Review: The Girl He Used to Know (Tracey Garvis Graves)

The Girl He Used to Know
Author: Tracey Garvis Graves
Narrators: Fred Berman, Kathleen McInerney
Publication Date: April 2, 2019
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Historical, Fiction

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Annika (rhymes with Monica) Rose is an English major at the University of Illinois. Anxious in social situations where she finds most people’s behavior confusing, she’d rather be surrounded by the order and discipline of books or the quiet solitude of playing chess.

Jonathan Hoffman joined the chess club and lost his first game–and his heart–to the shy and awkward, yet brilliant and beautiful Annika. He admires her ability to be true to herself, quirks and all, and accepts the challenges involved in pursuing a relationship with her. Jonathan and Annika bring out the best in each other, finding the confidence and courage within themselves to plan a future together. What follows is a tumultuous yet tender love affair that withstands everything except the unforeseen tragedy that forces them apart, shattering their connection and leaving them to navigate their lives alone.

Now, a decade later, fate reunites Annika and Jonathan in Chicago. She’s living the life she wanted as a librarian. He’s a Wall Street whiz, recovering from a divorce and seeking a fresh start. The attraction and strong feelings they once shared are instantly rekindled, but until they confront the fears and anxieties that drove them apart, their second chance will end before it truly begins.


The Girl He Used to Know was one of those books I wanted to read but didn’t really see myself getting to any time soon. After reading some great reviews for it, I decided to request the audiobook version so that I could fit it into my reading schedule faster. I’m happy I did that because I enjoyed listening to it.

The way this story told made it perfect for audio. Both Annika and Jonathan had their own points of view. Annika’s was set in both her 1990’s college years and 2001, but Jonathan’s was only in 2001. I liked that because of the way the story was set up and how the revelations were given. I think limiting Jonathan’s POV gave Annika’s more depth. It just worked so well.

Another great thing about the audio was the narrators. The narrators of The Girl He Used to Know were fantastic! Fred Berman embodied the calm Jonathan well. He (along with the author) gave him a tenderness that I loved. I was especially impressed with Kathleen McInerney as Annika. I couldn’t imagine Annika read any other way. She took on every essence of the character and made her feel like a real person.

As for the story itself, I liked it a lot. Annika was on the autism spectrum. The way her thoughts, emotions, and reactions were processed was interesting and a learning experience in a way. I loved seeing how she related to people and relationships with them. Her relationship with Jonathan fascinated me. I was even more interested in how Jonathan reacted to things she did and didn’t do. I loved that he loved her for the things that made her Annika. It was such a sweet love story with so many surprises.

Annika’s relationships with the other people around her also interested me. I loved her relationship with Janis and her mom. I also loved how her relationship with her brother, Will, played out. The relationships that were harder to like were those with people who didn’t understand her or treated her badly. I hated when she was hurt, but it also made me think a lot.

The thing that surprised me the most about The Girl He Used to Know didn’t really have anything to do with the relationships of this book. This book has a 2001 setting. I didn’t really connect that to September 11th when I started reading. That horrible date in history and the days after are featured toward the end of this book. It might be too much or too soon for some readers. For me, having lived through that time and remembering it now, it was a little hard. It brought back waiting to hear from my close friend who was a United Airlines flight attendant at the time and my husband (then fiancé) who was in Pennsylvania not too far from where the plane went down there. Those worries and disbelief of what was happening being replayed in my head was a little jarring.  It was also fascinating because I felt like the author gave a different look at the topic than some of the other books I’ve read who have broached that time frame. It was uncomfortable, but also something I respected the author for going there and bringing back into focus what people went through at that time in history (like how books do with WWII). It’s important to remember.

Overall, I found The Girl He Used to Know to be an emotional and unique listening experience. I would definitely recommend it.

Review: Passion on Park Avenue (Lauren Layne)

Passion on Park Avenue
Series: Central Park Pact, #1
Author: Lauren Layne
Publication Date: May 28, 2019
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

From the author of the New York Times bestselling Stiletto and Oxford series, the first in a sizzling new series following the unlikely friendship of three Upper East Side women as they struggle to achieve their dreams and find true love and happiness in the city that never sleeps.

