July 26, 2022

Gunslinger, Book 2

From the publisher:

At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, desperate-to-retire gunslinger Adam Brady has exactly two rules. And one of them is never, ever get married. So he’ll be danged when his dreams of permanently avoiding the bounty hunter on his tail in Desolation, the only town where notorious men like him can find respite, comes with one helluva string attached. The town has a new rule: gunslingers welcome―if they get a job…or marry.

Without realizing it, Adam stumbles into a big town wedding and accidentally marries Nora Schumacher, a sassy-mouthed mountain of a woman with legs as long as his wanted poster. So what’s a gunslinger to do but get himself unhitched and find a job. Any job. Except Adam keeps getting fired, one odd circumstance after another. And he’s running out of options.

Desolation was supposed to be his safe haven. Except, he’s not only running from his past but from the irresistible woman he married. And worse, he’s finding that he rather likes the enticing, if damnably independent, wife of his. But some men just aren’t the marrying kind. Only, if he leaves, his own life won’t be worth living. If he stays, he puts the lives of his newfound family and the woman he loves on the line. So much for Desolation being the answer to all his problems.

This is a very funny book that is sort of anomaly, at least in my reading experience; it’s an historical cowboy romance. All the other cowboy romances I’ve read are contemporary, featuring a lot of rodeo stars or ranch hands or ranch owners. This book is set in the Wild West, and features gunslingers, which you don’t hear much about anymore. 

Adam is on the move, trying to escape his past. He’s quick with a gun, so successful at his past occupation, but he’s tired of it. All he wants to do is settle down somewhere and feel safe. When he stumbles into the small town of Desolation, he starts to think he found his place. Much to his surprise, the sheriff is a former gunslinger himself, and he has instituted some rules for the people in his town. They need to either be married or find a job within the first thirty days of arrival, or they need to go.

Adam doesn’t want a wife. He’s had some bad experiences and with the wanted posted hanging over his head, he doesn’t want to endanger any woman. But when he arrives in town, he finds himself in the midst of a crowd, and somehow he ends up married to Nora, the tall, good looking woman standing next to him. He refuses to sign the marriage certificate though, but the preacher says he’s married in the eyes of God, and isn’t sure how to go about ending things.

Nora needs a husband, although just temporarily. Ever since her mother passed away, her father has become a drunk. He takes all the money that Nora earns and drinks it away. He’s sold off part of the farm they live on, and she is afraid he will lose it all in a poker game or sell it off. She inherits the farm but not until she turns thirty, several years off, or gets married. Hence her need for a husband.

Meanwhile, Adam tries very hard to find a job. But the townspeople are all about helping Nora, so every job he gets turns into a disaster and that is the basis of all the humor in this book, and it’s pretty funny. But the more time he spends with Nora, the more his feelings for her grow stronger, and for her as well. But when his nemesis, a marshall, shows up, Adam knows he needs to get away but before he can, Nora is captured.

There is some suspense here, but mostly a lot of laughs and a bit of sex. This is a really fun read and a fast moving story. I did read the first book in the series, Hitched to the Gunslinger, but it is not necessary. These books stand alone and can be read in any order. I enjoyed them both, and hope another book is in the works.

7/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE GUNSLINGER’S GUIDE TO AVOIDING MATRIMONY by Michelle McLean. Entangled: Amara (July 26, 2022). ISBN: 978-1649372123. 368p.


Spotlight Review: THE GODPARENT TRAP by Rachel Van Dyken 

July 19, 2022

From the publisher:

Life’s Too Short meets The Unhoneymooners in this sparkling, steamy, and swoon-worthy novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Rachel Van Dyken, in which two sworn enemies must share house, home—and maybe their hearts—when they become co-parents after a sudden loss.

Colby’s living her best life: as a popular food blogger, she gets to fulfill her dreams of exploring the globe. But her world comes crashing down when a tragic accident leaves her co-guardian of her best friend’s two adorable children. Not only does she need to put down roots—fast—but she’ll be sharing custody with the one man she can’t stand sharing a continent with, let alone a house.  

Accountant-extraordinaire Rip values rules and plans. But when he loses his sister and his best friend and becomes an insta-guardian all in one night, Rip sees his organized life imploding. What he really doesn’t need is his sister’s irresponsible, flighty—albeit kind and gorgeous—best friend making it worse.

Rip doesn’t trust Colby to take their new responsibilities seriously, while Colby can’t believe Rip thinks children will thrive under his rigid control. Yet soon Rip and Colby discover they need each other more than they hate each other. Could it be possible that following their hearts is just what their new little family needs?

