Review: The Sweet Gum Tree by Katherine Allred

The Sweet Gum Tree
Author: Katherine Allread
Publication Date: May 12, 2005
Publisher: Ellora’s Cave
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Women’s Fiction, New Adult, Fiction

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Sweet tea, corn bread, and soup beans—everyday fare for eight-year-old Alix French, the precocious darling of a respected southern family. But nothing was ordinary about the day she met ten-year-old Nick Anderson, a boy from the wrong side of town. Armed with only a tin of bee balm and steely determination, Alix treats the raw evidence of a recent beating that mars his back, an act that changes both of their lives forever.

Through childhood disasters and teenage woes they cling together as friendship turns to love. The future looks rosy until the fateful night when Frank Anderson, Nick’s abusive father, is shot to death in his filthy trailer.

Suddenly, Nick is gone—leaving Alix alone, confused and pregnant. For the next fifteen years she wrestles with the pain of Nick’s abandonment, a bad marriage, her family and friends. But finally, she’s starting to get her life back together. Her divorce is almost final, her business is booming, and she’s content if not happy—until the day she looks up and sees Nick standing across the counter. He’s back…and he’s not alone.

Once again Alix is plunged into turmoil and pain as Nick tries to win her love, something she resists with all her strength. Only one thing might break the protective wall she’s built around her emotions—the truth about Frank Anderson’s death. But when that truth comes out and those walls crumble, neither Alix nor Nick is prepared for the emotional explosion that could destroy as well as heal.


The Sweet Gum Tree is not a book that I normally would have picked up. Honestly, the cover and title wouldn’t have appealed to me. Luckily, I read a review of it by Stephanie. Her review made The Sweet Gum Tree sound so interesting. I decided I wanted to read it and requested it from my local library. I’m so happy I did! I ended up really enjoying this book. I didn’t want to put it down. I read it one night, and stayed up super late to finish it.
When I first started reading The Sweet Gum Tree, I wondered what I was getting myself into. While the story was written in my favorite first person narration, it was told straight to me by the main character Alix rather than experiencing it with her. That felt really odd to me. I got used to it and kind of forgot about it. It didn’t ruin the book for me.

I loved the setting of The Sweet Gum Tree. I’m a big fan of books set in the southern United States. This one was even more special with it being set in a small town. I could easily imagine how closely tied together all of the characters were.

I really liked how the story started when Alix was a young girl and grew with her until adulthood. This was done in a great way. I got just enough of her story at important times in her life to understand how she ended up where she was an adult. I loved seeing how her relationship with Nick in all those years changed Alix. I adored Alex and Nick’s love for each other. It was so sweet and it grew from a very special friendship.

What drove me nuts about The Sweet Gum Tree was the lack of communication between the characters. That caused the majority of the problems, and showed just how immature the characters were — even into adulthood. Another thing that was a little frustrating was all the cheating involved in the story. It wasn’t described, so that wasn’t the problem. It was the way that the characters all reacted to it. It seemed like no big deal and was easily forgiven. That was just so odd.

Overall, The Sweet Gum Tree was a surprisingly addictive read. It wasn’t perfect in my eyes, but that didn’t matter. It drew me in, kept my attention, and left me satisfied in the end. If you’re a fan of women’s fiction, books set in the South, or books set in a small town, you might want to give The Sweet Gum Tree a try. It’s a special book.

Review: Professor Feelgood by Leisa Rayven

Professor Feelgood
Series: Masters of Love, #2
Author: Leisa Rayven
Publication Date: September 16, 2018
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Fiction
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

What’s a girl to do when a man who’s countless shades of wrong feels oh-so-right?

Ambitious book editor Asha Tate is a hopeless romantic. Despite her mediocre track record with men, she believes in swooning, sighing, and the everlasting love of true soul mates. Sure, sex is okay, but she’s not someone who’s ever been driven by her animal urges.

Until now.

When Asha stumbles upon the scorching hot Instagram feed of someone calling himself Professor Feelgood, she falls in lust for the first time. Not only is she left panting over the professor’s insane body, but his angst-filled poetry about losing his one true love speaks straight to her soul.