For as long as she can remember, Bronx-born Naomi Powell has had one goal: to prove her worth among the Upper East Side elite—the same people for which her mom worked as a housekeeper. Now, as the strongminded, sassy CEO of one of the biggest jewelry empires in the country, Naomi finally has exactly what she wants—but it’s going to take more than just the right address to make Manhattan’s upper class stop treating her like an outsider.

The worst offender is her new neighbor, Oliver Cunningham—the grown son of the very family Naomi’s mother used to work for. Oliver used to torment Naomi when they were children, and as a ridiculously attractive adult, he’s tormenting her in entirely different ways. Now they find themselves engaged in a battle-of-wills that will either consume or destroy them…

Filled with charm and heart and plenty of sex and snark, this entertaining series will hook you from the very first page.


Sigh. I have been struggling a lot with books lately and getting into a good reading mood. Since I have loved and adored every single LL book out there, I decided to give Passion on Park Avenue the chance to get me out of my slump. It did, and yet it didn’t.

There were a lot of things that I loved about this book. At the beginning, it reminded me a lot of the movie The Other Woman. The way Naomi formed friendships with Claire and Audrey was cool. I loved how they supported each other even though they weren’t lifelong friends. I adored Oliver. He was such a great guy. The romance between Oliver and Naomi was sweet. My favorite moments revolved around them. I loved Naomi’s back story and how it related to Oliver and his father, Walter. The way she reacted to everything involving Walter was fun. I also liked Walter as a character all on his own. All these things are why LL is a go-to author for me. Her writing is excellent.

I hate to admit it, but there were things that didn’t work for me in this book. That usually doesn’t happen to me with LL’s books. I had a hard time loving Naomi to start with. She was just so off-putting with her need to reach a certain status or have and wear certain things. That’s not something I care about in life, and it sounded too braggy for my taste. I have a REALLY hard time with books that focus a lot on descriptions of clothing, accessories, etc. I am not a fan of being told what name brands are being worn. I get that a little needs to be done based on where this story is set (effluent NY), but I got tired of it really fast. The other thing that didn’t work for me was the whole TV show/Dylan thing. It just felt weird and out-of-place.

While Passion on Park Avenue wasn’t my favorite LL book, I still ended up enjoying it. It had some amazing friendships and a cute romance going for it. I’m looking forward to reading books about Audrey and Claire. I really loved them, so I am hoping to enjoy their books just as much.

Review: F*ck Marriage (Tarryn Fisher)

F*ck Marriage
Author: Tarryn Fisher
Publication Date: May 16, 2019
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Two years ago, Billie Tarrow’s husband left her for another woman. Shamed and divorced, Billie retreated to her family home in Port Townsend, far from her old life in New York. After a near-death encounter, Billie decides to return to the city that took everything from her.

But sometimes in the midst of heartache, hope suffocates the pain.

Satcher Gable has carried a torch for Billie for ten years. When she suddenly returns to New York a single woman, he can’t believe his good fortune. But convincing her to walk away from her heartache is proving more difficult than Satcher anticipated. A changed woman, Billie’s only goal is revenge.


I loved Fck Marriage. I devoured it as quickly as I could while simultaneously wishing I wouldn’t come to the end so soon. It’s hard to know what to say about it, what to tell you. Tarryn Fisher’s books are always ones I feel readers have to experience for themselves to understand the full meaning, the whole experience. Fck Marriage was that way.

The title alone seems to say anything but romance. My husband asked me as I was reading it if I was a romance. I said no. He proved to me on Amazon I was wrong, that it was. I told him a Tarryn Fisher “romance” isn’t the type of romance he was thinking of. Sure, it had some romantic parts to it, but the romance isn’t really the point. Or at least to me it’s not. F*ck Marriage to me was a journey of Billie’s healing and taking back her life after divorce. The romance was just extra — and honestly pretty messed up.

Tarryn Fisher’s mind has to be a fascinating place to be. Her words are so blunt and unapologetic. I highlighted a lot of things the characters said or thought throughout this book. There were so many poignant, inspirational, and thought provoking things to take in. My heart broke for the characters. I became sad and enraged for them. I worried about them. I was on edge so many time with what was happening or how it was making me feel. No matter how uncomfortable or heartbroken F*ck Marriage made me at times, it was also building me back up with love and understanding for the characters and their stories. It was weird to be feeling so many contradicting things at once, but also magical. So yeah, I loved this book.