This is a very cute book that reminded me of a not-so-great movie with Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel, “Life As We Know It.” Same basic premise; couple die in an accident leaving their child to be raised by their best friends, who naturally hate one another. In the book, there are two kids, doubling the trouble. Makes me kind of wish Van Dyken had a hand in that movie, it would have been so much better.

Colby lives a life that a lot of people would envy. As a food and travel blogger, she travels the world and writes about it. Rip is a very successful accountant, and his sister was married to his best friend, and her best friend is Colby. It’s not all that complicated but you can guess that a by-the-numbers kind of guy isn’t going to be impressed by someone who floats around the world for a living. But they are godparents and legal guardians to a toddler girl and her elementary school age brother, so they have to step up. 

Both of them are grieving in their own way, and so are the kids. It’s a heart wrenching premise to be sure, but it works here. Colby and Rip both prioritize the kids, so even though she is a hot mess to his perfectionism, they have to get along for the kids’ sake, no matter how difficult that is. But as they spend time together – the both move into the kids home – they learn to rely on one another. Of course there is a sexual attraction as well, but both are fighting it. Until they no longer can.

Despite the devastating loss, there are a lot of laughs here, and as Colby and Rip give in to their attraction to one another, some steamy sex scenes, too. This was a fast, fun read and a perfect book to take on vacation, which I did. If you are looking for an escape, this is a good one.

7/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE GODPARENT TRAP by Rachel Van Dyken. Forever (July 19, 2022). ISBN: 978-1538720530. 352p.





July 15, 2022

From the publisher:

A reality star and a cupcake-baking football player pretend to be a couple in order to save his bakery in this sweet and sexy romance from Jamie Wesley, Fake It Till You Bake It.

Jada Townsend-Matthews is the most reviled woman in America after turning down a proposal on a reality dating show. When she comes home to lick her wounds, Jada finds herself working at San Diego’s newest cupcake bakery, Sugar Blitz, alongside the uptight owner and professional football player Donovan Dell.

When a reporter mistakenly believes Jada and Donovan are an item, they realize they can use the misunderstanding to their advantage to help the struggling bakery and rehabilitate Jada’s image. Faking a relationship should be simple, but sometimes love is the most unexpected ingredient.

Fake it Till You Bake It is a sweet confection of a novel, the perfect story to curl up with and enjoy with a cupcake on the side.

Jada was on a Bachelor-type reality show, but when she won and got the proposal, she said no. When pressed, she said she had met someone right before she started on the show, and wanted to pursue that relationship. She becomes the most reviled woman in the social media sphere for turning down the sweet, handsome Dr. John. She goes home to regroup and hide out, for the most part. Her parents have had it with her. They are both scientists, as is her sister, and none of them understand why she didn’t pursue a loftier goal. But her grandmother, who inherited an NFL team from her husband, does understand and always her back.

Jada’s friend drags her out of the house to go to a newish cupcake store. Jada makes a few snarky remarks in earshot of one of the owners, who happens to be a football player on her grandmother’s team. He takes great offense, and she won’t give him an inch despite the delicious cupcake she’s trying.

Jada’s parents are cutting her off, financially, so she goes to see her grandmother, hoping to convince her to let her have her trust fun a few months early. But her grandmother has another idea; one of her star football players, Donovan, is in her office, too. Donovan agrees to hire Jada, but when he finds out she is his nitpicky customer, he is torn. His new contract is under negotiation and he doesn’t want to rock the boat, so he agrees to hire Jada.

She is a shit baker, and she is the first one to admit that, especially after she almost burns down the bakery. But Donovan is so patient and kind with her that she can’t help but want to try and please him. The more time they spend together, the more they realize they are developing feelings for one another.

Jada can’t bake, but she is social media savvy for sure. When some of her “fans”, i.e. women who hate her for turning down the bachelor, show up at the cupcake shop, she impulsively kisses Donovan, claiming he is the man she was hoping to connect with. She talks him into fake dating her, and it goes really well. Social media goes wild and people start pouring into the struggling bakeshop. When Jada suggests holding evening events, like a neighborhood book club, in the bakery after hours, Donovan reluctantly agrees. Business is booming, so who is he to argue with success.