Desperately in need of a bestseller for her struggling publishing company, Asha knows the professor’s potential to sell to his millions of loyal followers could be the lifeline her bosses need. However, the ink is barely dry on a book deal before she realizes she’s made a terrible mistake. Sure, the professor is incredibly talented and sexier than any man has a right to be, but the man behind the persona isn’t at all who she pictured. In real life, he’s intense, arrogant and infuriating, and his uncanny ability to rub her the wrong way turns her dream project into a total nightmare.

Knowing that the professor is everything she doesn’t want in a man should help Asha ignore her occasional urges to mount him, but she quickly learns that explosive, unwanted chemistry can make even smart people do stupid things.


You know that feeling when you find a new author you love and you immediately want to read their entire backlist? That’s how I felt after reading Professor Feelgood by Leisa Rayven. I absolutely adored Professor Feelgood!

With a title like Professor Feelgood, I was expecting a super steamy read. What I got was an amazing slow burn romance. Professor Feelgood was more subtly sexy than anything. The combination of the Professor’s writings and the love-hate thing going on between him and Asha drove that. Their chemistry (even when they were avoiding it) was palpable. There was this deep bond between them that was very special. It made for a great story and romance.

I can’t say that I loved Asha at first. Not having read the first book in this series, I didn’t have a connection with her prior. I felt a little behind in her personal story. That didn’t matter that much because as the story went on I grew to know her and really like her. She had some hang ups I don’t normally read much about and I liked how that helped progress the story a certain way.

The Professor was a character I loved from the start. He was moody and raw. He wore his heart on his sleeve — or on his Instagram really. I loved his posts and the story he wove through them. I liked him even more after finding out who he was. The Professor’s identity took this book to a place I wasn’t expecting and that was so cool!

I can’t really say much more about Professor Feelgood because I don’t want to give away the surprises this romance has in store for the reader. What I will say is that it was an incredibly fun read. Contemporary romance fans will swoon over it. It’s made me want to go back and read not just the first book in this series, but all of Leisa Rayven’s books. I also REALLY want to read the Professor’s finished book!

Review: The Left Side of Perfect / The Right Side of Forever by Meghan Quinn


The Left Side of Perfect
Series: The Perfect Duet, #1
Author: Meghan Quinn
Publication Date: August 30, 2018
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Fiction
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

For better or for worse,’til death do us part . . .

The better captured me; she’s who stole my heart.
And made me realize I couldn’t live without this woman.
The worse of her took my breath away–kicked me when I was down and twisted me into a million knots.

When I first met her, I thought she was someone I would never see again.
The second time I ran into her, it was a random coincidence.
The third?
I didn’t know it at the time, but she was the girl I was going to marry.

But life isn’t always perfect. You have to take the better and the worse–even if it means giving her up, having her slip between your fingers, and letting her walk away.

I’m getting married.

This is forever, ’til death do us part.

Review:

Writing this review is going to kill me because there are so, so many things I want to say about The Left Side of Forever and I can’t because I don’t want to spoil it! It’s driving me absolutely crazy. So here are the things I can safely say without ruining this book for anyone…

  • Meghan Quinn has a crafty way of making you want what you thought you didn’t want and would never want.
  • She played with my emotions. I loved this book, but my gut was aching while reading parts of it.
  • This book made me remember why I loved a certain character. He was better than I had him in my memory and that’s saying a lot. I have so much respect for this fictional character!
  • I liked one of the main characters WAY more than I expected to. This person wasn’t one of my favorite characters from the Blue Line Duet. The last I read of the person, I was like, No! Wait! What?” I didn’t get it. I do now.
  • My heart broke with some revelations. I was so crushed. I can’t even get into it because SPOILER!, but man!
  • I loved the new-ish characters. Although, one made me very nervous!
  • There are some AMAZING quotes that people are going to identify with and love. I can imagine that people are going to be using them a ton.
  • THE ENDING!!! I’m devastated. Not in the same way as I was with the Blue Line Duet. That was anger. This is sorrow.
  • I loved this book, and I’m so happy that I have the next book in the duet, The Right Side of Forever waiting for me to start right now.

I know this doesn’t tell you much. It’s not really supposed to. The Left Side of Perfect is one of those books you are going to have to read for yourself — and you’re going to want to! (Just make sure to read the Blue Line Duet FIRST!!!)

AMAZON US | AMAZON UK | AMAZON CA | AMAZON AU

GOODREADS


The Right Side of Forever
Series: The Perfect Duet, #2
Author: Meghan Quinn
Publication Date: August 30, 2018
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Fiction
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

In sickness and in health, to love and to cherish . . .

