that’s just me and no one else notices or cares. What matters is that I liked them both and wanted them to find their happily ever after.

Goldie and her long standing boyfriend have ended their relationship; she couldn’t take the cheating anymore and he just wasn’t worth it. But he owns the veterinary clinic where Goldie works, and now that their relationship has ended, so has her job. One of her online vet friends owns a clinic in a small town in Wisconsin, and he mentions to Goldie that he wants to retire and is going to be selling the clinic. Thinking this is just the opportunity she needs, they arrange for her to take over the clinic for a few months, through the end of the year, and if she likes it, she will buy it. If not, she’ll head back to Los Angeles and he’ll find another buyer.

Goldie moves to this small town in Wisconsin, and things are not off to a great start. There is an abandoned cat going round and round on the baggage carousel, and since no one else is left in the airport, she decides she better rescue the cat. Her ride is a grumpy but good-looking man, Cohen, who cannot believe this beautiful California girl is moving to his small Midwestern town. She doesn’t even have a coat!

When she gets to the cabin behind the vet clinic that she’s supposed to live in, she finds her friend, the retiring vet, has already left for Florida and her vet tech is not too thrilled to meet her. On the other hand, she has been adopted by Kevin, a very large sheepdog. People are not as friendly as one would assume, at least until she stops by Ruby’s diner. Ruby is welcoming and makes the best cinnamon rolls Goldie’s ever had.

Eventually, Goldie’s skill as a vet shines through and the people in this small town start to trust her with their animals. Plus she heard about how they used to have this Christmas Carnival but stopped when the highway was rerouted past the small town. She suggests they do it again and try and raise some much-needed funds for the town. Soon everyone is on board and Cohen is even coming around. Their attraction is there, but they’ve been butting heads and Goldie isn’t sure they will ever get past their bumpy start. Cohen obviously has some baggage, as does Goldie, and it takes a while before Goldie can get past his defenses.

The official holiday season has begun – the Christmas decorations are out, alongside the Halloween ones already. This book was a sweet, enemies-to-lovers, small-town Christmas romance and I just loved it – the animals were a fun bonus for me. If you’re not quite ready for the holidays, this is a terrific book to get you started!

9/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

CHRISTMAS IN BLUE DOG VALLEY by Annie England Noblin. Avon (September 20, 2022). ISBN:‎  978-0063040199. 384p.

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ONE PERFECT SUMMER by Brenda Novak

September 16, 2022

From the publisher:

Some families we’re born into
Some we find for ourselves

When Serenity Alston swabbed her cheek for a genetic test, she joked about uncovering some dark ancestral scandal. The last thing she expected was to discover two half sisters she didn’t know existed. Suddenly, everything about her loving family is drawn into question. And meeting these newfound sisters might be the only way to get answers.

The women decide to dig into the mystery together at Serenity’s family cabin in Lake Tahoe. With Reagan navigating romantic politics at work and Lorelei staring down the collapse of her marriage, all three women are converging at a crossroads in their lives. Before the summer is over, they’ll have to confront the past and determine how to move forward when everything they previously thought to be true was a lie. But any future is easier to face with family by your side.

“This heartwarming story of sisters who bond as adults is sure to please…those who enjoy books by Susan Mallery and Debbie Macomber.”—Library Journal

https://amzn.to/3U79ycJ

I love Brenda Novak, and somehow I missed this book! But better late than never! Plus it’s a new book if you haven’t read it yet. I stumbled across this on my Kindle and figured it would be my last “summer” read this year. I live in Florida so we don’t do seasons beyond hot, hotter, ridiculously hot and humid, and back to hot again. We do usually get a few days here and there of cool or sometimes even cold weather, and I have the boots and sweaters to prove it. But I digress…

This was such a good read. I loved these characters and they each have their own troubles to deal with. But finding each other through a DNA test proves to be an irresistible mystery. Serenity grew up in a loving home in California with two parents, Reagan grew up in New York City with a single mom who explained her father died when she was two years old, and Lorelei grew up in foster care after being found wandering the streets of Orlando when she was two years old. Once they find each other, they decide to spend a week together at Serenity’s family’s vacation home in Lake Tahoe.

