Her Homecoming Wish by Jo McNally

I received this novel as a part of the Harlequin Special Edition Blog Tour! Thank you to Jo McNally, Harlequin Special Edition, Harlequin Books & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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Publication Date: January 21, 2020
Publisher: Harlequin Special Edition
Rating: ★★★★

She’s ready to shed her good-girl ways…

“You’re all about following the rules now?

“Pity.”

Mackenzie Wallace hopes there’s still some bad boy lurking beneath single father Danny Adams’s upright exterior. Being the proverbial good girl left her brokenhearted and alone in the past. Now she’s back in town and wants excitement with her high school crush—not love. Dan knows their connection runs deep, despite Mackenzie’s protests. But will their new personas work together—especially when Dan’s secret is exposed?

Review:

Good girl turned bad. Bad boy turned good. This trope was awesome. I loved the fact that they had a role reversal thing going on after Mackenzie, or Mack, returned home after having a really nasty divorce. Coming home to find out that the bad boy growing up was now a Sheriff of their small town? Priceless.

The slow burn was one of my favorite parts about this book. I think that Jo McNally did a phenomenal job creating that curiosity of what was going to happen and when. The romance was extremely realistic and I appreciated that. It could’ve gone the other route where I was rolling my eyes over the way Mack comes back to town, etc. I really didn’t find any flaws with that writing.

As someone who lives in an area where drugs are potent, this book hit too close to home. The small town vibes really showed me that maybe Jo McNally really understands what it’s currently like in today’s society when it comes to drugs and overdoses. On the other hand, the small town vibe did include the closeness and love within it as well. That was definitely something I could appreciate.

Overall, I think that the biggest takeaway that I got from this book was the fact that you can plan your life all you want, but it might not ever come out that way. Jo McNally really wrote an amazing book and if you are a homecoming romance lover, this is definitely a book you should read.

A Girl’s Guide to the Outback by Jessica Kate

Publication Date: January 28, 2020
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Books
Rating: ★★★★

Samuel Payton is a passionate youth pastor in Virginia, but beneath the surface, Sam’s still recovering from a failed business. His coworker—start-up expert Kimberly Foster—is brilliant, fearless, and capable, but her mother’s rejection from a young age till now has left her defensive and longing for a family. Two people have never been more at odds—or more attracted to one another. And every day at work, the sparks are flying.

When Kimberly’s ambitious plans for Sam’s ministry butt up against his risk-averse nature, Sam decides that obligations to family trump his work for the church. He quits the ministry and flies home to Australia to help his family save their struggling farm—much to Kimberly’s chagrin. As Kimberly’s grand plans flounder, she is forced to face the truth: that no one can replace Sam. To what lengths will she go to get him back?

Review:

Thank you to Jessica Kate, Thomas Nelson Books & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

When I received this novel, I didn’t know that it was a sequel. It isn’t listed as so, therefore, I had no clue. I read this book really with no problem, but after reading the first book, Love and Other Mistakes, I really understand the characters more than I did before and can give a true review on A Girl’s Guide to the Outback.

The first thing I really enjoyed about this novel was the humor. Even through this is classified as a “Christian romance”, I thought there were a lot of good moments that I didn’t expect. There are some parts that are genuinely funny, but others that are so awkward that you can’t help but giggle at the weirdness of it.

The characters were straight up damaged. I loved learning about Sam and Kimberly. I read their stories and I found it really interesting. They developed so well through this novel that by the end, I was really rooting for whatever outcome I was bound to get.

Learning about Australia was such an amazing part of this story. I’ve never traveled outside of the United States and I feel like I had been to Australia after reading this book. It was very detailed and I got to really see how Australians act and talk. I didn’t think it was too over-the-top like some books with a foreign setting.

Overall, I think that Jessica Kate did a fantastic job with this one. I loved learning about the characters and how they work, by themselves and together. I am definitely giving her other novels a try!

Witness Protection Widow by Debra Webb

I received this novel as a part of the Harlequin’s Carina Press Blog Tour Program. Thank you to Debra Webb, Harlequin Intrigue, Carina Press & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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Publication Date: January 21, 2020
Publisher: Harlequin Intrigue
Rating: ★★★

Can the witness protection program keep her identity secret?