If you’re curious about Fck Marriage, you should read it. It’s not a hate letter to marriage. It’s not overly dark or heavy on the romance. Fck Marriage is more a story about a woman surviving a divorce and heartbreak who is relearning who she is and defining what she wants. Whether you’re married, divorced, or single, there will be something that resonates with you. I know it made me appreciate the relationship I have even more than I already do.

Review: The Mister (E.L. James)

The Mister
Author: E.L. James
Narrators: Dominic Thorburn, Jessica O’Hara-Baker
Publication Date: April 16, 2019
Publisher: Random House Audio
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

The passionate new romance from E L James, author of the phenomenal #1 bestselling Fifty Shades Trilogy

London, 2019. Life has been easy for Maxim Trevelyan. With his good looks, aristocratic connections, and money, he’s never had to work and he’s rarely slept alone. But all that changes when tragedy strikes and Maxim inherits his family’s noble title, wealth, and estates, and all the responsibility that entails. It’s a role he’s not prepared for and one that he struggles to face.

But his biggest challenge is fighting his desire for an unexpected, enigmatic young woman who’s recently arrived in England, possessing little more than a dangerous and troublesome past.  Reticent, beautiful, and musically gifted, she’s an alluring mystery, and Maxim’s longing for her deepens into a passion that he’s never experienced and dares not name. Just who is Alessia Demachi? Can Maxim protect her from the malevolence that threatens her? And what will she do when she learns that he’s been hiding secrets of his own?

From the heart of London through wild, rural Cornwall to the bleak, forbidding beauty of the Balkans, The Mister is a roller-coaster ride of danger and desire that leaves the reader breathless to the very last page.


So… The Mister… You may wonder what made me want to read this book. To be honest, I was interested in what would come next for author E.L. James. I am one of the people who hopped on the 50 Shades hype back in the day and read all three books plus Grey. I actually liked the first three books. Grey not so much, but that’s okay. I wasn’t sure where E.L. James would go after that and Grey left me doubting whether or not I would like what was next. I did, for the most part.

If you’re wondering if E.L. James’ writing has changed much since her début series, the answer is no. It has exactly the same feel, so if it wasn’t for you then it wouldn’t be for you now. I didn’t find it to be a big deal because I didn’t expect anything else. She had a couple of different tenses going on in The Mister, so that took a while to get used to. Maxim’s POV was in first person while Alessia’s was in third person. By the end, I actually liked that. I think it helped that both of the narrators did a great job narrating their parts.

As for the actual story, I had to admit that I wasn’t immediately into it. It’s all Maxim’s fault. Dude was a manwhore. I don’t particularly like reading about a hero’s exploits with other women, so that made it hard to like Maxim at first. I kind of got the Caroline thing because it had to do with one part of the plot, but still…

Once Alessia was in the picture, it was easier to like Maxim. He seemed more authentic and like a better guy with her. Their relationship was way too insta-love, but I did find it to be cute. Of course, this is E.L. James’ book, so it was sexy as well. Not like 50 Shades, though. It was a more subtly sexy romance. Alessia and Maxim’s relationship would be considered vanilla to Christian Grey.

What really pulled me into the story and kept me reading wasn’t the romance. It was actually Alessia’s character and her past. It was mysterious and I liked how it unfolded. The dangers she faced made for an exciting plot. I also liked learning about her life in Albania and the differences between life in London.

Besides Maxim’s womanizing ways and the insta-love thing, my only other complaint would be about the ending. I couldn’t tell if this was the end for Maxim and Alessia or not. Things felt both concluded and open-ended — like there could maybe be more to come… or not? Personally, I was curious as to what might come next. I could have used an epilogue or maybe 2 more chapters. That’s what makes me think E.L. James might have a second book up her sleeves. I guess we’ll see.

Overall, I found The Mister to be an entertaining read. It wasn’t my favorite book, but it kept my interest and I ended up liking the characters.

