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.





Spotlight Review: THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT by Debbie Macomber

October 25, 2022

From the publisher:

Two lifelong friends decide to trade places the week before Christmas and end up finding love along the way in this delightful novel from the queen of holiday stories, #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber.

Peter Armstrong and Hank Colfax are best friends, but their lives couldn’t be more different. Peter, the local pastor who is dedicated to his community, spending time visiting the flock, attending meetings, and, with the holiday season approaching, preparing for the Christmas service and live nativity. As a bartender, Hank serves a much different customer base at his family-owned tavern, including a handful of lonely regulars and the local biker gang. 

When Peter scoffs that Hank has it easy compared to him, the two decide to switch jobs until Christmas Eve. To their surprise, the responsibilities of a bartender and a pastor are similar, but taking on the other’s work is more difficult than either Peter or Hank expected. As the two begin to see each other in a new light—and each discovers a new love to cherish—their lives are forever changed.

In The Christmas Spirit, Debbie Macomber celebrates the true meaning of the holidays and the inclusive community spirit that binds us all.

“Bestseller and Hallmark Channel stalwart Macomber (Dear Santa) does it again with a candy cane–sweet holiday romance about two friends who swap lives for a week before Christmas. . . . An eclectic supporting cast—including cadres of strippers and bikers—and a comically disastrous climactic Christmas Eve church service make the narrative shine bright. It’s exactly what readers want from a Macomber holiday outing.”—Publishers Weekly

“This light, sweet Christmas novel is perfect for someone looking for a chaste love story with a happy ending.”—Booklist

Every year I read Macomber’s Christmas novel, but they run hot and cold for me. This was not one of my favorites. A pastor and a bar owner/bartender are best friends and each thinks the other’s job is easy. They switch jobs for several days leading up to Christmas and find out the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

I found this book to be preachy and too religious for me, a nice Jewish girl who loves holiday romances with an emphasis on romance and the magic of the holiday season. The romances here – there are two – are not very engaging, and this book, with apologies to Marie Kondo, just didn’t spark joy for me. If you like the more religious side of Christmas, this may be your perfect book. It’s a sweet, Christian romance with a bit of humor. It’s a quick read at only 240 pages, and while I did finish it, I wasn’t terribly captivated. I’m curious to see if Hallmark turns this one into a movie.

THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT by Debbie Macomber. Ballantine Books (October 18, 2022). ISBN: 978-0593500101. 240p.




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

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.







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

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.







October 14, 2022

The Matchmakers of Harts Haven, Book 2

From the publisher:

Christmas comes to a small Amish community—and brings new beginnings with it.

Karl Graber is too busy struggling with his hardware store and two young daughters to indulge local matchmaker Rose Yoder’s schemes. After his wife’s death, the thought of loving and perhaps losing another woman holds no appeal. So while he’s relieved to learn he’s not on Rose’s list of potential husbands for new schoolteacher Sophie Eicher, he’s also surprised. Despite himself, Karl can’t help wondering what Rose thinks he lacks—and why outspoken, attractive Sophie has so little interest in marriage.

After surviving breast cancer, Sophie is hoping to make a fresh start in Harts Haven. Perhaps the handsome widower next door would make a good match for her sister, but Sophie won’t burden any man with her uncertain future. But when Karl offers to help her to create a “living nativity” Christmas program for the schoolchildren, she gratefully agrees.

It’ll take a bold plan and help from Karl’s children to make this chaotic Christmas play a success. And as friendships deepen, hearts open and hopes are rekindled, two unlikely people may discover the healing gift of love.

I haven’t read an Amish romance for a while, and honestly, two or three a year is plenty for me. I like reading about people living in different cultures, and the Amish surely fall into that group. They are always interesting and so far from my world that I usually learn something new.

Sophie is a breast cancer survivor – for now. The disease took her grandmother and her mother, so she doesn’t feel like she has much time left. On the other hand, she went through chemo and a mastectomy but refuses to listen when her doctor tries to explain her prognosis. And her fiance dumped her when she got sick. When her aunt Rose tells her about a teaching job in the small town where she lives, Sophie sees it as a chance to start over in a place where no one knows her medical or romantic history. Her sister moves with her, and they stay at their aunt’s inn until they can find a place of their own.