It sounds so simple, to love someone unconditionally.
To give them your heart.

So why is she slowly eating away at my soul with every unanswered phone call, every unread text, and every door left unopened?

She said yes, and yet, in order for her to be with me . . . I need to let her go.

Review:

You know those books you finish and you feel like you don’t even have the words to describe how special they are? The Right Side of Forever was one of those books for me. It was perfect in every way. It made me smile and it made me tear up. It not only made me think of what the characters were going through, but of my own thoughts and actions. The Right Side of Forever brought the journey that started in the Blue Line Duet full circle. I finally understood all of Meghan Quinn’s plot choices and I wouldn’t have her change a thing. The amount of character growth and emotion that went into this book was amazing. The Right Side of Perfect was the perfect conclusion to this story and the one that really started four books ago.

Now, I just have one question for Meghan Quinn…Will she ever write a book about any of these other Air Force guys? I wouldn’t mind a Rowdy story. Just sayin’.

AMAZON
GOODREADS


 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Born in New York and raised in Southern California, Meghan has grown into a sassy, peanut butter eating, blonde haired swearing, animal hoarding lady. She is known to bust out and dance if “It’s Raining Men” starts beating through the air and heaven forbid you get a margarita in her, protect your legs because they may be humped.

Once she started commuting for an hour and twenty minutes every day to work for three years, she began to have conversations play in her head, real life, deep male voices and dainty lady coos kind of conversations. Perturbed and confused, she decided to either see a therapist about the hot and steamy voices running through her head or start writing them down. She decided to go with the cheaper option and started writing… enter her first novel, Caught Looking.

Now you can find the spicy, most definitely on the border of lunacy, kind of crazy lady residing in Colorado with the love of her life and her five, furry four legged children, hiking a trail or hiding behind shelves at grocery stores, wondering what kind of lube the nervous stranger will bring home to his wife. Oh and she loves a good boob squeeze!

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Review: Crew by Tijan

Crew
Series: Crew, #1
Author: Tijan
Publication Date: August 27, 2018
Genre: (Mature) Young Adult, Contemporary, Fiction, Romance
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

To survive where I live, you have two options.

You can be a Normal—a cheerleader, jock, member of the debate team, or on the yearbook committee. You pretend everything is normal.

Or you can be crew.
You insult us? We hurt you.
You hurt us? We really hurt you.
And if you f*ck with us, we will end you.

My name is Bren.
I’m the only female in the Wolf Crew—the best, fiercest, and most dangerous crew there is—and we have a rule: There’s no falling in love.

Well… too late.


Holy moly, people!

I have been a fan of Tijan’s writing since I found Broken & Screwed and then the Fallen Crest High series. Her YA books are my guilty pleasure. They straddle the line between YA and NA, and are like a good teenage TV drama. I was excited to hear Tijan was heading back to the YA realm with Crew. Despite that, I was a tad bit hesitant to start reading it. I had this feeling that it was going to hit hard emotionally. I admit I was slightly scared of where it might take me. I wasn’t sure I was ready.  I knew it was going to be special, though.

Crew was EPIC. I was utterly addicted to it from beginning to end. Crew was classic Tijan mature YA. If you have read Fallen Crest High, Broken & Screwed, or Ryan’s Bed, you will know what I’m talking about it. Crew was all about different relationships, drama, and angst. There were friendships, alliances, romances, enemies, family. You name it, it was involved. I loved being in the world of Crew.

Crew, like all of Tijan’s books, had a strong but emotionally damaged female main character. Bren’s life was filled with a lot of darkness and a little bit of light. She embraced life with the Wolf Crew. The crew wasn’t just something she belonged to, it was her family. It was her way of life. Bren was crew. How that affected her life and choices was fascinating.

The whole story was fascinating! I loved the all the surprises Tijan threw in. I was shocked by how much the crew thing interested me. It opened my eyes to some things and I didn’t expect that. I really loved the dynamic between Bren and the rest of the crew. I specifically loved the impact the crew had on her love life. She had a very special connection with someone and I adored this relationship. Her man was my favorite character in this story. His strength was different from hers, and how he used it was very cool.