Review: Marriage for One (Ella Maise)

Marriage for One
Author: Ella Maise
Publication Date: May 9, 2019

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

Jack and I, we did everything backward. The day he lured me into his office-which was also the first day we met-he proposed. You’d think a guy who looked like him-a bit cold maybe, but still striking and very unattainable-would only ask the love of his life to marry him, right? You’d think he must be madly in love.

Nope. It was me he asked. A complete stranger who had never even heard of him. A stranger who had been dumped by her fiancé only weeks before. You’d think I’d laugh in his face, call him insane-and a few other names-then walk away as quickly as possible. Well…I did all those things except the walking away part.

It took him only minutes to talk me into a business deal…erm, I mean marriage, and only days for us to officially tie the knot. Happiest day of my life. Magical. Pop the champagne… Not. It was the worst day. Jack Hawthorne was nothing like what I’d imagined for myself.
I blamed him for my lapse in judgment. I blamed his eyes, the ocean blue eyes that looked straight into mine unapologetically, and that frown on his face I had no idea I would become so fascinated with in time.

It wasn’t long after he said I was the biggest mistake of his life that things started to change. No, he still didn’t talk much, but anyone can string a few words together. His actions spoke the loudest to me. And day after day my heart started to get a mind of its own.

One second he was no one. The next he became everything.
One second he was unattainable. The next he seemed to be completely mine.
One second I thought we were in love. The next it was still nothing but a lie.

After all, I was Rose and he was Jack. We were doomed from the very beginning with those names. Did you expect anything else?

 

I’m a little speechless when it comes to Marriage for One. Or maybe a better way to say it is overwhelmed? I don’t know. I’m still wrapping my head around everything that went down. There was a lot. Marriage for One was a long book with a lot of little plot twists. It wasn’t what I expected at all. It wasn’t like any of the books I have read by Ella Maise. That’s not a bad thing. I feel like I can see how her writing is evolving, her craft getting stronger and maturing. What surprised me about this book was somber tone throughout the story. There were a lot of ups and downs, but things felt surprisingly even and sullen throughout the book. It’s really hard to explain, but it wasn’t a bad thing. I liked it.

Another thing that surprised me was I felt like I could never quite get a handle on what was truly going on — things were constantly changing or something would happen that would throw me off. It happened the most from Jack’s side. He was kind of a mystery. Which is weird to say because he had his own point of view. Ella Maise was just really good at keeping me slightly hanging and guessing as to what Jack’s true intentions were. That was rather perfect with Jack’s intensely quiet personality. I think Jack was supposed to be a hard character to love, but (much like Rose) I was drawn to him from the start. I think I was just as surprised by his care and concern as Rose was.

Rose was more forthcoming with her intentions and truths, but she was also very good at ignoring things. I was surprised by some of the things that happened to her even when I could see them coming. I really loved how her feelings for Jack changed and shifted throughout the book based on how he acted or what happened. I felt like I was with her trying to guess what his every action or reaction meant.

Jack and Rose’s relationship was bumpy and filled with uncertainty until it wasn’t…but then it was again. It was so complex and I was obsessed with it. I am not doing a good job of getting my thoughts across, but I loved them together. They were so different, yet they complimented each other so well.

I’m just going to leave things like this: Marriage for One is a book you have to experience for yourself. It’s a slow burn romance that navigates some strange times, some infuriating times, some tragic times, and some incredibly sweet times. It’s filled with emotion that consumes you. I really loved reading it, even if I made a mess out of trying to explain how I felt about it.

Review: The Billionaire Boss Next Door (Max Monroe)

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The Billionaire Boss Next Door, an all-new hilarious romantic comedy from New York Times bestselling author Max Monroe, is available now!

The Billionaire Boss Next Door
Authors: Max Monroe
Publication Date: May 16, 2019
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

My new boss has it all. In spades.

Gorgeous green eyes? Check.
Hard-and-sexy body? Check.
Intelligence? Check.
Success? A big fat billionaire… Check.

Too bad I haven’t started out on the best foot.

My big mouth has already turned him against me, and tempting good looks and success aside, Trent Turner is no peach either. He’s stubborn and thick-headed, and son of a fruitcake, he thinks he knows everything there is to know about the hotel business.

