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.

Review: Fired Up by Anna Durand

Fired Up
Author: Anna Durand
Publication Date: July 28, 2017
Publisher: Jacobsville Books
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Note: I received this book from the author in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

He sets women on fire, but the only one he needs is fireproof.

Humiliated by her cheating ex, control freak Mel Thompson has resolved to avoid sex and romance. But her plans skid off the rails on her birthday, when she overindulges in champagne and tries to seduce her best friend, Adam Caras, exposing her long-repressed attraction to him. She’s determined to remain just friends, but her erotic fantasies have other ideas…

Firefighter Adam Caras has seduced more women than he’d ever admit to, earning the nickname the Arsonist, thanks to his explosive sensuality. Unfortunately, he realized he’s in love with his best friend Mel five minutes after she hooked up with her sleazebag ex. For two years, he’s kept his true feelings a secret. His libido, on the other hand…not so easy to rein in. Now that she’s free, he has a plan of his own. He’ll win her heart the only way he knows how–in bed–by employing every weapon in his lady-killer arsenal.

As their firecracker chemistry transforms into much more, past mistakes and a new crisis converge to test their loyalty to each other. But will it forge their bond into an unbreakable love or tear them apart?


A while back, I read Anna Durand’s novella Tempted By A Kiss. It was so much fun, and I wished it wasn’t just a novella. I really wanted to read a full length novel about Mel and Adam falling in love. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one who wanted more of them. I was very excited to get the opportunity to read their new, full length novel Fired Up.

Fired Up begins similarly to Tempted By A Kiss, but is slightly different. Instead of stopping after Mel’s birthday night the story continues. Best friends Mel and Adam go through a torturous time of figuring out what their friendship really is and where it should go from there. I loved watching them navigate their newfound relationship and how they adjusted to no longer being just friends.

The one tiny issue I had with the story was Mel’s instant forgiveness of Adam’s secrecy. I expected more of a reaction from her at times. The one time she did react, I was a little surprised. It didn’t seem like as big a deal as the other times when she didn’t react.

Overall, Fired Up was a very fun friends to lovers story. It was sweet, steamy and everything you would expect in a great contemporary romance.

Review: In Pieces by Danielle Pearl

In Pieces
Series: Something More, #2
Author: Danielle Pearl
Publication Date: October 10, 2017
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, New Adult
Note: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

Three years ago she was left in pieces . . . Most college freshmen love the newfound freedom of living on campus, but none of them craves it like Beth Caplan. One ill-fated night when she was fifteen left her locked in a posh prison of private tutors. It’s for the best, everyone said, and maybe it was. But after years of hard work and healing, the one person who never thought of her as broken could be the one to break her all over again. And Beth can’t seem to stay away now any more than she could all those years ago. As soon as David March learned his best friend’s little sister was enrolling at his school, he promised to look after her, and promised himself he’d keep a safe distance. But the sweet little girl he’d grown up with has transformed into a gorgeous young woman, and she’s attracting attention from people she shouldn’t-like the ex who nearly destroyed her and a strange new student with a disturbing habit of showing up wherever Beth goes. But for David, the most troubling discovery is realizing that he doesn’t just want Beth to be safe. He wants her to be his.


In Pieces is the first book I’ve read by Danielle Pearl. I really enjoyed her writing style. She told the story in first person dual points of view. That’s my favorite type of narration because it allows me to connect deeply with the characters. She also threw in some chapters set in the past that helped show how the characters had matured over the years.

My favorite thing about In Pieces was Beth and David’s relationship. David was Beth’s older brother’s best friend. He was supposed to be her protector at college due to her weaknesses, but Beth was constantly pushing his boundaries. She didn’t want to be seen as a little girl any longer. They both were harboring secret feelings for each other. I loved the way their relationship progressed from friendship to lovers.

The only problem I had with this book was that there was almost too much going on in it. Both characters had secrets in their pasts. That probably would have been enough to keep the story going on its own, but there was also a ton of other drama. There was the new stranger, David’s frat friends, and a surprise twist toward the end. It was entertaining for sure, but just too much at times. I just wanted to focus on the love birds.

Overall, In Pieces was a fun, quick read. It had everything I would expect from a new adult romance and more. I liked Danielle Pearl’s writing style so much that I would definitely pick up another of her novels. I would like to read the first book in this series.