There’s so, so much I want to say about Crew! I can’t, though. My lips are sealed. I won’t be spoiling this book for you. If you loved any of those other Tijan books I mentioned earlier in this review, you MUST read Crew. You will LOVE it. Whatever I thought Crew was going to be before reading it was right, but it was also MORE. You’re going to love that more. I did.

**Full-length novel. First book in a YA Series. This is 100% a new series from TIJAN. All new characters in the Tijanverse and is intended for mature audiences only. This book is dark, violent, and not for the faint of heart.** 

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Paperback:

Tijan’s Reader group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/TijansFanPage/

*Kindle Unlimited is a subscription that allows you to access a large selection of titles from the Kindle Store. … You can keep up to ten titles to read on any Amazon device or Kindle reading app and there are no due dates.

Review: If There’s No Tomorrow by Jennifer L. Armentrout

If There’s No Tomorrow
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Narrator: Jorjeana Marie
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Publisher: Harlequin Audio
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Fiction

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Lena Wise is always looking forward to tomorrow, especially at the start of her senior year. She’s ready to pack in as much friend time as possible, to finish college applications, and to maybe let her childhood best friend Sebastian know how she really feels about him. For Lena, the upcoming year is going to be one of opportunities and chances.Until one choice, one moment, destroys everything.Now Lena isn’t looking forward to tomorrow. Not when friend time may never be the same. Not when college applications feel all but impossible. Not when Sebastian could never forgive her for what happened.For what she let happen.With the guilt growing each day, Lena knows that her only hope is to move on. But how can she move on when tomorrow isn’t even guaranteed?


If There’s No Tomorrow is the first book I’ve read / listened to by Jennifer L. Armentrout. I’ve seen her books around and thought they probably weren’t my thing. For some reason, I thought all of her books had fantasy elements in them. To be completely honest, the only reason I requested this audio book was because Stephanie told me I should consider this author for my fantasy NA bingo checklist. I chose this one because it was available from library. It wasn’t a fantasy at all. I couldn’t find any reason to be disappointed in that other than it didn’t check off that box because I loved this book. It was a great introduction to Jennifer L. Armentrout’s writing and it made me actually interested in her fantasy novels.

Keeping with the whole honesty thing I have going on in this review, I have to warn readers that this book was slow going. I’m not sure if that was just because I was listening to it and the narrator had a slow and somber way of delivering the text or if it was actually a slow read. At first, this kind of bugged me because I wanted to yell at her to get on with the story. As the story progressed, it made sense with Lena’s thoughts and feelings. She was so in her head, and the narrator did an excellent job portraying that.

As for the story, I loved it. There were so many different emotions that went along with it. Lena was such a complex character. Her thoughts and feelings about everything and everyone were so well written. She’s a character I was easily frustrated by but completely understood. It was uncomfortable being in her head, but it paid off in the end. Her story was one that needs to be shared. It truly showed how one bad decision can change everything — especially when it comes to drinking and driving. I also felt it did a great job at portraying survivors guilt. I’ve never been in the position to have that type of guilt, but I felt it through Lena.

Overall, I felt that If There’s No Tomorrow is an important, timeless read. It’s geared to young adults, but I think adults would benefit from reading it as well.

Review: Big Stick by R.C. Stephens

Big Stick
Author: R.C. Stephens
Publication Date: September 17, 2018
Publisher: Entangled Publishing LLC
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Fiction, New Adult, Sports
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Hockey is my life. And it’s a great one. There’s an endless line of women, and I get to hang with my best friend Oli. Everything is perfect until she shows up. Oli’s twin sister, Flynn…hates my guts. I don’t blame her. I’m part of one of the worst nights of her life.

Now she’s next door and seeing her every day is killing me slowly. I wonder if we can ever get back to being friends. The way she looks at me sometimes, well, let’s just say my hockey stick isn’t the only thing that’s feeling hard these days.

But if she finds out the secrets I’m keeping, forgiveness will be the last thing on her mind.


Big Stick is one of those books that caught my eye by the title and cover — but for reasons you wouldn’t think. It wasn’t the half-naked man or what “big stick” could possibly be. I am a sports romances. Hockey romances are usually very well done. I learn a little more about the sport each time and get to fall in love with (normally) a cute couple. So when I saw the title Big Stick and the hockey stick, I clicked “request” on NetGalley. I’m really glad I did.

