2017 Monthly Status Update: July

download.jpg

July was a fairly productive month for me, I got a good amount of reading done and some good Blog Tour posts. I also started a new workout program which I have been trying to stick with and its been working well for me to help me manage my time as well. I’m looking forward to using a couple vacations to catch up on my reading! So below is my progress for July:

Monthly Stats:
# books read this month: 11
# pages read this month: 3,221
# books read year-to-date: 64
# pages read year-to-date: 18,798

Favorite Books I Read:

I Have Never by Camilla Isley – 4.75 stars
Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza – 5.0 stars

Other Posts this month:

Storming the Castle BLOG TOUR!!
The Duke of Defiance BLOG TOUR!!
I Have Never BLOG TOUR!!

Status of 2017 Reading Challenges:

  1. Finish 2016 ARC’s from NetGalley that I missed – Haven’t read any since last month so still have 27 to go
  2. Participate in 2 reading challenges – During May I participated in the Bout of Books challenge. Next one is scheduled for August (this coming month)
  3. Other goals:
    1. Write shorter reviews – I think I’m doing better at this, this past month I was able to get out a few shorter ones
    2. Continue establishing relationships – I think I’m doing it, we’ll see how it goes I guess!

Next Month TBR List:

I read all but one of the books on my TBR from last month, which was great. I’m trying to be ambitious for this next month with the ARC August and the vacation I have coming up. Might not get to all of these but hopefully will get to most!!

-Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber
-Emerald Coast by Anita Hughes
-Leave the Night On by Laura Trentham
-If The Creek Don’t Rise by Leah Weiss
-Bad Girl Gone by Temple Mathews
-Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker
-Seeing Red by Sandra Brown
-13 Dates by Matt Dunn
-The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carcy
-The Other Girl by Erica Spindler
-Ready to Run by Lauren Layne
-The Uncertain Season by Ann Howard Creel
-Pretend You’re Safe by Alexandra Ivy

Hope everyone’s summer is going well!! Happy reading!!

2017 Book #64 – The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond

51TG3KmYm6LTitle: The Marriage Pact
Author: Michelle Richmond
Date finished: 7/30/17
Genre: Fiction, thriller
Publisher: Bantam
Publication Date: July 25, 2017
Pages in book: 433
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple. Alice, once a singer in a well-known rock band, is now a successful lawyer. Jake is a partner in an up-and-coming psychology practice. Their life together holds endless possibilities. After receiving an enticing wedding gift from one of Alice’s prominent clients, they decide to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact.
The goal of The Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact. And most of its rules make sense. Always answer the phone when your spouse calls. Exchange thoughtful gifts monthly. Plan a trip together once per quarter. . . . 
Never mention The Pact to anyone.
Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, their widening social circle of like-minded couples.
And then one of them breaks the rules.
The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life. And The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce that rule.
For Jake and Alice, the marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.

My rating:  3.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Jake and Alice, a newlywed couple who are new members of The Pact. The Pact is a secret organization whose goal is to help its members have strong and lasting marriages. Founded by a woman in Ireland whose first marriage failed but was determined for her second marriage to succeed, The Pact is a complex series of rules and punishments which seem outrageous but each member of the group seems to be happy in a hypnotized / cult kind of way. And once Alice and Jacob start getting into trouble they realize that there is a lot more danger with being a part of this group than they first realized.
Overall this book was ok. There was some interesting pieces to the book and it was a creative idea. And there were definitely some good plot twists included. I wasn’t super thrilled with the ending though. I just felt like there was a lot of build up for a weird and kind of anti-climactic ending. It was still good so I would recommend but it wasn’t my favorite.

The bottom line: Eh, this book wasn’t my favorite. There were some interesting pieces and some good twists and turns but overall it was weird and slightly confusing. And I felt like it could’ve been a better twist ending.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2017 Book #63 – Her Fake Engagement by Gigi Garrett

51jp6ZXjDhLTitle: Her Fake Engagement
Author: Gigi Garrett
Date finished: 7/23/17
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: August 29, 2017
Pages in book: 100ish?
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Heroes & Heartbreakers
I downloaded this e-book from the site

Blurb from the cover:

No artists, no smokers, no men with beards… Manhattan real estate broker Lottie Langerman feels confident that if she follows her long list of dating rules, she’ll meet The One and her life will unfold exactly as planned. Everything changes when her best friend decides to throw a fake bachelorette party—just to see what all the fuss is about—and Lottie reluctantly agrees to play the role of bride-to-be for a night.
Faking an engagement turns out to be more fun—and trouble—than Lottie could have imagined. Not only does her dream man think she’s taken, but Lottie keeps running into bearded Brooklyn jewelry designer Tyler, who breaks every single one of her rules…yet manages to get under her skin like no one else. Soon, Lottie finds herself at a crossroads where she must decide: Play it safe—or ditch the rules and follow her heart?
A HeroesandHeartbreakers.com Original Novella!