With him running the development of the new Vanderturn New Orleans Hotel and me doing the design, our work relationship is far too intimate for two people who absolutely despise one another.

But that’s not all.

See, he isn’t just my billionaire boss from hell. He’s my new neighbor, too.

Same city.
Same building.
Same floor.

Trent Turner is my billionaire boss next door.

Holy moly, let’s hope my career—and hormones—can survive.

Disclaimer: If you generally love to suffer, hate fun of any kind, and are allergic to laughter, this book is not for you.


If you are a fan of Max Monroe’s contemporary romances, you are in for a treat with The Billionaire Boss Next Door. It’s filled with classic Max Monroe goodness.

First, there is Max Monroe’s trademark humor. The Billionaire Boss Next Door was a little silly, pretty witty, and a whole lot of fun. I always wonder how they come up with such humorous antics and banter. It was great in this book with the way Greer and Trent started out hating each other. Max Monroe does enemies to lovers in the best way.

Second, Greer and Trent were the kind of characters you expect from Max Monroe. Each was slightly nutty in a humorous way. Greer was this outspoken, almost awkward, constantly late woman who you wish was your friend in real life. Trent was an uptight prick who was hiding a nice guy underneath. They were so “extra” in completely different ways.

Third, there’s tight, envy creating friendships. Greer and Emory were BBFs that I would be jealous of in real life. They had this tight friendship where they just got each other, and pushed each other when needed. Trent’s friendships were even more fun. Do I dare say the Trent – Caplin – Quince triangle reminded me a bit of the Kline – Thatcher – Wes friendship? It kind of did! (MM said Trent’s their new favorite over Thatch. I don’t know… I think if anyone is going to dethrone Thatch, it’s going to be Cap!) I loved how a couple of these friends even got a chapter or two in their point of view. Those chapters added so much and were perfect for this book!

Last (but not least), I have to talk about Greer and Trent’s relationship. I loved it. Somehow, their “extra” personalities made the a fascinating couple. Even while they were hating each other, I never doubted how perfect they would be together. They were so much fun to read about.

I know I just spent the last four paragraphs gushing, so I guess I should also mention a couple of the things that bugged me a tad. (Don’t worry, there’s not many.) It took me a few chapters to become invested in The Billionaire Boss Next Door. I won’t give too many details, but it takes some time to get things set up for Greer and Trent. At time I was reading, it had me wondering why I didn’t feel that initial connection to the story. Once the reason become apparent, I didn’t mind that the interaction between the characters took a little longer to take place than I expected. The other thing was The Billionaire Boss Next Door felt more slow burn and PG-13 than I was expecting from Max Monroe. I’m not really complaining about that. It was just enough different from their other billionaire series that is surprised me. I think some readers might be sad it’s not spicier.

Overall, I found The Billionaire Boss Next Door to be a delightful romantic comedy. It was had everything I’ve come to love in a Max Monroe novel. I’m very excited to find out what’s next to come in this series of standalone billionaire romances. I have a feeling Milo will be next, but I seriously can’t wait for Cap’s book.

 

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About Max Monroe:

A secret duo of romance authors team up under the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling pseudonym Max Monroe to bring you sexy, laugh-out-loud reads. Max Monroe is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of more than ten contemporary romance titles. Favorite writing partners and long time friends, Max and Monroe strive to live and write all the fun, sexy swoon so often missing from their Facebook newsfeed. Sarcastic by nature, their two writing souls feel like they’ve found their other half. This is their most favorite adventure thus far.

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Review: Hollywood Dirt (Alessandra Torre)

Hollywood Dirt
Author: Alessandra Torre
Publication Date: September 7, 2015
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Genre: Contemporary Romance, New Adult

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Cole Masten. Abandoned by his superstar wife, Hollywood’s Perfect Husband is now Hollywood’s Sexiest Bachelor: partying hard and screwing even harder. Watch out Los Angeles, there’s a new bad boy in town.

Summer Jenkins. That’s me, a small town girl stuck in Quincy, Georgia. I cook some mean chicken and dumplins, can bluff a grown man out of his savings in poker, and was voted Most Friendly my senior year.

We were from different worlds. Our lives shouldn’t have collided. But then Cole Masten read a book about my small town. And six months later, his jet landed on our dusty airstrip, and he brought Hollywood with him.