It’s not easy finding out you have half-sisters when you are an adult, and don’t have any idea of how you are related. Serenity writes true crime novels, so she did the test as research for her book. Now that they found each other, they want to figure out how they are related. They each are dealing with some serious stress in their lives, but I don’t want to give anything away here. They decide that a week isn’t enough, and they end up spending three months in Tahoe and really get to know one another.

This was such an interesting story that is fully realized by these characters. It’s an engrossing story with a touch of romance here and there and just a wonderful read. If you haven’t read Novak, this is as good a place to start as any; if you’re a fan, you’ll love this book as much as I did. Enjoy!

9/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

ONE PERFECT SUMMER by Brenda Novak. MIRA; Original edition (April 7, 2020). ISBN:‎  978-0778309468. 464p.

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Spotlight Review: LUCY ON THE WILD SIDE by Kerry Rea

September 13, 2022

From the publisher:

A zookeeper always on the fringe learns to go after her wildest dreams—including a certain television star—in this charming and laugh-out-loud romantic comedy by Kerry Rea, author of The Wedding Ringer.

Lucy Rourke has two great loves in her life: the gorilla troop she cares for as a primatologist and the laundry list of reality TV shows she watches to escape the fact that her actual love life doesn’t exist. And like a reality contestant gunning for the final rose, Lucy’s laser-focused on one thing: getting promoted to head keeper. So when a wildlife docuseries hosted by hotshot TV personality Kai Bridges chooses her zoo as its summer filming location, she sees an opportunity to showcase her beloved gorillas to the world and land a starring role in her department. 

When Kai and his film crew arrive, however, it’s obvious to Lucy that Kai cares more about sky-high ratings than the gorillas, and he considers her a camera-averse know-it-all whose wardrobe consists entirely of khaki. But she’s surprised to discover there’s more to him than his rugged good looks and cheesy catchphrases…and that maybe a promotion isn’t the only thing she wants. But when secrets from their pasts threaten to complicate everything, Lucy discovers that happiness and success aren’t the same thing—and that finding joy just might mean getting a little wild.

“Rea elevates the enemies-to-lovers trope with crackling chemistry, light humor, and genuine emotional nuance. Rom-com lovers should snap this up.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Rea’s second novel, following The Wedding Ringer (2021), is a compelling romantic comedy with a refreshingly unique storyline..Rea’s heartfelt, well-paced novel with realistic and well-developed characters is elevated by the parallel storyline of the gorilla troupe.”—Booklist

https://amzn.to/3U8O3bC

If you’ve ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at a zoo, this is the book for you! Lucy fell in love with gorillas when she was a little girl, and was thrilled to get the job as a gorilla keeper now that she’s all grown up. She has her sights set on moving up to senior keeper, but her stage fright might be holding her back.

Kai hosts a program on the Animal Planet and is a huge success. His mother is the world’s premier expert on gorillas, and is Lucy’s idol. Kai shows up at the zoo, and he and Lucy get into it over a nickname his mother claims the natives gave her. It’s in her book, which Lucy wants to smack over Kai’s head, but instead he grabs it and takes it away with him. Part of the problem is this guy with the bushy beard is unrecognizable as the TV star, but this is their meet cute and we now know we are in enemies-to-lovers territory.

Both Kai and Lucy have a lot of issues stemming from their childhoods and their famous mothers. When Lucy turned ten years old, her mother landed a starring role on a TV drama, and dropped Lucy off with her grandmother to raise her. Her mother’s show is long over and she’s remarried and has another kid, Mia, who worships her big sister. But Lucy doesn’t have time for either of them.

Kai grew up in the wild with his mother, but it turns out they don’t have the relationship the world thinks they do. We can see how much they have in common, but it takes Lucy and Kai a while to figure that out. There is a lot of arguing before they reach their happy ending.

This was a really interesting book, especially if you like animals. The characters are believable and I couldn’t help rooting for them to finally wake up and realize what they had. There are a lot of laughs and some angst before they get there. A thoroughly enjoyable read!

9/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

LUCY ON THE WILD SIDE by Kerry Rea.  Berkley (September 13, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0593201862. 352p.

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