My rating:  2.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I get the newsletter from Heroes and Heartbreakers on a daily basis and I saw this novella being advertised to members of the site a month ahead of it being released to the general public. I had some “free” time this weekend so I thought I would give this book a shot. It wasn’t my favorite, there was a situation between Lottie and her girlfriends that I didn’t agree with. They got in a fight partly because Lottie wanted to go home before midnight on a Saturday night while they’re out for the third weekend in a row. I’m sorry but I don’t think that’s something that should be disallowed. I like going to bed early and I hate when people make me feel guilty for it, so I felt like this kind of hit a nerve for me. And I had some trouble connecting with the hero and heroine in the story, I didn’t think there was a lot of emotional tension in the book. Other than that though this was an ok romantic comedy / contemporary romance.

The bottom line: This short story was ok. It wasn’t my favorite but it wasn’t bad.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2017 Book #62 – Hello Sunshine by Laura Dave

515tgDMkSOLTitle: Hello Sunshine
Author: Laura Dave
Date finished: 7/21/17
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: July 11, 2017
Pages in book: 256
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Sunshine Mackenzie has it all…until her secrets come to light.

Sunshine Mackenzie is living the dream—she’s a culinary star with millions of fans, a line of #1 bestselling cookbooks, and a devoted husband happy to support her every endeavor.
And then she gets hacked.
When Sunshine’s secrets are revealed, her fall from grace is catastrophic. She loses the husband, her show, the fans, and her apartment. She’s forced to return to the childhood home—and the estranged sister—she’s tried hard to forget. But what Sunshine does amid the ashes of her own destruction may well save her life.
In a world where celebrity is a careful construct, Hello, Sunshine is a compelling, funny, and evocative novel about what it means to live an authentic life in an inauthentic age.

My rating:  3.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Sunshine Mackenzie (Stevens), a celebrity chef whose career is almost 10 years in the making. On the cusp of the greatest developments in her career, including a Food Network show and a book series, someone has apparently become determined to take her down. Within one day she loses everything: her career, her home, and her husband. Forced down about a million pegs and with no on else to turn to, Sunshine is forced to crawl home with her tail between her legs. And to her actual home in the Hamptons and not the Texas small town that everyone believed she was from. There she confronts a sister she hasn’t spoken to in years and a niece she doesn’t know at all. Sunshine comes up with a plan to put her life back to the way it was, but the enforcement of said plan becomes questionable after she begins reconnecting to her roots. And in the end Sunshine has to decide if her old life is something that she really wants back.
Overall this book was just ok for me. I didn’t love it but I didn’t dislike it either. It was interesting for the most part but there were also a lot of pieces that either didn’t make sense to me or just kind of annoyed me. Sunshine was an extremely hard character to care for, she is flawed and and selfish and just kind of an awful person at the beginning of the story, Her character evolves and really does draw the reader in but at the same time I never found myself wanting her to win. Still when you find out who it was that actually betrayed her, I felt so much pity for her. Her life is just so completely screwed up, its so depressing. I thought that the author’s commentary on technology through the book and the effect its had on the general population was interesting and completely true. Sunshine’s niece Sammy was amazingly cute and probably my favorite part of the whole book. And while I ended up liking the book more than I expected to, I still didn’t love it. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend or not recommend, but the book was ok.

The bottom line: Eh, this book wasn’t my favorite. It was pretty good just had a few things that didn’t appeal to me personally. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it or not recommend it, I know its pretty popular with other readers.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2017 Book #61 – Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza

51+lRnVc+yLTitle: Fitness Junkie
Author: Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza
Date finished: 7/19/17
Genre: Fiction, women’s fiction
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: July 11, 2017
Pages in book: 304
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