From the start, I knew he was trouble. For our town. And for me.

Sometimes, opposites just aren’t meant to attract.


Alessandra Torre is an author I’m slowly discovering. The three books I have now read written by her have all been different. Moonshot was romantic suspense. The Ghostwriter was a psychological thriller. Hollywood Dirt was a contemporary romance. I think I can safely say that Torre’s writing can’t be confined to one box. She’s able to crossover genres and write just about anything. I love her writing style no matter what she’s writing.

As I was saying, Hollywood Dirt is a contemporary romance. It’s set in the small town of Quincy, Georgia where there are a bunch of Coca Cola stock millionaires. The heroine, Summer, is not one of those people. She’s a young woman who hasn’t had the best of luck. Summer is the town outcast until Cole Masten comes to town. Cole is a uber famous actor who is making a movie about the history of the town. Summer and Cole are fireworks from the start. They don’t get off on the right track and quickly become enemies, but there’s that thin line between love and hate…

What I loved about Hollywood Dirt is that I was instantly drawn to Summer and all things Quincy. I loved the small town feel of the book and all the little things went into living in Quincy. I loved slowly discovering Summer’s history with the town. Her inner strength and how she was capable of standing her ground no matter who she was dealing with was awesome. She had spunk and I loved it. Summer wasn’t perfect, though, and her doubts and insecurities were so relatable.

My relationship with Cole Masten was much like Summer’s: it was love-hate. I didn’t particularly like him at first. He had the ego to go along with his celebrity status. I did like how his character grew and reexamined his choices, though. He ended up being a good guy in the end. I think my biggest issue with him (and this book) was the way he approached a part of his (non-)relationship with Summer. His actions were just sketchy and kind of skeezy.

Overall, I really enjoyed Hollywood Dirt. It had a great summery feel that would make it a fun beach read. I can easily see why it was made a movie.

Review: Fixing Us (Miranda Elaine)

Fixing Us
Series: Fixing, #3
Author: Miranda Elaine
Publication Date: May 16, 2019
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Gabriel Starr is the love of my life, even if he breaks my heart time and time again.

Like a fool, I keep going back, so I’ve made a promise to myself—one final night and then I’m done.

One night of passion.
No pressure. Most importantly, no future.

One month later, a positive pregnancy test tells me different.

Our only option is to raise this baby as friends, but how can we make it work when we can’t even keep our hands off each other?

We finally have the chance to be the family we never imagined we could be.
But first we need to focus on Fixing Us.


Fixing Us is the third book in the Fixing series by Miranda Elaine, but it’s the first book I have read by this author. What originally drew my attention and made me want to read Fixing Us was the blurb. I was very interested how things were going to work out for high school sweethearts turned exes turned hook ups to have a baby together and, of course, fall back in love. As you can tell by my 5 star rating, it worked out well for them and me.

Leigh Ann and Gabe were high school sweethearts until Gabe ruined their plans for a life together after graduation. Despite their breakup, Leigh Ann and Gabe have had a hard time staying away from each other — it’s a small town and all that. They have never been able to work out their differences, but that doesn’t stop them from hooking up when the need arises. That is what has finally got them into trouble 10+ years after high school. One night of passion has turned into an unplanned pregnancy. It’s life changing for both Leigh Ann and Gabe, but in different ways. Leigh Ann was ready to move on. Now she’s tied to Gabe for at least 18 years. Gabe never planned to have a family. Now he has to come to terms with the fact that he will. Leigh and Gabe have a lot to figure out in the 9 months before their baby is born.

I was fascinated by Leigh Ann and Gabe’s relationship. It had this air of sadness. It was easy to tell they both truly loved each other, but they had different ideas and plans for life. I felt bad that Gabe thought about himself the way he did, but I also applauded him for trying to do what he thought was right. I loved the moments where he learned and grew. Leigh Ann I just felt horrible for. That woman was trapped by her love for Gabe. I could empathize with her about trying to move on. Despite what he said or did at times, Gabe didn’t really allow for it. That didn’t mean that Leigh Ann didn’t have strength. She was an incredibly strong, smart woman. I was actually impressed by the way she handled everything — especially her unplanned pregnancy. Leigh Ann and Gabe were just in this weird, uncomfortable non-relationship that was complicated even more by the pregnancy. It all felt true to a real life relationship and situation. I loved how their relationship evolved and how everything worked out in the end.

