Review: The Real Thing by Melissa Foster

The Real Thing
Series: Sweet Lake, #1
Author: Melissa Foster
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Note: I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

This sassy, spirited baker is fine with heat—but is her fake fiancé too hot to handle?

Bakery owner Willow Dalton’s friendship with Zane Walker has always been a bit complicated. Now a scrumptiously hot A-list actor, Zane’s always had a reputation as player. He’s arrogant, and he’s definitely not boyfriend material. Sure, he did Willow a favor by agreeing to take her virginity before college, but is that reason enough to go along with a fake engagement a decade later—even if it comes with a real diamond ring?

Zane should have known better. Nothing involving Willow has ever been easy. Still, he knows her better than anyone, and becoming America’s hottest new leading man means cleaning up his reputation. An “engagement” to curvy, sass-mouthed Willow is the perfect PR move . . . provided no one gets hurt.

Now Zane and Willow’s little white lie has turned into an irresistible recipe for sweet temptation. And soon no one will be able to tell the difference between their fake engagement or the real thing—including them.


Willow has always longed for her older brother’s best friend, Zane. They had a night together back before Willow left for college, but their relationship went no further. It left Willow with feelings of anger and resentment toward Zane — especially when he became a womanizing famous actor. Now, Zane’s back in town and looking to change his image. He needs Willow to help him do that by pretending to be his fiancée. The arrangement is something Willow should know better than to say yes to, but she still can’t resist Zane.

The Real Thing was a fun fake fiancée romance. It’s been a long time since I read a book by Melissa Foster. I had forgotten how much I enjoy her writing. She’s an author who knows how to write third person point of view. A lot of the time, it takes me a while to be able to get into third person narration. It wasn’t that way with The Real Thing. I didn’t even notice it. Third person felt just as easy as reading first person in this book. I really appreciated that. I also appreciated that both Willow and Zane’s perspectives were included.

Willow and Zane were a cute couple. She was independent, loyal and fiery. He was overconfident, but deep down had a big heart. All of those things fit really well and complimented each other. I loved that they had been pining over each other since high school. It made their love story all the sweeter.

I do have to admit there was something that bugged me about this book that I couldn’t let go. Willow’s hatred and distrust of Zane didn’t make complete sense. I understand that she’s mad that he moved on, but she set things up that way. He truly didn’t do anything that set out to hurt her or break her heart. Plus, it had been like ten years and she was still holding onto to her anger. It seemed weird since she had been in contact with him at least monthly and had seen him several times over the years. Maybe I was missing something. Maybe I needed more than just a snapshot of the aftermath of their teenage decision.

One of my favorite things about this book was the cast of secondary characters. Willow had an amazing family. Each was an individual with a strong personality. Meeting them made me very excited for what’s to come in this series. I hope they all get their own books. I’m really hoping to see more of Ben and Amelia!

Overall, The Real Thing was a sweet contemporary read, and an entertaining take of a celebrity fake relationship.

Release Day Review & Excerpt: The Better Man by Barbie Bohrman

The Better Man
Series: Allen Brothers, #2
Author: Barbie Bohrman
Publication Date: August 22, 2017
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Note: I received an ARC in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Meet Max Allen.

He’s ambitious, too smart for his own good, and very single.
Nicknamed “Max-A-Million” by society gossip types, he thinks he’s got it pretty damn good and he’s right…for the most part.

Meet Daphne Rodriguez.
She’s ambitious, too smart for her own good, and very single.
She works extra hard for everything she has and never complains about the crappy hand life has dealt her.

When Max is presented with the opportunity of a lifetime, it comes with the condition that he must work with the one person he despises most…and wants the most: his sworn enemy, Daphne.

However, Max has no plans of giving Daphne the satisfaction of ever letting her know how he feels about her. Instead, he vows to make her life miserable at every turn.

Which works out perfectly, since Daphne has no intention of making it easy for Max either.

When all hell breaks loose and they’re on a collision course with disaster, these two stubborn people will have to overcome their mutual hatred of each other long enough to work together and get the job done.

For better or worse, they will have to rely on each other to save themselves…and the people they love most.