When Janey Sweet, CEO of a couture wedding dress company, is photographed in the front row of a fashion show eating a bruffin—the delicious lovechild of a brioche and a muffin—her best friend and business partner, Beau, gives her an ultimatum: Lose thirty pounds or lose your job. Sure, Janey has gained some weight since her divorce, and no, her beautifully cut trousers don’t fit like they used to, so Janey throws herself headlong into the world of the fitness revolution, signing up for a shockingly expensive workout pass, baring it all for Free the Nipple yoga, sweating through boot camp classes run by Sri Lankan militants and spinning to the screams of a Lycra-clad instructor with rage issues. At a juice shop she meets Jacob, a cute young guy who takes her dumpster-diving outside Whole Foods on their first date. At a shaman’s tea ceremony she meets Hugh, a silver fox who holds her hand through an ayahuasca hallucination And at a secret exercise studio Janey meets Sara Strong, the wildly popular workout guru whose special dance routine has starlets and wealthy women flocking to her for results that seem too good to be true. As Janey eschews delicious carbs, pays thousands of dollars to charlatans, and is harassed by her very own fitness bracelet, she can’t help but wonder: Did she really need to lose weight in the first place? A hilarious send-up of the health and wellness industry, Fitness Junkie is a glorious romp through the absurd landscape of our weight-obsessed culture.

My rating:  5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Janey Sweet, a woman who when we meet her at the beginning of the book is being told by her business partner and best friend of thirty years (Beau) that she is fat. Janey and Beau together own B, a bridal salon featuring Beau’s designs but that was made successful by Janey’s shrewd business acumen.  Beau gives her an ultimatum – she can’t come back to work until she loses 30 lbs. While Janey is deeply hurt and offended, she believes (at first) that being with Beau and working at B is what makes her happy, so she agrees. And so begins a crazy journey of every fad diet imaginable, with the help of her friend CJ, from eating clay to the new super-exclusive and super-secret fad called “The Workout.” But as Janey continues on the path to fitness, she realizes there wasn’t anything wrong with her to begin with. And looking back on her thirty year friendship with Beau, she starts to see things more clearly and questions whether she really wants to go back to her old job and her old life. Add in crazy new friends, not one but two new men in her life, and an intense 8 day wellness retreat in St. Lucia, and Janey sure has her hands full.

Overall I just loved this book. It was funny and engaging, Janey was nice enough to be likeable and naive enough to be frustrating. I personally have also struggled with weight loss and this book hit the nail on the head, the perception of women these days and the lengths that some women will go through to stay fit is insane. I loved that this book was basically a satirical comedy about fitness but it also touched on some important issues like self love and being kind to one another.  I also loved that (as far as I can remember) we never learn Janey’s beginning or ending weight, or her actual clothing size. I hope that the authors did this on purpose because I think this is really important, it doesn’t matter what her actual weight or size is. What matters is how society made her feel, how her friends made her feel, and how she felt about herself. The only thing that I couldn’t really connect to Janey on was how rich she was and the fact that she barely questioned spending $15,000 on an 8 day trip. Be forewarned that may annoy you / drive you mad with jealousy if you are living in the middle or lower class. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized it was really necessary for Janey’s character, otherwise she wouldn’t have been able to afford to do pretty much anything she did in the book and then there would be no story. Anyways, this was an awesome, funny book about one woman’s self-discovery through fitness, it is worth the read and I would definitely recommend everyone try this one!!

The bottom line: This was an awesome funny book and I just loved it, I would highly recommend!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2017 Book #60 – A Week to be Wild by J.C. Harroway

Title: A Week to be Wild
Author: J.C. Harroway
Date finished: 7/16/17
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Harlequin Dare
Publication Date: February 1, 2018
Pages in book: 176
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Harlequin Romance Insiders NOTE: I received this book for free from Harlequin in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

None listed on Amazon

My rating:  2.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Olivia and Alexander. Olivia is visiting London to be a speaker at a seminar, little does she know that Alex was the one who arranged for her to be invited to speak. Alex is trying to market his new company that helps disabled kids, and he knows that Olivia is just the one to help him get the word out. Neither of them expected this electrifying intensity, and neither are really prepared for the strength of their emotions for each other either. Libby was burned once before, and she’s determined to never fall in love again. Once Alex slips under her skin though will she fight to make it work or will she run away from her feelings instead?

Overall I didn’t love this book. The characters fell flat and what should have been a book filled with passion was really lacking in emotion for me. There were too many sex scenes for my taste but at the same time I thought the scenes weren’t that interesting. While I didn’t particularly enjoy this book, this was a quick and easy read and would probably be a good beach read if the genre is of interest to you.