After Allison James finally escapes her marriage to a monster, she becomes the star witness in the case against her deceased husband’s powerful crime family. Now it’s up to US Marshal Jaxson Stevens, Ali’s ex-boyfriend, to keep the WITSEC widow safe. But as the danger escalates and sparks fly, will Jax be able to help Ali escape her ruthless in-laws?

Discover more spine-tingling suspense in the Winchester, Tennessee Thriller series:
In Self Defense
The Dark Woods
The Stranger Next Door
The Safest Lies
Witness Protection Widow

From Harlequin Intrigue: Seek thrills. Solve crimes. Justice served.

Review:

This was my first and only Debra Webb that I’ve read. I don’t think it will be my last! Witness Protection Widow was the fifth installment of the Winchester, Tennessee series, but I had no problems following along.

I really enjoyed Allison (Ali) James. Her character was so interesting and really had me intrigued of where this story would end up because of her. I’ve never read a book about someone in the witness protection program so this type of story was new to me. It did not disappoint!

I loved the romance aspect. I think that making Jax, Ali’s ex-fiancee, her marshal was something that a lot of people would swoon over. There’s a few tropes that you could fit in there, enemies-to-lovers, men in uniform…Debra Webb did a great job with that.

There was a lot of detail and interest in her testimony and that’s what helps you get to the end of this book. I felt like the ending came so quick where I couldn’t even enjoy the build-up that I experienced throughout the entire book. Making the ending a little more detailed or even a little bit longer would’ve made this story for me.

Overall, I think that this was definitely a storyline that I could get into. I will definitely give more of Debra Webb a chance if all of her books are as intriguing and detailed as this one was. After reading Witness Protection Widow, I am definitely interested in the other books in this series!

The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa

Publication Date: February 4, 2020
Publisher: Avon Books
Rating: ★★★★★

A wedding planner left at the altar. Yeah, the irony isn’t lost on Carolina Santos, either. But despite that embarrassing blip from her past, Lina’s managed to make other people’s dreams come true as a top-tier wedding coordinator in DC. After impressing an influential guest, she’s offered an opportunity that could change her life. There’s just one hitch… she has to collaborate with the best (make that worst) man from her own failed nuptials.

Tired of living in his older brother’s shadow, marketing expert Max Hartley is determined to make his mark with a coveted hotel client looking to expand its brand. Then he learns he’ll be working with his brother’s whip-smart, stunning—absolutely off-limits—ex-fiancée. And she loathes him.

If they can survive the next few weeks and nail their presentation without killing each other, they’ll both come out ahead. Except Max has been public enemy number one ever since he encouraged his brother to jilt the bride, and Lina’s ready to dish out a little payback of her own.

But even the best laid plans can go awry, and soon Lina and Max discover animosity may not be the only emotion creating sparks between them. Still, this star-crossed couple can never be more than temporary playmates because Lina isn’t interested in falling in love and Max refuses to play runner-up to his brother ever again…

Review:

Thank you to Mia Sosa, Avon Books & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

This will be one of my favorite reads of 2020. I just know it. The story, the characters, the romance, the drama, everything about this book had me swooning. This is my first Mia Sosa novel, but after reading this beauty, I definitely want to give more of her books a try.

Enemies-to-lovers is one of my favorite tropes. I love the angst and animosity, but when they figure it out? Phewwww. One of the best feelings as a reader. This story was different. Lina is a wedding planner and was left at the altar. She had to move on and silence all of her issues when it came to the romance of weddings. It was starting to affect her performance as a wedding planner. When she has an opportunity to get a higher paying job that could change her struggle-filled life. When she finds out that she has to work with a top marketing expert, it all goes south from there. It turns out to be the brother-of-the-groom who left her at the altar. On the day of the wedding, Max, the brother’s groom, received a text basically thanking him for stopping him from marrying Lina. Max doesn’t remember the night before at all after a wild party. What. A. Story.

Mia Sosa wrote the characters so well, I wanted to be friends with them. I wanted to insert myself into their lives and help them figure out what was going on. I feel almost honored that I got to watch this story unfold. I loved the development of Lina and who she was in the beginning to end of this book. She truly went through her stages and it proved to be one of the best characters I’ve read about. I loved her attitude and knowing what she was thinking throughout each word.

Max. Max. Max. What a guy. I really loved his character through every attempt of romance that he gave. He was such a refreshing character to read about because there’s usually a bad guy at some point, but he didn’t give me that vibe once. His brother is the one that gives you that vibe from the very beginning and it shows.