I originally met Max Allen back in the first book in the Allen Brothers series, The Best Man. I was intrigued by his character. He was a guy who thought he was the top of the food chain due to his money and his success. I wondered what it would take for Max to give up his attitude of importance and put someone else first. I found out in The Better Man.

I have to admit that I hated Max the pretty much the entire book. His sense entitlement and over the top confidence were off-putting. He was just too full of himself for my taste. I couldn’t stand how mean he was to others, especially Daphne. I was shocked she was actually into him. Max was supposed to be gorgeous, but his attitude would have killed things for me.

Not Daphne. Their spark was too strong. Luckily, so was her personality. Daphne was able to give back to Max what he dished out. She was also able to take the high road when he couldn’t. I loved that about her. I also loved Daphne’s sense of family. Her relationships with her brother, grandmother and even her friend Derek were shining moments in the story.

Toward the end, there were moments of greatness for Max. When he finally surrendered to his feelings for Daphne was one of them. He became sweeter than I imagined. There were also amazing moments with his family, especially his twin nieces. What he was willing to do for them brought out another side of him. I liked Max in those moments.

I can’t review The Better Man without mentioning the shocking surprise Barbie Borhman included. It gutted me and brought me to tears. I won’t say what happened, but I wasn’t expecting to be so shattered. It made me very anxious to get the next book in the series, and it made The Better Man a better, more complex story.

Despite my initial dislike of Max, The Better Man was a great read. It had the push and pull I have come to expect from a great enemies to lovers story. I would recommend it and the rest of the Allen Brothers series to contemporary romance readers.

Excerpt:

For every person who didn’t like me, there were a lot more who adored me. That had to count for something, right?

Right.

“Of course, mate. Of course,” Oliver said. “Then you know what some of the male viewers have been saying, yes?”

I was blessed with the looks of a fucking Adonis, so yeah, men usually hated me anyway. I paid their bullshit complaints little to no attention at all. Let me put it this way, if I had a nickel for every single time some guy was jealous of me, I’d be rich.

Oh, wait! I am a rich. So, fuck them.

Shrugging my shoulders, I replied with ease, “A few haters never killed anyone.”

“Let’s see, shall we?” With another click or two on his keyboard, Oliver then announced, “Here’s one tweet that says, ‘Max Allen needs to get hit by a bus. #pleasebabyjesus.’”

“That’s not so bad,” I said through a chuckle. “I’ve heard a lot worse. Hell, I think my big brothers can come up with better ones.”

Oliver ignored me and kept right on reciting more tweets. “Here’s another one, ‘It looks like his face caught on fire and someone tried to put it out with a fork.’ And another, ‘I wish Max Allen’s mom would have swallowed instead.’”

He was starting to cackle like a hyena. “All right, I get it, boss. Men don’t—”

“Wait, wait,” Oliver managed to say between his laughing fit. “One more, ‘Max Allen has more dick in his personality than he does in his pants. #dickless.’”

“Boss, I—”

“‘Max Allen looks like two pounds of shit in a one pound bag.’” Oliver was laughing so loudly he had to stop for a second to gain his composure. “Oh, and this one! This is my favorite, mate, ‘If Max Allen could suck his own dick, then he would finally suck at everything. #eatadick #buteatyoursbro #suckyourdick #maxsucksdick #dickdickdick.’”

Oliver was having the time of his life reading off these awful tweets about me, super loud, too. So loud that his assistant and the assistant to his assistant, or intern, or whatever the fuck they were to him, were cracking up. One of them yelled out, “Dude, you have to go to the Twitter feed right now!”

And then, like a wave of dominoes falling over, one by one, the rest of the office was reading the same tweets and laughing their butts off. Thank God I had thick skin, or I would take it personally.

“All right,” Oliver wheezed while he wiped the tears from his eyes. “Oh my God, those are priceless.”

“Yeah, right. Priceless.”

Review: Fallen Heir by Erin Watt

Fallen Heir
Series: The Royals, #4
Author: Erin Watt
Publication Date: August 28, 2017
Publisher: Timeout LLC
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, New Adult
Note: I received an ARC in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

These Royals will ruin you.

Easton Royal has it all: looks, money, intelligence. His goal in life is to have as much fun as possible. He never thinks about the consequences because he doesn’t have to.