Big Stick was not just a hockey romance. It was also a second chance romance between childhood best friends. Flynn was a tomboy growing up. She hung out with her twin brother, Oli, and their best friend Myles constantly. As she got older, Flynn developed a major crush on Myles. Their friendship was dramatically severed in high school, and Flynn has been avoiding Myles for years. That all changes when Flynn is forced to move in next door to Myles.

I’m fairly new to R.C. Stephens writing. I enjoyed it a lot. It was fast-paced and easy to relate to. I appreciated that she included dual points of view. That gave me a good look into what her characters were thinking and feeling.

Myles and Flynn were fun characters. I liked the dynamic they had going on. They had great chemistry. It wasn’t quite a hate to love thing, but close. Flynn feelings were all over the place, and I loved her hesitation to renew her friendship with Myles. Myles desperately wanted to have Flynn’s friendship and possibly more back, and wasn’t going to let everything that happened in the past keep him from her anymore. It was sweet and frustrating in the best way to watch them dance around each other.

I had one problem with Big Stick. It was so over dramatic at times. Some heavy stuff had happened to Myles and Flynn. I got that and I understood why their relationship was they way it was. What I didn’t quite get was the reaction Flynn had to Myles’ big secret. Honestly, I was shocked at how affected Flynn was by it at this point. It just seemed like she was reacting to the same thing over and over again even though it wasn’t exactly the same. That was really just a small part of this story, though. It didn’t take away my enjoyment of Flynn and Myles’ story.

The weird thing about Big Stick was my favorite thing about it. I adored Flynn’s best friend and brother. They kind of stole the show for me. I actually found myself more interested in them than Myles and Flynn by the end of the book. I’m really hoping there’s going to be a second book about them. Sign me up to read that one now!

Overall, Big Stick was a great contemporary sports romance. Fans of that genre are sure to enjoy this book.

Review: Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren

Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating
Author: Christina Lauren
Publication Date: September 4, 2018
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Fiction
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

Most men can’t handle Hazel. With the energy of a toddler and the mouth of a sailor, they’re often too timid to recognize her heart of gold. New York Times and #1 international bestselling author Christina Lauren (Roomies, Beautiful Bastard) tells the story of two people who are definitely not dating, no matter how often they end up in bed together.

Hazel Camille Bradford knows she’s a lot to take—and frankly, most men aren’t up to the challenge. If her army of pets and thrill for the absurd don’t send them running, her lack of filter means she’ll say exactly the wrong thing in a delicate moment. Their loss. She’s a good soul in search of honest fun.

Josh Im has known Hazel since college, where her zany playfulness proved completely incompatible with his mellow restraint. From the first night they met—when she gracelessly threw up on his shoes—to when she sent him an unintelligible email while in a post-surgical haze, Josh has always thought of Hazel more as a spectacle than a peer. But now, ten years later, after a cheating girlfriend has turned his life upside down, going out with Hazel is a breath of fresh air.

Not that Josh and Hazel date. At least, not each other. Because setting each other up on progressively terrible double blind dates means there’s nothing between them…right?


Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating is the story of an unlikely friendship that turns into more. Josh and Hazel met in college. They weren’t friends, but they had some priceless interactions with each other. Fast forward ten years, to Josh and Hazel running into each other at a party. Hazel knows Josh is too hot for her (plus he has a girlfriend), so Hazel decides she and Josh will be best friends.  Despite Josh’s hesitancy to be Hazel’s friend, their platonic friendship blossoms. When Josh and his girlfriend break up, Hazel and Josh start a string of horrendous double blind dates. Soon, Josh and Hazel begin to realize maybe they’re setting each other up with the wrong people.

Oh my goodness. This book! It was so entertaining. I could not put it down. I absolutely adored everything about it. This is one of the best friends to lovers books I’ve ever read. The way Josh and Hazel became friends was perfection. The way their friendship turns into more was perfection. The whole stinking thing was just so cute and entertaining.

I adored Hazel. She was super kooky, but she had the best heart. Hazel wasn’t afraid to be herself, and I loved that. I could understand how people were easily drawn into her orbit. I loved that she knew that the friends that stuck around through her weirdness were the special people in her life. She was such a special character. She’s now one of my all time favorites.