The bottom line: I didn’t love this book, for me it was lacking in emotion and imagination. I wouldn’t recommend, unless you’re looking for a quick easy beach read in which case it might work out for you.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2017 Book #59 – Together by Linda Lael Miller

9780062005908_5b5a4Title: Together
Author: Linda Lael Miller
Date finished: 7/15/17
Genre: Historical romance, contemporary romance
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: July 25, 2017 (Reprint; originally published 1996)
Pages in book: 432
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Edelweiss NOTE: I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

For the first time in over ten years comes New York Times bestselling author Linda Lael Miller’s breathtaking stories filled with the promise of love. Five unforgettable tales, Together in one volume…

Together…for a second chance at life and love—THAT OTHER KATHERINE

Together…when misdirected desire unexpectedly leads to lasting happiness—STORE-BOUGHT WOMAN

Together…as mistrust turns into steadfast devotion—THE SCENT OF SNOW

Together…a couple once torn apart by greed is now reunited by a vow of eternal love—IN ALL SEASONS

Together…a cat in the family way helps ignite love in two sparring neighbors—FAMILY AFFAIR (Interestingly enough, this story is not included in the book. Switch is included instead about two twin’s switching lives for a few months)

My rating:  2.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book is a compilation of 5 short stories all by the same author. In order within the book: In All Seasons: This story is of Melissande Bradgate, the daugher of a wealthy shipping merchant, and Christian Lithwell, the second son of an Earl. These two fall in love but tragic events tear them apart. When they are brought back together it takes a lot of time to see if they can be together again. I thought this story was ok but, like the other stories in the novel, I couldn’t really get into the story line and characters I couldn’t see any development. The Scent of Snow: This story is about Rebecca and her two half-sisters Annabelle and Susan. Rebecca thought her friend Lucas Kiley died but when he shows up after she’s told the whole town they had been married so now they have to pretend to be married. I particularly didn’t care for this one, it was unrealistic and puritanical. That Other Katherine: This story is about Katherine Hollis, who realizes that she is dying in a hospital in 1991 and after begging to live wakes up in the body of Katherine Winslow in the year 1895 during the midst of childbirth. Her husband Gavin hates her and the whole town knows about her most recent affair. This story was really interesting and I thought it had a lot of potential but then the ending kind of lost me, everything was wrapped up too quickly. Store-Bought Woman: Bess Campbell travels across the country to marry John Tate, only his brother Will is the only one she finds. They basically figure out how to make it work. This one was really cheesy and made me roll my eyes a bit. I didn’t particularly like it. Switch: This book weirdly enough is not listed in the description, but anyways this story is about Jamie Roberts, who switches places with her twin sister, Sara, at Sara’s request. Unknown to her she’s walking into a world of danger. Luckily she finds she can count on Sara’s previous lover, Rowan Parrish, to help her out. The concept behind this was weird, the whole Rowan + Sara and then Rowan + Jamie thing. Other than that there were some ok points to the story but I wasn’t engaged much at all.

The bottom line: I didn’t particularly like this book. There wasn’t much character or plot development, even for short stories. I wouldn’t recommend.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2017 Book #58 – I Have Never by Camilla Isley

51FhWUoFAkLTitle: I Have Never
Author: Camilla Isley
Date finished: 7/12/17
Genre: Contemporary romance, romantic comedy
Publisher: Pink Bloom Press
Publication Date: July 13, 2017
Pages in book: 191
Stand alone or series: #2 in the First Comes Love series
Where I got the book from: Author/publisher NOTE: I received this book for free from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Have you ever wondered what might have been?

Twenty-nine-year-old Blair Walker is a girl with a plan, or more a girl with a list. A list of dos and don’ts to live the perfect life, land a dream career, and marry Mr. Right.
But when Blair loses her job and gets dumped by her boyfriend all in one day, she starts to wonder if she’s had it all wrong. And what better way to find out than experience everything the list forbade?
*Never Lie
*Never Pick a Fight
*Never Make a Scene
*Never Make the First Move
*Never Make Impulse Decisions
*Never Mix Business and Pleasure…
With hilarious consequences, Blair will discover some items are trickier to tick off than she’d thought…
I Have Never is a wonderful chick lit beach read and a fabulous office romance. A laugh out loud romantic comedy perfect for fans of Lindsey Kelk, Sophie Kinsella, and Mhairi McFarlane.
First Comes Love is a series of interconnected romantic novels. However, each book in the series can be read as a standalone novel.