Until Hartley Wright appears, shaking up his easy life. She’s the one girl who’s said no, despite being attracted to him. Easton can’t figure her out and that makes her all the more irresistible.

Hartley doesn’t want him. She says he needs to grow up.

She might be right.

Rivals. Rules. Regrets. For the first time in Easton’s life, wearing a Royal crown isn’t enough. He’s about to learn that the higher you start, the harder you fall.


“These Royals will ruin you.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Every single book about the Royals ruins me in some way. Fallen Heir did it more than once.

There was more to Easton Royal than I expected. I knew he would be a cocky young man with the world at his finger tips. What I didn’t know was the extent of his past and how it affected him. He was such a strength for Ella in the first three books. I was surprised that he was different in Fallen Heir. I didn’t quite love his character as much as I expected to based on that role. His truths were more and different from I imagined.

As for Hartley Wright, I still feel a little in the dark. I learned about Hartley through Easton’s eyes since she didn’t get her own point of view. I started to like her, but I really wanted to know her thoughts and motivations. It feels like Hartley is going to be a good influence on Easton. I’m hoping she gets to voice her own thoughts in book 5.

The thing that ruined me the most in Fallen Heir was that ending. If you’ve read the first three books in this series, you know that Erin Watt are the queens of the cliffhanger. They didn’t disappoint with the one at the end of Fallen Heir. It completely blew my mind. I could have never seen what happened coming, and now I’m frustrated that I have to wait until January to find out what’s next!!!

Fallen Heir was a great addition to The Royals series. It ruined me in the best ways. It took everything I thought I knew about Easton Royal and both altered and built upon it. I’m really looking forward to seeing his character continue to grow in the next book. If you’re a fan of the series, you won’t want to miss this book!

Review: Beard Science by Penny Reid

Beard Science
Series: Winston Brothers, #3
Author: Penny Reid
Publication Date: October 11, 2016
Publisher: Penny Reid
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, New Adult, Humor

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Make a deal with the devil and you might get what you want, but will it be what you need?

Jennifer Sylvester wants one thing, and that one thing is NOT to be Tennessee’s reigning Banana Cake Queen. Ever the perpetual good girl and obedient daughter, Jennifer is buckling under the weight of her social media celebrity, her mother’s ambitions, and her father’s puritanical mandates. Jennifer is officially desperate.

And desperate times call for Cletus Winston.

Cletus Winston is a puzzle wrapped in a mystery covered in conundrum sauce, and now he’s in a pickle. Despite being convinced of his own omniscience, extortion by the exalted Banana Cake Queen of Green Valley has taken him completely by surprise. So… what’s a maniacal mastermind to do?

Likely, the last thing you expect.


Move over Duane and Jethro, there’s a new favorite Winston in the house!

Cletus Winston is unlike any other book character I’ve come across. He’s eccentric, but his oddities mask the genius within. Cletus is perfectly happy hiding in plain sight if it means he can put his secret plans in motion. No one, besides his family, knows what Cletus is capable of.

No one except Jennifer Sylvester that is. Banana Cake Queen Jennifer may be the local celebrity, but she’s not exactly sought after. Everyone looks past her and considers her to be just a pretty face. Jennifer, like Cletus, has more going on behind her mask than people believe. Jennifer watches people. She’s knows what Cletus is up to. She’s smart and might just be able to give Cletus Winston a taste of his own medicine when she blackmails Cletus into helping her find a husband.

Cletus and Jennifer were a match made in book heaven. Seriously. These two were so perfect together. They were both smart and weird in the best of ways. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I loved their story and the time it took for them to realize what they had found in each other. It was such a fun journey — my favorite book in the series so far!

If you’re a fan of romantic comedies, you’re going to want to read this book and the entire Winston Brothers series. It’s non-stop laughs and love.

Review: Grin & Beard It by Penny Reid

Grin & Beard It
Series: Winston Brothers, #2
Author: Penny Reid
Publication Date: May 31, 2016
Publisher: Penny Reid
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Comedy

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Sienna Diaz is everyone’s favorite “fat” funny lady. The movie studio executives can’t explain it, but her films are out-grossing all the fit and trim headliners and Hollywood’s most beautiful elite. The simple truth is, everyone loves plus-sized Sienna.