That opportunity comes up pretty quickly. Karl Graber just lost his tenant in the apartment attached to his home and it’s right across the street from the schoolhouse. He could use the money the rental brings in, so is happy to hear that he may have a new tenant. Karl is a young widower with two daughters he is raising alone now. The older one works in his hardware store with him, but the younger one misses school for sure. There is a bit of humor with her three little lambs that keep escaping their pen and following her, yes, to school, where havoc ensues.

Rose considers herself the town matchmaker, and she keeps throwing women at Karl but he isn’t over losing his wife to cancer. Karl and Sophie do not have an auspicious first meeting, to say the least. He thinks she is a busybody and she thinks him rude and cold. Both feel much better after Rose decrees that they are not meant for one another – except despite their bad beginning, there is definitely an attraction there.

Sophie thinks her sister would be good for Karl, but she seems interested in someone else. Sophie doesn’t want to get married because her body is disfigured, but more importantly because she thinks she will die in the next year or so like the other women in her family. So even though she is attracted to Karl, she feels her sister would make him a better wife.

Sophie loves teaching and is excited to meet her new pupils. But she quickly finds out that Christmas is a big deal in this school; every year, the children put on some sort of Christmas pageant, and even though it is just a matter of weeks until the holiday, they are expecting Sophie to do the same.

This is a slow-building romance and even though it seems hopeless at times, a happy ending is guaranteed. If you are looking for a gentle, inspirational romance this holiday season, this is a good one.

10/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

A MATCH MADE AT CHRISTMAS by Patricia Davids. HQN; Original edition (October 4, 2022). ISBN:‎  978-1335453471. 352p.





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

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.





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?

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.





Spotlight Review: COOKOUT CARNAGE by Kelly Kay & Evie Alexander

July 12, 2022

Evie and Kelly’s Holiday Disasters, Book 2

From the publisher:

Two friends-to-lovers romantic comedies for the Fourth of July

One Fourth of July, two couples, complete carnage. These hot and hilarious stories are the perfect romcom recipe.

Off with a Bang – by Evie Alexander: Posh Brit Tristan has fallen for his American work colleague over Zoom. When she invites him to spend the Fourth of July with her and her family, he leaps at the chance to meet face to face. Maybe they can be more than just friends?

Sherilyn is in big trouble. She’s in love with someone she’s never met, and he’s just accepted an invitation she was sure he’d turn down. Tristan might think he’s about to meet a cute girl and her cookie-cutter family, but she’s Sherrie-Lynne, not Sherilyn. And when he discovers her family are lawless rednecks, he’s going to run a country mile.

Now, Sherilyn has to produce a fake family and put on a show bigger than her small town’s Fourth of July celebrations. Can she pull it off, or will she end up driving both Tristan and her family away forever?

Up in Smoke – by Kelly Kay: Cute farm boy Jonathan is about to get married to the wrong person. He’s clinging to an ideal of love, but his bride-to-be seems more interested in his best man, and wants to eat his pet. Jonathan’s heart has always belonged to his friend Juliet, but she left town years ago.

Now, the day before his nuptials, Juliet’s back and Jonathan’s had an epiphany. Can he get the right girl and find real happiness? Or is everything about to go up in smoke, including his pet pig?

Evie and Kelly’s Holiday Disasters are a series of hot and hilarious romantic comedies with interconnected characters, focusing on one holiday and one trope at a time. No cheating, no cliff-hangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after (HEA).

Novellas are not usually my favorite, but Cupid Calamity, the first book in the series, was so much fun I couldn’t resist this new one set around the 4th of July.

These novellas were a bit longer than the ones in the first book, but just as fast a read – and they are both laugh out loud funny! These stories are connected via a text chain among a group of people who were stranded in an airport one night. They proceeded to drink themselves silly and formed a lasting friendship, despite the fact that they live all over the world, from Scotland to the UK to the U.S. In these stories, Kentucky and Chicago are the settings.