Overall, Mia Sosa really caught my attention with this one. Lina and Max are two of my favorite characters in the 300+ books I’ve read in my lifetime (so far). I am curious about her other books now as this one really gave me a fantastic feeling. If you’re a romance lover, put this one on your list for 2020.

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

Publication Date: January 21, 2020
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Rating: ★★★★

Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming ― mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account.

Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time.

All’s fair in love and cheese ― that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life ― on an anonymous chat app Jack built.

As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate ― people on the internet are shipping them?? ― their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.

Review:

Thank you to Emma Lord, Wednesday Books & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

This was a really cute story. It’s been a while since I’ve read a really romantic young-adult novel. The story is unlike anything I really have read before. I liked the current time-period of this book. A Twitter feud? I mean, come on! It’s so relevant to today and it was just overall a clever premise.

The characters were my favorite part of this book. I loved that they didn’t know each other behind the screen, but they got to know each other in person. Obviously, there’s no secret of how this book is going to end, but it turned out to be a fantastic way of writing by Emma Lord.

Also, I felt like the writing was funny. It wasn’t really classified as a comedy, but I definitely laughed-out-loud a couple of times. One of the best things about this novel is the writing by Emma Lord. She wrote the story in a romantic-comedy type of way, which I didn’t expect. I thought it was going to be just a cutesy romance with little background on anything. I was pleasantly surprised.

There are two reasons why I gave this book a 4-star rating. First, it was because it took a little while to get started. I was already a good amount in when I felt like it really got in to what I needed it to. Lastly, I feel like there was maybe a little too much going on. They communicated through Twitter, through their school app and in person and sometimes it threw me off.

Overall, Emma Lord did a great job on this novel. I loved all of the relevance to today’s society and all the references that I understood. I really enjoyed the comedy side of it and how cute it turned out to be. This was a great debut and I’m very excited to see what Emma Lord puts out in the future.

Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith

I received this book as a part of the Winter 2020 Harlequin Trade Publishing Blog Tour for Inkyard Press! Thank you to Eric Smith, Harlequin Books, Inkyard Press & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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Publication Date: January 28, 2020
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Rating: ★★★

Divya Sharma is a queen. Or she is when she’s playing Reclaim the Sun, the year’s hottest online game. Divya—better known as popular streaming gamer D1V—regularly leads her #AngstArmada on quests through the game’s vast and gorgeous virtual universe. But for Divya, this is more than just a game. Out in the real world, she’s trading her rising-star status for sponsorships to help her struggling single mom pay the rent.

Gaming is basically Aaron Jericho’s entire life. Much to his mother’s frustration, Aaron has zero interest in becoming a doctor like her, and spends his free time writing games for a local developer. At least he can escape into Reclaim the Sun—and with a trillion worlds to explore, disappearing should be easy. But to his surprise, he somehow ends up on the same remote planet as celebrity gamer D1V.

At home, Divya and Aaron grapple with their problems alone, but in the game, they have each other to face infinite new worlds…and the growing legion of trolls populating them. Soon the virtual harassment seeps into reality when a group called the Vox Populi begin launching real-world doxxing campaigns, threatening Aaron’s dreams and Divya’s actual life. The online trolls think they can drive her out of the game, but everything and everyone Divya cares about is on the line…

And she isn’t going down without a fight.

Review:

I think this book was written very well. I’m not sure if the genre was for me particularly. However, I think that the young-adult gaming lover is going to find a new love in this book. I don’t have a lot of knowledge about the gaming community, but I don’t think that it affected my review in any way.

First, I really enjoyed the characters. They were very much themselves and did not really care about how people felt about it. They were funny and nerdy which made the book as good as it was. They were unapologetically themselves and that was something that Eric Smith wrote really well. Divya was really one of my favorites in this book. She was so determined to make sure people saw that she wasn’t going to succumb to any pressures that were put onto her online. I loved the fact that she was able to be read just as she was in the synopsis. It’s one of the main reasons why I picked this book up.

Also, I really like that this book tackled a lot of serious topics like gender inequality and racism. It was very interesting to see Smith’s point-of-view and how he interpreted it through his words. I liked how the characters developed through these topics as well. There was a good amount of development which I always love.