My rating: 4.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Blair Walker, who when we first meet her is convinced that today will be the day she not only gets promoted but also gets engaged. Unfortunately for Blair, neither of those are the case. Instead she ends up fired and dumped and unsure where to go from here. Blair has always lived by her own set of “rules,” convinced that if she avoids doing certain things in life (getting arrested, getting drunk, sleeping with a guy on the first date, etc) that everything will work out for her. But now that her life has basically crashed and burned around her, she decides to do everything possible on this list that has betrayed her. Along the way she acquires a new boss, Richard Stratton, who is amazingly handsome but also amazingly commitment-phobic, a new group of work friends and a new lease on life.
Overall I just loved this book. The book immediately draws you in and engages you in Blair’s life and her character. I was hooked right from the very beginning and I didn’t want to put it down. The plot line was just so emotionally satisfying, at each twist along Blair’s road to freedom I found myself rooting for her to win and to come out on top! Plus the book was hilarious, all the hi-jinks that Blair ended up getting herself into were so funny and I loved her work group at her new office. I’m also really interested in Nikki’s story (Blair’s roommate) and can’t wait to hear when that will be released. I liked the plot of this book as well, following along with the list. The premise behind this  reminded me a little of another book I read last year (Thirty Days to Thirty) mostly because of the whole crashing and burning thing at the beginning and the list aspect. I especially liked that with this story, the list was more like a reverse list, it was about Blair breaking through the ceilings that she had set for herself in life for what she (or really her mom) believed was proper.  This was a quick story and an entertaining and engaging read and I would highly recommend!

The bottom line: I just loved this book, Blair was an easy to like character. I was rooting for her through the whole book! The story was a great series of ups and downs of emotions and was extremely satisfying. Just loved this book, I would definitely recommend.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

I Have Never BLOG TOUR!!

I-have-never

I Have Never by Camilla Isley was released this week (July 13th) and to celebrate I am participating in a Blog Tour for the book! If you haven’t already seen it, you can find my review of the book under Book Reviews on my site. See below for more information about the book, a short author bio, and an excerpt!!! I loved this book and I definitely recommend everyone should read it!

Title: I Have Never
Author: Camilla Isley
Release Date: July 13th, 2017
Genre: Chick Lit

Book-Blurb-1-1

Twenty-nine-year-old Blair Walker is a girl with a plan, or more a girl with a list. A list of dos and don’ts to live the perfect life, land a dream career, and marry Mr. Right.

When Blair loses her job and gets dumped by her boyfriend all in one day, she starts to wonder if she’s had it all wrong. And what better way to find out than experience everything the list forbade?

With hilarious consequences, Blair will discover some items are trickier to tick off than she’d thought…

A laugh out loud romantic comedy perfect for fans of Lindsey Kelk, Sophie Kinsella, and Mhairi McFarlane. First Comes Love is a series of interconnected romantic novels. However, each book in the series can be read as a standalone novel.

Book-Blurb-2-1

Goodreads | AmazonUS | AmazonUK | Google Play | Kobo | B&N | Apple

Book-Blurb-3-1

Camilla is an engineer turned writer after she quit her job to follow her husband in an adventure abroad.
She’s a cat lover, coffee addict, and shoe hoarder. Besides writing, she loves reading—duh!—cooking, watching bad TV, and going to the movies—popcorn, please. She’s a bit of a foodie, nothing too serious. A keen traveler, Camilla knows mosquitoes play a role in the ecosystem, and she doesn’t want to starve all those frog princes out there, but she could really live without them.

Website | Twitter: @camillaisley | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest

EXCERPT

Two

Never Get Drunk

51FhWUoFAkLMy entire body aches. Even the tips of my hair are in pain. Instead of blood, it feels like acid is pumping through my veins, and my lids have been replaced by sandpaper. What’s happening to me?

I try to move. Easier thought than done. My muscles feel like Jell-O. I’m stuck lying on something soft, something that smells like a cold winter day: pinecones and rain. Slowly, I open my eyes. Daylight stabs my pupils, sending tendrils of pain through my brain. Where am I? In a bedroom, it seems. Whose bedroom? Ah, that’s the question.

Panic gnaws at my stomach, followed by a flood of nausea. I turn to one side and spot a glass of water and a blister of Aleve on a nightstand. A lifeline. I pop two pills and drain the water before collapsing back on the bed.

Who’s bed? Oh, crap… I’m in someone’s bed, in my underwear, and I’ve absolutely no idea how I got here.

The last thing I remember is walking into a bar determined to tackle the next item on the list: never get drunk.

Ding-dong. Mr. Hangover, we meet at last… Not sure I like you. I close my eyes hoping the Aleve will act quickly.