Josh was just as amazing as Hazel, but in a completely different way. He was the calm to her storm. Josh was more on the uptight end of things, and I loved how Hazel brought him out of his shell. My favorite thing about Josh was his ability to see the beauty in Hazel’s quirky personality. Josh and Hazel were so magical together. He loved her for who she was and didn’t want to change her. Hazel was the same way about Josh. That’s what love is, people.

My only disappointment with Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating was the predictability of it. I could see where this book was headed before the 50% mark. It actually wasn’t that big of a disappointment for me. I still enjoyed every minute I spent with it. In fact, I utterly adored every minute. I am in love with this book!

It doesn’t shock me that I loved a book Christina Lauren wrote. They’re quickly becoming on of my favorite writing duos. What surprises me is how each book is so different and unique. While the highly emotional Love and Other Words is one of my favorite books of 2018, the hilarious Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating could easily be was well. To me, that’s the sign of incredible writing.

Review: Dr. Strange Beard by Penny Reid

Dr. Strange Beard
Series: Winston Brothers, #5
Author: Penny Reid
Publication Date: July 30, 2018
Publisher: Cipher- Naught
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Fiction
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

Hunches, horse races, and heartbreak

Ten years after Simone Payton broke his heart, all Roscoe Winston wants is a doughnut. He’d also like to forget her entirely, but that’s never going to happen. Roscoe remembers everything—every look, every word, every single unrequited second—and the last thing he needs is another memory of Simone.

Unfortunately, after one chance encounter, Simone keeps popping up everywhere he happens to be . . .

Ten years after Roscoe Winston dropped out of her life, all Simone Payton wants is to exploit him. She’d also like some answers from her former best friend about why he ghosted her, but if she never gets those answers, that’s a-okay. Simone let go of the past a long time ago. Seriously, she has. She totally, totally has. She is definitely not still thinking about Roscoe. Nope. She’s more than happy to forget he exists.

But first, she needs just one teeny-tiny favor . . .


I waited a day after finishing reading Dr. Strange Beard to write this review because I couldn’t decide how I felt about it. Even after waiting, I still feel a little undecided to how much I liked it. There were some truly great things about it. Then there were some things that didn’t float my boat.

Let’s start with the great. Penny Reid’s writing was its ever witty, smart self. I loved having to look up several big words that made an appearance. I can always count on her to teach me something new. I learned several things in this book. The previous Winston Brothers characters were just as amazing as they have been in the past. I loved their appearances and how they added to the story. I adored Roscoe. I wanted more of him. I didn’t realize just how sentimental and sweet he was going to be.

Now for the things that left me feeling a little meh. The five year time jump from the previous book was confusing. I had to think hard about where the characters were in life the last time I saw them because where they were now threw me. I felt like I missed some pretty big things. I didn’t remember Roscoe and Simone’s friendship or their characters having the personalities they did. It took me a LONG time to get Roscoe’s fascination with Simone. Actually, I still don’t know if I get it. She was so…odd. Simone felt almost like a mixture of some of Penny Reid’s other female characters except that I didn’t feel like I got deep enough into her backstory to understand what made her the way she was. This made the first half of this book a miss for me.

The second half of this book is what saved it for me. As Simone and Roscoe’s relationship advanced, so did my feelings about them as a couple. I liked what they had together. I still didn’t get Simone, but I could understand Roscoe’s feelings towards her better. I also really loved what was going on in the story at that point. The twists were very exciting and left me wanting more.

Dr. Strange Beard wasn’t my favorite in the Winston Brother‘s series, but it ended up being an entertaining read. It seems to have set up something I think I’m really going to like for Billy’s story. I can’t wait to read that one!

Here is an EXCERPT from Dr. Strange Beard:

“Simone, this is not one of our adventures from when we were kids. This is not finding Blithe Tanner’s cat. These men are murderers, drug dealers, thieves.”

“I know.” Boy oh boy, did I know. I didn’t want to be here anymore than he did. I was frightened. Yet allowing Roscoe to be taken on his own hadn’t been an option. “I can handle myself, and I can provide backup for you, if you need it.”

Roscoe gripped my shoulders. “Nothing can happen to you, do you understand?” His words were emphatic, his gaze disoriented, desolate, frantic. “If anything happens to you, I’ll . . .” He swallowed, apparently unable to finish the sentence.

My heart twisted to see him like this. I wished there were some way to show him what I could do, what I was capable of, so he would stop seeing me as a liability.

Well, why can’t you?