Between Jada’s events and her social media following, business is booming. These enemies become lovers but this is no easy trip down Lovers Lane, there are enough hurdles to give the football player a real workout. This is a good enemies-to-lovers romance, but even though the male protagonist is an athlete, everything takes place in the off season, so to me, it doesn’t fall into the sports romance category. But it is a terrific story with a lot of laughs, great characters, a bit of heat, and enough drama to keep the pages turning. I’m hoping this is the first book of a series; Donovan has two partners in the bakery that are also his teammates – seems like a natural.

7/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

FAKE IT TILL YOU BAKE IT by Jamie Wesley. Griffin (June 21, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-1250801852. 336p.





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.


MY DOUBLE LIFE by Angela Pearse 

June 24, 2022

From the publisher:

A witty, entertaining rom-com about an introverted librarian with a wild side

Emma McTavish likes nothing better than curling up with a good book. But sometimes she just wants to be a little bit naughty

Struggling to make ends meet, librarian Emma McTavish takes on a side gig as a life model to earn some extra cash. Knowing her straitlaced realtor boyfriend won’t approve, she keeps it quiet.

But her spur-of-the-moment decision starts making life complicated. Suddenly she’s juggling her job, her boyfriend, her sexy new flatmate, and posing nude for a bunch of strangers. Then, one night, she accidentally overhears a conversation that changes everything.

As her life begins to fall apart in spectacular fashion, Emma realises that giving her alter ego the reins isn’t such a bad idea. Actually, it could be the perfect way to get out of the mess she’s in.

A high-spirited heroine who can’t help getting into trouble. Expect shocking secrets, hilarious mix-ups and a heartfelt romance!

I really enjoyed this contemporary romance set in Edinburgh, Scotland. I feel like most of the romances I read that are set in Scotland are historical, so this was a nice change. And having a heroine who is a librarian is just the icing on the cake.

Emma has been in a relationship with Callum for two years. They met when she went to his real estate office to find an apartment. He got her a great apartment in an upscale neighborhood, and they’ve been seeing each other ever since. But the relationship is tepid at best; their sex life has morphed into quickies a few times a week, leaving Emma deeply unsatisfied. It seems like they are just staying together out of habit more than anything.

When Emma’s rent goes up and she is turned down for a promotion yet again, Callum decides she should take on a roommate and arranges meetings with several women. Emma’s closest friend at the library knows someone who needs a place to stay, but he’s a guy and Callum would never approve. Emma decides to meet him anyway, and he is by far the best of the lot of possible roommates. Plus he is hot and there seems to be instant chemistry there. Emma decides to intimate to Callum that Nathan is probably gay, and he goes along with it to an extreme.

Meanwhile, Emma decides to become a “life model” which I believe we call a nude model here in the states. She poses nude for art classes and makes good money doing it. But she knows Callum would never approve so she keeps it from him. It turns out Callum has some secrets of his own, leading the way to a breakup and new relationship with Nathan.

Emma starts off as a wishy-washy type character to me, but she grows and becomes stronger and more independent. Her relationship with Callum was doomed from the start, but I liked that way the story flowed and that Nathan had his own issues as well. There were some very steamy scenes, a lot of witty banter, and some truly funny moments, making this a fast read and a fun one.

6/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

MY DOUBLE LIFE by Angela Pearse.  Clamp Ltd (May 4, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-1914531941. 379p.





June 24, 2022

From the publisher:

Dawson Shay could never be accused of being a bubbly ray of sunshine. Like, not ever. But her outlook on life has only gotten worse since she moved across the country for her dream job rebuilding motorcycles…only to lose the job to someone else. Now her run of bad luck includes a wilderness retreat with the entire company—including the asshat who stole her job. Fortunately, Tully Faulkner’s bearded, tattooed hotness is pretty much the perfect distraction.

Except, Tully isn’t just Mr. Hometown Hero, he’s also said asshat who stole her job. And if he thinks he can win her over with his ability to charm the pants off everybody else, he’s got another thing coming. But Dawson can’t avoid him forever… or the seriously hot sparks between them. Somewhere between the breathtaking northern lights and teaming up to win their company’s scavenger hunt, Dawson starts to think that Tully’s magic touch might be just what she’s been missing.

But even sexy gearheads have their secrets. And Dawson’s about to discover that falling for the too-perfect-to-be-true Tully might just backfire on her completely…

Dawson is not your typical heroine. She’s a bad ass, motorcycle gear head with a troubled family past. She is offered the job of managing a motorcycle shop, so she packs up and moves from California to the east coast. But when she arrives, she finds out the apartment she was supposed to be renting has burned to the ground. And the job she was promised was given to someone else; Tully, one of the locals. They offer her a job of managing the car side of the business and she not-too-happily takes it. To pile on to the misery, her new bosses are mandating everyone attend a week long team building exercise, camping in the mountains and doing all those forced “fun” activities designed to get everyone on the same page.