When I open them again, I’ve no clue how much time has passed—a minute or an hour—but at least I’m slightly better. Well enough to roll over and retrieve my discarded clothes from the floor. There’s my bag, too, and I always carry a compact mirror. Face damage assessment time. Gingerly, I flip the little metallic lid open. I’ve got panda eyes, but it’s nothing some makeup remover wipes can’t fix. The cool touch of the damp cotton is heavenly on my heated skin as I scrub myself clean. The soothing moisture helps also with the headache, so much so that I don’t stop until I’ve used up the entire packet of wipes.

With my head a little clearer, I search for my phone and unlock the screen. Eight fifteen in the morning. There’s an unhealthy number of missed calls and messages waiting to be answered. Later. My temples are still pounding. I open the map app to check where in the world I am exactly. The little blue dot stops on Brooklyn Heights.

What the hell am I doing in Brooklyn? How did I get here? Whose house is this?

Time to find out.

Still sitting on the bed, I put on the silky turquoise dress I was wearing last night—perfect for a proposal, not so much for a morning-after commute from Brooklyn. There’s nothing I can do about the hair, so I scrunch the red tangles in a messy-for-real bun and stand up.

The room spins. I blink several times to fight the dizziness and shake my legs until the dress’s skirt slithers into place, reaching my knees. Shoes in one hand, bag in the other, I drag my feet to the door and tentatively exit the bedroom to enter… a cool loft. One of those with brick walls and modern furniture.

Feeling like a burglar, I slip my pumps on and shuffle into an open-space living room with floor-to-ceiling windows.

“Hello?” My voice sounds thick.

“Morning,” someone says. A male someone. “I was starting to worry you were dead.”

“I thought I was d—” My throat catches as a guy in jeans and a light blue shirt comes out from behind a pillar. He’s so good-looking I literally can’t talk. Rumpled dark hair on the longish side. Dark brown—almost black—eyes, a strong jaw covered in five o’clock shadow, and he’s smiling at me. A little sexy dimple on each cheek. My stomach flips.

Is it the smile or the hangover?

But the real question is, did I have sex with this hunk? Well, I woke up in his bed wearing only underwear. I hope we did it. And I hope he wants to do it again because I can’t remember a thing and the guy is too handsome for me to leave, not remembering having sex with him.

Eeeeee, somebody please censor my brain. Never in my life would I have had sex with someone I just met—but that was the whole point of throwing out the list and getting crazy drunk. If this man is the first outcome of my new lifestyle, high five to me. But how embarrassing not to remember if we slept together. What do I do? Do I ask him? I don’t even know his name!

“Er, Blair?” he says. “Are you all right?”

Mr. Hot knows my name. “Yeah, super… mmm… uh…”

“Richard.” He smiles again. “The name’s Richard Stratton. I made coffee, you want some?”

If he wasn’t already hot enough, the dude has an impossibly sexy British accent that’s making my knees wobble. Either the accent or serious dehydration.

“Richard, sure.” I pretend like he needn’t have told me his name. “Coffee would be great, thanks.” I stroll to the kitchen bar, sit on a stool, and drop my bag to the floor.

“Black? Sugar? Milk?”

“Sugar equals poison,” I declare. “Do you happen to have almond milk?”

Richard’s eyes widen.

“Black’s fine,” I hurry to say.

Mr. Hot hands me a mug. “You didn’t seem to have a problem with the sugar rim of your cocktails last night.”

“About that…” I take a sip of coffee, hoping caffeine will help my synapses connect. “I’m not exactly sure what… er. To be honest, last night’s a bit—uh—foggy. How did we meet?”

“I called you.”

“You called me?”

I have to kill the parrot possessing me and stop repeating whatever people say.

“Mm-hmm.”

“How? Did I give you my number?” I think I’d remember giving my number to someone as hot as him.

“No, I got it through a friend of mine.”

I frown. “A friend?”

The parrot lives.

“Yes, I’m the Editor-in-Chief of an up and coming web-based magazine. We’re looking for a Fashion Editor—”

I hear magazine, I hear fashion, and the other shoe drops. He’s gay. Ninety-five percent of Évoque male employees are gay. “Oh, you’re gay,” I interrupt him, a bit crestfallen. “Of course you’re gay. That face is too handsome for you to be straight. I mean between the hair, the eyes, and the smile you’d have to go around with an I’m-too-hot warning sticker on your chest…” I’m babbling and Richard’s eyebrows have shot up. Blair, shut up. But I’m possessed, and can’t stop talking. “And that accent! Imagine what it would do to women. You sound like Prince William. Well, at least now I don’t have to ask you if we slept together last night…” I brush my hand over my forehead in a gesture of relief and laugh nervously. “Phew.”