In my review copy, the first story was “Up in Smoke.” Jonathan is engaged to be married, but why I could not tell you. He literally has no feelings for his fiancé, they haven’t even slept together, mostly because she is busy sleeping around the small Kentucky town where they live. Her contemptuous attitude towards Jonathan just confused me even more. So that night he met all those friends? One of them called his ex, Juliet, and then he called her after that, confessing he still is in love with her. She still loves him, but somehow he’s blocked her number so he never gets any of the many texts she sends over the months between Valentine’s Day and the 4th of July. She moves back to their Kentucky hometown just in time to stop the wedding. But the bride isn’t getting the message, turning this into a farce that is so over the top I’m surprised it hasn’t been made into a movie yet. Lots of laughs here amid my confusion, but the happy ending was guaranteed and it delivered.

The second story, “Off With a Bang” was my favorite, if I had to pick one. This story centers around another of the friends from the airport, Tristan. He is from the UK but is working for a US company. One of his team members in the Chicago office is Sherilyn, and they form a long distance friendship. They talk, Zoom, and text daily. Tristan decides to ask for a transfer to the Chicago office. He has fallen in love long distance, but is afraid he isn’t good enough for Sherilyn. Tristan has an interesting back story that we don’t learn about until nearly the end.

Meanwhile Sherilyn has also fallen for Tristan, but thinks she isn’t good enough for him. She is from a small Kentucky backwater town, and she had the unfortunate experience of bringing a boyfriend home once, where he humiliated her about her family. When Jonathan invites Tristan to his wedding, it turns out he lives about half an hour from Sherilyn, so Tristan decides to surprise Sherilyn in her hometown for the 4th of July, a couple of days before the wedding. She had talked about the holiday and her family’s participation and invited him to come by any time he was in the area. She never really expected him to show up, and when he does, she is mortified and half the town agrees to help her hide her real family from Tristan. Of course that doesn’t work out very well, but Tristan and Sherilyn still manage to find their happy ending.

I felt more emotionally invested in Sherilyn & Tristan’s story, but both stories were really funny and sweet and sexy, all the good stuff. Highly recommend!

7/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

COOKOUT CARNAGE by Kelly Kay & Evie Alexander. Emlin Press (June 13, 2022) ISBN: 978-1914473111. 330p.


CUPID CALAMITY by Kelly Kay & Evie Alexander

February 4, 2022

Evie and Kelly’s Holiday Disasters, Book 1

From the publisher:

Valentine’s day romantic comedy at its finest!

One cupid, two calamities, four uproarious lovers. Insta-love meets insta-disaster in these laugh-out-loud Valentine’s day novellas.

Animal Attraction by Evie Alexander: Overworked, underpaid, and perpetually single, Laurie is stuck in a rut. A birthday on Valentine’s day is bad enough, but when her insensitive colleagues drag her to a secret Safari dining experience, her day hits rock bottom – she’s terrified of animals. Workaholic Ben has just swapped the States for Somerset. He’s on track to fulfil a childhood dream, and the only date he wants on Valentine’s day is a business one. But when his fantasy woman approaches with an offer he can’t refuse, his priorities start to change. Laurie and Ben have an instant connection and their chemistry is wild. Unfortunately so are the animals. When the menagerie goes into meltdown they’re thrown into a Darwinian Hunger Games, fighting for their lives as well as love. Can Businessman Ben unleash his inner Tarzan and save Laurie? Or has this survival of the fittest reached the point of no return?

Stupid Cupid by Kelly Kay: Resourceful Sabrina always puts others’ needs first. She never thought she’d be abandoning a blind date to run off with a stranger. But now she’s got the chance to face her demons and choose happiness – even if it’s just for one night. Charmer Patrick can make any situation work in his favor. But snark and humor won’t be enough to win Sabrina’s heart. He’s got to dig deep, open up, and take on fate as well as New York City. Armed with a fire extinguisher, a cobbler’s hammer, and an EpiPen, can Patrick and Sabrina survive the worst-best date of their lives and find true love? Or will they lose each other as well as the plot?

Evie and Kelly’s Holiday Disasters are a series of hot and hilarious romantic comedies with interconnected characters, focusing on one holiday and one trope at a time. No cheating, no cliff-hangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after (HEA).

I don’t usually love novellas, but this was such a fun read! Plus there are two novellas, so twice the fun, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Because these are so short, there is not a whole lot of character development or back story, but it doesn’t seem to matter. I was immediately drawn in to both of these stories. They are both set on Valentine’s Day, one a blind date gone sideways, the other a disastrous dinner with friends. I don’t want to give anything away, so bear with me.