I was super impressed with Fixing Us. This is Miranda Elaine’s third book, but her writing feels more seasoned than that. She made each of her characters shine with their distinctive voices. The story moved smoothly and kept me enthralled. The biggest compliment I can give this book is that it made me feel everything the characters were feeling. When a book can do that, I’m impressed. I will definitely be going back and reading the first two books in this series. I am excited to learn more about those characters.

If you’re interested in reading Fixing Us, it can be read as a standalone novel. Characters from the previous books show up, but I wasn’t confused by that. This book had a story of its own.

Mini Reviews: Rock Bottom Girl & Cruel Sanctuary

Rock Bottom Girl
Author: Lucy Score
Publication Date: March 8, 2019
Publisher: That’s What She Said Publishing
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Sports

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

“You may be faking the relationship, but you’re not faking the orgasms.”

Downsized, broke, and dumped, 38-year-old Marley sneaks home to her childhood bedroom in the town she couldn’t wait to escape twenty years ago. Not much has changed in Culpepper. The cool kids are still cool. Now they just own car dealerships and live in McMansions next door. Oh, and the whole town is still talking about that Homecoming she ruined her senior year.

Desperate for a new start, Marley accepts a temporary teaching position. Can the girl banned from all future Culpepper High Homecomings keep the losing-est girls soccer team in school history from killing each other and prevent carpal tunnel in a bunch of phone-clutching gym class students? Maybe with the help of Jake Weston, high school bad boy turned sexy good guy.

When the school rumor mill sends Marley to the principal’s office to sign an ethics contract, the tattooed track coach, dog dad, and teacher of the year becomes her new fake boyfriend and alibi—for a price. The Deal: He’ll teach her how to coach if she teaches him how to be in a relationship. Who knew a fake boyfriend could deliver such real orgasms? But it’s all temporary. The guy. The job. The team. There’s too much history. Rock bottom can’t turn into a foundation for happily ever after. Can it?

Warning: Story also includes a meet-puke, a bouffanted nemesis, a yard swan and donkey basketball, a teenage-orchestrated makeover, and a fake relationship that gets a little too real between the sheets.

My thoughts:

I have been seeing Rock Bottom Girl pop up just about everywhere online recently. I read a couple of great reviews for it, and decided I wanted to read it. I’m so glad I did! I have officially found another author whose back list of books I want to binge read. Rock Bottom Girl was a delight to read.

What did I love about this book? Everything. What really stood out, though, was the way 38 year old Marley was portrayed. Way older than people at this age normally act. It’s like they’re premature 80 year olds or something. Marley wasn’t like that. She was still trying to figure out life and navigate relationships. That’s what people are still going in their 30’s and 40’s, people. She (and Jake) were just so relatable. I loved that! Plus, this entire book was funny. It made me smile so much. It was one of those really enjoyable romantic comedies that I would love to see as a movie. You should read it.


Cruel Sanctuary
Series: Wages of Sin, #1
Author: Tara Leigh
Publication Date: March 22, 2019
Publisher: Tara Leigh Books
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

They say New York City is the Devil’s Playground.
They’re wrong.
This city belongs to me.
And so does Aislinn Granville.

She is a pampered politician’s daughter.
A decorative ornament, raised to smile and nod and do what she’s told.
Except… she doesn’t. Not with me. Ever.

In this city full of thugs and thieves, I’ve kept Aislinn safe.
From my enemies.
From me.

Until now.

My thoughts:

Cruel Sanctuary is a classic dark romance: A good girl gets swept up in a bad guy’s world —  which is actually her world, she just doesn’t know it yet. There’s sex, violence, and a political war waging. I enjoyed reading Cruel Sanctuary. It was fast paced and I liked the plot. The chemistry was there between Aislinn and Damien. My only issue is that things were a little stalky on Damien’s part. It was disturbing, but I have a feeling that the next book is going to explain that and it won’t feel as wrong. Overall, it was a fun dark romance.