Richard stares at me dumbfounded for a few seconds before saying, “I thought I made it clear last night I wasn’t gay.” His tone is dead serious.

Something in my guts twists. “You mean we”—I point at my chest and then at his—“slept together?”

“No, we didn’t. I was mocking you.”

“But I woke up in your bed in my underwear.”

“I left you in my room with your clothes on. You must’ve done the undressing.”

“Oh, so you are gay.”

“No, I’m not gay.” He scoffs. “It’s just that so-drunk-she-can’t-remember-her-name doesn’t do it for me.”

I’m too mortified to speak, so I hide my red-beyond-control cheeks by staring at the floor.

“Last night,” Richard continues, “I called you to talk about a job opportunity, and you told me to join you in a bar in downtown Manhattan. When I got there, you were already drunk and delirious about a list, spaghetti marinara, and someone’s secretary…”

I’m feeling smaller and smaller. From under my lids, I dare a peek at Richard.

“When we left the bar, I tried to put you in a cab to get you home, but you weren’t able to supply an address. So it was either leave you on the street or bring you back here.”

“Oh, okay.” I drop the empty coffee mug on the bar and get up. “Sorry for all the trouble I caused and thank you for… mmm…” Giving me a bed to sleep in instead of the curb? Saving my life? Making me believe for five seconds that we had sex? I go with, “For hosting me last night. I’ll get out of your way now.” I pick up my bag from the floor and… I’ve no idea where the exit is. “Where’s the door?”

“This way.” Richard leads me to the opposite side of the room and stops in front of a metal door striped with faux rust, or real rust, I’m not sure. Cool, design rust in any case. “About that job interview,” he adds. “You want to reschedule?”

“You still want to interview me?”

“You look suspicious.”

Not look, am. “I don’t mean to be rude, but if you’re still considering me for a job after last night’s stunt and this morning’s conversation, you must be desperate.”

His jaw tightens. “I’m not desperate.”

“So what’s your magazine’s circulation?” I challenge.

“It’s an online-only editorial hub; we hardly have any circulation.”

“You’ve no printed edition?”

“No.”

“Alexa rank?”

Richard holds my gaze for a couple of seconds before answering, “In the lower thousands. But most of our traffic comes from in-app views, with no ad blocking, and we want it to stay that way.”

“As I said, you’re desperate.”

“Well, from what I gathered last night, so are you.”

Ouch. Below the belt, Richard. Way below the belt. What else did I tell him while I was drunk as a skunk? Probably better I don’t remember.

“Listen.” He rolls up the sleeves of his shirt, and I get distracted looking at his forearms. He has really pretty forearms. Correction: he has really pretty everything. “I don’t claim to be Évoque Magazine, but I’m working on making something fresh. Something better. I’ve put together a great team, so before you snub us, why don’t you hear me out?” Richard takes a business card out of his pocket and hands it over.

As he comes closer, I get a whiff of that same pinecones and rain scent I smelled in the bedroom. His scent. So Richard was my cold winter day. The combination of shower gel or aftershave plus male skin is intoxicating. I bite the inside of my cheek to keep focused and take the card. “Thank you.”

“Go home, take a shower, and come back to check us out at the address on the card. This afternoon, tomorrow morning. Whenever works.” Before I can politely decline he adds, “If nothing else, stop by so you can see my too-handsome face one more time,” and winks.

My mouth hangs open, and my face sizzles in shame for the millionth time since I woke up. “You know you can’t use anything I said while I thought you were gay against me.”

“Nice try.” Richard gives me a wicked smile and opens the door. “See you later?”

I scold him on the way out. “Maybe.”

“This way.”

He guides me down the hall in silence until we reach the elevators. There, I push the down arrow and wait. When the doors sweep open, I briskly step inside, push the lobby button, and say, “Goodbye.”

Richard braces both arms against the doorframe. “I’ll see you soon,” he says, stepping backward, and, as the doors begin to move adds, “And I’ll work on finding that sticker.”

The doors close so that I’m left staring at my shocked, beet-red face reflected in the metal.