But she has a problem, she can’t read maps and her sense of direction is almost as bad as her comedic timing is stellar. Therefore, when Sienna’s latest starring role takes her to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park she finds herself continually lost while trying to navigate the backroads of Green Valley, Tennessee. Much to her consternation, Sienna’s most frequent savior is a ridiculously handsome, charming, and cheeky Park Ranger by the name of Jethro Winston.

Sienna is accustomed to high levels of man-handsome, so it’s not Jethro’s chiseled features or his perfect physique that make Sienna stutter. It’s his southern charm. And gentlemanly manners. And habit of looking at her too long and too often.

Sienna has successfully navigated the labyrinth of Hollywood heart-throbs. But can she traverse the tenuous trails of Tennessee without losing her head? Or worse, her heart?


If you read my review post for Truth or Beard, you know I’m currently binge reading the entire Winston Brothers series. I loved that first book and I was so excited to read the second, Grin & Beard It.

Grin & Beard It is Jethro Winston’s story. He’s the ex-troublemaker of the Winston family. He put his brothers and sister through a lot growing up, and he still feels the guilt of his former life. Jethro doesn’t feel he’s worthy of love.

Enter Sienna Diaz. Sienna is the hottest actress and screenwriter in the business right now. Her “plus size” curves and witty sense of humor set her apart from the rest of the Hollywood crowd. Sienna loves her career, but having a family has always been her ultimate goal.

Jethro and Sienna’s relationship was a slow burn romance that was built on humor, acceptance and an immediate connection. I loved their witty banter. The way they saw things in each other no one else did was so special. Their support of each other was unwavering and inspirational.

Reformed Jethro was an amazing character, but Sienna is the one that stood out in this story. Sienna is one of my all time favorite female characters. She’s so much more than an actress. She’s a writer. She’s a comedian. Most of all, Sienna is happy with who she is. I loved that she loved her body. She was proud of her curves and knew she was more than what the media or society saw her as. I also loved that family was Sienna’s first priority. Her relationship with her mother was so sweet.

I adored Grin & Beard It. Penny Reid’s writing is brilliant. The Winston Brothers is one of the best series I’ve read in a long time. Each book gets funnier and funnier. If you like funny romance, you have to read this series! I can’t wait to read Beard Science next. I can only imagine what Cletus has in store for me!

Review: After Ever Happy by Anna Todd

After Ever Happy
Series: After, #4
Author: Anna Todd
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, New Adult

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

Tessa and Hardin have defied all the odds, but will their fairy tale ending be turned on its head? AFTER EVER HAPPY…Life will never be the same. #HESSA

It’s never been all rainbows and sunshine for Tessa and Hardin, but each new challenge they’ve faced has only made their passionate bond stronger and stronger. But when a revelation about the past shakes Hardin’s inpenetrable façade to the core—and then Tessa suffers a tragedy—will they stick together again, or be torn apart?

As the shocking truth about each of their families emerges, it’s clear the two lovers are not so different from each other. Tessa is no longer the sweet, simple, good girl she was when she met Hardin—any more than he is the cruel, moody boy she fell so hard for. Tessa understands all the troubling emotions brewing beneath Hardin’s exterior, and she knows she’s the only one who can calm him when he erupts. He needs her.

But the more layers of his past come to light, the darker he grows, and the harder he pushes Tessa—and everyone else in his life—away. Tessa’s not sure if she really can save him—not without sacrificing herself. She refuses to go down without a fight. But who is she fighting for—Hardin or herself?


I liked this book. I can’t believe I’m saying that after my feelings for the previous books in this series. The only thing that’s kept me reading is Anna Todd’s knack for creating cliffhangers that I can’t resist. I’ve hated Tessa and Hardin’s abusive relationship for so long. I honestly can’t believe After Ever Happy had me changing my tune. I actually wanted Tessa and Hardin together in this book! Say what?

I wish Anna Todd would have written this book sooner in the series. After Ever Happy had everything I have wanted from this series in it. Tessa, Hardin and their relationship went places I wish they would have gone a lot sooner. If this somehow had been the second book in the series, things would have been so much better for me!