It’s a good premise for an always fun enemies-to-lovers romance, except there are a lot of rough edges here. I kept thinking a good editor could have turned this book from a pretty good read to an outstanding one, (but no one asked me!) I liked these characters, and their banter is a lot of fun to read. There are some steamy scenes as well, for those who need to know that. I loved how the author dealt with body issues as well, it was reminiscent of early Jennifer Weiner, which is high praise indeed.

This was a fun, funny romance and a quick read that was most enjoyable. Perfect summer fodder!

6/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

TINKERING WITH LOVE by Aliyah Burke. Entangled: Amara (June 20, 2022). ASIN: ‎B0B1BV4MR7. 269p.




EVERY SUMMER AFTER by Carley Fortune

June 17, 2022

From the publisher:


Six summers to fall in love. One moment to fall apart. A weekend to get it right.

They say you can never go home again, and for Persephone Fraser, ever since she made the biggest mistake of her life a decade ago, that has felt too true. Instead of glittering summers on the lakeshore of her childhood, she spends them in a stylish apartment in the city, going out with friends, and keeping everyone a safe distance from her heart.

Until she receives the call that sends her racing back to Barry’s Bay and into the orbit of Sam Florek—the man she never thought she’d have to live without.

For six summers, through hazy afternoons on the water and warm summer nights working in his family’s restaurant and curling up together with books—medical textbooks for him and work-in-progress horror short stories for her—Percy and Sam had been inseparable. Eventually that friendship turned into something breathtakingly more, before it fell spectacularly apart.

When Percy returns to the lake for Sam’s mother’s funeral, their connection is as undeniable as it had always been. But until Percy can confront the decisions she made and the years she’s spent punishing herself for them, they’ll never know whether their love might be bigger than the biggest mistakes of their past. 

Told over the course of six years and one weekend, Every Summer After is a big, sweeping nostalgic story of love and the people and choices that mark us forever.

Named One of the Hottest Reads of Summer 2022 by Today ∙ Parade ∙ PopSugar ∙ USA Today ∙ SheReads ∙ BuzzFeed ∙ BookBub ∙ Bustle ∙and more!

This is a second chance romance, and a really good one. In fact, I haven’t read this good a debut novel since Lyssa Kay Adams’ Bromance Book Club. While this isn’t the most original plot, the writing is superb and the story builds beautifully.

Written in chapters that alternate from Percy and Sam’s meeting as children and every summer they spent together to the current timeline makes this a slow building romance with quite a bit of tension underlying it all. We know something happened to break them up many years earlier, but first we have to see how their romance developed over those summers spent at the lake. While Sam’s family lived in their cottage year round, Percy’s family used their cottage for summers and occasional holidays. Teen romances rarely make it through adulthood, (my own is an exception – our 41st anniversary is this month!) so it’s not really a surprise that they broke up. But it is fun watching the romance develop as they grow up, and then wondering how it all fell apart.

Percy is a one night stand or short relationships sort of girl. Her latest was her longest and it was only a few months before she was dumped – for good reason. She doesn’t let anyone in; she zealously guards her heart.

The story really starts to unfold when Charlie, Sam’s older brother, calls her to say that their mother has passed away. Percy loved her like a second mother, but hadn’t known she was sick since they’d been out of touch for so long. She hasn’t seen Sam for ten years, but it doesn’t take much convincing for her to pack up and go to the lake. The funeral isn’t for a few days, but she wants to be there for the brothers. And even though it’s been such a long time, Percy is still heartsick when she meets Sam’s knockout of a girlfriend of over two years.

This is a sweet story with a bit of heat now and then, and I was totally invested in these characters and their story. I was torn between wanting to keep turning the pages, but knowing as I kept going that I also didn’t want it to end. There are many funny moments, but also some that had me crying – this is an emotional rollercoaster of a read, and I loved it. My favorite book of the summer so far!

6/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

EVERY SUMMER AFTER by Carley Fortune.  Penguin Publishing Group (May 10, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0593438534. 320p.





Spotlight Review: THE FRIENDSHIP PACT by Jill Shalvis

June 14, 2022

The Sunrise Cove Series, Book 2

From the publisher:

New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis returns to Sunrise Cove with a powerful, moving story about a young woman on a quest to find the truth about her father who learns the meaning of true love along the way.