“Huh.”

Now there was a thought.

Stepping out of his grip, I walked backward to the other side of the room and took a deep breath. “Okay. Come at me.”

He blinked. “What?”

“I want you to come at me.”

“Simone,” he seethed.

“Come at me, bro.” I did that little movement with my fingers, my palm turned upwards. “Come at me or I’ll start singing again.”

“I’m not doing this.”

“Fine.”Frustrating. “I’ll come at you.”

He stood there, features set, looking raw.

Moving quickly forward, staying light on my feet, I faked right and then went left, hooking him behind the back of his leg, catching his arm to twist behind his back, and sending him to the ground—face-first—with a thud.

I winced as he grunted, my knee at the base of his spine, his arm restrained behind his back. “Sorry! But you wouldn’t listen to me.” Leaning forward, I whispered in his ear, “Are you okay? Did I hurt you?”

Roscoe’s back and shoulders rose and fell with an expansive breath, like he was about to respond, but in the next moment he’d spun his legs to the right, leveraged my knee on his back to throw me off-balance, and slipped his wrist from my hold.

In my defense, my grip had been lax as I was purposefully trying not to injure him.

The next thing I knew, Roscoe had me pinned to the ground, air knocked out of me, him hovering above, and my gun digging into my ribs beneath my shirt. He’d been careful to subdue my legs, likely so he wouldn’t end up with a bruised ballsack.

His stare more probing than angry—which I took as a good sign—he said, “I didn’t teach you that. Where’d you learn that?”

Even though I was still coughing, I smiled and rasped, “Since college, take judo.”

He nodded faintly, his eyes moving between mine, looking concerned. “Are you okay? Did I hurt you?”

“No.” Endeavoring to catch my breath, I said, “I took it easy on you because I didn’t want to hurt you either, but I’m an asset, not a liability.”

“You’re definitely an asset.” Roscoe frowned, his gaze dropping to my mouth. “And a distraction,” he said, his voice rough.

“I’m a distraction?” I asked, my words still breathy.

I bucked, but he held me fast.

“Yes. . .” His stare turned inward. “You are most definitely a distraction.”

Even though I’d had plenty of time to recover and we’d been holding still for close to a minute, I was still breathing hard. This might have been because of my lingering irritation. Or, maybe it was because the length of Roscoe’s lean body was lying on mine. He held my hands on either side of my head, our faces even, his mouth just inches away.

Was it insane that I hoped he kissed me?

Yes?

No?

Let’s go with no.

He gave me his eyes again and I saw something there, a battle. He looked undecided, at war with himself, straining against something I couldn’t see.

“Roscoe?” I whispered.

Roscoe closed his eyes, and I thought he was going to let me go, but in the next second his lips descended, capturing my mouth in a tender kiss.

I moaned.

I kissed him back.

That’s what one does when Roscoe Winston kisses one. Moan and kiss. Repeat. Because not doing so would be a travesty.

His hold on my hands slacked, his fingers seeking and threading with mine. He settled his hips between my legs, his form relaxing. The weight of him was different now, warmer somehow. At least I felt warm. I also felt cherished as his tongue sought mine, again tenderly, stroking, causing my abdomen to twist and tighten into delicious knots.

He broke the kiss and a protest died on my lips as his mouth trailed down my jaw to the sensitive skin of my neck, sucking, licking, savoring me. What had felt warm and cherishing heated, and my hips tilted reflexively as he nibbled on my ear, cradling his rapidly growing erection.

We both gasped as his hips rocked in an answering yet inelegant movement. It felt perfect and essential in the moment.

“Oh God.” His hot breath spilled against my jaw, a ragged sigh. “What are we doing?”

“I don’t know, but don’t stop.”

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Review: The Accidentals by Sarina Bowen

The Accidentals
Author: Sarina Bowen
Publication Date: July 10, 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Never ask a question unless you’re sure you want the truth.

I’ve been listening to my father sing for my whole life. I carry him in my pocket on my mp3 player. It’s just that we’ve never met face to face.

My mother would never tell me how I came to be, or why my rock star father and I have never met. I thought it was her only secret. I was wrong.

When she dies, he finally appears. Suddenly I have a first class ticket into my father’s exclusive world. A world I don’t want any part of – not at this cost.
Only three things keep me going: my a cappella singing group, a swoony blue-eyed boy named Jake, and the burning questions in my soul. There’s a secret shame that comes from being an unwanted child. It drags me down, and puts distance between me and the boy I love.