There wasn’t a lot wrong with this book. It just didn’t wow me. It was slow for me at times. It could be the fact that I’m not a gamer and couldn’t really keep up with the references, but the book was written very well. I didn’t fall in love with this book, but I think there are going to be plenty of people that will.

 

 

January 2020 Reads

Number of Books Read: 12
Avg. Rating of the 12 books: 3.5/5 stars
Five Star Ratings: 2/12
*five star ratings are bold

  • The Power of Vulnerability by Brené Brown
  • We Used to Be Friends by Amy Spalding
  • The Hotel Where We Met by Belinda Jones
  • I Wanna Text You Up by Teagan Hunter (Texting #2)
  • The Upside to Being Single by Emma Hart
  • No, We Can’t Be Friends by Sophie Ranald
  • Love Her or Lose Her by Tessa Bailey (Hot & Hammered #2)
  • The Wives by Tarryn Fisher
  • Good Guy by Kate Meader (Rookie Rebels #1)
  • Tweet Cute by Emma Lord
  • Caught Up in a Cowboy by Jennie Marts (Cowboys of Creedence #1)
  • You Had Me at Cowboy by Jennie Marts (Cowboys of Creedence #2)

 

Started out the new decade & year with 12 books! I was surprised at some of them, like No, We Can’t Be Friends by Sophie Ranald & The Upside of Being Single by Emma Hart, which only received two out of five star ratings from me.

Here’s to a book-filled February!

Hot & Hammered Series by Tessa Bailey

 

39854434Book #1: Fix Her Up

Publication Date: June 14, 2019
Publisher: Avon Books
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Georgette Castle’s family runs the best home renovation business in town, but she picked balloons instead of blueprints and they haven’t taken her seriously since. Frankly, she’s over it. Georgie loves planning children’s birthday parties and making people laugh, just not at her own expense. She’s determined to fix herself up into a Woman of the World… whatever that means.

Phase one: new framework for her business (a website from this decade, perhaps?)

Phase two: a gut-reno on her wardrobe (fyi, leggings are pants.)

Phase three: updates to her exterior (do people still wax?)

Phase four: put herself on the market (and stop crushing on Travis Ford!)

Living her best life means facing the truth: Georgie hasn’t been on a date since, well, ever. Nobody’s asking the town clown out for a night of hot sex, that’s for sure. Maybe if people think she’s having a steamy love affair, they’ll acknowledge she’s not just the “little sister” who paints faces for a living. And who better to help demolish that image than the resident sports star and tabloid favorite?

Travis Ford was major league baseball’s hottest rookie when an injury ended his career. Now he’s flipping houses to keep busy and trying to forget his glory days. But he can’t even cross the street without someone recapping his greatest hits. Or making a joke about his… bat. And then there’s Georgie, his best friend’s sister, who is not a kid anymore. When she proposes a wild scheme—that they pretend to date, to shock her family and help him land a new job—he agrees. What’s the harm? It’s not like it’s real. But the girl Travis used to tease is now a funny, full-of-life woman and there’s nothing fake about how much he wants her…

Review:

Let me just say, this is one of the filthiest books I’ve ever read. Tessa Bailey literally has you feel the chemistry between Georgie and Travis. If you are not someone that likes smutty romance novels, I’d recommend not reading this one. On the other hand, if you are someone that likes steam in a book, this might just be one of the best romances of 2019 because of it.

Everything about Fix Her Up was perfect in my eyes. The characters, the development, the love, the romance, the steam, everything. Georgie & Travis were two of my favorite characters that I’ve read in a romance novel. She was just so sweet and had her unexpected moments where I was like “woah, what?!”. I never read a book with a story like this either. Georgie was such a family girl and her dream was to keep kids happy at birthday parties, which I’ve never really heard of as a career in a book like this before.

Travis was an absolute dream. You really feel for him after an injury ends his baseball career (sports romances are so great already, hello), but you find yourself rooting for him from the very beginning. I wanted him to figure out his life and was cheering him on at some points.

The angst in this book was *kisses fingertips*, one of the best I’ve read. My heart hurt multiple times throughout this book to the point where I wanted to jump through and fix everything myself.

Overall, I’d read this book again and again. I think it was one of the best romances of 2019. Tessa Bailey really got a good one here. Having a series called Hot & Hammered, I’m curious to see where this is going to go.