Alone in the world, Tae Holmes and her mother April pretty much raised each other, but as Tae starts asking questions about the father she’s never met, April, for the first time in her life, goes silent. To make matters worse, Tae is dangerously close to broke and just manages to avoid financial meltdown when she lands a shiny new contract with an adventure company for athletes with disabilities and wounded warriors.

Her first big fundraiser event falls flat, but what starts out as a terrible, horrible, no-good night turns into something else entirely when Tae finds herself face-to-face with Riggs Copeland. She hasn’t seen the former Marine since their brief fling in high school, and while still intensely drawn to him, she likes her past burned and buried, thank you very much. Hence their friendship pact.

But when April oddly refuses to help Tae track down her father, it’s Riggs who unexpectedly comes to her aid. On a hunt to unlock the past, the two of them find themselves on a wild ride and learn a shocking truth, while also reluctantly bonding in a way neither had seen coming. Now Tae must decide whether she’s going to choose love … or walk away from her own happiness.

Calling all Gilmore Girls fans! Although the publicity I saw never mentioned my favorite show (well, one of them for sure) that was my first thought as I learned that April got pregnant when she was 15 years old, got no support from the baby daddy or her own family, and raised Tae on her own with very little money. Or Tae raised herself and helped raise her mother! Eventually, the two of them land in Sunrise Cove, each of them living on their own (sort of) in an adjoining duplex. April has struggled with men all her life, and it saddens her to see that Tae is following in her footsteps.

Tae knew that her father was a soldier who died overseas, but not much else as she never met him. When she accidentally stumbles across her birth certificate, she is shocked to see no father listed. Tae and April are extremely close, but Tae is afraid to ask her mother about it and instead, decides to do a little investigating of her own.

Meanwhile, her event planning business is finally doing really well. Her biggest and best client, Adrenaline HQ, is run by a veteran in a wheelchair and helps other wounded warriors. When his brother, Riggs, comes home for the summer, Tae is shocked – they had a one-night-stand when she was in high school and never expected to see him again. Riggs is actually a partner in the business, but this is the first time he’s actually working there. The chemistry between them is intense, but Riggs is very closed off. He and his brother lost their mother when they were young, and their father was abusive. Riggs has just gotten out of the Marines, has a lot of guilt about his brother’s injuries, and is just waiting for his new job in Washington D.C. to start.

This story had so many layers that really drew me in. I loved these characters and couldn’t help but root for their happy ending. This book stands alone beautifully – I had forgotten I read the first book in the series, The Family You Make, but never felt like I was missing a thing. Shalvis is a great storyteller and really knows how to keep those pages turning. This is a perfect beach read; don’t miss it!

6/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE FRIENDSHIP PACT by Jill Shalvis. Avon (June 14, 2022). ISBN:‎  978-0063095465. 384p.






Spotlight Review: THE MESSY LIVES OF BOOK PEOPLE by Phaedra Patrick

June 7, 2022

From the publisher:

The house cleaner of a famous author must carry out her employer’s shocking last wish in this delightful new novel from beloved author Phaedra Patrick.

Mother of two Liv Green barely scrapes by as a maid to make ends meet, often finding escape in a good book while daydreaming of becoming a writer herself. So she can’t believe her luck when she lands a job housekeeping for her personal hero, megabestselling author Essie Starling, a mysterious and intimidating recluse. The last thing Liv expected was to be the only person Essie talks to, which leads to a tenuous friendship.

When Essie passes away suddenly, Liv is astonished to learn that her dying wish was for Liv to complete her final novel. But to do so Liv will have to step into Essie’s shoes. As Liv begins to write, she uncovers secrets from the past that reveal a surprising connection between the two women—one that will change Liv’s own story forever…

“Fans of lively fiction will be instantly drawn into the world Patrick creates with her signature charming, breezy style which is further enlivened with nods to popular literature.” Booklist

Patrick is known for her charming books, and while this one was a bit light on the charm, it delivered it other ways. Liv is an interesting, multi-dimensional character. Married for 20+ years with two sons, the youngest of which will be starting university in the fall. Her husband is working with his sister to take over their parents’ bookbinding business, and it is keeping him busy for more hours than anyone likes. Liv is working as a maid at three jobs; a young family who really take advantage of her, on a commercial cleaning crew where she is completely ignored, and her favorite job, cleaning Essie Starling’s apartment a few afternoons a week.