Tessa finally got a clue. She realized what everyone has known about her relationship with Hardin from the moment they met. I was proud of the growth she made in this book. Tessa finally made the changes she needed to make to change the cycle of her life. The changes Tessa made forced Hardin to confront his faults.

Hardin… Another thing I can’t believe I’m saying, but Hardin wowed me. He redeemed himself in ways I thought would never happen. Hardin did everything in his power to make himself a better person. He won me over, and I would have never ever expected that to happen. I have hated him for so long that I can’t even understand how I can love him now, but I do. Well, just in this book.

Tessa and Hardin’s relationship came full circle in After Ever Happy. It was just as drama filled as the rest of the series, but the drama felt less crazy and more productive. Everything that happened was for a reason and pushed Tessa and Hardin to the place they needed to be. Nothing felt completely unnecessary. (Well, except for Zed. He’s always unnecessary in my book). I was surprised at how much angst I felt, and how I longed for Tessa and Hardin to reach a happy place.

My only big complaint is that the last 25% of this books had way too many time jumps. I felt like an important time frame was skipped in the first two year jump. I liked some of the other jumps, but overall I was left with a lot of questions.

I’m happy I kept reading this series because this book was its salvation in my eyes. It dealt with Tessa and Hardin’s abusive relationship in a more positive way, and was able to show how long it can take to change an unhealthy pattern. I also have to say that Anna Todd’s writing has grown so much from the beginning to the end of this series. I am happy to say that I am finally excited to read more of her books. (Yes, that means I’ll be reading Before and Landon’s books.)

Review: Truth or Beard by Penny Reid

Truth or Beard
Series: Winston Brothers, #1
Author: Penny Reid
Publication Date: July 21, 2015
Publisher: Caped Publishing
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, New Adult

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Beards, brothers, and bikers! Oh my!

Identical twins Beau and Duane Winston might share the same devastatingly handsome face, but where Beau is outgoing and sociable, Duane is broody and reserved. This is why Jessica James, recent college graduate and perpetual level-headed good girl, has been in naïve and unhealthy infatuation with Beau Winston for most of her life.

His friendly smiles make her tongue-tied and weak-kneed, and she’s never been able to move beyond her childhood crush. Whereas Duane and Jessica have always been adversaries. She can’t stand him, and she’s pretty sure he can’t stand the sight of her…

But after a case of mistaken identity, Jessica finds herself in a massive confusion kerfuffle. Jessica James has spent her whole life paralyzed by the fantasy of Beau and her assumptions of Duane’s disdain; therefore she’s unprepared for the reality that is Duane’s insatiable interest, as well as his hot hands and hot mouth and hotter looks. Not helping Jessica’s muddled mind and good girl sensibilities, Duane seems to have gotten himself in trouble with the local biker gang, the Iron Order.

Certainly, Beau’s magic spell is broken. Yet when Jessica finds herself drawn to the man who was always her adversary, now more dangerous than ever, how much of her level-head heart is she willing to risk?


Why, oh why, did I wait so long to read Truth or Beard? I’ve had this book on my Kindle forever. I’ve read Penny Reid’s collaborations with L.H. Cosway and loved them. I’m not sure why I waited, but I’m happy that I was pushed into reading it by receiving an ARC for the newest release in the series.

Truth or Beard was delightful. I loved the writing. It was so dang funny! The thoughts going through Jessica James’ head were priceless. That girl was crazy, but in a good way. I loved how her attraction to her nemesis Duane Winston tormented her, and how she realized that her childhood tormentor had honorable intentions towards her.

One thing that surprised me in Truth or Beard was the small town setting. I loved it. It was fun to read about all the different groups in the town and how they all meshed or didn’t mesh with each other. The local biker gang added a little bit of suspense that I wasn’t expecting.

My favorite thing about this book was the family aspect. Duane was extremely close to his many brothers and sister. They had a bond that was special. Their relationships also created some very funny moments. Jessica also had an interesting family dynamic going on. She was constantly trying to push the limits with her overprotective brother and father. I loved how Jessica and Duane’s relationship altered their relationships for the better with their families.

Truth or Beard was a hilarious romantic comedy. It was just so much fun to read. It’s a book I wouldn’t mind seeing made into a movie.