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44148563Book #2: Love Her or Lose Her 

Publication Date: January 14, 2020
Publisher: Avon Books
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Rosie and Dominic Vega are the perfect couple: high school sweethearts, best friends, madly in love. Well, they used to be anyway. Now Rosie’s lucky to get a caveman grunt from the ex-soldier every time she walks in the door. Dom is faithful and a great provider, but the man she fell in love with ten years ago is nowhere to be found. When her girlfriends encourage Rosie to demand more out of life and pursue her dream of opening a restaurant, she decides to demand more out of love, too. Three words: marriage boot camp.

Never in a million years did Rosie believe her stoic, too-manly-to-emote husband would actually agree to relationship rehab with a weed-smoking hippy. Dom talking about feelings? Sitting on pillows? Communing with nature? Learning love languages? Nope. But to her surprise, he’s all in, and it forces her to admit her own role in their cracked foundation. As they complete one ridiculous—yet surprisingly helpful—assignment after another, their remodeled relationship gets stronger than ever. Except just as they’re getting back on track, Rosie discovers Dom has a secret… and it could demolish everything.

Review:

Thank you to Tessa Bailey, Avon Books & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

I wanted to love this book as much as I loved Fix Her Up, but there was something just different in this book. It was not bad in the slightest bit, but something just felt off in this one.

I wholeheartedly believe that the ending had a pretty big influence on my review. I loved this whole book. I loved Dom and Rosie. I loved Dom’s secrets, I loved Rosie’s angst, I loved it all. However, I felt like the end seemed a little rushed and that’s why I gave this a four-star rating instead of five. I waited the whole novel and rooted for these two and the ending just seemed like…BAM.

Tessa Bailey knows how to write angst. It really makes me feel for the characters and I can appreciate the writing when that happens. The pain between Dom and Rosie was truly, truly felt throughout the entire book. I could see the story-line as realistic with what they were going through.

The connection and steam between Rosie and Dom was felt for sure. You could see that they loved each other, but this story was very different from what I’ve read before. The story of “we don’t love each other, but our bodies need each other” was very interesting and I think Tessa Bailey wrote it beautifully.

Overall, I can’t wait for more Tessa Bailey books. She’s a fantastic writer that knows how to include all aspects of a perfect romance (love, angst, trust, etc.). She’s definitely becoming one of my favorite authors.

No, We Can’t Be Friends by Sophie Ranald

Publication Date: January 10, 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Rating: ★★

Everyone knows a girl like Sloane. She was always The Single One. She never brought a plus-one to weddings. She was the woman you’d set up with your single cousin. She joined ballroom dancing classes to meet men and was the queen of online dating.

But then she met Myles. Perfect Myles, with denim-blue eyes and a dazzling smile that melted her insides. She’d finally found The One.

Except she didn’t imagine that Myles’s idea of Happy Ever After would include Sloane battling an overflowing laundry basket, buying birthday cards for his family, and ironing his Calvin Klein underpants.

Then Sloane finds out that Myles has a secret.

The fairy tale is well and truly over. Her heart is blown to smithereens. Eating her weight in Ben & Jerry’s and large Meat Feast pizzas can only get Sloane so far before she has to make a decision… Can she learn to love herself more than she loved the love of her life?

Review:

Thank you to Sophie Ranald, Bookouture & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

I read the synopsis of this novel and was immediately interested. It was described as laugh-out-loud and I felt like the blurb given was very misleading. I think that the very end has some moments that were amusing, but I’m not sure that I laughed out loud once.

This book ended up being more somber than funny. I wouldn’t mind that in the slightest bit if I wasn’t expecting funny. If it was advertised as a secretive, sad novel, then I’d be all for it.

Sloane was a kind of likable character to the point where by the end, I could almost see me her being friends with her in a real life scenario. Throughout the novel, I had a hard time with the characters overall. There were some side characters (especially Vivienne) that I thought had better progression than the main characters and that made me have a negative reaction to this book.

There were a good amount of realistic points made and that’s the reason why this book got a two-star rating from me. I could resonate and think of real life scenarios that would really happen and I thought that Sophie Ranald did a good job with that.

Overall, if this book was described differently, I would’ve known what I was getting into. Having this book described as “laugh-out-loud” was simply misleading and it was a pretty heavy book to get into. I would definitely give Sophie Ranald another try as this was my first read by her.