My father is the only one alive who knows my history. I need the truth, even if it scares me.


Welcome to YA, Sarina Bowen!

Sarina Bowen is one of my most favorite NA/Adult contemporary romance writers. When I learned she was going to be writing her first YA novel, I was really excited. Based on what she’s done in NA/Adult, I could only imagine what type of YA novel she would write. I knew it was going to be amazing, and I was right!

The Accidentals is the story of a teenager who finally gets to meet the father she’s only known through the press after her mother dies. It’s a bittersweet pill for Rachel to swallow. She can’t help but feel guilty over the joy of meeting the man her mother wanted to keep her away from. As Rachel gets to know her father, she meets Jake. Jake is perfect for Rachel, if she doesn’t let her past ruin her present.

I was immediately impressed with The Accidentals. It had me hooked from page one. The story was so emotional. Being in Rachel’s shoes would have been so hard. I can’t imagine having my biggest dream fulfilled while losing the most important person in my life. It would have been devastating, and it was to her. Her sense of guilt and loss radiated off the pages.

The rest of the characters were just as well written as Rachel. Frederick was the perfectly flawed musician. Rachel’s relationship with him developed in a guarded way that I really enjoyed. I also liked how her friendships went through ups and downs. The one with Haze was especially interesting to me.

What was surprising to me was the romance in The Accidentals. It took a backseat to everything else going on in the book. I was expecting the story to revolve more around it, but was glad that it didn’t. I liked Rachel’s romance with Jake, but the relationship with her mother and father were more important. I loved that was the focus.

As far as I’m concerned, Sarina Bowen’s first step into the world of YA was perfection. I absolutely adored The Accidentals. I hope this was just the first of many YA books to come from Bowen.

Review: I Think I Love You by Lauren Layne

They were “just friends.” Until one tried to teach the other the art of seduction … And became thoroughly seduced.
I THINK I LOVE YOU
Oxford – Book 5
Lauren Layne
Releasing July 10, 2018
Loveswept
A game of seduction between two best friends goes deliciously wrong in an irresistible Oxford Novel that brims with wit and sexual tension. Library Journal hails Layne’s work as “exemplary contemporary romance.”
 
Brit Robbins knows that dating in New York City is hard—she just hoped to have it mastered by age thirty. But after yet another promising suitor says they have no sparks, Brit decides it’s time to torch her dating game and try a new plan. And who better to coach Brit through the art of seduction than the guy who first gave her the “let’s be friends” card?
 
Hunter Cross has always figured there’s nothing his best friend Brit can do to surprise him. But Brit’s request is a surprise he doesn’t see coming—and one he’s definitely not prepared for. Hunter and Brit have always been careful to keep things perfectly platonic, but the fake dates and faux flirting are starting to feel like the real deal. And soon Hunter realizes he has taught Brit too well. Not only has she become an expert at seduction, the man becoming thoroughly seduced is him.
 
NOW AVAILABLE!
Review:

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

I Think I Love You proves yet again why Lauren Layne is one of my go-to contemporary romance authors. I can always depend on her to give me a romance that will make me smile and swoon. She did just that with I Think I Love You.

In I Think I Love You, it’s finally Hunter and Britt’s turn to fall in love. They’ve been best friends and co-workers for years. They spend the majority of their time together, and have honestly never been attracted to each other. Hunter and Britt have one of those special platonic friendships no believes are real, but theirs is… Or at least it is until Britt asks Hunter to teach her the art of seduction.

This book was a typical LL read. She took me on a fun and fast-paced journey from friendship to love. I enjoyed every minute of it. There wasn’t a ton of drama, and I loved watching Hunter and Britt realize they really were more than just friends. I also enjoyed seeing the other members of the Oxford Stiletto gang again. I Think I Love You was a great ending to an incredibly fun series.

Lauren Layne is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than two dozen romantic comedies. Her books have sold over a million copies, in nine languages. Lauren’s work has been featured in Publishers WeeklyGlamourThe Wall Street Journal, and Inside Edition. She is based in New York City.
Giveaway:
*Lauren is hosting a Tour Wide Giveaway for TWO gifted Amazon e-copies of
I KNEW YOU WERE TROUBLE.

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