Review: Pretty Reckless (L.J. Shen)

Pretty Reckless
Series: All Saints High, #1
Author: L.J. Shen
Publication Date: April 21, 2019

Publisher: L.J. Shen
Genre: Young Adult, New Adult, Sports, Contemporary Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

From USA Today and Washington Post bestselling author L.J. Shen comes an intense, high school enemies-to-lovers romance with a twist.

Penn

They say revenge is a dish best served cold.
I’d had four years to stew on what Daria Followhill did to me, and now my heart was completely iced.
I took her first kiss.
She took the only thing I loved.
I was poor.
She was rich.
The good thing about circumstances? They can change. Fast.
Now, I’m her parents’ latest shiny project.
Her housemate. Her tormentor. The captain of the rival football team she hates so much.
Yeah, baby girl, say it—I’m your foster brother.
There’s a price to pay for ruining the only good thing in my life, and she’s about to shell out some serious tears.
Daria Followhill thinks she is THE queen. I’m about to prove to her that she’s nothing but a spoiled princess.

Daria

Everyone loves a good old unapologetic punk.
But being a bitch? Oh, you get slammed for every snarky comment, cynical eye roll, and foot you put in your adversaries’ way.
The thing about stiletto heels is that they make a hell of a dent when you walk all over the people who try to hurt you.
In Penn Scully’s case, I pierced his heart until he bled out, then left it in a trash can on a bright summer day.
Four years ago, he asked me to save all my firsts for him.
Now he lives across the hall, and I want nothing more than to be his last everything.
His parting words when he gave me his heart were that nothing in this world is free.
Now? Now he is making me pay.


Pretty Reckless is the first book in the All Saints High series. This series is a spin-off of the Sinners of Saint series. You don’t have to read that series to read this one, but since Daria is the daughter of Melody and Jamie from Deny, it doesn’t hurt to know their back story.

The connection between All Saints High and Sinners of Saint is actually the reason I chose to read Pretty Reckless. I was a little on the fence because of the reviews I read. They were either completely gushing or completely negative. There wasn’t really an in between and worried me for some reason. I loved those Sinners of Saint books, so I didn’t want to hate Pretty Reckless. Weird rationalizing, I know. As you can tell, I decided to give it a go. Here are my feelings about it.

What I liked:

  • Daria’s relationship with her mother, Melody. To be honest, it was a horrible relationship. What I liked about it was that it was a real relationship. Both had made mistakes over time with each other, and it was interesting to see how they maneuvered through the tension.
  • Daria’s relationship with her father, Jamie. This was actually really sweet. I liked the support system he was for her.
  • Via. That girl was the perfect girl to keep Daria on her toes. I loved hating her.
  • Daria was another girl I loved to hate. This MC was HORRIBLE. I mean, wicked. I thought I was going to hate her, but I grew to understand her. Her backstory really set her up well. I ended up feeling sorry for her, which is saying something considering the terrible things that came out of her mouth.
  • Penn. His situation was messed up, which made him messed up. I loved his truths, though.
  • The enemies to lovers thing Daria and Penn had going on. The story behind it all and their current situation fascinated me.
  • The ending. I liked the trajectory of the story, and everything it took to get to the ending.
  • Seeing all of the Saints’ kids. I am looking forward to reading all of their books.

What I didn’t like:

  • Daria is the child of one of the toughest, most ruthless men in town. I knew her book was going to be dark like his. What I wasn’t expecting was there to be so much shock value. It was like L.J. Shen threw in every twisted scenario she could think of. There was almost too much. I think what threw me over that edge was this secrets thing. I won’t go into it, but it brought this cheesy feel to something that was super dark… Maybe that’s what gave this book the YA feel it needed.
  • YA. Yeah, this categorization is pushing it. Pretty Reckless was set at All Saints High, but with all the nasty things going on it felt more like one of Shen’s NA novels. The reader would have to be a VERY mature YA reader to read this one, in my opinion. (Re: Sex, partying, emotional/physical abuse, etc.)

Overall, I enjoyed being back in the world of the Saints. Pretty Reckless was a dark but surprisingly uplifting teenage romance. It has me excited for what’s to come. This new generation at All Saints High is going to be about an interesting bunch of teenagers.