Check out the full tour-

July 13th

Rachel Brimble Romance – Author Q&A
A Beautiful Book Blog – Book Review
Writing Pearls – Book Review
With Love For Books – Book Review
For the Love of Chick Lit – Book Review
July 14th

Kristin’s Novel Cafe – Book Excerpt
JenaBooks – Book Review
He Said Books or Me – Author Guest Post
Judging More than Just the Cover – Author Q&A
July 15th

I Heart Fictional People – Book Review
Chrissi Reads – Book Review
Books and Photographs – Book Review
Rebecca Book Review – Book Excerpt
Monique McDonell-Author  – Book Excerpt
July 16th

One Book At A Time – Spotlight Post
CosyCuteKnits – Book Review
The Writing Garnet – Book Review
July 17th

The Belgian Reviewer – Book Excerpt
Girl vs Books – Book Review
kraftireader – Book Review

July 18th

Reading Is My SuperPower – Book Review
I Heart Fictional People – Book Review
THE CHLOE DOUGLAS BLOG – Book Review
July 19th

Kristin’s Novel Café – Book Excerpt
Simona’s Corner of Dreams – Author Guest Post
Bookish – Book Review
July 20th

TheBlossomTwins – Book Review
Grass Monster – Book Review
Chick Lit Central – Author Q&A
Living Life with Joy – Author Guest Post
July 21st

ItaPixie’s Book Corner – Book Review
Rae Reads – Book Review
Novelgossip  – Book Review
Whispering Stories – Book Review
Ali – The Dragon Slayer – Book Review
A Daydreamer’s Thoughts – Book Review
Steamy Book Momma – Book Excerpt
July 22nd

BookLoverWorm – Book Review
Pretty Little Book Reviews – Book Review
Book Lover in Florida – Book Excerpt

2017 Book # 57 – Duke with Benefits by Manda Collins

51hiXwy2TSLTitle: Duke with Benefits
Author: Manda Collins
Date finished: 7/10/17
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: June 27, 2017
Pages in book: 320
Stand alone or series: #2 in the Studies in Scandal series
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

LADY + DUKE = TRUE LOVE?
Lady Daphne Forsyth is a brilliant mathematician with a burning passion for puzzles. When she learns that the library belonging to her benefactress houses the legendary Cameron Cipher—an encrypted message that, once solved, holds the key to great riches—Daphne is on the case. Unfortunately, her race to unlock the cipher’s code is continually thwarted by a deliciously handsome distraction she hadn’t counted on. . .and cannot resist.
Dalton Beauchamp, the Duke of Maitland, is curious as to why Daphne is spending so much time snooping around his aunt’s bookshelves. He’s even more intrigued by her bold yet calculating manner: She is unapologetic about her secret quest. . .and the fiery attraction that develops between them both. But how can they concentrate on solving a perplexing enigma once the prospect of true love enters the equation?

My rating:  3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Daphne Forsyth, daughter of the Earl of Forsyth, and Dalton Beauchamp, the Duke of Maitland. Daphne is one of the recent inheritors of the Duke’s aunt’s estate, left to a group of four woman scholars. Daphne’s scholarly focus is  mathematics, which is why Lady Celeste left Daphne with a specific task. Lady Celeste knew of a clue to a hidden treasure, a cipher dating back hundreds of years. Knowing of Daphne’s skills with ciphers, Lady Celeste left it to Daphne to unravel the clue and find the treasure. But not before trying to play matchmaker once again in asking her nephew (Maitland) to help Daphne find the clues to the hidden cipher. Lady Celeste had been similarly stealthy in Book 1 (Ready Set Rogue) in getting Ivy and Kerr together. But when someone else finds out about the cipher, someone who is willing to do anything to obtain it including murder, Daphne must solve the mystery before anyone else gets hurt. And along the way, Maitland discovers that beneath Daphne’s brusque exterior, there is a heart of gold.
Overall I liked this book. It was a quick and easy read, but was full of romance and danger and mathematical challenges. I love this series overall because the heroines are all so strong and intelligent. I loved that Maitland’s character understood Daphne’s need for independence and respected it, acting more as a support for her than a driver. Some heroes in historical romances can get a little heavy-handed, so it was refreshing to see this change of pace. And Daphne’s character as well was slightly unusual for a historical romance, I think she might be diagnosed with something similar to Asperger’s in today’s day and age based on her inability to look people in the eye, her dislike at being touched, and her difficulties with understanding social interactions. Altogether made for a pretty interesting read. I liked this book and I look forward to reading more in the series. I would recommend!

The bottom line: This was a really good book, I liked the story line and it was a quick and easy read. I like the series overall too, I would recommend!

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page