The disastrous dinner is set in a restaurant that has wild animals roaming around, including chimpanzees, a talking bird, and an elephant. It is a bit over the top, but the meet-cute is heroic, and the romance is fun.

The blind date goes sideways when Patrick and Sabrina lay eyes on each other. They are each at this restaurant to meet someone else, blind dates, but their attraction is instantaneous and strong. Their rejected dates are not happy about the situation, to say the least. Patrick and Sabrina take off and encounter one problem after another, making this the date from hell that brings them impossibly close in one night.

This is the first book of a series set around holidays. This is the light, frothy, fun read I wanted for Valentine’s Day. It made me laugh out loud several times, which is always a plus. Even though it is two novellas, it is still a very short book (less than 200 pages) and a very easy read. Enjoy!

2/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

CUPID CALAMITY by Kelly Kay & Evie Alexander. Emlin Press (January 10, 2022). ISBN: 978-1914473098. 172p.




December 20, 2021

From the publisher:

From the three-time Emmy Award-winning writer of Netflix sensation A Christmas Prince and Hallmark’s Christmas Camp, comes this heartwarming, feel-good Christmas romance about the power of believing in yourself to find your happily ever after…

A charming Christmas village, a storybook castle, a royal ball, and a gorgeous prince are the last things New York City reporter Kaylie Karlyle expects to find on her holiday freelance assignment to Europe. But when the family she’s interviewing turns out to be the royal family of Tolvania, Kaylie has a meltdown when the quirky queen wants her to write a Christmas fairy tale for the spunky, young princess. Kaylie must battle the princess’s father, who doesn’t trust the media, and her own insecurities about writing anything beyond the news.

To spark inspiration for the fairy tale, the queen recruits the prickly Prince Alexander to show Kaylie the family’s most spectacular royal holiday traditions. And sparks definitely fly when the only thing Kaylie and the prince agree on is that they’re both more “bah humbug” than “ho, ho, ho.”

But somewhere between sleigh rides and snow angels, merrymaking and mistletoe, upside-down Christmas trees, and a legendary Christmas crown, Kaylie and the prince open their hearts to Christmas and start believing in themselves and each other. It’s a real-life fairy tale in the making until Kaylie discovers a secret about a royal Christmas heirloom that jeopardizes everyone’s happily ever after. Can the magic of the season save this holiday happy ending?

A “sweet Christmas charmer…” – Publishers Weekly

Schaler has created a career out of writing these “royal” Christmas romances since the first one was a Netflix movie, “A Christmas Prince.” I liked the movie (more than anything on the Hallmark Channel) and I’ve enjoyed the books as well. She’s also written some movies for the Hallmark and Lifetime Channels. Scripts have to move a lot faster than books, so those skills really work in creating fast paced romance novels like this one.

Kaylie is an investigative reporter who dreams of going national. When the station where she works cuts her job, her boss is kind enough to recommend her for a rather unique, temporary position. All she knows is that she will be doing something about the royal family of Tolvania, a small European (fictional) country. Since she has nothing else to do, she jumps on it. And does a little more jumping once she gets there.

The “meet-cute” happens when Kaylie gets off the plane and sees a car waiting. It’s snowing and windy and she can’t really see much so she opens the door and jumps in – right onto the lap of a very good looking man who is not happy with her. She gets out and finds her ride, but when she gets to the castle she realizes he is the Prince and she is in trouble.

Prince Alexander is a widower with a precocious young daughter, Princess Anna. But it was his mother, the Queen, who hired Kaylie so he really can’t fire her. They have had a lot of bad press since he lost his wife, and they’ve banned reporters from anything royal so he is shocked his mother hired this tenacious, career driven journalist. But eventually Kaylie convinces him she is not there to report on his family. The Queen has hired her to learn about the Christmas traditions and write the young princess a fairy tale about them. Kaylie is shocked to learn this; she has never written any kind of fiction, much less a fairy tale. But the Queen does not take no for an answer, and Kaylie is embedded with the family.

I don’t want to give anything away so suffice it to say there is a happy ending. There are a whole lot of interesting and unique Christmas traditions, so it was a fun holiday read for sure. I hope the movie captures them all.

12/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

A ROYAL CHRISTMAS FAIRY TALE by Karen Schaler. HawkTale Publishing (October 5, 2021). ISBN: 978-1734766141. 356 pages.