Review: Dear Aaron by Mariana Zapata

Dear Aaron
Author: Mariana Zapata
Publication Date: June 10, 2017
Publisher: Mariana Zapata
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

Ruby Santos knew exactly what she was getting herself into when she signed up to write a soldier overseas.
The guidelines were simple: one letter or email a week for the length of his or her deployment. Care packages were optional.
Been there, done that. She thought she knew what to expect.
What she didn’t count on was falling in love with the guy.


This book made me swoon so dang hard. Normally, I like my characters to instantly have chemistry that leads quickly to sexy times, but I was all about the slow burn romance in Dear Aaron.

The way Mariana Zapata set this story up was amazing. I absolutely loved how Dear Aaron began with a series of letters between Aaron and Ruby. It was easy to see the friendship and camaraderie developing between them. They exchanged so much about their days and themselves with each other. Their silent attraction grew and grew for the first half of the book through those letters and then online chats. I could have read the entire book through their online communication with each other.

Then, Aaron and Ruby’s mode of communication changes. The story switches from letters and chats to Ruby’s point of view. I loved this change. It gave me even more insight into the characters. I wish more of the story would have been done this way. I wanted more of Aaron and Ruby’s story through her eyes. There wasn’t enough of that part for me.

I loved both Ruby and Aaron so much. Aaron because he was what every girl dreams of. He was the perfect combination of strong and sweet. He wasn’t perfect, but his imperfections are what made him special. It also helped that he was hotter than sin. Ruby was that nice, shy girl who doesn’t know how gorgeous she actually is. She had some annoying self-confidence issues, but they made her more real and genuine. These two characters truly brought out the best in each other.

I wasn’t ready to be done with Aaron and Ruby’s story when it ended. Honestly, I could have read another 400+ pages about them. I loved Dear Aaron that much. I have some other books I need to read next, but I really, really want to go devour Mariana Zapata’s backlist right now! I’m pretty sure I’m going to be her new biggest fan.

Review: Eye Candy by Jessica Lemmon

Eye Candy
Series: Real Love, #1
Author: Jessica Lemmon
Publication Date: July 25, 2017
Publisher: Loveswept
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Note: I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

Jacqueline: As an adult woman–and the vice president of a marketing firm–I shouldn’t be waiting by my office window to ogle the mystery man who jogs by every morning at 11:45. Sure, he’s a gorgeous, perfect specimen of the human race, but I can’t bring myself to hit on a total stranger. However, my best friend-slash-colleague Vince Carson thinks I should do more than talk to the guy. In fact, he’s borderline obsessive about “getting me laid.” (His words.) But the more time we spend together, the more it’s clear: The one I’m falling for is Vince.

Vince: Jackie Butler’s got it bad for some pompous, over-pumped A-hole who struts his stuff past her window. That doesn’t bother me. I know she deserves nice things. What does bother me is that she friend-zoned me big-time last year, so I can’t ask her out myself. But what if I set her up with Mr. Steroids? Then, when he breaks her heart, I can swoop in and save her like the nice guy I am. Everything’s going according to plan . . . until we share a ridiculously epic kiss. And suddenly anything is possible.


I love Jessica Lemmon’s writing and books. She’s a go-to author for me when it comes to contemporary romances. I always look forward to her new releases. I was especially excited to find out what she had in store with Eye Candy. I loved the premise behind this book. Co-workers and friends to more? Yes, please!

Unfortunately, Eye Candy didn’t quite live up to my expectations. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel the sparks between Jackie and Vince or that I didn’t like them. I thought they were both fun characters who fit perfectly together. I absolutely loved Jackie and Vince together. What bothered me was the way they got together. I was all about the initial push Vince had for making Jackie ask the hot runner out, but once that part was over I didn’t like his “coaching”. It cheapened their experiences together for me. I also didn’t love the big problem in their relationship. Part of it felt like it fit their histories and part of it seemed kind of out there.

I hate sounding negative because I did have fun reading Eye Candy. It’s still a book I would recommend to contemporary romance fans. I’m planning on reading the next book in the series, Arm Candy. Personally, I just wish I would have fallen more in love with Jackie and Vince’s story.

Review: Hello Forever by Sarina Bowen

Hello Forever
Series: Pay it Forward, #2
Author: Sarina Bowen
Publication Date: July 14, 2017
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance,  LGBT+
Note: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

A SINGLE BASKETBALL GAME CHANGES EVERYTHING…

When they were only teenagers, Axel and Caxton were caught making out in the woods at church camp. And afterward, Cax had disappeared from all the youth group activities.