Essie is a bestselling author who happens to be Liv’s favorite. She really identifies with her main character, who has been in 19 books already, and Essie is working on her 20th. She is a bit of a strange bird, but is very kind to Liv. When Essie dies rather suddenly, her solicitor contacts Liv with a startling bequest; Essie has asked Liv to complete her final novel. It is all handwritten but ends about 8 chapters too soon. In other words, Liv is going to have to finish it herself. The solicitor also tells her that Essie’s death must be kept secret until November 1, giving her 6 months to complete the book. Liv has always wanted to be a writer, but when her father passed away, money was too tight for her to go to college and she started cleaning houses instead, like her mum. So this presents an amazing opportunity for her, plus it is a full time job so bye-bye crappy other employers.

There is some tension when a journalist tries to find Essie for an interview, and apparently has been talking to as many of Essie’s personal and professional contacts as possible. There is more tension as Liv attends a book fair for the publisher, and is feverishly trying to figure out how to finish the novel. There is a connection between Essie and Liv that goes beyond the obvious, and it takes some time to get there., adding another layer to this remarkable story.

This was a gentle, engrossing read and the pages really flew by. I couldn’t help but root for Liv to get everything she wanted. Patrick gives us another entertaining read, this time set in the book world, which always holds appeal for me.

6/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE MESSY LIVES OF BOOK PEOPLE by Phaedra Patrick. Park Row; Original edition (May 31, 2022). ISBN:‎  978-0778312000. 352p.






Spotlight Review: TALK FLIRTY TO ME by Livy Hart

May 31, 2022

From the publisher:

I’ve got ninety-nine problems and my brother’s snarky, smart-mouthed best friend Sam is tangled up in every last one of them.

When it comes to firefighter Sam O’Shea, absence―and a regime of tactical avoidance―has been working for me just fiiiine. But when the audition of a lifetime falls in my pathetically broke lap, and he’s the only one who can help me land the job, I’m willing to make a deal with the devil if it means I can kickstart my career as a narrator for audio books.

The problem? We’d have to actually do the job. Together. And then we’re told it’s for an erotic romance. Narrating steamy lines in a tiny studio with a man who lights a fire under your skin? An occupational hazard. Accidentally inciting a town scandal when your erotic audiobook clips wind up on the radio? A crisis. And falling for the one man I promised my brother―and my heart―I wouldn’t touch?

A disaster―and temptation―I can’t resist.

Piper is the only girl among eleven children in her family, and of course she falls for her older brother’s best friend, Sam. They date for a couple of years in high school, but as Sam is getting ready to graduate, Piper decides the best thing she can do for him is to let him go away to college without her hindering his decision. She tells Sam she needs a break; he hears she is breaking up with him. A few days later she walks in on him making out with another girl.

Devastated doesn’t begin to cover how Piper feels. She gets angry, and when Sam is falling down drunk a few nights later, she videos his shameful evening and posts it all over social media. It’s embarrassing to him, but it’s not like it was a fake video or anything; it was all on him and he owns it. To her credit, Piper pulls the video down a few days later.

Piper’s family rallies around her, and even her older brother, Caleb, stops talking to his best friend. It takes six years for them to reconcile, and the only way they can is to avoid talking about Piper no matter what. Her whole family supports her and Sam becomes a pariah to them all.

Sam is a firefighter and is running for mayor of their small town. When he runs into Piper at the local bar, things start changing between them. She is still very angry with him, but he decides to help her out when she needs him. Piper is a voice actor, and her big break may be coming when she finds an open audition for a very successful audiobook company. The only catch is that it is a couples read; they want a man and a woman to audition as a team. Sam agrees to do it, much to Piper’s surprise, but she is desperate.

When they are hired to read the audiobook, they soon find out it is an erotic romance. Reading it together is stirring up all sorts of feelings that Piper wishes would go away. But the more they work together, the closer they get to getting back together. And when they are stranded in an old hotel with only one room available, they cross that line for good.

This is a second chance romance and a really good one. Sam and Piper’s lives are so intertwined that it somehow feels inevitable that they will work as a couple, despite all their problems – and more seem to pop up every day. This is a fun, sexy read from an author who is new to me, but I will definitely seek out more of her books. A perfect read to while away a lazy summer afternoon – don’t miss it!

5/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

TALK FLIRTY TO ME by Livy Hart. Entangled: Embrace (May 30, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-1649373564. 300p.