Six years later, Axel is astonished to spot his first love’s face in the crowd of a college basketball game he’s watching on TV—at a school which has just offered him a job. It’s a thousand miles away, in a tiny rural town. But suddenly, he can’t wait to get there.

Cax can’t believe his eyes when Axel appears in the same Massachusetts town where he now lives. And he’s still just as drawn to Axel as ever. But he can’t let himself go there again, because loving Axel will mean giving up everything else he holds dear.

Both men have so much to lose. But as far as their love is concerned, it’s Hello Forever.

Hello Forever is a stand-alone novel with no cliffhangers. Readers of Goodbye Paradise will get to check in on Caleb and Josh and their clan.


Hello Forever is a second chance love story. It’s the story of two men who fell in love as teenagers, but were forced apart by the expectations of others. Neither Axel or Cax thought they would ever see each other again. Then, Axel spots Cax on a televised college basketball game. Seeing his first love again inspires Axel to accept a position at the very same school. Axel hopes he’ll run into Cax again, and that they will be able to rekindle what they almost had.

Their reunion isn’t exactly what Axel had hoped. The same demons that drove Axel and Cax apart are still at play in Cax’s life. As much as Cax wants what Axel is offering, he may not be able to accept it. Some things in Cax’s life are more important than his love for Axel.

After reading Goodbye Paradise, I had very high expectations for Hello Forever. I loved that first Pay it Forward book so much, and I wanted to have a similar experience with this book. Hello Forever was a great book, but not quite as amazing as Goodbye Paradise. I can’t put my finger on exactly why that was. The only thing I can think of was that it took me a little longer than usual to connect with the characters. A lot of the beginning was Axel setting up his history with Cax. It wasn’t until Cax and Axel were back in the same room that I felt engaged with the story.

I don’t want you to think I didn’t love Cax and Axel’s story. I did.Their second chance at love was sweet, sexy, and had just the right amount of drama. Cax having to decide if his personal happiness was more important than his devotion to his family was a really great story line. It was a tough choice for him, but I loved the way it all played out. It was fun to read. I especially loved the ending!

It was exciting to be back in Josh and Caleb’s world. I loved seeing them again and how they worked into Cax and Axel’s story. I also liked the other new characters I met. I’m hoping some of them (Jason) will get their own stories in the future.

Overall, Hello Forever was a great M/M romance. It’s one I would recommend if you’re a fan of M/M romances, Sarina Bowen or new adult romances in general.

Review: Fallen Crest Forever by Tijan

Fallen Crest Forever
Series: Fallen Crest High, #7
Author: Tijan
Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Mason Kade is the dream.
He is the promise.
He’s offering what so many would fantasize about, and it’s not that I don’t want it/him/us.
It’s the opposite.
There might be ghosts haunting me, but this man who’s my soulmate is asking me for forever.
How can I say no to someone who already gave me my happily ever after?


Well, this is it. The finale to a dramatic and addicting series. I feel like I’m at a loss of what to say right now. I seriously want to cry because I am done with the final full length Fallen Crest High novel. I know it was probably time for the series to come to an end, but I could read about these characters and their drama forever. I know their lives would continue to be just as fun to follow.

Drama wise, Fallen Crest Forever felt the calmest to me. Don’t get me wrong, there were still many dramatic moments, but they felt more subdued. Emotions wise, it was a different story. Fallen Crest Forever was the most emotionally tormenting book of them all.

Surprisingly, Sam had a lot of self-discovery to do. I loved that she was determined to find herself and her passions outside of her relationship with Mason. Her doubts plagued me, even though I always knew she would be okay. I had faith because Sam had her family and their support, and that was the most important thing.

Mason was a rock in this book. His inner strength was calming for both Sam and me. I appreciated his more mature approach to life this time around. He was still the badass football player, but he became even smarter with his actions than before. I have commented on it in previous reviews, but his protection of Sam and they way he showed his love for her was beautiful.

I can’t say that everything was smooth sailing for Sam and Mason in Fallen Crest Forever. There were moments that made me swoon, but there were also moments that broke my heart. Tears were in my eyes a couple of times. I’m so happy they had Logan, Nate, Taylor and Heather to help support them in their final journey toward forever. I couldn’t have asked for a better ending for them.

The story that began in Fallen Crest High came full circle in Fallen Crest Forever. I’m sad this utterly addictive series is over, but knowing there’s going to at least be another novella in the near future has placated me. I’m happy to know this isn’t the last time I’ll see the characters I’ve grown to love so much.